Oregon State has competed against some pretty powerful gymnastics programs already this season.
The Beavers took on then-No. 4 Utah on Jan. 19 and then-No. 3 UCLA two weeks later in what turned out to be the Beavers’ top scoring meet of the season (197.450) to this point. Utah is now No. 5 and UCLA No. 2.
Both of those meets were at Gill Coliseum and the opponents are from the Pac-12.
On Friday, the Beavers get a road test against a top team when they take on No. 4 LSU in Baton Rouge.
“It’s always a good opportunity, especially as you go into postseason,” coach Tanya Chaplin said. “Having that type of competition is great to have and they average about 10,000 fans so being in an arena filled with that energy will be another great opportunity for our athletes before we move into postseason. You definitely want to go into those venues where you’ll be challenged and this is one of those venues.”
The Tigers have consistently scored over 197 this season with a high of 197.900. They are led by Sarah Finnegan, who is the fourth-ranked all-arounder in the nation. Finnegan is No. 4 on floor, No. 5 on bars and No. 7 on beam.
“So far we’ve had Utah and UCLA here at home, so I think having that big away meet will be really good just to know what it’s going to feel like this (postseason),” OSU freshman Madi Dagen said.
“So I just think we have to go in there with full confidence because I know LSU is going to go in there with their full confidence and attitudes and we just need to show that we’re just as capable as them and we’re going to go out there and be just as good as them or better and I think we’re totally capable of doing that.”
The meet was scheduled a couple years ago. Tanya and Michael Chaplin have had a long relationship with LSU coach D-D Breaux and associate coach Jay Clark.
OSU assistant coach Brian Amato also had ties with the Tigers’ program built through his time at Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics in Clermont, Florida. One of the gymnasts Amato coached went on to compete for LSU.
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“They recruited my athletes and then I started working their camps and they’re I guess somewhat responsible, they’re one of the parties of a bunch of people that encouraged me to get into college coaching because I was doing their camps,” Amato said. “And since then I still continue do their camps.”
Not only will the Beavers head to LSU this year, but the teams are scheduled to meet in the next two seasons and a fourth meeting is in the works as soon as both programs sort out their conference schedules for the 2021-22 season.
“It was something that we talked about once or twice and then we need to kind of solidify and put it on the schedule,” Amato said. “It’s good for both parties.”
The meet is a good opportunity for the Beavers to bump up their National Qualifying Score.
Last weekend’s meet against Alaska Anchorage and Bowling Green seemed to be a chance for OSU to get a big score at home, but the Beavers were derailed by a few falls and settled for a 195.825.
Even so, OSU has shown the ability to hit for big scores. The biggest of the season, a 197.450, came against UCLA.
Isis Lowery said she has no doubt the Beavers can come through with another high score in Baton Rouge.
“The thing is we can’t get caught up in the scores. Obviously, we’re trying to go out there and get an awesome score but in order to do that we have to do awesome gymnastics. Sure, sometimes the judges might not be on our side, we might not see eye to eye and that’s fine, we can’t control that," Lowery said.
"But we can control how well we do gymnastics and how we perform. So that’s really what we’re going to go out there and do and if we leave everything out on the floor and we’re proud of the job we did and the scores don’t necessarily reflect that, that’s not our problem.
“So we’re just excited to go out there and do the absolute best we can and hopefully we have a great result in the score and that’s going to help us going into postseason.”