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As long as the members of the Oregon State gymnastics team stay healthy, this could be a big season for the Beavers.

Injuries plagued OSU in recent seasons, but those affected have now healed enough to get back on the competition floor.

Add a deep and talented group of freshmen to the mix and it's easy to see why coach Tanya Chaplin is optimistic about the strength of the squad.

"I think the potential is very high with this team," Chaplin said. "Obviously, we want to continue to keep them healthy and doing the things but also with the depth of the freshmen it allows them to grow into their positions and we have a lot of talent there, too, so we can bring them along as we need."

The Beavers begin the season with a road meet at Auburn on Friday. 

Erika Aufiero returns for a fifth year after missing last season with a knee injury suffered the week before the first meet.

Dani Dessaints is also back after missing most of her sophomore season. They will boost the Beavers on several events this season.

Aufiero was planning on competing in the all-around in 2016 and will start the season on bars and vault, the two events she competed on in 2015 and had career-bests of 9.925 on both events.

Dessaints had a 9.900 on vault and a 9.850 on bars against Auburn in her only meet of the year. She had a season-high of 9.850 on the events in 2015.

Dessaints will compete on vault and beam for the Beavers this season.

With three-time all-American Madeline Gardiner and 2016 all-American Kaytianna McMillan both returning and expected to be entrenched as all-arounders, the Beavers look to be solid throughout most lineups with Aufiero and Dessaints, along with a solid group of returnees.

"I think it's huge. I think we have a very strong upperclass, senior class with Erika back, Dani as a junior," McMillan said. "I think they're huge contributors to our team especially on vault and Erika on bars. So I think it's crucial that we have them back. It just brings our team together as a whole."

Sophomore Mary Jacobsen had a breakthrough season last year, adding solid scores each week on vault and bars. She had a season-high of 9.950 on bars and 9.825 on vault.

Chaplin said Jacobsen is ready on all four events.

"She is one of the hardest workers we have and they all work hard," Chaplin said. "But she'll continue to go and go and go and she's one that you have to hold back because it's like, 'OK, you've done enough. Let's be smart about our training, not just go, go, go, go.' "

Taylor Ricci and Megan Jimenez are back for their senior seasons. Jimenez competed on vault and beam last year and was most consistent on vault with an average score of 9.794 and a best of 9.850.

Ricci had a high of 9.875 on floor and 9.825 on vault.

Junior Shireen Khamedoost was steady on bars from week to week, averaging 9.813 on the event. She also competed on vault.

Sophomore Mariana Colussi-Pelaez and senior Sylvia Colussi-Pelaez both bring back experience on bars and beam.

McKenna Singley landed career-highs of 9.900 on floor, 9.875 on bars and 9.825 on vault last year as a freshman, but is rehabilitating an injury.

Chaplin said she doubts Singley will be ready to go for the first few meets.

"Our goal is to get her healthy by the mid to end of season, so we're not going to push it," Chaplin said. "We have people that can step in and do the job."

Joining the team are freshmen Halli Briscoe, Kaitlin Campbell, Destinee Davis, Sabrina Gill, Lena Greene, Jaime Law, Maela Lazaro, Isis Lowery and Alyssa Minyard.

Lowery and Gill could crack an event lineup or two to start the season. Lowery won a gold medal on the vault and finished fourth in the all-around at the 2014 Australian Championships and Gill competed for the Canadian national team and finished seventh in the all-around at the 2016 Canadian Championships. She won gold on the uneven bars at Elite Canada in 2015.

McMillan said the goals will be to win the Pac-12 meet, finish in the top two in the NCAA regionals and qualify for nationals.

But the big step for the team and program would be to land a Super Six berth at the NCAAs.

"I do think Super Six is attainable for us this year," McMillan said. "I think with a strong uppperclassman lead we can guide the freshmen, sophomores, show them what we need to do, what it takes to get there.

"I think out of my four years this is one of the strongest teams I've been a part of and I think making Super Six would be huge. It would be a great confidence booster for the younger ones to carry that on for the next few years."

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Sports Reporter