Maybe Oregon State’s performance at the NCAA gymnastics national championship meet came as a surprise to fans of the sport around the country.
The Beavers never once doubted that they belonged at nationals and they proved it by finishing sixth, just missing out on a berth in the Four on the Floor by .1375 of a point.
“I think it was just really exciting for everyone to see Oregon State doing so well,” freshman Madi Dagen said. “Nobody really expected it and I think proving so many people wrong, they’re going to be like, ‘ooh, we should keep an eye on them.’
"I think that we’ve always been that team that could be there and we deserved to be there but nobody expected it, so I think everyone was really excited to see us there and do so well and be so precise and poised through the whole thing.”
Oregon State and Denver were tied going into the final rotation in Fort Worth, Texas, and both teams got plenty of TV airtime on ESPN during that final push. OSU was on beam and Denver on bars.
The Beavers had a setback when Isis Lowery lost her balance and fell, but they finished strong.
“Then the rest of the beam team came through and hit their routines solid all the way through,” coach Tanya Chaplin said. “So for an event that we’ve had some ups and downs on, they really came through and shined even with being in a situation where it could have gone the other way.”
The national exposure and the sixth-place finish, OSU’s best at nationals during Chaplin’s 22 seasons in Corvallis, should have a positive impact on the program.
“I think that there’s a lot of things that will help with recruiting and just exposure of Oregon State gymnastics,” Chaplin said. “From fans that were fans of other schools, we got a lot of compliments about our athletes on the floor competing and in the stands as they were watching the competition last week. They made an impact with a lot of different people. This is an incredible group of women and they really have high integrity and that really showed through.
“So that exposure and that realness really came through and we’re seeing a lot of different people that have taken notice of that after nationals.”
The success could have some immediate dividends as well. The Beavers lose McKenna Singley, Mary Jacobsen and Mariana Colussi-Pelaez but return a strong group of gymnasts.
“Even though we’re losing seniors, every single class below them kind of realized what needs to happen and I think we all know as a team what works for us and what doesn’t and what we need to plan for at the beginning of next season to have the same success,” Dagen said. “I do think that everyone is on the same page and we’ll be good.”
The Beavers had four All-Americans come out of the meet and three will be back with the team next season.
Jacobsen had a vault score of 9.875 to tie for eighth. Lowery, a junior, tied for seventh on floor with a 9.900, junior Halli Briscoe came through with a 9.900 on bars to tie for sixth and junior Maela Lazaro finished sixth on beam with a 9.8875.
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It was Lazaro’s first time competing at nationals. She was an alternate on beam when the Beavers went to St. Louis at the end of her freshman season.
“From the beginning of the season I kind of had that going in the back of my mind, like 'oh, I really want to be an All-American on beam because it’s the event that I mainly do and I just want to excel in that event,' but I never really expected to be All-American,” Lazaro said. “I kind of just did my own thing and it worked out really well. I didn’t know until the absolute end of the meet, like when we were on the bus and I was super-happy and I was pretty emotional right after sticking my dismount because it was kind of a rough couple weeks leading up to nationals.
“I learned a lot about myself and being able to finish my season accomplishing a goal like that was really cool.”
Kaitlyn Yanish will be back for her junior year after a strong season on floor and vault. She was a first team all-Pac-12 selection and a regular-season All-American.
Dagen was a second team all-Pac-12 pick, as was Lowery.
Sabrina Gill anchored bars and beam for the Beavers, and her performance at the Corvallis regional helped push the Beavers to nationals.
Also returning for the Beavers after significant contributions this past season will be Lacy Dagen, Colette Yamaoka, Lena Greene, Savanna Force and Destinee Davis.
Joining the Beavers as freshmen next season will be Jenna Domingo, Kayla Bird and Jane Poniewaz.
“All three are all-arounders, which is great for us because that adds depth at every event. And they’re all three very good on every event, too. That will make a difference,” Chaplin said of the incoming freshmen.
“... They’re going to make a big impact. They’re getting ready for the (Junior Olympics) national competition in May. They all did well at their regional competitions.”
One recruit OSU fans are eager to see on the floor in Gill Coliseum is Jade Carey. Carey has signed with the Beavers, but is working to land a spot in the 2020 Olympics.
“Jade is still scheduled to stay out one more year and come in at 2020. She wants to make that run for the Olympic Games, so she’s still planning on enrolling in the fall of 2020. So she has just deferred her enrollment,” Chaplin said.
“Her plan is to come to Oregon State, so it was just a matter of when she would start enrolling for Oregon State. So that’s plan right now for her. I know she’s always watching college gymnastics and is excited about that next step. But first she’s putting all her efforts into making that Olympic team or making the Olympics as an individual, whichever way she decides to go.”