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Women’s Gymnastics: Ohio State sends seniors out with second-place finish in home tri-meet against NC State and Central Michigan

The Ohio State women’s gymnastics team celebrates after freshman Morgan Lowe’s performance on balance beam on Sunday, March 11. The Buckeyes placed second in the meet. Credit: Megan Russell | Senior Lantern Reporter

On a night to honor its seniors, the No. 23 Ohio State women’s gymnastics team (10-5, 3-2 Big Ten) finished its last regular season home meet in second place behind No. 24 North Carolina State (15-7) and ahead of Central Michigan (8-7), posting a 196.525 score for the second-highest score the team registered this season and ninth-best score in program history.

North Carolina State finished first with a 196.800 score and Central Michigan finished third at 195.175.

“It was kind of a tail of two halves,” head coach Meredith Paulicivic said. “I feel like we just didn’t have the fire and the spunk and the energy on the first two events, just kind of flat. We kind of rallied the troops and said, ‘Come on guys. We need to fight, and have the greatest comeback, and let’s get it done in the second half.’”

The Buckeyes were off to a slow start in their first two rotations, but began to turn the meet around in the third rotation on balance beam.

Ohio State earned a 49.350 total on the beam, its highest score at the event of the season. Junior Jamie Stone and freshman Jenna Swartzentruber shared first place, each earning a 9.925. It was a career-high score for both gymnasts.

Senior Stefanie Merkle started the beam lineup for the Buckeyes to earn a 9.875, tying her career high.

“A senior starts a rotation and hits a really good beam set, and I think they [the team] just started building off of that,” Paulicivic said. “They had good energy to support her when she went up, she did well and they just kind of kept that up and built off of that.”

Freshman Morgan Lowe also matched a career high on balance beam with a 9.850 tally.

Gaining momentum from the third rotation, the Buckeyes finished the meet on floor exercise with a 49.400. Stone earned first place with her second 9.925 score of the night.

Though the Buckeyes struggled on vault and floor exercise, the first two events of the competition, the team did not walk away without garnering some titles from the two events. Ohio State earned a 48.975 total in its first rotation on vault, with Stone and sophomore Olivia Aepli each earning a 9.875 to share third place for the event.

The team improved in its second rotation on uneven bars where two Ohio State seniors shined. Mattern tied her career high of 9.900 to share first place with senior Kaitlyn Hofland.

“Tonight was really emotional for me,” Mattern said. “I’ve been fighting some injuries, and stuff like that, but my team has been so supportive and there for me this entire time, so to be able to just go out there and do it for them, and just kind of be in that spot, it’s magical.”

North Carolina State snagged first place on vault with a 49.325 total, and placed second for all other events on uneven bars (49.075), balance beam (49.200) and floor exercise (49.200).

Central Michigan earned first place for its first event on uneven bars with a 49.150, and placed third for the remaining events on vault (48.875), balance beam (48.550) and floor exercise (48.600).

“Heading into the postseason, I feel like it was a great lesson to learn,” Paulicivic said. “Again, we’re still learning, we’re still growing, so hopefully, also, hitting that beam set will sort of let them know what they can do. And my God, if we all put it together, then just who knows.”

Although Ohio State had is last regular season meet at home, and celebrated the accomplishments of the seniors, the Buckeyes still have postseason ahead of them. After its next meet at 2 p.m. Friday in East Lansing, Michigan, Ohio State will still have the Big Ten and NCAA championships. The Buckeyes will also host the NCAA regionals.

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