Although not the favorite, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team had the advantage of competing in its own gym for a chance of securing one of two berths in the NCAA championships.
The No. 25 Buckeyes needed to close a gap of .250 with Arkansas in the final rotation. In the end, their season ended short by .225.
“I’m going to be disappointed for a solid night when it’s that close,” head coach Meredith Paulicivic said. “To know that what I told them all year, that they’re good enough, that they could be in the mix, was true, and it was certainly a lot of fun being in the mix. It was so exciting for the girls, and so good for the returners to have a good experience like that, coming back for next year. But of course, we’re all a little disappointed because it was just that close.”
The Buckeyes, however, will be represented at the championships on April 20-21 with junior Jamie Stone qualifying as an individual event specialist after sharing the podium on floor exercise and vault.
“It didn’t really hit me until we were going into awards, and I was like ‘Wait, maybe this could be it, maybe not,’” Stone said. “When I landed [on vault] I was very excited to stick. We have a saying ‘stick city, baby’ and they said that before I went, so when I did it, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that really worked.’ So it was exciting.”
Ohio State ended its season with a 49.150 team score on the vault. Arkansas scored 49.175 on uneven bars to send the Buckeyes packing.
No. 3 UCLA (197.650) and No. 10 Arkansas (196.775) finished first and second, respectively, to qualify for the NCAA championship competition that will be held in St. Louis, Missouri. Ohio State’s 196.500 fell just shy of qualifying for the championship, finishing ahead of No. 15 Boise State (196.225) and ahead of Pittsburgh (195.125) and Kent State (194.900).
The Buckeyes’ best event came in their third event on floor exercise where they earned a 49.300 mark, second behind UCLA (49.375).
On floor exercise, junior Jamie Stone tied for second place with a 9.900 tally with Arkansas’ Sarah Shaffer, Kent State’s Abigail Fletcher, UCLA’s Felicia Hano and Gracie Kramer and Western Michigan’s individual event specialist Rachael Underwood.
Stone earned her second 9.900 score of the night and a career-high mark on on vault, tying for first place with UCLA’s Anna Glenn and Pauline Tratz and Arkansas’ Braie Speed.
Ohio State began the night on uneven bars with a 49.200 total. Sophomore Olivia Aepli led the team with a 9.875 finish to tie for fourth place.
The Buckeyes finished with a 48.850 score on balance beam, the team’s second event of the night. Senior Alexis Mattern posted a team-high 9.825 score for the Buckeyes. Arkansas posted a 49.175 on beam.
Heading into the final rotation trailing by a slight margin, Ohio State knew it had to be sharp to secure the national bid.
“We were trying to put a little heat on Arkansas. That’s a more technical event [on bars], so we felt good thinking, ‘Gosh, if we just nail these landings,’” Paulicivic said. “We knew we were going to need a little help from them making little mistakes, and they didn’t, so kudos to them.”
The effort wasn’t enough, ending the Buckeyes’ season.
“We were 100 percent prepared, that this was going to be a fight, and that we were going to have to leave everything out here, one last time, and see where it got us,” Mattern said. “It was really fun, a lot of hype, a lot of anticipation. We were really anxious to come in here, just because we knew we were ready. And for the first time, we hit 24/24 [routines] with no regrets and walked away with our heads held high.”