The No. 25 West Virginia gymnastics team put on a show at home Sunday, earning a season-high 196.8 score and defeating Ohio State and Bowling Green in a tri-team meet.
The outstanding score of 196.8 is the eighth highest in program history and the best score the team has achieved under head coach Jason Butts.
"This team has been incredible. I’ve really enjoyed working with them," Butts said. "I don’t really focus on scores, but it’s nice to see the plan come to fruition."
On a day that was owned by the Mountaineers, Ohio State and Bowling Green both performed at a high level, putting up scores of 195.975 and 195.725, respectively. The 195.975 total is the Buckeyes’ second highest team score of the year, and Bowling Green hit its season-high mark with 195.725.
West Virginia started the day on vault led by sophomore Robyn Bernard, who received a score of 9.725. Four Mountaineers achieved a score of 9.8 or better, including three scores of 9.825 from freshman Kirah Koshinski, sophomore Zaakira Muhammad and junior Amanda Bowman, who tied her career-high record. The team finished with a 49.0, .028 points below its season average.
This left the door open for Ohio State, which finished with a team score of 49.025 on the bars with impressive performances from freshman Kaitlyn Hofland and sophomore Alexis Mattern. Hofland led the team with a 9.85 score, and Mattern pulled in second with a 9.825, setting a new career-high. Ohio State led all competitors going into the second rotation.
Bernard once again took the team in the right direction to start the second rotation, recording a career-best 9.775 on bars. Not to be outdone, freshman Tiara Wright set a new career-high mark with an astounding score of 9.9, beating her record of 9.875 from last week’s meet.
Junior Alexa Goldberg also had a solid routine, tying her season-high score of 9.9. These three performances led the Mountaineers to a team score of 49.15, their best of the season. This put West Virginia at 98.150 on the day and placed them first among all competitors.
Ohio State’s worst team performance of the day came during the second rotation on the beam, where it earned a score of 48.8. The combination of a poor team score and Bowling Green’s inspired performance on the floor led to the Buckeyes getting leap-frogged by both WVU and BGSU.
To start the third rotation for West Virginia, Goldberg led with an electric performance, earning a score of 9.8 and beating her season-high of 9.725. Four Mountaineers scored a 9.8 or better on the beam, headlined by Muhammad’s season-high score of 9.85 that helped bump the team score up to 49.075.
WVU used two alternatives in its beam lineup with Muhammad and Wright and remarkably managed to grab its highest team score of the year.
"We talked about consistency at practice this week," Butts said. "Whoever is going to warm up the best is going to get the spot. It’s something that we changed a couple of years ago and has worked out well for us so far."
The Buckeyes’ best team score of the day came during the third rotation when they achieved a mark of 49.1 on the floor.
Sophomore Stephaine Merkle led the team with an impressive score of 9.9. Three Ohio State gymnasts finished with a 9.8 or better.
With Bowling Green faltering on vault with a score of 48.850, the Buckeyes passed them in the standings and closed the gap on WVU going into the final rotation.
The Mountaineers were a force to be reckoned with on the floor in the fourth and final rotation, posting a jaw-dropping team score of 49.575, the third-highest floor total in program history.
"We have some depth at that event. That’s a score we’re capable of getting every time we step out on the floor" Butts said. "It’s one of the moments I’ve been waiting for all season long because I knew the potential was there."
The gymnasts competing for WVU on the floor all earned a score of 9.8 or higher. Freshman Jaquie Tun, sophomore Jordan Gillette, senior Melissa Idell and Koshinski all set career-high totals in the event.
Tun led the rotation with an impressive 9.825, followed by Gillette’s 9.875. With two strong back-to-back routines, the home crowd started to get into it. Idell stepped up and delivered the first 9.95 of the day, a near perfect performance.
Not to be outdone, Koshinski reeled in the second 9.95 of the day in a routine that brought the house down. With a pair of 9.9 scores from Muhammad and Goldberg, the Mountaineers were able to grab four podium spots for the floor.
Goldberg and Muhammad earned first and second place all-around with scores of 39.325 and 39.275, respectively. This was Goldberg’s second all-around victory of the season.
With a second straight week of a score above 196.0, it would be hard to imagine West Virginia is going anywhere but up in the National Rankings.
"We’re peaking at the right moment, and we just have to keep this going," Butts said. "This should help us move up in the rankings this week, and it should be enough to put us in the postseason."