Senior Lia Salzano has been competing for the West Virginia University gymnastics team since 2012 and was a crucial member during certain meets in her time on the team.
A native of Centreville, Va., Salzano was a two-time Junior Olympics National Championships qualifier during her club years and an Eastern National Championships qualifier.
“I was visiting a lot of schools within driving range. I’m from Northern Virginia and it was just on my list of schools to check out,” she said. “It wasn’t really high or low on my list until I came here and met the coaches and saw the campus and the gym, and it was the last college I visited. I was like this is where I want to go, it was just right.”
Her first season as a Mountaineer, Salzano saw action in seven different meets and competed as a multi-event athlete in three of them. She established her career highs in vault and uneven bars in 2012 as well. Against Penn State and Maryland, Salzano hit a 9.775 on the vault in early January 2012, and in the end of February she hit a 9.75 on the uneven bars against New Hampshire.
For her freshman year she averaged a 9.7 on the vault, 9.47 on beam and 9.36 on bars. Along with transitioning into college itself, Salzano said the move from club to college gymnastics was a new experience.
“It’s really different. In club it’s totally an individual sport so it’s a lot different to come here and individual scores and rating and status doesn’t really matter, it’s all about the team,” she said. “When you’re going up to compete it’s not even for you, it’s for the team so it was awesome for me to be a part of something bigger like that. Also, the coaching in club — they can be a lot harsher and in college they care about you and your body, how you’re feeling; it’s actually a lot different.”
Salzano seemed to embrace that transition to its fullest and came back in 2013 posting higher numbers than her first year. She competed in every meet, five of which she was a multi-event competitor. She hit her career high on the beam of 9.85 against Denver. In five different meets that season, she scored a 9.775 or better.
Even pulling in the rankings, Salzano hit the Top 25 for the southeast region and was ranked No. 22 on the beam at one point. She finished with season averages of 9.692 on vault, 9.667 on beam and 9.063 on bars.
With all these improvements, she has had personal growth during her time at West Virginia as well.
“I think one of the biggest things that I have been able to work on here is confidence and knowing that your teammates are confident in you,” Salzano said. “I think building my confidence has been a constant over the four years that I’ve definitely improved on and being able to hit the routine every time, being consistent and not having any doubts in yourself, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
As one of the three, four-year seniors on the WVU squad, Salzano has experienced the changing of conferences and changes on the team as well. In her freshman year, the team was part of the EAGL Conference, which had eight teams in it. The conference championship meet was more hectic and the matchups themselves were different.
Going into the Big 12 there are only three teams participating in gymnastics: WVU, Oklahoma and Iowa State.
Salzano said the team usually keeps the energy up during meets and tries to have fun; those are the most memorable for her. One of those meets was the EAGL Championships in 2012, including the fact that West Virginia won the title.
This year is the second time the NCAA Regionals meet is hosted in Morgantown, and Salzano thinks it will be fun again and hopes for a big crowd.
Going into the next three meets, the regular season is winding down and the final meets are coming up.
“It’s definitely bittersweet because senior meet is coming up,” Salzano said. “It is exciting coming to the end of the season because the big meets are coming up but being a senior means those are your last meets. We’re so talented and I just hope that we pull it off and hit in all the meets, make it to regionals this year and end on a really positive note.”
As an education major in the five-year program West Virginia has, Salzano will be around town next year and plans on visiting the gym and continuing to be an “avid fan” of the Mountaineers.