Zaakira Muhammad

 

Zaakira Muhammad competes on the Dance Mat during a meet against Kentucky in February.

The West Virginia University gymnastics team rode its wave of momentum from the regular season all the way to Frisco, Texas, where it placed third in the Big 12 Championship with a score of 195.925.

The Oklahoma Sooners were the eventual champions, finishing with a score of 198.05 and claiming their fifth straight Big 12 title. Although they finished miles behind the Sooners, Denver claimed second place in the competition with a score of 196.725. Iowa State took the fourth spot with a 195.35 total.

Some of the usual suspects put together strong performances for the Mountaineers, a few of which include Alexa Goldberg, Zaakira Muhammad, Melissa Idell and the freshman duo of Tiara Wright and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Kirah Koshinski.

These gymnasts are the essential ones to watch heading into the NCAA Regional Championships in Tuscaloosa.

Goldberg has been a leader for the team all season, having competed in all four events in eight different meets this year. She leads the team comfortably in total points with 409.5.

The bulk of her points this season have come from the uneven bars, where she has five first-place finishes this season and ranks in the top 50 nationally with a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 9.87.

During the course of the season, WVU has needed to use her scores on every event in just about every meet. Don’t expect that to change heading into the final competition.

Following just behind her in total points is Muhammad with 392.0. Muhammad has been a staple for the team on the bars, vault and floor. She ranks second on the team on vault with a 9.875 RQS, placing her No. 37 nationally on the event. She has earned six wins this year, two of which were all-around.

Senior Idell has been a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy event for the Mountaineers on the beam. She has scored a 9.8 or better on the beam five times this season and currently leads the team with a 9.81 RQS in the event.

Idell has also been one of the team’s top performers on the floor, earning scores of 9.8 or higher in eight of 12 meets this season. She earned a team season-high score of 9.95 in a meet against Ohio State and Bowling Green.

One of the many important freshman contributors this year is Wright, who has served as a go-to on the bars throughout the season. She ranks just behind Goldberg with a 9.855 RQS and has scored a 9.8 or better in six meets this year.

Late in the season, Wright was given a bigger role on the team when she also began to compete on the beam and floor every week. She has proven herself as more than capable of handling the responsibility, as she has scored a 9.8 or better three weeks in a row on the floor and two weeks in a row on the beam.

Koshinski has arguably been the most important gymnast for West Virginia this season. Ranking No. 12 nationally with a 9.9 RQS, she has been an absolute ace on the vault. She earned wins in six out of 12 meets this season on vault and has never scored below a 9.85.

She has also appeared on the beam on a few occasions, owning a pair of 9.8 scores. Floor has been her second-best event, yet she still owns the highest RQS on the team with an impressive 9.875. She has earned a 9.8 or better in all but two meets and tied the team season-high mark of 9.95 when she and Idell put on a show against Ohio State and Bowling Green.

Koshinski’s impeccable freshman season has landed her a spot on the second team All-American list, an honor that has not been held by a Mountaineer since Janae Cox earned first team honors in 2007.

She was also named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, having been honored as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week five times during the season.

This tremendously talented group of gymnasts has a chance to make some real noise heading into the NCAA Regional Championships this Saturday.