Ohio State women’s gymnastics coach Carey Fagan stopped short of calling this Friday’s contest against Kent State revenge.
But, neither she nor her team has forgotten about a one-tenth-point loss to the Golden Flashes in last year’s regional qualifier that knocked them out of the NCAA Championships.
“That stung, and I know it’s been on the minds of the girls for almost a whole year,” Fagan said.
Almost a year later, a similar feeling still resonates with the team.
The No. 14-ranked Buckeyes, though, have harvested that disappointment into this season’s rallying cry: “Our honor defend to the last tenth.”
And it has been the driving force behind a year that Fagan and her team have condensed into a single word — consistent.
“I think one of the best things we’ve done is we’ve been really consistent — we haven’t had to count a fall in several meets,” she said. “For us, all our scores have been right in that low 196, high 195 range.”
Sophomore Sarah Miller echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“I think that, overall, we’ve been really consistent throughout our entire season,” said Miller, who earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors this week. “Generally, all of our scores have pretty much reflected our season.”
OSU, which hasn’t posted a score lower than 195.175 this year, set a school record for their 197.625 team score against Denver Feb. 18.
Fagan said she thinks her team’s consistent and sometimes dominating performance is a combination of senior leadership and the strong sophomore class that includes Miller.
“I think (the seniors are) coming upon the end of their gymnastics career, and I think they’re really doing a good job kind of motivating some of the younger kids,” she said.
Fagan said her seniors’ lead-by-example approach has been different compared to past seasons.
“I think the best leadership comes from when they’re performing well and they have the confidence,” she said. “It’s harder if you’re not doing well to kind of step up and be like, ‘Come on guys,’ if you’re not taking care of your own business.”
“So the fact that our seniors are doing a good job, they sort of have that confidence and that backing.”
Fresh off a 196.025-195.000 win against No. 10 Penn State, the Buckeyes look to put it all together Friday night.
“Vault and floor, in general, are strong events for us,” Fagan said. “But if we can hit bars and beam really well in one night, I think it’ll be a good score for us.”
In some ways, much of OSU’s season has led up to their rematch with Kent State.
But, junior Colleen Dean said the Buckeyes need to approach Friday with the same mentality they took on against Penn State last weekend.
“We all kind of have that feeling of a little animosity towards Kent State,” Dean said. “But like Penn State, we don’t want to focus on beating this team or like, the other team, because that’s something we can’t control. But we can control our routines and what we do with them.”
Fagan said, for the most part, mental toughness isn’t an issue for OSU.
“This group of athletes is pretty confident, and so they don’t need the constant repetition like some other teams that I’ve coached,” she said. “To me, I know walking into the meet on Friday, if they feel physically good, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Miller said she knows how much a win would mean for her team.
“We definitely want this,” she said. “It was just little things that happened at regionals, tenths here and there, and we definitely want this really bad.”