“Emotional” senior night the last home performance for five OSU gymnasts

By Claire Nelson
Senior Lexie Gonzalez performs a personal record on the a  beam for senior night on Friday against Utah. Oregon State fell behind Utah by a slim margin of 1.150pts.

Andres De Los Santos, Sports Contributor

Senior night for any sports team is a night full of different emotions, feelings, and thoughts, as shown through the performance of Oregon State on Mar. 5, and summed up by Head Gymnastics Coach Tanya Chaplin.

“I think what is really amazing about tonight and these types of evenings is that we get to show gratitude for all of these athletes that have put in four years of tremendous work into the program and given everything they have to gymnastics here at Oregon State University. That’s what’s exciting,” Chaplin said. 

In total, there were seven Oregon State gymnasts being honored on the team’s senior night, and the group’s penultimate regular-season match of 2021 season. Those performing in their last home meet were Lacy Dagen, Savanna Force, Lexie Gonzalez, Lena Greene and Niya Mack. 

Saying goodbye was something that proved difficult for Chaplin, so much so that she decided to honor the seniors at the end of the meet, otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to coach her gymnasts. 

“I think we tried to keep that emotion until the end. Even talking to them in the beginning, I tried not to go into too much, or I’d lose it,”. 

And even though the Oregon State Gymnastics team put up their third team score above 196, it still wasn’t enough to defeat the fourth-ranked Utah Utes, who ended up winning the meet by a score of 197.575-196.425. But the Beavers still managed to send their seniors out with a bang. 

As they have all season, the Beavers put together a phenomenal on the vault routine. Senior Kaitlyn Yanish scored a 9.875 on her routine, while Lacy Dagen followed close behind to score a 9.850. But it would be freshman Sydney Gonzalez, who was able to set a personal record of 9.900, who would take home the individual title on vault.

Gonzalez credits winning her first title to her sister, senior Lexie Gonzalez, who was right there by her side. 

“Just the emotion of landing that vault, and feeling like you put it all together is such an amazing moment, cause then I just turn around and my sister is right there,” Gonzalez said. 

Chaplin also said that it was these high scores on vault that would get the ball rolling for the team. 

“But starting off on vault, Kaitlyn started us off with a 9.875, Sydney followed with a 9.900, and then we had another 9.850, and then a 9.800, and so that started the ball rolling there,” Chaplin said. 

On the bars, junior Madi Dagen started the Beavers off by scoring a 9.700. Sophomore Kalya Bird and freshman Kaitlyn Hoiland were able to pass Dagen’s score, scoring a 9.750 and a 9.725, respectively. 

In total, the Beavers scored a 48.400 on bars, a score that Chaplin believes can be improved if the team focuses on one thing; finishing strong on landings.

“Bars is right there, we weren’t sticking landings like we did at UCLA, so that made a big difference in our score. [But] they fought all the way, and I’m seeing improvement from those athletes,” Chaplin said. 

The beam routine is where the Beavers shined the brightest. Junior Kristina Peterson, Lexie Gonzalez, and freshman Ariana Young all scored a 9.850 on their respective beam routine, while junior Madi Dagen and sophomore Jenna Domingo scored a 9.900. These high scores lead to a total score of 49.350, which is the best score of the 2021 season. 

Chaplin gave credit to Kristina Peterson for starting the Beavers off hot, and keeping that momentum going through the rest of the event. 

“And then when they went to beam, [Kristina Peterson] has been solid for us, starting us off with a 9.850, and then rolling on through the lineup, we see that all the time in the gym,” Chaplin said.

On floor routine, the final routine of the event, the Beavers had another strong team performance. Niya Mack kicked things off by scoring a 9.850 on her routine, with Kayla Bird following suit with a matching score. But it was Yanish who would take home her sixth-floor title of the season by scoring a 9.950. 

And even though the Beavers lost the meet, there was still emotion and energy throughout the meet, and part of that had to do with the fact that it was senior night. Sydney Gonzalez said that it was tough to compete alongside her sister, mainly because this was the last time that she got to compete alongside her sister in Gill Coliseum. 

“So emotional,” Gonzalez said. “I definitely tried to keep the emotions down. But I’ve been so proud of her and seeing her grow up and just go through the rollercoaster of gymnastics, I’m so happy for her, she did amazing on that.” 

Feeling the emotion herself, Yanish said that the team focused on performing for each other, rather than worrying about the scores throughout the meet. 

“I feel like tonight, the team tried to put all of their emotions aside, but even with all the tears aside, I really felt like the heart and the passion and the drive, that has been really different from all of our meets. Instead of it being about scores, it was about making it the best night for the seniors, and that was really really special,” Yanish said. 

And even though it was senior night, and the last time some of these gymnasts competed for the last time in Gill Coliseum, not all of Oregon State’s seniors played in their last home meet. With the NCAA allowing seniors another year of eligibility for student-athletes, two OSU gymnasts have decided to return for another year. 

“Kaitlyn Yanish and Collette [Yamaoka] are going to come back next season,” Chaplin said. 

When Yanish was asked about her decision to come back for another year, she mainly had two reasons: school, and her love for this sport. 

“I made the decision completely to come back next year. This year was just a little weird, and I just really have a huge passion for this sport, and for this team, and this program,” Yanish said. “There’s still a minor that I want to add, and go through with a little more school, so I feel like it was a really good decision for me. I’m just really excited and thankful for an opportunity to come back for another year, and hopefully have a season where my parents can actually come to senior night.”

The Beavers have one more meet against the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday, March 14 at Stanford, before the PAC-12 Championships in West Valley City, Utah on March 20. 

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