Oregon State Gymnastic back in action for 2021

Senior Niya Mack performs her bar routine. OSU lost their first meet at home against Boise 194.250 to 191.950.

Andres De Los Santos, Sports Contributor

Oregon State Gymnastics returned to action on Jan. 15, but began their 2021 season in an empty stadium, closed to the public due to the university’s COVID-19 safety regulations.

With there being no fan energy to feed off of, the team had to turn to two alternatives to provide the spark that the home crowd would typically provide: themselves, and the cardboard cutouts in the stands. For Oregon State junior gymnast Madi Dagen, those two options seemed to do the trick. 

“We really tried to create our own energy, and it was nice seeing the cutouts up in the stands,” Dagen said. “It kind of made it feel like there were fans up there.”

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The 13th ranked Oregon State Beavers team faced off this past weekend against the 30th ranked Boise State Broncos, in what would be the first gymnastics competition for the Beavers since March of last year. 

Oregon State would end the season-opener on a low note, ultimately falling short by a score of 194.250-191.950 in an upset loss to the Broncos. But even in defeat, the Beavers had a strong showing in their first meet back in 11 months. 

The meet began with the Beavers competing in the vault event, and were led by seniors Lena Green and Kaitlyn Yanish, along with a high-scoring effort from Dagen. Greene and Yanish both managed a score of 9.800, but it was Dagen who led the way with a team-high 9.900 score. Overall, the Beavers would finish with a score of 49.050 to the Broncos’ 48.600.

Out of all the events in Oregon State’s return to action, it was the vault that Dagan was looking forward to the most. 

“I was really excited for vault,” Dagen said. “I actually wasn’t that nervous this time, so I think that helped me. I just stayed cool, calm, and collected. But definitely nailing it was super exciting for me and a good start to the meet.”

After that, the Beavers moved on to the uneven bars routine. Here, the Beavers struggled to match their success from the first event, something that head coach Tanya Chaplin took note of. 

“There were a lot of walk-ons and a lot of athletes that had not been training bars for a couple of years, and they’re coming back and making strides,” Chaplin said. “And I think we’re going to see a big difference within the next month. We hope to see a significant difference each week, and as we go on, on uneven bars.”

Sophomore Kayla Bird, who scored a 9.350 on the uneven bars event, was the only gymnast returning to the bars lineup from the 2019-2020 season. With that, Chaplin had to make an entirely new lineup for that event. Among the new faces competing in the bars was junior Kristina Peterson, who led the way for Oregon State with 9.550 points. Even with a good showing from Peterson, the Beavers finished the uneven bars event with a score of 45.800, and fell behind in the meet 97.85-94.85.

Still, the Beavers continued to fight with a gutsy effort through adversity during the beam event. Senior gymnast Lexie Gonzales, who scored a 9.300 on the beam routine despite falling off the beam and losing some points, caught the attention of Chaplin.

“Even Lexie [Gonzales], who fell. She still won a 9.3[00]. With a fall, that’s huge,” Chaplin said. “I was pleased that they really came back for the most part and were aggressive, because they could’ve gone the opposite way, and kind of just gave up, and they didn’t do that. So that fight is very encouraging to see because it’s gonna be a long season and there’s going to be a lot of other things that are gonna be thrown our way.”

In their final event, the Beavers finished strong with the floor routine. Yanish led the way with her floor routine, scoring a 9.900, and taking home the individual floor title. 

Yanish was relieved to finally be able to compete back inside of Gill Coliseum, after nearly a full year since they had been able to put their routines into a meet setting and environment. 

“It was kind of…nerve-wracking,” Yanish said. “I was thinking about that before I went today. The last time I competed was my 21st birthday way earlier [last] year, so I was just really excited to put the routines out into a meet atmosphere.”

Despite the overall loss, and despite some members of the team expressing their disappointment, Chaplin, Dagen, and Yanish all had one thing in common: a sense of optimism. 

“Even after the meeting after the competition, everybody seems focused and they know what they wanna do, and they’re ready to improve and go back and put in the work so we can make big strides over these next few weeks,” Chaplin said. 

Dagen said that she has full faith in her team that they’ll be able to pick up from where they left off from last season, slowly, but surely. 

“It’s a starting point. And after going through so much time off, it was kind of like, we just want to see where we’re gonna start this year and build from there,” Dagen said. “I think we all know what we need to do now when we go back into the gym, and we all know what we want to work for, and how we want to improve. But I have full faith we’ll get back at it, and improve every meet and get better and better.”

And Yanish is excited to see how the gymnastics team can improve heading into their next meet. 

“It was a really exciting night,” Yanish said. “I thought that it was a really good starting point. I’m really excited to see where we go from here.” 

The Beavers will return to Gill Coliseum for their second meet of the season, as they will take on the Washington Huskies on Jan. 23, 2021.