Gymnastics seniors say goodbye to Gill

Kaytianna McMillan is one of six seniors on the OSU gymnastics team.

Max Braly, Multimedia Contributor

The regular season for Oregon State’s gymnastics team will come to an end on Saturday, March 11. In the final home meet, the No. 9 Beavers face off against the University of Illinois-Chicago.

For the six seniors on the team, Saturday’s meet marks their last competition in Gill Coliseum.

“It’s not the end, it’s a beginning of a new chapter in their life,” Head Coach Tanya Chaplin said.  “Feeling like you were able to be a part of any chapter of their life is really special. You’re excited to see the continued growth and what they’ll achieve next.”

Chaplin’s husband and the team’s associate head coach Michael Chaplin says after 20 years of coaching, you know to prepare to say goodbye. He says the preparation starts during recruiting.

“We kind of prepare them through the recruiting process for this night,” Michael Chaplin said. “Because Tanya and I know, this is our 20th year, we know this is coming.”

What is coming is the end of six amazing gymnastics careers. Erika Aufiero, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, Madeline Gardiner, Megan Jimenez, Kaytianna McMillan and Taylor Ricci will all see the end of their collegiate competitive gymnastics careers following the conclusion of this season.

“I’ve heard about and met a lot people that are part of the legacy of this program, and I think this class really embodies (OSU’s legacy), because they really get the whole picture,” Assistant coach Brian Amato said. “They are really good student athletes, they’re all academic all-Americans, they are all set to go forward and either go to grad school or med school. They’ve done a lot in the community and have been really successful athletes. So they embody what we’d like to see every class be.”

This departing senior class will be remembered for their competitiveness, success through adversity and positivity, but perhaps most of all for their heart.

“We’ve gone through alot together,” Colussi-Pelaez said. “It’ll be really sad to have them gone, but I know that our friendships will last forever.”

A silver lining amongst the goodbyes is the fact that Colussi-Pelaez, Gardiner and Ricci are staying on campus next year to finish their degrees and to continue to help the team, which makes an easier transition for them and the younger classes.

After this season, these six will become alumni and join a proud group of former gymnasts.

“Oregon State isn’t going anywhere and this is part of their family too,” Tanya Chaplin said. “They will all always be a part of the Beaver family.”

“It’s pretty special that you can build those relationships and continue to see them grow and watch their families grow as they continue through their life journey,” she added.

Relationships are built through shared memories. A common favorite memory occurred this season, when the Beavers upset Utah at Gill. The combination of the special Pink Out meet and McMillan’s walk-off floor routine made for an unforgettable memory shared by everybody involved with the team.

“A lot of the girls on our team have said that we’ve never felt a chemistry and an energy like we have this year and it’s been really really great,” Colussi-Pelaez said. “Just awesome to compete and we’re having a great time and having fun.”

Senior night could also be appropriately named ‘family night.’ Colussi-Pelaez has family coming all the way from Toronto, Ontario. Though, family hasn’t been too far away for her while she’s been a Beaver. Her sister, a sophomore, Mariana is her teammate.

“It’s been more normal for me than when I was apart from (my sister), just because we grew up, trained, and competed together our whole lives,” Colussi-Pelaez said. “Being back and actually being able to compete on the same team with her has been really amazing.”

For Ricci, 10 of her family members are making the trip down from North Vancouver, British Columbia, many of which have yet to see her compete at any level of gymnastics.

Oregon State’s opponent on Saturday isn’t ranked in the top 80 teams, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to relax for the Beavers.

“We are never really focused on who we’re competing against, because it’s all about the score. We are competing against every single team every single weekend,” Ricci said. “It doesn’t really matter what team we are competing against going into senior night, we’re just looking to put the best gymnastics out there.”

The last two meets, Oregon State has posted some lofty scores, besting 197.00 both times.

“The last two weeks have just been really exciting, hitting that 197 [each week] as a team. Especially doing one away and one in Gill, for our RQS it has been awesome. And also having [a 197] in Gill in front of our fans was really fun.”

Though the scores are truly impressive, there is still room for improvement as the team approaches the postseason.

“We have pretty high expectations,” Ricci said. “We’re ranked ninth right now, obviously Super Six is not out of reach.

But before the Super Six, the Beavers have to get through the Pac-12 championships. Last year they took second place. The team won’t be satisfied with that result, their eyes are on first.

But first, there is still one last meet at Gill Coliseum and one more opportunity for Ricci to excite the crowd with her signature, fan-favorite floor routine

“I’m hoping that the six of us keep it together and don’t completely cry after the meet. I think floor will really hit me [emotionally]. Doing that last O-S-U in front of the crowd is really going to hit me.”

Saturday will be a time for the fans to celebrate the seniors, but also the seniors are afforded one last chance to say thank you to the beloved fans and boosters who have supported them throughout their time at OSU.