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Jen Kessler Claims Second As Beavers Finish Strong On Bars

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Oregon St. didn't advance to the Super 6, the finals of the NCAA Gymnastics Championsips in Cleveland, OH, this weekend, but they did send some individuals to the last day, and Jen Kessler placed second in the uneven bars, posting a 9.8750 to finish second to Georgia's Kat Ding who won the title with a 9.9125.

The Beavers' Makayla Stambaugh finished in a tie for third on the bars with a score of 9.8625, and Olivia Vivian scored 9.8500 to tie for sixth.

Stambaugh also finished eighth out of 12 competitors on the floor with 9.8625, but Leslie Mak, who was ranked No. 1 on the balance beam, struggled and finished last, with a 9.4500.

Coach Tanya Chaplin was happy with the results, particularly Kesler's.

"It's her senior year and she just went for everything," Chaplin said. "She didn't hold back. All three did a solid job and I couldn't be more pleased with how we did. They are very confident on that event and it gives us something that we can work towards the future with."

Kesler's second place was the best any Oregon St. gymnast has done in the finals since Katrina Severin placed second in the vault in 2001, and equaled the Beavers' best finishes ever on the bars, by Chari Knight in 1991 and Heather Bennett in 1996.

"I was really nervous being up there all alone, but then I relaxed and just had a blast," Kessler said. "My teammates and all the girls around helped each other. It was just a time to showcase what we'd done all year."

Alabama, who won Oregon St.'s preliminary group Friday, went on to win the overall championship.

All competitors who made it to the final day earn All-American honors.

The gymnastics team will be honored before the baseball game against Washington St. on Thursday.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com