Last year’s OSU Women’s Basketball team for the Beavers may have garnered the attention of most of Corvallis, but within the same halls of Gills stood another group of ladies who went on their own magical run through the NCAA regionals; I’m talking about the Oregon State Gymnastics squad. This group of women tore through the Pac-12 with impressive wins over quality squads such as Utah and Washington before eventually taking 2nd in the Pac-12 Championship Session. Following the Pac-12 Championship Session, the Beavs were sent on a trip to the Champaign Illinois Regional to compete against 5 other Gymnastics teams, 4 of which were ranked. The Beavs eventually took 2nd place in the Champaign Regionals, thus booking a ticket to the NCAA Regionals in St. Louis, MO. However, their magical run came to an end in Missouri, as the Beavs took 6th place in NCAA Regionals, just 3 spots short of qualifying for the Super 6 and a shot at the Natty. The Beavs ultimately finished as the 8th ranked team in the land, but the rough ending left a sour taste in many mouths. As much as the finish hurt to watch, there was no denying that the 2017 season was nothing short of spectacular.
Now, a new year of Beaver Gymnastics is upon us. Gone are 6 seniors who were major contributors to the Beavs last season; with this graduating group including Erika Aufiero, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, Megan Jimenez, Madeline Gardiner, Taylor Ricci, as well as Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year, Kaytianna McMillan. McMillan was also responsible for some of the Beavs most exciting memories last season; including a floor routine that resulted in a walk-off win versus Utah, as well as nailing a perfect 10 on the uneven bars in her final performance in Gill Coliseum.
Yet, as we approach the Beavs Orange and Black Exhibition on December 15th, this squad of Beavs features a much younger, hungrier look.
Leading the charge for the Beavs are the 2 seniors, Dani Dessaints and Shireen Khamedoost. Dessaints serves as the stud gymnast on the vault and balance beam. However, this past offseason she added the uneven bars to her repertoire of events. And if her high bar routine videos on Instagram are any indication of how the new event will fare for her, you should be getting pretty fired up about it. Khamedoost also performed very well on the vault and uneven bars for the Beavs last season, and she will continue to serve as one of the rocks for the young girls on the team. Both girls serve as the role models for this team, and will undoubtedly set the tone for the Beavs this coming season.
Dessaints also touched on the transitioning from last year to this year, “We’re going to have to figure out our team chemistry again because each team is different and it’s just a matter of how can we figure it out so we can connect just like we did this year.” Dessaints said, “It’s definitely going to be different next year, especially since we’re going to only have two seniors and I have to step into that role with Shireen Khamedoost to fill all six seniors and their personalities, so it’s going to be different, but I think it will be fun...”
Now, just because this team is young does not mean they lack experience. Juniors Mariana Colussi-Pelaez, Mary Jacobsen, and McKenna Singley all served major roles in the Beavs 2017 postseason run. Singley and Jacobsen both were staples in the lineup as all-around gymnasts (uneven bar, vault, balance beam, and floor routine), while Colussi-Pelaez performed at every position except vault. In addition to these returning Beavs, talented junior Lacy Dagen transferred to OSU this past offseason after spending her first few years with the Florida Gators. Dagen will bring fresh blood to the Beavs on the uneven bar and balance beam as she looks to bounce back from knee injuries in each of the previous 2 seasons while at Florida. These ladies will all be looked upon heavily to lead the Beavs this upcoming season.
In addition to these juniors, several sophomores will be tasked with carrying the load for this squad after contributing heavily in the regular season, as well as the post-season, last year. These sophomores included Sabrina Gill, Destinee Davis, and Isis Lowery, all of which will serve as all-around’s for the Beavs this season. Be sure to keep an eye on several sophomores that didn‘t compete (or that had minimal experience in events) last season, but are expected to have larger roles this season. These ladies include Maela Lazaro, Lena Greene, Jaimie Law, Alyssa Minyard, and Halli Briscoe. Plus, expect several freshmen on this roster to make splash impacts for this talented roster. One incoming freshman to watch out for is Kaitlyn Yanish, who features an awesome floor routine that is capped off by a double layout. This freshman’s routine is one of the most anticipated in all of NCAA, and something Beaver fans should be excited to see.
Coach Tanya Chaplin highlighted the experience this roster brings after the conclusion of last year’s NCAA Regionals: “...This is a great experience for our athletes that are young to see what this is all about, to see nationals, to experience this... So our job is to take everything in this weekend and let it help us grow into next year.”
Overall, the Beavs losing 6 seniors certainly hurts, but the team brings back a plethora of experience and a very strong 2017 recruiting class. Plus this isn’t even mentioning how OSU gym graduates Gardiner and Ricci will be returning as student coaches. This is a talented group of ladies, and they should light up the Pac-12 again this season. I know I’m fired up to see them take the floor, but what do you think, Beaver Nation? What’s your expectation for the upcoming season? Have some breakout stars in mind? Let us know in the comment section!