Gymnasts face top competition
OSU has two gymnasts out with injury, face three top-10 teams in Texas Saturday
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 01:01
Saturday’s Metroplex Challenge will be the most significant regular season meet of the year for the Oregon State gymnastics team.
It’s still early in the season, and the No. 16 Beavers (3-3) have only faced one Pac-12 opponent thus far. But Saturday’s meet will be as similar to the postseason as OSU may ever see in the regular season.
“This will be an incredible meet this weekend,” said head coach Tanya Chaplin. “We have some of the best teams in the country that we’re going up against.”
In an uncharacteristic five-team meet, three of the five are in the national top 10. OSU will face off against No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 7 LSU and No. 9 Georgia, along with Pac-12 opponent Washington, in the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I definitely think this weekend’s important because those teams are so phenomenal at gymnastics,” said senior Kelsi Blalock.
A meet like this simulates nationals, not only because of the talent, but because it’s on podium — a raised stage three feet off the ground to help the audience see more clearly. When equipment is on a podium, it feels different than on a normal floor, even if the apparatus is identical.
“It will give us a great opportunity to be in that type of environment,” Tanya Chaplin said.
The Beavers have always stressed they aren’t competing against just the teams in the meet, but against the entire nation.
Rankings aren’t determined by any type of subjective poll, but by scores in meets.
Focusing too much on these top-tier opponents may be detrimental to some on the team.
“Once you get wrapped up in watching, you get intimidated, and that’s just when everything goes downhill,” Blalock said.
But some enjoy seeing that level of talent.
“It’s always a snowball effect, whenever there’s good gymnastics around you, you’re going to feed off that energy,” said sophomore Katelyn Ohlrich. “I think it’s going to be fun, we haven’t seen these teams since nationals last year.”
Ohlrich had only performed one routine for the entire 2012 season. Ambitions are high and she has delivered on them so far.
In the first three meets, Ohlrich put up scores of 9.775, 9.750 and 9.850. Good for first, second and first on the team.
“I feel really confident in my routines,” Ohlrich said. “I hit most of them in practice. I just go in and try to keep it sane, mentally.”
Coming into the season, there were four new faces who needed to step up for the Beavers to maintain their national prominence: freshmen Sarah Marquez and Erika Aufiero, and sophomores Chelsea Tang and Ohlrich.
Marquez is out for the season with a knee injury she suffered in the Jan. 11 meet against Ohio State. Aufiero has a sprained ankle and will not be traveling to Texas.
Now, depth has become a concern.
“It’s always rough when we lose people to injuries, but I think that we have enough depth to be able to handle it,” Blalock said. “We’re not putting up the person we want to put in lineup, our first choice, but I know the people who are alternates … are really going to step up their game.”
Ohlrich and Tang have to step up once again.
“We’re in a pretty good situation where we have people that can step in and get the job done,” said associate head coach Michael Chaplin.
Aside from Tang and Ohlrich, look for Hailey Gaspar, Blalock and Nicole Turner to get in on more events.
Oregon State has issues to deal with, but despite those, the Beavers are still 16th in the nation — a telltale sign of a team able to adapt to its environment.
Saturday will show exactly how well they can handle the heat.
“This is a really significant meet,” Michael Chaplin said. “It’ll be a real challenge for our girls, our team. We’ll see how they respond.”
Warner Strausbaugh, sports editor