Buckeyes stick it to Panther gymnastics


Charles LeClaire

Pitt senior Tracey Pearson took second place in the all-around at the Panthers’ season-opening meet against Ohio State. Courtesy of Charles LeClaire|Pitt Athletics

By Bayard Miller | Assistant Sports Editor

On a frigid Saturday night in Pittsburgh, the Pitt gymnastics team’s season opener got off to a cold start against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Although Pitt participated in an exhibition last month against the Kent State Golden Flashes, Saturday’s competition was the squad’s first official action since winning the East Atlantic Gymnastics League title last year, a first in program history. The Panthers’ title defense didn’t start as planned, as they dropped a close match by a score of 194.375-192.800.

Only one Pitt gymnast finished in first place out of the four events.

On the balance beam, senior Kelly Burak posted an excellent score of 9.775, which was good for second place behind Ohio State junior Stefanie Merkle, whose performance earned a 9.850. But Pitt head coach Debbie Yohman was let down by the rest of the gymnasts on the beam Sunday night

An uncharacteristically poor performance by junior Taylor Laymon of 8.300 allowed the Buckeyes to take the event.

“I’m really disappointed in [our performance on the] beam, because we’re better than that,” Yohman said in a press release.

Laymon found her stride elsewhere, and her brilliance on the bars marked the sole individual victory of the night for the Panthers. Her routine merited a 9.850 score from the judges — good enough to best Ohio State junior Alexis Mattern, who won second place with a 9.800.

“Taylor was gorgeous,” Yohman said in the release. “That was probably the best bar routine that I’ve ever seen her do. The handstands were so precise, and she just nailed it. I’m so proud of what she did there.”

Another standout performance from the Panthers belonged to first-year Alecia Petrikis, who hails from nearby Grove City, Pennsylvania. She tied Pitt senior Tracey Pearson for second place on the floor exercise in her first collegiate event with a score of 9.825.

“Wasn’t that pretty?” Yohman said about Petrikis’ debut. “What’s great about her is she’s a local kid. [The floor] is her best event, and she just shone.”

Pitt only had one all-around performer Saturday night — Pearson — to Ohio State’s two, but Pearson showed herself capable of the difficult task of competing in all four events by recording a score of 38.900, good for second place.

Although the loss puts a damper on team expectations, Yohman seemed excited for the rest of the season after the meet.

“I can’t wait to get back in the gym, because the things that we’ve been doing have been giving us results,” Yohman said in the release.

The Panthers’ next matchup will be at the Fitzgerald Field House against rivaling West Virginia Mountaineers at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13.

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