TULSA, Okla. – Highlighted by junior Kendra Combs’ winning performances on two events, the West Virginia University gymnastics team earned a big win against its regional rival Pitt, 195.900-194.175, on Friday evening, at Fitzgerald Field House, in Pittsburgh.
The Mountaineers (1-6, 0-6 Big 12) hit 24-for-24 routines for the first time this season and earned a 48.700-47.900 edge over the Panthers (5-9-1, 5-7-1 EAGL) on uneven bars, a 49.100-48.525 win on balance beam and a 49.300-48.950 victory on floor exercise. The two squads also posted matching 48.8 marks on vault.
WVU’s final total was good for a season best. The Mountaineers also scored a season high in their third rotation, tallying a 49.0 or higher on floor in five of their last six meets. Additionally, the squad notched a season-best mark on vault.
“I was very happy with our performance tonight,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “These last few meets of the season are critical for us to build momentum, and this team did that tonight. It was a fun meet with a lot of highlights the team can be proud of, and we have to take some confidence away knowing that we can hit and do great under pressure.”
Individually, nine WVU gymnasts earned 12 podium finishes in Friday night’s meet.
Combs paced WVU and won the bars and floor titles outright. The Windsor, Connecticut, native posted a winning, 9.825 performance on bars, good for a season high, before scoring her third 9.9 of the season on floor and matching her personal best for the fourth time. Overall, she has claimed seven event wins in her three-year career, with five of those occurring on floor. Combs also earned her first career victory on bars tonight.
Junior Esperanza Abarca followed Combs in a tie for second on bars with a 9.8.
On beam, sophomore Abbie Pierson and freshman Chloe Asper tied for first overall with matching 9.85s. Pierson’s mark was good for a season high, while Asper has scored a 9.8 or better in all four meets she has competed in. Of note, the duo each owns a personal-best score of 9.9 in the event. Additionally, senior McKenna Linnen tied for third with a 9.825 total.
Freshman Kiana Lewis also landed on the podium twice, placing second on vault and floor. The Hampton, Virginia, native scored a career-high 9.825 on vault and matched her personal best on floor with a 9.875.
Senior Michelle Waldron and freshman Kayla Yancey tied for third overall on vault with matching 9.775s. Yancey’s mark matched her career best in the event.
Additionally, sophomore Emily Holmes-Hackerd and Pierson scored matching 9.85s on floor and tied for third.
“Kiana had an outstanding night, competing in three events for the first time and hitting all three,” Butts said. “McKenna also had a great meet after being out last weekend. She put up two great routines and brought a ton of energy to the floor. Chloe continues to impress us on beam, and Emily showed why she is a consistent part of the floor and beam lineups.”
With tonight’s win, WVU pushes its commanding series advantage over Pitt to 66-16-2.
Looking ahead, West Virginia heads back to Pittsburgh on Friday, March 12, with competition set to begin at 7 p.m., before the Panthers travel to Morgantown for the Mountaineers’ final meet on Sunday, March 14, at 2 p.m.
“We will take a hard-earned win over Pitt, but more importantly, we put up a great road score tonight,” Butts said. “We have another chance to do this again next Friday under the same circumstances. But we can do better. We still have too many small mistakes. I will say this, our lineups usually start to solidify at this point in the season, but the fact that we are still changing them speaks volumes on how hard this team is working and making sure we have depth and options. I expect big things from this team, and they showed it tonight.”