Penn State gymnast Whitney Bencsko said Thursday she will miss the remainder of her sophomore season after injuring her left knee last Saturday in a meet at Ohio State.
Bencsko tore her posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) on the dismount of her uneven bars routine in the first event of the meet. She was carried into the training room and did not perform on the vault, the balance beam or the floor exercise.
The sophomore, who competes in the all-around for Penn State, was competing a new bars routine for just the second time. She had improved her all-around total in nearly each of Penn State's seven meets and was coming off her best all-around score since March 8 of last season before her injury.
The extent of Bencsko's injury was not certain until Wednesday night, when doctors confirmed the ligament in the back of Bencsko's knee was torn. The gymnast was told Thursday there is too much swelling and inflammation for the doctor to know her exact time frame for recovery.
The 2009 first-team All-American on vault and second-team All-American in the all-around said she pretty much knew from the time of the injury, when she felt something in her knee pop, she was done for the year.
Bencsko said she had never missed a practice, let alone a meet, while at Penn State before her injury. She competed in all 13 meets her freshman year and was one of two Lions to compete in all four events in each of Penn State's meets prior to her injury.
The No. 8 vaulter in the Big Ten said though she has been mentally strong since the injury, it will be hard to watch from the sidelines Sunday when the No. 17 Nittany Lions host No. 12 Michigan, Bridgeport and Maryland.
"I think it'll be more reality this weekend when I'm watching instead of competing. So I think that'll be hard, but it is what it is," Bencsko said. "You can't undo it, and that's kind of what I'm going with, you know what I mean. You gotta move forward and get it better."
Though Bencsko's injury is a big loss, Penn State coach Steve Shephard said at Tuesday's practice he is impressed with how maturely Bencsko has handled the situation. Shephard also said he told the gymnast it is important for her to communicate to her teammates the Lions can still achieve their goals -- a Big Ten Title and an appearance in the Super Six -- without her. Bencsko spoke to her teammates at a players-only meeting on Monday and has been at practice every day since the injury.
"She just had some really encouraging words for all of us," freshman Sharaya Musser said. "I think it just lifted our spirits a little more.
"And she's here with us every step of the way, cheering, encouraging, helping in any way she can."
The next step for Bencsko is to continue to go to the training room each day and do what she is told, she said. Bencsko said she will try to make her knee stronger and get back her range of motion until she is reevaluated in a few weeks.
Senior Brandi Personett said Bencsko is the hardest working gymnast on Penn State, and she predicts her teammate to return to the gym sooner than doctors predict.
"Of anyone that can handle this, it's Whit," Personett said. "Just like she works hard in the gym, she's gonna work hard at rehab ... She's going to become a tougher gymnast, mentally and physically."