In its first two meets of the season, the women’s gymnastic schedule has taken the team to two different time zones and miles away from home.
The team’s first meet was at the University of Denver and the second in Chicago, two of the farthest places the team will travel this year.
“We wanted to get to Denver for Sharaya [Musser]. Her whole family’s there,” head coach Jeff Thompson said. “They won’t get the chance to come to senior night at Penn State.”
Teams are able to schedule non-conference meets once they know their divisional meets, which are scheduled years in advance. Thompson also said they wanted to be in Denver for Musser’s senior year.
The time zone difference and flights ended up not bothering the team that much as it finished second in Denver and won in Chicago. Among the accomplishments was Samantha Musto winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week two weeks in a row.
“During preseason we do a lot of 6:30 workouts to prepare us to do gymnastics at any time of the day,” Musser said of how traveling didn’t affect the team.
In Denver, Thompson and assistant coaches told the team to “watch what they eat” because they did not want any gymnasts to experience altitude sickness, which happened to Madison Merriam when the team traveled to Denver in her freshman year.
Thompson said the team didn’t have any problems with the effects from the altitude on this year’s trip.
However, distance was not the biggest hindrance for the Lions when they traveled to Chicago. The day before the meet, their flight to the Windy City was delayed two hours. On the way home, the team’s connecting flight to State College was canceled in Detroit. Instead, Penn State took a flight to Philadelphia and didn’t return home until 4 a.m. on Monday, causing practice to be canceled that day.
Even with the problems in traveling, Thompson is happy for his team in the beginning of the schedule.
“It’s normally the plan to get a couple meets on the road before we start at home,” Thompson said. “We get the kinks out and I think it worked.”
The Lions will have their first home meet of the season this Saturday, which will include their first Big Ten opponent of the year, Minnesota.
“On the road you don’t know anybody, you’re just worried about letting your teammates down,” Thompson said. “Now they’re competing in front of the Penn State crowd.”
For six of the 12 gymnasts, it will be the first time they compete at Penn State.
Thompson believes it will take freshmen some time to figure out the home crowd, but Musser, a senior, is ready for the first home meet.
“Home meets are always so much fun, you know you have your crowd there behind you,” Musser said. “It’s a very different feeling than an away meet.”