When looking at Penn State’s stat sheet, the names that usually pop off include Sharaya Musser and Madison Merriam.
But another gymnast means just as much to the team, even if she is not known for recording scores as high as the two seniors.
Kassidy Stauder makes an impact for the Nittany Lions by performing the daunting task of being the first to compete on three of the four gymnastic events.
“It’s almost a little unfair that we make her go first every time because if she was fifth or sixth…she would probably score a little higher than if she was the first girl up,” coach Jeff Thompson said.
In the eight meets Penn State has had this season, Stauder has never scored below a 9.625 on any of the 24 events she’s competed in.
While some gymnasts may find leading a team in front of 2,000 fans may be nerve-wracking, the junior embraces the role.
“I love that pressure,” Stauder said. “I wouldn’t want another position. It’s my favorite spot.”
However, just starting the team off with a strong score is not Stauder’s only priority in a meet.
“I always say I have to make them think it feels great up there,” Stauder said. “If I go up there confident, the five behind me are going to go up there confident.”
Stauder seems to have that effect on the team as freshman Taylor Alotta said she “feels so confident” whenever the Pennsylvania native starts the Lions off.
Thompson first started using Stauder in her current role when she was just a freshman on balance beam. From there her role grew last year when she started the team on three events based off her work ethic in practice.
“She works hard every day, but we don’t have to coach her as much as other girls because she’s self-critical,” Thompson said. “She wants to correct her mistakes. She wants to be perfect.”
Although, Stauder usually is consistent in each event and meet, a mishap occurred on the balance beam when Penn State faced Nebraska on Feb. 10.
The 5-foot-3 gymnast had a wobble on her routine, which Thompson believed bothered the team.
“She’s normally very consistent,” Thompson said. “It made all the girls say ‘wow what was that?’ ”
Penn State had two gymnasts fall off the balance beam against the Cornhuskers, which led to its lowest team score on beam this season.
However, the coach and gymnasts believe they have grown from that meet and those mistakes will not happen again.
“It can have that effect early in the season, but at this point the team is ready for that,” Thompson said.
Stauder does not usually compete on the vault exercise because of an ankle injury she suffered in her freshman year. However, Stauder competed in her first all-around this season in Penn State’s last meet scoring a 39.075 overall, good for third at the meet.
“I’ve been working really hard to get back to that point,” Stauder said after the meet. “It was exciting.”