Madison Merriam and Sharaya Musser have been competing in Rec Hall for four years, but on Saturday the two seniors will complete their last routines in Penn State’s home arena.
“It’s so important for me,” Merriam said. “It’s just that final moment for me to finish out for my four years of competing at Rec Hall.”
While both of the gymnasts said that the meet would be an emotional one, both are focusing on the meet with a team-first mentality Saturday night against Kentucky.
“I don’t want to have that [emotional] mindset going into the competition,” Musser said. “I want to treat it like any competition. Just enjoy every moment of it and have fun.”
This season has been an important one for Musser, who competed in every event for the Nittany Lions.
Merriam started the season competing in the all-around, but injured her foot in the team’s third meet of the season and has since competed in three events per meet. She scored season-highs on vault exercise and uneven bars.
“Not only do they put up big scores for us, but they’re very consistent,” coach Jeff Thompson said. “The younger girls know they’re going to hit their routines and that builds confidence.”
Besides leading the team in scoring, the two seniors took on a leadership role with the Nittany Lions this season.
The two were named co-captains and were charged with leading a young team that features six freshmen on a 14-gymnast roster.
“This team has just grown so much through the process of the preseason and the regular season,” Merriam said. “I’ve just enjoyed leading this team so much this season.”
Thompson also said the two gymnasts work well as leaders because they have different personalities that give their teammates an option on who to go to for advice.
For the coach, the loss of the two will cause a shift for the team in the future and a new formula to continue the team’s talent.
“The points are going to rely on the incoming freshmen,” Thompson said. “Each year with recruits you want to get better, not just replace what you’re losing. It’s going to be a tough task to replace them.”
However, skill is not the only thing that will have to be replaced as Thompson said the team will look to junior Kassidy Stauder and sophomores Krystal Welsh and Lexi Carroll to replace the leadership on the team.
As for the two seniors, the main focus will be on the next meet and Big Ten championships in two weeks.
“I’m really just hoping that everything comes together in the meet,” Merriam said. “Not just for me, but for the whole team.”