BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - The Bowling Green State University gymnastics team posted its highest score since 2005 to earn a tri-meet victory over Mid-American Conference rivals Ball State and Eastern Michigan Saturday in Anderson Arena. The Falcons hit all four events to finish with a 194.525, winning comfortably over second-place EMU (193.350) and Ball State (192.775).
The Falcons finished the meet with season-best scores on balance beam (48.725) and floor exercise (49.300) to win in brilliant fashion. Megan Harrington won the all-around (38.900), and tied for first place on balance beam with Gina Locigno (9.825) and first on floor exercise with Alyssa Nocella (9.9). Jamilah Ali won the vault crown with a career-high 9.875, while Amanda Lievendag won her fifth uneven bars title of the year with a 9.85, completing a BGSU sweep of the awards stand.
"We were all shaking we were so excited at the end of the meet," said head coach Kerrie Beach. "It was so rewarding to see them start strong on vault and keep it going the whole meet. And then to finish on floor with that 49.3 - it was just the most thrilling moment. These girls were so ready to put a whole meet together."
The Falcons opened with a clean 48.575 showing on vault, led by Ali. Despite a fall from Locigno in the first slot, the team rallied to produce five strong efforts, with Sunny Marchand (9.825) and Ali scoring career highs in the process.
Bowling Green had a narrow lead over EMU after the first event, as the Eagles put together a solid 48.450 on balance beam. Ball State started with a disastrous 47.3 on uneven bars.
The Falcons next moved to bars, where scores slumped into the 9.4-9.6 range until Lievendag hit her best routine of the year (ending with a stuck double layout dismount) to win the event. A 47.925 total put the Falcons behind EMU, who cruised to a 48.7 on floor exercise. The Eagles held a 96.950-96.500 lead at the halfway mark.
BGSU easily could've given away the meet on balance beam, as lead-off performer Caroline Ellingboe suffered a fall to start the third rotation. Instead, the Falcons answered with their finest beam performance of the year - a hard-fought 48.725. Despite enormous pressure, Locigno and Harrington hit for career-high 9.825 scores. Strong routines from Nocella (9.75), Maria Salvia (9.725) and Ali (9.6) helped Bowling Green stay competitive heading into the last event.
EMU posted a 48.525 on vault to close the gap to just .250 between the Eagles and the Falcons. Ball State mounted a comeback of its own on floor exercise, hitting for a 48.7 to move back into contention.
The Falcons were unflappable on floor exercise, leaving no doubt as to which team would come out on top. Bowling Green tumbled to a season-best 49.3, led by career-high scores from Harrington (9.9), Nocella (9.9) and Ali (9.875). All six gymnasts hit confident routines, with Locigno (9.825), Megan Valentini (9.8) and Ellingboe (9.725) rounding out a stellar performance.
EMU could only manage a 47.875 on bars in the final rotation, giving away its lead over the Falcons and nearly falling to Ball State as well, as the Cardinals hit a meet-high 48.8 on vault to end the meet.
The 194.525 score was the highest of Beach's tenure as head coach, after taking over the program in 2008. She praised her beam lineup for turning the corner, after struggling to three falls last week at the Sweetheart Invitational.
"It was so exciting because tonight we hit our beam routines," Beach said. "There were a lot of stuck dismounts and not a lot of wobbles. The energy was really good and it carried over to floor after that. It's awesome to see them do so well."
Bowling Green improves its overall record to 4-9 (2-2 MAC) with the tri-meet victory.
The Falcons now ready for another tough road stand, facing Central Michigan (March 2) and Kentucky (March 8) in away competition, before returning to Anderson Arena for the final home meet of the year against Western Michigan on March 16.