The Bowling Green State
University gymnastics team placed third at the Mid-American Conference
Championships Saturday, the team's best finish in the event since 1991. The
Falcons improved two places from a year ago and ended in the same place the
team did during the regular season.
At the top, the MAC Championships went as expected with the top three teams in the regular season finishing in the top three. Central Michigan, ranked No. 18 in the country, ran away with the team championship with a score of 196.475 to earn its fifth straight MAC title. Kent State placed second with 195.125 and Bowling Green was third at 194.625. Northern Illinois finished a distant fourth at 194.150. Ball State placed fifth, followed by Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan.
Amanda Lievendag earned an individual MAC Championship on vault, tying Kent State's Marie Case for the best score at the event with a 9.850. It marks the second straight year that BGSU had a MAC Champion in the event with Jamilah Ali earning the honor a year ago.
Bowling Green started strong and stood at the top of the leaderboard after the first rotation. The Falcons scored a 48.800 on floor exercise behind scores of 9.850 from Megan Harrington, 9.825 from Gina Locigno and 9.800 from Alyssa Nocella.
BGSU moved to vault for the third rotation (the Falcons' second following a bye) and had its best score of the meet. The Falcons posted 48.900, the second-best score on the apparatus for the meet, as Lievendag posted her 9.850 and Ali added a 9.800. But Bowling Green settled into third place as Central Michigan and Kent State surged.
The team moved to bars for their third event and the Falcons scored a strong 48.675. Lievendag again had the top score with a 9.825 and Rachel Reis added 9.775. By the team Bowling Green moved to beam, the Falcons had solidified their third-place finish.
BGSU battled to a 48.250 on balance beam as Megan Valentini, Reis and Nocella each scored 9.700 but the Falcons were unable to hammer down the big scores they would have needed to surpass Kent State.
Besides Lievendag's individual championship, the Falcons had numerous others place in the top six in an event. Ali tied for fifth on vault a year after winning the MAC Championship in the event. Harrington was third on floor and the Falcons had a pair of all-around finishes in the top six. Nocella was fourth with a 38.900 and Locigno placed sixth at 38.750.
The result of Saturday's MAC Championship continues the development of the program under seventh-year head coach Kerrie Turner. The program went 0-6 in the MAC regular season in 2011, improved to 1-5 in 2012 before a 3-3 season a year ago. This year, the Falcons moved to 4-2 to continue the upward trend. Turner was named the MAC Coach of the Year in 2013 and has the program in position to continue on its arc in the future.
The MAC also announced its specialty awards Saturday at the conclusion of the meet and Lauren Feely was named the conference's Freshman of the Year. She is the second Falcon in three years to earn the award and is the fourth BGSU gymnast ever to be given the honor joining Ali in 2012, Marny Oestreng in 1999 and Heather Ferguson in 1995.
Bowling Green will find out its NCAA Regional Championship fate Monday when selections are announced. The Falcons are unlikely to earn a team berth to the NCAA Regionals but should have a handful of gymnasts selected to compete as individuals.