Lions advance to team finals in dramatic fashion

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Valeri Ingui celebrates after tying LU’s top mark in the uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.825,
Photo by Carly Fristoe

After a record-breaking performance in the floor exercise, the women’s gymnastic team punched their ticket to the team finals of the USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships.

“I’m extremely excited,” Lindenwood head gymnastics coach Jen Kesler said. “I have a lot of emotions in my head right now because that meet was a roller coaster. I am extremely proud of this team.”

The Lions started the evening with strong postings on the vault. All six athletes put up a score of 9.550 or higher, combining for a total of 48.825 on the event.

Rachel Zabawa was the leading scorer in the event for Lindenwood with a 9.850.

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Kayla McMullan finishes he floor exercise as her team cheers her on in the background.
Photo by Phil Brahm

The team moved on to the uneven bars tied with Texas Woman’s for first place, but would drop to third overall by the end of the event due to a total score of 48.050.

Despite the overall score, Valeri Ingui showcased a routine worth a solid score of 9.825, tying the school’s top mark in the event set by Emily Turik at the 2014 Nationals. Andavea Alexander had the second highest score in the event at a 9.725.

The Lions rebounded in the third round, rallying to post a team score of 48.800 on the balance beam. Zabawa started the team off with her second 9.825 of the evening.

The mark would be good enough to tie for first in the four-school field.

Lauren Cartmell followed her lead, hitting a 9.800 in her only event for the night. The other four Lions submitted scores of 9.600 or better.

The team remained in third place going in to the floor exercise, but did not stay there long. All six competitors hit an astounding 9.850 or better. Alexander shattered the previous school floor record of 9.900, hitting a near perfect 9.975, the highest score achieved in any event in Lindenwood history.

“It’s definitely amazing,” Alexander said. “You train so hard, and then to have a moment like this, like that’s your goal. You’re never going to have this type of moment again.”

Their combined score of 49.475 on the floor broke the school record of 49.275 set at the MIC Championships last spring and was enough to propel the Lions to second place over Texas Women’s.

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Graphic by Andres Colonna & Phil Brahm

By earning second place, the Lions advance to the team finals where they will face off against Bridgeport, Seattle Pacific and Brown. The finals will take place Saturday at 7 p.m.

“No matter what happens the rest of the weekend, I will be so proud of what we did today,” Kesler said. “That just shows our true character, our culture, who we are. At the end of that day, these girls fight to the end and that means more than a championship to me.”

Seven members from Lindenwood will go on to compete in Sunday’s individual finals. Zabawa qualified in all three of her events: floor, beam and vault.

Joining her in the floor exercise will be Alexander, McMullan, and Katey Oswalt. Cartmell moved on in the beam competition, while Aubree Horn and Ingui will also take on the finals in vault.

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Layout and design by Carly Fristoe & Phil Brahm