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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Gymnastics falls to flashy Kent State

Al-Ashari, O’Shea split event crowns
Cadence Pierce
NIU gymnasts cheer and head coach Sam Morreale oversees the start of sophomore Kiera O’Shea’s vault routine during Sunday’s dual meet against Kent State University at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in Kent, Ohio. O’Shea tied for first place on the event after implementing a Yurchenko full-and-a-half into her anchoring routine. (Cadence Pierce | Kent Stater)

On Sunday, NIU gymnastics sophomore Kiera O’Shea got to showcase a new move on vault: the Yurchenko full-and-half, a move that comes with a start value – or maximum score – of a perfect 10.0.

O’Shea took home a 9.875 for her efforts, tying for first place in the event.

“I’m really happy that I was able to show everybody a 10.0 start value on the vault, and I’m really excited that I did it,” O’Shea said.

Despite O’Shea’s distinguished routine and career day from senior Alyssa Al-Ashari, NIU gymnastics (4-7-1, 1-3 MAC) was unable to overcome Kent State University (7-3, 1-1 MAC) in Sunday’s MAC dual meet in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in Kent, Ohio.

The hosting Golden Flashes posted their third-highest score in team history – 196.925 – to send the Huskies packing with their third- consecutive conference defeat. Kent State scored over 49.000 in all four rotations to sweep the event titles.

NIU gymnastics senior Alyssa Al-Ashari executes a back handspring on the balance beam during the final rotation of Sunday’s MAC dual meet against Kent State University in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in Kent, Ohio. Al-Ashari matched her personal bests on bars and beam at the meet, scoring 9.925 on both events. (Cadence Pierce | Kent Stater)


Al-Ashari, NIU’s usual standout on bars and beam, scored a 9.925 on both events, matching both of her personal bests. The Lansing, Michigan native placed second on bars behind Kent State senior Sarah Haxton and split the beam title with Kent State junior Alyssa Guns.

Anchored by Al-Ashari’s runner-up routine, NIU’s bars team produced its best event score of the year – a 49.100. Juniors Natalia Kraus and Emmalise Nock both set new career-highs on vault after each scored a 9.800 on their respective routines. In the fifth spot, junior Isabella Sissi achieved a season-high score of 9.825.

“It wasn’t anything crazy. It wasn’t anything much different than practice,” Al-Ashari said. “But we just all went up there (on the bars) with full confidence in each other to go up there, and we just had hit after hit.”


Those hits laid the groundwork for the vault team’s best scoring performance – 49.050 – since NIU’s record-setting outing at the Tennessee Collegiate Classic on Jan. 19. 

Sophomore Jocelyn Harbeck scored a 9.775 in the lineup’s second spot, setting a new personal best. O’Shea’s 9.875 was a slight improvement upon her 9.850 from Friday’s Beauty and the Beast meet, and enough to draw even with Kent State senior Kennedy Weinpert in the event’s individual leaderboard.

However, O’Shea is just content with having the opportunity to execute her routines on competition days.

“I’m just happy with what I’m able to do,” O’Shea said. “Each time that I’m about to go out on vault and bars and be able to compete, what I’m able to do is just super exciting.”

NIU moved on to floor in the third rotation, putting up a 48.950. Junior Emmalise Nock led her squad with a 9.850 in the anchor spot, tying her season-best mark.

The Huskies finished the meet on the balance beam. Senior Kendall George recorded a season-high 9.775 in the leadoff spot while competing about two hours away from her hometown of Westerville, Ohio.


While NIU accumulated a 48.225 on beam, NIU gymnastics head coach Sam Morreale feels his squad was only a solid beam routine shy of breaking into 196.000 scoring territory as a team.

“I think this team’s just scratching the surface,” Morreale said. “They’re young; they’re starting to feel some confidence, and I definitely feel like we can build off that as we move forward.”

The Huskies will have a week to work on the kinks in their routines before heading back on the road once again for a rematch with Eastern Michigan University at noon CT Sunday.

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