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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Al-Ashari, O’Shea crowned MAC champs on beam, vault

Gymnastics takes fifth at 2024 MAC Championships
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 finished tied for first on beam at the MAC Championships Saturday. (Northern Star File Photo)

The past week has been an emotional one for senior Alyssa Al-Ashari.

On Tuesday, Al-Ashari and sophomore Kiera O’Shea were named to the All-MAC Second Team. Four days later, they co-championed the conference in their respective events.

“It’s definitely been bittersweet,” Al-Ashari said. “I think I cried more at the end of MACs than I did for senior night.”

Al-Ashari and O’Shea finished tied for first on beam and vault, respectively, as NIU gymnastics (9-13-1, 1-5 MAC) scored 194.675 as a team to finish fifth at the 2024 MAC Championships on Saturday inside Worthen Arena in Muncie, Indiana.

“We came to win, so a little unfinished there, but can’t be mad about what we did,” said NIU gymnastics head coach Sam Morreale. “We did have some bumps in the road along the way, but I felt like the kids kept fighting, kept giving me their best. At a meet like this, that’s all I can ask for.”


O’Shea achieved a new career-high and tied a program record with a 9.925 from her anchor position on vault to split the event title with Kent State University sophomore Nastia Rudnitskaya. O’Shea used her signature Yurchenko full-and-a-half to land her first-ever individual MAC title, a feat she wasn’t expecting to collect entering her sophomore season.

“It didn’t really cross my mind,” O’Shea said. “The MAC champ and everything that goes into it really comes from the work you put in through preseason, through the summer in the gym.”

Al-Ashari scored 9.900 from the fifth spot on beam to finish in a four-way tie for first place with Eastern Michigan University junior Ella Chemotti, Western Michigan University graduate student Amanda Gruber and Ball State University sophomore Zoe Middleton. With her feat, Al-Ashari became NIU’s fifth-ever beam champion and the first since 2019.

“It’s awesome to see all my hard work pay off,” Al-Ashari said. “Through the four years, me and (associate head coach) Nita (Teague) have just been working really hard, putting my head down, having her help me with the little things, and finally came to fruition on my last-ever beam routine, so it’s super exciting. It’s always been a goal of mine.”


In the fourth rotation, NIU saw two routines that would finish top 10 on the meet’s beam leaderboard. Three spots before Al-Ashari and one week after recording a new personal best on beam, junior Ellery Werner produced a 9.850 to finish in a five-way tie for sixth place.

The Huskies finished the meet strong with their best showing of the meet on floor, scoring a 49.050. Junior Emmalise Nock anchored with a 9.850 to finish tied for 10th place while fellow junior Alana Anderson and freshman Dawsyn Sallee each contributed a 9.825.

Junior Isabella Sissi, NIU’s lone all-arounder, totaled a 38.425 to take home seventh place in the all-around.

Western Michigan (12-7, 4-2 MAC) compiled a 196.525 to be crowned this year’s conference champion.


Looking back on his 13th season leading the Huskies, Morreale views 2024 as a “building year” for the program. After finishing last at the 2023 MAC Championships a year ago, Morreale said his team sought redemption and achieved it – partially.

“Finishing last last year left a really bad taste in our mouths,” Morreale said. “There was some stuff we wanted to prove through this year. We gave a little of that, but not as much as I think we showed in practice, or maybe what the team actually is, but that’s why you compete.”


Though NIU’s season is over, Al-Ashari and O’Shea remain in contention for individual bids to NCAA Regionals scheduled to be held from April 3 to April 7 at four different regional sites.

The two Huskies will learn their fates once regional selections are announced at the 2024 NCAA women’s gymnastics selection show, which will air at 11 a.m. CT Monday on

“It’ll be super fun going to regionals, I hear,” O’Shea said. “I’m really excited to find out where we go and what we do there.”

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