Gymnastics shines as runners-up in season debut

The Huskies opened their 2021-2022 competition season at the Florida Quad Meet Friday.

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NIU Media Services

Junior Natalie Hamp flies during an event in 2021.

Noah Silver, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — NIU women’s gymnastics started off the 2022 season strong as they took home second place at the Florida Quad Meet Friday. The Huskies finished with a total team score of 194.550 at the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

“This was a great start to the season for us,” NIU head coach Sam Morreale said in an NIU athletics news release. “Overall, I’m super proud of how we did, how we prepared and we’re just scratching the surface. This is a great start to catapult us to where we want to go. Now we have to go out and prove who we are every week.”

The Huskies defeated Texas Woman’s University (193.700) and Rutgers University (192.075), but came up short against the University of Florida Gators, who took home first place (197.675).

Senior all-arounder Tara Kofmehl and junior bars specialist Natalie Hamp, who competed in the NCAA Regional qualifiers last year, came out of the gate hot to start the year. Kofmehl tied her career high on floor exercise with a 9.925 to place fourth and tied for third on vault with a 9.825 to lead NIU in the event.

Hamp scored a 9.850 on uneven parallel bars to tie for third with graduate Megan Skaggs and senior Trinity Thomas from Florida.

Sophomore Alyssa Al-Ashari and senior Morgan Hooper both tied for sixth on the balance beam with individual scores of 9.825,establishing a new career high on beam for Al-Ashari

The Huskies shined on their floor exercises, recording no scores lower than 9.800. Freshman Alana Anderson finished with a 9.875 on floor to tie for seventh, while senior Kelsey Martz scored 9.825. Freshmen Emmalise Nock and Isabella Sissi both scored a 9.800.

“Floor was excellent tonight,” Morreale said. “I am really impressed with that group; that’s definitely one of our top season-opening scores on floor. Kelsey led us off with a really solid routine, we had three freshmen in the line-up that all hit, and Tara finished up and did what she does. It was fun to see them get rewarded. They deserved those scores.”

Junior Ciara Ryan and senior Liana Roman both made their Huskie debut tonight due to pre-meet injuries. Ryan scored NIU’s second highest score of the meet on vault with a 9.775, while Roman scored a 9.650 on bars.

“We talked about our depth in the preseason, and we saw it come into play tonight after an injury during warm-ups,” Morreale said. “It was nice to see how we were able to respond. Our freshmen are seasoned competitors, it’s really exciting, especially in a really energetic, loud, raucous environment.”

NIU’s next matchup will be Jan. 16 when they travel to Kent, Ohio, for a tri-meet against Kent State University and the University of Illinois at 1 p.m.