ACC Gymnastics Week 1 Recap: Trio of second place showings; Clemson debut still to come

By Kasey Nelson | January 8, 2024
NC State's Chloe Negrete salutes after dismounting balance beam.
© NC State Athletics

This week we saw a glimpse of the ACC teams who will battle it out to become the first ACC gymnastics champion in 40 years. Pitt, UNC, and NC State have all sprinted out of the starting gate while Clemson will have its inaugural meet on Friday at home against Willam and Mary.

Pitt @ Keystone Classic

Pitt finished second (193.125) at the Keystone Classic quad meet, besting Penn (192.575) and Temple (192.250) but losing to Penn State (194.725). The Panthers had a rocky start to the meet with three falls on beam but closed it out by winning bars with a 49.1. 

“It’s always tough to start the meet with errors,” said first-year head coach Casey Jo MacPherson. “But I was really proud of the fight our team showed in being able to stay focused on the event at hand and let that go. I felt like we built throughout the meet and finished strong on bars, which was exciting to see.”

MacPherson also pointed out that the squad showcased many first-time routines, with 10 of 26 being new, including three freshman debuts: Kaylee Larson on floor, Julie Madsoe on vault, and Emily Todd on bars, beam, and floor. In addition to those debuts, Pitt has three transfers who each made an immediate impact: Arayah Simons, Jah’Liyah Bedminster, and Shruthi Anand.

“Arayah and Jah’Liyah have a lot of competition experience, great leadership skills, and bring some exciting gymnastics to several lineups,” MacPherson explained. “We expect to get Arayah back on vault soon, and Jah’Liyah is training a full-in on floor that we hope to put in at some point this season, so they will continue to contribute at a high level in our lineups this season. And Shruthi brings a 10.0 start value vault with her front handspring front pike half and will play an important role in our success this season.” 

North Carolina quad meet

UNC finished second in its season-opening quad meet in Chapel Hill with a 193.725, topping Rutgers (193.400) and Utah State (193.175) but falling to Ball State (194.925). The Tar Heels were tied for first place after the first rotation with a 49.150 on vault – the team’s highest score on that event since February 2022 – but lost steam on beam and floor. 

“We started really strong on vault and had some really good performances on every event,” said head coach Danna Durante.

Junior Lali Dekanoidze led the way on vault with a stuck Yurchenko full, firing a career-high 9.925 and earning a first-place finish on the event. Sophomore Kaya Forbes followed closely behind with a 9.875 for her huge Yurchenko 1.5, matching her career high on the event. On bars, Isabelle Schaefer led off the Tar Heels with a 9.875, capped off by a stuck dismount to ultimately win the event. Freshman Camryn Rueda debuted on beam with a 9.825, and sophomore Gwen Fink matched the score as well, but the team also had two falls on the event. In the final event of the night on floor, Forbes delivered a stuck full-in, earning a 9.875. However, UNC put up only five in the lineup and had to count a fall there as well. 

“We had planned to put up five, but that puts extra pressure on everyone needing to hit with five girls up and all five count,” Durante explained. “So we were just a little thin in depth, but knowing it’s a long season and these athletes are going to be ready to go in the next week or two is going to help tremendously. We saw a lot of new faces and some of those faces really performed well and some of them maybe just needed another real rep on the floor.” 

NC State vs. #16 Georgia 

NC State lost to No. 16 UGA in a dual meet in Athens, 196.200-194.225, despite winning the individual titles on vault, beam, and floor and outscoring the GymDogs on vault with a 49.025. 

After two freshman debuts on bars with Maddie Hall and Katie Harper each scoring 9.8, the team moved to vault with another event debut from Hall (9.8) and Ashley Knight (9.775) and anchor Chloe Negrete performing a huge Yurchenko full to earn a 9.875 and the event title. On floor, Emily Shepard took the event title with a 9.85 after showcasing her big double pike, front layout to front full, and double back – all with controlled landings.

The beam highlight was Negrete, who once again anchored with a stunning routine topped off by a stuck double full dismount to earn a 9.9 and secure her second event title of the night. Holding the Wolfpack back from a potential upset were three falls, back-to-back, and having to count two of them.

“Today was not our usual beam team performance,” according to head coach Kim Landrus. “We’ll reset by going back into the gym and dialing in. We’ll focus on what we know we’re capable of and how to continue to improve.”

Part of that improvement hinges on team leaders Negrete and Shepard.

“This is a talented group of freshmen, so you get that first meet out of the way and continue to build,” Landrus added. “Chloe and Emily are so good at taking the newcomers under their wings and showing them how college gymnastics works.”