The NC State gymnastics team will host Pitt at Reynolds Coliseum on Friday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. in hopes of setting the tone for a strong season. NC State faced Pitt once last year, posting a 196.025 in what turned out to be one of its best team performances of the abbreviated season.
The meet against Pitt will be the first of many conference meets, as the Wolfpack prepares to compete against Towson, Temple, UNC-Chapel Hill and more in the upcoming weeks. The EAGL Championships were canceled at the end of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but two universities have since been added to the conference lineup: Temple, joining after a switch from ECAC, and Long Island University, which announced the launch of its gymnastics team in March 2020. NC State is slated to compete against both colleges this season.
In the EAGL preseason rankings, NC State nabbed the No. 1 spot with a total of 59 points and five first-place votes. This ranking comes after the Wolfpack was named the 2020 EAGL regular-season co-champion alongside New Hampshire, based on the results of conference meets. This season, the EAGL championship meet is scheduled for March 20.
Outside of conference meets, the Wolfpack is set to compete against Oklahoma and William & Mary this season. NC State will face Oklahoma on Feb. 19 for the first time since 2012 in a tri-meet alongside George Washington. As for William & Mary, the Wolfpack will look to continue its 20-meet winning streak on Feb. 27, as it is slated to compete against William & Mary and Temple at Reynolds Coliseum.
At the end of the regular season in 2020, NC State was ranked No. 23 nationally with a 12-6 record, chalking up its only conference loss to UNC by a slim margin of 0.200 points. The Wolfpack last recorded a conference championship in 2018, its fifth win since the EAGL’s conception in 1996, tying it with UNC for the most.
With the return of several talented athletes, the NC State gymnastics team has a lot of promise for the upcoming season. Senior Lauren Kent returns for her final year with the Wolfpack, has made the All-EAGL scholastic team in all three years and was named EAGL Gymnast of the Year in 2020. Her strongest performances come through in the uneven bars, as she made the All-EAGL first team for bars in 2019 and 2020. Kent also captured the highest score for bars at NC State in the 2020 season, with an impressive 9.900.
Another returning star is sophomore Emily Shepard, who made the All-EAGL first team for bars and vault in 2020. With 18 podium finishes as a freshman and nine individual titles to boot, Shepard is set for a decorated season as she enters her second year with the team.
Despite the promising talent that will define NC State’s season, the absence of some graduated seniors will be a tough hole to fill. Drew Grantham, 2020 EAGL Senior Gymnast of the Year, graduated in 2020 with an accomplished record of 23 podium finishes and 15 individual titles, the most of any gymnast on the team. Another tough loss is Alexis Beucler, who had the highest floor score of the season her senior year with a 9.950.