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Freshman Madison Benson performs on the balance beam on Saturday, March 13, 2021 at Reynolds Coliseum. The Wolfpack beat Long Island University with a team score of 196.900.

The NC State gymnastics team finished fourth of four teams with a score of 196.150 in the NCAA Athens regional final on Saturday, April 3 in Athens, Georgia. The Wolfpack advanced through a play-in match and the second round, competing three times in three days.

The season-ending result capped off a solid 2020-21 season for the Pack that saw it place second in the EAGL Championship on March 20 and advance to its first NCAA Regional Final since the format was instituted in the 2018-19 season 

First round vs. Western Michigan

The Wolfpack defeated the Broncos 196.425-195.075 on Thursday, April 1 in the first round of the Athens regional. 

The Pack opened with a 48.775 on the vault, taking each of the top three spots in the event, with freshman Madison Benson, sophomore Chole Negrete and sophomore Emily Shepard finishing third, second and first, respectively.

On the bars, NC State hit a season-high score of 49.325. Each of the Pack’s six gymnasts scored at least a 9.825, including senior Katie Cox, who set a career best on bars. The Wolfpack also eclipsed the 49.000 mark on beam at 49.025. It was a similar story on floor, as a 9.925 from Negrete and a 9.900 from Shepard propelled NC State to a 49.300 result and Negrete to the individual title in the event. 

Second round vs. No. 1 Florida, No. 16 Illinois and No. 25 Central Michigan

The Wolfpack faced its first gauntlet of three ranked opponents in the second round of the regional on Friday, April 2. In the face of tough competition, NC State clawed its way to second place to advance to the regional final by ousting the third-place Fighting Illini by 0.400 points

Florida jumped to an early lead by posting a 49.625 on beam, with the rest of the field failing to score at least 49.100 in the first rotation. NC State made itself known in the first rotation as well, sitting in second place ahead of higher ranked Illinois and Central Michigan with its 49.075 on the vault.

NC State continued to assert itself in the second rotation with solid scores on bars, headlined by senior Lauren Kent’s 9.900. The Pack remained in second place halfway through the meet, 0.600 points behind Florida and 0.400 points ahead of Illinois.

The Fighting Illini narrowed that gap to 0.275 points by the end of the third rotation despite a 49.075 on the beam. Shepard recorded the highest score for the Wolfpack on the beam with a 9.875. But in the final rotation, the Wolfpack got 9.950 and 9.900 scores from Shepard and Negrete, respectively, to clinch second place and advance to the regional final along with the Gators. The Pack also set the program record for highest team score in an NCAA regional at 196.775.

Regional Final vs. No. 1 Florida, No. 8 Minnesota and No. 9 Denver

NC State’s regional run came to a close in the final round on Saturday, April 3, as it finished fourth in another round against three top-25 squads. Another final score over 196.000 was not enough as the Pack’s 196.150 was more than a full point less than third-place Denver’s 197.275. 

The first rotation ended with a three-way tie for first between NC State, Minnesota and Denver with Florida trailing behind by only 0.100 points. The Wolfpack’s first rotation performance was highlighted by scores of 9.925 and 9.900 on floor from Negrete and Shepard, respectively. 

The second rotation saw the standings start to spread out as Minnesota took a 0.025-point lead over Denver, with NC State lagging behind third-place Florida by 0.150. Negrete and Shepard both posted 9.900 scores on vault, but the Pack would continue to fall behind the competition down the stretch. 

The third and fourth rotations saw NC State put up the only team event scores below 49.000 of the competition with a 48.825 on bars and a 48.775 on beam. Despite a valiant run in the regional, the higher ranked competition ousted the Wolfpack from the postseason as Minnesota and Florida moved on to the national semifinals.