Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan


Gymnastics win third-straight NCGA championship
Jacob Link / Advance-Titan The UWO gymnastics team celebrates with national championship trophies from 2022, 2023 and 2024 at a welcome back ceremony April 2 at the Kolf Sports Center

The UW Oshkosh gymnastics team became the fourth program in the history of the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association to win three consecutive national championships after the Titans scored an NCGA record 194.975 points at the national meet held March 23 in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

UWO broke the NCGA record previously set by UW-Whitewater Jan. 19. For the second time in three years at the national meet, the Titans set the NCGA record for points scored after accumulating 194.1 points to claim the 2022 national championship.

UWO head coach Lauren Karnitz said she had a lot of nerves when the judges were releasing their scores at the NCGA national championship, but she made sure her athletes didn’t see it.

“When we were on beam, I was so nervous, because that’s the event that I coached and it also has the highest margin of error,” Karnitz said. “But man, they didn’t seem nervous at all, that beam looked like it was 12 inches wide, instead of just four. They were performing very confidently and after [the beam] I kind of had a feeling that we were going to be just fine.”

Whitewater, UW-La Crosse and Gustavus Adolphus College (Minnesota) are the only other programs to have won at least three straight NCGA titles. The Warhawks were the last program to accomplish the feat after taking home the title in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Karnitz said her third national championship is just as sweet as the first one.

“The first one was just proving to ourselves that we could get there,” Karnitz said. “With COVID-19 and everything, that first one meant a lot because we actually could break through.”

Karnitz said coaching UWO to a national championship in 2021 allowed the team to have the belief that the program could get that far, after the 2010s were dominated by Whitewater and La Crosse.

“The third one really solidified our spot,” Karnitz said. “The second one was more like ‘thank God we did it again’ and it showed the first time wasn’t a fluke. With the third one, to win it in the fashion that we did, it was pretty special because of the fact we won so many individual events and won it as a team. It will be a very special championship in my mind moving forward.”

Not only did the Titans win their third title, they did it in dominating fashion by earning the highest total score in three out of four exercises in a competition that included Whitewater, La Crosse, UW-Stout, SUNY Brockport (New York) and SUNY Cortland (New York).

UWO’s best score was in the floor exercise where they scored 49.200 points. Oshkosh’s Mia Lucero took home first place in the event with a score of 9.900. UWO’s Reanna McGibboney and Jay Ratkowski finished behind her, tying for second and fifth place, respectively.

As a team, the Titans also placed first in the vault with a score of 48.650. Lucero once again claimed the top spot in the event after tying with Maren Eramo for first place with a score of 9.825. McGibboney took third place in the vault with a score of 9.800.

On the balance beam, UWO once again took home first place as a team by totaling 48.75 points. Oshkosh’s Emily Buffington tied for second place in the event with a score of 9.825 while both Kaylie Berens and Anna Zoromski tied for fifth place with two 9.800 scores.

The only exercise in which the Titans didn’t take home the top spot was the uneven parallel bars, where UWO finished in second place with a score of 48.375. Oshkosh still had an event winner on the bars, with Buffington claiming the top spot with a score of 9.850. Berens finished in 10th place with a score of 9.700.

Karnitz said she felt very confident watching her athletes perform on the bars during the meet.

“At that point for bars, I knew that both Buffington was going to win,” Karnitz said. “Because of the type of routine she did, I just didn’t think someone else could be better than her. So that was really cool for her to have that routine at nationals.”

Buffington, in her final collegiate event, won yet another individual national championship after tallying a score of 39.175 in the all-around competition.

The Titans now own five NCGA titles along with two other national titles from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in 1980 and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in 1986. 

Buffington said that this year’s team was the best at maintaining a team-first mentality. 

Each year Coach Lauren [Karnitz] comes up with different phrases and this year it was lighting the flame and passing it to your teammates,” Buffington said. “I think we really embodied that as a team and carried it throughout the season.”

Karnitz said the Titans strive to be the hardest working team in the gym.

“We are constantly trying to be better than we were the day before and if they’re not, then we adjust practice to make sure that they do it again and do it better than they were before,” Karnitz said. “We really want to hold ourselves to a different standard during practice so then competition is easy and they don’t feel the nerves.”

Karnitz said her gymnasts are able to perform to the best of their ability in the national meets because practices are harder than meets.

“We want to try to make meet day a fun day for them to go out and showcase their skills, where practice is definitely a lot more grueling, a lot more challenging,” Karnitz said. “If they have to go to a meet and only do one routine, then the other routines that they have to do in practice every day isn’t as hard, so we really hold them to that standard.”

Lucero, Buffington, McGibboney, Berens, Zoromski and Ratkowski combined for 10 All-America honors during the event. The NCGA later named Berens, Buffington and Audrey Koester Academic All-Americans.

Karnitz said the team had a target score of 195 going into the NCGA meet.

“That is kind of a crazy goal for D-III gymnastics and we almost got there at nationals,” Karnitz said. “So although we were excited and happy and felt that we had achieved something, I still think that we left some things out on the table to be made better.”

Lucero said she was proud of herself and her teammates about their closing performance this season. 

It was so fulfilling knowing that everything we have worked for all year paid off and we came out on top,” Lucero said. “Finishing the season with almost breaking a 195, achieving a 49 on floor, breaking the vault record, six All-Americans and so many more accomplishments to recognize and celebrate.”

Buffington said she was extremely happy with how her senior season capped off.

“[We] continued to push ourselves and strive to be the hardest working team in the gym and to see that pay off for myself and the team is amazing,” Buffington said. “This team is just so special, and I will just continue to express how proud I am of them. It was an amazing year, and I couldn’t have asked for any better experience in my time here at UWO.” 

Lucero said scoring so high helps set a new goal for the team next season.

“After finishing the season with being .025 away from breaking a 195, it makes me more determined and hungry for next year,” Lucero said. “Preparation starts now because our job isn’t finished just yet, this is just the beginning.”

Karnitz said the program expects to welcome a talented freshman class for next season.

“I think that we’re going to upgrade some of our skills and we have a couple of them that we want to improve on, but I think we’ll stay consistent with a lot of our lineup,” Karnitz said. “I would say that I’m pretty confident that we will definitely at least be contenders next year.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Advance-Titan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest