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Rules of the Game

Collegiate women’s gymnastics consists of four individual events, the results of which are used to determine a winner in each event, an individual all-around winner, and a team winner.  Six gymnasts may compete in any individual event.  The individual events are:

  • Vault (V) – In this event, the gymnast runs down a 78-82 foot runway, is propelled off of a springboard toward a stationary apparatus, and then uses her hands to push off over the apparatus while performing an acrobatic move.  She should land on her feet without wobbling or moving her feet upon impact with the floor.
  • Uneven Bars (UB) – In this event, the gymnast performs on two bars which are parallel to each other, 180 cm. apart, and of different heights above the floor; the lower bar is 166 cm high, the higher bar 246 cm.  The gymnast must perform her routine without pauses.  Among the required components are three different release moves: releasing from the lower bar and catching the higher, releasing from the higher and catching the lower, and releasing from/catching the same bar. 
  • Balance Beam (BB) – In this event, the gymnast performs acrobatic routines on a beam of wood four inches wide and sixteen feet long. The routine may not exceed 90 seconds; in that time, she must perform several required moves, including a complete turn of at least 360 degrees on one foot or knee and a forward leap or jump with legs split 180 degrees.
  • Floor Exercise (FX) – In this event, the gymnast performs a choreographed routine to accompanying music on a 40 foot square mat. The routine must be completed in under 90 seconds, cover the entire floor area, and include leaps and other acrobatic routines.  The performance should be both athletic and artistic.

The maximum score for each event is ten points; these points are awarded by judges who determine the difficulty and artistry of the performance, and then subtract points for flaws, omissions, and violations.  The high and low scores are discarded. 

Penn State Women’s Gymnastics History

Women at Penn State first competed in intercollegiate gymnastics in 1965.  Karen Schuckman was the first Penn State gymnast to compete in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national championship tournament, winning the all-around title in 1974.  In 1975, under new coach Judi Avener Markell, the team made its first AIAW tournament appearance, finishing 5th that season and winning national championships in 1978 and 1980.  With the advent of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national championship tournament in 1982, Penn State continued it success, appearing in twenty-one tournaments, garnering six top-ten finishes under Avener Markell, and five under her successor, Steve Shephard. 

Five gymnasts have won 11 national titles, including three all-around championships (two by Ann Carr).  The team has won 16 NCAA regional titles, twice winning in five consecutive years; 27 gymnasts have won 76 NCAA regional titles.  In one of the most stunning accomplishments in program history, Heidi Anderson won the all-around and all four individual events at the 1981 regional championships.  In 2006, all eleven team members were Academic All-Americans.    

Before joining the Big 10, Penn State’s women gymnasts won the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship all nine years that the tournament was held.  Thirteen gymnasts won 32 Atlantic 10 titles.  In the Big 10, 12 gymnasts have won 22 championships and five gymnasts have won the Big 10 Gymnast of the Year award (Katie Rowland won this award in 2001 and 2003).  Penn State’s women’s gymnastics team trains in the White Building, and competes in Rec Hall. 

For the 2011 season, Jeff Thompson, 2-time SEC coach of the year, replaced Shephard as head coach. Sarah replaced Thompson after the 2017 season.   Briannah Tsang tied for the individual floor exercise championship, and was named Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Year.  In 2019, the team finished in 5th place at the Big Ten Championships, and then participated in the NCAA Regionals, placing 3rd.  Lauren Bridges was named to the All-Big Ten 1st team, and Sabrina Garcia to the 2nd team.  Garcia (bars) and Jessie Bastardi (beam) tied for 1st in their individual events at the Regionals, and 36th and 44th, respectively, at the NCAA Championships. 


Team Accomplishments 

AIAW National Championships 
1978, 1980

NCAA Regional Championships 
1978-1982, 1984, 1986, 1988,1991-1993, 1995-1999 

Atlantic 10 Championships  


Judi Avener Markell (1975-1992) 278-87-1  

1978, 1980 AIAW National Championship  
10 NCAA Regional Championships   
9 Atlantic 10 Championships
3 all-around national champions  
8 individual national champions 
1978, 1992 Coach of the Year

Steve Shephard (1993-2010) 256-144-2  

6 NCAA Regional Championships
4 Big 10 all-around champions
9 Big 10 individual champions  
6 Big 10 Gymnasts of the Year   
2006 NCAA Regional Coach of the Year 
Three-time Big 10 Coach of the Year  

Notable Gymnasts 

Karen Schuckman

 1974 All-Around National Champion
1975 National Champion – V, FX

Ann Carr

1977, 1978 All-Around National Champion
1978 National Champion – UB, BB, FX
1977, 1978 All-Around Regional Champion
1977, 1978 Regional Champion – V, UB, FX
1980 – Regional Champion - V

Heidi Anderson

1981 National Champion - FX
1981, 1982 – All-Around Regional Champion
1981 Regional Champion – V, UB, BB, FX
1982 – Regional Champion - FX

Pam Loree  

1983-84, 1986 All-Around Regional Champion
1983 Regional Champion – V, FX
1985 Regional Champion - UB
1986 Regional Champion – UB, FX
1983-84, 1986 All-Around Atlantic 10 Champion
1983 Atlantic 10 Champion – V, UB
1984 Atlantic 10 Champion – FX
1985 Atlantic 10 Champion - FX
1986 Atlantic 10 Champion – V, FX

 Brandi Personett

1st Team All-American – B, 2008; FE, 2009; AA, B, FE, 2010
1st Team All-Big 10 – 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Big 10 Gymnast of the Year – 2009, 2010
Big 10 All-Around Champion – 2007, 2008, 2010
Big 10 Champion  - V – 2007, 2008, 2010; FX - 2008
Big 10 Freshman of the Year - 2007


Player Recognition

Individual All-Around National Champions – Karen Schuckman (1974); Ann Carr (1977, 1978).

Individual Event National Champions – Karen Schuckman (V, FX, 1975); Ann Carr (UB, BB, FX, 1978); Marcy Levine (FX, 1979); Heidi Anderson (FX, 1981); Pam Loree (V, 1986).

Individual All-Around Regional Champions15, including Pam Loree (1983-84, 86)

Big 10 Gymnast of the Year – Missy Leopoldus (1998); Ellen Casey (1999); Katie Rowland (2001, 2003); Brandi Personett (2009, 2010); Sharaya Musser (2012), Briannah Tsang (co-winner, 2018)

Big 10 Freshman of the Year – Nikki Bongiovanni (1999); Brandi Personett (2007); Sharaya Musser (2010); Briannah Tsang (co-winner, 2015).

Individual All-Around Big 10 Champions – Allison Barber (1993); Ellen Casey (1998); Katie Rowland (2002, 2003); Brandi Personett (2007, 2008); Sharaya Musser (2011).

Individual Event Big 10 Champions – Rene Lyst (BB, 1992); Nikki Smith (BB, 2000); Katie Rowland (V, 2003); Kristal Uzelac (UB, BB, 2005); Kate Stopper (FX, 2005); Katie Perret (UB, 2006); Corissa Pirkl (V-tie, 2006); Brandi Personett (V, 2007, 2008, 2010; FX, 2008); Natalie Ettl (UB, 2011); Sharaya Musser (V-tie, 2011);Kiera Brown (co-champion, UB, 2016).

All-Americans – 83, including 15 all-around

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