Heading into her final home performance in front of family, friends and TWU fans at Kitty Magee Arena, senior Bethany Larimer knew she wanted to end with an unabated sense of confidence.
On Senior Night on Sunday against No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 12 Minnesota and No. 40 Michigan State, Larimer set a new TWU individual season high in the vault while the Pioneers as a team posted a season-high 194.775 and season highs in the vault and balance beam on the way to a third-place finish.
“It wasn’t just one or two standout performances like we might have had in the past, but I feel like, as a collective group, it was an overall good performance and we can still do better, which is exciting,” Larimer said. “The atmosphere and the teams we were competing against, knowing that it was our last home meet, we wanted to finish off the year on a high note.”
Oklahoma took first with a score of 198.150, while Minnesota claimed second (196.275) and Michigan State finished fourth (194.350).
To go along with her stellar performances, Larimer also had a surprise waiting for her after the meet was over as her boyfriend Joey Carruth dropped to one knee and proposed to her with the season-high crowd of 1,159 on its feet cheering on their special moment.
She said yes.
“I was shocked,” Larimer said. “It was great. I’m glad that everyone that I loved could be there and experience it with me. A lot of my family and friends traveled here, and I’m just so thankful that I got to share it with everyone that was important with my life.”
With the amount of meets dwindling, TWU head coach Lisa Bowerman implored her team to come out with an enlivened intensity and approach each event with fearlessness, starting with the vault.
The Pioneers responded by delivering a season-high 48.900, with each gymnast earning a 9.675 or higher.
“They started really strong on vault and set the tone there like we talked about with the first couple of competitors setting the tone,” Bowerman said. “They did a great job.”
Larimer broke her and the team’s previous high score on the vault, a 9.850 on Feb. 1 at home against Rutgers, with a 9.875. Senior Amy Winczura earned a 9.850.
“In a lot of ways, Bethany just did what Bethany does,” Bowerman said. “She’s so dependable and consistent, but at the same time I think it was some of her best performances tonight. She was at ease tonight. She was really just out there enjoying what she was doing. She had a great meet and I’m proud of her.”
The Pioneers then scored a 48.250 on the uneven bars, with Larimer and fellow senior Brittainy Johnson each earning a 9.700.
“I just felt an overall confidence in every single person coming into today,” Larimer said. “We always feel an excitement, but I think everybody wanted to go out and perform for the seniors and make sure we ended on a high note. It wasn’t just for us, it was for the entire team.”
With a 48.850 in TWU’s next event, balance beam, the Pioneers notched its second season-high event of the day. Larimer and senior Margaret Mayfield each had scores of 9.800, with every other Pioneer earning at least a 9.700.
“On bars, they had a solid rotation,” Bowerman said. “It wasn’t our best score of the year. We went over to beam and had one of our best beam rotations of the year and we carried that over to floor. What I was most proud of was that it was much more well-rounded. It was much closer to what we’ve been looking for.”
Coming two-tenths of a point short of its season high, TWU earned a 48.775 in their final event — floor exercise.
After her 9.750 on the beam, junior Spencer Jones led the Pioneers with a 9.825, while senior Brittany Montalbano also had 9.800 and junior Stephanie Repp and Mayfield adding a 9.775 each.
Their score of 194.775 should improve their regional qualifying score by allowing the Pioneers to drop its lowest home score of 192.675 against Centenary and Lindenwood with their top score getting eliminated. TWU will head out on the road for a quadangular meet against host Arizona, BYU and Bridgeport on Saturday.
“My message to the team today before we started was using this as our spark for the rest of the season,” Bowerman said. “I told them, everything we do from here on out is on the way up, and if we can build on this, we’ll be in a good place for the postseason.”