RALEIGH, N.C. – The landscape is continuing to change is women’s collegiate gymnastics. And Kim Landrus and her N.C. State team remain a visible part of those changes.
Landrus’ Wolfpack opened the 2022 season in impressive fashion by capturing the team title at the Rutgers Quadrangular in Piscataway, N.J.
N.C. State scored 195.125 points to win over Rutgers, which tallied a 194.550 on the day. North Carolina 14.225) and New Hampshire (193.625) also took part in the meet. For the Wolfpack, it was the second-highest season-opening mark in program history.
“The team knew that today was the starting point for 2022, and it was important for them to set the tone,” said Landrus after her team’s performance in the season opener. “With over 50 percent of our routines performed by those that were not part of last year’s NCAA regional run, it was great to watch how they responded.
“They were steady across the board,” the Wolfpack coach added, “ … and they did a great job staying in their Wolfpack bubble. That is a testament of their drive and belief in both themselves and their teammates.”
And it gave Landrus’ squad a chance to put on early stamp on what figures to be a banner season for the Wolfpack.
N.C. State is a member of the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) and is the favorite to win the league championship this season. The Wolfpack, who have won six previous league titles since the league was formed in 1996, finished atop the preseason poll by collecting two first-place votes and accumulating 58 points to lead the way in the poll. They will be looking for their first EAGL crown since 2018.
Towson, despite receiving no votes for the top spot, finished with 44 points to finish second in the poll. Temple, the defending EAGL champion, and North Carolina shared the No. 3 position with 43 points each. The Owls had two first-place votes while the Tar Heels were picked on one ballot to finish atop the league. George Washington rounded out the top five programs.
New Hampshire (30 points), Pittsburgh (27 points) and Long Island (8 points) make up the rest of the preseason poll.
N.C. State topped Towson 195.600-194.975 in a Jan. 22 dual meet recently between the two expected league powers.
One of the reasons the Wolfpack have been tabbed as the team to beat in the EAGL is the return of talented junior Emily Shepard, who was voted the EAGL gymnast of the year last season and was later tabbed as the Region 5 gymnast of the year by the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA).
The five-foot, two-inch dynamo secured 42 podium finishes, including 23 individual titles, during the 2012 season. She also became the first individual qualifier to the national tournament for the Wolfpack since 2015.
Her 9.9875 on floor exercise at the national meet is the highest score by an N.C. State individual on any event. That mark eclipsed her previous career-high of 9.925 established at the NCAA Regional meet two weeks earlier.
Shepard also had career-highs of 9.900 on vault, a mark she tied three times later in the season, and a 9.900 (beam). Her 39.500 in the all-around in a dual against New Hampshire. The equalled that mark two times later in the year. The 39.500 is tied for the third-best in NCSU program history.
Shepard, the only member of the team to compete in the all-around at each meet durng the 2021 season, earned first-team all-league honors last season in three events (bars, floor, vault) and added first-team honors in the all-around. A seven-time league honoree, she also landed a spot on the first-team on bars and vault while being selected to the second-time on floor the previous season.
Shepard opened the new season recently with a team-high 9.825 in the quadrangular at Rutgers and placed third in the event. She added a 9.875 on beam to lead the team.
“(Shepard) is a phenomenal athlete,” said Landrus, who is beginning her fifth season at N.C. State after a long tenure at the University where she vaulted the Illini into prominence in the Big Ten during her stay in Champaign. “She had a good freshman year … and she simply took all her talents to another step (in 2021).”
Shepard is expected to get plenty of help in being one of the leaders of the Wolfpack this season from graduate student Nicole Webb, who competed on beam in every meet last season for the Wolfpack.
Webb tallied career-highs on floor (twice) and beam with identical marks of 9.875. She tallied an impressive 9.750 on beam to finish second in the season opener behind Shepard.
One of the top young gymnasts in the EAGL also is expected to continue to offer the Wolfpack crucial depth on each apparatus after bursting onto the scene in 2021.
Just one year after earning second-team all-league honors on floor and vault, Chloe Negete skyrocketed to new heights last season season by grabbing first-team all-league honors in each event. She finished the season with 23 podium finishes, including 12 individual titles.
The five-foot, one-inch young star competed in every meet of the season on beam, floor and vault and logged career-highs of 9.950 (floor), which tied for third-best in program history. She scored at least a 9.900 on floor six times during the season, in which she paced the team in 10 meets on floor, last season to establish herself as one of the most consistent performers in the league at that event. Her 9.900 (vault) last season was also a career-best and topped the team five times during the season on that event.
Negete also led NCSU on beam six times in 2021.
Landrus also welcomed a large class of newcomers when practice began in preparation to the 2022 season. And the Wolfpack coach remains optimistic moving forward.
“The team is special,” she said. “Connection seems to have been the key and getting to know everyone has been valuable and special. There is a great interaction among this group of women and they are fun to be around.
“Our job is to help empower each other and help in their growth,” Landrus added. “It’s a partnership throughout their four years here.”
And the goal remains simple for Landrus and the Wolfpack.
“Gymnastics is a perfection-based sport,” the NCSU mentor said. “Our goal is to simply get one percent better everyday.”
2022 WOLFPACK REMAINING SCHEDULE
Jan. 29 N.C. STATE QUAD
William & Mary
Feb. 6 at Pittsburgh Triangular
Feb. 13 at Long Island
Feb. 19 NORTH CAROLINA
Feb. 25 TEMPLE
Feb. 27 at George Washington Triangular
Mar. 6 at Maryland Quad
William & Mary
Mar. 11 N.C. STATE TRIANGULAR
Mar. 19 EAGL Championships
at Washington, D.C.
2022 EAGL Preseason Poll (first-place votes in parentheses)
1. N.C. State (2) 58
2. Towson 44
3. Temple (2) 43
North Carolina (1) 43
5. George Washington (1) 35
6. New Hampshire (1) 30
7. Pittsburgh (1) 27
8. Long Island 8
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.