Last weekend, conferences across the country crowned their gymnastics champions. But win or lose, teams had just over 24 hours to celebrate or lament before the selection show announced which 36 teams would advance to the national postseason.
The NCAA gymnastics regional in Corvallis, Oregon, features eight teams: No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Denver, No. 12 Boise State, No. 15 Oregon State, No. 18 Washington, No. 24 Southern Utah, and No. 25 Stanford, as well as either No. 32 Iowa or No. 33 Arizona.
Iowa and Arizona will compete on Thursday in a dual meet to determine which team advances to Friday night. The regional competition has changed a lot since last year, with focus on shortening competitions in postseason for the athletes’ benefits. Clarification about what the three days of regionals will look like can be found here.
SEC Champ Florida A Favorite In Corvallis
Florida heads into this regional competition on the top of its game after finishing second at SEC Championships. The Gators lost the title to LSU by only 0.150 in the final rotation after leading all meet, and they look to improve as they head into regionals.
“I’m not going to lie, it didn’t feel great at all,” Florida head coach Jenny Rowland said of finishing second at the SECs. “I don’t like losing. However, I have to say LSU did a great job that evening. It was a close meet. ... If everyone can improve even a quarter of a tenth, this team is going to be pretty spectacular.
“I would like to continue to see this team really focus on each other, stay together, enjoy what they are doing. ... They are united as one team and going out there and doing it for each other.”
With a season record of 13-3 and 6-1 in conference, making Florida the regular season SEC champion, this team heads to regionals on a hot streak.
🎥 "The performance of this team tonight was superb." - @JennyRowlandUF— Gators Gymnastics (@GatorsGym) March 24, 2019
Check out all the highlights from last night's @SEC Championship + hear from our individual champs! ⬇️🏆🐊🤸♀️#GoGators #WeChomp #Unbreakable #SECGym pic.twitter.com/b7cB8kjN98
“[Winning the SEC regular season] gave them a little more confidence in order to strive to do better and give more to the team,” Rowland said. “It’s an unbelievable feat and very difficult to do in the SEC. It is something this team and myself take a lot of pride in. The SEC regular season title is a first for this program. We’re writing our story, and we’re just looking forward to continuing to build off on that.”
Heading into regionals, Florida is looking to make any and all improvements it can to add to its final score.
“The goal for every next competition is to improve upon the last meet and on the season as a whole,” Rowland said. “Looking back to our SEC Championship competition, we had some phenomenal performances. ... Now we’re looking at how we can improve a tenth here, a tenth there, a half-tenth, a quarter-tenth. ... That’s getting to bed a little earlier, hydrating, fueling your body, getting ahead of your schoolwork. Those are all things we can work on outside of the gym in order to come into the gym prepared and ready to be super focused and try to get better on a daily basis.”
Big 12's No. 2 Denver Riding High
Denver also has a good chance of doing well at the regional competition, after taking second in the Big 12 Championships with a 197.250, the team’s highest-ever postseason score, as well as its eighth score over 197 in a row this season. The Pioneers finished just 0.325 behind Oklahoma, a small gap considering Oklahoma is ranked first in the nation. This consistency will be a huge asset going into the intense competition of regionals.
“They're locked in,” Denver head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said after the Big 12 Championships. “They were consistent from the get-go, went 24-for-24 and showed tremendous character again. They did exactly as they do in training and stayed focused on one routine at a time and one event at a time.”
Home Court Advantage For Oregon State
Tanya Chaplin, head coach of host team Oregon State, is quite excited about having the competition in her team’s home gym.
“We are really excited to bring this competition to our venue for our fans,” Chaplin said. “It’s always nice not to have to travel across the country, but more than that, to just be able to host this event in its new format.”
Chaplin told FloGymnastics her goal for this meet is just to “be in the top two each night” and move on, doing their best along the way. The Beavers don’t plan to change much training-wise as they head towards the competition; however, beam will be a focus after they had to count a fall on that event at conference championships.
That fall on beam occurred in the first rotation of the Pac-12 gymnastics championship, but Oregon State recovered admirably, posting a season-high bars score of 49.350 in the final rotation to secure a third-place finish.
“We didn’t know if we could place after that fall, so it was nice to come back and keep the momentum going,” Chaplin said.
Dark Horse: Boise State
Boise State, although currently ranked No. 12, could show up and surprise at this meet. Only two teams can advance past round three, but on a good day Boise State could be that team. The Broncos ended the regular season with a 14-2 overall record, 5-1 in their conference.
Although senior Shani Remme, the most decorated gymnast in school history, is out for the season due to an ACL injury, this team is still doing quite well. Boise State came out of conference with its fifth straight conference championship, a full point above Southern Utah, the second-place team. Courtney McGregor, a junior this year, continuously posts huge all-around scores for the team and can help this team immensely at regionals if she keeps it up.
Individual Competitors In All-Around And Events
In addition to the schools competing for team advancement, there are also three individual all-around competitors: Madison Ward from Utah State, Taylor Chan from San Jose State, and Kelley Hebert from UC Davis. There are also individual competitors on each event: two on vault, six on bars, six on beam, and five on floor.
Vault includes two Arizona gymnasts, Maddi Leydin and Heather Swanson. Bars consists of Arizona’s Christina Berg and Danielle Spencer, Iowa’s Jax Kranitz and Nicole Chow, Air Force’s Anna Salamone, and Utah State’s Makayla Bullitt. The beam gymnasts are Sophia Hyderally from Alaska, Clair Kaji from Iowa, Autumn Deharde from USU, Haylie Henderickson from Arizona, Alyssa Ito from UC Davis, and Yasmine Yektaparast from UC Davis. The six gymnasts competing on floor are Kaji, Leydin, Deharde, Lauren Guerin from Iowa, and Christina Berg from Arizona.