Mountaineers Set for Morgantown Regional

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • April 05, 2013 10:47 AM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team will compete as the No. 5 seed at the 2013 NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships on April 6, at 6 p.m., at the WVU Coliseum.

Saturday’s meet will feature six of the nation’s best collegiate gymnastics teams. WVU students are admitted free with a valid WVU I.D. All other tickets are $12 each when purchased in advance online at WVUGAME.com or by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office at 1-800-WVU-GAME. Groups of 10 or more can receive a special group rate of $9 per person at WVUGAME.com or by calling 1-800-WVU-GAME. Group tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets will be available at the door for $15 each on Saturday.

A free WVU shuttle bus will be available from the Mountainlair and the Brooke/Braxton Towers loop for an hour leading up to the meet’s start time. Return service to the Mountainlair and the Brooke/Braxton Towers loop also will be available at the conclusion of the meet.

The Mountaineers’ (13-9, 1-3) bid is their 35th regional championships berth and their 30th in NCAA competition. WVU welcomes its eighth regional championships since 1983. The team last played host to a regional in 2010 and finished fourth with a 195.1 score.

Saturday’s competition is the team’s first since finishing third with a score of 194.675 at the Big 12 Championship, in Ames, Iowa, on March 23.

“It’s always good to host a regional, and I’m really excited to have the home-floor advantage,” says second-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “The team is excited to compete in the WVU Coliseum in front of Mountaineer Nation and on equipment we’re familiar with. We had a week off from competition, which we needed, and we’re well-rested and ready to go.”

Saturday’s meet will have a Big Ten flavor, as the top-three seeded teams hail from the conference. Michigan (23-2, 12-2), nationally ranked No. 5, earned the region’s top seed. Nebraska (16-3, 12-2), the Big Ten Conference champions and ranked No. 8 in the nation, is seeded No. 2, and No. 17 Illinois (13-10, 6-8) is seeded No. 3. Kentucky (7-12-1, 4-10-1), nationally ranked No. 19, is seeded fourth, and North Carolina (9-11, 7-9), WVU’s former foe in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL), is seeded sixth.

“We’ve competed against some really great, high-ranked teams in the Coliseum this season, and I think that will help us Saturday,” says Butts. “I don’t think this team will be awed by these other squads – we’ll be focused on ourselves. We’ve had tough competition in here this year, and I think we step-up our gymnastics, too, when we go against the best.”

The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each of the six regional championships will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Los Angeles, April 19-21, at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. Additionally, all event winners also will advance.

The Mountaineers seek their fourth national championships bid and first since 2000. Seventeen Mountaineers have individually qualified for the NCAA Championships, and Mehgan Morris (all-around) was the last to do so in 2009.

“I would love to see WVU represented at UCLA in two weeks,” Butts says. “We really believe we can punch our ticket this weekend. I really think if we put together a complete meet, we can move forward as a team. If it ends up being an individual, that’s OK, too.”

The Mountaineers are 0-1 against the field this season, having lost, 196.925-196.55, to the then-No. 3 Wolverines on Feb. 24 at the Coliseum. WVU’s score was its highest of the season, and the two teams both defeated New Hampshire (194.875) and Towson (193.15) that day.

WVU opens the championships on the uneven bars. The team’s rotation order is: bars, beam, bye, floor, vault, bye. The Mountaineers are nationally ranked No. 21 on vault and beam, and No. 26 on floor.

“I’m really happy that we start on bars,” says Butts. “We’ll close the meet on our three strongest events, and I think that bodes well for us.”

The Mountaineers will rely on their four nationally ranked gymnasts this weekend for the bulk of their points.

Senior Kaylyn Millick is ranked No. 27 in the all-around with a 39.3 regional qualifying score (RQS). The Washington, Pa., native has tallied seven scores of 39.0 or better in the last eight meets, including a career-best 39.4 score on Feb. 1. She finished second at the Big 12 Championship with a 39.2 mark and was named to the All-Big 12 Championship Team. Millick has reached the podium a team-best 23 times and has set or matched career highs on all four events this year: vault (9.85), bars (9.9), beam (9.875) and floor (9.95).

Junior Hope Sloanhoffer follows at No. 42 (39.16 RQS) in the all-around. The Cornwall, N.Y., native has scored 9.8 or better on beam in each of the last six meets.

Senior Alaska Richardson, a native of Dayton, Ohio, ranks No. 48 (9.865) on floor, while freshman Jaida Lawrence, a Rocky Hill, Conn., native, ranks No. 43 (9.89 RQS) on vault. Richardson finished a team-best fifth on floor at the Big 12 Championship with a 9.85 score; she has scored 9.85 or better in each meet since Feb. 10. Lawrence, an All-Big 12 Gymnast for vault, has not scored below 9.85 since Jan. 19 and has hit for a career-best 9.9 four times.

Last season, WVU hit 23-of-24 routines and scored 195.9 for a fifth-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Auburn Regional Championships, on April 7, inside Auburn Arena. The team total was the Mountaineers’ second-best score of the season and the top regional championships mark in program history.