The No. 11 Washington gymnastics team will compete at the national championship for the second year running, and this year’s competition holds even more weight than the last.
“We feel like we have something to prove this year,” junior Monica Riley said. “Last year we just wanted to do our best, and this year we’re out to make Super Six and do better than we did last year.”
Last year, just making the national championship was Washington’s goal, but with that experience under their belt the Huskies feel even more pressure to perform.
“I think it’s really easy, when you make nationals for your first time, coming from a 30th, low-20 ranked team, to be like ‘Oh, it’s a fluke,’” senior Zoey Schaefer said. “Coming in the second year and being able to make it again — I think we came in this year and we knew we were going to make it.”
The Huskies stayed in the top-12 nationally for the majority of the season, and as they entered regionals it was expected that they would make the championship again. It happened, but Washington gymnasts struggled to perform their best.
“One thing about regionals that’s hard is having two byes,” Schaefer said. “That’s new. You can practice the mindset and all but, but when it comes down to it and you do it it’s always a little bit different. Having the different setup is challenging.”
The Huskies will have to work with two byes again in St. Louis, but having made it through regionals leaves them more prepared.
All season, the team has emphasized a goal of making the Super Six. But with nationals finally approaching, they’re trying to not focus on a specific place in the standings, but on themselves and their individual performances.
“Nationals needs to come first, and instead of micromanaging and trying to be so perfect we just have to go out and do our thing,” senior Hailey Burleson said. “We’re trying to bring that into the gym with our intersquads, not trying to micromanage our gymnastics, just going out there and letting it happen.”
As the season comes to a close, the Huskies have focused on having “their meet.” In the time since their season-high 197.400 in March, the team has yet to achieve that.
“They are prepared and have the goal of having their best meet yet,” head coach Elise Ray said. “This goal doesn’t involve any other team or any particular outcome, it simply involves the feeling that they left everything out on the competition floor.”
As they prepare to travel to St. Louis, the Huskies are emphasizing leaving everything on the competition floor.
“Elise said that our theme this week is no regrets,” Riley said. “We’re just going all out and doing every little thing that we can to maximize our performance on Friday.”
After a successful trip to the national championship last year and an even more successful season, the Dawgs know the key to their best gymnastics: Don’t overthink it.
“We know we do our best gymnastics when we’re kind of light and we are intentional and have a purpose, but we’re not trying to manipulate it,” Schaefer said. “We just go in and do what we do in practice and that will get us there and toward that end result. It’s definitely a goal, but it’s one routine at a time, one skill at a time.”
The Huskies will compete in the national championship semifinal alongside No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Utah, No. 8 Kentucky, and No. 9 Cal at 4 p.m. The meet will be available on ESPNU.
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