The No. 8 Washington gymnastics team has set its sights on the ultimate goal of making the Super Six, but it must first qualify for the National Championship by placing in the top two at regionals in College Park, Penn. on April 7 at 1 p.m.
As the No. 8 seed, the Huskies are grouped with the No. 5 seed Florida, and the No. 17 seed Arizona State. The top 18 teams are grouped by ranking, and the remaining teams in the top 36 are chosen geographically, with hosts Penn State, West Virginia, and New Hampshire rounding out the competition field.
Washington has never made the Super Six in the 25-year history of the championship format, and this year will be the team’s final chance, with the NCAA deciding to modify the championship format for the 2019 season. The closest the Huskies have made it to clinching a spot in the second day of championship competition was a seventh-place finish in 1998.
The Huskies have also never scored a 197 in national competition, with their highest score at either Regionals or Nationals being last year’s eighth place at the National Championship, a 196.562. After what was certainly the UW’s strongest season in more than a decade, the Dawgs will look to break the same record they set at last year’s regional competition: a team high regional score of 196.550.
Individually, several Washington gymnasts have had breakout seasons, as highlighted by junior Monica Riley who led the way on bars for the Huskies. Senior Hailey Burleson continued her strong performance after being named an all-around all-American last season, and is currently ranked in the top-25 in the nation on both beam and all-around. Their success, especially in the latter half of the season, will lead the way for the Huskies as they look to achieve what they’ve said throughout the season is their ultimate goal: to make the Super Six.
A fourth-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships was a stumble following the UW’s strong regular season. While the score of 196.750 improved on Washington’s early season scores, the latter half of the season set a precedent for even more success from the team. The Huskies weren’t satisfied with a 196.950 to finish off the regular season, and are looking to use that as motivation for improvement.
The focus for the team after returning from spring break is the same mindset they’ve had all year: one of consistent improvement. The majority of the Huskies meets this season improved on the ones before them, with the team focusing on the little details that would add up to higher scores. Although the season peaked with a 197.400 against UC Davis and Seattle Pacific, the Huskies still felt that they had yet to perform their best gymnastics and put together “their meet.”
Washington has the possibility of three more chances to achieve its full meet, with it all hinging on how the team performs at Regionals this weekend. The Huskies have emphasized the importance of 197, the number that they’ve looked at as the key to a trip to the National Championship. While a score that high probably won’t be necessary to advance, it will set the precedent the Huskies are looking for as they look to travel to St. Louis in two weeks.
Reach Managing Editor Hailey Robinson at email@example.com. Twitter: @haileyarobin