GymDawgs Vault Into Season's Stretch Run With Midwest Trip

March 6, 2007

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The Meet: Washington's 28th-ranked gymnasts hope to keep the surge of high scores alive this week as they travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers this Sat., Mar. 10. Action is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. PT, with live scoring available through the official site of Minnesota athletics, www.gophersports.com.

Live Video!: Saturday's meet at Minnesota offers Husky fans a rare opportunity to catch the GymDawgs in action during their six-week road trip, as the Golden Gophers will provide a live video stream from the meet free of charge to all fans. The link to the live video can be found at www.gophersports.com, and will become active shortly before the meet begins.

The Week That Was: Despite two event victories from sophomore Ashley Houghting and a third-straight score over 194.0, the GymDawgs couldn't manage the upset over No. 21 Arizona State, falling 196.525-194.450 in Tempe. Houghting claimed UW's career vault victories record with her 13th vault win, and scored season-highs for UW on floor (9.925) and all-around (39.425). Washington posted a season high on bars with a team total of 48.900, while UW gymnasts combined for nine season-best scores, including bests in all five events for Houghting. Junior Nikki Waiss also had an oustanding meet, scoring matching 9.85s on both bars and vault, the latter a season-high and the former her third-straight bars score over 9.85.

Huskies Quick Notes: The GymDawgs earned their third straight score over 194.000 versus Arizona State ... Washington's team score of 195.800 versus OSU and SPU was its highest since the 2004 Pac-10 Championships ... Washington has topped 193 points in seven-straight meets, after topping that total just six times in all of 2006 ... the Huskies' 194.800-193.025 win at Cal was its most lopsided Pac-10 win since a 195.850-193.600 win over Cal in January of 2004 ... seven of the Huskies' 15 gymnasts have earned victories this season, something just three accomplished in all of last year ... Washington has swept all five events twice this season, including vs. Utah State and at Cal ... four Huskies have earned their first-career victories in any event this season, including Raimey Iselin (bars vs. USU), Nikki Waiss (bars vs. Cal), Kelly Gilbert (beam vs. Cal) and Tori Quandt (beam vs. Cal) ... sophomore Ashley Houghting, winner of eight events in 2006, has already exceeded that total in 2007, including five wins on vault, four on floor and one in the all-around ... Houghting's 13 career victories on vault is a UW career record, while her 18 total wins equal the 14th-most ever at UW ... senior Chelsea Bakken scored a career-best 39.025 to win the all-around against Utah State, and is UW's top-returning all-arounder ... with the win vs. SPU, Washington improved its all-time non-conference home record to 81-15-1, including a 18-4 record since the re-opening of Bank of America Arena in 2002.

Minnesota At A Glance: The Golden Gophers (2-6), enter Saturday's meet with a swing of momentum after defeating No. 10 Iowa State and No. 24 Iowa in last week's tri-meet. The Gophers posted their season-best score of 195.350 to take down the two ranked opponents, though Iowa managed to come within only .025 to take second place.

UW-Minnesota Series: Washington hopes to emulate its last meeting against the Golden Gophers, where the GymDawgs defeated Minnesota by a score of 195.075-193.700 in 2005. Though the Huskies and Gophers have only met eight times, they have been evenly matched, with an all-time record of 4-4 in the series.

Did You Know? Sophomore Ashley Houghting has won 10 total events this year (including five on vault, four on floor, and one all-around), already surpassing her 2006 total of eight events won. She is on pace to earn 14 event victories this season, which would be the most won by a Husky since the 2004 season.

Rankings Report: After nearly two months of carrying it around like an anchor, Washington was finally able to shed its low score from the season-opener at UCLA and subsequently rocketed up four spots in the GymInfo Rankings to a season-high 28th. Washington's regional qualifying score (RQS) climbed more than a point, from 192.885 to 194.140, putting the Huskies within a tenth of a point of their first top-25 ranking since 2005. The RQS is obtained by throwing out a team's high score and averaging its next five-best scores, at least three of which must be from road competitions. Currently, Washington's 195.800 vs. OSU/SPU stands as the team's high score and is thus discarded, with the team's next five scores -- including mandatory road scores at Utah (193.850), Cal (194.800) and Arizona State (194.450) -- being averaged for the RQS. The Huskies finished the 2006 season with an RQS of just 193.170, an average they have topped at each of their past seven meets this year.

To Be The Best, Beat The Best: Washington received no favors from the schedule-makers in 2007. Seven of the Huskies' 10 regular-season opponents are ranked in this week's GymInfo Top-30, including No. 3 Stanford, No. 5 UCLA, No.7 Utah, No. 10 Oregon State, No. 15 Arizona, No. 21 Arizona State and No. 26 Minnesota, while Utah State sits just outside the top-30 at No. 34. In fact, five of the Huskies' six losses this season have come to top-15 teams -- including four of the current top-10. A difficult schedule is nothing the Huskies aren't used to, however -- in 2006, 18 of UW's 28 opponents boasted top-20 rankings at the time of their meeting, including all but one of the Huskies' six Pac-10 foes.

Injury Update: As is typically the case two months into the season, nagging injuries are beginning to be the norm for many UW gymnasts. Washington has so far suffered just two season-ending injuries, with both junior Raimey Iselin and freshman Bonita Lee suffering torn meniscuses that will keep them out until 2007-08. Besides those two, however, the only Husky significantly limited of late has been senior Chelsea Bakken. Washington's top all-arounder, Bakken missed all of UW's Feb. 9 meet vs. Arizona with a sprained ankle and was limited to just bars work in each of the Huskies last three competitions.

Winning Ways: After putting just three Huskies on the victory stand in all of 2006, Washington has already boasted seven different event winners in 2007, its highest such total in more than a decade. Four of those seven earned their first-career wins in 2007, including sophomore Kelly Gilbert (BB vs. Cal) juniors Nikki Waiss (UB vs. Cal) and Raimey Iselin (UB vs. Utah St.), and senior Tori Quandt (BB vs. Cal). Sophomore Ashley Houghting has added 10 wins to up her career total to 18, while sophomore Kristen Omori (BB vs. Utah State) and senior Chelsea Bakken (AA vs. Utah St.) have netted victories as well.

Hough'd She Do That?: Sophomore Ashley Houghting is quickly establishing herself as Washington's go-to gymnast for a big score. Winner of eight events in 2006, Houghting has already exceeded that total this season, and with another three regular-season meets remaining, is on pace to break into UW's all-time top-10 in career victories before the year is done. Known before 2007 for her prowess on vault -- the source of all eight of her victories as a freshman -- Houghting has this year added an all-around component to her repetoire, and has already ripped off four floor wins and an all-around crown to accompany her five vault victories. Houghting's vault win against Arizona State was her 13th all-time in the event, moving her past Klara Kudilkova for UW's career vault wins record. In fact, Houghting has been defeated on vault just six times in her collegiate career, out of 19 total competitions. Houghting currently ranks among the nation's best on vault and floor, with a 9.885 RQS in the former that is ranked 12th nationally entering competition this week.

Guess Who's Bak?: Senior Chelsea Bakken had perhaps the best meet of her collegiate career Jan. 12 vs. Utah State, scoring at least a 9.725 on every event and winning the all-around with a career-best 39.025. Bakken's win, the first of her UW career in the all-around, was a terrific start to what has the makings of an outstanding season for the Mesa, Ariz., native. Bakken led all Huskies in 2006 with an all-around RQS of of 38.495 (14th Pac-10, 72nd nation), and had won three times previously, including twice on vault, and once on floor.

Wonderful Waiss: After waiting more than three-and-a-half years for her first collegiate win before capturing bars honors at Cal on Feb. 18, junior Nikki Waiss needed just five more days to add a second victory, taking the bars again in a three-way meet vs. Oregon State and Seattle Pacific. The Mill Creek, Wash., native, appears to be finding her stride after missing all of the 2006 season, and portions of 2005, with various injuries, the most serious a ruptured ACL during the fall of 2005. After starting off slowly in 2007, Waiss has been on fire for the season's last month, posting four-straight scores over 9.825 on bars, and showing off a newly-added vault routine with four-straight 9.75s or better, including a 9.85 at Arizona State. Waiss' bars win vs. OSU and SPU came on the strength of a career-best 9,925 score, helping raise her RQS to 9.790 (12th Pac-10) entering the weekend.

Beaming Up: After a season-long struggle on beam, signs are pointing up for Washington in the event after recording its highest beam scores in over a year in back-to-back meets in February. The Huskies' 48.800 total at Cal -- including winning scores of 9.800 by sophomore Kelly Gilbert and senior Tori Quandt -- and its 48.850 score vs. OSU and SPU (including 9.875s by Natalie Gillan and Kristen Omori -- were well beyond their previous season-best of 48.025, and were the team's highest beam scores since a 48.925 effort at Arizona on Feb. 3, 2006. Most encouraging for UW is that after opening the season with back-to-back 47.350 and 47.375 performances on beam, the team has topped the 48-point mark three times in the past five weeks, and has not scored below a 47.875 in any of its last six competitions. If Washington can maintain its high beam scores, the Huskies could pull off some upsets before the year is out -- Washington has already topped 49 points on both vault and floor this season, and has recorded season-best bars scores at each of the past four meets.

Meet the Coaches: Washington is fortunate to have an outstanding trio of first-year coaches in 2007, including head coach Joanne Bowers and assistant coaches Shanna Duggan and David McCreary. Bowers has amassed impressive credentials as an assistant coach at Michigan from 2002-06, coaching 13 All-Americans and four Big Ten champions, while helping guide the Wolverines to five-straight NCAA appearances. Duggan also brings a winning attitude to Washington after a stellar collegiate career during which she earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, and was an Academic All-American, while McCreary has placed several gymnasts on the U.S. National Team during a distinguished 20-year coaching career at the club level.

The Future's So Bright: First-year head coach Joanne Bowers has already signed four outstanding preps to letters of intent for the 2007-08 academic year. Samantha (Sam) Wailor (Prior Lake, Minn./Thompson's Academy) is a six-time national qualifier and four-time Region 4 all-around champion, while Danielle Henderson (Visalia, Calif./Central Calif. Gymnastics Institute) is a Region 1 floor champion and a two-time Junior Olympics natiuonal qualifier. They'll be joined by two-time Junior Olympics national qualifier Haley Bogart (Woodside, Calif./Airborne Gymnastics) and Region 3 all-around runner-up Karen Cain (Kyle, Tex./Olympic Hill Gymnastics), who both boast impressive resumes as well.

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