NCAA Championships Berths On the Line for GymDawgs

April 10, 2007

The Meet: The No. 31 Washington gymnasts join the nation's elite teams at the NCAA West Regional Championships this Saturday, Apr. 14, at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif. Six teams will compete for two NCAA Championships berths at the regional, one of six being conducted simultaneously nationwide. Live stats from the NCAA West Regional, which begins at 6 p.m. PDT, will be posted throughout the meet to official site of host Cal, www.calbears.com.

Rotation Schedule: For those planning to follow the meet online, following the rotation schedule for the Washington gymnasts at Saturday's NCAA West Regional Championships:

Rotation 1 - Beam
Rotation 2 - Bye
Rotation 3 - Floor
Rotation 4 - Vault
Rotation 5 - Bye
Rotation 6 - Bars

What's At Stake?: The six teams competing at the NCAA West Regional meet -- including No. 6 Nebraska, No. 7 Utah, No. 18 Missouri, No. 31 Washington, Cal and Sacramento State -- are vying for two team bids to the NCAA Championships, Apr. 26-28 in Salt Lake City. In addition to the team berths to nationals, individual NCAA Championships berths will be awarded to all members of qualifying teams, as well as the top-two all-around competitors not on a qualifying team, and any event winners not on a qualifying team.

NCAA West Regional Preview: Washington's gymnasts face a tall task at this week's West Regional, with two top-10 and three top-25 teams standing between the team and their goal of a qualifying bid to the NCAA Championships. The Huskies, however, have shown the talent to score high, earning a season-best mark of 195.800 in February despite not hitting in all four events. Washington has already faced two of its five regional opponents this season, going 2-2 in those matchups, including an 0-2 record against No. 6 Utah, and a 2-0 record vs. Cal. In addition to the team possibilities, Washington also boasts strong contenders for individual NCAA Championships berths, including sophomore Ashley Houghting (5th in the NCAA on vault) and junior Nikki Waiss (No. 55 nationally on bars).

NCAA Regional History: Washington enters Saturday's NCAA West Regional meet seeking its fourth top-two regional finish all time. The Huskies do boast one team regional crown -- in 1998, the last time UW qualified as a team for nationals -- and 14 individual regional titles, including three-straight by Carly Dockendorf from 2003 (bars, floor) to 2004 (floor). No Husky has won more regional crowns than former All-American Tiffany Simpson, who captured floor and all-around titles in both 1997 and 1998 for a total of four regional wins. One note of historical interest -- the UW has finished fourth or better at all but four of the 25 regionals for which it has qualified since women's gymnaistcs joined the NCAA in 1982.

Huskies Quick Notes: Head coach Joanne Bowers became just the third UW coach, and just the third first-year Pac-10 coach, even to win Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors when she was announced as co-Coach of the Year with Stanford's Kristen Smyth ... Washington's team score of 195.800 versus OSU and SPU was its highest since the 2004 Pac-10 Championships ... Washington has scored above 194 points six times this season, after failing to do so even once in 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 ... in fact, four different UW gymnasts have won multiple event titles in 2007 ... Washington has swept all five events three times this season, doing so vs. Utah State, at Cal and at SPU ... four Huskies have earned their first-career victories in any event in 2007, 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 blown past that total with 17 victories this season, including eight wins on vault, five on floor, one on beam and three in the all-around ... Houghting's 16 career victories on vault has set a UW career record, while her 24 total wins put her just twso victories short of adding her name to UW's top-10 career victories list ... junior Nikki Waiss has scored above a 9.825 on bars at six of UW's last seven meets.

Did You Know?
Washington has not qualified as a team for the NCAA Championships since 1998, but has qualified at least one individual for NCAA Championships competition in eight of the last 12 years, and 17 of 25 years overall.

2007 Pac-10 Redux: Sophomore Ashley Houghting equaled a career-high with a 9.950 on vault to share the Pac-10 title, and was seventh in the all-around, leading Washington to a fifth-place finish at the 2007 Pac-10 Championships at Arizona State's Wells Fargo Arena. The UW's team score of 194.775 was its second-highest away from home this season, and its highest at the Pac-10 Championships since 2004. The story for the Huskies was Houghting's win on vault, the first by a Husky at the Pac-10 meet since Molly Seaman captured the conference bars crown in 2004. Houghting also scored career-highs on bars (9.825) and beam (9.825), and a 9.800 on floor to finish with a 39.400 in the all-around, good for seventh overall. Houghting's win, combined with a 9.900 by freshman Cassidy Lance and a 9.850 by junior Natalie Gillan, carried the Huskies to a 49.125 on vault, and helped the team recover from a difficult floor rotation while setting the stage for later success on bars (48.900) and beam (48.550). Washington's bars score, which included career-high 9.850s for Houghting, Gillan and junior Raimey Iselin, matched the team's highest bars score of the year and equaled the third-highest among the seven Pac-10 teams.

Postseason Honors: The honors have been rolling in for Washington's gymnastics team since concluding the regular season at the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago. Head coach Joanne Bowers became just the third UW coach -- and just the third first-year coach in Pac-10 history --ever to earn Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors, sharing the award with Stanford's Kristen Smyth. Sophomore Ashley Houghting, meanwhile, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, while seniors Tori Quandt and Darcee Schiller, juniors Nikki Waiss and Natalie Gillan, and sophomores Kristen Omori and Kelly Gilbert all reecived Academic All-P-ac-10 honorable mention.

Rankings Report: Both Washington's RQS and national ranking remained unchanged after the Pac-10 Championships, putting the Huskies 31st overall at 194.515 in the final GymInfo Collegiate Rankings of the 2007 regular season. The RQS, on which both team and individual rankings are based, 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 Cal (194.800), Pac-10s (194.775) and SPU (194.475) -- being averaged for the RQS.

To Be The Best, Beat The Best: Washington received no favors from the schedule-makers in 2007. Sixteen of the Huskies' 25 opponents this year have been ranked in the GymInfo Top-25, including (current ranking) No. 7 Stanford, No. 7 Utah, No. 8 (tied) UCLA, No. 8 (tied) Oregon State, No. 15 Arizona, and No. 25 Minnesota. In fact, all of UW's 13 losses this season have come to top-25 teams -- including nine to top-10 opponents. 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: After a pair of early 'season-ending' knee injuries to junior Raimey Iselin and freshman Bonita Lee, Washington has remained relatively free of serious injury throughout the 2007 campaign. The term 'season-ending' is in quotes in the previous sentence because Iselin, expected to miss the rest of 2007 with a torn meniscus, made an inspirational return on bars at SPU on Mar. 23, ultimately winning the event with a 9.80 at SPU. The Huskies were without junior Nikki Waiss at Pac-10s after a slight knee injury at SPU, but she is expected back for the regional. Senior Chelsea Bakken, too, should be all-systems go on vault, bars and floor and being limited for several weeks after suffering a sprained ankle in February.

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 -- including four multiple-time winners -- both the school's highest such totals 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, UB vs. OSU/SPU) and Raimey Iselin (UB vs. Utah St., UB at SPU), and senior Tori Quandt (BB vs. Cal). Sophomore Ashley Houghting has added 17 wins to up her career total to 25, while sophomore Kristen Omori (BB vs. Utah State, BB vs. SPU) 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 UW's go-to gymnast for a big score. Winner of 17 events in 2007 -- including a share of her first Pac-10 title, on vault -- Houghting has already crushed the UW career record for vault wins, and is closing in on UW's all-time top-10 victories list. Known before 2007 solely 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 five floor wins, one beam win and three all-around crowns to accompany her eight vault victories. Those eight vault wins, however, increased Houghting's career total in the event to 16, four more than the UW career record of 12 set initially by Klara Kudilkova. In fact, Houghting has been defeated on vault just seven times in her collegiate career, out of 23 total competitions. That includes March's Pac-10 Championship meet, where Houghting won a share of her first Pac-10 title -- and the first by a Husky in any event since 2004 -- with a 9.950, and was seventh in the all-around. Ranked fifth nationally on vault with an RQS of 9.930 entering the regional, Houghting also has a chance to shine on floor, where her 9.975 at the UW's Mar. 23 meet at SPU equals the nation's highest floor score this year, and is the highest by a UW gymnast on any event since 2005.

Wonderful Waiss: After waiting more than three-plus 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 bars again in a three-way meet vs. Oregon State and SPU. The Mill Creek, Wash., native -- who enrolled at Washington in 2004 at the age of 16 after graduating early from Academy Northwest -- 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 lit on fire in mid-February, posting six-straight scores over 9.825 on bars from Feb. 9-Mar. 16, and showing off a newly-added vault routine with seven-straight 9.75s or better, including a 9.85 at Arizona State. Waiss' bars win vs. OSU & SPU came on the strength of a career-best 9.925 score, helping raise her RQS to 9.840 (55th NCAA) entering the weekend.

Beaming Up: After a season-long struggle on beam, signs began to point up for Washington in the event after recording its highest beam scores in over a year at back-to-back meets on Feb. 18 and Feb. 23. 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 five times in the past eight meets, including a 48.450 mark at March's Pac-10 Championships. If Washington can post a high score on beam -- on which it will open the competition -- the Huskies could be in for a big night on Saturday. Washington has already topped 49 points several times on both vault and floor this season, and has recorded season-best bars scores at four of the past seven 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, who was named co-Pac-10 Coach of the Year in March, 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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