No. 21 Washington Gymnastics Heads To Pac-10 Championships

March 23, 2010

Pac-10 Gymnastics Championships
Saturday, March 27, 2010 - 3 p.m. PT
McKale Center - Tucson, Ariz.
Pac-10 Championship Central

This Week
The No. 21 Washington gymnastics team heads to Tucson, Ariz., for the 2010 Pac-10 Gymnastics at the McKale Center of the campus of the University of Arizona on Saturday, March 27 at 3 p.m. PT. The Huskies are riding a wave of momentum from a succesful last month of the season in which they reached their highest team scores and also topped their highest scores on each individual event. UW finished fourth at Pac-10s last year, their highest finish in six years, and appear to be peaking at just the right time. UW is currently the fourth-highest Pac-10 team in the national rankings.

Live Coverage
Live results will be available via the Pac-10's official website, www.pac-10.org. Check back later in the week for links on both GoHuskies.com and Pac-10.org.

Last Week
The Huskies concluded the regular season with a victory over Seattle Pacific at Royal Brougham Pavilion, recording a 195.300 to SPU's 190.500. Huskies won all four individual events and freshman Lauren Rogers won her first career all-around title. Another freshman, Paige Bixler, also had a big night, winning her first-ever event title with an incredible 9.925 on beam, the highest score for a UW gymnast on the event since 2007 and a record for a UW freshman.

Also winning events were Samantha Walior on bars with a career-high tying 9.900, Hatsune Akaogi on vault with a career-best 9.850 and Walior and Kristen Linton on floor, who tied with 9.875s. The Huskies had season highs as a team on bars (49.075) and floor (49.100) en route to the runaway victory to head into the conference championship on a roll.

Huskies in the Rankings
The Huskies jumped up another spot in the rankings this week after a strong performance against Seattle Pacific in their final regular-season meet before Pac-10s. The Huskies have moved up four spots in the rankings over the last two weeks, going from No. 25 to No. 22 last week and now moving up to No. 21 with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.380. Thanks to a season-high at Oklahoma two weeks ago, the Huskies were able to drop their lowest score of the year, which came in their first road meet of the season at Oregon State early on. UW had to wait a couple weeks to compete in their third road meet to qualify for an RQS but after back-to-back weeks of setting a season high, they jumped back into the overall team rankings. Now they are up to their highest ranking of the season since they reached No. 19 after the first meet of the year.

The Huskies also rank in the top 25 on bars (No. 21) and beam (No. 23) along with ranking 27th on floor and 32nd on vault. UW opened the season in the top-25 for the first time since 2006, coming in at No. 25.

Challenging Schedule
The Huskies have faced one of the toughest schedules in the country, competing against five teams currently in the nation's top-10, including two of the top three. UW opened with five straight meets against top-12 teams, including No. 12 Nebraska, No. 3 UCLA, No. 7 Oregon State, No. 11 Utah and No. 6 Stanford.

After facing then-No. 24 ASU, UW got a one-week break from ranked opponents at home against Cal, before picking back up with the tough competition against No. 8 Arkansas. The Huskies finished the regular season on the road against No. 23 Arizona, No. 2 Oklahoma and SPU, reaching season highs in two of the three meets.

About the Huskies
UW came into the season ranked 25th, returning eight competitors from last year's squad that finished fourth at the Pac-10 Championships, the Huskies' best finish in six years. UW also advanced to the NCAA West Regionals for the third time in head coach Joanne Bowers' three-year tenure, helping the coach earn West Region Coach of the Year honors.

UW has been led by returning All-Pac-10 performer Hatsune Akaogi, who owns three all-around wins this year. Juniors Samantha Walior, a First Team All-Pac-10 pick on floor last year who leads UW with seven event wins in 2010, Haley Bogart and Kristen Linton have also been solid for a very young team that has no seniors.

Scouting the Pac-10 Conference
The Pac-10 is one of the strongest conferences for gymnastics in the nation, with three teams ranked in the top 10 (#3 UCLA, #6 Stanford, #7 Oregon State) and two others ranking in the top 25 (#21 UW, #23 Arizona). Additionally, Arizona State is just outside the top-25, coming in at No. 29 heading into Pac-10s, while Cal is 56th.

All-arounders to look out for at the conference championships include UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa, who ranks No. 3 in the nation, along with Carly Janiga of Stanford and Anna Li of UCLA, who rank No. 8 and No. 10, respectively. On vault, Oregon State's Mandi Rodriguez and UCLA's Zamarripa rank tied for second in the country while the Bruins have the country's top two on bars in Li and Zamarripa. Zamarripa also ranks third on beam while Rodriguez is ranked second nationally on floor.

Where the Huskies Rank
The Huskies should challenge for plenty of all-conference spots as they have a handful of gymnasts peaking at the right time. Kristen Linton ranks ninth in the Pac-10 conference and 34th in the nation on bars, earning an RQS of 9.855 thanks to a couple of 9.900 scores lately. Samantha Walior has also posted high scores on bars to earn an RQS of 9.835, which ranks 14th in the conference and 51st nationally.

Walior has also been strong on beam, where she rates 10th in the conference and 48th nationally with an RQS of 9.825 and she is also the highest-ranked Husky on floor, ranking 16th in the conference and 69th nationally with an RQS of 9.835. Hatsune Akaogi, meanwhile, has been solid in the all-around, ranking 11th in the Pac-10 and 60th national with an RQS of 38.890.

Coming On Strong
The Huskies have started to heat up over the last month of the season, recording their five best overall team scores in the last six meets, including a season-high two weeks ago at No. 2 Oklahoma. The Huskies have also posted season bests on all four events, earning at least a 49.000 three times on bars and floor and twice on vault. While they haven't broken the 49 barrier on beam yet, they have reached their season high (48.850) three times over the last five weeks. UW is hoping to carry that momentum into the Pac-10 Championships.

Things started clicking for UW six weeks ago against Arizona State when they posted their first score of 195.000 or better despite a narrow loss to the Sun Devils. In that meet, the Huskies also recorded their first event scores of 49.000 or better, earning a 49.000 on vault and a 49.025 on floor. The next week, UW topped their best team score in a win over Cal, registering a 195.625, their best since a 196.000 last season in a win over Oregon State. UW also reached season bests on bars (49.025) and beam (48.850) in the victory. The Huskies then topped themselves again at No. 19 Arizona, earning a 195.675 and recording their season high on bars with a 49.050. The Huskies equaled season highs on vault, beam and floor two weeks ago in setting a team high again with a 195.800 at No. 2 Oklahoma and last week they set new season highs on bars (49.075) and floor (49.100) in a win over Seattle Pacific.

Hats Off To Hatsune
Though she's only a sophomore, Hatsune Akaogi has been one of the leaders of the Husky squad this year. The only GymDawg to compete in the all-around in all 11 events, Akaogi has won the all-around outright twice, scoring a career-best 39.225 against Cal, while also tying UCLA All-American Anna Li for first in UW's dual meet against the Bruins. She captured her third all-around title three weeks ago at No. 19 Arizona, just missing her season high with a 39.125. The California native has also won once on beam this year, posting a 9.825 against Cal. Showing her consistency and all-around talent, Akaogi has been UW's team leader on all four events at least twice each during the season.

Where she has been her most consistent has been floor exercise, where she earned a career-high 9.825 three weeks ago after scoring 9.800 twice and 9.775 seven times this year. The only time she dipped below a 9.775 was a 9.725 against Arizona State. She has also been solid on vault, recording a 9.800 five times and setting a career high last week with a 9.850 to win the event. She has also earned a 9.850 - her highest score on any event in her career - on bars against UCLA and Cal.

Sam the Ma'am
Junior Samantha Walior has been proving all year that she's one of the most dangerous performers in the conference, winning a team-high seven events this year, winning three times on bars and twice each on beam and floor. She has scored a 9.900 on bars twice, once last week in a win over SPU and again recently against Arkansas. She now has four 9.900s in her career, one each on beam and floor and two on bars.

While bothered by a heel injury lately and a knee injury for months, the Minnesota native continues to put up solid scores week in and week out. She has been at her best on beam, an event where she ranks 10th in the conference and tied for 45th in the country, scoring a 9.800 or better seven times, including a season best 9.850 against both Utah and Oklahoma and a 9.825 against Arizona to tie for the win. She has also been solid on floor, where she's scored 9.800 or better five times, topping out at 9.875 last week against SPU to tie for the title.

More Junior Power
Samantha Walior isn't the only UW junior having a solid season. Since there are no senior on this year's squad, the juniors have had to step up and lead the way and both Haley Bogart and Kristen Linton have done just that. Bogart has been incredibly consistent across the board on her three events - vault, beam and floor - scoring at least a 9.800 on floor seven times in 11 events while scoring a 9.775 or better on vault in eight of 10 tries. She has won three events, scoring a season-best 9.875 on vault against Cal after winning floor with a 9.850 against Arizona State. She also tied for the win on vault three weeks ago against Arizona.

Linton, meanwhile, is tied for second on the team with five event wins this year. She's won three times on floor, recording a season-high and tying a career high with a 9.875 last week. She also scored a 9.850 against Arizona State recently and made it back-to-back wins the following week against California with a 9.825. She also set a career-high and recorded her first-ever 9.900 on bars against Cal to earn two victories in the meet before tying Walior for the win with a 9.850 two weeks ago.

Rookies Making an Impact
The Huskies are a young team, boasting a roster with no seniors. WIth four juniors and four sophomores, UW has had to rely some on their freshmen this year and they have come through. Two of those freshmen, Paige Bixler and Lauren Rogers, have started peaking at the right time, with Bixler being a consistent force in the leadoff spot on beam while Rogers has been an all-around threat. Bixler has been steady all season but has broken out the last two weeks with her best two performances. She had a then-career high two weeks ago at Oklahoma with a 9.800 to finish fifth, then last week set a new UW freshman record on the event with a 9.925 to win her first-ever event title. It was the highest score for any Husky on beam since the 2007 season.

Rogers won her first career all-around title last week, scoring a career-high 39.075, recording a career-best 9.700 on beam and scoring at least 9.775 on the other three events. She finished second on vault with a 9.825 and tied for third on bars with a 9.775. She has been a key contributer on vault down the home stretch, receiving a pair of 9.800s and a 9.825 against No. 2 Oklahoma and also earning a career-best 9.875 against Arizona State. She also broke out with a career-best 9.850 on bars three weeks ago to tie for her first career win against Arizona.

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