NCAA Gymnastics Invades Seattle

April 7, 2005

By Alisa Brandle
UW Media Relations

Huskies Seek Elusive NCAA Bid | Complete NCAA West Regional Info

Seattle - NCAA gymnastics invades Seattle on Saturday, April 9 when Washington hosts the 2005 West Regional Championships at 5 p.m. in Bank of America Arena. The 24th-ranked Huskies play host to No. 2 UCLA, No. 11 Penn State, No. 14 Central Michigan, Stanford, Boise State and nine individual qualifiers. The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA national championships in Auburn, Ala., April 21-23. Each event winner from the regional championships will also advance to the National Championship.

The Huskies look to make their first team berth to the national championships since 1998, when they won the West regional that was held in Seattle and finished seventh at nationals. Washington also hosted in 2003, but fell .025 shy of a team berth. The Huskies are optimistic about their chances, and hope to capitalize on their home-court advantage.

'Our draw is awesome and we are at home,' said head coach Bob Levesque, 'so we already have two really good things going for us. The last time we were here we probably had the worst draw you could get, and had to sit and watch LSU beat us by .025 in the last rotation. So the draw is excellent and our primary goal is just to hit all four events. I've told the kids that it doesn't matter what the other teams out on the floor do, we have to hit and then when the dust settles just see where we are.'

Washington looks to senior veterans and former national qualifiers Carly Dockendorf and Tacia LaBatte to lead the team back to nationals. The Huskies will also look for strong performances from junior standout Kelly McDonald, sophomore Chelsea Bakken and freshmen Natalie Gillan and Brittney Brabec. McDonald, the Huskies highest finisher at the Pac-10 Championships, is excited for the upcoming meet.

'It's always exciting when it comes to the end of the season and the one meet that really counts,' said McDonald. 'It doesn't matter what was done during the rest of the season, just what we do on Saturday.'

Here is a look at the five teams battling the Huskies for the national spots:

The Pac-10 champion Bruins look for their 16th regional championship win on Saturday. They have won six consecutive championship titles and 11 in the last 12 years. The Bruins are led by former U.S. Olympians Kristen Maloney and Tasha Schwikert, and two-time Canadian Olympian Kate Richardson. UCLA swept the Pac-10 Championships, winning or tying for all five event titles. Maloney and Schwikert are ranked 1-2 in the national all-around rankings, and the Bruins as a team are ranked in the top four on all four events. Richardson is battling a functional rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament on her thumb, an injury that will keep her from competing on the bars the rest of the year.

Penn State will be looking to make its 21st NCAA appearance and its first appearance since 2000, when they finished seventh. The Nittany Lions narrowly missed claiming their first Big Ten title ever, falling to 13-time champion Michigan by 0.125. Penn State is led by senior Kate Stopper, the Big Ten floor exercise champion, and freshman Kristal Uzelac, who won the bars and beam titles at the Big Ten championships and also placed second in the all-around.

CMU looks for its first national team appearance in its sixth regional appearance in the last seven years. The Chippewas are led by senior Sara Burtinsky, who was the Mid American Conference all-around and bar champion. The Chippewas finished second overall in the MAC Conference championships. CMU will be without the services of senior and MAC gymnast of the year Kara Reighard, who tore her ACL during the last home meet of the regular season.

Saturday's meet marks Stanford's 16th-consecutive NCAA regional appearance, where they will look for their ninth national berth. The Cardinal is led by All-Americans Natalie Foley and Glyn Sweets and 2004 Olympic Trial participant Liz Tricase and Tabitha Yim. Stanford finished fourth at the Pac-10 championships, one spot ahead of the Huskies.

The Broncos look for their first national team berth in their 19th-consecutive regional championship appearance. Sophomore Lindsay Ward is the only current Bronco with national championship experience, and will lead the team along with seniors Carla Chambers, Kristin Aldrich, and Kristin Gaare.

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