Gymnasts Head to Tempe For 2007 Pac-10 Championships

March 27, 2007

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The Meet: After improving by leaps and bounds -- literally -- in 2007, Washington's 31st-ranked gymnastics team will match up against many of the nation's elite teams Saturday at the 2007 Pac-10 Gymnastics Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. The meet, featuring seven rotations, will begin at 5 p.m. PST, with live scoring available throughout via the official site of host Arizona State,

Rotation Schedule: For those planning to follow the meet online, following the rotation schedule for the Washington gymnasts at Saturday's Pac-10 Championships

Rotation 1 - Floor
Rotation 2 - Bye
Rotation 3 - Vault
Rotation 4 - Bye
Rotation 5 - Bars
Rotation 6 - Beam
Rotation 7 - Bye

Pac-10 Preview: Washington has improved significantly in 2007, posting nine scores higher than its highest score from 2006, yet still finds itself staring upward at a loaded Pac-10 Conference including five top-25 teams, and three top-five opponents. Defending champion Stanford enters the meet with the nation's No.5 ranking, and boasts defending individual champions on bars (Liz Tricase) beam (Tabitha Yim), with Yim also the conference's reigning all-around champ. Eighth-ranked UCLA also boasts a strong lineup led by two-time Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week Tasha Schwikert, while No. 9 Oregon State, No. 15 Arizona and No. 25 Arizona State also bring terrific teams to the meet. Toppling one or more of those five will be the challenge for UW's gymnasts, and signs exist that they can be up to the task. Washington boasts a Pac-10 title contender in two events in sophomore Ashley Houghting, whose regional qualifying scores of 9.890 on floor and 9.910 on vault rank first (tied) and second in the conference, respectively. Houghting's floor score of 9.975 at SPU last week is the nation's best in 2007, while her season-best vault effort of 9.950 is tied for third in the conference this year. Junior Nikki Waiss boasts UW's highest ranking on bars at seventh (tied) in the conference, while sophomores Kelly Gilbert and Kristen Omori are each tied for 20th on beam.

Huskies Quick Notes: 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 10-straight meets -- including a four-meet streak of scores of 194 or better -- a total topped by UW 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 ... 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 in 2007 with 16 victories on the season, including seven wins on vault, five on floor, one on beam and three in the all-around ... Houghting's 15 career victories on vault has set a UW career record, while her 24 total wins put her just three 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?
Sophomore Ashley Houghting's 9.975 on floor in last week's win over SPU is tied for nation's best mark on floor this year. Only three other gymnasts -- LSU's Lauren Klein and Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, and Alabama's Morgan Dennis -- have matched Houghting's score this year.

2006 Pac-10 Redux: Stanford scored a season-high 197.100 and edged UCLA by .300 to win its second Pac-10 Championship in three years in 2006 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. Stanford's Tabitha Yim scored 39.650 All-Around to win the meet and pace 10th-ranked Stanford's night. Second-place and 11th-ranked UCLA scored a 196.800, followed by No. 17 Oregon State (196.400), No. 9 Arizona State (193.900), No. 15 Arizona (193.750), Washington (192.750) and California (192.725). Freshman Ashley Houghting was the only Husky to crack the top-10 in an event, tying for eighth on vault with a 9.850. Senior Kelly McDonald tied for 10th All-Around with a 39.050. McDonald was also the Huskies' top finisher on beam, bars and floor, placing 14th on the three events.

Pac-10 Championships History: Washington boasts an outstanding history at the Pac-10 Gymnastics Championships, with UW gymnasts having combined for 19 individual titles, while leading UW to top-three finishes twice since 2000. No Husky was more prolific at the Pac-10 meet than the legendary Yumi Mordre, who captured eight conference crowns -- including at least one in every event, plus the all-around -- from 1986-89, leading UW to a third-place finish in 1987. The Huskies experienced a similar run of success from 2001-04, with at least one UW gymnast winning a Pac-10 title in each of those four seasons, including a perfect 10.0 on bars by Carly Dockendorf at the 2003 Pac-10 Meet. Washington achieved its highest-ever Pac-10 team score in 2001, notching a 197.475, and has placed fifth or better in 10 of the last 14 years.

Rankings Report: Despite improving their RQS to 194.345, the Huskies fell one spot to 31st in the GymInfo Collegiate Rankinsg as Senior Nights around the country led to high scores for a number of Division-I teams.. 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), SPU (194.475) and Arizona State (194.450) -- being averaged for the RQS.

To Be The Best, Beat The Best: Washington received no favors from the schedule-makers in 2007. Nine of the Huskies' 14 regular-season opponents are ranked in this week's GymInfo Top-25, including No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Utah, No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Oregon State, No. 15 Arizona, No. 23 Minnesota and No. 25 Arizona State. In fact, all of UW's nine losses this season have come to top-25 teams -- including six 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 last weekend, ultimately winning the event with a 9.80 at SPU. Another Husky moving along in her recovery is senior Chelsea Bakken, who has recently begun tumbling after being limited to just bars, then just bars and beam, 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 16 wins to up her career total to 24, 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 Washington's go-to gymnast for a big score. Winner of eight events in 2006, Houghting has already won 16 time in 2007 to close to within three victories of UW's career top-10. 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 five floor wins, one beam win and three all-around crowns to accompany her seven vault victories. Those seven vault wins, however, increased Houghting's career total in the event to 15, three 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 22 total competitions. Houghting's 9.975 on vault at last week's meet vs. SPU equals the nation's highest floor score this year, and is the highest by a UW gymnast on any event since 2005. The sophomore enters this weekend's Pac-10 meet with the conference's No. 1 ranking (tied) on floor and its No. 2 ranking on vault, and is the nation's sixth-ranked vaulter (9.920) and 16th-ranked floor performer (9.890).

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 -- 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 has been on fire for the season's last month, 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 and SPU came on the strength of a career-best 9.925 score, helping raise her RQS to 9.840 (11th Pac-10, 50th 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 four times in the past seven weeks, including a 48.600 mark in last week's win at SPU. If Washington can post high beam scores, the Huskies could pull off some upsets before the year is out -- Washington has already topped 49 points several times on both vault and floor this season, and has recorded season-best bars scores at three of the past six 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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