Bakken Qualifies for Nationals; Bowers Named West Region Coach of the Year

April 14, 2007

BERKELEY, Calif. - Senior Chelsea Bakken, competing in the all-around for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in January, earned her first-career NCAA Championships berth Saturday with an eighth-place finish in the all-around at the NCAA West Regional Championships at Cal's Haas Pavilion in Berkeley. Bakken's big night, combined with a third-place finish for sophomore Ashley Houghting on vault, helped the Huskies to a fifth-place team finish in their first appearance at the regional meet since 2006.

Bakken, who had not competed on vault in nearly three months since injuring her ankle in January, and only returned on floor two weeks ago at Pac-10s, equaled her career-best in the all-around with a 39.025, including marks of 9.750 (vault), 9.700 (bars) and 9.775 (floor). That score was good for eighth place overall in the regional field, and was the second-highest score by an athlete not on one of the top-two teams, earning Bakken her first-ever NCAA Chamionships berth, and the first by any Husky gymnast since 2004.

'Wow, I can't believe it,' said Bakken, who didn't even realize her accomplishment until informed by coaches nearly an hour after the meet's conclusion. 'This is so amazing. I've never been to nationals, not even with the team, so to have it happen now, in this year, with everything that's happened ... it's really exciting.'

Seventh-ranked Utah defeated No. 6 Nebraska for the regional crown by a 197.325-196.675 margin, but both team's will advance to the NCAA Championships later this month. No. 18 Missouri was third at 194.300, California was fourth at 193.900, Washington fifth at 193.300, and Sacramento State sixth at 191.725.

The top-two teams at each of the six regionals contested nationwide Saturday, plus the top-two all-around finishers not on one of the top-two teams, and any event winners not on one of the top-two teams, all earned automatic berths to the 2007 NCAA Gymnastics Championships, Apr. 26-28 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

'I'm so incredibly excited for Chelsea' said first-year head coach Joanne Bowers. 'I think she started the year thinking she might be able to make it with a great year, but then after getting hurt, that dream kind of went away. To see her get that back is so special.'

Bowers had something to celebrate after the meet as well, when she announced as the coaches' choice for West Region Coach of the Year following the meet's conclusion. Bowers was also named Pac-10 co-Coach of the Year at the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago, becoming just the third first-year coach ever to earn the conference honor.

'Boy, this is a lot of good news at one time, I don't even know where to start!' she said Saturday. 'Obviously, it's a tremendous honor to be recognized by such outstanding coaches, but it's a team honor, not an individual one. Anything that we accomplish as individuals, we accomplish as a team, because none of us can reach our goals without the support of each other.'

At the start of the night, little went right for the Huskies.

Washington opened the meet on its lowest-scoring event, balance beam, and struggled to find its momentum early, counting two falls and settling for its second-lowest beam score of the year. The Huskies recovered, however, with the fourth-best floor score of the year, a 48.925 -- led by a 9.850 from sophomore Ashley Houghting and a 9.825 by junior Natalie Gillan - and the Houghting-led strong rotation on vault, before capping the night with a 48.325 on bars.

'Starting on beam was difficult for us,' Bowers said. 'But I told the team as they went to floor that how they responded to that difficult rotation on beam would be a true test of their character. Needless to say, I couldn't have been happier about the way they stepped up on floor, then carried that into vault and bars.'

Washington was forced to compete without one of its top contributors on bars and vault, junior Nikki Waiss, who was scratched late with lingering pain from a knee injury suffered in the team's regular-season finale at SPU. Without Waiss, one of the conference's highest-rated bars competitors, Washington had to rely on other gymnasts to step up and provide scoring in those events.

Sophomore Ashley did just that with a tie for third on vault (9.900) - her sixth-consecutive vault score at or above 9.90 - and a tie for fifth on floor (9.850), while Bakken (tied for 10th, 9.800) and junior Natalie Gillan (tied for 10th, 9.800) both scored top-10 finishes on bars. Gillan was also a top-10 finisher in the all-around, placing just behind Bakken in a tie for ninth with a career-best 39.950.

Bowers says that after missing the regional meet in 2006 for the first time in program history, and having lost several key competitors for significant portions of the season in 2007, the Huskies should be proud of what they've accomplished this year.

'I know I'm incredibly proud of how far they've come,' Bowers says. '[After the meet] I told them,'I know you're disappointed, because you're competitive and want to win, but when you go back and look at the goals you set for this team at the start of the year, you'll see that you accomplished every one.' This whole season has been a great experience for them to build upon, and I know that they will come back stronger next year because of it.'

For complete results from Friday's meet, or for more information on Washington gymnastics, visit

NCAA West Regional ChampionshipsHaas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.April 14, 2007

Team Scores Vault Bars Beam Floor Total#7 Utah 49.350 49.350 49.350 49.275 197.325#6 Nebraska 49.300 49.025 49.050 49.300 196.675#18 Missouri 48.850 48.875 48.000 48.575 194.300California 48.750 48.525 48.425 48.200 193.900Washington 48.950 48.325 47.100 48.925 193.300Sacramento State 48.125 48.350 47.400 47.850 191.725

Individual ScoresVaultWinner: Kristina Baskett, Utah, 9.925; Emily Parsons, Nebraska, 9.925.UW Competitors: t3. Ashley Houghting, 9.900; t11. Natalie Gillan, 9.825; t14. Cassidy Lance, 9.800; t21. Chelsea Bakken, 9.750; t32. Kristen Omori, 9.675; 38.Emily Epsten, 9.600;

Uneven BarsWinner: Ashley Postell, Utah, 9.950; Ashley Ford, Utah, 9.950.UW Competitors: t10. Chelsea Bakken, 9.800, Natalie Gillan, 9.800; 17. Tori Quandt, 9.725; 33. Darcee Schiller, 9.625; 39. Ashley Houghting, 9.375; 42. Raimey Iselin, 8.350.

Balance BeamWinner: Ashley Postell, Utah, 9.950UW Competitors: t13. Kelly Gilbert, 9.775; t20. Chelsea Bakken, 9.700; 31. Natalie Gillan, 9.500; 35. Ashley Houghting, 9.100; 37. Kristen Omori, 9.025; 41. Tori Quandt, 8.875.

Floor ExerciseWinner: Emily Parsons, Nebraska, 9.925UW Competitors: t5. Ashley Houghting, 9.850; t8. Natalie Gillan, 9.825; t15. Chelsea Bakken, 9.775, Kristen Omori, 9.775; t21. Kelly Gilbert, 9.700; 39. Tori Quandt, 9.450

All-AroundWinner: Ashley Postell, Utah, 39.675UW Competitors: 8. Chelsea Bakken, 39.025; t9. Natalie Gillan, 38.950; 18. Ashley Houghting, 38.225.

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