UA gymnasts host Region III Championships
The Arizona gymnastics team will bid for its first regional title when it hosts the NCAA Region III Championships at McKale Center tomorrow at 6 p.m.
The Wildcats, which are seeded fourth, will be going up against five of the nation's best programs - No. 5 Nebraska (25-5), No. 8 Louisiana State (15-4-1), No. 16 Arizona State (16-7), Missouri (8-3) and Chicago-Illinois (13-10).
"Nebraska and LSU are for real," head coach Bill Ryden said. "They have been consistent all year, and consistency has been one of our biggest problems."
From the six teams competing, the top two scoring teams and the top scoring all-around gymnast who is not on a qualifying team will move on to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships on April 13-15 in Boise, Idaho.
Each individual event winner who scores a 9.8 or higher and is not on a qualifying team will advance to the NCAA Championships in that event only.
This is the 13th straight season the Wildcats have qualified for the regional championships, though they have not received a NCAA Championship berth in four years.
In last year's effort to earn a berth, the Wildcats came up short, finishing in third place behind Michigan and Nebraska.
"I think we have a better team than last year, and that we will do well on Saturday," sophomore Randi Liljenquist said. "We are really focused and just want to come out and give strong performances on every event."
The Wildcats finished with a disappointing record of 5-16, but are happy to be one of the 36 teams remaining in the country.
"We have yet to hit a meet," Ryden said. "A number of meets were close and could have gone either way this season. Hopefully, we can focus and come out hitting every event."
Senior All-American Heidi Hornbeek will greatly increase the Wildcats' chances, as she is probable to compete on tomorrow. Hornbeek has been battling a variety of injuries, including three bulging discs in her back, shoulder problems and sprained ankle.
"It looks like she will compete," Ryden said. "But she is in a tremendous amount of pain."
With the addition of Hornbeek in the lineup, UA is hoping to qualify as one of the two teams that will advance to Boise.
"We really want to show a strong team effort on Saturday," Ryden said. "We want to advance to the championships as a team."