Washington’s gymnastics team has come close the past three years, finishing third in regional competition, with the top two teams advancing to the NCAA meet.
The Huskies host a six-team regional on Saturday, and qualifying for the national meet for the first time since 1998 will again be a challenge.
The Huskies are seeded sixth in a field topped by fourth-ranked Alabama and No. 9 Nebraska.
Washington coach Joanne Bowers understands her team’s chances of advancing are remote.
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“It would probably be the upset of the century,” she said. “But anything can happen, right?”
What happened to her 2014 team, Bowers says, is the graduation of five seniors, a long string of injuries that began in fall practice and a half-dozen freshmen adjusting to Division I competition.
As a result, UW’s regional qualifying score ranks 33rd of the 36 teams in the NCAA tournament. Rarely does anyone outside the top 16 reach the 12-team national finals.
“We had more talent coming into this season than we did last year,” Bowers said, “so it’s a disappointment because we had such high expectations at the start. But one of the real positives to come of out of it is the fight and the grit in this team. We’ve had a lot of adversity, but I have not seen any kind of quit in this group of young women.”
Bowers hopes her three All-Pac-12 performers — sophomore and Skyline grad Allison Northey (first team all-around), junior Jackie McMartin (first team beam) and senior Aliza Vaccher (second team all-around) — can qualify for nationals individually. Vaccher did so in all-around as a freshman and sophomore.
• Alabama won the SEC Championships, which included four of the nation’s top six teams. Top performers: Kim Jacobs placed third in all-around (39.6); teammate Katie Bailey was seventh (39.45). Diandra Milliner was vault co-champion (9.975) and part of a three-way tie for first on floor (9.95). Kaitlyn Clark won bars (9.975).
• Nebraska placed second in the Big Ten meet (behind No. 7 Michigan, where Bowers once coached). Its roster includes conference beam champion Emily Wong (9.95). Wong was also floor co-champion (10.0). Teammate Hollie Blanske placed second in all-around (39.6).
• Boise State features junior Kelsey Morris, a Snohomish High School grad. Morris won the all-around title at the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships on March 22 and also tied for the meet title on bars. Boise State finished second to Denver in the meet. BYU placed fourth.