The West Virginia University gymnastics team closed out its season yesterday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where it placed fifth in the NCAA Regional Championships.
The fifth-seeded Mountaineers finished with a team score of 194.250, their third-lowest total of the year. The host team and eventual champions Alabama Crimson Tide finished with a score of 197.125 and earned its 34th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships.
Second-seeded and No. 10-ranked California placed second with a score of 195.925 and successfully claimed a spot in the NCAA Championships alongside Alabama.
The battle for the second and final spot in the NCAA Championship was a tight race between California, No. 15-ranked Boise State and No. 21-ranked Kentucky, all of which finished within .2 points of each other. Boise State took third and Kentucky followed close behind at fourth with scores of 195.75 and 195.725, respectively. Bowling Green finished sixth in the competition with a score of 193.85.
Particularly harsh scoring led to six out of six of the teams in the competition scoring below their Regional Qualifying Score. However, the Mountaineers didn’t do themselves any favors in the first two rotations of the meet where they looked unsteady on uneven bars and balance beam. Both the uneven bars and balance beam have plagued this West Virginia squad over the course of the year.
Freshman Tiara Wright led the team on uneven bars with a score of 9.825 and was followed closely behind by sophomore Zaakira Muhammad who recorded a 9.8. The team finished with a score of 48.725.
"Despite a mistake on bars today – and that’s certainly a tough event to open a regional meet on, especially in this environment - I thought we put up five solid routines, and I was happy with our opening," said head coach Jason Butts in an interview with WVUsports.com.
Unfortunately, the Mountaineers weren’t able to rebound in the second rotation on the balance beam where they recorded a 47.750, their lowest team score of the year.
Senior Melissa Idell had an uncharacteristic slip-up during her routine, leading to a 9.075. She finished second on the team on beam with a 9.81 RQS for the season, just behind senior Audrey Tolbert who recorded a 9.82 RQS. Freshman Kirah Koshinski led the team with a 9.7 on the event.
After brushing off its mistakes in the previous two rotations, West Virginia finished strong on vault and floor exercise with scores of 48.825 and 48.95, respectively.
Koshinski led the team with a strong 9.85 showing that earned a sixth-place finish. Sophomores Jordan Gillette and Muhammad recorded a pair of 9.8 scores and a tie for 14th place.
The Mountaineers were able to use their momentum from the previous rotation to close out the meet strong on vault, where they recorded a score of 48.825. Koshinski led the team for the third event in a row, scoring a 9.875 on vault and tying for second place. She narrowly missed out on qualifying for the NCAA National Championships, which only include event winners.
The trio of senior Jaida Lawrence, sophomore Amanda Bowman and Muhammad tied for 18th place with scores of 9.75 each.
Junior Alexa Goldberg was the only all-around competitor for West Virginia, finishing with a score of 38.4 and earning 10th place overall.
This meet served as the final career competition for seniors Lawrence, Idell and Tolbert.
After a shaky start to the season, this Mountaineer team successfully put all the pieces together for a fantastic end of the season run. This young, extremely talented team will have a lot to build on heading into next season.