Gymnasts secure place at regionals

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By Laura Hettiger

After the Fighting Illini women’s gymnastics team’s success at the 2008 Big Ten Championships on Saturday, the gymnasts received a bid to the NCAA South Central Regional in Norman, Okla., on April 12.

As the fifth seed, the No. 24 Illini will face five other top teams: No. 4 Alabama, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 16 Boise State, No. 19 Arizona State and No. 36 Southeast Missouri State.

This is the fifth-straight NCAA invite Illinois has received under veteran head coach Bob Starkell.

The order of rotations has already been announced as well, and the Orange and Blue will repeat the order from its Big Ten competition: bye-floor-vault-bye-bars-beam.

“I’m excited that we get a chance to go to Oklahoma and compete as the five seed against some great teams,” Starkell said in a press release. “I know they’ll host an excellent event there, and I think we have a good chance to succeed with the momentum we have after the Big Ten Championships. Starting on the same event should give the team confidence that we can repeat that performance.”

Across the country, the top two teams out of each of the six regionals will head to the National Championships from April 24-26.

In each regional, one individual event specialist from each event, along with the top five all-around competitors from the country, will compete in the NCAA Championships at the University of Georgia.

The other regional sites include Baton Rouge, La. (Central); Corvallis, Ore. (West); Gainesville, Fla. (Southeast); Minneapolis, Minn. (North Central); and University Park, Pa. (Northeast).

“I think in general, how well we did this weekend (at the Big Ten Championships) will boost our confidence,” said current Big Ten Beam Champion, Julie Crall. “We are still in a decently hard region, and just knowing we can post high scores, and we can hit routines, (then we can) make it to Nationals.”

Illinois will have this weekend off from competition to prepare for the upcoming regional competition.