MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There’s no reason to mince words – the West Virginia University gymnastics team must battle at Saturday’s Big 12 Gymnastics Championship. Not only is the conference’s title on the line, but so are the team’s hopes for qualifying for the 2014 NCAA Regional Championships.
Ranked No. 36 in this week’s GymInfo Poll with a 195.0 regional qualifying score (RQS), the Mountaineers (6-9, 0-2 Big 12) do not control their fate, as the squad could score a perfect 200.00 Saturday and still get jumped by teams ranked below them this week. While it is an honor to host the first ever Big 12 sponsored event on the WVU campus, the Mountaineers must count Saturday’s score as a home mark and do not own the luxury of another away score like most teams.
Third-year coach Jason Butts has explained all this to his Mountaineers. The team knows it must fight Saturday like it’s never fought before. Thankfully, WVU’s general is ready to lead the team into battle.
Senior All-Big 12 gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer
believes her teammates are ready to fight for what has been theirs every season but 2003 – a spot at the NCAA Regional Championships. The Big 12 Conference’s No. 1-ranked all-around gymnast, Sloanhoffer, a Cornwall, N.Y., native, knows WVU has done everything it can to prep for its second Big 12 Gymnastics Championship. Here’s what she had to say on the eve of her final home meet at the WVU Coliseum.
Mountaineer Illustrated: What is going through your head as you stare down the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship?
I’m really excited. I think being able to compete at home in front of our fans is huge. Hopefully, we have a big crowd this weekend because it’s not supposed to snow! I think we’ve had a few good days of practice, and we were able to fix the mistakes that happened at Maryland (on March 16). I think we can build on that and have a great meet Saturday.
What are your personal goals for this weekend?
I want to come out and continue to compete consistently. I want to put up good scores for the team. It would be nice to score above 39.5 (her career-best mark).
(laughing) I haven’t really thought about winning the Big 12 all-around title, but that would be really cool. I’ve had some really good practices this week, and I feel really confident about the routines I’m competing. I feel like scoring 39.5 at Maryland last weekend was a confidence boost for me, and I’m looking to carry that confidence throughout postseason.
You’ve adjusted your routines a lot this season, including your beam routine. Is that common for senior gymnasts?
Coming in as a freshman, I knew that I always wanted to have the option to change my routines. I never wanted to compete the same routine all four years. The coaches and I worked on bars over this past summer. I think it’s unique, but I’ve been happy to change and compete these routines. It’s been fun.
What has been your favorite part of your senior season so far?
Stepping up as a leader for this team and helping our big group of underclassmen has been really nice. I’ve enjoyed helping them do their best each meet and helping this whole team succeed.
I cannot believe how fast my career has gone. We say it each year – the season goes by so quickly! I feel like we just started this season yesterday. I’m excited though. Hopefully, we have a couple more meets ahead of us, and we are able to close this season out strong.
How do you feel about the gymnastics team hosting the first ever Big 12 event at WVU?
It’s really an honor, especially because this is only our second season in the Big 12. We’re looking forward to hosting Oklahoma and Iowa State at the Coliseum. We want to put on a good show for our fans.
The team is battling for a regional qualification Saturday. What have you learned from this battle, and how can the team grow and prepare for next year?
I think it’s all about being proactive. I know I learned this summer to not take summers off. As gymnasts, we can’t coast in the summer. We need to take the time to prepare and get better. That’s a big thing. The gymnasts need to use preseason to polish their routines so they can focus on the little things sooner.
How are you hoping to finish your Mountaineer career?
I’m hoping to make it to the NCAA National Championships. I would love to earn the opportunity to compete there. I think it’s doable. I’m excited for that opportunity, and I’m hoping everything falls into place and I can make it happen.
The Big 12 Gymnastics Championship will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at the WVU Coliseum. Tickets are on sale now through the Mountaineer Ticket Office and can be purchased online at WVUGAME.com, by calling 1-800-WVU-GAME, or by visiting the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the Coliseum. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for youth, and groups of 10 or more can receive a special group rate of $2 per person. Additionally, tickets are free for all Big 12 Conference students with a valid student I.D.