MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 22-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team continues its season-opening road trip with a quad meet at No. 15 Utah on Jan. 19, at 9 p.m. EST, at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Saturday’s showdown features four nationally ranked teams, as the Mountaineers (1-0) also will face No. 20 Southern Utah and No. 23 Oregon State.
“This meet is shaping up as the perfect early-season test for our squad,” says second-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “We are going to compete in an extremely loud, hostile environment and in front of an educated crowd that appreciates great gymnastics. I can’t wait. The team is excited to travel to Utah – they all are eager to compete against other talented teams. We’re hoping to go in to Huntsman, compete solid Mountaineer gymnastics and leave with a few wins over ranked opponents.”
The Mountaineers’ first quad meet of 2013 will follow a unique format in that only one competitor will compete at a time; typically, all four events run simultaneously. The Utes own every NCAA gymnastics attendance record, including the highest season attendance average (14,352 in 2012).
“The spotlight will be on us this weekend,” explains Butts. “We’ve practiced in a loud gym this week to prepare for the crowd noise, and we also incorporated long pauses between routines to simulate the meet’s format. As I told the team yesterday, there’s no reason for us to shy away from the atmosphere. We’re going to march out on the floor Saturday night and compete Mountaineer gymnastics.”
The Mountaineers will open the meet on floor. The squad will then compete vault and uneven bars before ending on the balance beam, the same event it ended on in its 194.675-193.55 season-opening win at Pitt on Jan. 11.
Saturday’s meet is only the second regular-season meeting between WVU and Utah (0-1), with the Utes defeating the Mountaineers, 193.1-185.55, in Salt Lake City in 1990. The squads last met at the 2001 NCAA North Central Regional Championships, also in Salt Lake City; the Utes won (194.075) the regional, while WVU placed fourth (192.4).
The Mountaineers are 3-1 all-time against the Thunderbirds (0-1), with their only loss a 194.7-193.625 defeat in Cedar City, Utah, in 2006, the last regular-season meeting between the teams. WVU faced SUU in the 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional, in Morgantown; the Thunderbirds finished third (195.325) and the Mountaineers placed fourth (195.1).
WVU seeks its first win over the Beavers (1-2) this weekend. In their last regular-season meeting, OSU, which owns a 2-0 series edge, earned a 194.075-189.375 win over WVU in Corvallis, Ore. The two teams last met at the 2012 NCAA Auburn Regional; OSU finished second (196.45), while WVU placed fifth (195.9).
The Mountaineers opened their 2013 campaign at Pitt with their best-ever road score in a season opener. WVU was especially strong on floor, as 80 percent of the lineup scored 9.75 or better and the team tumbled to a 49.025 total, a mark that matched the squad’s fourth-best showing in 2012.
Senior Alaska Richardson paced the team with wins on floor (9.9) and vault (9.825); her floor score matched her career best, a mark she first hit against Arkansas on March 10, 2012, and she enters Saturday’s meet as the nation’s ninth-ranked gymnast on floor. Junior Hope Sloanhoffer tied Richardson for the vault victory, while senior Kaylyn Millick won beam with a 9.775 mark. Additionally, freshman Jaida Lawrence was solid in her Mountaineer debut, as she hit all three events she competed, including a second place, 9.775 showing on the uneven bars. For their efforts, Richardson (co-Event Specialist) and Lawrence (Newcomer) were honored by the Big 12 Conference with weekly awards.
Utah opened its season with a 197.425-195.3 loss at then-No. 2 UCLA on Jan. 12, while the Thunderbirds also fell to the Bruins, 196.15-194.875, in their season opener on Jan. 6 in Los Angeles. The Beavers defeated No. 14 Ohio State, 195.375-195.0, in Corvallis on Jan. 11 for their first win of the season. The Utes and the Beavers are coming off 2012 campaigns that saw them advance to the NCAA Championships, as Utah finished fifth and OSU placed 12th.
Fans wishing to follow the Mountaineers Saturday night can find links for a free live video feed and live scores HERE.