Mountaineers Welcome Big 12 Championship

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • March 21, 2014 11:42 AM
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All-Big 12 gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer looks to win WVU's first Big 12 title Saturday, as she enters the championship ranked No. 1 in the all-around.
Cordell Hoffer Photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the first time in school history, West Virginia University will play host to a Big 12 Conference sponsored event, as the 2014 Big 12 Gymnastics Championship will be held at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday, March 22, at 4 p.m.
Tickets for the championship are available at the door and 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. The PRT will run until 5 p.m. Saturday, and a free WVU shuttle bus will be available following the meet to transport students from the Coliseum to the Mountainlair and the Brooke/Braxton Towers loop at the conclusion of the meet.
FOX Sports Network will broadcast the championship on a tape-delay basis. ROOT Sports Pittsburgh will air the meet locally on Friday, March 28, at noon. Three-time Olympian John Roethlisberger will handle the play-by-play, while 2008 Beijing Olympian Alicia Sacramone will serve as the analyst.
No. 3-ranked Oklahoma, Iowa State and the Mountaineers will battle for the conference crown. The Sooners lead the field with six league titles, including the last two, while the Cyclones own two.
“This is such an exciting weekend for our program and the University – the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship is a prestigious event, and we’re excited to bring it to the Coliseum,” says Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “We are focused on putting on a good show for our loyal fans.
“This team is really looking at Saturday as just a normal meet. Part of that is because we’ve faced so many of the nation’s top teams already this year. Additionally, we’ve already seen both of these teams this season. Having that experience is going to help us deal with the uniqueness that surrounds this championship.”
The Mountaineers (6-9, 0-2 Big 12) enter the championship needing a strong score to increase their chances of qualifying for the 2014 NCAA Regional Championships. The squad currently ranks No. 36 with a 195.0 regional qualifying score (RQS); only the top 36 schools qualify.
“There’s a lot riding on Saturday’s meet,” says Butts. “That last spot at regionals is up for grabs. There are about five teams vying for it, including Iowa State. I want to win this weekend’s championship, but most importantly we need to take care of business.
“Everyone is all about the team this weekend. It’s interesting – we’re ranked No. 36, but this is the best overall team chemistry I’ve experienced at WVU. They’re really focused. They know what’s at stake this weekend, and they want to get it done.”
Senior Hope Sloanhoffer leads the Mountaineers into the competition. The nation’s No. 25-ranked all-around gymnast, she ranks No. 1 in the conference and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference Team on Wednesday. A Cornwall, N.Y., native, she is the favorite to win the Big 12’s all-around crown Saturday. A victory would give WVU its first conference individual title.
Sloanhoffer has enjoyed a stellar season, as she has won seven all-around titles, six with scores of 39.0 or better, and earned 19 total individual victories. She has reached the podium 31 times and hit for season highs of 9.875 or better on each event, including a career-best 9.9 twice on floor. She is most consistent on vault, an event she has won four times, as she has scored a season-high 9.875 five times. The mark is her best vault score since earning a winning 9.9 at the 2012 East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championship.
Junior Beth Deal looks to contend for the balance beam title. The Parkersburg, W.Va., native ranks No. 4 in the conference, No. 36 in the nation, with a 9.855 RQS. Since adjusting her beam mount following the team’s Jan. 17 meet, Deal has scored 9.8 or better six times, including a winning, career-best 9.95 at the Perfect 10 Challenge on Feb. 21 in Oklahoma City. She has earned three beam victories and five podium finishes.
WVU has scored 49.0 or better on each event at least one this season, including 49.15 on vault twice. The Mountaineers tallied a season-high 196.175 in a win over No. 22 Ohio State (194.95) on March 2, their last home meet in the WVU Coliseum.
Most recently, the Mountaineers dropped a 195.525-194.975 decision in a return trip to Maryland on March 16. Sloanhoffer earned four wins, including the all-around victory with a career-best 39.5 score. She also won vault (9.875) outright and tied for the wins on bars (9.875) and floor (9.9). Sloanhoffer and Deal paced the team on beam with second place, 9.85 scores.
The Sooners (15-2, 2-0 Big 12) enter the meet ranked in the nation’s top three on every event. The squad has spent four weeks as the nation’s top-ranked team and are one of two squads to score 198.0+ on the road this season. Sophomore Haley Scaman has scored three 10.0s this season, including two on floor, where she is ranked No. 1 nationally. She also ranks No. 5 on vault. Senior Taylor Spears ranks No. 4 on beam and No. 7 on bars. OU trumped WVU at the Perfect 10 Challenge in February, as the Sooners scored 197.2 for the win, while the Mountaineers finished fourth with a 193.525 score. OU owns an 8-1 series advantage. 
The Cyclones (4-10, 1-1 Big 12) enter the championship ranked No. 40 in the nation with a 194.7 RQS. ISU secures its regional bid with a 196.025 score Saturday. The squad is led by junior Caitlin Brown, the conference’s No. 2-ranked all-around gymnast. The Cyclones got the better of the Mountaineers in their first meeting this season, earning a 196.025-194.175 victory in Ames on Feb. 7. ISU owns a 3-2 series advantage.
The Mountaineers finished third at their first Big 12 Gymnastics Championship in 2013, scoring 194.675 at ISU Hilton Coliseum. Graduate Kaylyn Millick scored 39.2 in the all-around and finished second, becoming the first Mountaineer to earn All-Big 12 Championship Team honors. Sloanhoffer scored 39.075 and finished fourth. OU won the championship with a 197.2 score, while ISU tallied 196.175 and finished second.