ATHENS, Ga. – Four West Virginia University gymnasts will compete as individual qualifiers at the 2014 NCAA Athens Regional Championships Saturday, April 5, at 4 p.m., at the University of Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum.
“I love this group that will be competing on Saturday, and each of these gymnasts deserves her spot at the championship,” says Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “There will be some great Mountaineer gymnastics on display, and I’m excited. I hope a few of them advance through to the NCAA National Championships. I just want each of these gymnasts to hit her routines Saturday.”
The top two teams, as well as the top two all-around competitors and event champions not on an advancing team, will earn an automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA National Championships, in Birmingham, Ala., April 18-20, with the University of Alabama and the Alabama Sports Foundation as hosts.
The four Mountaineers will be paired with three of the championships’ six competing teams. Sloanhoffer, the Big 12 Conference all-around champion, is the Southeast region’s top all-around gymnast not on a regional-qualifying team. The Cornwall, N.Y., native, ranked No. 28 nationally with a 39.305 regional qualifying score (RQS), will rotate with No. 6-ranked and top-seeded Georgia. Sloanhoffer will open the meet on a bye before rotating to the uneven bars. From there, she will compete on the balance beam before her second bye, and then she will close the meet on floor and vault.
“I think Hope has a great chance at qualifying for the national championships,” Butts explains. “I like that she’s rotating with the home team – the energy will be behind the Gym Dogs. That gives her a huge advantage. She’s going to have to focus in on herself Saturday. She is always such a team player, but now it’s OK to be focused just on Hope. She can’t control what anyone else in the arena does.”
Sloanhoffer has earned a team-best 429.65 points through 11 meets this season. The All-Big 12 gymnast owns 1,798.625 career points, the eighth-best total in program history, and will move into sixth place with 12.75 points Saturday. She has competed as an all-arounder in 37 career meets and ranks No. 10 on the program’s all-time list. Additionally, with 25 career 39.0-plus scores to her name, including a career-best mark of 39.5, earned most recently at Maryland on March 16, she ranks No. 2 on WVU’s all-time list.
Sloanhoffer owns career-best scores of 9.9 or better on each apparatus, including 9.95s on vault and beam. She also has scored 9.9 on bars and floor. Sloanhoffer hit for 9.9 three times on floor this season, including a third-place showing at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship.
Swoboda, a native of Westbury, N.Y., is paired with fifth-seeded NC State. She will open the meet on the uneven bars before moving to the balance beam. Following her first bye, she will compete on floor and vault before ending the meet on her second bye.
Swoboda competed as an all-arounder in all 11 meets this season and earned 425.325 points. She finished second on the team with 14 podium finishes, including her first career victory, a season-high 9.875 vault against George Washington and Towson on Feb. 2. She owns career highs of 9.825 on beam, 9.8 on floor and 9.75 on bars, and she scored a season-best 39.2 in the all-around in the team’s win over then-No. 22 Ohio State on March 2.
As event specialists, Deal and Goldberg will rotate with sixth-seeded Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will open the meet on beam, and following their first bye, they will compete on floor. The squad will move to vault in the fourth rotation, and following a bye, will close the meet on bars. Deal, a Parkersburg, W.Va., native, will be the seventh gymnast to compete on the beam, while Goldberg, an Ivyland, Pa., native, will be the final gymnast to compete on bars.
Deal ranks No. 31 nationally on beam with a 9.865 RQS. A two-time Big 12 Specialist of the Week honoree, she ranks No. 8 in program history with three career beam scores of 9.9 or better, including a career-best 9.95 mark, earned in her victory at The Perfect 10 Challenge in Oklahoma City on Feb. 21. Deal finished fourth on the team with six podium finishes, including a team-best three wins on beam. She scored 9.8 or better six times this season and finished second at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championships on March 22 with a 9.9 mark.
Goldberg enters the regional championships ranked No. 50 nationally on bars with a 9.87 RQS; she was nationally ranked on the event each week but one this season. She opened her Mountaineer career with a winning, season-high score of 9.925 at Kentucky on Jan. 10, becoming the first WVU gymnast since 2009 to score better than 9.9 on bars. Goldberg finished third on the team with eight podium finishes this season, including a team-best five victories on bars.
Six teams will compete for the regional’s two bids to the NCAA National Championships: No. 6-ranked Georgia, No. 7 Michigan, No. 18 Central Michigan, Ohio State, NC State and Rutgers. This is the first season since 2003 the Mountaineers have not qualified as a team for the regional competition. Ranked No. 37 nationally with a 195.15 RQS, WVU was edged by Iowa State by 0.01 points for the final qualification.