– West Virginia University senior gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer
tied for the win on balance beam and finished second in the all-around at the 2014 NCAA Athens Regional Championships, this afternoon, at Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum, and earned a bid to the NCAA National Championships.
Sloanhoffer, a Cornwall, N.Y., native, is WVU’s 18th individual qualifier and first since Mehgan Morris qualified in the all-around in 2009. She is the first Mountaineer gymnast to qualify under third-year coach Jason Butts.
“I’m extremely excited for Hope and this program,” says Butts. “She is an incredible gymnast, and she has delivered WVU back to the national stage. She deserves this qualification. To say she is peaking at the right time in her career is an understatement.”
“I am so overwhelmed,” says Sloanhoffer, the 2014 Big 12 Conference all-around champion. “I knew I had a couple mistakes throughout the meet, and I wasn’t sure how the scores would shake out. Finding out that I qualified for the National Championships is a dream come true. I couldn’t imagine ending my Mountaineer career any other way.”
Sloanhoffer tied with Rutgers’ Alexis Gunzelman for second in the all-around with a 39.175 score. As the top two all-arounders not attached to an advancing team, the duo earned the region’s automatic bids to the national championships. Michigan’s Nicole Artz won the all-around title with a 39.325 score.
Sloanhoffer tied for the win on balance beam with a 9.85 score; six gymnasts earned the mark. Had Sloanhoffer not qualified in the all-around, she would have advanced as the beam victor. She is the seventh Mountaineer to earn a regional event title and the first since Kristen Macrie won floor at the 2001 North Central Regional Championships. She is the third beam champion in WVU history, and the first since Danielle Lilly won the title at the 1997 Southeast Regional.
“Today was a huge success,” says Butts. “I wanted us to have a solid showing. We weren’t here as a team, so I wanted these individuals to shine and represent our program well, and they knocked it out of the park. This was a great representation of WVU gymnastics. They came in here with a lot of energy and did a great job.”
Sloanhoffer opened the meet on the uneven bars, scoring 9.775 in the second rotation and finishing 24th overall. She followed that performance with her winning 9.85 beam routine, her second-best mark of the season.
Following a bye, Sloanhoffer scored 9.8 on floor and tied for 20th. She finished the meet with a 9.75 vault score, good enough for 21st place.
Swoboda, a Westbury, N.Y., native, finished seventh overall with a 38.975 score, her best mark since March 2 and the third-highest score of her rookie season. She outscored gymnasts from Ohio State, Central Michigan and Michigan.
“To come in here as a freshman and hit four-for-four is a great season-ending day for Nicolette,” says Butts. “She has been such a good freshman for us all season long, and I think this will set her up to become a leader for this team in future years.”
Swoboda put forth a great effort in the first rotation, matching her career-best bars score of 9.75 and finishing 28th overall. She then rotated to beam, where hit each of her skills with ease and scored 9.7. Following a bye, Swoboda scored 9.75 on floor, and she concluded her day on vault with a 9.775 score, putting her in 16th place.
The seventh gymnast to compete on beam this afternoon, Deal competed a solid routine and scored 9.775, the third-best mark of the meet and good enough for ninth place. The Parkersburg, W.Va., native concluded her third season at WVU with six beam scores of 9.8 or better.
The final competitor to mount the bars today, Goldberg tallied 9.85, the meet’s fourth-best score, and finished eighth overall. The Ivyland, Pa., native scored 9.8 or better on bars nine times this season.
“Neither of those athletes has been in this type of situation before, and I’m really proud of the focus they maintained all day,” says Butts of Deal and Goldberg. “They both handed in tremendous routines.”
No. 7-ranked Michigan scored 196.75 and finished first, while No. 6 Georgia tallied 196.375 and finished second. The two teams will advance to the National Championships.
The 2014 NCAA National Championships will take place April 18-20, in Birmingham, Ala., with the University of Alabama and the Alabama Sports Foundation as hosts. Sloanhoffer will compete in one of the two team competitions on April 18. Additional information regarding her team pairing and rotation order will be announced later this week.