SEATTLE, Wash. -
Fresh off a second-place finish at the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Championships, No. 24 Utah State is looking to make some more noise at the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday, April 1.
The meet is being hosted by No. 13 Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena, beginning at 5 p.m. (MT). It will be streamed live via the Internet at http://gohski.es/2cFCQtc. Additionally, live stats will be available at http://gohski.es/2ke7bGw. Fans can also follow the Utah State social media outlets for meet updates.
"I expect our team to go in with confidence, like it's any other meet," senior Keri Peel said. "We're not scared of this meet and we're not scared to do really well. I want to show everybody what we can do."
The Aggies (9-11) are the fourth seed in the Seattle Regional, while No. 1 Oklahoma (18-0) is the top seed, No. 12 Kentucky (13-8-1) is the second seed and the host Huskies (10-10-1) are the third seed. Rounding out the field of six is fifth-seeded Stanford (9-15) and sixth-seeded BYU (5-12).
"I'm just looking forward to the girls creating the same atmosphere they created at the conference championships," said fourth-year USU head coach Nadalie Walsh. "They were really invested in each other and they were really excited and competitive. I expect them to go out and do their routines to the best of their abilities. We've had multiple meets this year where we've stuck four or five of our bar and beam dismounts in the same meet and same rotation, so I want them to get into that really comfortable and relaxed rhythm, and just do their gymnastics. It's the payoff for all the hard work and they're not here because someone gave it to them. They're here because they earned it."
This is the fourth consecutive year the Aggies have advanced to Regionals. They placed sixth in 2014 at the Fayetteville Regional and finished fifth at both the 2015 and 2016 sites, Berkeley and Salt Lake City, respectively.
"Going in as a fourth seed, there is definitely that expectation for us to at least end up in fourth, if not higher," Peel said. "If we hit all of our skills, we can do amazing things at this meet."
Utah State's best finish at Regionals came during the 1999 campaign, when the Aggies placed third with a 194.575, a score that ranks third in school history for a regional competition. USU hosted the meet that year.
"The last two years at regionals, we were confident, but we didn't consider ourselves a team that was really up there and deserved to be there," senior Bailey McIntire said. "This year, we know we're good and we know we're right up there with the other teams. We expect it to be good."
Utah State will have a bye in the first rotation on Saturday. After that, the Aggies will compete on bars and beam before their second bye of the night. The team starts back up on floor in the fifth rotation and concludes the meet on vault.
The Aggies are not in awe of the fact they will be competing on the same floor as the No. 1 Sooners, No. 12 Wildcats and No. 13 Huskies.
"We're going to be in the arena with the No. 1 team in the country, so we just talked about how it's beautiful gymnastics and I want them to watch it and celebrate it, and be proud that they're in that same arena, but don't let the good gymnastics around them make them feel any less confident about the gymnastics within them," Walsh said. "It's exciting to be in a regional with the 12th- and 13th-ranked teams because both of those teams have so much to gain if they do amazing, but there is a lot of pressure on them.
"We just want to be the team that doesn't let the pressure define us. We want to go out and give a really good show, and not worry about the scores as much as everybody else probably is going to. We have overcome many meets by staying really united, so no matter what happens with Kentucky and Washington, Utah State isn't to be disregarded."
Utah State has a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.915, the highest in school history, and ranks 29th in the country on vault (48.945 RQS), 26th on bars (49.085), 26th on beam (49.015) and 31st on floor (49.080).
"My expectation of them going in as a fourth seed is to act like a second seed," Walsh said. "I know they're a fourth seed, but the season that they had and us having a Regional Qualifying Score that is basically a 196, that just makes a huge statement and I want the girls to be really confident with that, knowing that they're not there by accident and they just didn't sneak in. Being 24th in the country we have every expectation to finish above a lot of other teams, not only in our regional, but in regionals around the country."
The Aggies' season average of 48.906 on bars currently ranks second in school history, while the vault average of 48.785 is fifth, the beam average of 48.512 is seventh and the floor average of 48.917 is fourth.
Individually, sophomore Madison Ward is tied for 29th in the nation on floor with an RQS of 9.900, while Peel is tied for 64th on bars with a 9.860. In the all-around, McIntire is tied for 87th with a 38.660.
"I'm ready for regionals and our whole team is ready, so I am just going to do what I've always done," McIntire said. "I'm sure the end will be a little bit bittersweet, but I am not going to think about the end until it happens."
Fans can follow the Aggie gymnastics program at twitter.com/USUGymnastics, on Facebook at Utah State Gymnastics, and on Instagram at USUGymnastics. Fans can also follow the USU athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at UtahStateAthletics.
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