There was no doubt the Missouri women’s gymnastics team would qualify for regionals. The only questions were who it would be facing and where.
Both questions were answered Monday as the NCAA announced its final selections. The No. 13 Tigers will be heading to Athens, Ga., as one of six teams competing in the NCAA Southeast Regional on April 8. A total of 36 teams qualified for regional competition at six different locations around the country.
Missouri will be the third seed at its regional, behind the No. 1 team in the country, Georgia, and No. 12 Nebraska. The other three teams competing at the meet will be No. 22 West Virginia, No. 23 North Carolina and No. 29 North Carolina State. Only the top two teams will earn a spot in the national championships on April 20-22 in Corvallis, Ore.
Georgia, a perennial powerhouse and the 2005 national champion, would seem a lock to advance. That means for the Tigers to qualify, they would need to do something they haven’t been able to do in three tries this season — beat conference rival Nebraska. The teams last met at the Big 12 Championships on Saturday, where Nebraska took second to Missouri’s fourth.
Last season, the Tigers missed nationals by one spot, finishing in third place at their regional behind Michigan and Nebraska.
If the team does not make it, individuals will still have a chance.
The top two all-around competitors not on a qualifying team also advance. Missouri’s lone all-around competitor this season is freshman Adrianne Perry. Perry is No. 24 in the all-around and was named the 2006 Big 12’s newcomer of the year Saturday. Georgia has three gymnasts ranked ahead of Perry, including 2004 Olympian Courtney Kupets, who is No. 1. In addition, Nebraska’s Emily Parsons is No. 14, and North Carolina’s Courtney Bumpers is No. 15. But if two of those teams were to advance, that could leave a bigger opening for Perry.
Individual event winners from each regional also advance. Missouri senior Lauren Schwartzman could find herself in a duel with Kupets for the balance beam title — the two are tied for second in the country on the event. Tiger senior Jodie Heinicka ranks fourth on the uneven bars. Kupets is second and another Georgia competitor, Kelsey Ericksen, is third.
Qualification for regional competition is based on a team’s regional qualifying score, which is calculated by taking the team’s top six scores during the season, three of which must be away from home. The highest of those scores is dropped and the remaining five averaged to determine the team’s final standing.
The Tigers are looking for their first national championship appearance in the 12-team format. The last time they competed for a national title was 1981, when they finished 16th.