Bronco Gymnasts Hoping For Peak Performance

The junior-laden Boise State gymnastics team will vie for the upset at the NCAA Regionals this weekend. How do the Broncos compare?

The Boise State women's gymnastics team will compete Saturday in the NCAA Regional Championships in Corvallis, the Broncos' 18th straight appearance at the regionals. Coach Sam Sandmire's team is ranked 36th in the nation, and has drawn the 5th seed this weekend averaging 195.158 per meet. They have a season high of 196.925 scored twice, in the Pavilion against Michigan State and Pennsylvania last month and earlier this season against the University of Denver. The Broncos are coming off their second consecutive Western Gymnastics Conference championship, topping second-place Utah State, 196.675 to 194.5.

In meets this season, Boise State defeated Utah State, Washington and Denver and lost to BYU twice, Cal State-Fullerton and Denver. They also lost a three-way meet to #10 Missouri and Utah State, finished 2nd to host Southern Utah (but ahead of 4th seed California), finished 5th at the Oregon State Invitational, finished 2nd to Michigan State and ahead of Pennsylvania and finished 2nd to Washington in a three-way meet. At the OSU Invitational, Oregon State scored 197.675 while the Broncos totaled 195.025.

Alabama is the number one seed in the regionals (3rd nationally), followed by host Oregon State (2nd--#10), Oklahoma (3rd--#15, California (4th--#32), Boise State (5th--#36) and Cal State Fullerton (6th--#46). The top two teams and top two individual all-around gymnasts (if they aren't in the two teams) will qualify for the NCAA National Gymnastics Championships in two weeks hosted by UCLA. In addition, the event winners this weekend will compete in nationals.

The Crimson Tide gymnasts have gone on to the nationals 21 consecutive years—only Utah can match that achievement. Alabama finished 2nd in the SEC Championships to Georgia with a 197.95 team score and quite simply do not have a flaw. They are ranked 1st in the nation in the vault with a regional qualifying score of 49.460, 2nd on the uneven bars (49.315) and 4th on both floor (49.385) and the balance beam (49.315).

Host Oregon State is coming off a third-place finish at the PAC-10 Championships to #6 Stanford and #1 UCLA. The Beavers scored a 197.075 in Tucson. OSU is paced by PAC-10 Freshman of the Year Chelsea Plourde, who scored a 39.5 at the league championships. Oregon State has three common opponents with Boise State—they defeated Cal State-Fullerton 195.075-191.850, Washington 196.050-196.025 and lost to California 195.675-195.550.

Oklahoma is riding high after capturing it's first-ever Big 12 title with a 196.95 performance. Senior Kasie Tamayo dominated, winning the all-around title at the Big 12's with a 39.575. Oklahoma has two opponents in common with the Broncos—the Sooners defeated Southern Utah 197.1-196.175 and lost to Missouri 197-196.75.

California finished last in the PAC-10's with a score of (195.625). In the meet at the Pavilion in which the Golden Bears finished 3rd, they scored 194.825 to 195.675 for the Broncos. Cal's season high team score is a school record 196.8 achieved in their final meet before the PAC-10 Championships.

Cal State-Fullerton finished 4th at the Western Gymnastics Championship at the Pavilion last month with a score of 194.1 The Titans, in addition to defeating Boise State earlier in the year, lost to Oregon State, Southern Utah and Utah State but shocked the #3 team in the nation, UCLA, by a count of 194.275-193.600.

Boise State set school records in team floor exercises (49.575), individual all-around (Freshman Lindsey Ward—39.625), individual floor (Ward and Juniors Kristin Gaare and Tiffany Putnam, who tied the Bronco record with a 9.95) and individual bars (Carla Chambers, also a tied record with a 9.95). Sandmire's team is led by six juniors; one of them being Chambers, who earned her second straight WGC Gymnast of the Year honor after capturing the individual all-around title at the conference championship. The top all-around competitors have been Ward (39.625), Chambers (39.575), Lindsey Thomas (39.325) and Sophomore Kea Cuaresma (38.575).

The Broncos are strongest on the floor and the beam. Putnam, Gaare and Ward all tied the school record of 9.95 in the event this year. In addition, Cuaresma, Thomas and Junior Corinna Lewis scored 9.9's. Ward and Junior Heidi White (each with 9.95's) lead the charge on the beam. Cuaresma and Thomas have 9.9's to their credit this season, and Lewis and Freshman Kristin Aldrich have posted scores of 9.875.

Cuaresma has the top vault score with a 9.925, followed by Ward at 9.9, Thomas (9.85), Aldrich (9.8), Lewis (9.775) and Gaare (9.75). The team's performance on bars will likely determine their showing this weekend. Ward has a season best of 9.9 in the event, followed by Thomas and Aldrich (each with 9.875's), White with a 9.8 and Putnam with a 9.775.

The Broncos, while qualifying for the regionals the past 17 years, have never advanced to the NCAA National Championships. Boise State has finished 4th three times, and placed 5th last year. Will the season of firsts for the Bronco athletic program include the gymnastics team? Stay tuned……and good luck to the Broncos!


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