Cal State-Fullerton is set to host the final Western
Gymnastic Conference Championship Friday on the Cal State Fullerton campus.
#16 Utah State and 17th-ranked Southern Utah are the class of the field, but the
competition could get interesting if two-time defending champion Boise State
performs as well as they've shown they can.
The 34th-ranked Broncos' best score on the
season is a 195.95, just behind Southern Utah's best of 196.175, and just
ahead of Utah State's 195.9. Cal State Fullerton's best score this season is
a 193.6. Utah State is averaging 194.182, Southern Utah 194.71, Boise
State 192.98 and Cal State Fullerton 190.822.
This is the final year for the conference. Next year, the WAC will sponsor gymnastics and the four schools, along with San Jose State and possibly one other affiliate gymnastics program will make up the WAC gymnastics conference.
Individually, Leah Sakhitab of Southern Utah is averaging 38.869 in all-around with a high score of 39.3. She's ranked 42nd in the nation with those scores. Lindsay Ward (38.861, 39.3) has shown what she's capable of as she bids to return to the NCAA Championships as a sophomore. Ward is 46th in the country. Southern Utah's Sheena Shaw (38.665, 39.050) and Carly Geronimo (38.642, 39.275) are #55 and #56 and will challenge for the individual all-around title as well. One can never count on two-time defending all-around champion Carla Chambers of Boise State (38.328, 39.150) and teammate Lindsey Thomas (38.200, 39.250) has proven she's capable of grabbing the crown as well.
To get a better understanding of how the championship will go, let's take a look at the individual apparatuses:
- Floor Exercises:
The Thunderbirds of Southern Utah appears to have the edge here, with Senior Geronimo (#1 in Regional Qualifying Score of 9.865), Shaw (#2 at 9.855) and Rachel Tanner (#5 at 9.825) all in the conference top five. Jess Langley (9.785) and Molly Bauer (9.785) are respectable as well.
2nd in the event will likely be a battle between Utah State and Boise State, with the Broncos perhaps having the upper hand because of more depth. Liesel Kohler (2nd at 9.855) and Megan Tschida (also 2nd with a 9.855RQS) of Utah State are the leading individuals, but Boise State has 5 competitors in the top 15 of the conference: Kristin Gaare (6th with a 9.815), Kea Cuaresma (8th with a 9.800), Ward (13th, 9.775), Thomas (also 13th, 9.775) and Tiffany Putnam (15th, 9.770). Alex Martin of Utah State (8th with a RQS of 9.800) will also be a factor, but Ashley Barr and Katie Omann will have to step up in this event for Utah State.
- Balance Beam:
This will be a real dogfight (or is that catfight) for the team competition in this event. Ward of the Broncos owns the #1 qualifying score, with Kristin Aldrich (#7, 9.775) and Katie Dinsmore (8th, 9.770) also in the top 10. However, Southern Utah's Sakhitab (#2, 9.845), Tanner (2nd, 9.845) and Geronimo (4th, 9.825) are close behind Ward and Langley is 9th with a 9.745. Factor in that Utah State has 4 gymnasts in the top 11 (Jessica Parenti 5th at 9.810, Kohler 6th with a 9.790, Katie Rutherford 10th with a 9.740 and Barr 11th at 9.730) and you have an extremely close group performing on the beam.
Because of the tightness amongst the favorites, the team that gets the best performances out of its 4th and 5th best beam gymnasts will win the balance beam portion of the championship and also go a long way towards deciding the overall team champion. Boise State's Chambers (high of 9.850), Thomas (high of 9.800) and Corinna Lewis (high of 9.775) are key to the Broncos' chances in this event.
- Uneven Bars:
Southern Utah is the favorite here, but once again this event could be close as well. Chambers (RQS of 9.810) and Ward (9.795) are 1-2 going into the championship and they'll need to perform their routines cleanly. Katie Griffis (#9 with a 9.735) is a bars specialist, Tiffany Putnam (#13, 9.630) and Thomas (15th, 9.590) are the other top scorers for the Broncos. Southern Utah has 5 gymnasts in the top 11 in this event: Shaw (#3, 9.790, Jessiann Andrus (4th, 9.775), Sakhitab (8th, 9.750), Ashley Sharpe (9th, 9.735) and Geronimo (11th, 9.690). Utah State has 3 gymnasts all with approximately a 9.760 RQS, Martin, Jessica Parenti and Tschida who could disrupt things for the favorites.
This has been Boise State's strongest event to date, and they will have to hold off a strong Southern Utah team in this event if they are to repeat as conference champions. Chambers is the top qualifier with a 9.835, followed closely by Molly Bauer (9.820) of Southern Utah, Ward (9.815) and Cuaresma (9.810) of Boise State, Rachael Mandy (9.785) of Utah State, then Shaw (9.780), Sabrina Gourley (9.775) and Sakhitab (9.775) of Southern Utah. Boise State will need to get strong showings by Thomas, Dinsmore and Kristin Aldrich to win this event. Utah State could be a factor in vault as well if their gymnasts perform up to their capabilities.
Boise State's team is dominated by seniors and usually that is paramount in any post-season setting (Southern Utah has 3, Utah State 2 and Cal State-Fullerton 1). The Broncos instituted several new and more difficult routines this year and to be honest, they never have really found their groove as a team, especially on beam. Coach Sandmire's team definitely has an uphill climb to win the championship and they may need some seasonal bests in order to do it. In all of the events, 2 or 3 of the Broncos are right there at or near the top of the Regional Qualifying Scores. Boise State will need consistent scores from everyone and a real team effort to pull off the upset and capture their third straight Western Conference championship. With the experience of both their players and their seasoned coach, it's within reach.
Results this season:
March 21--Boise State 194.4 vs. #18 Denver
March 19--Southern Utah 195.7 vs. BYU
March 19--Utah State 194.550 vs. Denver and Kentucky
March 18--Southern Utah 195.925 vs. Oklahoma
March 18--Cal State-Fullerton 192.35 vs. Sacramento State
March 14--Utah State 195.825 vs. Southern Utah
March 14--Boise State 195.325 vs. #28 Washington
March 14--Southern Utah 194.7 vs. Utah State
March 12--Southern Utah 193.900 vs. West Virginia, Eastern Michigan and Kent State
March 11--Boise State 195.95 vs. Penn State, San Jose State and Seattle Pacific
March11--Cal State-Fullerton 193.6 vs. Arizona, Texas Woman's and Ball State
March 10--Utah State 195.1 vs. BYU
March 7--Utah State 195.325 vs. California
March 6--Cal State-Fullerton 192.4 vs. San Jose State, Bowling Green and SUNY-Cortland
March 4--Boise State 194.225 vs. #14 BYU
March 1--Utah State 195.9 vs. Texas Woman's
February 26--Boise State 194.075 vs. BYU
February 25--Utah State 195.45 vs. Boise State
February 25--Boise State 194.2 vs. Utah State
February 25--Southern Utah 191.825 vs. Cal State-Fullerton
February 25--Cal State-Fullerton 190.925 vs. Southern Utah
February 18--Southern Utah 194.75 vs. BYU
February 18--Utah State 194.55 vs. Boise State
February 18--Boise State 193.4 vs. Utah State
February 18--Cal State-Fullerton 188.95 vs. UC-Davis and Seattle Pacific
February 11--Utah State 194.925 vs. Denver
February 11--Southern Utah 196.175 vs. Boise State
February 11--Boise State 194.55 vs. Southern Utah
February 11--Cal State-Fullerton 189.825 vs. UCLA
February 8--Southern Utah 193.9 vs. Utah State
February 8--Utah State 192.625 vs. Southern Utah
February 4--Southern Utah 194.7 vs. West Virginia
February 4--Boise State 194.2 vs. Washington
February 1--Utah State 194.125 vs. BYU