This weekend, the eight WIAC/NCGA-West teams are meeting up for their conference championship meet. This meet determines the conference champion as well as the three teams that will move on to the NCGA national meet in Ithaca, New York, on Saturday, March 28. For ideas on who to watch for and what to expect from this meet, read our preview below.
Team Competition Preview
Anything can happen in this sport, so all eight teams will certainly be out there giving it their all. But when it comes down to it, there are four teams that have really distanced themselves from the pack, and look like the most likely to finish in the top three and qualify for the NCGA Championships. These teams are Whitewater, La Crosse, Stout and Oshkosh.
Both Whitewater and La Crosse have bounced back tremendously after suffering from uncharacteristically rough 2019 seasons and are headed into the weekend ranked first and second in both the conference and the division. Stout and Oshkosh follow, ranked third and fourth in the conference, and fourth and fifth in the division.
Even though Whitewater and La Crosse are sitting at the top, all four of these teams have just as much of a chance at winning this meet as they do at not even qualifying for nationals. It is imperative that they are on their game if they want to have a shot. Ultimately, one of the top five teams in the division isn’t going to qualify for nationals which will be devastating, but this does mean it should be the fiercest, most exciting competition of this season.
As I mentioned previously, anything can happen at a meet like this, so Winona, Hamline, Gustavus and Eau Claire should put their game faces on. Winona and Hamline are the two most likely candidates to snag a top five finish. However, Gustavus always seems to peak at the right time and has outperformed its rank the past two years at conference championships, so an upset from the Gusties isn’t out of the question.
Eau Claire struggled to put together a solid meet this year but things started coming together last weekend. Watch for the Blugolds to build on this momentum and hopefully finish with their best performance yet.
Individual Competition Preview
Similar to the team competition, the individual competition will be an exciting one. Though the all around competition was looking cut and dry with Whitewater’s Blaise Wilson claiming title after title, Emma Grant shook things up and came out of nowhere to score a big 38.475 and tie with Wilson at their dual meet last weekend.
Grant, however, has been in and out of the La Crosse bar lineup so whether or not she will be competing in the all around this weekend is pretty up in the air.
Others who have a chance to rival Wilson are Brooke Terry from Stout and Annie Corbett from Gustavus. Both have scored up into the 38.000-range, but are about five tenths behind Wilson’s SAS due to some consistency issues.
Vault is one of the WIAC’s weaker events and probably least likely to see an upset as there are very few gymnasts who have the difficulty to rival the top competitors. If Shadae Boone hits her Yurchenko one and a half the way she usually does, she should easily claim the title.
However, Lauren Marshall has a knack for sticking her Yurchenko full, so if Boone falters a bit, Marshall could sneak up to the top of the podium. Emily Gilot and her beautiful Yurchenko layout half is another one to watch for here.
Underdog Tisana Lowe is another one to keep an eye on; she competes a huge Yurchenko full. She isn’t ranked quite as high as the others I’ve previously mentioned because her landings can get a bit out of control, but when she hits, she’s just as good as Marshall.
Bars will be super fun to watch. There are a lot of unique and difficult sets being competed right now. Kerrie Legault and Baylee Tkaczuk are the front runners here and both boast lovely sets. Tkaczuk has a ton of experience and two national titles to her name.
A pair of Warhawks you should watch for are Acacia Fossum and Blaise Wilson. When Fossum hits, her set is great, but she isn’t the most consistent gymnast in this top group.
Mallary Dick is probably the most likely gymnast to upset the top competitors on this event. She has a very clean set and has a few titles under her belt this season, she just doesn’t always get the big scores some of these others see.
One of the most competitive events will be beam. Jess Ahrens and Britney Wolfe are currently tied at the top of the pack, but couldn’t be more opposite gymnasts–Ahrens attacks the beam while Wolfe is more floaty and flowy. Both are fantastic in their own ways.
Kelly Johnston from Winona is one to watch for; she’s very clean and consistent and has experience competing in big competitions such as nationals. There are so many more gymnasts outside of the top ten who have scored extremely well but my underdog pick for beam is Katie Kalland. She scored a huge 9.800 last weekend to claim the beam title over Wolfe who is currently ranked first.
Floor is also going to be a tight competition. From the get-go Karina Sabol has been the one to beat with a ton of front tumbling difficulty—including a nice front double full—and lovely presentation throughout. Emma Grant is another who has the combination of difficulty and performance quality.
Shelsea Zehr doesn’t quite have the big scores like the previous two competitors, but she is super consistent and always keeps pace with the top players at every meet so don’t count her out of a top 10 finish.
Finally, nearly all of Oshkosh’s lineup has the potential to have strong finishes on this event but in particular, Olivia Keller and Rahdea Jarvis are ones to watch. Both have competed double layouts throughout the season, so it will be interesting if they decide to throw them here or play it safe in hopes of securing a trip to the championships with their team.
Individual NCGA National Championship Qualification
There’s a lot riding on this competition for those who hope to qualify for nationals as an individual, so it’s a bit hard to predict who we could see go through.
On the all around side of things, the title winner at conference and the two individuals with the highest SAS heading into the competition will qualify. However, if any of these three qualifiers are on a team that qualifies for nationals, the al around spots will be reallocated to the individual(s) with the next highest SAS.
At this point, Blaise Wilson (Whitewater) and Brooke Terry (Stout) have the two SAS spots. Given that Whitewater or Stout (potentially even both) will most likely qualify a team, Annie Corbett (Gustavus) would move up into one of those spots.
Individual event qualification is a bit different. Ten gymnasts are named to the NCGA All-Championship Team on each event. The first five named to the team are the top five finishers on that particular event at conference. The final five named to the team are based on SAS.
If a gymnast is named to an NCGA All-Championship Team and is not part of a team that qualified, then that gymnast will go to nationals as an individual.
Based on these qualification rules, the current top five on each event will qualify no matter the outcome of this meet. According to scores on RTN, these individuals are as follows:
Vault: 1 – Shadae Boone (Stout); 2 – Lauren Marshall (Whitewater); 3 – Emily Gilot (Oshkosh); 4 – Trinity Sawyer (Oshkosh); 5 TIE* – Audrey Kaufman (La Crosse) and Blaise Wilson (Whitewater)
Bars: 1 – Kerrie Legault (La Crosse); 2 – Baylee Tkaczuk (Oshkosh); 3 – Acacia Fossum (Whitewater); 4 – Blaise Wilson (Whitewater); 5 – Brooke Kachinsky (La Crosse)
Beam: 1 – Jessica Ahrens (La Crosse); 2 – Britney Wolfe (Stout); 3 – Blaise Wilson (Whitewater); 4 – Annie Corbett (Gustavus); 5 TIE* – Kelly Johnston (Winona) and Olivia Keller (Oshkosh)
Floor: 1 – Karina Sabol (Whitewater); 2 – Emma Grant (La Crosse); 3 – Belle Ihde (Stout); 4 – Faith Mylin (Whitewater); 5 – Shadae Boone (Stout)
*Tie break information unknown
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Article by Rachel Riesterer
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