A pink and white graphic for A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life of a College Gymnast: Regionals

This season truly felt like it flew by; I can’t believe it’s already postseason! Coming off an exciting championship weekend, teams and individuals are getting excited heading into regionals. During my time at both Bridgeport and Temple, I had the opportunity to compete at regionals by myself and with my team, and these are some of my favorite memories looking back on my collegiate career. 

For this Day in the Life, along with my own experiences, I had the chance to speak with Nebraska gymnasts Clara Colombo and Kinsey Davis who have also competed at regionals both individually and as a part of a team. Davis and Colombo both qualified in the 2021 and 2022 seasons as individuals and for the first time as a team in 2023. 

There are several different paths for a gymnast to compete at regionals, either as an individual or as a team, but both rely on National Qualifying Score (NQS) rankings. NQS is calculated by averaging the top six scores, three home and three away, dropping the highest of the season. As the season goes on, teams can replace the low scores they may have had from the beginning of the year to increase their NQS and their ranking heading into regionals.  

Not all gymnasts, especially freshmen, are familiar with the qualification process, so getting to regionals might not be something on the radar. Some athletes thrive in knowing what they need to increase their NQS, but others would rather compete without having to think about a score, which is something Davis explained perfectly as an uncontrollable aspect of the sport. “I know at this point what is useful information for me, and I need to not focus on the scores because that’s something I can’t control,” said Davis on her outlook on getting to the postseason. For other gymnasts, once they become aware of the process, increasing their NQS, as an athlete or as a part of a team, is a major focus.  

Most gymnasts who compete at regionals qualify as part of a team. However, gymnasts whose team doesn’t qualify can still qualify to compete as individuals, although the process looks a bit different. As an individual, you need to be within the top 12 all-around competitors or within the top 16 event specialists who are not on the top 28 qualifying teams. For example, right now, Clemson is ranked No. 30 heading into regionals, so all of the team’s individuals who are within these 12 all-around or 16 event specialist spots will take these spots from individuals whose teams are outside the top 36.

With all that goes into making it to this competition as an individual, it is important to acknowledge how big of an achievement this is! Reflecting on her first experience as an individual competitor in 2021, Davis shared, “The best part of this was knowing that I earned my way to that spot and that my gymnastics was on par with what was competing at regionals.”

However you end up making it to regionals, the experience is so incredible! Being able to compete my freshman year at the PMAC at LSU was a dream come true. Having the opportunity to compete in an arena in such an energetic environment that I normally would not have had the chance to, was one of my favorite parts of the experience. 

This is most definitely one of the most cherished moments of my collegiate career, but not being able to share this experience with my whole team was challenging. After spending the whole year as a part of a group, learning how to compete using one another’s energy, and trying to do your best each time out for one another, it’s a hard adjustment when you go back to competing individually, even if just for one meet. 

“Coming from elite to college gymnastics my mentality completely switched,” said Colombo who competed for Italy until committing to Nebraska. “[Now] I’m competing for my team so the hardest part was just doing it for myself. My favorite thing about competing is celebrating after, and as an individual, I wasn’t able to share that moment with my teammates, so that was really difficult.” 

Colombo said after her first experience as an individual at regionals and seeing the other teams that were competing there, she had a different mindset moving into her senior year. Colombo described getting to this competition as a “celebration of the season,” but one she knew her team could get to together. 

“Watching the selection show [where you are seeded and what site you qualify to] with my teammates, it was much more exciting and memorable,” said Davis. “That was such a milestone for our team. The most exciting part was knowing ‘My team did that, we made improvements together, we worked cohesively, and that’s why we [got to the place we did].” 

The first time I got to regionals as a part of a team was my first year at Temple, and finding out we had qualified together was such a special moment. After spending three months with the same group working toward a common goal, traveling, sleeping on the bus, and making adjustments each week when you get to experience this success together, it is truly so rewarding.   

When you do get to this point, there is inevitably a shift in your mentality. There is a two-week break between regionals and conference championships and with this being the competition that could send you to nationals, there is a lot more riding on this.

“We started 2023 knowing [regionals] was the goal. Regionals was a great experience, but we were a little scared … a little intimidated by the bigger teams there,” said Colombo

Qualifying is one thing, but once you get in the arena in an environment you might not be used to is somewhat of a whirlwind. “We were celebrating the fact that we had made it to regionals, but when we got there, it felt like we didn’t fully belong there, ” said Colombo. Especially for a team that it is either its first time at regionals ever or in a few years, this is a common sentiment.

 It is intimidating to go into this environment knowing some teams have more experience at this level and know how to handle the surroundings. For a lot of other athletes like it was for me, this might be the first time they have a camera following them when they are running down the vault runway, or have the chance to compete on the podium, so everything takes a little bit of adjusting. 

Once you have this experience, however, it’s something you want to relive every season. Colombo and Davis both described the team’s experience at regionals as not their best showing of the year, but moving into the 2024 postseason ranked at 27th, they have a much more confident outlook. 

“Moving into this year, I’m excited because we never even questioned if we would make regionals or not,” said Colombo. “You always want to show people what you are capable of; we have been doing a really good job this year of shifting the focus to not proving other people wrong, but focusing on ourselves, and what we can control on each event.” 

The goal for each team is to build throughout the season and peak at just the right time, right when it counts. “I wouldn’t say we have peaked yet, it’s more of us going uphill. We are hitting our stride, and we aren’t done yet,” said Davis reflecting on moving into the last few competitions of her senior year. 

My biggest piece of advice for those who have the opportunity to compete at regionals, whether as an individual or as a part of a team, would be to enjoy the moment. Going as an individual is an incredible accomplishment that you should be proud of, and that you should approach with the confidence that got you to this point. This holds for the team as well; you made it to this point because you deserved to, even if you feel a little out of place. The work you and your teammates did this year was undeniable and brought you to that point, experiencing this together and enjoying the journey is something I wish I could experience one more time. 

READ THIS NEXT: 2024 Regionals Draw, Individual Qualifiers Announced 

Article by Julianna Roland


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