W. Gymnastics Conference Champ.
Check out a breakdown of what to watch for Saturday
Gymnasts will have their last chance to bolster their regional qualifying scores before heading into NCAA Regionals in two weeks, while conference bragging rights will also be up for grabs on Saturday. Teams and individual specialists qualifying for NCAA Regionals will be announced March 21. Here’s a breakdown of this weekend’s conference championships:
Big Ten Championship
March 19 at 3 p.m. ET
Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, Minn.
Minnesota hosts a talented field of league teams with six of the seven ranked in the Top 25. No. 9 Michigan leads the pack, followed by No. 10 Penn State, No. 14 Iowa, No. 15 Ohio State, No. 16 Illinois, and No. 21 Minnesota. The Wolverines have won five consecutive Big Ten titles, and 17 of the last 19. Minnesota is the only other program to win during that stretch (1998, 2006). The Nittany Lions will be looking for their first-ever league title since joining the conference in 1992. They have finished second 10 times. The all-around competition will be tight between Penn State’s Sharaya Musser and Michigan’s Kylee Botterman, the nation’s top two gymnasts in the event. Illinois senior Allison Buckley is coming off a school-record score in the all-around, which propelled the Orange and Blue to post the top team score in school history (196.975) last week. The meet will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Big 12 Championship
March 19 at 3 p.m. ET
Hearnes Center, Columbia, Mo.
Missouri hosts three nationally-ranked foes in the four-team Big 12 Championship meet on Saturday, including No. 11 Nebraska, which will be competing for the final time as a league member. No. 4 Oklahoma is the three-time defending conference champion, while Nebraska is seeking its first title since 2007. No. 20 Iowa State will contend for the school’s first championship since 2006, while Missouri is hoping to use its home gym advantage to claim the Tigers’ first-ever title. The Sooners enter the meet with a 15-0 regular season record, and are led by a strong group of specialists. Nebraska senior Erin Davis tops the nation on the vault with a 9.935 RQS, while the Huskers rank third nationally in the event.
East Atlantic Gymnastics League
March 19 at 2 p.m. ET
Charles E. Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
No. 23 NC State boasts the highest RQS in the conference at 195.155, but No. 30 Maryland finished the EAGL season with a perfect record for the first time in school history. West Virginia is sandwiched between the Wolfpack and Terrapins with a 194.955 RQS. Maryland senior Abigail Adams is the league’s top all-around gymnast with a 39.185 RQS, which ranks 19th nationally, however West Virginia’s Amy Bieski, North Carolina’s Morgan Evans and Rutgers’ Luisa Maria Leal-Restrepro all boast a RQS better than 39 and will battle for the title.
March 19 at 3 p.m. ET
McGuirk Arena, Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Host Central Michigan enters the championship with a 6-0 league record, but Kent State has a slight edge in the ranking with a 195.210 RQS. Kent State’s Christina Lenny and Marie Case are the league’s top two all-arounders, but CMU follows closely with three gymnasts led by senior Andrea de la Garza, who posted three career highs in the final week of the regular season. CMU will be looking to repeat as MAC champions, but Kent State is definitely in position to claim the Golden Flashes’ first title since 2009.
Mountain Pacific Sports Foundation
March 19 at 8 p.m. ET
Cadet West Gymnasium, Colorado Springs, Colo.
UC Davis looks to be the favorite at the MPSF Championship as the Aggies lead the league with a 193.030 RQS, far ahead of Air Force’s 190.700 RQS. However, the Falcons are coming off their best team score in the last seven years (193.300). Individually, senior Marcy Miller of UC Davis is the league’s top all-arounder with a 38.775 RQS. Miller registered a 39.000 in her last regular season meet – just the sixth gymnast in school history to accomplish the feat. UC Davis has won two of the last three MPSF titles, and will be aiming for its second consecutive title on Saturday.
March 19 at 7 p.m. ET
Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, Calif.
No. 6 UCLA hosts the 2011 league championship in what should be one of the most competitive meets of the weekend. Three league teams – No. 3 Stanford, No. 5 Oregon State and No. 6 UCLA – are ranked in the top six in the nation, while five of seven conference teams are ranked in the Top 25. The Bruins have won a record Pac-10 15 titles, including the last two, while Stanford and Oregon State are the only other teams to win Pac-10 championships. Oregon State’s Olivia Vivian leads the nation with a 9.915 regional qualifying score on the uneven bars, while the Beavers’ Leslie Mak is third nationally on the balance beam with a 9.90 RQS. Mak (39.310) also is 12th nationally in the all-around and will compete for the league title against UCLA’s Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (39.385) and Stanford’s Shelly Alexander (39.285). Stanford’s Ashley Morgan boasts the nation’s best RQS on the floor exercise with a 9.925. It will be the final competition at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion before it undergoes renovations for the next year.
March 19 at 5 p.m. ET
Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, Birmingham, Ala.
The top two teams in the nation – No. 1 Florida (197.170 RQS) and No. 2 Alabama (197.040 RQS) -- will battle it out for the coveted SEC title on Saturday. The Gators won last year’s title, while the Crimson Tide claimed the trophy in 2009. No. 8 Georgia boasts an SEC-record 15 league titles while No. 12 Arkansas will be trying to win its first championship. The all-around competition will be heated as just three-tenths of a point separate Arkansas’ Jaime Pisani, Alabama’s Kayla Hoffman, Florida’s Ashanée Dickerson and Georgia’s Cassidy McComb in regional qualifying scores. Florida enters the meet as the top-ranked team on beam and floor exercise while the Gators are tied with Alabama for the nation’s top vault RQS. Since LSU won the first SEC title in 1981, Florida, Georgia or Alabama has captured the championship for the last 28 years.
Western Athletic Conference
March 19 at 9 p.m. ET
The Event Center, San Jose, Calif.
No. 13 Boise State, the only WAC team ranked in the Top 25, will look to reclaim the league title after Southern Utah won the trophy in 2010. The Broncos, who are coming off their highest score in school history (197.050), won the WAC in 2008 and 2009. Boise State’s Amy Glass is the conference’s leading all-arounder (39.370) and ranks 10th in the nation in the event. The Broncos’ biggest competition will come from host San Jose State and Southern Utah. Thomasina Wallace of San Jose State ranks No. 25 in the all-around (39.145), while Southern Utah boasts the experience of five seniors.