One toe placement, a steadier landing, an extra tick completely vertical on the bars — those are the seemingly small moments that will prove the difference for Boise State's gymnasts in reaching a goal that has been so close, yet unobtained.
That margin for error is so slim, it is almost hard to imagine, and at the same time months and months of work are put in just to close that gap. The Broncos know it all too well, having finished third last April at their regional, the fifth time that has happened since 2009. The top two reach nationals.
"Heartbreakingly close," co-head coach Tina Bird said, with her fellow co-coach Neil Resnick adding, "It's a bit frustrating, chasing this prize and being a quarter of a tenth away, so we try to let that spirit drive us."
Boise State, ranked No. 13 in the NACGC/W 2018 preseason coaches' poll, entered 2018 with its highest preseason ranking in history and opens the season at 7 p.m. Thursday at Taco Bell Arena vs. Southern Utah. With 12 teams reaching nationals, the Broncos are considered capable of making it for the first time.
That possibility comes at an interesting time, as the NCAA will move to an eight-team championship round in 2019 that is preceded by a regional and super-regional.
"There's a little pressure knowing this could be our best chance yet to get in, but even if this change was happening this year, the motivation would be the same," junior Shani Remme said.
The first meet of the 2018 season is finally here! Your preseason No. 13 Broncos take on the No. 24 Thunderbirds TONIGHT. All @boisestatelive employees will receive FREE admission with their Boise State ID. #OwnIt #BleedBlue pic.twitter.com/EbjYigI3ec— Boise State Gym (@BroncoSportsGYM) January 11, 2018
Added senior Mary Frances Bir: "This is our year to really push in there, prove we're contenders, really want to make it as one of the 12."
Even if it will be even more difficult to get in next year, there's a reason Boise State is optimistic this could be a special year, returning the likes of Remme, the conference Gymnast of the Year and an individual NCAA qualifier in the all-around, plus five seniors. Resnick said roughly half the starting routines will be filled by seniors, something he hasn't had before.
"We want to get over that hump this year," Bir said. "It really helps that a lot of us have been there and done that. We're letting the freshmen know how important every meet is. We're owning it this year, control what we can, don't complain about the judges or say 'it's politics,' just go do everything we know we can do."
Bird said one of the team's strengths, beyond the solid veteran presence, is that the team can excel on the balance beam, "and it's key in the team score -- if you have kids that aren't super confident, all the sudden, you're half a point down."
There also has been a focus since the summer on those small things that the team hopes make a big difference in a score that has been all too close at the end of the season.
"Part of the magic is that we don't set one certain goal, but each year, we want to make Bronco history in some way," Bird said. "It takes a little pressure off ... it all adds up. The way they push themselves, it's impressive. When we started summer workouts a few years ago, they just wanted to do the fun stuff, but this year, it was those fundamental sorts of things."
Don't miss a Boise State gymnastics meet his year, download our schedule to any device, any changes will be updated automatically so you can follow us all season long! Visit https://t.co/7GAOOaTxx9 now for our schedule! #BlededBlue #OwnIt pic.twitter.com/CsBYrP7aYh— Boise State Gym (@BroncoSportsGYM) January 11, 2018
On Monday night, Resnick watched the college football national championship game and was impressed by Alabama freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's calm after being put into the game in the second half against Georgia. His winning touchdown pass in overtime quickly gave Resnick inspiration.
"The one missing part of that wonderful puzzle is being on the national championship floor," Resnick said. "We're waiting for that magic moment where we get one little break, one special routine. ... We need one of our kids to make that kind of pass."
This article is written by Dave Southorn from The Idaho Statesman and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.