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Gymnasts hungry after ASU loss

Head gymnastics coach Joanne Bowers asked each member of the UW gymnastics team how they felt after last Saturday night’s meet hosting Arizona State.

“There were so many positives to that meet,” Bowers said. “We hit 20 of our 24 routines, we scored our highest score of the season and we overcame some adversity.“

But the responses of the athletes were mixed.

“It’s just… I think it was so bittersweet,” Bowers said, “because when we do all those things against a team we feel that’s very similar to us, we expect to walk away with a win.”

Tonight, against California, the Huskies can expect their first win of the season.

Gymnastics is a peculiar sport in that the regular-season wins and losses don’t matter. Instead, regional qualification is tabulated based on top scoring totals for meets both away and at home. Yet these women wouldn’t train to the extreme levels they do without some competitive spark. In an effort to elevate the team’s scores, Bowers has scheduled a murderers’ row of opposing teams thus far. ASU, ranked 24th in the country, was the team’s first opponent not ranked among the top 10 nationally. The No. 23 Huskies are hungry for a win, and nothing tastes better when you’re hungry than a cupcake.

Enter California. Unranked and averaging just 190.413 on the season, their highest single-meet score is 191.8. UW’s average of 194.213 is well out of Cal’s reach, and their lowest score was a disappointing 192.8 at Oregon State almost a month ago. Since then, they’ve posted three scores higher than 194, including the season-leading 195.425 they earned during a heartbreaking loss on Saturday.

In Saturday’s meet, UW met a goal that they’ve been building toward all season, which is sticking 20 of 24 routines. Incredibly, they managed this despite a terrifying fall in the very first routine of the night and a spill off the balance beam. Washington performed perfectly on the floor exercises, which is their strongest event of the season, and responded tenaciously on the vault, hitting all five of their routines after Kristen Linton’s spill on the vault.

The event UW struggled on last week was the beam, and oddly enough, Hatsune Akaogi and Haley Bogart were the low scorers for that event. Akaogi and Bogart have been incredibly consistent on the beam all year, and along with Samantha Walior, have been the best Huskies on the balance beam all year. This week will give them a chance to collect themselves and return to form.

On Bogart and Akaogi, Bowers remains confident.

“I don’t want to panic with either one of those two,” Bowers said. “For the two of them to struggle was very unusual. I keep asking all the girls to keep their chins up, and it is paying off, and we are improving.”

Despite the marked improvements meet to meet, there still is something missing.

“We didn’t have that great ‘aha’ feeling,” said Bowers about Saturday, “because we really thought if we did our job we would win that meet. It didn’t feel as good, but I think if we stay on the path we’re on, I truly believe that by Pac-10 championship, we whup up on them then. That’s what we want to do.”

Tonight’s competition against California may just be a snack, then, to tide them over until Pac-10s.

Reach reporter Zachary Gussin at sports@dailyuw.com.

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