Southeast will make its first team appearance in the South Central Regional since 1997.
Southeast Missouri State women's gymnastics coach Tom Farden thought Saturday's solid but not exceptional performance in the Midwest Independent Conference Championships at Houck Field House might have cost the Redhawks a shot at a regional berth.
So Farden was pleasantly surprised Monday when he received the good news -- the Redhawks did qualify for the NCAA South Central Regional, which will be held April 8 in Fayetteville, Ark.
"It was great when I found out we had gotten in," Farden said. "We scored a 192.30 Saturday, and I thought we might need a 193-something to get in."
The Redhawks qualified their entire team for regionals for the first time since 1997.
"It is definitely an honor to finally make the regional field as a team," Farden said. "And we have a freshmen-dominated team. Our regional team will include seven freshmen, a sophomore and a junior.
"This is a high-octane team for a young team. They still have a lot to learn. We're only going to get better."
Southeast is one of 36 squads across the nation selected for the NCAA championships.
The six-team South Central Regional field will feature Florida, UCLA, host Arkansas, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago and Southeast.
Florida, ranked third nationally, has a regional qualifying score of 196.57, followed by ninth-ranked UCLA (196.23), 18th-ranked Arkansas (195.29), Illinois (194.06), Illinois-Chicago (192.80) and Southeast (192.35).
The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors who are not on an advancing team from each regional will advance to the national championships at Oregon State on April 20 to 22. The regional event winners not part of a qualifying team or the all-around qualifiers will also make the national field.
"It will be really tough to make it to nationals as a team, but individually, you never know, somebody could slip in," Farden said.
Southeast's top all-around performer has been freshman Sandra Blake, who was voted the Midwest Independent Conference Athlete of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
Also in the Redhawks' rotation for regionals will be freshmen Maureen Grimaldi, Alex King, Starlyn Schwartz, Kelsey Stauffer, Erika Thomas and Chelsea Unold, along with sophomore Alison Ezell and junior Brystol Powelski.