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Redhawks gymnasts optimistic after loss
The Southeast Missouri State gymnastics team suffered its third consecutive loss to begin the year.
But the Redhawks were far from discouraged Friday night after posting a season-high score in their home opener, a 193.800 to 193.225 setback to Western Michigan at Houck Field House.
Gymnastics is different from most collegiate sports in that wins and losses don't mean anything in the quest to qualify for NCAA postseason competition. Those berths are determined solely on scores.
"We're going against some bigger programs this year, some higher ranked programs," Southeast coach Kristi Ewasko said. "Not saying we won't win a lot, but it will be difficult.
"We had a pretty good showing. We had our best score. We still have improvements to make, but we're on the climb."
Southeast entered the weekend ranked 45th nationally among 62 Division I programs, while Western Michigan (2-3) was 38th. The top 36 in average scores at the end of the season qualify for an NCAA regional.
"We want to win, but in the end, it doesn't really matter what the record is. We just want to score as well as possible," senior Brianna Gaddie said. "It's a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot more potential for this team."
Southeast won all four individual events and also captured the all-around, but the Broncos prevailed based on better consistency. They had the top team scores in three of the four events.
Sophomore Taylor Westrick won the all-around in only her second time competing in all four events as a collegian.
Westrick, who posted a 38.000 all-around score, also claimed the beam title with a 9.775.
"It's really exciting," Westrick said about her first all-around title.
Westrick's first crack at the all-around came during last weekend's loss at Missouri, where she placed third.
"She's going to be a great all-around contender for us," Ewasko said.
Gaddie was a double winner, capturing vault (9.850) and floor (9.850). Both were season-high scores for Gaddie, who claimed her second titles of the year in both events. She now has 15 career floor titles and 12 career vault titles.
Southeast's other event winner was senior Christina Sundgren, who prevailed on bars (season high 9.800). It was her second bars title this year and 10th of her career.
"We started out a little rough, but we kept fighting and got a decent score," Sundgren said. "We've got a lot of potential. We just can't seem to put it all together yet, but it'll come."
Three Southeast gymnasts tied for second: sophomore Emma Garrett on vault (9.750, tying her season high), sophomore Sarah Brillhart on beam (career high 9.725) and freshman Taryn Vanderpool on floor (career high 9.800).
Vanderpool also tied for third on bars (career high 9.750).
Southeast posted season-high scores on vault (47.650), bars (48.575) and floor (48.700).
"Even though we didn't win, we showed a lot of improvement," Westrick said. "We can just go back in the gym and get better next week."
Southeast has another home meet Friday when 23rd-ranked Denver visits for a 7 p.m. start.
"We've got another very good opponent coming in, but we hope to keep getting better," Ewasko said.