Southeast Missouri State gymnastics team to send three to regional meet

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Southeast sophomore Taylor Westrick will compete in the all-around at this weekend's regional meet. (Laura Simon)

The Southeast Missouri State gymnastics team fell a bit short of qualifying for regional competition for the second consecutive year under coach Kristi Ewasko.

But the Redhawks still will be well represented at Saturday's NCAA South Central Regional in Norman, Okla.

Southeast ended the season ranked 39th nationally. The top 36 make the regional field. The rankings are based solely on a team's average scores during the season.

"I was proud of our athletes. They performed well, but we just fell a little bit short," said Ewasko, whose squad won the Midwest Independent Conference meet for just the second time in program history.

Three Southeast athletes -- seniors Brianna Gaddie and Christina Sundgren and sophomore Taylor Westrick -- qualified for the regional meet hosted by the University of Oklahoma.

"I am excited for them," Ewasko said. "They worked so hard this year and all three improved. I couldn't be prouder of them."

Gaddie will compete on vault and make her third straight individual regional appearance. She ranks eighth in the region and 40th nationally. She also is an alternate on floor.

Sundgren nabbed her second regional invitation on bars after qualifying in 2009. She was an alternate last year. She ranks 12th in the region and 62nd nationally.

Gaddie and Sundgren also were members of Southeast's 2008 squad that earned a regional team berth.

"They've both had amazing careers and to finish by making it to regionals is very fitting," Ewasko said. "It's a great way to end their careers. Both will be very hard to replace."

Westrick will make her first regional appearance after qualifying in the all-around, meaning she will compete in all four events. She ranks 18th in the region and 77th nationally in the all-around, led by beam rankings of No. 9 in the region and No. 32 nationally.

"We knew when we recruited her that she would be a shining star," Ewasko said. "Last year she battled injuries and this year is just the tip of the iceberg. She'll keep getting better."

It will be difficult for any of the Redhawks to qualify for the national meet later this month since only the top two all-around finishers not on an advancing team, along with event winners, make the cut.

Southeast will compete against some of the nation's top programs at the regional, including fifth-ranked Oklahoma, No. 7 Utah and No. 17 Washington.

Also earning regional team berths were Missouri, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

"It's a big honor just to make it to regionals. It rewards them for all their hard work," Ewasko said. "It's very difficult to get to nationals. We're competing against some of the top teams and athletes in the country. But all three are capable if they perform up to their potential."

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