March 23, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - After leading Northern Illinois to a third-place finish at the Mid-American Conference Championships last weekend and sharing the individual title on the balance beam, Northern Illinois gymnasts Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Palatine Fremd HS) and Jennifer Naughton (Smithville, Mo./Smithville HS) learned Monday that they are headed to the NCAA South Central Regional. Reichard will compete in the all-around for the second straight season while Naughton earned the nod on the balance beam after being named as an alternate on beam in each of the last two years. The competition is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CDT) on Saturday, April 4 in Fayetteville, Ark.
Reichard, a sophomore, led the list of five all-arounders [not from a competing team] named to the South Central Regional, while Naughton garnered the lone spot reserved for an individual performer on the balance beam. In addition to Reichard and Naughton, NIU senior Leah Johnson was tabbed as an alternate on the floor exercise.
"What else can I say about Holly and Jen?" said NIU Head Coach Mark Sontag. "They've just performed brilliantly, time after time after time. I can't think of two more deserving individuals to be representing Northern Illinois at regionals."
Northern Illinois has sent at least one gymnast to NCAA Regional competition in nine of the last 10 years that Sontag has been head coach, with multiple NIU student-athletes selected in five of the last six seasons.
Reichard was named the 2009 MAC Gymnast of the Year by league coaches, while Naughton became the first Huskie to win the MAC Senior Gymnast of the Year honor. The two helped Northern Illinois to some of its highest team scores in school history during the season, while the team's third-place finish at the MAC Championships tied for NIU's best placing ever.
Sontag said the experience the Huskies have gained in previous seasons at NCAAs can only benefit his gymnasts this year.
"I think anytime you've done something before, you're going to be wiser, more confident and more at ease going in," Sontag said. "Both have been there - Holly last year as a competitor and Jen as an alternate - they know what to expect and I think they'll be calm, collected and do the same things they've been doing all year long."
Six teams, five all-around competitors (who are not on a qualifying team) and one individual event specialist per event were named to each of the six regions. The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Lincoln, Nebraska, April 16-18.
In addition, the event winners at the regional championships will advance to the national championships (in that event only) if they are not part of a qualifying team or the all-around qualifiers.
-- NIU --