April 4, 2014
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University gymnasts Kim Gotlund and Amanda Stepp are in Fayetteville, Ark. this weekend where they will represent the Huskies in the NCAA Gymnastics Fayetteville Regional, which will take place Saturday at Barnhill Arena beginning at 4 p.m. (CT).
For information on the competing teams and the meet schedule, visit the University of Arkansas' NCAA Regional Central site. On Saturday, follow live scoring or watch the meet live (FREE).
Gotlund, a senior who is making her second career appearance at an NCAA Regional, is one of five all-arounders selected in addition to the team competitors. She will rotate with the UCLA Bruins, who come into the meet as the No. 8 team in the country. A junior, Stepp will make her NCAA Regional debut after earning the lone floor exercise specialist spot. She is in the rotation group with the team from UC Davis.
Gotlund and Stepp have been working hard to prepare for the competition, said NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale.
"Kim and Amanda are exciting, they have been training really hard and continuing to pay attention to the details," Morreale said. "Both want to go there and do as well as they can. They are happy to be there but not satisfied. The biggest hurdle is feeling like you belong. It's accepting the fact that you are as good as anyone there."
Gotlund returns to the NCAA Regionals in 2014 after competing in 2012 and attending last year's Regional as an alternate. The two-time first-team All Mid-American Conference gymnast was remarkably consistent as a senior as she "hit" 40 of her 44 routines on the season. She scored 38.900 or higher in the all-around five times, including at the MAC Championships where she finished third with a 38.950. She recorded a career-best all-around mark of 39.075 in the final regular season meet at Arizona State.
"It's great for Kim to get to rotate with UCLA," Morreale said. "Usually the fans from the school you are rotating with will cheer for you so that will be a good experience. Her goal is to score the highest all-around of her career. Like every sport, the last competition is the one you remember so she's determined to make it good."
Stepp battled an injury for much of the season but still put together a series of stellar floor exercise routines, scoring 9.825 or higher six times in the Huskies' last eight meets. She tied for third on floor at the MAC Championships with a 9.850 and has added some difficulty back into her routine in training since the league meet.
"It's different with the individual specialists because you're by yourself," Morreale said. "Amanda will have to manage her energy and excitement. She is good at being even-keeled and she's always had confidence, but it is still different going to the next level. I think she will be as good as the gymnasts in her rotation, especially with how well she has been doing her routine and with being able to add the difficulty again."
Six teams are competing for two spots out of the Fayetteville Regional to the NCAA Championships, which will be held in Birmingham, Ala. April 18-20. In addition, the event winners at each regional site (if they are not part of a qualifying team) and the top two all-around competitors who are not on an advancing team, will advance to the NCAA Championships.
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