The Sacramento State gymnastics team will open its 2019 season by hosting the NorCal Classic on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 2 p.m. The meet will take place at The Nest on campus and will also feature San Jose State, No. 21 Stanford and UC Davis.
This year marks the eighth annual NorCal Classic and the second time it has been held at The Nest. The meet last appeared on campus in 2014 where the Hornets place third with a score of 194.400. Sacramento State's highest finish came in 2017 when the team placed second at Cal with a total of 194.475.
Sacramento State will open the meet on vault and will continue with Olympic order. UC Davis will start on bars while San Jose State will be on beam and Stanford on floor during the first rotation.
Live scoring as well as a free live video stream will be available through the Sacramento State web site (hornetsports.com). Links can be found on the schedule page.
Stanford was tabbed 21st in the preseason poll. The Cardinal have the challenge of replacing 2018 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year and 19-time All-American Elizabeth Price. Stanford has a roster which includes 13 underclassmen, including five freshmen. Last season, Stanford placed seventh at the Pac-12 and was fifth at the NCAA Salt Lake Regional.
Tabitha Yim is in her second season as the Stanford head coach. Yim, competed for the Cardinal and was a 14-time All-American. After working as an assistant coach with Stanford, she was the head coach at Arizona for two seasons. The Hornets earned their first victory over the Cardinal in 2017 and now trail the all-time series, 1-16-1.
San Jose State is the two-time defending Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion. The Spartans scored 195.975 at last season's championships in Colorado. The team returns three gymnasts who qualified for the NCAA Salt Lake Regional in Taylor Chan (vault, floor), Ellie Pascoe-Long (vault, floor) and Stephanie Relova (beam).
Joanne Bowers will make her head coaching debut with SJSU at the NorCal Classic. Bowers was the head coach at Washington from 2007-16. She also served as an assistant coach at Michigan (2001-06) and Kent State (1997-01). The Hornets hold a narrow 51-50-1 lead in the all-time series. Sunday will be the first of five meetings between the schools this season.
UC Davis will have the challenge of replacing Amanda Presswood and 2017 MPSF Gymnast of the Year Alexis Brown but the Aggies return plenty of talent for 2019. Kelley Hebert, who was the 2018 MPSF GOY, and regional qualifier Gabby Landess highlight the returners. The team also has four other gymnasts who have earned all-conference honors.
John Lavallee is in his 12th season as the Aggie head coach. The Hornets lead the all-time series, 58-36.
THE LATEST ACTION
Sacramento State finished fourth last season at the MPSF Championships. The team scored 194.775 and was led by Annie Juarez who placed second in the all-around with a total of 39.200. Caitlin Soliwoda added a tie for second on vault and tied for third on bars with teammate Courteney Ng.
Sacramento State advanced three gymnasts to the NCAA Salt Lake Regional. Caitlin Soliwoda scored a season high 39.225 in the all-around to place 11th in the meet. Juarez added a 39.100 in the all-around to finish 13th in the meet. Courtney Soliwoda completed the trio as a beam specialist and was 20th with a score of 9.800.
LOOKING FOR VETERANS
Sacramento State's 2019 roster features just six upperclassmen among the 18 gymnasts. The team boasts three seniors and three juniors while also including six sophomores and six freshmen. The three seniors are comprised of Carly Pratt, Jackie Sampson and Lauren Schmeiss. Pratt and Schmeiss are expected to be in the lineup in multiple events this week. Sampson, however, will be out of the opening meet due to injury.
Alexis Belkoff, Tara Catour and Cydney-Elise Kone make up the junior class. Belkoff has cemented her position in the vault, bars and floor lineups and could become an all-arounder as she battles for a position on beam. Kone will return to the lineup on bars while Catour will join Sampson on the ever-growing injured list.
The Hornets will feature just six of 24 routines at the NorCal Classic from its final lineup of last season. Alexis Belkoff and Jordyn Brent are back on vault and bars, respectively. Kendra Braida and Lauren Schmeiss return on beam and Carly Pratt and Schmeiss will be on floor. The number of returning routines would have increased had Tara Catour (vault) and Jackie Sampson (bars, beam, floor) been healthy enough to compete.
All the openings will create opportunities for others to shine in the lineup. Brent could see her role expand to an all-arounder. Last season, she appeared in three events in seven meets and had exhibitions on beam in two meets to give her a pseudo all-around score. Fellow sophomore Courtnee Marquez, who missed most of last season, is scheduled to return in a couple of events. Marquez was a three-time Region 1 Qualifier and placed among the top five in all four events at the 2017 Nevada State Championships while competing for Gymcats.
Freshmen Wanda Deriot, Amber Koeth, Shaye Mathias, Nicole Nebel and Destiny Watley are all likely to see action in at least one event during the NorCal Classic.
LEADING THE WAY
Sacramento State has named three captains for the 2019 season — seniors Lauren Schmeiss and Carly Pratt and junior Tara Catour. It has become custom for the team to pair two seniors with a junior who will then continue the role the following year.
GYMNASTS SHINE IN THE CLASSROOM
Six members of the Sacramento State gymnastics program as well as the team itself were recognized by the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association for their academic achievements during the 2017-18 year. The individuals in alphabetical order were Alexis Belkoff, Tara Catour, Annie Juarez, Courteney Ng, Carly Pratt and Lauren Schmeiss. The WCGA bestows its Scholastic All-America accolades upon student-athletes with a 3.5 grade-point average or higher. Sacramento State recorded a team grade point average of 3.2442 during the year to earn the team award.
Just when you were finally able to figure out the NCAA postseason formula, it was announced that NCAA would change the way the teams qualify for regionals. Beginning this year, the number of regionals will drop from six to four. However, each site will now have nine teams instead of six. The biggest change will be in the format as the eighth and ninth seeded teams will compete in a dual meet on the opening night of the regional. The next day, the remaining eight teams will compete in a pair of four-team meets. The top two teams from each of those meets will then move on to the third day of competition and another four-team meet. The two top scoring teams from each of the four regional finals will qualify for the NCAA Championships.