By Jay Fisher
WVU hosted a NCAA Regional gymnastics meet this past weekend. It was one of six Regionals across the country, in which the Top 36 teams were divided up across the country. WVU’s region featured five teams in the Top 25, including 2 in the Top 10 (Alabama and Michigan). The #23 Mountaineers were actually the fifth seeded team, behind #18 Southern Utah and #20 George Washington. GW had already beaten WVU in a meet during the regular season in Morgantown, while the others top seeds had not yet faced the Mountaineers.
Sometimes the pressure of the meet can get to a young team, which describes the Mountaineer team. Only two seniors were active, and accounted for five of the 36 routines; 10 of them were by underclassmen. That did not happen on Saturday. WVU set a new team record for Regional scores with an outstanding 196.325. They moved up two seeds and placed third, which was their highest placing since 2007. Junior Zaakira Muhammed earned a trip to the NCAA Nationals as an individual all-around performer. She is the first WVU gymnast to qualify for Nationals since 2014.
Coach Jason Butts has been trying to build WVU to a level where they can return to Nationals, and this weekend may have been a critical point in that process. They realized they can compete at that level, and they should have the confidence (and the drive) to hit that goal. Congratulations to a job well done.
The baseball team headed to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for their second Big 12 series of the year. Like the first, they were on the road against a Top 25 team. The #23 Cowboys were picked second in the Big 12 Preseason poll, and are a formidable team. After dropping the first game 3-2, the Mountaineers rallied to win the final two games: 5-3 (in 10 innings), and 9-8. That means WVU is 4-2 in the Big 12 – all road games against top 25 teams, and they are 6-2 against ranked teams so far this year. They will be hosting Big 12 teams the next two weekends. Kansas this weekend, and the following weekend Top 10 TCU, which has spent time at #1 this year, comes to Morgantown.
That same weekend, when the baseball team hosts TCU, will also be the finale of football’s Spring Practice. So far, it seems to have been fairly quiet, which is good. Will Grier is getting positive reviews at quarterback, but there have been a couple of announced injuries that are troublesome.