Northern Illinois University senior Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) and junior Amanda Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS) will represent the Huskies Saturday, April 5, at the 2014 NCAA Gymnastics Regional in Fayetteville, Ark., as the NCAA released the field for the 2014 Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
Gotlund will make her second career appearance as an all-around competitor, while Stepp will compete at regionals for the first time as the lone individual competitor in the Fayetteville Regional on floor exercise. It marks the seventh time in the last eight seasons, and the 13th time in the last 15 years, that NIU has sent at least one gymnast to the NCAA Regionals.
“It’s great to be back,” said NIU head coach Sam Morreale.
“To get to regionals is huge. If you can’t get there as a team, you at least want your kids to qualify as individuals because they deserve it. Last year, Kim went as an alternate and that was definitely what gave her extra motivation coming into this year to say I belong there and I’m as good as these gymnasts. It makes (the individuals you take) realize the (teams there) are not doing harder gymnastics than us, and they relay that to their teammates and that mindset spreads through the team.”
Gotlund is coming off a third-place finish in the all-around competition at the 2014 MAC Championships this past Saturday, capped by a season-high score of 9.825 on floor exercise. Her all-around total of 38.950 was her second-highest this season and she finished just .025 out of second place.
As a senior in 2014, Gotlund surpassed or matched her career high scores on three events and owned the Huskies’ top averages on balance beam and floor exercise. On the year, she earned first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors for the second consecutive season and has been named to the All-MAC team in each of the last three years. Gotlund last competed at the NCAA Regionals as a sophomore in 2012.
“Coming back from last year, she made a personal decision that she was going to do everything in her power to get back, either with her team or as an individual,” Morreale said.
“She’s been so good and so consistent all year. She’s really as a senior athlete come to grips with her talent and her ability and is still looking to have that great meet. I know she’s going to give it her all. She’s going to do everything all out. We’ve been talking all year and especially here at the end about how great and how deserving she is, so it’s great to see her get this recognition and this chance to keep going.”
After missing time early in the year due to injury, Stepp surged to the top of the Huskies’ floor exercise unit with six scores of 9.825 or higher in NIU’s last eight meets. She tied for third on floor at last Saturday’s MAC Championships with a 9.850 to match her career high on the event. The performance secured the lone spot for an individual on floor exercise in the regional.
“Amanda is a talented junior whose best days are still ahead of her,” Morreale said.
“She’s really coming back into (health) now, so we’re going to add a few things back into her routine and she’s going to put everything out there at regionals. Amanda is able to consistently score like she does because she’s super clean. She does her gymnastics really, really well and she has very little error in her routine.”
Six teams will compete at each of the six NCAA Gymnastics Regionals held April 5 around the country.
MAC champions Central Michigan and Kent State (regular season) each earned bids as did NIU 2014 non-conference opponents Iowa State, Arizona State, Illinois and Nebraska.
The top two teams and top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships, scheduled Friday, April 18, through Sunday, April 20, in Birmingham, Ala. In addition, the event winners at each regional site will advance to the national championships (in that event only) if they are not part of a qualifying team or an all-around qualifier.