TWU is in a crowd near the top of the Midwest Independent Conference gymnastics rankings, so the competition should be fierce this weekend at the league’s championship meet.
Less than one point in the regional qualifying average separates the top four teams in the six-team MIC. Looking at each team’s season-high scores, the Pioneers’ 195.300 leads the pack, while top contenders Southeast Missouri State, Illinois-Chicago and Illinois State have posted season highs within one point of TWU’s.
“It’s still very, very tight,” said TWU coach Lisa Bowerman, who added that there’s not a clear favorite for the MIC championship.
“I think everybody realizes that it’s going to be very close competition,” she said. “Obviously, if one of the top teams has a ton of mistakes, that will take them out of it, but I think all of us want to go in and have everybody hit [their routines] and see who is the best team that day.”
The MIC meet is being held Saturday at Centenary College in Shreveport, La.
Southeast Missouri State ranks No. 1 in RQA, which is an average of all of a team’s scores throughout the season. The Redhawks’ 193.730 is just higher than Illinois-Chicago (193.450), Illinois State (193.405) and TWU (193.235).
TWU, which won three meets during the regular season, already has competed against each of the MIC schools this season. The Pioneers defeated first-year member Lindenwood twice in duals and topped Illinois State and Centenary in four-way meets. The Pioneers fell to Southeastern Missouri in a dual meet on March 8 and finished second behind Illinois-Chicago in February.
“From a strategy standpoint, I don’t think it makes a lot of difference that we’ve seen each other,” Bowerman said. “But from a motivation and confidence standpoint, I do think it helps our team knowing that we’ve beaten Lindenwood twice and Illinois State.
“Southeast Missouri and UIC we didn’t beat, but we had them. I think the girls realize that we were ahead of both of those teams when we competed, and if they could have just finished off their events, we could have beaten them.”
Bowerman said she has several athletes in good position to compete for individual titles, with three who currently lead the MIC in their respective events. Senior Kristen Edwards has two victories in floor exercise and has posted scores of 9.850 and 9.825 the last two weeks.
“She’s flawless on floor,” Bowerman said. “I don’t think there’s anybody stronger than her in our conference.”
Also leading their events in the MIC are junior Courtney Cochefski on bars and senior Bethany Larimer on vault. Denton Calvary product Spencer Jones ranks second in balance beam.
The MIC meet begins the Pioneers’ postseason, which includes the NCAA regionals on April 6 and the USA Gymnastics national meet on April 12.
The Pioneers bounced back Saturday from being shut out to win a three-game Lone Star Conference series against Abilene Christian in front of a record home crowd.
After winning the series opener Friday, the Pioneers lost 9-0 in the opening game of a Saturday doubleheader — before a record throng of 373 at Pioneer Field. A hard-fought 3-2 win in the finale secured the series for TWU (27-7, 5-1 LSC).
“Our goal was to win the series, and we played great in the second game to do that,” TWU coach Richie Bruister said.
The No. 10 Pioneers needed two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to notch Friday’s win. A home run in the fifth by Katie Hines ignited the comeback effort, and Brandie Lander pitched four innings in relief to claim the win.
TWU’s power showed up Saturday as Haley Colwell and Jordan Readicker hit homers in the nightcap. Lander picked up her team-leading 11th victory after striking out seven.
The Pioneers, who played six games in five days last week, get to catch their breath before traveling to Cameron for a three-game series Friday and Saturday.
Readicker has been named LSC Hitter of the Week for March 12-18. She earned the honor for the first time in her career.
Readicker helped the Pioneers to 5-1 record last week while recording game-winning RBIs in three games. She drove in a team-best eight runs in the Pioneers’ six games to become TWU’s all-time RBIs leader with 140. Readicker also posted a .313 batting average, two home runs, a .688 slugging percentage and a .421 on-base percentage.
Both of Readicker’s homers drove in game-winning runs, including a walk-off grand slam in a 7-3 win over St. Edward’s.
For the season, the Grapevine native has six home runs, 32 RBIs, a .351 batting average and a .567 slugging percentage.