Eight months of training, four months of meets and travel and hundreds of hours of practice come down to a few minutes for the gymnasts competing in the five NCAA regional meets today.
Those moments of competition will determine where each team will be ranked nationally and which teams and individual performers will go on to compete in the national championships April 20-22 at the University of Georgia.
"You spend 10 weeks to get into this meet and then everybody's even," said coach Dick Filbert of Towson State, which is host to the Southeast Regional meet at the Towson Center today at 6 p.m.
Georgia, winner of the past seven regionals, is one of the favorites among the seven qualifying teams: Florida, a competitor in the nationals every season since gymnastics became an NCAA sport in 1982; Kentucky; West Virginia; North Carolina State; Towson State, and George Washington.
Seven individual all-around performers, including Maryland freshman Stacy Breidenbach, also qualified for the meet.
"This is the tightest regional alignment in all the years they've had regionals," said Filbert. "While Georgia and Florida are clearly the cream of the crop, the next five teams are all very close and very capable of turning in a strong regional performances."
For Towson State, regional competition has been the overall focus of the season.
"We got together as a team and decided every meet was a practice for regionals," said Towson State senior Karen Sturek.
That approach resulted in a 19-2 season record for the Tigers and the ECAC championship for the eighth time in nine years.
After the regional, Towson State will travel to the National Invitational Tournament at Southeast Missouri. The Tigers were invited to the meet based on their 18th-place national ranking last year.
This year, the Tigers, seeded sixth in the Southeast Regional, are ranked 25th nationally.
"A strong sixth," said Filbert, "On paper, we're ranked 25th in the nation, but I don't believe that. I know we're a top 20 team, but we're going to have to prove that [today]. . . . We can finish third [in the regionals], but it's going to be a battle."
FACTS AND FIGURES
What: NCAA Southeast Regional gymnastics.
When: Today, 6 p.m.
Where: Towson Center.
Tickets: 1,000 available. $7 reserved, $4 general admission. Call (410) 830-8447.
Teams: Florida, George Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Towson State, West Virginia.