All season, every SPUG (Seattle Pacific University gymnast) has had her team right there next to her during every meet, ready to greet her with cheers, scream and hugs after she dismounts a routine. No matter how well or badly the routine went or the team did, or what score they achieved, the team was always right there ready to support every gymnast.
The meet on Saturday did not follow that model. In fact, SPU only had three women compete in the Division I West Regionals meet at the University of Washington: senior Kai Tindall, sophomore Maria Hundley and freshman Tracie Villanueva.
You may be thinking: Isn’t SPU a Division II school?
And yes, it is, which is why this is such a huge achievement for these gymnasts and the program as a whole, as head coach Laurel Tindall will tell you.
“It shows we can compete with the best,” Laurel Tindall said. “And it especially shows what direction our program is heading in.”
In fact, this is even more impressive because of the fact that it’s been seven years since SPU has sent gymnasts to this meet.
“[There’s definitely some] pride that goes along with sending kids to this meet,” Laurel Tindall said. “But we haven’t sent anyone since 2007.”
This also means that no gymnast on the current squad had ever experienced this meet before — and no one had experienced the deprived feeling that these three women did when they didn’t have the team behind them for support.
“It’s a tough situation with [your team] in the stands,” Laurel Tindall said. “In my experience of coaching all-arounds, it has been tough, but it’s a good experience.”
“It was a lot different,” Hundley said. “I haven’t [experienced] that at all. It’s weird not having the SPUGs there. I felt a lot less pressure because I didn’t have a team to do it for.”
Hundley also had the best showing out of the three SPU gymnasts at the meet, as she scored a 9.800 on the beam, tying her for 10th place. She also scored a 9.775 on the bars and an impressive 9.850 on the vault.
“Maria did awesome in all of her events,” Laurel Tindall said. “I told her, ‘OK, we just need three more of those next week [at nationals].’ ”
Ask Hundley herself and she will tell you that she is equally impressed with her performance.
“My goal was to hit all three events,” Hundley said. “And that’s what I did. I’m not too worried about the scores or placements — I did the best I could.”
The other two SPU gymnasts did a relatively good job on their events, but not as well has they have been doing all season.
Villanueva scored a 9.000 on the bars, where she had to count a fall. Kai Tindall scored a 9.625 on the floor.
“Kai did an OK routine, but she had some trouble,” Laurel Tindall said. “Tracie did a great routine until her fall. Hopefully they got those performances out of their system.”
Kai Tindall herself will tell you that she didn’t have the best outing.
“For me it wasn’t my best meet,” Kai Tindall said. “But it was a great experience. It was good to be in a huge setting. I was feeling a little out of it. This was a time for me to get back into that right mindset.”
And the team is going to need those performances out of the way, as everything the team has been working toward comes into view: nationals.
The team will travel to Providence, RI, to try to take the top spot, something that has been the team’s top goal all season.
“I know the mindset of the team [heading into nationals] is the motto of living in the present,” Hundley said. “We can’t control anything except how we do. If we put more emphasis on this meet, it would just put more pressure on the team.”
The team, which comes in as a No. 4 seed, will compete at the Pizzitola Sports Center starting at 4 p.m. on Friday. The meet continues through Sunday.