As coaches read a list of gymnasts who will continue their seasons at NCAA Regionals next weekend in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Alina Cartwright did a double take when she heard her name.
“When we were watching to see where everyone was going, mainly Taira (Neal), the coaches were like, ‘We’re going to have Taira for vault,’ and then she looked at me and said, ‘Alina for beam and Lisa (Burt) for all-around,’” Cartwright said. “I didn’t think it was a joke, but I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
Cartwright, who tied her then-career high score on bars at NCAA Regionals last season, will be an alternate for the all-around and will compete on beam.
She set a career high of 9.80 on beam against Michigan and finished the season with a 9.82 Regional Qualifying Score, or RQS, on the discipline.
She will join senior Taira Neal, and freshman Lisa Burt also will be at the competition, where she and the other qualifiers will be bolstered with moral support from their teammates.
“(They’re) being upbeat and having fun, and not just focusing on gymnastics,” Burt said of her teammates. “Bringing the aspect of even though they’re not coming, they’re excited for me, and it means a lot to me that they’re not too down about it around me.”
Burt will compete in the all-around after finishing the season with a 38.835 RQS.
After a season high score of 9.9 on bars at the Big Ten Championships last weekend, she said that performance can propel her into doing well on a bigger stage.
“There (were) four judges there judging the routine, and they all got the same score,” she said. “It just makes you realize it’s possible to get that anywhere.”
Cartwright finished with an all-around RQS of 38.590, and a season high of 39.125 last weekend.
“This kind of reminds me of club where you go for yourself and try to get a personal spot and try to go to nationals,” she said. “Just moral support and just keeping us positive and open minded.”
Head coach Kathie Klages was surprised and excited to learn that Cartwright and Burt got to the regional competition.
Klages said it will be a learning experience for them, but if they lay it all on the line, the sky is the limit.
“They are talented enough and have worked hard enough and are good enough gymnasts to get on through to the national championship,”she said. “It will be a difficult feat, there’s no doubt about that, but it is one in which if they just take the attitude of, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose,’ and go for it, hope for it, hopefully we’ll get a trip out to UCLA for the national championships.”