(KTXL) — A trio of UC Davis gymnasts are headed to NCAA regionals extending the program’s streak to 11 straight competition appearances with at least two representatives since 2010.
“Getting to the NCAA Regional is extremely difficult. You have to qualify nationally. A very small percentage of athletes qualify,” explained Aggie head coach John Lavalee.
Each year, 36 programs qualify at the team level for NCAA regionals. In addition to those teams, 12 all-around gymnasts and 16 floor, uneven bars, vault, and beam specialists are selected to compete as individuals.
Senior Kyla Kessler is the lone Aggie in the all-around competition. Two more will go as specialists.
“To have the season that I did is overwhelming, I am blessed for that. And I think to go to regionals is a good finish. And, yeah, I think it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like everything this senior season has been,” Kessler told FOX40.
Kessler was the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference Player of the Year. She has never made it through a whole season in her collegiate career and now will extend her final year.
“My freshman season ended with an MCL tear. My sophomore season ended with an ACL tear, so and then nothing my junior or senior year so then having, being able to do gymnastics at all means the world to me,” Kessler said.
The senior all-rounder will compete alongside her two freshman teammates, vault specialist Keanna Abraham and floor specialist Megan Ray, at the Seattle regional.
Since they’re all individual competitors, the trio will be split up and go through event rotations with top-ranked programs including No. 4 Utah, No. 12 Michigan State, and No. 19 Illinois.
“Honestly, like I said, I didn’t know of regionals until, you know, some people brought it up and I was like, ‘Wow, this part of the country, this is like the best in the country. So wow, I’m very proud of myself,” Abraham said.
“I’m actually just really excited. I never thought I was going to be able to do that. I didn’t come in as a freshman thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m going to go to regionals.’ I was just like, ‘No, I’m going to do my best, maybe make lineups here and there,’ and I just never thought it was going to get to this level so I’m just so excited to be here,” Ray said.
NCAA regionals open up this week, so for those who haven’t had a chance to see this team in action, Wednesday is their chance.
“Being able to have me, Kyla and Keanna represent is going to be such an amazing opportunity to show how good we are, and how great we are getting,” Ray said.