Willette nabs NCAA Regional Championship bid

Anna Willette competes on uneven bars during the MAC Conference Championships at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center in Ypsilanti on Saturday, on March 22, 2014.

The motivation of doing well drove Eastern Michigan University Anna Willette gymnast to succeed in every meet this season.

Her hard work paid off as she qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Regional Championships, the organization announced in its gymnastics championship release Monday, March 24.

“I had been ranked up high in the MAC for a few weeks now, so I knew it was coming and had to do well each week,” Willette said in a phone interview Tuesday. “When my assistant coach Andrea Price told me, it was icing on the cake and it was awesome. I can’t wait to go down to Baton Rouge.”

Willette will compete on the balance beam in the Baton Rouge, La. Regional, taking place at the Maravich Center on the campus of the Louisiana State University, April 5, at 4 p.m.

One week after becoming the first Eagle to earn All-Mid-American Conference First Team accolades since the All-MAC teams began in 2013, Willette qualified on beam with a regional qualifying score of 9.795.

“It is such an honor because it was a culmination of all of my hard work paying off,” Willette said. “Last year, I made the second team and it was exciting, but making the first team this year is even better.”

Last season, Willette was the alternate on beam but did not end up competing in regionals.

Beam has been Willette’s best apparatus this season, but she has led the Eagles in three of the four events by completing 24 of her 30 routines at 9.700 or higher.

Along with her impressive scores all season long, four of those scores led to individual titles with two on vault and two on beam. Also, four of her 10 beam routines were scored 9.800 or better.

Willette earned a career-high 9.850 on beam to finish third at the Eagle Invitational, March 8, a quad meet hosted at EMU.

She ranks fifth in the conference on beam with an average score of 9.767. As EMU hosted the 2014 MAC Gymnastics Championships on March 22 at the Convocation Center, Willette finished with a 9.700 on beam to finish in a tie for 11th out of 42 competitors.

Willette is the second Eagle to qualify for the NCAA Regionals, as an individual, in as many seasons.

Last year, then-freshman Khadijah Hudson earned a spot at the regional competition in the floor exercise.

If Willette qualifies out of the regionals, she will move on to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.

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