San Jose State women's gymnastics team lands spot in NCAA regional tournament

While the country and region are keeping their collective eyes on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, there is another tournament in the Bay Area that will soon take center stage.

This contest allows a local college gymnastics program to compete with the titans of the sport.

At San Jose State University on Tuesday morning, the women’s gymnastics team went through its paces. The young women practiced their carefully choreographed movements to help them hone their skills ahead of the competition.

"This year I’m really excited to be able to have the team go. And with us being local, a lot of our family and friends are traveling up to Cal to watch us," said senior Jaudai Lopes.

Her love of gymnastics started at the age of five when she began doing cartwheels. Now, she and fellow Spartan Lauren Macpherson lead a 17-member squad to the University of California, Berkeley, to compete in the upcoming NCAA regional tournament.

It’s the culmination of a long road that, for some athletes, began with disruptions due to the COVID pandemic.

"It was really hard because we couldn’t practice as a team. And like, and feel like we were on a team really," said Macpherson.

The next hurdle for the team was a change in conferences and opponents.

Spartan gymnasts had competed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation since 2014, but last year, the school switched to the Mountain West Conference. A conference with bigger schools and better competition. It’s a challenge embraced by the squad’s head coach.

"We do better – like if you have to compete against better competition, that helps you raise your game. And I’m a true believer that you’ve got to see what’s out there, and you’ve got to compete against those programs," said Joanne Bowers.

Now in her sixth year, Bowers turned around the program at the University of Washington before moving south to the Bay Area and has since done the same for San Jose State.

The Spartans team missed last year’s regional tournament by a quarter point. Bowers said her athletes used that as motivation the entire year.

"They all came back and said, ‘We can be there. All we need to do is land a little sharper.’ But they all started believing," she said.

The team’s collective power of belief hits the mat against Southern Utah State on Thursday.

Reaching this competition has coincided with a transformation for some, who’ve grown personally and athletically, as they embrace the Spartan motto, of "Powering Silicon Valley," to new heights.

"My confidence level has definitely grown from then, and my gymnastics as a whole has evolved too," said Lopes. Added Macpherson, "[I] just like showing people what we can do, and that we belong in regionals."

The NCAA Regional Gymnastics Tournament takes place Apr. 4,5,7 at Hass Pavilion at UC Berkeley.

Jesse Gary is a news and sports reporter, and sports anchor, based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.