NIU gymnastics: Amanda Stepp back at regionals

NIU gymnastics: Amanda Stepp back at regionals

By Steve Shonder

Gymnastics senior Amanda Stepp is headed back to the NCAA Regionals for one final shot at closing her career at the top.

Stepp will compete as an individual event specialist on vault and will rotate with the North Carolina State Wolfpack. The meet will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday in Norman, Okla. This will be Stepp’s second-straight appearance at the NCAA Regionals. In 2014, Stepp was selected to compete on floor. She finished in eighth overall with a score of 9.775.

Stepp will have to place first on vault to advance beyond the regional to the national championship. The biggest concern for her will be sticking the landing. In the last few meets, Stepp has excelled at that, head coach Sam Morreale said, but she’s focused on getting the routine down perfectly.

“I really just want to hit a good vault,” Stepp said. “I’ve been working a lot on landings. I’m just hoping to hit a vault with a clean landing.”

Advancing past regionals is an uphill battle for individual event specialists as they’re competing against 36 gymnasts, but Stepp has an ace up her sleeve that can even those odds.

“The great thing for Amanda is she has a different vault than what they’re probably going to see,” Morreale said. “She’s got a totally different style, so it works in her favor where judges don’t see it often and it’s hard to compare to other vaults. If she does a really good one, it definitely works in her favor.”

As the lone NIU representative, Stepp has been preparing solo, and she’s making sure to keep her practices as normal as possible even though she’s just competing on vault.

“I’ve been doing more on vault,” Stepp said. “I’m still doing strength and all the stuff I normally do. I’m just trying to keep it as normal as possible. It’s a lot different. It takes a lot of internal motivation. There’s a lot less energy. It’s a lot quieter.”

Stepp’s experience at regionals should play into her advantage since she’ll know what to expect when she arrives.

“With it being her second year, I think she can go and be a little more comfortable than she maybe was last year,” Morreale said. “I want her to go and have fun and hit and let the chips fall where they will. If she can do what she’s been doing the last few weeks, she’s going to be sitting pretty. Hopefully, she won’t put that pressure on herself.”