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    SEC Gymnastics Today: April 7

    Alabama Gymnastics Wins 27th NCAA Regional Championship; Advances to 30th Consecutive NCAA Final Site

    SEATTLE, Wash. – The No. 4 ranked Alabama gymnastics team made its first trip to the University of Washington campus and Alaska Airline Arena a successful one, winning the NCAA Seattle Regional Championship with a 197.025 and advancing to the NCAA Championship finals for the 30th consecutive year.

    “I think it’s pretty remarkable to be able to say that you’re going to the NCAA finals for the 30th year in a row,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “I’ve had a great coaching partner for the last 34 years in David (Patterson) and as the ladies pointed out, we’re going to our 30th NCAA Championship and a month later we’ll celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. To have had that kind of success with him over such a long period time is heartwarming.”
    In addition to winning the regional, Alabama posted the highest event score on all four apparatus.

    “It was a four-judge panel and they weren’t giving any scores away,” Patterson said. “This is a great score and I’m very pleased.”

    While the Crimson Tide earned its bid with relative ease, finishing nearly a point ahead of the field, the battle for second place was intense, with LSU and Washington within .025 of each other going into the final rotation. In the end, LSU made it an all-Southeastern Conference affair at the top of the standings, edging the hometown Huskies, 196.075-195.825.

    “We’re so excited that LSU is also advancing to the NCAA finals out of this regional,” Patterson said. “To have the two SEC teams that had to travel cross country to this regional make it back to Duluth says a lot about our conference. Five of the 12 teams that advanced to Duluth are from the SEC and I think that is amazing.”

    Alabama scored a 49.325 on the vault to finish things off, led by junior Marissa Gutierrez’s 9.9. On the floor exercise, the Tide’s third event, Gutierrez and senior Geralen Stack-Eaton scored 9.875s to win the event and push the Tide to a 49.125 team total. 

    The Tide started things off with a 49.350 on the uneven bars, led by 9.9s from junior Ashley Sledge and Stack-Eaton, which won the event. Alabama followed that up with a 49.225 on the balance beam where sophomore Sarah DeMeo won the event with a 9.9 of her own.

    “I really thought that everyone just stepped up,” Patterson said. “Our practice day wasn’t spectacular, but everybody made their adjustments and I think it was a total team effort on the evening. We didn’t have our usual crowd tonight because it was such a long way to travel, but I hope the Bama Nation was listening on the radio and following online because our ladies did this for them and our great University.”

    Stack-Eaton also won the all-around with a 39.4, followed by senior Ashley Priess in second place with a 39.350.

    During the award ceremony at the end of the meet, it was announced that Stack-Eaton had been voted the NCAA Central Region Gymnast of the Year, marking the second year in a row an Alabama gymnast has earned the honor, following 2011 senior Kayla Hoffman.

    “This is the most difficult night of the season,” Patterson said. “It’s all or nothing and there have been some great teams, championship teams like UCLA and Georgia, who haven’t advanced in recent years. Anything can happen and you have to be prepared and I think we were. You can never take it for granted and I can tell you right now, qualifying to the NCAA finals never gets old.”

    Alabama and LSU will join the 10 other top-two finishers from the other five other regional sites around the country at the NCAA Championship finals which will be held in Duluth, Ga. in the Arena at Gwinnett Place, site of last month’s Southeastern Conference Championships, April 20-22.

    Pisani Powers Arkansas Into NCAA Championship
    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –  Senior All-American Jaime Pisani won the all-around title and helped power Arkansas’s gymnastics team to a second-place finish in Saturday’s NCAA Regional for its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Championship.
    The top two teams from each of the six regionals advance to the NCAA Championship in Duluth, Ga., April 20-22. Arkansas, in its 10th season, earned a spot in a regional for the ninth time and its sixth trip to the national championship.
    No. 3 UCLA, the top seed in the region, won with a 197.225.
    No. 10 Arkansas, the No. 2 seed and hosting in Barnhill Arena, finished second with a 196.825, which is a school record for a regional. No. 15 Boise State had a 196.05, No. 19 Missouri a 195.45, No. 34 Maryland a 194.40 and No. 29 New Hampshire a 193.90.
    Pisani, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the all-around, led the way with a 39.625, setting a school for a regional. Pisani, the Southeastern Conference beam champion two weeks ago, also won beam with a 9.925, and finished second on floor with a 9.925 and bars with a 9.875, and was fourth on vault with a 9.90.
    “We were phenomenal tonight,” co-head coach Mark Cook said. “We competed better than we have all season and now is the time to do that.”
    In addition to Pisani’s performance, the Razorbacks good a boost by the return of sophomore All-American Katherine Grable, who missed the last three meets with an ankle injury, the return of junior All-American Kelci Lewis, who missed all or most of the three meets with an ankle injury. In addition, junior All-American Amy Borsellino finished sixth in the all-around with a 39.30. She had scores of 9.875 on vault for sixth, 9.80 on bars for 11th, 9.725 on beam and 9.90 on floor to tie for third. 
    “Having Katherine and Kelci back calmed us down and gave us some security,” Cook said. “They performed well and we were the team we were in the preseason. In every sport you can get in a zone and we were in the zone.”
    Arkansas had a bye in the first rotation and opened on floor, scoring a 49.225, which ties for the school’s second-best in an NCAA Regional.
    Sophomore Bailee Zumwalde led off with a 9.825, which ties for the third-best score of her career. Freshman Stephani Canizaro followed with a 9.75. Lewis had a 9.775. Borsellino followed with a career-high matching 9.90.
    Pisani, ranked No. 1 in the nation on the event, scored a 9.925. Grable scored a 9.80.
    The Razorbacks moved to vault for the second rotation and scored a 49.20.
    Lewis led off with a 9.80, followed by a 9.80 from Zumwalde. Sophomore Scarlett Williams posted a 9.825 and senior Mariah Howdeshell a 9.80. Borsellino and Pisani ended the rotation with team high scores of 9.875 and 9.90, respectively. Pisani’s 9.90 ties for the school record in a regional while Borsellino’s 9.875 ties for seventh-best.
    Arkansas’ team score of 49.20 is the third-best for a regional.
    Arkansas went into its second bye with a 98.425 team total. Through three rotations, Arkansas led the meet, followed by UCLA at 98.30, Maryland 97.725, Boise State 97.60, Missouri 97.40 and New Hampshire 96.575.
    After their second bye, the Razorbacks moved to bars where Borsellino led off with a 9.80. Canizaro followed by matching her season high of 9.825. Sophomore Shelby Salmon followed with a 9.85, Grable a 9.85, Pisani a 9.875 and Howdeshell a 9.825.
    Arkansas had a 49.225 as a team, its third-best in a regional.
    The Razorbacks closed the meet on beam.
    Williams opened with a 9.75 followed by a season-best 9.80 from freshman Sammy Kolbas. Salmon had a 9.80 and Borsellino a 9.725. Pisani and Grable closed it with a 9.925 and a 9.90, respectively.
    Arkansas had a 49.175 for its second-best score in a regional.
    “We started on floor and had great momentum,” Pisani said. “We had a lot of fire and will to win. We kept hitting routine after routine. It’s exciting to win the all-around, but I don’t even care. I’m just happy we’re going to the NCAA Championship for the fifth straight year.”

    No. 1 Florida Gymnastics Wins NCAA Regional

    RALEIGH, N.C.  – It’s on to the NCAA Championships for the No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team after claiming the Raleigh Regional meet title Saturday evening in front of 2,265 at the Reynolds Coliseum on North Carolina State’s campus. The NCAA Championships are set for April 20-22 at The Arena at Gwinnett Center<> in Duluth, Ga.

    This will be 30th national championships appearance for the Gators, missing only the 2000 meet in the 31-year history of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.

    The Gators posted a 197.325 Saturday to bring the program’s total number of regional wins to an even dozen. Ohio State was second at 196.225 to claim the other NCAA Championships’ berth, which will be the Buckeyes first national championship appearance since 1990. NC State was third at 195.975, followed by Penn State (195.65), North Carolina (194.025) and Kent State (193.575).

    At the Southeastern Conference Championships, the Gators won the title, but there were some areas that needed some polishing as the team continued in the championship portion of their season. Florida coach Rhonda Faehn liked that her team showed some improvements, but also acknowledged there are still some areas that will be focused on in the upcoming training sessions.

    “I think our main focus was just coming in here to compete aggressively and to correct the problems we had at SECs. I think we accomplished that,” Faehn said. “I’m happy with the results and the way the team carried themselves and performed and I’m happy that we have some things to work on when we get home.”

    Four of the meet’s top six all-arounders were Gators. Junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson used her season-best total of 39.65 to claim her third all-around title of 2012. It is also her second regional all-around win, as she used her collegiate-best total of 39.70 to take the NCAA North Central title in 2010.

    Sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson was second at 39.55, while junior All-American Marissa King was fourth at 39.325 and freshman Kytra Hunter took sixth at 39.25.

    At least a share of each of the four event titles went to a Gator. Dickerson shared the vault title with Johnson as each turned in collegiate-best marks of 9.95. It is the fifth time for each to post a 9.95 on vault. Hunter also turned in a 9.90 to tie for fourth on the event.

    Dickerson and Johnson again combined to share the uneven bars title, as they each posted a 9.90 on the event in Florida’s opening rotation. They shared the event title with NC State’s Rachel Fincham. The win pushes Johnson’s career total of bar titles to 12 while Dickerson earns her third of the season. Sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto shared fourth overall at 9.85.

    King anchored the Gators’ balance beam lineup with her winning mark of 9.925 – her sixth beam mark of 9.925 or higher in the last eight meets. It was her eighth beam win of 2012 and the 10th of her career. Dickerson was second at 9.90 while Johnson and junior Randy Stageberg were among a five-way tie for third at 9.85.

    Hunter used a 9.95 to pick up her seventh title of the season on the event. It was her fifth floor exercise mark of 9.95 or higher this season. Dickerson was second at 9.90, while Johnson was among a four-way tie for third at 9.85.

    Uneven bars was the starting event for the top-seeded team at each of the nation’s six regional sites. Faehn like the way the Gators opened competition on that event and carried that focus throughout the meet.

    “I’m really pleased. They did a great job starting out aggressively on bars. We were able to stick three of the landings and carry that energy and momentum to the beam,” she said. “Beam I thought was lights out. We had two wobbly routines but the other four were magnificent. So that helped keep the energy up.

    “We had a few little things on floor, like going out of bounds. We were happy to see some of the things improved upon from SECs. Alaina landed her last pass so much better. Marissa, even though she went out of bounds on her first pass, she corrected her second and third pass. Ashanée was just on fire tonight. She nailed her passes and hit the last one without even a lunge,” she said. “Vault was a wonderful way to finish. Tonight and probably SECs were our best vault sets of the season.”

    For Dickerson, she pointed to a key factor present tonight that seems to be a boost for this team’s performances.

    “We had a lot fun with each other,” Dickerson said. “I think that helped us perform to the best of our ability tonight.’

    Next up, the Gators await the NCAA’s announcement Monday of team assignments for the two April 20 NCAA semifinal sessions.

    The National Qualifying Score (NQS) determines the pairings for day one of the team competition at the NCAA Championships. The NQS is calculated by adding a team's regional qualifying score (RQS) and score from the regional meet. Teams are ranked 1 to 12 based on the NQS. Teams 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12 will be placed in one semifinal and teams 2, 3, 6, 7, 10 and 11 placed in the other.

    The top three from each of the semifinal sessions advance to the NCAA Super Six on April 21 where the national team champion will be determined.

    Kentucky Gymnastics Finishes Fifth in NCAA Champaign Regional

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – After an impressive performance on uneven bars, where it posted a team score of 48.95 behind a career-high tying score from junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo, the 24th-ranked University of Kentucky gymnastics team finished in fifth place out of six teams with a team score of 194.750 at the NCAA Regional in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday.

    No. 2 Oklahoma won the regional competition with a team score of 197.025, while No. 11 Stanford finished second with a 196.675. Both Oklahoma and Stanford will now advance to the NCAA Championships in Duluth, Ga. Host No. 22 Illinois finished third behind a 195.725, followed by No. 14 Denver at 194.875. UK defeated Illinois-Chicago in the meet after the Flames scored a 194.150.

    The NCAA Regional appearance ends a historic first season for Kentucky under head coach Tim Garrison, who became the first coach in school history to lead a team to a 196 team score in his first season. The Wildcats had several other accomplishments throughout the season, including entering the NCAA Regionals with the second-highest Regional Qualifying score in school history. The Wildcats ended the regular season with three consecutive team scores of 195.875 or higher, which was the best three-meet stretch in school history.

    Individually, UK gymnasts posted an impressive total of 22 event titles during the 2012 season, including three all-around titles by sophomore Audrey Harrison. Four gymnasts posted strong scores of 9.85 or higher on vault during the season, while senior Storey Morris led Kentucky on uneven bars and balance beam with career-high marks of 9.9 and 9.85, respectively. Harrison and fellow sophomore Kayla Hartley paced UK on floor with each gymnast scoring 9.9s, while Harrison grabbed a career best 39.250 in the all-around competition.

    The Wildcats saved the best performance of the night for last, scoring a team score of 48.95 on uneven bars. Ciokajlo led the way for Kentucky with a career-high tying 9.875, which ranked her fifth overall at the meet. Freshman Sara Shipley and Morris each continued their consistency on the event with 9.8s. Senior Whitney Rose posted a season-high tying 9.775 on the event, while freshman Alexis Gross went 9.7 and Harrison earned a 9.65.

    Kentucky started the meet on balance beam, which has been one of the best events of the season for the Wildcats. UK was impressive on the event with hardly a wobble, earning a team score of 48.55. Morris led Kentucky on the event with a 9.825, which is just hundredths off her career-high mark. Sophomore Holly Cunningham and freshman Shannon Mitchell finished second on the team with 9.75s, while sophomore Kayla Sienkowski was third with a 9.625. Harrison grabbed a 9.6 on the event with Gross concluding the scoring with a 9.55.

    UK had a bye before it performed on floor exercise. The Wildcats earned a team score of 48.5 on the event. Harrison led the way for Kentucky with a 9.8, while Sienkowski and Gross followed closely behind with 9.725s. Hartley grabbed a 9.65 on the event followed by freshmen Shelby Hilton and Kenzie Hedges, who each posted 9.6s.

    The Wildcats continued to perform well on vault, posting a team score of 48.75. Morris and Cunningham led the way for Kentucky with a pair of 9.8s. The two were followed in scoring by Hedges, who earned a 9.75, while Shipley and Harrison each posted 9.7s. Gross completed the rotation with a 9.675.

    UK was one of 36 teams from around the country to earn a regional invitation, while Champaign, Ill., was one of six national sites to play host to a regional this season. This was Kentucky’s 24th appearance in a NCAA Regional and its eighth consecutive.

    No. 9 LSU Rallies to Advance to NCAA Championships

    SEATTLE – The ninth-ranked LSU gymnastics team used a gutsy 49.100 on beam in the final rotation to clinch a berth IN the NCAA Championships with a second-place 196.075 at the NCAA Seattle Regional Saturday in Alaska Airlines Arena.

    Alabama won the meet with a 197.025, and host Washington finished third with a 195.825. Arizona placed fourth with a 195.150, Iowa finished fifth at 194.600 and Central Michigan was sixth at 194.150.

    With the second-place finish, LSU (14-12) will make its 23rd appearance at the NCAA Championships held April 20-22 in the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Ga.

    “We fought for every tenth tonight,” LSU head coach D-D Breaux said. “I am so proud of this team because they worked so hard.”

    Heading into the final rotation, LSU held the slimmest of margins over No. 23 Washington for second place, 146.975-146.950. A spot at the NCAA Championships would be decided with LSU on beam and the Huskies on floor.

    Shelby Prunty suffered a fall in the leadoff spot on beam, scoring a 9.200, and the Tigers needed to hit five solid routines in order to stay ahead of Washington. LSU did just that, as Ericka Garcia earned a 9.775, Kaleigh Dickson posted a 9.80, Lloimincia Hall scored a 9.825, Rheagan Courville recorded a 9.875 and Jessie Jordan tallied a 9.825. LSU finished with a 49.100 on beam while Washington earned a 48.875 on floor to wrap up the meet.

    “Our kids stepped up when we needed them to perform, and they showed some real moxie,” Breaux said. “We are excited to get back to nationals, and these kids deserve to be there because they have done what we have asked them to do all season.”

    After opening the meet on a bye, LSU competed on floor in the second rotation and scored a 49.050. The Tigers counted a 9.85 from Maliah Mathis and 9.80 scores from Courville, Dickson, Hall and Jordan.

    LSU moved to vault where the Tigers posted a 49.000. Randi Lau scored a 9.80 to lead off, and Jessie Jordan followed with a 9.70. Mathis tallied a 9.825, Ashley Lee scored a 9.85 and Hall earned a 9.825. Courville could not find her landing as she fell, scoring a 9.325.

    Through three rotations LSU trailed Washington 98.275-98.050 for second place in the meet after the Huskies scored a 49.200 on vault and 49.075 on bars.
    LSU sat out the fourth rotation while Washington scored a 48.675 on beam. With the Huskies on a bye in the fifth rotation, LSU earned a 48.925 on bars to take a .025 lead. Courville led the way on bars with a 9.85, and Sarie Morrison was second for the Tigers with a 9.80. Mckenzie Fox and Lloimincia Hall both scored a 9.775, and Jessie Jordan provided a 9.725, setting up LSU’s fantastic finish on beam in the final rotation.

    LSU will officially find out Monday what seed the Tigers will be at nationals and whether LSU will compete in the afternoon or evening session.

    Gym Dogs Win Auburn Regional, Advance To NCAA Championships

    AUBURN, Ala. - The sixth-ranked Georgia gymnastics team used its highest road score in two years to win the NCAA Auburn Regional with a 197.100 Saturday at Auburn Arena, earning a spot in the 12-team NCAA Championships April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga.

    The Gym Dogs never trailed and won the 22nd NCAA regional title in program history to qualify for the national championships for the 28th time.

    Oregon State finished second with a 196.450 to also earned a place at the NCAA Championships, while Michigan placed third with a 196.325 ahead of Auburn (196.100), West Virginia (195.900) and Michigan State (194.050).

    “We’re excited,” said Georgia head coach Jay Clark. “We’ve experienced just about everything in the regional meets the last three years, so to have this kind of performance is very rewarding. We came in with a great mindset and had a great day in training yesterday. I’m vey proud of the overall performance. It was a performance we think we can improve on, and we know we’ll have to improve on if we want to win the national championship.”

    The Gym Dogs (17-5) posted the high team score on three events, and UGA also went 1-2 in the all-around as Kat Ding won her fifth title with a 39.500 and Noel Couch tied for second with a 39.425. Freshman Sarah Persinger also competed in the all-around for the second time this season and posted a 39.300.

    Georgia opened with a 49.3 on bars in the first rotation to tie for first along with Michigan’s 49.3 on vault. For the Gym Dogs, Gina Nuccio and Ding closed the rotation with a pair of 9.9s after two 9.85s by Shayla Worley and Chelsea Davis.

    The Gym Dogs then went to beam and posted a 49.1 behind a team-best 9.85 by Ding in the No. 3 spot. After two rotations, Georgia led the field with a 98.4.

    Georgia had its first bye in the third rotation while Michigan turned in a 49.05 on bars and Oregon State scored a 49.125 on vault. At the halfway point, UGA maintained a half-tenth lead over Michigan and a two-tenths lead over the Beavers.

    Georgia began to pull away with a 49.4 on floor in the fourth rotation for a 147.8 total. Couch had a team-high 9.925 in the anchor, and Chelsea Davis added a career-best 9.9.

    The Gym Dogs sealed the win with a 49.3 on vault in the fifth rotation as Ding and Couch led the team with a pair of 9.9s.

    The other 10 teams that advanced to the NCAA Championships on Saturday include Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Utah and Nebraska.

    Georgia will compete again in one of the semifinal sessions of the NCAA Championships on April 20. The first session is slated for noon ET at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, while the second session will begin at 6 p.m. The top three teams in each session will advance to the Super Six April 21 at 4 p.m., and the individual event finals will be held April 22 at 1 p.m.