Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Tide takes third at nationals


On Friday night, the Alabama gymnastics team took third place in the NCAA National Championships with a score of 197.225 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.

“Our goal from the day we begin the season is to make sure that we want to be on the floor the last night with the chance to win a championship, and we were able to do that,” said head coach Sarah Patterson. “We advanced to the Super Six, and the competition was tremendous.”

UCLA won the overalls with a 197.725, followed by Oklahoma in second at 197.250. Stanford was fourth at 197.100, host-school Florida took fifth with a 197.000 and Utah was sixth at 196.225. In the Crimson Tide’s first event, they had to count two out-of-bounds on the floor, scoring a 49.100. The next event for Alabama was vault, where the team scored a 49.400.

Although vault helped the team catch up, the event also took sophomore Ashley Priess out of the tournament for the uneven bars. She landed on her ankle after her vault routine, and Patterson decided to take her out for the next event.

“She gave a tremendous performance on the balance beam,” Patterson said. “We really needed her on balance beam, and I certainly wasn’t going to risk injury to her with something that was going to be a devastating injury by having her compete on the uneven bars.”

For the uneven bars, freshman Ashley Sledge joined the lineup. Though Priess was out, the Tide still scored the highest uneven bars score of the night with a 49.425.

On the balance beam, Alabama’s last event, the team earned its second highest score of the season and the second highest score of the night with a 49.325.

Priess was back in the rotation for the balance beam, and she tied her career-high score of 9.95. Senior Morgan Dennis also tied her career high, adding a 9.9 to the team’s total.

“I feel like in the last night we had a couple of out-of-bounds mistakes on our opening event, and then the ladies settled in and did three incredible events,” Patterson said. “I think our best performance on that night would’ve probably been good enough for second place.”

This year gave Alabama its 19th top-three NCAA Championship finish. Alabama has also finished in the top six 26 times since 1983.

Though Patterson said the team was a little disappointed with the results, that wasn’t the hardest part of the NCAA finals being over.

“For them, the biggest part of this is that they are truly a very close team,” Patterson said, “and I think the fact that [it] was the last night as a team together, I think that was probably the hardest thing.”

On Saturday, the NCAA Individual Event Finals took place. Alabama had four gymnasts place in the individuals, each earning a top-eight finish.

Dennis finished fifth on the floor exercise, while sophomore Geralen Stack-Eaton, who finished fourth in the all-around competition on Thursday, finished sixth on balance beam and 14th on vault. Senior Kassi Price and junior Kayla Hoffman tied for eighth on the uneven bars.

Priess competed in the individuals but didn’t place after missing her mount on vault.

Earlier on Saturday, Dennis, Hoffman, senior Ricki Lebegern, Price, Priess and Stack-Eaton were honored as All-Americans during the NCAA Championship Awards Brunch.

Price was also recognized as the inaugural winner of the NCAA Elite 88 award, given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 88 championships.

On Friday during finals, the crowd in Gainesville totaled around 5,000. Patterson said she thought the University of Florida did a great job in hosting the finals, but she would have also loved to host the event in Tuscaloosa this year.

For the season, Patterson said she wanted to thank all the fans, especially the students from the University of Alabama for being so supportive of the program all season long.

“[The students] were amazing in terms of how they came out in the thousands for our competition,” she said. “I know it meant a lot to me as a coach, and it definitely meant a tremendous amount to our athletes.”

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