TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The two-time defending national champion Alabama gymnastics team won its NCAA-best 28th NCAA Regional title to advance to the NCAA Championships for the 31st year in a row in front of a boisterous crowd of 7,758 in Coleman Coliseum Saturday night.
With the top two teams in each of the six regionals across the country advancing to the NCAA Championships, Alabama scored a 197.400 to win its ninth consecutive regional followed by Utah in second with a 196.400. Iowa State was third with a 195.400, while Denver (195.275), BYU 194.475 and Kent State (193.500) rounded out the team scoring.
“To me, this meet is the hardest of the year because there’s so much on the line,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “Now I think we can go to Los Angeles and compete the way we competed at the SEC Championships – where we were fearless and went for it all. Tonight was all about advancing.”
The Crimson Tide took the top-two spots in the all-around with fifth-year senior Ashley Priess posting a 39.6 for the top spot while junior Kim Jacob was second with a 39.475.
“Ashley had an amazing night and we all knew she could do it – we knew from the beginning of the season that she could do it,” Jacob said. “But this is the time we really need her. The coaches knew exactly when she was ready and it was the perfect time for her. I’m so proud of her, but we had no doubts that she had it in her.”
It was Priess’ first appearance in the all-around since the 2012 NCAA Championship Super Six Team Finals when she clinched the Tide’s second consecutive national title and sixth overall with a 9.95 on the balance beam.
“I was really happy with my timing and the fact that I’m peaking right here at the end of the season and I owe it all to the experience our coaches have,” Priess said.
Alabama started things off with a 49.350 on the vault paced by sophomore Kayla Williams’ winning 9.925 from the leadoff spot and Priess’ 9.9. After its first bye of the evening, the Tide moved to the uneven bars where it used a trio of 9.9s from junior Kim Jacob, sophomore Kaitlyn Clark and Priess, who all tied for first place, to score a 49.375.
Jacob tied her career-best on the balance beam, scoring a 9.95 to lead Alabama to a 49.200. During the beam rotation, the Tide rebounded from a fall in the second spot and a large wobble in the third position to close with a 9.85 from junior Sarah DeMeo, Jacob’s 9.95 and a 9.9 from Priess.
The Tide closed out the night with a string of 9.9 or better routines on the floor exercise, scoring a 49.475, led by junior Diandra Milliner’s winning 9.925 and 9.9s from freshman Lauren Beers, DeMeo and Priess.
The other teams slated to advance from the other regionals across the country are Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, LSU, UCLA, Michigan, Minnesota, Stanford, Utah, Arkansas and Illinois.
The 2013 NCAA Championships will be held in Los Angeles, Calif., on UCLA’s campus. With Alabama and Utah both advancing to the NCAA Championships, the two longest active streaks in the history of collegiate gymnastics remain intact. Alabama has now qualified for the last 31 NCAA Championships in a row while Utah has qualified for all 32.
Courtesy: UA Media Relations