Tide Gymnasts Take Regional

The Alabama Gymnastics team will have a chance to defend its 2002 NCAA Championship. The Crimson Tide earned its 21st consecutive bid to the NCAA Championships here tonight by winning its 19th NCAA Regional title, scoring a 197.550 at the Central Regional.

"The Regional is the hardest part of the year from a coaching standpoint because you are trying to advance," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "You never feel comfortable until it is over and it's never over until the last routine is in the books."

Alabama's total was well ahead of Auburn and Central Michigan's second place 196.350.

Since the top two teams from each regional advances from each of the six regions, a tie breaker was used to decide who was the second team to advance. Auburn won the tiebreaker and will go to its first NCAA Championship since 1993 when the Tigers finished fifth.

"Second seed Oklahoma was fourth with a 196.300, Michigan State was fifth at 194.650 and Kent State was sixth with a 193.950

Senior Kristin Sterner, in her last meet in Coleman Coliseum, won the all-around with a 39.625, just off her career best. Sterner also won the balance beam with a 9.95. Tide freshman Ashley Miles won the floor exercise with a 10 and the vault with a 9.95. Katie Teft of Central Michigan and Courtney Puckett of Auburn won the uneven bars with a 9.9.

The Tide got things started on the floor exercise, where freshman Ashley Miles put the exclamation point on a stellar series of routines, scoring a 10.0 to lead Alabama to 49.625 team mark, tying its season best floor exercise score tying its second highest score ever.

Miles' 10.0 on the floor exercise was the first perfect score for the Crimson Tide in NCAA Championship competition since the NCAA Individual Finals in 1996 when Kim Kelly posted a 10 to win the NCAA Floor Exercise title. Miles' mark is an NCAA record. It is Alabama's ninth perfect mark in either NCAA Regional or NCAA Championship competition.

Alabama, propelled by 9.9 from sophomore Alexis Brion and Kristin Sterner and a 9.95 from Miles, posted a 49.45 on the vault in the second event. It was Alabama's third highest vault total of the season.

Alabama struggled just a bit on the uneven bars, but still came away with a 48.950, led by freshman Dana Filetti's 9.85.

Alabama's 49.525 on the balance beam was its second highest of the season. It was keyed by a clutch 9.95 from Sterner and 9.9s from sophomore Michelle Reeser, freshman Rachael Delahoussaye and junior Jeana Rice

Delahoussaye's 9.9 on the balance beam, bettered her previous career best of 9.75 against LSU. Tonight's routine was Delahoussaye's third beam routine of the season and first since Feb. 14.

Alabama's final score of 197.550 is the third highest of the season. All three of the Tide's top scores this season have come with Auburn in the meet.

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