Gymnasts Lauded For Winning Hearts

'You Gotta Have Heart,' goes the old song. Alabama gymnastics had it three-fold in 2011. The Crimson Tide is being lauded for its fifth national championship, but it was also a year Bama won the Southeastern Conference title and the NCAA Regional Championships.

The Alabama gymnastics team celebrated that 2011 championship "triple crown" Thursday night with its annual awards banquet hosted by The Medalist Club, the program's booster organization. And it was about more than just talent.

The Crimson Tide won its fifth NCAA Championship, seventh Southeastern Conference crown and 26th NCAA Regional title in 2011, marking just the second time in school history that Alabama has won all three postseason championships in the same year, with the other single-season trio of wins coming in 1988.

"When we were asked afterwards about talent, and winning the championship, I have to give credit to Kayla Hoffman, because she said it best during the interview with CBS after the we'd won," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said at the end of the evening. "She looked up, and with that smile on her face she told them ‘Sometimes it's not about talent, it's about heart.' Ladies, let me tell you, you have the heart of a champion and this experience will be one that will be near and dear to your heart and mine for a lifetime."

The banquet was held at "The Zone" located in North End Zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium with more than 250 in attendance, including UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore.

Senior Kayla Hoffman and junior Geralen Stack-Eaton were voted the Tide's permanent captains by their teammates. Hoffman, the NCAA Central Region of the Year, SEC Gymnast of the Year and SEC Gymnastics Scholar-Athletes of the Year, was the NCAA Championship runner-up in the all-around and balance beam and a three-time All-American, pushing her career total to five. One of four finalists for the Honda Award, given to the nation's top gymnast, Hoffman clinched Alabama's SEC title by winning the vault. She won four of five titles to help Alabama to the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional title and clinched Alabama's national championship with a 9.95 on the floor exercise in the NCAA Super Six Team Finals.

Stack-Eaton won the NCAA Floor Exercise Championship, bumping Alabama's individual national championship total to 22, and earned four All-American honors, giving her eight for her career. She also won the balance beam and floor exercise at the SEC Championships and the balance beam at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. At the NCAA Championships she was third in the all-around in addition to winning the floor exercise title.

Freshman Kim Jacob, who went all-around on both nights of team competition at the NCAA Championships after going only twice during the regular season, earned a pair of All-American honors, including first-team honors in the all-around. She was also honored with the Lewis Each Courage Award which she accepted from Jean and Winston Each.

The Tide's four other 2011 All-Americans were also recognized. Sophomores Ashley Sledge and Marissa Gutierrez both earned All-American honors on the vault while freshmen Sarah DeMeo and Diandra Milliner earned the honor on the uneven bars and balance beam respectively.

David Patterson, in his 33rd year coaching the Crimson Tide, was honored with the David Dutton Memorial Award, given to those who go above and beyond in the service of the Alabama Gymnastics program. Alyssa Chapman, the Tide's first ever fifth-year senior, was presented with the Tide's David DeSantis Community Service Award during the banquet while junior Rachel Terry was honored for earning the second-annual NCAA Elite 88 Award, given annually to the student-athlete at each of the NCAA's 88 national championships, who carries the highest career grade point average. Alabama also won the award last year, when 2010 senior Kassi Price earned inaugural honor.

Morgan Dennis, a 2010 senior and the 2007 NCAA Floor Exercise Champion, was presented with a Medalist Club Postgraduate Scholarship during the banquet.

The President's Award went to Medalist Club board member Dolores Burroughs. Both outgoing Medalist Club President Jim Slayton and incoming president Lance Hocutt spoke of the Tide's season of excellence.

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