Using a 196.775, Alabama finished second in the first of two sessions today, advancing to the Super Six Team finals which will pit six teams against each other for the 2003 NCAA title.
"Tonight was the hardest part," head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We won't hold anything back tomorrow. We'll put the best kids in that can score the highest in the event."
Also advancing are UCLA, 196.950, and Michigan, 196.126. Arizona State, ranked third coming into the championships, finished fourth with a 194.225 and did not advance. LSU, 194, and Iowa, 193.825, finished fifth and sixth respectively.
The remaining three teams for Friday's session came from Thursday's evening session. Georgia, Nebraska, Utah, Florida, Auburn and Stanford all vied for a Super Six bid. Nebraska (197.325), Utah (196.850) and Georgia (196.625) all advanced and will compete tonight. Florida (196.325), Stanford (196.200) and Auburn (193.525) finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the evening session.
Based on Thursday's scores, Alabama turned in the fourth-best team score of the squads comprising the Super Six. However, all teams start over. Only Friday's scores will count toward the national championship.
Alabama used a strong vault and balance beam total to advance. Freshman Ashley Miles scored an NCAA record 10.0 on the vault to lead the Crimson Tide to a 49.375 team score, just behind UCLA's 49.4. Alabama posted a session-best 49.2 behind 9.9 efforts from junior Jeana Rice and senior Kristin Sterner.
Alabama was the only team in the first session to score a 49-plus on all four events.
Alabama will start the night on the second bye and finish on the balance beam, the same rotation that the Crimson Tide won the 2002 NCAA Championship with.
Tonight's Championship Rotation
VAULT BYE 1 BARS BEAM BYE 2 FLOOR Rot. 1 UCLA Nebraska Utah Michigan Alabama Georgia Rot. 2 Georgia UCLA Nebraska Utah Michigan Alabama Rot. 3 Alabama Georgia UCLA Nebraska Utah Michigan Rot. 4 Michigan Alabama Georgia UCLA Nebraska Utah Rot. 5 Utah Michigan Alabama Georgia UCLA Nebraska Rot. 6 Utah Michigan Alabama Georgia UCLA
In the history of NCAA Women's Gymnastics, only four squads have won the national title. Along with the Tide, UCLA, Utah and Georgia have dominated the sport. Homestanding Nebraska and Michigan hope to break that string tonight. The Cornhuskers posted the highest team score during Thursday's two sessions.
Vying for its second straight title, Alabama won the championship last year on its home floor. Earlier in the season the Tide edged Georgia for the 2003 SEC title.
The Super Six competition begins at 7 p.m.