Gymnasts take opening victory

TUSCALOOSA, ALA -- Alabama Gymnastics started out 2004 one place better than it ended last season, winning the SUPER SIX Challenge on its home floor.

The Crimson Tide, NCAA Runner-up last year, won the season opening Super Six Challenge held here in Coleman Coliseum tonight with a 196.725, going nearly a point better than second place Florida's 195.950.

It was the best opening night score in school history. It also marks the third time in the five year history of the Challenge that Alabama has posted the top score.

Georgia finished third with a 195.550 while Oklahoma was fourth at 195.275. Oregon State was fifth at 193.775 while Denver brought up the rear at 193.600.

After posting solid scores on the uneven bars and balance beam, Alabama exploded on the floor exercise, posting a 49.6. Five of Alabama's six gymnasts posted 9.875 or better on floor led by a meet-best 9.95 by senior Jeana Rice and sophomore Ashley Miles. Senior Lauren Holdefer led the Tide off with a 9.875 while senior Stephanie Kite posted a 9.9 and junior Alexis Brion went 9.925. That mark tied for Alabama's fourth best floor score ever.

"We are so deep on the floor. Lauren (Holdefer), Stephanie (Kite), and Jenna (Rice) elevated themselves tonight. When the seniors step up, the rest of the team realizes that they won't give up their spots."

The Tide then finished things off on the vault, posting a 49.375 and clinching the win before the sixth and final rotation got underway. Rice led off with a meet-best 9.925 and Miles finished Alabama's night off with a matching score.

On the uneven bars, freshman Brittany Comeaux and Rice led the Tide to a 48.725 with a 9.875 and a 9.9 respectively. On the balance beam, Alabama scored a 49.025 led by a 9.875 from sophomore Mari Bayer. Alabama had two falls on the uneven bars, counting one in the final score and one on the balance beam.

"We learned a lot tonight," Sarah Patterson said. "The falls on bars were uncharacteristic, but this team won't quit. We kicked it in at the end. We gained more by the mistakes at the beginning than we would have if things had gone smoothly."

Alabama returns to action next Friday at 7 p.m. again Penn State again in Coleman Coliseum. Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of the coliseum.

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