"Needless to say, our ladies were under a lot of pressure to advance to the national championships, nobody wants to host a part and not be invited," head coach Sarah Patterson said. "I'm thrilled to be returning home and I couldn't be prouder of how this team has rebounded from the disappointment of losing the SEC Championships by one tenth of a point."
Alabama scored a season-best 197.900 to win their fifth regional title in a row and 18th overall. Minnesota was second with a 196.050 to also gain a berth at the NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Jeana Rice won her second NCAA Regional All-Around title while she and freshman Alexis Brion tied for top honors on the vault with a 9.9. Senior Andree' Pickens won the uneven bars with a 9.975 and the floor exercise with a 9.950.
And on the balance beam, well this is how good Alabama was on that, its last event. In collegiate gymnastics you put up six routines and throw out the lowest score. On the balance beam with a berth the NCAA Championships within easy reach, the Tide threw out a 9.9, counting five 9.95s, setting a new school record of 49.725. The Tide finished nearly a point better on the balance beam than anyone else in the gym. Senior Raegan Tomasek led the Tide off with a 9.95, freshman Shannon Hrozek posted a 9.9 and then senior Alexa Martinez, Rice, junior Kristin Sterner and senior Andree' Pickens all scored 9.95s.
"To sweep the top six places on balance beam ... that was like a balance beam clinic," Patterson said. "We need to bottle that performance and duplicate it on the first night of the NCAA Championships."
Alabama won a pair of regional awards with Pickens picking up her fourth NCAA Central Region Gymnast of the Year award while associate athletics director Marie Robbins, the chairperson of the NCAA Gymnastics Committee, was named NCAA Central Region Administrator of the Year.
Alabama broke the meet open during rotation five, on the uneven bars. Rice posted a 9.9 to open the set. Hrozek must have that was a pretty good number because she came up next and scored a 9.9 of her own. To finish off the set, senior Natalie Barrington scored a season best 9.95 while Pickens added in a meet best 9.975, leading the Tide to a season best 49.575. It was the Tide's third best uneven bars total ever.
After sitting a bye for the first rotation, Alabama scored a meet best 49.450 on the floor exercise behind the sure and dynamic tumbling of Pickens, 9.95, and freshman Alexis Brion, 9.925. Sophomore Stephanie Kite got the Tide off to a solid start with a 9.85 while Rice chipped in a 9.875 in the second spot. Rotation three saw Rice and Brion come right back on the vault and throw a 9.9 each to pace the Tide to a 49.150 score.
Tickets for the 2002 NCAA Championships are on sale through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) or online through www.rolltide.com.