Tide Wins NCAA Regional

Early this week, Alabama's All-American junior Terin Humphrey couldn't raise her arm above her head. Tonight, with a trip to the NCAA Championships on the line, she went in the all-around and helped Alabama to its 25th consecutive national championship berth.

Alabama scored a 196.700 to win its 22nd NCAA Regional title. There was a tie between Oklahoma University and Iowa State, which both scored 195.925. In collegiate gymnastics the top five of the six scores on each apparatus counts in the team's total. The NCAA tiebreaker is to add back in the sixth score on each event. Oklahoma edged out Iowa State to advance.

Michigan State finished fourth with a 194.800, followed by Ohio State in fifth place with a 194.650, and Kentucky in sixth place with a 194.025.

Alabama knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they would advance after the fifth rotation, and for the first time in more the 24 hours, Alabama coaches Sarah and David Patterson, along with assistant coach Bryan Raschilla, could afford a small sigh of relief.

"We really have no depth," Sarah Patterson said in the post meet press conference. "We have struggled all season. We lost two athletes who competed in the SEC Championships and had to shuffle our lineup around, putting in people who haven't competed. We worked as a group to make sure we made it to Salt Lake City for the national championships. As a coach, I am very proud of what they accomplished."

Humphrey making it back in time to take her place in the Tide's lineup was clutch after freshman standout Kassi Price tweaked her knee during yesterday's practice day. The Tide had struggled with depth all season and things only got harder when sophomore mainstay Ashley O'Neal had to cut back from three events to one before the Southeastern Conference Championships due to a flare up of an on-going knee problem.

But when the opportunity presented itself, several gymnasts stepped up to the challenge, especially Humphrey and sophomore Amanda Montgomery who subbed in on two events, uneven bars and balance beam.

Alabama went right to work, opening the night on the uneven bars where Humphrey nailed a 9.9 routine to anchor a 49.150 team effort. Junior Kaitlin White led the Tide off with a 9.775 followed by a 9.7 from Montgomery in her first routine in the Tide's lineup this season. Lebegern and Dennis both hit for 9.8s while sophomore Cassie Martin set Humphrey up with a 9.875.

Humphrey and Lebegern scored matching 9.85s on the balance beam, pushing the Tide to a 49.075 team score. Freshman Casey Overton started the Tide off with a 9.8, a score Dennis matched from the fourth spot in the lineup. Montgomery added a 9.775 to the Tide's total.

At the half way point, Alabama boasted a score of 98.225, putting them a tenth ahead of Oklahoma and a quarter of a point ahead of Iowa State.

White and senior Erin Rightley opened up the Tide's floor exercise with matching 9.85s which Dennis matched in the anchor spot. Lebegern scored a 9.875 and Humphrey powered through for a 9.9, leading Alabama to a 49.325. The floor exercise also saw another season first for the Tide with Magee hitting the floor for the first time in 2007, posting a 9.75.

Alabama closed the door on the rest of the field with a 49.150 vault performance led by a meet-best 9.95 by Dennis in the anchor position. Humphrey kicked in a 9.825 in the fourth spot, followed a 9.850 by Lebegern in the fifth spot. White scored a 9.8 in the third spot and Magee and Overton got the Tide started with matching 9.725s.

This will mark Alabama's 25th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships, the second longest streak in the nation behind Utah, who is line for their 26th consecutive berth. It will be the Tide's sixth trip to Salt Lake City for the NCAA Championships and first since 1999 when Alabama, led by freshman Andree' Pickens, finished third.

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