Alabama Gymnasts Win SEC Crown

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Alabama gymnastics team, beset by injuries throughout the season and relying on freshmen more than any other top-ranked squad, was a surprise winner of the Southeastern Conference championship. The Bama squad of Coach Sarah Patterson had its second highest score of the year and won by nearly four-tenths of a point--a substantial margin.

At the end of last year's SEC Championship meet, the outcome was so close, with three teams within .025 of each other, that it took more than 30 minutes before a victor could finally be announced. This year Alabama left no doubt. After finishing second by the smallest margin possible in 2008, the Crimson Tide took the championship with a performance that produced 197.300 points.

It was the sixth SEC championship for Alabama under Patterson.

"I'm just so proud for our ladies," Patterson said. "At the end, we just talked about our motto, ‘Finish strong'. I'm almost speechless. We weren't perfect. We had some mistakes. But it was total team work--five scores on each event."

The Crimson Tide was led by junior Morgan Dennis, who won the floor exercise to cap Alabama's championship run as well as the vault to start the evening off. She finished second in the all-around with a 39.525.

In the team race, Georgia was second with a 196.925, followed by Florida 196.750, LSU 196.550, Auburn 196.350, Arkansas 195.650 and Kentucky 195.000.

"I just think more than anything, when things go perfect it's a little easier, but sometimes, there is a little more gratification when you have to work hard," Patterson said.

Alabama started off hot, tying it season high on the vault with a 49.450 and finished off the same way with a season-high floor exercise score of 49.475 led by Dennis' 9.95. Senior Ashley O'Neal led off on the floor exercise with a 9.85, matching her season-high, followed by a career-high 9.875 from freshman Caitlin Sullivan, a 9.9 from freshman Geralen Stack-Eaton, a 9.85 from junior Ricki Lebegern and a 9.9 from freshman Ashley Priess.

Alabama tied its season high on the vault with a 49..450 to start the meet off. The Tide was led on the vault by Dennis' 9.95. Sophomore Kayla Hoffman and Priess both scored 9.9s while Stack-Eaton, freshman Rachel Terry and Lebegern all added 9.85s.

The Tide kept things hopping after that, scoring a season-high 49.35 on the uneven bars, led by a 9.925 from Hoffman and 9.875s from Terry and Stack-Eaton. All three scores were career highs.

Alabama then turned in the highest balance beam total of the championship with a 49.025 led by 9.85s from Sullivan and Lebegern. Junior Casey Overton led the Tide off with a 9.8, a score matched by Dennis.

Alabama returns to action in two weeks when they host the NCAA North Central Regional on April 4. Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in Coleman Coliseum.

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