Alabama Gymnasts Third At NCAA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Alabama gymnastics team finished third at the NCAA Championships, just a fraction of a point out of second place, with a score of 197.225 here in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Friday night.

Five Alabama gymnasts will compete in Saturday's NCAA Individual Event Finals which get underway at 6 p.m. EDT.

Morgan Dennis, the 2007 NCAA floor exercise champion, will compete on the vault and floor exercise. Kayla Hoffman and Kassi Price will compete on the uneven bars while Ashley Priess is slated to compete on the balance beam. Geralen Stack-Eaton, who finished fourth in the all-around, will compete in the vault and balance beam.

UCLA won its sixth team title with a 197.725 followed by Oklahoma in second at 197.250. Stanford was fourth at 197.100, host-school Florida took fifth with a 197.000 and Utah was sixth at 196.225.

The Crimson Tide got off to a shaky start on the floor exercise, scoring a 49.100 after having to count a pair of one-tenth out-of-bounds deductions. Senior Morgan Dennis led UA with a 9.925 in the anchor spot. Alabama rebounded strong on its next event, scoring a 49.400 on the vault, once against led by a 9.925 from Dennis. Sophomore Geralen Stack-Eaton and junior Kayla Hoffman both added 9.9s to the Tide's vault total.

Alabama was back on track, but the night's drama was far from over. Sophomore Ashley Priess crunched her ankle landing her vault, forcing a lineup change in the Tide's next event, the uneven bars lineup where Priess has anchored the Tide for two years.

"I knew that Ashley would not be able to land her uneven bars dismount evenly on both legs and to leave her in the lineup would risk further injury," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said.

  Patterson read out the new lineup and her team responded with the highest uneven bars total of the night, a 49.425, led by a 9.925 from junior Kayla Hoffman and 9.9s from senior Kassi Price and freshman Ashley Sledge.

  "I knew we had great depth on the uneven bars," Patterson said. "Freshman Ashley Sledge struggled during the course of the season, but I felt like she was ready and I knew that Morgan Dennis would not miss. For us to come through and to show that teamwork, I think it propelled us back on to the podium."

  Alabama finished things off with a 49.325 on the balance beam, its second highest score of the season and the second highest score on the night. Priess's ankle was such that she could manage the necessary push off and lower landings the beam requires and proceeded to rock her routine, posting a career-high tying 9.95, which was the highest score of the night on the beam. Dennis tied her career-high on the beam to add a 9.9 to UA's total.

  Alabama's furious comeback netted the Tide its 19th top-3 NCAA Championship finish. Alabama has also finished in the top six 26 times since first making the championships in 1983.

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