Tigers Struggle At NCAA Gymnastics Championships

Lincoln, Neb.--Without one of its key competitors, Auburn struggled in its first trip to the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in 10 years and did not qualify for the finals.

The Tigers finished in last place of the 12 teams that qualified for nationals with a season-low score of 193.525 on Thursday night. Host Nebraska won the evening session that included Auburn. The Cornhuskers scored 197.325, the best total of either session. Utah finished second with 196.850 while Georgia was the third and final qualifier from the second session with a score of 196.625.

On Auburn's last trip to the NCAA meet in 1993, the Tigers qualified for the finals and finished fifth overall. "I am disappointed and happy at the same time," Auburn coach Jeff Thompson said. "Disappointed in the fact that we had missed opportunities to succeed and happy in the fact that we had three competitors, Olivia McDaniel, Kristin Thome and Robin O'Rear, who competed for the first time, under the pressure of a national championship, and hit all of their routines. I know this experience, although hard to swallow right now, will make us a stronger team next year."

Olivia McDaniel

McDaniel, Thome and O'Rear filled in for freshman Natica Johnson, who was a key performer for the Tigers on beam, bars and the floor at the NCAA Regionals. Other than in exhibition, it was the first college competition for McDaniel, who scored 9.800 on floor. Thome scored 9.6 on bars and beam. O'Rear scored 9.525 on floor. Johnson returned home to Mississippi prior to the competition following the loss of her 13-year-old sister, Naperia, who died of cancer.

Auburn's top performer was sophomore Courtney Puckett, who was named a second-team All-American for her seventh place finish on bars with a score of 9.850. She finished 14th as an all-arounder with a total of 38.950.

In the opening rotation on beam, Auburn scored a 48.425. In regionals, Auburn scored 49.125. Puckett's 9.85 was the top score followed by Cheryl Lancaster with a 9.825, Kayce Stein 9.775, Thome 9.6 and Mary Nell Pate 9.35.

On floor, Pate and Puckett let the way with scores of 9.85. Freshman McDaniel scored 9.8 in her first floor competition and sophomore O'Rear scored 9.525 in her first competition in the event. Kristi Boyte added a 9.75 for the Tigers. Stein, who normally competes on floor, was held out due to bone chips in in ankle. Auburn scored a 48.775 after going 49.150 in regionals.

Pate recorded a 9.8 to lead AU on vault where the Tigers scored 48.35, down from 49.100 in regionals. Boyte and Littrell scored 9.75, Danielle Holtz scored 9.675 and Puckett had a disappointing 9.4.

Auburn closed the season on bars and scored 48.000, down from 48.975 at the regionals. Puckett was the top scorer for the Tigers with a 9.850. Annie Jenkins and Stein scored 9.7, Thome a 9.6 and Cheryl Lancaster was the final scorer at 9.15.

Team Scores

Session Two

1. Nebraska 197.325

2. Utah 196.850

3. Georgia 196.625

4. Florida 196.325

5. Stanford 196.200

6. Auburn 193.525

Session One

1. UCLA 196.950

2. Alabama 196.775

3. Michigan 196.125

4. Arizona State 194.225

5. LSU 194.000

6. Iowa 193.825

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