April 19, 2014
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Alabama gymnastics team finished fourth at the NCAA Championships held here in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center with a score of 197.550.
For the fourth year in a row, Alabama was in the hunt for a national title going into the last rotation, but uncharacteristic problems on the balance beam on Saturday’s final rotation ended the Tide’s quest for its third NCAA title in four years.
“I really felt like this team, they have given it their all, all season,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “I’ve worked with a lot of women after 36 years, and this is one of the most amazing groups that I’ve worked.”
With this year’s finish, Alabama is the only team in the nation to finish in the top four each of the last six years.
“It’s difficult when you finish first, first, third and fourth in your career and you’re disappointed,” Patterson said. “But that’s the expectations that we have. This will take a little time to get over, but I told them it doesn’t take away from the people they are, what they’ve given to this University and my love for them.”
The Crimson Tide was led by senior Sarah DeMeo who closed out her last Super Six with a career-best 39.650 in the all-around.
“I’m so proud to be on this team,” DeMeo said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind team. You never know what’s going to happen at a national championship meet. I mean, look, we have co-champions - OU and Florida. That’s amazing. Each year it gets closer and closer, down to the last routine, and that’s what makes it exciting.”
DeMeo and her fellow seniors leave Alabama with two NCAA Championships, four top-four national finishes, two SEC Championships and four NCAA Regional titles.
“I’m just so proud to represent Alabama and our legacy,” DeMeo said.
Oklahoma and Florida posted the first tie in NCAA Gymnastics Championship history and are co-champions for 2014, while LSU was third with a 197.600. Georgia and Nebraska rounded out the proceedings, taking fifth and sixth place, respectively.
“Hats off to Oklahoma and to Florida for being co-champions,” Patterson said. “This was by far the most difficult and the hardest NCAA Championship that we’ve ever been in but I have to give our kids credit because they fought right to the end.”
Alabama started the meet with a 49.675 on the floor exercise, behind four 9.95s in a row from DeMeo, sophomore Lauren Beers and seniors Kim Jacob and Diandra Milliner. It was the Tide’s highest floor score ever at the national championships.
The Tide posted a 49.475 on the vault paced by junior Kaitlyn Clark’s 9.925 and 9.9s from freshman Katie Bailey and sophomore Lauren Beers. Alabama went 49.550 on the uneven bars after DeMeo, Jacob and Clark all scored 9.95s.
Alabama closed out the night with a 48.850 on the balance beam, led by 9.9s from DeMeo and freshmen Katie Bailey and Aja Sims.
On Sunday, DeMeo, Milliner, Beers and Jacob will compete for individual national championships. Event finals get underway at 2 p.m. at the BJCC.