March 29, 2008
DULUTH, Ga. -
The Alabama Gymnastics team tied for second at the Southeastern Conference Championships held here at The Arena at Gwinnett Place in a meet that went down to the very end and was decided by the smallest margin in championship history.
"There was a range of emotions that went through my mind," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We took a team that was ranked sixth in the country and fourth in the SEC and came within .025 of winning this title. Our ladies are not about to back down. They are prepared to go regionals and then come back to Athens, Ga. and contend for a national title. I have said all along that you can be fourth at this meet and win a national championship."
Three teams finished within .025 of each other with Georgia winning with a 197.35 and Alabama and Florida sharing second with matching 197.325s.It was Alabama's 18th top-two finish.
"I told the ladies after we finished vaulting and I didn't know exactly how the scores would end up, but that was the kind of performance we had been looking for all season and that was the team that I wanted to coach," Patterson said. "They have given their all. At that point I didn't know whether we had won or lost, but I just wanted them to know how proud I was of them."
Sophomore Morgan Dennis was second in the all-around with a career-high 39.575. She and sophomore Ricki Lebegern shared top honors on the vault with a 9.95. Dennis, Lebegern and sophomore Casey Overton tied for top honors on the balance beam with a 9.9. It was Lebegern's second beam title. Dennis also tied for the floor exercise title with a 9.95.
Alabama needed to score a 49.5 on the vault to pass the Lady Bulldogs who were sitting on a bye during the last rotation. The Tide finished off with 9.95s from Lebegern and Dennis and a 9.925 from freshman Kayla Hoffman, but came up just short, scoring a 49.450. It was a career-best effort for Lebegern and the Tide's second highest team vault score of the season.
Alabama posted the day's top score on the vault, balance beam, 49.35, and floor exercise, 49.4. Alabama started the championship off on the uneven bars with a 49.125. On the balance beam, Overton and Dennis posted career-best scores of 9.9s while Lebegern's 9.9 was a season best. The Tide's total was a season best mark on the beam.
Alabama's team total was its best of the season and its best at the SEC Championships since 2004, the first time the meet was held in Duluth.
Alabama, and the rest of the country will now wait for the scores from this weekend to filter into the NCAA office and then regional assignments will be decided. Alabama will be seeded into one of six regionals across the country on Monday.
1. Georgia 197.350
2. Alabama 197.325
2. Florida 197.325
4. LSU 196.500
5. Auburn 196.100
6. Arkansas 194.650
7. Kentucky 194.025