April 24, 2010

By Paul D. Bowker
Special to NCAA.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Louisiana State's Susan Jackson stood on the top podium Friday night, when she received recognition for having the highest all-around score in qualifying at the NCAA Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships.

Indeed, a shining moment for a gymnast who was named the Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Year and has 60 career titles.

She'll try to get to the top of that podium again Saturday night, when the individual finals are held at the University of Florida's Stephen C. O'Connell Center, beginning at 6 p.m. EDT.

"It's an awesome way to finish my senior year," Jackson said. "I'm really excited to go."

Jackson will compete in three events, but perhaps the biggest will be the vault because last year she finished runner-up in the vault national finals to former LSU teammate Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, who was a senior at the time. She won the vault in Thursday afternoon's semifinal session with a score of 9.95, and also won the bars (9.925) and tied for first place on the beam (9.9).

"It'll be so much fun," Jackson said. "You just go out there and do what you can do."

Jackson will be joined in the individual championships by LSU teammates Ashley Lee (vault) and Summer Hubbard (bars).

The only other gymnast qualified for three events in the finals is Arkansas' Casey Jo Magee, who'll compete in the floor exercise, balance beam and bars. She finished runner-up to Jackson in the all-around points. Several are qualified in two events, including UCLA senior Anna Li, Stanford's Carly Janiga, and Marissa King and Ashanee Dickerson of Florida.

IN THE FAMILY: Rising from his seat in the second row, baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and wife Theresa were quick to applaud the Cardinal, and specifically competitor No. 608. Ashley Morgan, a Stanford freshman, is Morgan's daughter.

"It was nerve-wracking," Joe Morgan said, referring to Thursday's first round of competition when Stanford placed third in their semifinal session to advance to Friday's Super Six finals.

There was a time when Joe Morgan couldn't sit still in his seat and would nervously move to other parts of the arena while Ashley was performing, but that has changed now. Sort of.

"I was very nervous for a lot of years," he said.

Now, it's Ashley's mom who may be seen moving around during her performances.

"My wife can't watch," Joe said, as Theresa, sitting beside him, nodded in agreement with a smile. "She moves around a little bit."

Ashley Morgan broke into Stanford's regular lineup as a freshman, including averaging 9.83 in three events during her collegiate debut in front of 10,000 at the University of Georgia at a regular-season meet.

At Friday's Super Six Finals, Morgan scored a team-best 9.875 on the balance beam, had 9.850 in the floor exercise and 9.775 in the vault.

YOUNG GATORS: In three events during the team championships, Florida had three freshmen in the lineup for three different events.

Among them were Dickerson, from Jacksonville, Fla., produced the night's loudest roar from the crowd with her 9.95 performance on the floor. King, from England, followed Dickerson with a 9.775 on the floor and a 9.8 on the vault.

"The future of Florida gymnastics is very, very strong," Gators coach Rhonda Faehn said. "They just have to learn from this."

The Gators made it to the Super Six for the fifth consecutive year, but Friday night's fifth-place finish was their lowest finish in those five years.