March 28, 2010

Courtesy of Alabama

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Alabama Gymnastics team finished second at the Southeastern Conference Championships after posting a 196.875 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. Saturday.

The meet came down to the wire, with Florida winning the title with a 197.05 while Georgia finished third with a 196.825. LSU was fourth with a 195.750, Auburn was fifth at 195.575, Arkansas was sixth with a 195.275 and Kentucky took seventh with a 194.8.

"This is a great meet, and I think if we don't use it to make us better, then we've really lost," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We weren't perfect tonight, but I thought some of the comeback things we did were really great."

"We've won four national championships and only one of those came after winning an SEC Championship," Patterson said. "I want us to use this disappointment to make us better."

Patterson and Florida's Rhonda Faehn were co-SEC Coaches of the Year. It marks the fourth time Patterson has been voted the league's top coach and this honor came in a year when Alabama has been the nation's top ranked team for most of the season.

Sophomore Ashley Priess made her first SEC title a big one, taking top honors in the all-around with a 39.5. It marks Alabama's first all-around title since Jeana Rice won the title in 2004. Priess also won the balance beam with a 9.95 and was second on the floor exercise with a 9.9.

"I'm very proud of Ashley and the job she did tonight," Patterson said.

Senior Morgan Dennis repeated as the SEC vault champion, winning the title for the third year in a row. She has now won six career SEC titles. Junior Kayla Hoffman finished second on both the uneven bars and floor exercise with matching 9.9s.

Alabama started the championships off on the vault with a 49.3 led by Dennis' 9.9. That score tied with LSU for best of the meet. On the uneven bars, some uncharacteristic bobbles led the Tide to 48.95, its lowest score in six meets. The Tide was led on the uneven bars by Hoffman.

"We didn't give up, we got better and I think that's what you have to do or you'll find yourself sitting out of the (NCAA) Super Six (team finals) or sitting out the national championships," Patterson said.

Alabama bounced back with a 49.25 on the balance beam led by clutch performances from Dennis and Priess who tied their career-best scores, going 9.9 and 9.95 respectively, after freshman Marissa Gutierrez had a fall.

The Tide closed out the championships on the floor exercise where it posted a 49.375 behind 9.9s from Hoffman and Priess. It tied Hoffman's season high on the floor. The Tide then went to a bye in the seventh and final rotation.

"It was really though sitting off the floor watching the competition on the final rotation and not having any control over it," Patterson said.

In the midst of posting its 20th top-2 finish at the SEC Championships Alabama also came away with its 100th win over the Auburn Tigers.

Alabama returns to action in two weeks at the NCAA Regional Championships. The Tide will learn where it is headed on Monday when the NCAA Committee announces the seedings.