March 23, 2009

TIDE ROLLS IN: Women's gymnastics teams throughout the nation vied for conference championships over the weekend with none more competitive than the Southeastern Conference, which boasted six of the top 12 nationally-ranked teams entering the event.

Alabama claimed its first SEC Championship since 2003 by outdistancing defending champion Georgia by almost four-tenths of a point for the Crimson Tide's sixth league title. Last year, the Tide fell to the Gymdogs by just 0.025 - the smallest margin possible -- and took second-place in the championship. Alabama has now finished first or second at the SEC Championships 19 times in the past 26 years.

The Tide moved up two spots to No. 3 in the national rankings after registering their second-highest score of the year with a 197.300. Junior Morgan Dennis tied LSU's Susan Jackson for second place in the all-around championship, while Georgia's Courtney Kupets - the SEC Gymnast of the Year -- reclaimed the title she also won in 2007.

Alabama returns to action in two weeks when it hosts the NCAA North Central Regional on April 4.

SHIRE SHINES: University of Missouri junior Sarah Shire claimed her school-record tenth all-around title of the season by capturing the Big 12 all-around title with a score of 39.450 to help the Tigers to a third-place finish at the league championships last weekend.

The native of Columbia, Mo., also took a share of the vault and balance beam titles, and has won a total of 20 titles over the season. Shire was named to the All-Big 12 Championship vault, beam and floor teams, and garnered Co-Big 12 Gymnast of the Year along with Nebraska junior Kylie Stone. She is the first Missouri gymnast to earn the award.

TRIPLE THREAT: Michigan won the Big Ten championship for the third consecutive season with a season-high team score of 197.075 marking the third time in history the Wolverines have accomplished the feat.

Sophomore Kylee Botterman shared first place on the floor exercise, while sophomore Trish Wilson became the seventh straight Wolverine to claim the uneven bars Big Ten title with a career-best 9.950 on the apparatus.

Botterman's career-high 39.475 was good for second place in the all-around, as she was edged by Minnesota's Carmelina Carabajal by a margin of just 0.025 points. Carabajal also beat out the Big Ten Gymnast of the Year - Penn State's Brandi Personett - for the title. Carabajal is the first Gopher to win the all-around crown in 20 years.

NOTABLE: UCLA benefitted from a solid team effort to win the Bruins' 14th Pac-10 Championship, despite not claiming any individual titles at the competition. Three Bruins finished in the top five of the all-around, led by Vanessa Zamairripa, who claimed third-place. Senior Ariana Berlin placed fourth, and freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs - the Pac-10 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year -- came in fifth ... Air Force senior Abbey Rogers became the school's first-ever Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion with a all-around score of 38.900, and victories on the balance beam and floor exercise. Alaska Anchorage was the league's team champion -- winning its first conference title with a score of 192.850 ... Boise State collected its second consecutive Western Athletic Conference team championship as the Broncos tallied their best score of the season with a 196.525, also the seventh-best team score in school history.