April 16, 2009


NCAA Release


Opening Statements
Rene Cook – Head Coach (University of Arkansas)
“We are excited to be here in Lincoln. It’s been a great year for our team. We’re excited to be back at the championships and can’t wait to compete (Thursday) night.”


Tiffany Tolnay – Senior, 12-Time All-American (University of Georgia)
“We are excited to be in Lincoln. It’s a place I’ve never been to before. We just want to have fun, that’s when we do our best. We’re here to fight until the very end.”


Steve Shephard – Head Coach (Penn State University)
“We’d like to thank the University of Nebraska for all the work they’ve put into hosting this championship. I am sorry Nebraska isn’t here to compete, but I am glad it is them and not us. We look to peak at this meet.”


Rhonda Faehn – Head Coach (University of Florida)
“I would also like to thank the University of Nebraska for putting this championship on. It’s great as a former Husker to be back here. It brings back some great memories. Our team has been on a rollercoaster this year with injuries, but we’ve continued to fight. We’ve probably had our best two competitions in our last two meets.”


Georgia’s Tiffany Tolnay on UGA Head Coach Suzanne Yoculan retiring…
“We’ve adopted Suzanne as our fifth senior this year. We’re really excited for her. This whole season we’ve touched on it a bit. We just want to put her out on top.”


Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn on injury problems throughout the year…
“It is something that is very frustrating. I really realized how fortunate we’ve been over the past few years with not having any major injuries. This year has been a combination of a lot of things. That positive thing has been seeing how our athletes have responded. Their courage, tenacity and passion has really come to the forefront. We’ve had to dig deep this year. The way we’ve responded has been rewarding.”


Georgia Head Coach Suzanne Yoculan on the pressure of winning…
“I feel like the pressure is on everyone else. We don’t treat this year different than any other year. You just have to keep your emotions under control. The pressure is on everyone that has never won a championship to win one. I don’t think Georgia has one thing to prove to anyone.”


Georgia Head Coach Suzanne Yoculan on Utah…
“We have a great rivalry with Utah. I remember in 1984, I told their coach how I was going to beat them. Our first championship came in 1987 in Utah. Here we are 26 years later and Georgia is No. 1 and Utah is No. 2. I certainly think there are four to six other teams that can win the meet besides Georgia and Utah. Karma is there, everything you do comes full circle. Everyone has their day on top and everyone had their day on top. It’s all about the fight. Everyone is going to be out there fighting.”


Florida’s Cory Hartung on the progress since the SEC Championships…
“This team is full of a bunch of fighters. We’ve really come together as a team with what we’ve had to deal with this year. Everyone on this team is a role model.”


Arkansas’ Casey Jo Magee on the progress since the SEC Championships…
“At the SEC Championships we got out strong and made some errors to end the meet. At Regionals, we hit 24 of 24 and that was a huge confidence booster for us. I think we proved that we can make it all the way to the end.”


Penn State’s Brandi Personett on qualifying as a team after qualifying individually in the past…
“It is a totally different experience. When you come by yourself, it doesn’t feel like nationals. When you’re here with the team, you have everyone with you and it really makes you feel like you are competing for the team, the school and the alumni.”


Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn on being back in Lincoln…
“I have a great relationship with (Nebraska Head Coach) Dan (Kendig). I talk to him probably once a week. I loved being in Lincoln and Dan was a great boss. I am very comfortable being back here. I think we’re going to head to South Pointe for some shopping and show the girls what life is like in Lincoln. I feel really bad that Nebraska isn’t here competing with/against us. I just hope the Nebraska fans still come out and cheer on some great gymnastics this weekend.”


Penn State Head Coach Steve Shephard on Nebraska not qualifying…
“I feel bad for Nebraska, but we had the same situation two years in a row. I know exactly how he feels. (Nebraska Head Coach) Dan (Kendig) and I had the conversation going into Regionals that one of us wasn’t going to be here. It has to be tough to host and not be here. I hope Nebraska fans and all the school’s fans come out and support this great championship.”


Georgia Head Coach Suzanne Yoculan on coming back one more year this year…
“I am glad I came back one more year because I think it would have been too big of a distraction last year with us hosting the championships. Going through this has really made me realize what seniors go through. This is hard, having something be such a big part of your life and then having to give it up cold turkey. This was the right time so that we could give (Assistant Coach) Jay (Clark) a transition year. It makes it easy on Georgia, the athletes and the incoming recruits.”

Press Conference 2 – April 15, 2009

Opening Statements
LSU Coach D-D Breaux
“It’s certainly an honor to be in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The championship they hosted a few years ago was wonderful, and it made everyone’s expectations that much higher.  I appreciate all the hard work that it takes to host an event of this magnitude.  Our season has pretty much been a reflection of what we experienced last year.  We started really slow, by design.  As we continued through the season, our scoring potential and our scores began to rise, and so did our placement in the rankings.  It’s been very exciting this season. We have two all-arounders giving us a tremendous amount of team leadership and great scores throughout the season, Ashley Clare-Kearney and Susan Jackson, but we’ve had just a consistently strong team effort from a small nucleus of student-athletes, and it’s really been a pleasure coaching this year.”


Oklahoma Coach KJ Kindler
“We’re very excited to be in the Big 12 Conference.  We’re disappointed that Nebraska won’t be here, but they will be represented, and Missouri (will represent the Big 12) as well.  Lincoln is a great town.  They always put on a great championship.  They hosted Big 12s and other championship events as well.  It’s great to be here again. Our season has been very consistent, from the very first meet to our regional meet last week, We have definitely building as the season has progressed. We hit 24 routines at Regionals and we feel that we’re peaking at the right time. Our team chemistry is amazing right now. I think that’s one of the biggest differences for us this year is that the team is really clicking. The chemistry is there and you can see it. We have two great all-arounders in Ashley Jackson and Haley DeProspero.  The remainder of our team gives us two routines each. We’ve very widely spread responsibilities across our team and we’ve been very fortunate with injuries. We feel that we’re at our strongest right now.”


Stanford Coach Kristen Smyth

“First of all, I’d like to congratulate the teams and the athletes that qualified for the national championships. It’s harder and harder every year to get here. We were really excited. I’m so proud of my team. They’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m looking forward to this weekend and hoping that we can put everything together. The last two weeks, we have not put it all together, so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to do that. It’s an amazing group of young ladies that I get to work with. We have really outstanding seniors, so I’m going to enjoy every minute that we have left together.”


Utah coach Greg Marsden

“Of course, we’re happy to be here too. I feel badly that Dan (Kendig) is not going to be (coaching) with us.  Nebraska is a very talented team and that’s an indication of how difficult it has gotten to get to this point. There are so many talented athletes and so many talented teams that it’s going to be a great event.  As far as our team, it’s been a great season. We’ve been fortunate to stay healthy throughout the season.  What’s really made it enjoyable to me is that I’ve had great senior leadership from Nina Kim and Kristina Baskett. They have really worked hard during the offseason because they wanted this to be a very special year. They did some things to make sure that happened and to bring the team together, to help everyone to be on board and work toward the common goal. We hope we can finish that off this weekend.”


Marsden on defeating three-time national champion Georgia…
“(It’ll take) a higher score than Georgia has.  We feel like we’ve been right there for three years and it could have gone either way and it didn’t go our way. Last year, it was about three-tenths (between Georgia and Utah), which is a step or two on landings and just small things. I always tell the team that we worked hard to put ourselves in position in the composition of our routines, execution-wise and consistency-wise, that we have a chance. Now, we have to come in, stay focused, approach it the right way, relax, enjoy the experience and you have to have a little luck and get the ball rolling and feel like it’s our night, and you get better and better throughout the meet. I think that’s the way (to win) for anybody.”

Marsden on how this Utah team stacks up with his prior three teams…

“Athletically, I wouldn’t say so (that this is the best shot Utah has at Georgia). I thought we had teams that were capable of doing it. What’s been different about this group is their willingness to put themselves out there and talk about what they want to accomplish and how they want to accomplish it. There was something in the paper already about it. It wasn’t ever meant as an arrogant-kind of thing or a cocky-kind of thing. They wanted to win a championship. They’re going to work to do that. They put together a lot of fun things in the group to remind them of what they’re trying to accomplish, although we realize that that there are a lot of good teams here, not just Georgia. Everyone is capable if they get on a roll.”


Utah gymnast Kristina Baskett on the mindset of the Utah team…

“I think once we finished nationals last year, we were so close last year that we needed just that little extra to win. Since the beginning of the summer, we didn’t have to ask anybody to train. We’ve didn’t have to ask anyone to do stuff outside the gym. Everybody was willing to do it. It made our jobs that much easier because everyone on the team wants the same things. It’s been nice because it’s been so easy.  You don’t have to push anybody. You can get more work done that way because we’re such a close team and we’re all willing to do the same thing and work to do the extra-hard stuff for it, that’s what will makes just that little bit from each person goes a long way. I feel that difference this year.”


Marsden on the pressure on three-time national champion Georgia…

“It’s been a while, but I’ve been in Suzanne’s dress, once.  I’ve been in her stilettos before.  It’s tough.  As much as it is to will five in a row, 10 championships, where the seniors have never not won a championship, as fun as all those things are, with it on the other side of it is the pressure building on you.  All you can do is meet expectations. You do what they expect you to do, or you disappoint. I think the position that the rest of us are in is much more fun. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”


Breaux on trying to win a national championship…

“It’s all about consistency and being able to do it when everything lines up exactly right. We certainly have powerful scoring potential throughout our lineup. The pressure on us is having everyone hit and build that momentum. There’s just so much parity and so many good teams out there that for everyone to focus on Georgia is really not fair. There are a lot of really good teams at this championship.”


Breaux on more schools winning the national championship being good for the sport…

“There’s a lot of tremendous scoring potential out there, and it’s the momentum, the self-confidence, and the kids just beginning to smell that blood and know that they can win it and get the job done. I’ve seen my team do it, but we’ve never done it at a national championship. I’ve seen Oregon State, Alabama, almost every team that is here, and there’s going to be a lot of good gymnastics teams on that floor (Thursday).”


Kindler on more schools winning the national championship being good for the sport…

“It will only help our sport. There are a lot of teams that can challenge for that position. Eventually, it will happen. Whether it’s sooner or later, I don’t know. But eventually, it’s going to happen. As it does happen, it will open the door for a lot of teams to have that opportunity.”


Smyth on more schools winning the national championship being good for the sport…

“There are a lot of great teams out there. All of us coaches believe our athletes have a chance this weekend. Building that confidence, preparing them to be their best that last meet of the year, we’re all doing that.”


Kindler on why dominant schools remain on top in women’s gymnastics…

“In every sport, recruits fall to the national championship teams and the teams that are in contention for the top two spots. I think that you’ve seen a lot of parity develop and great recruits are going to a lot of different places and not necessarily just three places.”


LSU Gymnast Ashleigh Clare-Kearney on LSU struggling in the SEC Championships…

“It was frustrating, because I definitely think that we’re capable of placing higher in our conference. The Southeastern Conference is a tough conference, but it’s also great experience to prepare for nationals.  The past three or four years, we’ve finished in fourth place, so that’s frustrating. We have the talent. We have the confidence. We’re a very focused team and we have great camaraderie, so definitely could’ve come out on top. But we’ve put that in the past and gone back into the gym and worked toward Regionals and getting to nationals. Hopefully, tomorrow we can show what we’re made of and what we’re capable of doing, because I don’t believe we’ve done that yet.”


Breaux on Georgia gymnast Courtney Kupets…

“She was absolutely stunning at the SEC Championships. She represented the U.S. and is certainly one of the best in the world. She’s proven that she is reigning queen in our sport. In the SEC Championships, there were two or three athletes vying for that position. She got the nod from the judges.”


Press Conference 3 – April 15, 2009

Opening Statements

Sarah Patterson, University of Alabama Head Coach

“I would like to thank Nebraska for hosting this event. Certainly the University of Alabama is proud to be here and represent our institution. We’ve been to a lot of national championships, and one thing I can say is it just never gets old. The excitement coming in and being here at the championships is amazing. We feel like we finished strong and put in a lot of work.”


Ashley O’Neal, University of Alabama Senior

“I’m just really happy to be here and I know the rest of our team is also.”


Bob Starkell,  University of Illinois Head Coach

“I also would like to thank the University of Nebraska for hosting the national championships. As a team, we’re excited to be at this event this year because it’s been our strongest year so far consistency-wise. We look forward to being competitive enough and having a strong performance and kind of continuing what we’ve been doing the last several weekends. The University of Illinois is excited to be at this national championship.”


Marijka Botterman, University of Illinois Senior

“I’m a senior, so this is my last meet, and I’m so happy to have my sister, Kylie, from Michigan, here competing with us.”


Tanya Chaplin, Oregon State Univeristy Head Coach

“We’re proud to represent Oregon State University and the Pac-10 Conference this year at the national championships. I want to thank the University of Nebraska for hosting this championship. We hosted the championship a few years ago. We know how much time and effort on everyone’s part that it takes to host a championship like this. And we really appreciate all the hospitality that we’ve received so far since we’ve been in Lincoln. It gets harder and harder and more challenging every year to make it all the way to the final 12. You never take things for granted. The fans are going to see great gymnastics this weekend. Our season has been up and down. We started off with some bumps along the way and got a little bit stronger. The last two meets we’ve had a few glitches. We’re looking to put everything out on the floor and stay focused on what we need to accomplish. We’re looking forward to a great competition.”


Mandi Rodriguez, Oregon State University Junior

“We’re just really excited to be here. Every year, Oregon State has improved. We’re just hoping to continue to do that tomorrow night.”


Valorie Kondos-Field, UCLA Head Coach

“It’s an honor to be here. Every year, it gets harder and harder to get to this spot. We’re thrilled to be back. Nebraska is known for its ethics. Everything so far is just first class and the arena looks beautiful. We’re a very young team. They’re led by our sole senior, Ariana Berlin. It’s really been one of the most remarkable years for us. We’ve been getting better and better and better throughout the season and we’re hoping that we’re right on track.”


Ariana Berlin – Senior (UCLA)

“I’m just so honored to actually be here. It’s such a fun meet. I’m so happy to be able to end such a great season with an amazing meet and great coaching staff.”



Alabama Head Coach Sarah Patterson on the toughness of competing in the SEC…

“The competition is so strong. When you’re talking about Regionals and how you can’t have an off night, you can’t have an off night in the SEC. We’ve seen that the parity is spread and the conference is so strong that if you have a mistake one night, any team in the conference can beat you. I think from that perspective our SEC teams are very tried over the course of the season and they’re challenged every week. I think that’s what makes us strong. On any given night, any team can win. When you’re at a national championship, it’s not necessarily who is the most talented. It’s who performed the best on that particular night. And of all the championships we’ve ever won, I don’t think that we’ve ever been the most talented team on the floor. I think I speak for all of my counterparts that are sitting up here, nobody takes Thursday night for granted, because we all know if you make a mistake and you don’t come back and be at your very best, then there are three more teams that will move on. I think that’s just how far women’s gymnastics has come.”

Alabama Head Coach Sarah Patterson on parity in NCAA Gymnastics…
“I feel like so many institutions have placed great emphasis on their programs. They’ve supported them with resources, facilities and recruiting. I feel like my peers have done a tremendous job over the past few years. And that’s why we have the parity that we have. I think there is nothing better than seeing new teams come in.”


UCLA Head Coach Valorie Kondos-Field on parity in NCAA Gymnastics…

“I echo what Sarah said. I think all of us take our jobs very seriously. At all universities, gymnastics is something that is really special if you choose to make it that way. We coaches take great pride in the fact that gymnastics is the first ticket to sell out. I don’t try to be women’s basketball or volleyball; I try to be the best gymnastics program that can be in Los Angeles.”


Oregon State Head Coach Tanya Chaplin on parity in NCAA Gymnastics…

“There are so many recruits who are going to programs all over the country. There are incredibly strong athletes in this country going to a smaller university or university who hasn’t been in the top 12, and now you’re seeing those programs start to come up. So it’s an exciting time for all of us and everyone is working tremendously hard.”


Alabama senior Ashley O’Neal on what has to happen for the team to have the same success as at the SEC Tournament…

“Coaches told us that our motto for the rest of the season was to finish strong. Coming in now it’s just being mentally prepared. I think we did that very well last week.”


Illinois Head Coach Bob Starkell on the school’s first NCAA Championship appearance…

“I’m sure each one of these coaches can remember their first time. It’s kind of a special day. We’ve had individuals here in the past, and I think each time they go, they come back and say, ‘You know what, this was a great experience, but I don’t want to come here again unless it’s with my team.’ Two young ladies last year made it a point to tell the rest of the team what we needed to do to make it happen. We’ve had a very fortunate and healthy year. The team was very successful. I think right now they’re hitting their stride. They’re not just happy to be here because of nationals. They’re here to make a statement.”


Alabama Head Coach Sarah Patterson on if this is the strongest lineup for her team this year…

“Yeah, I think it is. We just recently got Kassi Price back. She’s been out for five weeks. We didn’t have her at the SEC Championship, but she competed for us last week. We’re as healthy as we can be right now. I think the biggest thing is they’re confident.”