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April 7, 2013

GYMNASTICS: Alabama wins 28th regional

TUSCALOOSA | Twice the University of Alabama gymnastics team had to overcome a fall at the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday.

And twice senior Ashley Priess came through, leading Alabama to its NCAA-best 28th regional championship and sending it to Los Angeles in two weeks to compete for its third straight NCAA championship.

The Crimson Tide turned in a team score of 197.4, while 10-time national champion Utah pulled away from Denver for second place with a 196.4 to avoid missing its first NCAA finals in program history. Denver was tied for second with Utah heading into the final rotation, but stumbled on balance beam, finishing fourth.

"This is the hardest meet of the year because there's so much on the line," UA coach Sarah Patterson said. "It doesn't matter how good you are. If you're having mistakes and you're having to count those falls, it can change things very quickly."

Priess was the star for Alabama, competing in the all-around for the first time since sealing the 2012 NCAA championship on the last routine of the season. Priess scored a 9.9 on all four events, winning the all-around with a score of 39.6. And she did so under two pressure situations.

In the third rotation, junior Sarah DeMeo fell during her uneven bars routine, and Priess kept Alabama from counting the fall with a 9.9, capping the Crimson Tide's third-
highest bars score of the season.

Next on balance beam, sophomore Kaitlyn Clark fell, and sophomore Kayla Williams followed with a wobble. But the Crimson Tide got a 9.95 from junior Kim Jacob and a 9.9 from Priess to salvage the rotation.

"We all knew (Priess) could do it," Jacob said. "This is the time we really need her. The coaches know exactly when she was ready, and it was the perfect time for her to come out. I'm so proud of her. We had no doubts that she had it in her."

Priess didn't vault during the entire regular season, with Patterson holding back the fifth-year senior who had double ankle surgery before the 2012 season. The result is a rested Priess for the postseason, where she will be used heavily as Alabama strives for the program's seventh NCAA championship.

"Ashley is the epitome of Alabama gymnastics, because she peaks at the right time," Patterson said. "We've paced Ashley, she's paced herself. There's been a time when she was ready to go and I've held her back because I know how valuable she is to our team."

Alabama will make its 31st appearance in the NCAA Championships April 19-21 at New Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

TEAM SCORES

Alabama 197.4
Utah 196.4
Iowa State 195.4
Denver 195.275
BYU 194.475
Kent State 193.5

ALABAMA SCORES

Vault

Kayla Williams 9.925
Kim Jacob 9.825
Ashley Priess 9.9
Kaitlyn Clark 9.85
Lauren Beers 9.85
Diandra Milliner 9.775
Total 49.35

Uneven bars
Ashley Sledge 9.875
Becca Alexin 9.8
Kim Jacob 9.9
Kaitlyn Clark 9.9
Sarah DeMeo 9.275
Ashley Priess 9.9
Total 49.375

Balance beam
Diandra Milliner 9.8
Kaitlyn Clark 9.25
Kayla Williams 9.7
Sarah DeMeo 9.85
Kim Jacob 9.95
Ashley Priess 9.9
Total 49.2

Floor exercise
Ashley Priess 9.9
Lora Leigh Frost 9.85
Lauren Beers 9.9
Sarah DeMeo 9.9
Kim Jacob 9.8
Diandra Milliner 9.925
Total 49.475


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