Gymnastics: All-around title up for grabs

With two-time NCAA All-Around Champion Courtney Kupets sidelined with a ruptured Achilles tendon, the competition for this year’s all-around title is wide open.

The natural selection as the favorite to replace Kupets rests with two-time all-around runner-up Ashley Postell, but if regionals proved anything, then the all-around championship is still very much up for grabs.

A favorite has emerged over the past month, it’s an Ashley of a completely different spelling.

After LSU’s Ashleigh Clare-Kearney posted a 39.600 to win the all-around competition at the SEC Championships on March 29, she followed it up with a 39.875 to win the Central Region’s all-around competition. In a sport where the winner and loser are often decided by a hundredth of a point, Clare-Kearney’s .275 bettering of Postell’s regional all-around score has made the LSU junior the woman to beat come April 23.

Clare-Kearney’s 39.875 on Saturday was the highest all-around score of the year for any competitor.

Still, Postell has consistency on her side. The U senior finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the all-around in both Regional Qualifying Score (39.705) and season average (39.607). Clare-Kearney finished No. 2 with an RQS of 39.570 and a season average of 39.371.

The other strong favorite for this year’s All-Around National Championship is Stanford’s Tabitha Yim. The senior’s 39.825 was second to Clare-Kearney not only in the Central Region all-around but of all the regional all-around scores. It would have also been the highest all-around score of the year if not for Clare-Kearney’s near perfect score.

Yim finished the season tied for fourth with a RQS of 39.510 and a season average of 39.529.

Interestingly, Utah is the only team with two gymnasts who finished in the top 10 in all-around RQS with Kristina Baskett coming in at No. 10. No. 1 Georgia didn’t have a single gymnast that finished ranked in the top 10.

The All-Around National Champion is decided during the preliminary round of the NCAA Championships on Thursday, April 24.

SEC will have firm grip on top six spots at nationals

For teams that reside outside the Southeast Conference, the 2008 NCAA gymnastics regional competition might have been a precursor as to what the NCAA Championships will be like come April 24.

Of the six regional competitions, the SEC claimed four first-place finishes and will make up five of the 12 teams at nationals. If Auburn hadn’t stumbled in the North East Regional, that number would have been six.

No. 1 Georgia proved yet again why it is the favorite to win a fourth-straight NCAA Championship by posting a 197.775 and outshining everyone else at the North East Regional.

No. 3 Florida hosted the South East Regional and posted a 197.525 to beat perennial title contender UCLA in convincing fashion.

No. 4 Alabama went into Norman, Okla., and posted an impressive 197.300 to win the South Central Region.

No. 7 LSU managed to significantly improve upon its season average score of 196.312 with a 197.625 to win the Central Region.

If nationals, which is being held in Athens, Ga., in the heart of SEC country, is anything like regionals, then there is a strong possibility that quality teams like Utah, Michigan, Stanford and UCLA will be left competing for two other spots in the Super Six NCAA Championship finals.

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