SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – For Alabama gymnast Terin Humphrey, the time had come to reclaim what was hers, and for freshman Morgan Dennis it was the start of something special.
Humphrey, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Silver Medalist and 2005 NCAA Champion on the uneven bars reclaimed her NCAA title here Saturday night at the Huntsman Center with a near-perfect 9.95. Dennis scored a on the floor exercise 9.9625 with the most electrifying routine of the night to win her first NCAA crown.
“I'm speechless,” Humphrey said. “I'm just so excited. Especially with what happened this year, overcoming injuries and surgery and all that stuff, it's exciting. I was jumping up and down.”
“I have to say that I am so proud of Morgan,” Humphrey said. “To go against that many other routines as a freshman and pull it was amazing. She was amazing tonight.”
Humphrey bettered 2006 NCAA co-champions Kristina Baskett of Utah and Courtney Kupets of Georgia in the process. An Alabama gymnast has won at least one NCAA title every year since 2002 now. The two this year drives the Tide’s all-time total to 21.
A crowded floor kept Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson from watching the uneven bars from her usual vantage point, so she had to wait for the judges to know how good Humphrey, who had double elbow surgery in late October, was on this night.
“Usually I’m right on the side of the uneven bars and I can see handstands,” Patterson said. “Tonight I wasn’t able to see that and I had to wait for the judges’ scores. Once the score came up, I knew that it could hold up.”
Patterson’s view was clearer on the floor exercise.
“That was Morgan’s best routine this year,” Patterson said. “Without a doubt, it was a great, great routine.”
The sixth of eight competitors, Humphrey bettered the twin 9.9125s posted by UCLA’s Tasha Schwikert and Kupets who went first and second respectively and then waited to see what Basketts would do. The Utes’ score 9.9 wasn’t enough to catch Humphrey.
The ueneven bars field was certainly loaded. Kupets was Humphrey’s teammate on the U.S. team that took team silver at the Athens Olympiad. She also took the bronze medalist on the uneven bars at the Olympics. Schwikert was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and Georgia’s Katie Heehnan who tied for fifth place tonight, was the U.S. bars champion in 2004.
And while uneven bars competition was loaded, the floor exercise was crowded with 18 competitors. Dennis produced her best routine of the season, bringing the Hunstman crowd to its feet. With her score in the books, she had to wait for Kupets, up last on the floor, to see if she would win the title. Kupets came close, but her 9.95 was not enough to over take the Tide rookie.Alabama finished a disspointing 9th in the team competition but with such a young squad this year, they figure to be one of the nation's best teams again next season.