Lady Flames land in 22nd place at National Championships
April 5, 2014 | Chattanooga, Tenn.
Liberty University's women's gymnastics team placed second in Thursday's opening session of preliminaries, behind only Texas A&M, at the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics (NAIG) Club Championships at the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Convention Center.
The Lady Flames scored 127.355 points as a team, placing them behind the Aggies (142.175) and ahead of the University of Texas (122.55), the University of Ohio's A team (121.575), the University of Denver (120.275), and Ohio's B team (92.55).
Overall, Liberty placed 22nd out of 75 schools based on Thursday's preliminary performance.
However, only the top team out of each of the eight sessions advanced to Saturday's team finals, in addition to the top two individuals in each of the four events.
Liberty Head Coach Rachel Steele wound up as the Lady Flames' only individual qualifier with her score of 9.325 in the floor exercise, the second highest in the session behind Texas A&M's Hannah Van Meter (9.375). She also came close to qualifying on the balance beam, an event she won at the national level while competing for Liberty as an undergraduate in 2010. She finished fourth with a score of 9.0, behind the Aggies' first- and second-place tandem of Stuckey (9.45) and Van Meter (9.2) as well as Tarrant County College's Sydney Reigel (9.05).
Steele, who placed third in the preliminaries and tied for 23rd overall with her All-Around score of 34.925, was competing in place of sophomore Alexanda Westcott, who didn't make the trip to Tennessee due to another commitment.
"That was unfortunate because she is one of our best girls and we really could have used her scores in the competition," Steele said. "We did the best we could without her and were really encouraging and kept a positive attitude. We had a really good time."
It was the first time in more than three years for the third-year coach to compete at NAIG Nationals.
"You're allowed to compete if you're a student and I'm in graduate school now," Steele said, noting there is no limit to the number of years of eligibility. "I trained two or three times with the team before we left and It was fun to be able to compete again."
Not wanting to take attention away from the team, she decided not to compete in the finals, but to allow junior Alyssa Frost the opportunity to perform on the balance beam in her place.
"She did well and hit her beam routine, scoring a 9.175," Steele said. "If she'd been eligible for a medal that would have tied her for ninth place."
Frost's score of 9.1 on the vault in preliminaries narrowly missed qualifying her for the finals behind Texas A&M's Molly Stuckey (9.2) and Van Meter and Reigel, who tied for second at 9.15.
"Alyssa's vault was a highlight of the day," Steele said. "She has a pretty competitive vault which helps her start value (for high degree of difficulty)."
Frost placed seventh in her preliminary session in the All-Around, also scoring well in the balance beam (9.1) and floor exercise (9.0, tied for ninth).
Freshman Jessica Hogue tied for 10th in the preliminaries in the All-Around with her score of 32.1.
"Jessie Hogue and Constance McNair (a sophomore) turned in really good floor routines," Steele said.
Hogue scored an 8.9, which tied her for 11th in the session, and McNair recorded a 7.75.
Senior Tiphani Comena also got to fill in for the Lady Flames in preliminaries, competing well on the balance beam (7.58) and vault (8.0).
"We counted both of her scores, so it was great she was able to contribute," Steele said.
Liberty's only male competitor was graduate student Jonathan Baldwin, who finished 20th out of 33 gymnasts in his session in the All-Around competition on the strength of his 23rd-place showings in both the rings (10.1) and parallel bars (10.9). Though he didn't qualify, he was also given a mercy rule exemption to compete in the finals on the floor for the experience.
Complete scores are available online.