Lady Flames place 13th as a team at nationals in Minnesota
April 13, 2013 | Minneapolis, Minn.
Liberty University's women's gymnastics team barely missed qualifying for Saturday's eight-team finals at the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs national meet, finishing 0.5 points behind Miami after Friday's sixth session.
But the Lady Flames rode a sixth-place all-around performance by senior Jill Wippermann and a seventh-place finish by JennyBeth Nicklow on the balance beam to post a school-best 13th-place overall showing out of 65 schools.
It was the fourth consecutive season the Lady Flames have competed at nationals, held this year at the enormous Minneapolis Convention Center.
"We kind of exceeded expectations and finished as a team better than we ever have so, absolutely, we had a blast," Liberty head coach Rachel Steele said. "Our girls are pleased with their performance and how far they've come as a team.
"We battled a little bit of nerves here and there, but they were able to overcome that," she added. "Our team slogan is to ‘adapt and overcome' and we did a great job of that."
Liberty brought 11 gymnasts altogether, including Steve Lucia, the only men's representative, and they all competed in the last of six preliminary sessions on Thursday and Friday, with close to 100 men's and women's competitors in each.
Wippermann, a nursing major looking to go into the Navy after graduation, was making her third trip to nationals. After finishing third all-around with 35.15 points in Session 6, which ranked her 17th out of 20 individual all-around qualifiers, she moved up to sixth place on the strength of her third-place floor exercise routine, which scored a 9.6.
"She was able to be consistent on all of her events and didn't have any falls, so that helped her," Steele said. "There were 787 (men's and women's) contenders total, so to be sixth overall was awesome."
Wippermann also finished 13th on the vault with a score of 9.0 after finishing first in her session with a vault rated at 9.3.
Nicklow struggled with her floor routine in the finals but bounced back with a strong seventh-place finish on the balance beam, scoring a 9.375. She had qualified for the finals ranked third overall in that event with a 9.55 performance in the preliminaries.
"Unfortunately, J.B. fell two times in her floor routine," Steele said. "She sort of had an off day. JennyBeth did add some difficulty to her balancing routines (for Saturday's finals) so that was good."
Alyssa Frost came in sixth place in the Session 6 all-around standings on the strength of her third-place 8.4 finish on the uneven bars. She made it to the finals in that event, finishing 24th with a 7.9 routine.
Texas A&M (146.925) won the overall women's team competition followed by James Madison University (144.975), Rhode Island (141.125), Penn State (140.125), N.C. State (139.65), North Carolina (138.6), Pittsburgh (136.65), Miami (134.925), and Clemson (131.8).
Liberty's only two meets of the spring semester were hosted by JMU and Penn State.
"It was fun to see them in the final session," Steele said of the Lady Dukes. "We actually were in the rotation with their team. They really did well."
Lucia competed in every event for Liberty's men, placing 13th in section 6 in the vault with a score of 13.4, 19th on the high bar with an 11.8, and 30th all-around for his section with a 66.2 point total.
Complete results from the club nationals are available at www.naigc.net.