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Nebraska Leads NCAA Women’s Gymnastics

April 25, 2003

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ The Nebraska Cornhuskers made an emphatic statement Thursday night that they’re ready to join the exclusive club of NCAA women’s gymnastics champions.

Nebraska led qualifying for Friday’s Super Six, outscoring perennial power UCLA and defending national champion Alabama.

The Cornhuskers also celebrated their second all-around champion in four years as Richelle Simpson edged defending champion Jamie Dantzscher of UCLA. Heather Brink won the Huskers’ first all-around title in 2000.

Simpson needed to score a 9.9 on her last event, the balance beam, to defeat Dantzscher. Simpson scored a 9.925 and finished with 39.675 points, while Dantzscher finished with 39.650.

The Huskers are seeking to join UCLA, Alabama, Georgia and Utah as the only schools to win national titles in the 22-year history of the NCAA meet.

The top three teams from each session advanced to Friday’s Super Six competition, where the national championship will be determined. Joining UCLA from the opening session were Michigan and Alabama. Advancing from the evening session were Nebraska, Utah and Georgia.

UCLA, looking for its fourth title in seven years, started with a bye in the first rotation. Dantzscher then posted scores of 9.95 on the floor exercise, 9.90 on the vault, 9.95 on the parallel bars and 9.85 on the balance beam.

``Usually it’s difficult to start on a bye,″ Dantzscher said. ``But we kept our energy up in the locker room.″

Before competing in her final event, Dantzscher watched as teammate Jeanette Antolin fell off the beam and scored a 9.375.

``When she fell, I tried not to think about it,″ Dantzscher said. ``I told myself I don’t practice the beam every day to go out and mess up.″

Bruins coach Valorie Kondos Field said Antolin’s fall might have been a reality check for the Bruins.

``You go in and everyone is joking that this is going to be a cakewalk for us,″ Kondos Field said. ``No coach believes a meet is ever going to be a cakewalk. In the back of my mind, I’m always worried about having a meet where things don’t go your way.″

Ashley Miles gave Alabama a perfect ending to an up-and-down afternoon. The Tide wound up on the vault, with Miles earning the day’s only 10 as the last competitor.

That helped Alabama atone for its second-worst showing of the season in the floor exercise (49.150). Jeana Rice and Kristen Sterner had season-low scores of 9.85 and 9.70.

Freshman Miles had the Tide’s best score in the floor at 9.90.

But it was her performance in the vault, her only other event, that brought the crowd to its feet. It was her second 10 of the season in that discipline.

``I felt in warmups that it kind of clicked,″ she said. ``I hit a big one in warmups and wanted to do the same one. So I kept it in my pocket and brought it out again.″

Miles hopes the big finish carries over to the continuation of the team competition Friday.

So does Alabama coach Sarah Patterson.

``We were not at our best,″ she said. ``We have a lot better gymnastics in us.″

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