Records fell in three of the four events Saturday night as Georgia's Lucy Wener scored the first 10.0 ever in the national finals and in her career on uneven bars and UCLA's Kim Hamilton topped the vault mark to win and tied with Georgia's Corinne Wright to smash the floor exercise record with 9.9s.
Only the balance beam record withstood the onslaught by the Georgia and UCLA athletes, who came back with big nights after finishing 1-2 in the NCAA women's gymnastics team championships on Friday night in Georgia Coliseum.Utah's Missy Marlowe put together two solid performances Saturday night to make all-America status on bars and beam, placing fourth on each. Her co-freshman teammate, Shelly Schaerrer, tied for eighth in vaulting to also make all-America. Sophomore Patti Massoels scored 9.65 on beam and finished in a tie for 10th, missing all-America status.
Wener said that when she dismounted from beam, she had a feeling she'd done a good routine. "Sometimes I can feel it," she said. She looked at the judges' faces. "They all looked at each other," she reported. Then up came the 10s.
"My mom (Karen) said it made her knees weak," Wener said.
She has won three NCAA bar championships, missing last year when she fell while doing her Yaeger release. It was lack of concentration then, and she didn't want to repeat that.
"It was the first time ever. It was something I've been wanting all my life," Wener said.
Following bars, she went to beam hoping to make all-America in that, her weakest event, and she was doing well until her dismount, on which she did a spectacular face plant and hurt her neck. "I just missed my foot. That's what everyone tells me. I just ended up on my face staring at the blue (mat)."
Wright followed Hamilton on floor exercise, and both got standing ovations, as did Florida's Melissa Miller, who finished third with a 9.85 that was booed by a large Gator fan contingent.
Hamilton, winner of three straight NCAA floor exercise titles, had changed her routine completely from the one she'd used to win last year. "I thought I should do something new that was very much different from everyone else," she said.
Both gymnasts are powerful, but Hamilton was exotic and Wright was more of a scurrier. "She can dance pretty well, and I can't," laughed Wright in explanation. "We have to work with what we've got."
Wright said she'd set four goals for herself at the beginning of the season - to win the all-around, help the team win the championship, to win floor and make all-America on bars. She accomplished them all.
Hamilton was the meet's other double winner, breaking the old mark by .125 point.
Bruin teammate Jill Andrews finished second and also broke the event record by .1. Andrews tied for first on balance beam with Oregon State's Joy Selig for first on beam with 9.8 scores.
Both said they'd been happy to make the finals, much less win. "It's a hard thing to believe; I've never been a national champion," said Selig. Andrews said the situation she was in on Saturday was the exact opposite of the one she'd encountered Friday during the team finals when she was on beam while hometown favorite Wright was on floor and the crowd noise was deafening. "I was a little nervous because there wasn't any noise; yesterday, the noise really helped me," Andrews said.
Marlowe said event finals are always easier for her than team championships. "They're just icing on the cake. If I make a mistake, there aren't teammates behind you that are affected by it."
She scored 9.7 to finish in the three-way tie on beam and 9.75 for a three-way tie on bars.
For Schaerrer, finishing with an all-America certificate was a good comeback after a disturbing outing Friday, in which she fell on two events and wasn't solid on the others. "I had a really hard time last night. I wanted to end on something a little better," she said. She scored 9.35 and tied for eighth - the last place that qualifies for all-America.
"It was just one of those years," said Utah Coach Greg Marsden. "We didn't get any breaks and didn't do anything to help ourselves. We didn't do anything different than other years.
"We'll be back next year," he promised following his team's poorest finish in the national championships since 1978. The Utes were fifth on Friday after nine straight years of finishing no lower than second. They did, however, have their highest score ever in the national finals, 190.20. Winner Georgia had 192.65.
"This is a bad night," Marsden said. "It isn't a bad team or a bad program. It's ironic. This is the best group of kids to work with I've had in a long time. It's just the nature of the sport."
Most important now, he said, is how Utah accepts and deals with the disappointment. "We'll handle this as graciously as we have the times we've been more successful," Marsden said.