Women's gymnastics fifth at NCAA Prelims, three earn All-America

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Lincoln, Neb. — The Penn State women's gymnastics team finished fifth in the first session of the 2009 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships team preliminaries, putting up a 196.100. Georgia placed first (197.450), Florida placed second (196.375), LSU placed third (196.300), Stanford placed fourth (196.225) and Oklahoma placed sixth (195.825). It was the first team appearance at the NCAA National Championships for Penn State since 2005.

"I'm proud of our team," said head coach Steve Shephard, whose 2009 team earned the highest score at NCAAs since he began in 1993. "I believe we overachieved. We hit every routine and did a great job. It's a little disappointing not to advance to the Super Six, but I think that we made PSU and our alums proud with our performance this afternoon."

Three Nittany Lion gymnasts earned four NACGC/W All-American distinctions during the session, the highest number of different individual All-Americans in a season in school history during the NCAA era, which began in 1982. Freshman Whitney Bencsko was an NACGC/W First Team All-American on vault, finishing fourth with a 9.900, junior Alexandra Brockway was an NACGC/W First Team All-American on bars, also finishing fourth with a 9.875 and junior Brandi Personett was an NACGC/W First Team All-American on floor, finishing fourth with a 9.875. Bencsko also earned Second Team All-America honors in the all-around, finishing sixth with a 39.300.

The All-America honors are the first of Bencsko's and Brockway's career and the second for Personett, who was an NACGC/W First Team All-American on beam last season in 2008.

Bencsko (vault), Brockway (bars) and Personett (floor) all advance to the NCAA Championship Individual Event Finals, slated for Saturday, April 18 at 6:00 p.m. CT (7:00 p.m. ET).

"It's very exciting," said Bencsko, with a huge smile on her face, of her two All-America honors. "I had a rough start to the season and to end on a good note, it's just awesome."

As a team, Penn State posted scores of 49.100 on vault, 49.075 on bars, 48.900 on beam and 49.025 on floor.

Bencsko finished sixth in the all-around with a 39.300 while Personett tied for 10th with a 39.200. Georgia's Courtney Kupets took home the top score with a first-place 39.800, which tied the NCAA all-around record.

The Nittany Lions began the meet with a bye before moving to bars in the second rotation. Brockway was Penn State's top finisher, placing fourth with a season-high-tying 9.875. Sophomore Danielle Hover scored a season-high 9.825 to tie for 13th while Bencsko and freshman Natalie Ettl each posted a 9.800 to tie for 19th. Personett finished 29th with a 9.775 while freshman Alex Stine recorded a 9.750. Georgia's Courtney Kupets recorded a 9.950 for first on bars.

Penn State moved to beam in the third rotation, with juniors Casey Rohrbaugh and Allie Southard each posting a 9.800 for 19th. Bencsko and Melissa Klein both tallied a 9.775 for 24th as Personett and Brockway rounded out the Lion gymnasts with a 9.750 each. Georgia's Kupets finished first with a perfect 10.000.

After a bye in the fourth rotation, Penn State competed on floor in the fifth rotation, with Personett placing fourth with a 9.875. Bencsko put up a 9.825 for 12th while freshman Daryl Konsevick scored a 9.800 for 18th and Rohrbaugh tallied a 9.775 for 26th. Southard and sophomore Heather McElwee both posted a 9.750 to tie for 29th. Again, Georgia's Courtney Kupets took home top honors with a first-place 9.950.

The Nittany Lions closed out the meet on vault, with Bencsko recording a fourth-place 9.900, her second-highest score of the season. Hover scored a career-high-tying 9.850 for 11th while Rohrbaugh and Personett both notched a 9.800 for 22nd. Southard and Brockway closed out the Lion competitors with a 9.750. LSU's Susan Jackson and Ashleigh Clare-Kearney claimed the top spot with a 9.950.

Penn State Notes, NCAA Team Prelims:
- Three Nittany Lion gymnasts earned four NACGC/W All-American distinctions during the session, the highest number of individual All-Americans in a season in school history during the NCAA era, which began in 1982. Two gymnasts earned four honors in 1999, when Ellen Casey was named an NACGC/W All-American on bars, floor and in the all-around and Nikki Smith earned the distinction on bars.

- The All-America honors are the first of Bencsko's and Brockway's career and the second for Personett, who was an NACGC/W First Team All-American on beam last season in 2008.

- The 196.100 scored by Penn State was the highest team score at NCAAs under head coach Steve Shephard.

- Junior Alexandra Brockway's fourth-place and NACGC/W First Team All-America score of 9.875 on bars tied her season high and fell just shy of her career high of 9.900.

- Freshman Whitney Bencsko's 9.900 on vault is her second-highest score of the season. She has gotten a 9.925 twice.

- Sophomore Danielle Hover's 9.850 on vault ties her career high.

Final Team Results, Session I:
1. Georgia - 197.45
2. Florida - 196.375
3. LSU - 196.30
4. Stanford - 196.225
5. Penn State - 196.10
6. Oklahoma - 195.825

Individuals Advancing to Event Finals:
Vault: 1. Susan Jackson, LSU (9.95); 1. Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, LSU (9.95); 3. Tiffany Tolnay, Georgia (9.925); 4. Maranda Smith, Florida (9.90); 4. Courtney Kupets, Georgia (9.90); 4. Staci Schwitkis, LSU (9.90); 4. Whitney Bencsko, Penn State (9.90); 4. Jessica Lopez, Denver (9.90); Sarah Shire, Missouri (9.90)

Bars: 1. Courtney Kupets, Georgia (9.95); 2. Grace Taylor, Georgia (9.90); 2. Carly Janiga, Stanford (9.90); 4. Melanie Sinclair, Florida (9.875); 4. Alicia Goodwin, Florida (9.875); 4. Kathryn Ding, Georgia (9.875); Summer Hubbard, LSU (9.875); Ashleigh Clare-Kearney (9.875); Alexandra Brockway, Penn State (9.875); 4. Nicole Ourada, Stanford (9.875)

Beam: 1. Courtney Kupets, Georgia (10.0); 2. Grace Taylor, Georgia (9.95); 2. Courtney McCool, Georgia (9.95); 4. Megan Ferguson, Oklahoma (9.90)

Floor: 1. Courtney Kupets, Georgia (9.95); 2. Tiffany Tolnay, Georgia (9.90); 2. Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, LSU (9.90); 4. Corey Hartung, Florida (9.875); 4. Brandi Personett, Penn State (9.875)

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Last Updated November 18, 2010