Hoffman leads Tide to 26th Regional ChampionshipBy Jason Galloway | 04/02/2011 9:27pm
Kayla Hoffman’s last ever performance in Coleman Coliseum may have been her best.
As Alabama cruised its way to an NCAA-leading 26th Regional Championship Saturday night, she breezed past the rest of the competition and scored a 39.65 to easily win the all-around title.
“I just realized it was my last meet in Coleman when I got off beam (the Tide’s final event),” Hoffman said. “And then it was real special and I went and shared it with everybody. I think it was much better that I didn’t focus on the fact that it was my last meet.”
Of the all-around performers in Saturday’s meet, only six routines scored a 9.9 or higher. Four of the six were Hoffman’s, as she scored two 9.925’s and two 9.9’s, defeating the second-place all arounder, teammate Geralen Stack-Eaton, by two tenths of a point. Hoffman’s 39.65 was just .025 off her career high.
“[Hoffman’s] balance beam routine was beautiful,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “I have just been trying to encourage Kayla all along that if she just relaxes and doesn’t place too much pressure on herself, she’s going to do the best she can do.”
Alabama scored a 197.275 and won the regional by more than a point. Illinois also advanced to the NCAA Championships with a second-place score of 195.925. Penn State (195.85) finished third, Auburn (195.6) was fourth, Kentucky (195.175) was fifth, and Central Michigan (195.075) finished sixth.
This is the 29th straight year Alabama has advanced to nationals under Patterson, but some of the country’s top teams have had trouble in regionals the past couple seasons. Last year, five-time defending national champion Georiga did not advance. This year, No. 4 Stanford did not advance and No. 1 Florida came .025 away from being knocked out before the NCAA Championships.
“I can tell you, it doesn’t [get old],” Patterson said. “This is 29 in a row for my husband and I, but I can tell you that the feeling of going tonight, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Alabama was solid but not spectacular on its first three events off the night, scoring similar scores of 49.275, 49.25 and 49.25 on floor, vault and bars, respectively.
The Tide’s final event, beam, was when it really looked like a national championship team. Alabama reeled off four consecutive scores of 9.9 or higher to end the meet, the last a meet-high 9.95 from Stack-Eaton, to score a 49.5 on the event.
“I can’t think of a better balance beam performance that we’ve had,” Patterson said. “Those routines were pretty amazing. As the meet went on, I think we just got in a comfort zone. Our team did a great job of settling in and doing exactly what they needed to do.”
Alabama will look ahead to the NCAA Championships in Cleveland in two weeks. The Tide will be competing with 11 other teams for its fifth national title and first since 2002.
“There’s really no limit,” Hoffman said. “It’s all within our reach. Just doing the best we can do at each meet is all we can really do. The outcome will take care of itself.”