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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships : Utah Wins for Sixth Straight Time; Fullerton Is Fifth

Times Staff Writer

Sometimes the underdog can dream the impossible and make it come true.

That was happily the case Friday night for University of Alabama gymnast Penney Hauschild, who came from 35th place in the seedings to tie for the all-around title with Arizona State’s Jackie Brummer in the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships at the University of Florida.

Hauschild was the all-around winner in 1985 but had less success in 1986 before her surprising revival Friday night.

Of course, there are other times when the impossible dream is deflected by somebody else.

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That was the fate of the Cal State Fullerton team, which settled for fifth after transforming a season that should have been a washout into a trip to the nationals with a shot at the title.

Instead, as Titan Coach Lynn Rogers put it, his team “got bitten in the leg when we weren’t looking” in a favorite event, the floor exercise, and slipped out of contention midway through the meet.

Utah held off Arizona State to win its sixth straight championship, while Hauschild’s Crimson Tide finished third. Utah scored 186.95 points to the Sun Devils’ 186.70. Alabama had 186.35 points.

The Sun Devils avoided being pulled under by the unexpected arrival of Alabama, which was seeded seventh, but the third-seeded Titans became the surging Tide’s main victim. They wound up dropping behind fourth-seeded Georgia, which scored 185.45 points to the Titans’ 185.00.

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The trick of fitting two girls, the all-around co-champions, together on the top step of the tiered victory stand at the end of the meet was the night’s last test of balance.

One step below, the third finisher in the individual all-around was Titan Tami Elliott, the picture of consistency. She tied for third all-around last season.

UCLA freshman Gigi Zosa earned fourth all-around. The Bruin team, without the four-event services of freshman star Tanya Service, who had the flu to go with a bad ankle and competed only in bars and floor exercise, finished seventh with 181.70, behind Penn State (182.70).

Zosa, a resident of Huntington Beach who was born in Canada and was on the Canadian Olympic team in 1984, will compete in tonight’s individual uneven parallel bars and balance beam events.

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Elliott also advanced to the bars and beam events, while Titan Taunia Rogers finished third in the floor exercise to qualify for today’s individual event.

But Roni Barrios, a Fullerton senior who might almost be overlooked on the basis of her performance Friday, is one of the main reasons the Titans ever carried their unlikely dream as far as the nationals, according to Rogers.

Barrios, a senior, underwent two knee surgeries last summer and had decided her career was over. But an invitation to come back and try a couple of events blossomed into an outstanding season as an all-arounder.

“I wanted to be able to get out of gymnastics and still be able to walk,” Barrios said. “But I didn’t want to be one of those people who quits after a couple of years.

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“It was one of my goals to compete for four years, and I didn’t want to look back on it and regret it (the decision to quit).”

Rogers said: “We never would have gotten this far without Roni Barrios.”


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