- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Courtney Kupets and Carly Patterson are both so good they decided to share the all-around national title. It was a fitting end for two competitors who were in a class of their own throughout the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

“I think it’s great,” Gaithersburg’s Kupets said. “I’m just proud that I got through two days of competition.”

Terin Humphrey managed to take third place after 2000 Olympian Tasha Schwikert faltered.

Courtney McCool didn’t let Thursday’s early release on the bars and hard landing on her back scare her. She rebounded with a 9.525 in that event and moved up from eighth to fourth overall.

“It was behind me,” McCool said of Thursday’s mishap. “I knew I had to do it [tonight], so I did it.”

Heading into the final rotation, Patterson was in first place by 0.35, her first lead of the competition. Patterson was on vault and Kupets on uneven bars. If both repeated their scores from Thursday, the title would belong to Patterson. But she scored only a 9.25, which left her tied with Kupets.

“I’m really excited. After vault, I thought I was going to be second,” Patterson said.

Kupets scored a 9.8 on beam and Patterson got a 9.8 on floor exercise, so they also tied for the highest score throughout both days of the competition.

Kupets proved she is a fighter on floor exercise when she kept two mistakes from turning into disaster. On her third tumbling pass, she came up a little short but managed to hang on to the landing. On her fourth tumbling pass, she had a little too much power but kept herself from bouncing out of bounds and losing a tenth of a point.

Patterson stuck every tumbling pass on floor exercise as if she had glue on the bottom of her feet.

“Both of them are excellent,” U.S. Olympic team coordinator Marta Karolyi said. “They push each other to get better.”

Meanwhile, the meet brought disappointment for Northern Virginia’s Ashley Postell and Katie Heenan.

The uneven bars were Postell’s nemesis this week. After a terrible routine Thursday, she was looking to improve but instead dropped to a score of 8.3.

Heenan also bombed on bars, which is usually her best event. She had a major mistake during her routine and landed in the same sitting position as teammate Postell. It was the only event in which Heenan did not improve from Thursday.

Postell and Heenan finished 13th and 14th, respectively, and missed a trip to the Olympic trials. Both, however, will be named to the national team, which accepts the top 14 at nationals.

After winning the uneven bars title two nights ago, Schwikert fell off on what should have been an easy transition from the high bar to the low bar. Afterward she stuck out her tongue and shook her head. Her score of 8.725, coupled with a low 9.05 on beam, dropped her to ninth place overall.

But Schwikert, who wasn’t even sure she would be healthy enough to compete this week, remained positive.

“I’m so happy,” Schwikert said of finishing third on day one and ninth overall. “There are so many good girls here.”

The 12 athletes who will advance to the Olympic trials June 24-27 in Anaheim, Calif., are Kupets, Patterson, Humphrey, McCool, Allyse Ishino, Liz Tricase, Tabitha Yim, Tia Orlando, Schwikert, Nicole Harris, Carly Janiga and Mohini Bhardwaj.

Annia Hatch, who won the U.S. vault title Thursday, pulled out of last night’s competition because a previously injured knee was sore.

“I think it’s important to be safe for now and be ready [later],” Hatch said.

She will petition to the Olympic trials, along with Hollie Vise and Chellsie Memmel, who were unable to compete at all this week because of injuries.

Memmel, who had a cast from her left leg removed more than a week ago, was a spectator last night. She hopes to train at the Olympic trials and compete at the Olympic selection camp in July.

“[My doctors] have been pretty optimistic throughout the whole thing,” Memmel said. “They said it will be tight. I just have to try to do everything I can.”

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