- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 18, 2009

LINCOLN, NEB. (AP) - Georgia’s Courtney Kupets ended her distinguished college career with a record-setting performance on the final night of the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships.

Kupets added individual titles in the uneven bars, floor exercise and balance beam on Saturday to the all-around championship she won two days earlier. Her four titles tied the record for a single national meet.

She ended her career with a record nine individual titles, beating the mark of eight by Kentucky’s Jenny Hansen in 1993-95.

“There’s no question she’s the college gymnast of all time,” Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said. “She’s the Muhammad Ali of gymnastics _ the greatest.”

Kupets amassed her titles over three national meets. She missed last year’s because of an Achilles’ tendon injury.

Kupets won the balance beam with a score of 9.9875, the uneven bars with a 9.95, and she tied for first with LSU’s Ashleigh Clare-Kearney in the floor exercise with a 9.95.

She squirmed as Yoculan showered her with praise.

“I don’t really believe that,” she said. “I just do what I do and I love it. It’s kind of crazy for someone to say that about me. It’s an honor.”

Clare-Kearney led LSU’s 1-2 finish on the vault. Clare-Kearney, who fell on the balance beam at the start of Thursday’s team preliminaries, defeated defending champion Susan Jackson for the first of her two titles.

Clare-Kearney’s two-vault score average was 9.9, edging out Jackson’s 9.8938. Kupets, the 2007 champion, and Kristina Baskett of Utah tied for third (9.8563).

Clare-Kearney was awarded a 10 by four of the six judges on her opening vault, but she had points deducted on her second when she caught herself falling backward on her dismount.

“Really, I came in here tonight just wanting to have fun,” Clare-Kearney said. “It was my last competition ever, which was crazy to think about. I wanted to perform the best I could and, whatever happened, I figured that was meant to be.”

Kupets was the second competitor on the bars, and of the 13 gymnasts who followed, only three cracked 9.9. Carly Janiga of Stanford was second (9.9125) and Alicia Goodwin of Florida and 2006 champion Kristina Baskett of Utah tied for third (9.9).

Kupets and Clare-Kearney turned in nearly flawless performances on the floor exercise, outscoring third-place finisher Corey Hartung of Florida (9.9).

Kupets, who earned three 10s the first two days of the meet, came close to another one on the balance beam. Two judges put up 10s for her routine, and she ended up with a 9.9875. Teammate Courtney McCool was second (9.95).

Kupets, bronze medalist on the bars at the 2004 Olympics, won individual NCAA titles in the all-around, bars and beam as a freshman in 2006. She repeated as all-around champion in 2007 and also won the vault.

She tore her right Achilles’ in a 2008 dual and missed the national meet, but she re-established herself as the top college gymnast in the country this season.

Yoculan said Kupets probably isn’t the most athletic, explosive or flexible gymnast. But she said Kupets’ combination of physical and mental ability puts her in a class by herself.

The meet schedule required Kupets to compete in four events three straight days. Her score of 39.8 on the all-around matched the highest at a national meet, and she accounted for 39.9 points in Friday’s team finals.

Kupets said she never considered begging off any of the individual events Saturday.

“I’m a senior and this is my last year,” she said, “so I wanted to go out with a bang.”

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