The Norman Transcript

April 21, 2014

Taylor Spears makes most of her first and final shot with balance beam national title

Staff and Wire Reports
The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Competing in her first and final NCAA championships, Taylor Spears left nothing on the table. After helping the Sooners to a team title Saturday night, the senior took home the individual title for balance beam Sunday afternoon.

Spears, who won with a score of 9.925, said jitters weren’t a problem despite the situation.

“I knew it was my last routine ever and I just went out there and did what I know how to do, what I’ve been doing all year,” Spears said.

Georgia’s Lindsey Cheek (9.90) was second on the beam followed by a four-way tie for third.

For Spears, it was the happiest of endings to a career on an event that can lead to heartbreak as easily as glory. A fall from the beam on the last routine of Saturday night ended Alabama’s title hopes.

“Every dream for her probably has come true in the last two days,” Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. “To watch it end like that was really unique, I think.

“You see careers end in so many different ways, injuries or not quite getting where you wanted to get. So this is a pretty rare moment to see someone who has won a team national championship and then an individual national championship for the first time on the last chance.”

Arkansas’ Katherine Grable captured two titles on the final day of the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships.

Grable, who was tied for second in the all-around, won the floor exercise championship in Sunday’s individual event competition and shared the vault title with LSU’s Rheagan Courville after qualifying as an individual. It was the first NCAA gymnastics title for Arkansas.

“I never thought going into this weekend that I’d be bringing home two national championships and a second-place all-around,” Grable said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Florida’s Bridget Sloan, a 2008 Olympian, captured the third title of her career. She won the uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.9375 after winning the all-around and balance beam titles last year. She had helped the Gators win a share of their second straight championship on Saturday night.

“To win an individual event, it’s icing on the cake,” Sloan said. “You go from team finals, which is what it’s all about, to individual. (Sunday) was just a great night for everyone all around.”

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.