LSU's Clare-Kearney Makes History with Pair of NCAA Titles
POSTED: Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 11:30pm
UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm
LSU senior gymnast Ashleigh Clare-Kearney ended her career on top as she captured her two individual national titles, as she won the vault championship with a 9.9000 average and the floor national championship with a 9.9500 average Saturday night at Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center.
No other Tiger in school history had ever won two national titles -- let alone in one meet -– but the Manchester, Conn., native pulled off the feat, tying Georgia’s Courtney Kupets for the title on floor and winning the vault title outright.
“I came in here tonight just wanting to have fun,” Clare-Kearney said. “It was my last competition ever which is crazy to think about, but I did not have expectations coming into the meet. I just wanted to go out and perform the best I could, and whatever happened I felt like that was meant to be. It is really exciting to have these titles, but I came in just wanting to having fun and go out with a bang.”
Head coach D-D Breaux remarked about the stellar routines Clare-Kearney performed in the senior’s final time in an LSU leotard.
“My hat goes off to Ashleigh because she had her injury, her setbacks and disappointments throughout her career, but she never lost sight of that goal and never lost vision of the dream that she could win national championships,” Breaux said. “For her to win national titles on vault and floor in her last performances as a Tiger is just icing on the cake for her. I am proud beyond words.”
Junior Susan Jackson, last year’s national vault champion, finished second with a 9.8938 average, giving the Tigers a 1-2 finish in an event for the first time in program history.
Clare-Kearney finished with a near-perfect 9.9875 in her first vault attempt, and she followed with a 9.8125 second attempt that gave her a 9.9000 average for her first national title.
On floor, Georgia’s Kupets scored a 9.9500 as the third competitor in the event, so the pressure was on for the rest of the gymnasts. Clare-Kearney was the 12th and final competitor in the event, and her routine was almost flawless as she matched the former Olympian Kupets with a 9.9500 score to claim her school-record second individual national title.
Jackson’s first vault attempt was a 9.9125 and her second score was a 9.8750 for a total of 9.8938, good for second behind Clare-Kearney.
Sophomore Staci Schwitkis, LSU’s other First-Team All-American on vault, finished 10th on vault with a 9.6813 average. It marked the first time in LSU history that three gymnasts finished in the top 10 in one event.
Clare-Kearney also competed on bars, and she finished ninth with a score of 9.8500. Junior Summer Hubbard, a two-time First-Team All-American on bars, scored a 9.0500 in the event as well.
“It is exciting and really an honor to have that accomplishment of two titles under my belt, especially with gymnasts like April Burkholder and Susan Jackson and so many all-arounders and strong gymnasts who have gone through LSU,” Clare-Kearney said. “I hope it motivates upcoming LSU gymnasts to do the same or better.”
Clare-Kearney’s championships mark LSU’s fifth and sixth individual national titles, following Jeanie Beadle’s 1977 Beam Championship, Nicki Arnstad’s 2002 Floor Championship, April Burkholder’s 2006 Beam Championship and Jackson’s 2008 Vault Championship.
With the two titles Clare-Kearney ended her career with a LSU record 114 individual titles, five better than Burkholder who ended her career with 109 from 2003-06.
LSU wrapped up the 2009 season in outstanding fashion, advancing to the program’s second straight Super Six and finishing the season with two individual national titles.