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AAtkinson earns All-American honors on vault at NCAAs

EVERYBODY'S ALL-AMERICAN: Junior Mary Atkinson earned All-American honors on vault at the NCAA Championships in Gainesville, Fla. over the weekend (Photo by Scott Stuk).
EVERYBODY'S ALL-AMERICAN: Junior Mary Atkinson earned All-American honors on vault at the NCAA Championships in Gainesville, Fla. over the weekend (Photo by Scott Stuk).

At the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Gainesville, Fla., ASU junior gymnast Mary Atkinson added four words to her title.

First-Team All-American.

In her first trip to Nationals, Atkinson competed in the all-around preliminary competition Thursday evening.

On balance beam, floor and uneven bars, Atkinson would be the first to admit she did not have one of her best performances, having rare major flaws on each event.

But vault was a different story.

“It’s the same vault I’ve done all year,” Atkinson said, according to ASU media relations. “I knew I was just as capable and competitive with the girls. I went all out.”

And all out she went, earning a nine-way tie for third place and a berth in the event finals Saturday with a 9.900.

Just making the vault final clinched the All-American distinction for Atkinson, but her action in Florida was far from over.

As the very first gymnast to compete Saturday, Atkinson successfully completed her first of two vault runs with just a small hop on the landing.

Unfortunately, her second attempt did not go as quite as swimmingly.

“I ran really hard for my second vault — it’s not a vault I normally do, but I competed [with] it in club,” Atkinson said in an interview with “I ran too hard and kind of stumbled — my legs gave way as I went to hurdle.”

Game over, right? Wrong.

“There is a technicality in the rules that you have three attempts to go over the horse, and you can touch the board or the vault table as long as you don’t go over,” Atkinson said. “And since I fell to the side and never really went over the table, that just counted as one of my three attempts to complete a vault — the same as if somebody ran down, stepped on the board and ran by.”

By the time the judges had determined the Sun Devil could go again, the vaulting competition was over. So after a two-plus-hour layoff waiting for each event to finish, the gymnast who started the competition symmetrically ended it.

“There really was no pressure at that point,” Atkinson said. “Everybody was supporting me. All the girls were kind of lined up against the podium cheering me on, so it was nice.”

Atkinson would not let her second chance go to waste.

The Sun Devil put down a solid run and consequentially moved from 18th to ninth place overall with a 9.7625.

UCLA sophomore Vanessa Zamarripa won the event to go along with the national title her team won Friday night.

“I am very proud of Mary,” ASU coach John Spini said, according to ASU media relations. “I think it was hard for her to compete without her team here, but she did great. We were excited for her to make the vault finals and to become an All-American.”

Atkinson is Spini’s 27th All-American and first since Ashley Kelly in 2006.

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