ATHENS -- Nailing a 9.9 uneven bars routine on the final performance of the meet, BYU's Leah Niepraschk gave the Cougars just enough points to edge third-place Towson University for the final NCAA qualifying spot from the Region 6 meet in Athens, Ga.
Top-seed and regional host Georgia won with a score of 196.725, followed by BYU at 194.700 and Towson at 194.325. Maryland finished fourth at 193.775 while North Carolina State placed fifth at 193.475 and George Washington sixth at 191.625.
"We didn't have a great meet but we didn't give up," BYU coach Brad Cattermole said. "Leah came through for us on bars and we vaulted like maniacs. We showed that we really wanted to compete at nationals on our final two events."
BYU started the meet on beam, scoring a 48.425. The Cougars suffered only one fall on the tough starting event, with senior Denice Pauga coming off the beam but only after her five beam teammates had completed solid, fall-free routines. Sophomore Kelly Parkinson led the way with a 9.775, followed by Kim Little with a 9.75 and Karen Nielsen with a 9.7.
The Cougars were in third place behind Georgia and Towson University entering BYU's second event, the floor exercise -- where Georgia scored a 49.4 during the first rotation. The Cougars moved into second place but did not take full advantage of the usually high scoring event, with a fall and three out of bounds being deducted from their scores on the way to a 48.750. Freshman Brooke Craig contributed BYU's top floor score at 9.825 with Marisa and Candace Cosgrave each scoring a 9.775.
"We made some mistakes but they were good mistakes," Cattermole said. "The errors came because we were going for it, not because we were being timid."
With Georgia the clear-cut leader after the third rotation at 148.025, BYU (146.05) maintained a slim second-place lead over Towson (145.85). Parkinson equaled her career high of 9.9 and Angie Hickman scored 9.825 to help BYU to a 48.875 vault score. Little and Pauga each added 9.775 vaults.
In the final rotation, BYU moved to uneven bars and Towson to vault to see who would advance to the NCAA Championships. The Cougars solidified second place with a 48.650 when senior Leah Niepraschk delivered a 9.9 on the final Cougar performance.
"I wasn't aware how close it was (between BYU and Towson) but I just thought I had to get up and do a good routine," said Niepraschk, who only competes on bars and is the BYU record holder on the event. "I just know it's my job to go up an hit -- that's why they have me go last."
Georgia's Kristi Lichey won the individual all-around competition with a 39.550. Little led the Cougar all-around effort with a 38.950, good enough for sixth place overall. Parkinson placed ninth at 38.825 and Pauga 10th at 38.350.
Parkinson joined Lichey as the winners of the vault competition (9.9) while the Georgia gymnast also won the beam event with a 9.9. Other event winners were Georgia's Brooke Andersen (9.950) on bars -- tying a Georgia team record, and fellow Bulldog Talya Vexler (9.925) on the floor exercise.
BYU and Georgia now advance as two of the 12 teams at the NCAA Championships in Boise, Idaho, April 13-15.
1. Georgia, 196.725
2. BYU, 194.700
3. Towson, 194.325
4. Maryland, 193.775
5. North Carolina State, 193.475
6. George Washington, 191.625.
1. Kristi Lichey, Georgia, 9.900
2. Laura Moon, Maryland, 9.875
3. Amanda Curry, Georgia, 9.850
BYU beam scores:
8. Kelly Parkinson, 9.775
11. Kim Little, 9.750
17. Karen Nielsen, 9.700
22. Brooke Craig, 9.675
31. Jeni Thomas, 9.525
35. Denice Pauga, 9.275
1. Brooke Andersen, Georgia, 9.950
2. Leah Niepraschk, BYU, 9.900
Eileen Diaz, Georgia, 9.900
Other BYU bars scores:
8. Kim Little, 9.800
10. Denice Pauga, 9.775
Jeni Thomas, 9.775
33. Kelly Parkinson, 9.400
34. Mindi Hilton, 9.350
1. Talya Vexler, Georgia, 9.925
2. Caroline Harris, Georgia, 9.900
Kristi Lichey, Georgia, 9.900
BYU floor scores:
8. Brooke Craig, 9.825
19. Marisa Cosgrave, 9.775
Candace Cosgrave, 9.775
24. Kelly Parkinson, 9.750
32. Kim Little, 9.625
34. Denice Pauga, 9.525
1. Kelly Parkinson, BYU, 9.900
Kristi Lichey, Georgia, 9.900
3. Brooke Andersen, Georgia, 9.875
Other BYU vault scores:
6. Angie Hickman, 9.825
9. Denice Pauga, 9.775
Kim Little, 9.775
23. Mindi Hilton, 9.600
27. Hilary Johnson, 9.550
1. Kristi Lichey, Georgia, 39.550
2. Gabi Weller, Towson, 39.300
3. Laura Moon, Maryland, 39.075
BYU all-around scores:
6. Kim Little, 38.950
9. Kelly Parkinson, 38.825
10. Denice Pauga, 38.350