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Alabama, Williams in NCAA regional

Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Kayla Williams of Huntington scored important points that helped the Alabama Crimson Tide to a runner-up finish in the Southeastern Conference gymnastics championships.

Williams placed second in vault and tied for fourth on balance beam.

Alabama, the two-time defending national champion, is the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional it hosts Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.

"This is the most important meet of the year and certainly the most pressure packed for all the teams," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "For us, to have a chance to defend our title, we have to do a great job at this meet."

No. 1-ranked Florida won the SEC championship by a slight margin over No. 3 Alabama and LSU was third.

With the top three teams within one-10th of a point of each other going into the final rotation, Alabama posted a season-best score on the vault to pull ahead of LSU.

The Tide was paced on the vault by a 9.975 by Williams, a 9925 by Diandra Milliner and 9.9 by Marissa Gutierrez to secure a second-place finish.

"We had so many great performances, from Kayla's 9.975 on the vault all the way through the meet, we gave ourselves every opportunity to win," Patterson said. "I hope the ladies know that and that it shows them that on any given night, we can win a national championship."

A career-best 9.925 by Williams on the balance beam was matched by teammate Kim Jacob.

Williams and Milliner were named to the All-SEC team

In her 2012 freshman season Williams received balance beam All-American recognition and was a Scholastic All-American.

She was the 2009 World Vault Champion and member of the U.S. World Championship team.

The 5-foot-2 Williams is a Huntington High graduate and a sophomore at Alabama with a public relations major. Williams, 21, is the daughter of Elizabeth and William WIlliams.