Sports

Schwartz lands national uneven bars title

Brianna Schwartz capped her senior season with a title. - Photo courtesy Kathleen Schwartz
Brianna Schwartz capped her senior season with a title.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Kathleen Schwartz

Sumner High graduate’s performance earns her All-American honors

Seattle Pacific University senior Brianna Schwartz saved her best for last.

In the final routine of her outstanding collegiate gymnastics career, Schwartz, a Bonney Lake resident and Sumner High graduate, collected a national championship on the uneven bars.

“She landed and started crying. We all started crying,” SPU coach Laurel Tindall said.

Schwartz scored a 9.750 to tie for top honors on the bars and claim the school’s 22nd individual national championship, Saturday during the final day of the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championships at Moore Gymnasium on the Southern Connecticut State University campus.

“Brianna was very happy to take home a gold medal from her final gymnastic competition,” her mother Kathleen Schwartz relayed through e-mail. “What an exciting way to finish her gymnastic career.”

The Falcons’ other individual event competitor, freshman Kaysha Heck of Edmonds, Wash., also medaled on the bars. She received a third-place score of 9.725 that was just shy of the winning tally posted by Schwartz and Yale’s Alina Liao.

Schwartz placed ninth in Thursday’s all-around competition (37.85) and qualified for the bars final with a score of 9.65 that tied for the second-best preliminary mark.

“Bri didn’t have a great all-around so this was a terrific way for her to finish her career,” said Tindall, who was a 1975 vault champion with the Falcons.

Schwartz had difficulty with her bars dismount in qualifying, but had no such trouble in the finals when it mattered most.

“She came through with a clean routine, nothing fancy, just clean. And she nailed her dismount,” Tindall said. “Bri said she was just praying not to move her feet when she landed.”

Schwartz’s triumph secured the first event title for a Falcons gymnast since 2005 when Debra Huss won the bars, floor and all-around championships. Six of SPU’s 22 individual gymnastics titles came during the last seven seasons.

Both Schwartz and Heck garnered All-America accolades. Schwartz previously earned All-America recognition in 2007, placing fifth on the bars and sixth in the floor exercise at the USAG championships.

The lofty finishes didn’t come easily for the Falcons gymnasts. Their competitors also produced standout routines on that apparatus.

“Everybody hit on bars in the finals, so it was a tight competition. Some years the kids are tired at the third day of competition and some years they miss,” Tindall said. “You had to hit to do well today and hit a really good routine to place today.”

Sponsored by USA Gymnastics, the collegiate national championships include primarily NCAA Division II and III members. Some Division I schools that choose to adhere to scholarship limits also compete at the USAG meet.

On Thursday, Liao scored a 38.725 to share the all-around championship with Katie Canning of Temple and Rashonda Cannie of Texas Women’s University.

Friday’s team competition resulted in co-national champions as Cornell and Bridgeport finished with matching first-place scores of 191.675.

The SPU gymnasts were at-large entries as the team and finished one spot away from qualifying for the eight-team field during regional qualifying. That snapped a string of 27 consecutive appearances for the Falcons as a team at the championships.

Seattle Pacific has won three team national championships, an NCAA Division II title in 1986 followed by USAG crowns in 1992 and 1997.

Story provided by Seattle Pacific University Sports Information Department.

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