Roethlisberger collects U.S. gymnastics title NCAA champion wins after rival's mistake


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- John Roethlisberger never looks up when he competes.

But just once yesterday, he looked up. And he couldn't believe what he saw.

"I didn't see anybody else all day," said the NCAA all-around gymnastics champion from Minnesota. So focused, he competes in a fog of concentration.

"But I was putting stuff in my bag. I looked up and I saw Scott Keswick fall.

"I knew the door was open for me, and all I to do was hit."

And that's all he did, winning the U.S. Gymnastics Championships all-around title and a pass to Baltimore for the Olympic gymnastics trials June 6-13.

Keswick entered yesterday's optional event at the St. John Arena just five-hundredths of a point behind Roethlisberger after Thursday's compulsories.

The two would duel it out just as they had done in the last two NCAA championships.

But Keswick finished second to Roethlisberger for a third time.

After overtaking him by two-tenths of a point with a 9.9 score on the parallel bars -- Keswick earned it with a death-defying double somersault between the bars -- Keswick fell back against the high bar and out of the running for the all-around title. He earned just 9.0 for that event while Roethlisberger was scoring a 9.7 on the still rings.

"I did the best ring routine of my career and really stuck the landing," Roethlisberger said.

But the victory was bittersweet. Roethlisberger and Keswick, who competes for UCLA, are great friends. They are never more pleased than when one has to bump the other out to win.

"I rather win having him hit," Roethlisberger said.

Keswick completed his last two events in obvious pain. But he scored a 9.7 on the floor exercises -- winching with every somersault -- and a 9.6 on the pommel horse.

"It was just a fluke thing," Keswick said of his fall. He was above the bar in a sitting position, hands braced while he moved through a stoop dislocate on the way to an inverted giant.

"My hand slipped out and I came down on the bar," Keswick said. He bruised his back just to the right of his tail bone.

"I knew I was just ahead of John in the standings. I went all out. If I had done just an average high bar routine I would have won.

"But that's the way I am. Now I will try to go out and win the Olympic trials."

He doesn't have to win. He just has to be among the top seven to make the team for Barcelona -- six competitors and an alternate.

That's what Kurt Thomas and Charlie Lakes have to do, too. Yes, Kurt Thomas. You remember him from the 1976 Olympics?

He's 35 years old, and he will make the trip to Baltimore.

"This is the greatest day of my life," said Thomas, who finished 16th to climax a comeback begun 2 1/2 years ago after a nine-year layoff.

"The age thing," he said, "has been blown out of proportion. I've been blessed with a young body."

So has Lakes. He's 27 and a veteran of the 1988 team. He returned to training six months ago -- and was actually carried from event to event yesterday because of an ankle injury on the vault, his first event.

But he finished 18th. The last spot on the Baltimore team.

"I thought it would be physically impossible to finish," Lakes said. "I'm as surprised as anyone."

Another veteran of 1988, Lance Ringnald, the baby of that team, finished a stunning sixth in his first competition since shoulder surgery after the World Championships in September.

"I don't feel surprised," Ringnald said. "I've been training well. I guess I was curious about how the shoulder would feel."

All-around standings after Round 12 (Top-18 finalists advance to Olympic trials in Balt.)

(Athlete, team, adjusted score, raw score):

1. John Roethlisberger, Minn., 115.44, 115.55; 2. Scott Keswick, UCLA, 115.14, 115.20; 3. Tim Ryan, Stanford, 114.66, 114.70; 4. Chris Waller, UCLA, 114.50, 114.55; 5. Dominick Minicucci, Temple, 114.38, 114.40; 6. Lance Ringnald, Gold Cup, 114.28, 114.35; 7. Jair Lynch, Stanford, 114, 114.25; 8. Trent Dimas, Golf Cup, 113.98, 114.15; 9. Jarrod Hanks, Oklahoma, 113.82, 113.90; 10. Bob Stelter, Nebraska, 113.26, 113.35; 11. Mark Warburton, Nebraska, 113.24, 113.25; 12. Jay Caputo, OTC, 113.18, 113.35; 13. Patrick Kirksey, Nebraska, 112.92, 113.25; 14. Dennis Harrison, Nebraska, 112.40, 112.65; 15. Kyle Asano, Stanford, 111.98, 111.75; 16. Kurt Thomas, OTC, 111.62, 111.85; 17. Mark McKiernan, Minnesota, 111.04, 111.05; 18. Charles Lakes, Olympica Sun, 109.92, 109.50.

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