Georgia 197.85, No One Else Even Close

The good news came across the wires late last night: the Gym Dogs won their third straight national championship with a dominating performance in Salt Lake City.

The Red and Black, who drew a first-round bye, watched the opening stanza of the meet, in which Florida took an early lead, posting a trio of 9.85s to pace a 49.225 effort on the balance beam. The Gators' score was matched by Stanford's tally in the vault (49.225). U.C.L.A.'s 49.1 on the parallel bars was good for third place and Nebraska brought up the rear with a 48.9 in the floor exercise.

Georgia started the second rotation on the bars. Courtney Kupets, Marcia Newby, and Tiffany Tolnay all earned 9.9 marks as the Gym Dogs garnered the high score for the round, tallying a 49.425 that put them ahead of Utah (49.375 on the floor), Nebraska (49.325 in the vault), and U.C.L.A. (49.15 on the beam).

The third rotation saw Suzanne Yoculan's squad on the balance beam, where a 9.9 from Katie Heenan and a 9.95 from Courtney McCool paved the way to an overall team score of 49.325, which equaled the tally amassed by the Gators in the floor exercise. Three Florida gymnasts earned 9.9s in the event, but the best mark of the third round was Utah's 49.375 in the vault. Stanford trailed with a 49.1 on the bars.

This brings us to halftime.

Georgia's second bye came during the fourth round, in which the Orange and Blue led all participants with a 49.4 in the vault, surpassing U.C.L.A.'s 49.275 on the floor, Stanford's 49.25 on the beam, and Nebraska's 48.925 on the bars.

For the fifth rotation, the Gym Dogs were on the floor, where Katie Heenan, Courtney McCool, and Grace Taylor all posted 9.9s, Tiffany Tolnay received a 9.925, and Courtney Kupets earned a 9.95 for an overall score of 49.575. The Bruins put up a 49.4 mark in the vault, followed by Utah (49.1 on the bars) and Nebraska (48.825 on the beam).

The final round featured a 49.4 from Utah on the beam and a 49.25 from Stanford on the floor, but the focus once again was on the top two teams in the land. Three 9.875s garnered the Gators a solid 49.275 mark on the bars, but 9.9s from Megan Dowlen and Courtney Kupets, a 9.925 from Tiffany Tolnay, and a 9.95 from Katie Heenan gave the Red and Black the 49.525 score in the vault that gave Georgia its third consecutive national title.

How dominant were the Gym Dogs in the meet that mattered most? The No. 1 team in the country posted an impressive 197.225 . . . and came in third. Georgia's championship-clinching tally of 197.85 was the best mark put up by a Bulldog squad in an N.C.A.A. Championship final since 1993, giving Coach Yoculan's team its eighth national crown. Only the Red Rocks, the most recent of whose nine No. 1 finishes came in 1995, have ended the season in the top spot in the standings more often than Georgia.

Our gals are about to put your gals in their rear view mirror, Block U!

The Red and Black finished strong, breaking a first-place deadlock with Utah after two events by earning scores of 9.9 or better nine times in the Gym Dogs' last 11 routines. Perhaps most impressively, Georgia ran its record for the season to 31-2-1 (and avenged both of its earlier setbacks) with a team entirely devoid of competing seniors.

Coach Yoculan has now completed her 24th season as the women's gymnastics coach at the University of Georgia. Her tenure in Athens is just one year shy of matching Bear Bryant's time on the sideline in Tuscaloosa. Coach Yoculan has won more S.E.C. championships (15) and more national titles (8) than Coach Bryant (13 and 6, respectively). Her career record of 773-114-7 gives her a higher winning percentage (.869) than that earned by the Bear with his 232-46-9 ledger (.824). Suzanne Yoculan is the Bear Bryant of women's gymnastics . . . and even that might be selling her somewhat short.

Since 1994, there have been five repeat champions in women's gymnastics: Utah (1994-1995), Georgia (1998-1999 and 2005-2006), and U.C.L.A. (2000-2001 and 2003-2004). The Gym Dogs, though, are the first to win three N.C.A.A. titles in a row since the period from 1982 to 1986, when the Red Rocks won five straight. It sounds like next year's goal has already been set.

Go 'Dawgs!

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