Georgia 196.85, Florida 196.825

Suzanne Yoculan's Gym Dogs began the season against two top five teams and the road did not get any easier on Friday night, when the three-time defending national champion Georgia gymnastics team traveled to Gainesville to take on top-ranked defending S.E.C. champion Florida.

Courtney Kupets and Grace Taylor stuck their respective landings in the first rotation, earning a 9.925 and a 9.9, respectively, on the parallel bars to pace a team effort of 49.35. The Gators, however, demonstrated the machine-like efficiency that hallmarked their conference title campaign in 2007, as no Florida gymnast scored below a 9.875 in the vault and Corey Hartung's 9.975 allowed the home team to card a 49.525 in the meet's opening stanza.

Corey Hartung wears her sunglasses at night so she can, so she can register the high score in the vault.

When the squads switched spots for the second rotation, Kupets's 9.95 in the vault paved the way to a 49.275 mark by the Red and Black, whereas Melanie Sinclair's 9.9 on the bars was not enough to overcome falls by Ashley Reed and Nicola Willis. The Orange and Blue's 48.5 tally for the event enabled the Gym Dogs to take a 98.625-98.025 lead at the halfway mark.

Georgia scored a 49.4 in the third rotation thanks to strong floor exercises by both Courtneys---Kupets (9.9) and McCool (9.95)---and the Gators were unable to keep pace, registering a 49.35 on the balance beam despite solid scores by Hartung (9.95) and Reed (9.9).

The Red and Black owned a 148.025-147.375 advantage heading into the final rotation, but the home team would not go quietly. A trio of Florida floor exercises earning 9.9s or better combined to give the Gators a 49.45 score for the meet's closing stanza. Despite a fall by Courtney McCool, Tiffany Tolnay's 9.9 on the beam guided Georgia to a contest-clinching 48.825 tally to provide the visitors their 196.85-196.825 final margin.

The name "McCool" reminds me of the burger where the hot stays hot and the cool stays cool, but that could just be because I'm still stuck on that whole B.L.T. thing.

While, obviously, it would have been nice had the Gym Dogs won more decisively after holding such a solid lead after two rotations, it's hard to gripe about any outcome in which a Georgia squad goes on the road and beats the No. 1 team in the land, even if the final score had to be taken to two decimal places to be determined.

Coach Yoculan's seasoned team has opened the campaign with three straight away meets over top-tier opposition, emerging with a 2-1 record and coming within one ill-timed fall of making it a clean sweep. When the Gym Dogs host L.S.U. for their first home meet on Saturday, January 26, they should come into the contest with confidence, boasting a winning record and home floor advantage despite having yet to hit their stride.

If the Red and Black break 197 for the first time this winter against the Bayou Bengals next Saturday, don't be surprised if the Georgia gymnasts go on a tear that leads them all the way to a fourth straight national title.

Go 'Dawgs!

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