As I reported earlier this evening, the Gym Dogs finished first in the afternoon session of the 2007 N.C.A.A. championships to advance to the Super Six for the 15th consecutive year.
The Red and Black opened the meet on the balance beam, earning a pair of 9.9s from Courtney Kupets and Grace Taylor, as well as a trio of 9.85s from Nikki Childs, Courtney McCool, and Tiffany Tolnay, to garner the high score of the first rotation. Georgia's 49.35 was trailed by Oregon State's 49.15 in the vault, Nebraska's 49 on the parallel bars, and archrival Alabama's uncharacteristically low 48.85 in the floor exercise.
Georgia had a bye during the second round of the meet, in which the Cornhuskers posted a 49.1 on the beam, the Crimson Tide accumulated a 49.05 in the vault, and the Sooners received a 48.8 on the bars. All Bulldog eyes, though, were on the floor exercise, in which three Gators earned 9.9s to amass a 49.425 mark for a top-ranked Florida squad that had the backing of one particularly classy fan wearing orange and blue (whose thoughtful gesture was greatly appreciated and whose report on the meet appears at Swamp Ball).
The Gym Dogs matched the Gators' score on the floor in the third rotation. Courtney Kupets's 9.95 and Tiffany Tolnay's 9.9 paced a 49.425 effort that once again was the highest compiled by any team in that round. Oregon State brought up the rear with a 48.525 on the bars, Oklahoma was awarded a 48.925 on the beam, and Florida, on the strength of two 9.9s, put up a 49.25 tally in the vault. Halfway through the meet, Georgia held a 98.775-98.675 advantage over the Gators.
You have to love a halftime lead over Florida . . . even if you have to calculate it out to three decimal places.
The fourth rotation saw the Red and Black competing in the vault. Megan Dowlen, Marcia Newby, and Tiffany Tolnay all earned 9.9s, but Courtney Kupets led the way with a 9.95 to win the Gym Dogs an overall 49.525 tally that was the best mark in that event posted by any team in the country in 2007. Also during the round, Nebraska captured a 49.175 in the floor exercise, Alabama claimed a 49.125 on the bars, and Oregon State lagged behind with a 48.675 on the beam.
The Gym Dogs drew their second bye during the fifth rotation, in which the Gators methodically put up a pair of 9.875s and a 9.925 from Melanie Sinclair to amass a 49.3 cumulative tally on the bars. Georgia now led Florida by a 148.3-147.975 margin. Nebraska led the round overall with a 49.35 in the vault, while Alabama and Oklahoma trailed with a 49.1 on the beam and a 49.175 on the floor, respectively.
In the final act of the drama, the Beavers posted a 48.75 in the floor exercise and the Sooners accumulated a 49.35 in the vault, but center stage belonged to the top two teams in the land. The Orange and Blue got 9.9s out of Amanda Castillo and Melanie Sinclair, capped off by a 9.925 from Corey Hartung to earn a 49.425 on the beam. The Red and Black relied upon a 9.9 from Katie Heenan and a 9.95 from Courtney Kupets to garner a 49.4 on the bars, giving the Gym Dogs the 197.7-197.4 victory over their nemesis from Gainesville. Third place, and the first session's final spot in the Super Six, went to Nebraska, with a 196.625.
Courtney Kupets tied the Cornhuskers' Emily Parsons for the highest score of the meet in the vault, led all gymnasts in the session on the uneven parallel bars, and finished first overall in the floor exercise. With the win, the Gym Dogs dealt the Gators their first defeat of the year and evened the season series between the two teams at 1-1-1, setting up what could be a decisive final battle for the national title on Friday evening.
The lineup for the Super Six will be set after this evening's second session and the competition will commence at 9:00 tomorrow night.