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Gym Dogs Advance to N.C.A.A. Finals With 197.625 Score

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It has been a busy day in Bulldog Nation. As pointed out by SkiDawg1985 and Cline, Aaron Murray chose Georgia over Florida and U.C.L.A., while Orson Swindle defined us with disturbing accuracy and Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana State all advanced from the afternoon session of the N.C.A.A. gymnastics championships in Athens. (Insert your "S.E.C. speed" reference here.)

The top-seeded Gym Dogs competed in the evening session alongside five teams the Red and Black had faced earlier in the season: Utah, Stanford, Michigan, U.C.L.A., and Denver. Georgia began the meet on the balance beam in the first rotation, where the home team posted a cumulative 49.35 score, to which the Red and Black were guided by marks of 9.9 from Grace Taylor and 9.95 from Katie Heenan.

That solid start did not give the Gym Dogs the highest tally of the initial rotation, however, as the Bruins put up an impressive 49.475 on the bars on the strength of five scores of 9.85 or better. The rest of the rotation was rounded out by Stanford's 49.175 in the floor exercise and Denver's 48.625 in the vault.

Georgia drew a bye in the second rotation, in which Utah received a 49.3 on the bars; Stanford, a 49.2 in the vault; Michigan, a 49.1 on the floor; and U.C.L.A., a 48.8 on the beam. Suzanne Yoculan's squad drew the floor exercise for the third leg of the meet and a pair of 9.9s from Cassidy McComb and Courtney McCool, coupled with a 9.925 from Tiffany Tolnay, earned the Red and Black a 49.4 mark. Also during the rotation, Utah put up a 49.05 on the beam; Michigan, a 48.95 in the vault; and Denver, a 48.85 on the bars.

Georgia moved on to the vault for the fourth rotation. There the Gym Dogs posted a 9.9 from Heenan and a 9.95 from Marcia Newby to combine for a 49.375 total while Stanford (49.325 on the bars), U.C.L.A. (49.2 on the floor), and Denver (47.95 on the beam) all trailed the host team.

The Red and Black drew their second bye during the fifth rotation, when Michigan notched a 49.375 on the bars; Stanford, a 49.2 on the beam; Utah, a 49.2 on the floor; and U.C.L.A., a 49.25 in the vault. This put the two Pac-10 participants in first and second place, as the Cardinal led with a final mark of 196.9 and the Bruins were right behind with a total tally of 196.725. Georgia, with a 148.125 score after three events, would need to top 48.775 even to have a chance at claiming the preliminary session championship.

The Gym Dogs drew the parallel bars for the final rotation. How determined were they to defend their three straight national titles? Let me put it to you this way: the low score Georgia dropped was one of the 9.875s from McComb and McCool. Nikki Childs, Heenan, and Tolnay all carded 9.9s and Taylor led the way with a 9.925 en route to a 49.5 score for the round and a 197.625 overall. Utah propelled itself into second place with a cumulative 196.95 by earning a 49.4 in the vault, Michigan took fifth with a combined 196.075 following a 48.65 performance on the beam, and Denver brought up the rear with a 194.2 tally after receiving a 48.775 in the floor exercise.

The Gym Dogs not only avenged their only two losses of the regular season, they proved themselves once again at the highest level of competition. U.C.L.A. notched an impressive 196.725 collective score, which would have earned the Bruins second-place standing in the day's earlier session, yet this was good enough only for a fourth-place finish in the evening.

The "Super Six," which includes four Southeastern Conference squads led by top-scoring first-place Georgia, will square off in the team finals tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum.

Go 'Dawgs!