While the Diamond Dogs were taking care of business against the Gators in Gainesville, the Gym Dogs were hosting Florida and four of the other top gymnastics squads in the country in the final round of the N.C.A.A. championships. I'd love to be able to regale you with a thrilling tale of triumph over adversity, of coming back against insurmountable odds, and of pulling out a victory when all seemed lost, but, honestly, when Georgia got to go for its fourth straight national title in Stegeman Coliseum, it really was no contest.
The Red and Black were on the floor for the first rotation and the previous evening's enthusiasm and execution carried over to Friday night. Led by a 9.95 from Katie Heenan and 9.9s from Cassidy McComb and Tiffany Tolnay, the host squad posted a 49.475 in the opening round of the meet. This mark exceeded the scores posted by Alabama (49.1 in the vault), Utah (49.1 on the beam), and Florida (49.05 on the bars).
To the second rotation the Gym Dogs went, where they were to compete in the event that has been the closest thing to an Achilles heel that Suzanne Yoculan's squad has displayed all season, the vault. In what oftentimes has been the team's weakest event, Georgia was guided to a 49.225 by Marcia Newby (9.85), Tolnay (9.85), Heenan (9.875), and McComb (9.9).
Meanwhile, the Gators notched a trio of 9.8s on the way to a 48.85 on the beam, giving the Gym Dogs a 98.7-97.9 edge on Florida. Stanford also chalked up a 49.225 on the bars and L.S.U. received a 49.125 on the floor. In the third rotation, as the Red and Black drew their first bye, Utah earned a 49.275 in the floor exercise to outpace Louisiana State (49.225 in the vault), Stanford (49.175 on the beam), and Alabama (49.075 on the bars).
The Gym Dogs' turn on the parallel bars featured a 9.9 from McComb and a 9.925 from Courtney McCool en route to a 49.375 tally in a fourth rotation which also saw Florida garner a 49.4 on the floor; Utah, a 49.4 in the vault; and Alabama, a 48.425 on the beam.
Because Georgia had drawn its second bye in the sixth leg of the meet, the fifth rotation was the final one in which the Red and Black were to compete. In their last chance to put up points, the home team posted a 49.375 on the beam on the strength of a 9.9 from McCool and a 9.95 from Heenan to give the Gym Dogs a 197.45 final mark.
The Gators, who likewise drew a sixth-round bye, put up a 49.4 in the vault to card a cumulative score of 196.7, which was solid but well in their hosts' wake. The other marks posted in the fifth rotation included Stanford's 49.225 on the floor and Louisiana State's 49.2 on the bars.
Georgia then got to sit back and watch a sixth rotation in which the Crimson Tide chalked up a stellar 49.525 in the floor exercise yet still finished sixth with an overall 196.125 mark, the Bayou Bengals tallied the 48.8 on the balance beam that left L.S.U. languishing in fifth place with a collective 196.35, the Cardinal notched a 49.125 in the vault to edge Florida for third place with a combined 196.75, and the Red Rocks received a 49.35 on the uneven parallel bars to improve their score to a second-place 197.125.
It is exceedingly difficult to comment on the way in which Coach Yoculan's gymnastics squads perform on the grandest of stages without sounding hyperbolic. With the national championship on the line, in a meet in which Florida's 196.7 was good enough only for fourth place, Georgia saw a Utah program that historically has set the standard for collegiate gymnastics programs post an extremely solid 197.125, yet still fall to the Gym Dogs by more than three-tenths of a point.
In the course of claiming the squad's fourth consecutive national title, a Red and Black team overflowing with all-Americans produced two of the top three scorers on the bars, four of the top six scorers on the beam, and three of the top seven scorers in the floor exercise.
Any congratulations I could offer to Coach Yoculan and her team would be meager indeed. How does one thank a senior class that will graduate having never known a season which didn't result in a national championship? The Gym Dogs simply are the embodiment of excellence and I lack the vocabulary adequately to describe a program that has succeeded so consistently that the exceptional has come to be expected and being the best has become merely routine.