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    SEC Gymnastics Today - January 6

    Gym Dogs Open Season with Win

    ATHENS, Ga. - Noel Couch won her first all-around with a score of 39.275 to lead the No. 9 Georgia Gym Dogs (1-0) as they defeated the No. 20 Denver Pioneers (0-1) 196.525-193.700 in the season opener Friday night.

    The Gym Dogs posted their highest overall score in a season opener since defeating Stanford in 2007 with a score of 197.375. Georgia is now 3-0 in season openers under head coach Jay Clark.

    "I think winning our first meet is tremendous," said Clark. "It's what we talked about that we wanted to do and for the most part we did exactly what we said we wanted to do in terms of getting a good start coming out of the gate with a level of consistency and confidence that we haven't had in a couple of years. I think for the most part we did that. I told them that I was really pleased with how we did on three events."

    "Vault and bars were I thought 'lights out,'" continued Clark. "Then we got to beam and on the beam we looked great. We hit all eight of our routines that we put up there, including both exhibitions. I didn't think our dismount landings were very good and I thought that can be worked on and improved. Then floor, I think some of it is a little bit of anxiety. We have sort of protected them on floor this year in light of some of the issues that we had last year. We didn't want to go too hard on them all fall. I think it's just numbers."

    Freshmen Chelsea Davis and Sarah Persinger as well as sophomore Kaylan Earls competed in their first collegiate competition.

    "You've got to include Kaylan (Earls) when you talk about the freshman." said Clark. "Kaylan Earls did a fantastic job hitting all three of the events we put her out there on. She just looked like bundle of confidence out there. She didn't execute everything exactly the way she's been training. But overall, she was very strong. I thought Sarah (Persinger) and Chelsea (Davis) did a very good job. Chelsea has very little training under her belt with us to this point and was able to hit three events, one being an exhibition.

    Georgia opened the night on the vault, where Kat Ding led the way with a 9.925 and Cat Hires set a new career high of 9.875. The Gym Dogs posted a 49.925 on vault while the Pioneers scored 47.550 on bars to put Georgia up through one rotation.

    On the bars, defending national champion Ding tied her career best of 9.975 and Gina Nuccio posted a 9.900, to pace Georgia to a 49.250. Denver scored 49.025 on the vault, and the Georgia increased their lead to 98.475-96.575.

    In the third rotation, Shayla Worley posted a 9.875 and Christa Tanella set a career high of 9.850 on the beam. Georgia logged a 49.125 on beam and Denver scored 48.725 on floor, as the Gym Dogs entered the final rotation with a lead of 147.600-145.300.

    On the floor, Couch and Earls led Georgia with scores of 9.875 and 9.850, respectively. The Gym Dogs posted a 48.925 and Denver concluded its night on the beam with a score of 48.400, bringing the final score to 196.525-193.700.

    The Gym Dogs return to action on January 13 at 8:30 p.m. when they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 2 Alabama.



    No. 3 Florida Gymnastics Opens Season with Win at NC State

    RALEIGH, N.C. – The preseason No. 3 Florida gymnastics team (1-0, 0-0 SEC) opened the 2012 season Friday with a 196.025-194.675 win at North Carolina State (0-1, 0-0 EAGL). The Gators claimed at least a share of four of the evening’s five event titles, including freshman Kytra Hunter taking the all-around win.

    Of the 2,512 in attendance Friday at the Reynolds Coliseum, more than 60 were from the Triangle Gator Club so the team saw some orange & blue as they performed in the season’s first meet.

    It was the 2012 opener for both teams so the minor mistakes that appeared in the routines for the teams were expected. And Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn saw no red flags in the Gators’ performances.

    “I think they did a great job. They did exactly what we were looking for. We want to start out a lot slower this year which is a little bit different strategy than last year. We wanted to compete a lot of different athletes tonight. Our freshmen did a really great job and were able to get their feet wet. We were able to rest some of upperclassmen,” Faehn said. “Overall, I was very pleased with their performance. It’s a starting point. We are working to pace our athletes so that we can peak at the end of the year.”

    Hunter was one of four Gator freshmen making their collegiate debut tonight and she took home a pair of event titles - all-around (39.30) and floor exercise (9.90). She is now the fourth Gator in the last 25 years to win the all-around in Florida’s season opener. All four of those winners have come since Faehn took over the Gator program for the 2003 season.

    “I’m really proud of Kytra. She has a tremendous work ethic and is all business. It was really fun to see her get out there tonight and love performing,” Faehn said.

    For Hunter, a member of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 U.S. Senior National Teams, tonight was a chance to get a feel for the collegiate stage.

    “As a freshman, I just wanted to have fun and get my nerves out. It was a great outcome and I’m proud of it,” Hunter said. “I know that I need to go back into the gym and work on the little things I messed up here.”

    Gator event winners Friday included sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson, who claimed her sixth collegiate bars title with a 9.875. Johnson shared sixth in the 2011 NCAA uneven bars final. Two other Gators posted 9.80s on bars, as junior All-Americans Ashanée Dickerson and Marissa King shared second on the event.

    That duo claimed a share of the evening’s balance beam title with NC State’s Jess Panza at 9.825. It was the ninth beam win for Dickerson and the third for King. NC State’s Diahanna Ham just edged out Hunter and UF senior Nicole Ellis for the evening’s vault title. Ham earned a 9.875 while the Gator pair shared second at 9.85.

    King thought the meet went well for the Gators and gives the team definite points to work on in the upcoming training sessions.

    “I think as a team we did really well, especially for the first meet of the season. We came here to have a starting point to go back to the gym with. These are the routines we’ve been practicing all through the preseason and now we had the chance to do them under the pressure of competition,” King said. “Great job from the team.”

    Florida now returns home to play host to a pair of events. Meet the Team is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8 in the Ted Crom Gymnastics Studio. Admission for Meet the Team is free and fans are encouraged to enter at Gate 4 of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators will sign autographs following the event.

    Then the home season opens on Friday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. when Illinois-Chicago visits the O’Connell Center.



    No. 11 Arkansas Sets Record, Wins Cancun Classic

    CANCUN, Mexico. – Arkansas’ gymnastics team opened its season with a school-record team score for an opener and claimed the meet title at the five-team Cancun Classic on Friday.
               
    The Razorbacks, ranked 11th in the nation, have recorded multiple big wins in recent years with 32 victories over top 25 opponents in the last three seasons, and they added to that list Friday.
               
    Arkansas topped a field including Southeastern Conference rivals No. 12 LSU and No. 17 Auburn, plus No. 19 Arizona and No. 25 Iowa, to claim the championship.
               
    Competing with a rotation of beam, floor, vault and bars, Arkansas scored a team total 196.45 with a 48.95 on beam, 48.975 on floor, 49.325 on vault and 49.20 on bars.
               
    Arizona was second with a 195.15, followed by Auburn with a 194.775, Iowa 193.875 and LSU 192.50.
               
    “This is an unbelievable way to start the season with so many challenges,” co-head coach René Cook said. “The team really handled everything and competed hard. This team is on a mission.”
               
    Sophomore All-American Katherine Grable and sophomore Scarlett Williams had career bests on beam, Grable, Jordan Salsberg and junior All-American Kelci Lewis matched their personal bests on vault, and senior Mariah Howdeshell and sophomore Shelby Salmon had career highs on bars.
               
    Grable, who won all-around titles in her first two meets as a freshman last year, won the all-around with a 39.275. She also won beam with a 9.925. Senior All-American Jaime Pisani won vault with a 9.925 and floor with a 9.90, and Howdeshell won bars with a 9.925.
               
    “We started off on beam and really rocked on that event,” co-head coach Mark Cook said. “That got us going. Then we had some great floor routines, stuck our vaults and did a great job on bars. The team has really trained hard since last year ended. They believe in our system and they came through. This tells us where we are and we’re happy.”
               
    On beam, Salsberg, a junior all-arounder, opened with a solid 9.80. Grable led the way with a career-best 9.925, followed by Williams with a personal-best 9.875, Salsberg’s 9.80, Howdeshell’s 9.725 and Salmon’s 9.625.
               
    Through the first rotation, LSU led with a 49.20 on vault, followed by Arkansas, Arizona with a 48.775 on bars and Iowa a 48.375 on floor.
               
    On floor, sophomore Bailee Zumwalde led off with a 9.75. Pisani posted a team-best 9.90 followed by Grable’s 9.875, Zumwalde’s 9.75 and a pair of 9.725s from junior Amy Borsellino and Salsberg.
               
    Next on vault, Borsellino, an All-American in the event last year, led off with a 9.775. Pisani scored a 9.925, followed by Grable’s career-high matching 9.90. Salsberg also matched her personal-best with a 9.875 and Lewis matched her best of 9.85.           
               
    The 49.325 team total equals last year’s season best, which the Razorbacks hit twice, and ties for sixth-best in school history.
               
    Through three rotations, the Razorbacks led the meet with 147.25, followed by Arizona (146.275), Auburn (97.625), LSU (97.175) and Iowa (96.95).
               
    Arkansas followed with a bye before closing the meet on bars.
               
    Salsberg led off with a 9.75. Howdeshell had a career-best 9.925, followed by Pisani with a 9.90, Salmon with a career-best 9.85 and freshman Stephani Canizaro with a 9.775 in her first event as a Razorback.
               
    “We had a great start on beam, and Scarlett and Katherine were unbelievable,” René said. “On floor, everybody stayed focused when Scarlett got hurt and Jordan’s music quit midway through her routine. On vault, from top to bottom, we stuck so many landings. On bars, Mariah came through and we finished strong.”
               
    The Razorbacks are in Fayetteville for their home and Southeastern Conference opener next week when the play host to Kentucky on Friday at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
               
    “We told them this is just the beginning,” Mark said. “It builds our confidence because if you can focus here, other meets are a lot more routine. Now we’re focusing on Kentucky and maintaining that (196) score.”



    LSU Places Fifth at Cancun Classic
     
    CANCUN, Mexico – The LSU gymnastics team opened the 2012 season with a 192.550 to finish in fifth place at the Cancun Classic Friday night in the Iberostar Hotel.

    No. 11 Arkansas won the meet with a 196.450, while 19th-ranked Arizona took second with a 195.150. No. 17 Auburn placed third with a 194.775, and No. 25 Iowa came in fourth with a 193.875.

    No. 12 LSU (0-4) opened up with a bang as the Tigers posted a 49.200 on vault in the first rotation. Freshman Lloimincia Hall led the team with a 9.90 in her first event as a Tiger. Fellow freshman Rheagan Courville finished right behind Hall with a 9.875, and Sarie Morrison anchored the event with a 9.85. LSU also counted Ashley Lee’s 9.80 and Kaleigh Dickson’s 9.775.

    The Tigers had a bye in rotation two, and the layoff seemed to kill the momentum as LSU struggled at the start of bars in the third rotation and finished with a 47.925. Freshman Randi Lau opened the event with an 8.950 after she suffered a fall, and freshman Jessie Jordan also fell. Lainie Fleming posted a 9.70, Hall earned a 9.725, Courville tallied a 9.825 and Morrison anchored with a 9.725.

    Jordan and Courville led LSU on beam with a 9.75 and 9.725, respectively, but the Tigers faltered as the other four competitors in the lineup suffered at least one fall on the way to a team total of 46.525.

    LSU wrapped up the meet with a 48.800 on floor, highlighted by a 9.85 from Hall and 9.80’s from Dickson and Jordan.

    Courville finished third in the all-around with a 39.175 in her first collegiate competition, and Hall’s 9.90 on vault took second place in the event.

    “Tonight’s performance was not indicative of this team’s potential,” head coach D-D Breaux said. “We will work hard this coming week, and I expect to have a much better meet next Friday.

    “We had a great first event and then went to bars and had some problems. We just let it get to us. We just need more pressure sets in practice and more competition experience.”



    Auburn Places Third at Season-Opening Cancun Classic

           
    CANCUN, Mexico – Auburn gymnastics scored 194.775 and placed third in the season-opening Cancun Classic on Friday night at the Iberostar Resort.

    “I thought we did a really good job,” head coach Jeff Graba said. “I thought our youth showed at times. Some of the rough patches are just our freshman getting used to the environment, but overall I thought we did a good job. There is definitely room for improvement.”

    Junior Petrina Yokay enjoyed a strong opening meet as she finished in second place in the all-around standings with a score of 39.200. She was joined by senior Kylie Shields who scored 39.025 as the only two all-around competitors for Auburn on the night.

    “I’m so proud of Petrina,” Graba said. “She deserves this. Petrina has worked hard, but I still feel like she is improving. Better things are still to come for her.”

    Auburn’s best event came in its first rotation as the Tigers posted a 48.850 on the uneven bars, a performance that was highlighted by a solid year-opening routine from Shields (9.875). Yokay also had a positive result scoring 9.800.

    Shields’ score on bars was good enough for third place overall in the meet.

    The next event for Auburn (2-2) was beam with a score of 48.775. Yokay led the way with a 9.825, while senior Allyson Sandusky and freshman Megan Walker both added scores of 9.775. Shields and Yokay again led the way on floor with identical 9.775 scores as Auburn posted a total of 48.650.

    The fourth and final rotation for Auburn was vault. Toi Garcia and Yokay recorded the highest scores for Auburn at 9.800 to lead the Tigers to a team total of 48.50.

    Arkansas paced the competition with an overall score of 196.450. Arizona was second (195.150), while Iowa (193.875) and LSU(192.50) trailed Auburn.

    Expected by many to be an integral part of Auburn’s early season lineup, freshman Brianna Guy appeared in only vault on Friday night as she continues to recover from a minor injury.

    “Not having Bri [Guy] was big,” Graba said. “I felt like as a team that we adjusted well. She’s a big part of the lineup, but I thought our girls filled in really well for her. By overcoming her absence, we feel like we have added a little more depth.”

    Auburn gymnastics is in action next on Friday, January 13, when it travels to Baton Rouge, La. to face LSU.