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    SEC Gymnastics Today - January 13

    Razorbacks Top 196 Again, Beat No. 23 Kentucky
    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas had a big night on bars and floor, and the No. 11 Razorback gymnastics team recorded its fifth win of the season over a top 25-ranked opponent with Friday’s 196.65-191.975 victory over No. 23 Kentucky in its Southeastern Conference opener in Barnhill Arena.
    Senior All-American Jaime Pisani matched the school record she already shared with a 9.95 on floor and Arkansas’ team total is the 10th-best in school history.
    “This team was business as usual,” co-head coach Rene Cook said. “They are calm and collected. Things happened that could throw us off, but it didn’t faze them. We have high goals and these first two meets just validate those.”
    Arkansas is 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC after opening the season last week by winning the Cancun Classic over No. 12 LSU, No. 17 Auburn, No. 19 Arizona and No. 25 Iowa.
    The Razorbacks opened the year with a 196.45 in Cancun and now have a 196 in the first two meets of a season for the first time in school history.
    “We were pretty focused,” co-head coach Mark Cook said. “This team showed a lot of poise.”
    Pisani won vault with a 9.90, floor with the 9.95 and the all-around with a 39.525. Sophomore All-American Katherine Grable won beam with a 9.85, and Grable and senior Mariah Howdeshell tied for the bars title with a 9.875.
    Arkansas opened with a 49.075 on vault. Pisani led the way with a 9.90 while Grable had a 9.85, junior All-American Amy Borsellino a season-high 9.775, junior Jordan Salsberg a 9.775, and junior Kelci Lewis and sophomore Scarlett Williams a 9.75 each.
    UK opened with a 47.825 on bars and was led by Whitney Rose with a 9.70.
    In the second rotation, Arkansas had a season-high 49.275 on bars, which matches the fourth-best in school history. The Razorbacks were led by career-high performances from Grable, Salsberg and sophomore Shelby Salmon. Grable had a 9.875, Salsberg a 9.825 and Salmon a career-best matching 9.85. Howdeshell had a team-high matching 9.875 and Pisani added a 9.85.
    Meanwhile on vault, Kentucky scored a 48.60, led by Kenzie Hedges with a 9.775.
    After the first two rotations, Arkansas led the meet 98.35-96.475.
    On beam in the third rotation, Arkansas recorded a 48.90, led by Pisani’s season-high 9.825 and Grable’s 9.85. Salsberg had a 9.775, Williams a 9.75 and Salmon a 9.70.
    For Kentucky on floor, Shelby Hilton recorded a 9.75.
    In the final rotation, Arkansas had a 49.40 on floor, which also matches the fourth-best score in program history. In addition to Pisani matching the school record of 9.95, Grable had a 9.90, Salsberg posted a career-high 9.875, sophomore Bailee Zumwalde had a career-high matching 9.825 and Borsellino a 9.85.
    UK finished with a 47.30 on beam.
    “To start off with back-to-back 196s is phenomenal,” Rene said.
    The Razorbacks are home again next week to entertain No. 12 LSU on Friday at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena. The 2012 season is the 10-year anniversary of the program and the inaugural team from 2003 will be recognized along with other returning former Razorbacks.

    LSU Beats Auburn in Home Opner; Hall Wins All-Around

    BATON ROUGE, La. – Freshman Lloimincia Hall produced a 39.200 to capture the all-around title as the LSU gymnastics team defeated Auburn 195.025-193.800 Friday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

    Freshmen Jessie Jordan and Rheagan Courville gave LSU a sweep in the all-around awards with a 39.025 and 38.925, respectively.

    As a team, LSU (1-4, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) broke the 49-point mark on vault for the second straight week with a 49.025, and the Tigers narrowly missed a 49 on floor with a 48.950. LSU scored a 48.600 on beam and 48.450 on bars.

    “We saw a team working together tonight,” head coach D-D Breaux said. “They faced a little bit of adversity, but nothing shook them. They kept moving forward, and as the night progressed they got momentum and made it a real team effort.”

    Courville captured her first individual event title with a 9.925 on vault, and she shared the floor title with Hall as the tandem earned back-to-back 9.90’s at the end of the lineup.

    Jordan placed second on beam with a 9.875, and she finished third on floor with a 9.85.

    Ericka Garcia and Shelby Prunty saw their first action of the season after sitting out the opener recovering from injuries, and both delivered solid performances on beam. Garcia led off with a 9.75, and Prunty posted a 9.80 to set the tone for the event.

    Sophomore Maliah Mathis also made her first appearance of the season after sitting out the opener with an ankle injury, and she produced a 9.775 in the fifth spot on vault.

    Hall won the all-around with solid performances throughout the meet with a 9.75 on vault, 9.75 on bars, 9.80 on beam and the 9.90 to end the meet on floor.

    For the 14th straight meet Ashley Lee scored a 9.80 or better on vault as she tallied a 9.875 to tie for third in the meet.

    “The marked improvement from the first meet to this meet really sets the tempo,” Breaux said. “Each performance built on the previous performance, and it’s everything we want it to be as far as a learning experience for a young and talented team.”

    All four freshmen competed in the all-around against Auburn which means two-thirds (16 of 24) of the routines were performed by new faces at LSU.

    Auburn (2-3, 0-1) was led by all-arounders Kylie Shields and Toi Garcia who earned a 38.700 and 38.600, respectively. Garcia recorded a 9.90 on vault, while Shields scored a 9.90 on beam.

    LSU will head back on the road next week when the Tigers travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to face No. 11 Arkansas at 7 p.m. CT on Jan. 20.

    No. 3 Florida Gymnastics Opens Home Action with Win Over Illinois-Chicago

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Four different Gators picked up apparatus victories Friday, as the preseason No. 3 Florida gymnastics team (2-0, 0-0 SEC) opened the 2012 home season with a 196.175-191.875  win over Illinois-Chicago (1-0) in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 4,796.

    Last week in the Gators’ season-opening win at North Carolina State, only freshman Kytra Hunter posted a mark of 9.90, which she used to pick up her first floor title. Tonight, each of the Gator event winners used marks of 9.90 or better to claim their event wins.

    Florida opened the meet with solid team totals of 49.20 for both vault and uneven bars. Junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson pushed her collegiate total for vault wins to an even dozen with her season-best mark of 9.90. UF also received marks of 9.85 or better on the event from Nicole Ellis (9.85) and Hunter (9.875) as they rounded out the top three vault performances of the meet.

    Sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson anchored the Gator lineup with her season-best of 9.90 to claim her second consecutive uneven bars title. Hunter was runner-up at 9.85, while Dickerson and Marissa King shared third at 9.825.

    Florida used marks of 9.80 or better toward their balance beam total of 49.25 Friday. King was steady and solid in her anchor performance Friday, posting a collegiate-best 9.925 to take her second consecutive title on the event. Johnson and Dickerson shared second at 9.85.

    A bruised heel kept King from showing the consistency she wanted on beam a year ago. Tonight, with the pressure of competing after a fall, King’s performance showed the results of her hard work in the gym.

    “I’m really, really pleased with my beam. I was disappointed last year because of my injury, which affected me on the beam. I really trained hard this preseason because I want to be in the beam lineup. I want to be consistent and I want the girls to trust me and have confidence in me to hit my routine. Today showed that,” King said. “I’m really proud of myself for going out there and hitting that routine even with the pressure of having a fall before me.”

    Although it is only the second competition of the season, Florida’s beam total of 49.25 Friday was bettered only three times during the entire course of last season. UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn liked what she saw from the lineup tonight, especially King’s rock-solid performance to end the lineup.

    “On beam, I was thrilled with the way they performed,” she said. “I loved seeing that Marissa just attacked the beam after having an athlete fall. I could see it in her eyes before she went up – she knew she was going to hit and I knew she was going to hit. I had complete confidence in her.”

    Hunter wowed the O’Connell Center crowd with her spectacular tumbling, as she picked up her second straight floor exercise win with her collegiate-best mark of 9.925. Johnson made her season debut on the event, taking second at 9.85 while junior Randy Stageberg was third with a 9.775.

    The Gators were forced to count a fall toward their floor total for the first time since 2008, as the team tallied a 48.525.

    Hunter was the only Gator entered in the all-around and she picked up her second straight win with a total of 38.925. Illinois-Chicago’s Rachel Montoya was runner-up at 38.65.

    The heralded Florida freshmen class was excited to perform for the first time in front of the O’Connell Center crowd. Hunter got involved early, as she joined King in running out with the final two letters for the F-L-O-R-I-D-A flags to start the pre-meet introductions. She is starting to get the feel for collegiate competition and some of those adjustments came through in her floor.

    “I showed off my routine more than I did at NC State. My landings were more controlled and I threw my head back (on finishes),” Hunter said. “I just went out there and had fun.”

    Hunter likes the supportive atmosphere of collegiate competition.

    “The cheering and going out there and having fun with your team are what I like,” Hunter said. “It’s not relaxing but it feels great to have a family behind you.”

    Although the season is only two meets old, Faehn is already looking to keep the Gators fresh throughout the four-month season. Floor is the event where the gymnasts undergo the most pounding so that lineup will often have planned changes in personnel to give gymnasts opportunities to perform and to keep others in the best possible health. Tonight two All-American floor performers – Dickerson and King – did not compete on that event.

    “We could easily go out there and compete with our strongest athletes and blow it out, but that’s not what we’re trying to do,” Faehn said. “It’s hard, and it’s frustrating for the athletes too, but we have to stick with the plan and make sure they are paced.

    “It’s early – it’s the second meet – so there are going to be falls and mistakes, but it’s something we have to learn from,” she continued. “We’re trying to get everyone out there to gain experience and compete as much as possible.”

    Next up for the Gators is the Southeastern Conference opener at No. 23 Kentucky on Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.

    Alabama Gymnastics Beats Georgia, 196.475-196.325
    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The defending NCAA Champion Alabama gymnastics team got its 2012 season started with a down-to-the-wire win over Georgia, 196.475-196.325 in front of 14,501 fans in Coleman Coliseum.

    “I am so proud of our team tonight,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “You could tell it was our first meet; we had some jitters. We had a couple of little freshmen mistakes.  I think our ladies just used this challenge and I think we probably benefited more from the way the evening transpired than if we had gone out and been perfect.”

    The Crimson Tide was led by junior Ashley Sledge, who won her collegiate all-around debut with a 39.4. Sledge started her season off with a career-best 9.975 on the vault, which on most nights would have been good enough for the win, but tonight Geralen Stack-Eaton, who closed out her junior season by winning the NCAA floor exercise title, opened her senior season by scoring a perfect 10.0 on the vault.

    “Everybody was screaming and it was so surreal,” Stack-Eaton said of her 10. “Everyone was like ‘oh my gosh.’ I was thinking ‘oh, wow.’ It was really amazing and I’m very honored.”

    Stack-Eaton and senior Ashley Priess, in her first meet back in the Tide lineup after sitting out last season following double ankle surgery, tied for first on the uneven bars with scores of 9.875. Priess also won the floor exercise, scoring a 9.9 to tie with junior Marissa Gutierrez for top honors, while Georgia’s Shayla Worley won the balance beam with a 9.95.

    Alabama got the night and season off to hot start with Sledge scoring a career-best 9.975 in the third spot in the lineup, followed by Stack-Eaton’s 10.0 in the fifth spot, which pushed Alabama to a 49.550 team score. The Tide’s vault score was higher than any it posted during last year’s regular season. Georgia opened with a 49.225 on the uneven bars.

    The Tide struggled on its second event, the uneven bars, when its third and fourth gymnasts fell. Stack-Eaton and Priess closed with matching 9.875s to help Alabama salvage a 48.625 to go into the second half the meet just .150 behind the Bulldogs, who scored a 49.100 on the vault.

    Alabama was solid on the balance beam, turning in a 49.000, led by a 9.825 from sophomore Kim Jacob in the leadoff spot and 9.85s from both Stack-Eaton and Priess in the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup. Georgia turned in a 48.825 on the floor exercise giving Alabama the slimmest .025 lead going into the last rotation.

    Georgia wasn’t going away, though, turning in a 49.125 on the beam anchored by Worley’s 9.95. For the Tide, it came down to Priess and the final routine of the night. Her 9.9, which brought the packed house to its feet, gave UA a 49.200 and a .150 victory over the Bulldogs.

    “That’s a great rivalry out there, that’s a great Georgia team,” Patterson said. “We had a great score when you think that we counted a fall.  I’m proud of our ladies for coming back and not giving up.”

    Alabama takes to the road next week, traveling to Penn State where it will face the Nitany Lions and Michigan State Saturday, Jan. 21.