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    SEC Gymnastics Today: February 24

    Alabama Gymnastics Beats LSU, 197.025-196.575

    BATON ROUGE, La. – After the first gymnast in its balance beam lineup fell, the No. 3 ranked Alabama gymnastics team hit its next five routines in a row to beat the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La., 197.025-196.575.

    “I thought we had a very consistent performance on all four events,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “We had one mistake on the last event, the first routine up, but it’s exactly what happened in our intrasquad this week. Our ladies were focused, they were prepared, they stepped up and they had Diandra (Milliner)’s back with a great beam performance.”

    The Crimson Tide used its highest road score of the season to beat the Tigers and go undefeated in regular-season Southeastern Conference competition for the first time since 1991. The only unbeaten and untied team in the nation, Alabama improved to 9-0-0 overall and 6-0-0 in SEC competition.

    “More than anything else, we kept our mental focus tonight, we didn’t drift, and we did what we had to do to win the meet,” Patterson said. “A 197 on the road is awesome. I thought we earned every tenth of a point and LSU did a great job, producing one of their best scores of the season. I think that’s just how great the SEC is.”

    Leading by more than four-tenths of a point after three rotations, the tension mounted when sophomore Diandra Milliner fell from the beam for the first time in her Tide career.

    With nearly 4,000 LSU fans suddenly energized by the chance of a win, sophomore Kim Jacob came up next for the Tide and calmly hit her routine for a 9.875. She was followed by junior Marissa Gutierrez’s 9.775 and sophomore Sarah DeMeo, who tied her season-high score in the fourth spot with a 9.9.

    Senior Geralen Stack-Eaton added a 9.875 before Ashley Priess came up in the sixth and final position with the meet on the line. The senior clinched the Tide’s perfect SEC regular season with a meet-best 9.925, pushing the Tide to a 49.350, its second highest beam score of the season.

    “I think that’s what teamwork is all about,” Patterson said. “We’ve won a national championship after our first beam competitor, one of our most consistent gymnasts, fell. It’s having faith in the others. Not only did we do a great job in picking Diandra up tonight, I thought each of the ladies on the beam, those five routines were among the best they’ve done this year.”

    Alabama started the night off with a solid rotation on the uneven bars, posting a 49.150 behind matching meet-high scores of 9.875 from Stack-Eaton and Priess. On the vault, Gutierrez and Milliner both scored 9.900 to pace the Tide to a 49.3. Led by meet-best 9.9s from Milliner and Stack-Eaton, Alabama posted a 49.225 on the floor exercise.

    “I thought our team energy and cohesiveness were outstanding tonight,” Patterson said. “Our ladies stayed in the ‘A’ zone all the way through the meet. There is a difference between competing in front of 15,000 fans as we did last weekend and 4,000 fans and I thought the ladies did a good job of adjusting.”

    Alabama remains to the road next weekend, traveling to Norman, Okla., to take on Oklahoma on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m.


     
    Razorbacks Overcome Injuries to Score 196.300
               
    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –  Arkansas lost all-arounders Katherine Grable and Jordan Salsberg during Friday’s gymnastics meet with No. 9 Nebraska and the Huskers posted a 197.00-196.30 win over the No. 7 Razorbacks.
               
    Grable, an All-American and the sixth-ranked all-arounder in the nation, competed in the first three events but was taken out of the floor lineup. Salsberg, a junior ranked No. 34 in the all-around, was injured on her dismount on beam and also missed the floor competition. Both Grable and Salsberg appeared to suffer ankle injuries.
               
    “Jordan hasn’t had any official tests so I can’t really comment on her injury, but we just knew she was done for tonight,” co-head coach René Cook said. “Katherine hurt her ankle on vault. She has a chronic bad ankle and couldn’t get the punch she needed, so we took her out of the floor lineup. She’s probably day-to-day. We’ll have wait and see on Jordan.”

    Senior All-American Jaime Pisani won the all-around with a 39.525, floor with a 9.95 and tied for the bars title with a 9.875. Pisani is ranked No. 1 in the nation on floor and entered with an average of 9.925.
               
    “We had the injuries, but we fought through it and hopefully they are ok,” Pisani said. “Others have been training all year so they are ready to step in like tonight.”
               
    Despite the loss and the injuries, Cook was satisfied with the team’s point total.

    “Wins and losses don’t really matter,” she said. “We still scored fairly well, especially with the injuries. We didn’t count a fall after Jordan got hurt and we’re proud of the team’s effort and their commitment to one another.”
               
    In the first rotation, Arkansas scored a 49.375 on vault while Nebraska had a 49.10 on bars.
               
    Arkansas’ score ties for the fifth-best in school history.
               
    The Razorbacks were led by Grable with a 9.925. Pisani had a 9.90 and junior Jordan Salsberg had a career-high matching 9.90. Sophomore Scarlett Williams posted a 9.85, junior All-American Kelci Lewis had a 9.80 and freshman Stephani Canizaro hit a season-high 9.80.

    Nebraska was led on bars by Emily Wong, Janelle Giblin and Lora Evenstad, all with a 9.875.
               
    In the second rotation, Nebraska topped Arkansas’ vault score with a 49.425 while the Razorbacks topped the Huskers’ bars score with a 49.05. Arkansas’ bars score is its best in three weeks. Through two events, Nebraska led 98.525-98.425.
               
    For the Razorbacks, Pisani led the way with a 9.875. Senior Mariah Howdeshell, sophomore Shelby Salmon and Canizaro scored a 9.80, and Grable a 9.775.
               
    Janelle Giblin led the Huskers with a 9.95

    In the third rotation, Arkansas scored a 48.85 on beam while Nebraska had a 49.20 on floor.
               
    Salsberg led off for the Razorbacks but was injured on her dismount and not able to compete on floor.
               
    Grable led with a 9.825, followed by Pisani with a 9.80, Williams a 9.775, Salmon a 9.75 and Kolbas a 9.70.
               
    Evenstad led the Huskers with a 9.90.
               
    Heading into the final rotation, Nebraska held a 147.725-147.275 advantage.
               
    Arkansas finished with a 49.025 on floor. Pisani led with a 9.95, followed by Lewis with a 9.85, junior All-American Amy Borsellino with a 9.825, sophomore Bailee Zumwalde with a 9.75 and Canizaro a 9.65.
               
    “I love floor and it’s exciting to be ranked No. 1,” Pisani said. “It’s my favorite event, especially in front of the home crowd.”
               
    The Razorbacks stay home next week for their final regular-season meet in Barnhill Arena. Arkansas hosts Minnesota on Friday at 7 p.m. and it’s Senior Night for Pisani, Howdeshell and Genny Salvatore. Arkansas is the host for the NCAA South Central Regional on April 7 in Barnhill at 4 p.m.



    No. 1 Florida Gymnastics Defeat No. 3 Georgia

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 1 Florida gymnastics team (9-1, 5-1 SEC) finished its Southeastern Conference regular-season schedule with a 197.525-196.825 win over No. T-3 Georgia (5-3, 4-2 SEC) Friday in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 6,134.

    As the pre-meet rankings showed, Friday’s meet was sure to be a tight competition and the action in the O’Connell Center Friday lived up to those expectations.

    The Gators led the meet after each rotation and headed into the final event with a lead of 0.525 – a margin that clearly showed the win was still uncertain. Three consecutive out-of-bounds deductions of a tenth each on three Florida floor performers put the focus clearly on the Gators’ final two competitors to hit cleanly and to hit big.

    The pair produced on both counts.

    Junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson put up a 9.925 and freshman Kytra Hunter anchored the lineup with 9.95 to take her fifth floor win of the season. Their performances led the Gators to their final total which stands as the nation’s eighth-highest of the season and gave Florida just its second dual meet win in the O’Connell Center since 1990 over the perennial power Gym Dogs. Florida also won in 2010 in Georgia’s last visit to Gainesville for the first victory in 10 home duals between the two SEC teams.

    Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn was surprised by the step-outs, but couldn’t fault the effort shown her team.

    “Going out of bounds three times on floor was a little bit shocking, but I’ve always told them that if they’re going to make a mistake, I want it to be made going 100 percent full-throttle, and that’s what they were doing,” Faehn said. “They were so hyped up and energized that the mistake came from that. I don’t want them to make mistakes by holding back. That’s a minor thing, but it was surprising that it was three in a row.”

    Hunter also took the evening’s all-around and vault titles with Gator season-best scores. Her 39.675 pushed her season all-around wins tally to four and the total equals the nation’s third-best all-around total of 2012 (Arkansas’ Katherine Grable and Jaime Pisani  share the nation’s high of 39.725).

    She equaled her collegiate-best of 9.95 for the second consecutive meet for her third vault win of the season. Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson shared second on vault at 9.90 with UGA sophomore Cat Hires.

    Faehn spoke about the freshman’s presence of mind, which saved the Gators from taking a fourth step-out deduction.

    “She’s amazing. I can’t say enough about how incredible she is, not just as a talented athlete but as a strong mental competitor,” Faehn said. “Kytra could have easily stepped out of bounds on that first pass but there was no way she was going to do that.”

    The other event titles were picked up by junior All-American Marissa King. King’s 9.925 helped the Gators post a 49.40 on bars – their third consecutive bar total on the event of 49.40 or better. King’s win was her second of the season. Johnson was runner-up on bars at 9.90 and Dickerson shared third at 9.875 with UGA’s Noel Couch and Chelsea Davis.

    King anchored the Gators balance beam set by matching her collegiate-best mark of 9.95 for the third time this season. She also had a 9.95 last Friday at Auburn and tonight’s win is her fourth of 2012.

    The energy of the team and of the crowd sporting the blinking slotted shades that was tonight’s giveaway buoyed King Friday.

    “We had a lot of energy tonight. As soon as we ran out of the tunnel it was wicked with flashing lights from the sunglasses, and we had a great crowd come out tonight to support us. I love to compete at home. It is just so awesome every time. It is really fun performing in front of a great responding crowd and that is what we had tonight.”

    Hunter equaled her beam best with her runner-up mark of 9.925. Dickerson shared third at 9.90 with Georgia sophomore Kaylan Earls. As a team, Florida turned in its third-best beam total of 2012 at 49.45.

    All six all-around competitors tonight posted totals of 39.40 or better. Dickerson was runner-up at 39.575 and King shared third with Georgia senior Kat Ding at 39.45.

    The performances and balance throughout the Gators’ lineup are keys for this team, Faehn said.

    “I love the variety that we have in the lineup. Randy Stageberg is the most perfect and most beautiful beam starter. I know that when she goes up she is always going to nail her routine. The starting roles are just as key as the all-arounders, if not more, because they’re the ones setting the tone for the lineup,” Faehn said. “I’m really pleased with the depth and variety of the routines and the skill choice. You’re not seeing the same thing over again. I think this is a really good balance of the group.”

    Tonight’s meet airs on SUN Sports March 3 at 4 p.m. (Gainesville/Ocala Cox Cable channel 48 or 1048).

    Florida now travels to Lincoln, Neb., to face No. 9 Nebraska on Sunday, March 4. The Cornhuskers upset No. 7 Arkansas 197.00-196.30 in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday evening. Meet time is set for 3 p.m. ET in the Bob Devaney Sports Center.



    Kentucky Gymnastics Earns Season-High Score in Tri-Meet Win

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind season-best performances on uneven bars and floor exercise, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team posted its best team score of the year and its first win in Southeastern Conference action, finishing first ahead of No. 15 Auburn and Pittsburgh in a tri-meet Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.

    Kentucky (5-6, 1-5 SEC) posted a team score of 195.525 in the meet, while Auburn finished second with a 195.150 and Pittsburgh third with a 193.325. The high score for UK shattered their previous season-high mark of 195.05, which was set at Illinois-Chicago and at LSU. UK defeated Auburn and Pittsburgh on both beam and floor exercise, while Auburn posted the highest team score on bars and vault.

    “This was a great step in the right direction for our team and I could not be more proud,” UK head coach Tim Garrison said. “We didn’t try to sugarcoat how we did last week and I think that paid off in the long run because our girls were motivated tonight to do well. The biggest thing for me was that our girls took it upon themselves to reevaluate how they were performing. We talked to the team captains about relaying that message to the other girls, because until they believe it then it doesn’t matter. They took it upon themselves to come in here and correct that tonight and they did a good job. Tonight’s win against an SEC team and how we performed overall will really carry over for the rest of the season.”

    The Wildcats earned season-best team scores on two events, scoring a 49.125 on uneven bars and a 49.2 on floor exercise. The high score on bars is tied for the 12th-highest score on the event in school history, while UK’s 49.2 on floor is tied for the 16th-best in school history and the highest since UK posted a 49.2 in the 2010 NCAA Regional in Lexington.

    The win over SEC foe Auburn marked Kentucky’s first since it beat LSU last season in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats have now earned at least one SEC regular-season win in three consecutive seasons for the first time since defeating Auburn in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Kentucky defeated LSU in 2010 at the Lady Luck Invitational in Las Vegas, Nev.

    Sophomore Audrey Harrison won her second all-around title of the season for UK, scoring a career-best 39.175. Freshman Alexis Gross finished tied for third in the all-around competition with a 38.925. In all, UK set or tied 12 season highs and 10 career highs in the event.

    “Very happy with how some people stepped up and did well on uneven bars, that really got us some momentum,” Garrison said. “I thought that beam was our best performance of the night. Then we went to floor and finished strong, which is what you have to do at home. Everybody got into it, including our fans, which was great. It was a great atmosphere tonight and a great performance by our team.”

    Kentucky’s best event of the night was floor exercise. Harrison and freshman Kenzie Hedges led the Wildcats, finishing first and second overall at the meet. Harrison grabbed a career-best 9.9 on floor, becoming the 19th gymnast in school history to record a 9.9 or higher on the event. A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Harrison’s score is tied for the highest score by any gymnast on any event this season. Hedges followed closely behind Harrison with a career best with a 9.875, while sophomore Kayla Sienkowski finished third on the team with a 9.825. Freshman Shelby Hilton started off the rotation for Kentucky and scored a career-best 9.8, while Gross also set a career high with a 9.8. Sophomore Kayla Hartley, who had UK’s first 9.9 on floor two weeks ago vs. Alabama, concluded the event with a 9.675.

    The Wildcats were equally impressive on uneven bars, posting a team score of 49.125. Senior Storey Morris took home the event title on bars by tying a career-best 9.9, which is the highest score on bars since she and then-senior Andrea Mitchell posted a pair of 9.9s last season on March 4. This was the second time Morris has scored a 9.9 on bars. Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo finished second on the team and tied for third overall with a score of 9.85, which marked her second-consecutive score of 9.85 or higher. Harrison and freshman Sara Shipley each posted career-high 9.8s on the event, while senior Whitney Rose posted a season-best 9.775. Gross concluded the UK rotation with a 9.75, which was just off her career best of 9.775.

    UK posted a team score of 48.6 on both balance beam and vault. Harrison led UK’s effort on beam with a season-high tying 9.75, which helped her finish tied for first overall. Sienkowski, Gross and sophomore Holly Cunningham finished second on the team with 9.725s, while freshman Shannon Mitchell grabbed a 9.675. Morris concluded the rotation for UK with a 9.65.

    Kentucky started the night on vault as Hedges led the Wildcats for the third time this season with a score of 9.825. Harrison was second on the team with a 9.725, while Hilton earned a career-best 9.7. Morris also grabbed a 9.7, while Gross scored a 9.65 and Cunningham concluded the rotation with a 9.625.

    The Wildcats will be in action again when they travel to face No. 18 Illinois next Friday at 8 p.m. ET in Champaign, Ill.