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    SEC in the NCAA Gymnastics Championships Preview

    By: Sean Cartell
    Twitter: @SEC_Sean
    SEC Digital Network

    DULUTH, Ga. – Five Southeastern Conference gymnastics teams will begin their quest for their sport’s ultimate prize this weekend when they travel to The Arena at Gwinnett Center to participate in the NCAA Gymnastics Championships. LSU competes in the first session at 12 p.m. ET Friday, while Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia all are in the second session at 6 p.m. ET Friday. The top three teams in each of Friday’s sessions advance to the NCAA Super Six on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. The winner of the Super Six is the NCAA team champion. Individual event finals are contested on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

    The SEC has captured 15 NCAA Team Championships in the sport of gymnastics, and Alabama enters the meet as the defending national champion. In the decade of the 2000s, teams from the SEC have won national championships an unprecedented seven times.

    Here’s a quick look at each of the five SEC teams competing at this weekend’s meet.
     
    Team Capsules

    Alabama

    National Ranking: 4th
    Team Record: 11-1, 6-0 SEC
    SEC Championship Finish: 2nd
    Head Coach: Sarah Patterson

    Noting the Crimson Tide: Alabama won the NCAA Seattle Regional to advance to its 30th consecutive NCAA Championship … The Crimson Tide are the fourth seed at the NCAA Championship and will compete in the evening session for the fourth consecutive year … Alabama is the defending NCAA Champion, having won last season in Cleveland with a score of 197.650, while senior Geralen Stack-Eaton claimed the NCAA floor exercise title … Of the nine gymnasts who competed in the Tide’s lineup at the NCAA Seattle Regional, seven have experience at the national meet … Alabama scored a 196.775 to take second at the SEC Championships, marking the 21st time that the Crimson Tide has finished top-two at the league level … The Crimson Tide’s 197.725 against the Gators was its highest team mark since posting a 197.950 in 2004.

    Quoting Coach Patterson: “We're as excited to be here this year as we were about taking our first team to the national championships in 1983. It never gets old and we never take it for granted.”

    Arkansas

    National Ranking: No. 8
    Team Record: 15-13, 3-3 SEC
    SEC Championship Finish: 6th
    Head Coach: Mark and Renee Cook

    Noting the Razorbacks: Arkansas is competing in the NCAA Gymnastics Championships for the sixth time in the 10-year history of the program, including each of the last five years … Arkansas’ team score of 196.825 is a school record for a regional, topping the 196.675 set in 2010 in Los Angeles … Jaime Pisani won the all-around with a school regional record 39.625 … Senior All-American Jaime Pisani was named the SEC’s Gymnast of the Year in a vote of the league’s coaches. Pisani is the first Razorback to ever win the award … Pisani won the league’s beam title at the SEC meet in Duluth, Ga.. She is just the second Razorback to win an SEC championship.

    Quoting Coach Cook: “Everyone is upbeat, excited and looking forward to going back to Duluth. We want to do better than we did the last time there. This is the type of competition where there are usually mistakes because everyone is nervous and stressed. Our job is to focus on ourselves and count as few mistakes as possible.”

    Florida

    National Ranking: No. 1
    Team Record: 17-1, 5-1 SEC
    SEC Championship Finish: SEC Champions
    Head Coach: Rhonda Faehn

    Noting the Gators: Florida will vie to claim its first-ever NCAA Gymnastics Championship this weekend and only the fifth different team in NCAA history to take home the title … The Gators have qualified for the NCAA Championships 30 times in the event’s 31-year history, missing only the 2000 event … Florida enters the championship as the No. 1 seed for just the second time in program history, after sharing the No. 1 seed with Utah in 2007 … The Gators posted the nation’s top total in regional action (197.325) with junior Ashanee Dickerson winning her third all-around title … A Florida athlete claimed at least a share of every event title at the Raleigh Regional … The Gators were ranked No. 1 in the final six national rankings of the season … Kytra Hunter, the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year, claimed the league’s all-around and vault titles at the conference championships becoming the first all-around winner for UF at that meet since 1995.

    Quoting Coach Faehn: “It's genuine chemistry. This year, this team, everyone is on the same page. Whatever their role is, they are thriving on it. Also, this team is not afraid to fail. They don't get out there and compete to not lose.”

    Georgia

    National Ranking: No. 5
    Team Record: 17-5, 4-2 SEC
    SEC Championship Finish: 3rd
    Head Coach: Jay Clark

    Noting the Gym Dogs: Georgia leads the country with 10 NCAA titles, with five coming from 2005-2009 … The Gym Dogs have finished third or better at the NCAA Championships in 21 of their last 24 appearances … Including regional, semifinal and Super Six competition, Georgia has won 27 of its last 39 NCAA meets dating back to 1998 …  Six of Georgia’s 13 meets this year have been against teams ranked in the top three … Noel Couch as competed in the all-around a school-record 37 consecutive meets … Kat Ding earned second-team All-SEC honors this year, becoming the sixth four-time All-SEC performer in Georgia history and the first since Katie Heenan from 2005-08.

    Quoting Coach Clark: “We feel really good about our situation. We’re not going to ‘out-difficulty’ anybody; we know that. We’re not going to do some of the crazy big skills you’ll see some of the other teams do. But we’re going to concentrate on being a super-clean team. Hit every handstand; stick all our landings. Every year that’s what decides championships.”

    LSU

    National Ranking: No. 11
    Team Record: 14-12, 2-4 SEC
    SEC Championship Finish: 4th
    Head Coach: D-D Breaux

    Noting the Tigers: LSU is making its 23rd all-time appearance at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships and are competing in the afternoon session … The Tigers are seeking their third Super Six appearance in school history, after also advancing in 2008 and 2009 … Only four of 15 current LSU athletes have competed at nationals … The Tigers have won at least one NCAA individual national title in three of the last four seasons … Freshman Lloimincia Hall became the third LSU gymnast to win the SEC Floor Exercise title at the league championship meet in March.

    Quoting Coach Breaux: “We are excited to compete for our goal of advancing to the Super Six. Our preparation and approach between regionals and nationals has been outstanding, and I believe we have what it takes to be a Super Six team. This team is as good as any of the best teams we have ever had, but they are just really young and inexperienced at nationals.”