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    SEC Friday Night Gymnastics Report

    Grable and the Razorbacks upset No. 11 Denver

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Junior All-American Katherine Grable and freshman Erin Freier claimed event titles as the University of Arkansas gymnastics team upset No. 11 Denver in Barnhill Arena Friday.

    Grable stuck her vault landing for a 9.875 to claim the event title. She also claimed a 9.875 on the floor to take that title as well. Freier recorded a 9.850 on the bars to lead the Razorbacks and take the event title for the meet.

    The Razorbacks (1-2-0) outscored the No. 11 Pioneers (3-2-0), 195.475-195.125.

    Grable would also take the all-around title with a score of 39.350 followed by fellow All-American Amy Borsellino with a score of 39.200.

    “Our performance was definitely out shown by the scoring tonight,” co-head coach René Lyst said. “We had some excellent performances on beam tonight. The biggest thing is we gained some confidence especially with our freshmen tonight to help us move forward throughout the season.”

    In rotation one Arkansas vaulted to an early lead of 48.975-48.875. Grable led the Razorbacks after she stuck her landing for a 9.875 to win the event for the meet. Seniors Kelci Lewis and Borsellino would add a 9.775 and 9.800, respectively. Junior Bailee Zumwalde recorded a 9.775 followed by freshmen Heather Elswick and Freier with a 9.750 and 9.725, respectively.

    In the second rotation Arkansas’ Freier stuck her dismount to win the event title on the bars and help the team score a 48.925, and hold the lead over Denver, 97.90-97.825. Borsellino and Grable would each add 9.800-plus routines with a 9.825 and 9.800, respectively. 

    Denver scored a 48.950 on the vault in the second rotation led by Kaitlin Moorhead with a 9.850.

    On the beam the Razorbacks recorded a pair of 9.800’s from reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Sydnie Dillard and Grable to score 48.875 for the event. Arkansas would maintain the lead after three rotations 146.775-146.625, to set up the final event for the Razorbacks, the floor exercise.

    In the final event of the evening, the meet would come down to the two final routines for the Razorbacks. Borsellino recorded a 9.825 followed by a 9.875 in the grand finale from Grable to secure the upset of No. 11 Denver 195.475-195.125. Grable led the meet with her three event titles.

    No. 3 Florida Gymnastics use nation’s top total to claim Gators Link to Pink title

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The nation’s top total of 2013 propelled the No. 3 Florida gymnastics team (3-1, 2-1 SEC) to a win Friday in front of a pink-clad crowd of 8,159 – the sixth largest crowd in the program’s history. The Gators’ total of 197.65 leads the nation so far this season. No. 18 Auburn (0-6, 0-3 SEC) also turned in a season-best total Friday of 196.025.

    It was the seventh annual Gators Link to Pink meet. All of the Southeastern Conference’s gymnastics teams will have a pink meet this season, with the intention to help raise awareness about the fight against breast cancer.

    Tonight’s meet will air tape-delayed on ESPNU Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. and again on ESPN2 Feb. 3 at 6 p.m.

    Those who have faced cancer was something many of the Gator gymnasts had in the back of their minds Friday. Sophomore Kytra Hunter spoke about how the meet is anticipated by the team each year and how it inspires them.

    “It’s the favorite meet for many of us. We’re not just competing for the team; we’re also competing for a cause,” Hunter said. “And for those of us who know someone who has battled cancer or lost someone; it’s fun to have those angels watching us compete. I know a lot of the girls look up to those angels so that’s really the only thing I can think of. And the few extra people we have [in the stands] did give us a lot of adrenaline.”

    Breast cancer took Hunter’s grandmother in 2005. She did have Grandmother Helen in her thoughts Friday and perhaps that helped boost Hunter to her second all-around title of the season – upping her own nation’s season-high from 39.675 to 39.70. That total is the second-highest of her young collegiate career. She set her collegiate-best of 39.725 to win the 2012 NCAA all-around title.

    All of Hunter’s scores Friday were a 9.90 or above, including equaling her collegiate vault best of 9.975 for the third time of her career to take that title. It was the second consecutive meet a Gator has earned the near-perfect mark on vault, as senior All-American Ashanée Dickerson posted the mark last Friday versus Missouri. Dickerson shared second on vault tonight with fellow senior All-American Marissa King and freshman Bridget Sloan at 9.925.

    Hunter also claimed her second floor win of 2013, anchoring the Gators’ lineup with a 9.925. She matched her season-best on balance beam of 9.90 to take the win.

    “I’ve been having a little trouble on beam during competitions so my main focus was on beam; my series that I’ve been having trouble with, so I fixed that,” Hunter said. “I think what really started the night was when we started to stick vaults back-to-back and that really got us pumped up and it carried on through the whole meet.”

    Florida did start the meet red-hot on vault, as the team’s total of 49.625 is just a fraction away from the program’s all-time record of 49.65 set versus UCLA in 2004.

    “We definitely picked up more stuck landings and it showed,” UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It made a difference in the overall energy because everyone feeds off of that.  It was great Marissa King finally put one in. The first couple of meets it was just a matter of her getting used to competition season.  Now she’s starting to zero in on where she’s landing.”

    A pair of freshmen turned in collegiate-bests on the uneven bars to share that event title. Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto stepped into the Gator lineup tonight for the first time and posted a 9.925 to share the win with Sloan.

    Dancose-Giambattisto’s mark equals the highest ever turned in by a Gator in their competitive bars premiere, equaling the mark set by junior All-American Alaina Johnson in 2011. It was Johnson who Dancose-Giambattisto replaced in the lineup tonight to rest a sore back.

    Faehn thought Dancose-Giambattisto was impressive in her collegiate competitive debut.

    “She’s a natural bars swinger.  She’s a beautiful bars swinger with incredible extension and toe point,” Faehn said. “When she competed elite for Canada she had a different dismount and we told her this [double layout] was something she needed to learn and she did. So to come out and not only do something new, be in the pressure of the line-up and stick I think that said a lot for her and her mental toughness.”

    Dickerson and King also shared second with season-best floor marks of 9.90. Mackenzie Caquatto shared second on beam with Auburn’s Caitlin Atkinson at 9.875.

    The Gators’ all-arounders took the top three spots. After Hunter, Dickerson was second at 39.525, just off her season-best total of 39.575 set last week. Sloan, making her all-around debut, took third at 39.425. Her total matches the third-highest tally by a Gator making their all-around debut.

    Sloan enjoyed her first time competing in every apparatus.

    “This was the first time that I’ve done all-around so I learned that you definitely have to be ready for that last floor routine because it comes at you fast,” Sloan said. “I was really excited to get out there. We had a great crowd tonight, an unbelievable support system. Our routines were spot on. We were sticking all over the place and it was a great day to be a Gator.”

    Faehn thought tonight’s enthusiastic crowd helped boost the Gators.

    “The crowd was incredible. We’ve always said that when the crowd is full, there is so much energy then we do better because our gymnasts just feed off of it,” Faehn said. “We had some benchmarks we wanted to accomplish. Heading into this meet we wanted to compete aggressively, but we also wanted to compete some other athletes and stick some landings and I think we completed all three tonight.”

    Alabama Gymnastics Beats Kentucky 196.575-194.800 in Front of Sold Out Crowd

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In front of a sold-out crowd of 15,075 fans that were mostly dressed in pink for Alabama gymnastics’ ninth-annual Power of Pink meet, the Crimson Tide beat No. 15 Kentucky, 196.575-194.8.

    Prior to the meet, Alabama honored 18 breast cancer survivors as part of its breast cancer awareness initiative. Each survivor was paired with a Tide gymnast and the pair was announced in the spotlight with the fanfare of fireworks usually reserved just for the gymnasts.

    “What touched me the most was when they asked – not just the 18 survivors we had down on the floor – all breast cancer survivors to stand and then all cancer survivors to stand,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “To see the number of people that have battled, I think it’s amazing.”

    Also among those that packed the Coliseum Friday night were more than 70 past Alabama gymnasts who gathered for Alumni Night. That total included members of the 1988 team, who were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Alabama’s first NCAA and SEC championships.

    The Tide, now 3-0-0 overall and in Southeastern Conference competition, was led by junior Kim Jacob who won her third consecutive all-around, this time with a 39.275.

    “It was such an honor just to represent all the survivors out there and all the people with breast cancer,” Jacob said. “So no matter how we did, it was just a great meet to get out there and do it for them. I think we took some major steps forward – we still have a lot of room to improve – but it was great.”

    Alabama started off with a solid 49.175 on the vault led by 9.875s from senior Ashley Sledge and junior Diandra Milliner. On the uneven bars, the Tide came away with a season-best 49.4, with Jacob and senior Ashley Priess pacing the Tide with matching 9.9s.

    Sophomore Kayla Williams scored a 9.9 to lead the way on the balance beam, though Alabama scored a 48.65 as a team after falls in its opening and closing routines.

    “There were a lot of highlights this evening and certainly Kayla on balance beam was amazing,” Patterson said.

    After its balance beam stumble, the Tide rebounded on the floor exercise, scoring a season-best 49.350, led by Jacob’s career-best 9.925.

    “We still weren’t perfect, but what I did like is that tonight we finished it on floor,” Patterson said. “Last week, we struggled a little bit on floor exercise and, even though we had some problems, it’s great to see your athletes come back and finish things off.”