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The gymnastics programs of the Southeastern Conference begin their 2014 seasons this weekend, as the SEC is vying for its fourth consecutive national title this season and 18th overall.
Each of the SEC’s eight gymnastics squads are either ranked or receiving votes, according to the GymInfo preseason coaches poll, which was released on December 12. Defending NCAA Champion Florida is the preseason No. 1, while Alabama checks in at No. 2. LSU (No. 5) and Georgia (No. 8) also are among the national top-10.
The Gators are the two-time defending SEC Champions and captured the program’s first NCAA Championship last season.
SEC teams have won eight of the last nine NCAA Championships, including three consecutive, and 17 NCAA titles all-time. Three different SEC teams - Alabama, Florida and Georgia - have won NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
Since the inaugural NCAA Championship in 1982, the SEC has placed at least one team in all 32 national championship meets. Alabama and Florida have appeared in 31 of the possible 32 NCAA Championships events.
This Week's Schedule
Friday, January 10
(15) Penn State / West Virginia / Ball State at (21) Kentucky - 7 p.m.
(8) Georgia at (3) Oklahoma (Fox College Sports Delay) - 7:45 p.m.
Western Michigan / Bridgeport at (11) Arkansas - 8 p.m.
Texas Woman’s at (13) Auburn - 8 p.m.
Centenary at (5) LSU - 8 p.m.
Missouri at (2) Alabama (FSN Delay) - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 11
(1) Florida at (4) UCLA (Pac-12 Network National) - 10 p.m.
Sunday, January 12
(8) Georgia at (9) Stanford - 5 p.m.
all times Eastern and subject to change.
Check local listings for dates and airtimes of TV broadcasts
SEC Gymnastics Quick Notes
• Southeastern Conference teams have won eight of the last nine NCAA Championships, including three consecutive, and 17 NCAA titles all-time. Three different SEC teams - Alabama, Florida and Georgia - have won NCAA Gymnastics
• Florida captured its first NCAA Championship in program history in 2013. Four SEC teams advanced to the Super Six at last season’s NCAA Championships.
• In 1998, the SEC entered the record books as the only conference ever to sweep the top-three spots at the NCAA meet (Georgia, Florida and Alabama).
• The SEC has placed at least two teams among the top six in 30 of the possible 32 NCAA Championship events. A record five SEC teams advanced to the NCAA Super Six team final in 2009.
• The SEC leads all conferences in NCAA individual titles (92).
• Georgia leads all NCAA schools in individual titles (40).
• SEC student-athletes earned 33 first-team All-America honors in 2013.
• The addition of Missouri to the SEC in July 2012 brought the number of league institutions sponsoring gymnastics to eight. The 2013 SEC Gymnastics Championships featured, for the first time, a two-session final.
Alabama opens the 2014 season at home against Southeastern Conference newcomer Missouri. It marks the second year in a row that the two teams have met in their respective season openers. The 2013 Crimson Tide vs. Tigers meet was also Missouri’s first meet as a member of the SEC. Alabama beat the Tigers 196.450-192.025 in front of a Missouri school record 5,760 fans in the Hearnes Center. Alabama is led by Sarah and David Patterson, who are in their 36th season as the Crimson Tide’s mentors while Missouri is led by first-year head coach Shannon Welker. The Crimson Tide is 57-8-1 in season openers under Sarah and David Patterson. Alabama is also 45-1-1 in home openers under the Pattersons. Both marks include several multi-team meets, including Super 6 Challenges. Alabama last opened the season at home with a Southeastern Conference opponent in 2012 when Alabama beat Georgia 196.475-196.325.
The No. 11 University of Arkansas gymnastics team will begin its 2014 campaign on Friday, Jan. 10, when the team hosts Western Michigan and Bridgeport in Barnhill Arena. the meet is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The Razorbacks return nine members from the 2013 squad including All-American Katherine Grable. The Razorbacks will also feature five newcomers including freshman all-arounder Amanda Wellick. Overall, the Razorbacks return nine members from the 2013 squad with three All-Americans in Grable, Stephani Canizaro and Bailee Zumwalde and seniors Shelby Salmon, Scarlett Williams, sophomores Sydnie Dillard, Erin Freier, Keara Glover and Heather Elswick. The Razorbacks will welcome five newcomers in freshman Emily Bates, Paris Ryder, Samantha Nelson and Wellick and junior transfer Cailee Ellsworth.
Auburn gymnastics will begin the 2014 season in the same spot it ended the 2013 season – 13th overall. The Tigers are ranked No. 13 in the 2014 National Coaches Poll. Auburn wrapped the 2013 in 13th place after finishing third at the NCAA Gainesville Regional with a program regional record score of 196.700. Caitlin Atkinson earned First-Team All-American honors on vault in the 2013 NCAA Gymnastics Championships. She is the first Auburn gymnast to earn All-American honors since Julie Dwyer in 2008 and the first freshman gymnast in Auburn program history to ever receive First-Team All-American status. Atkinson is only the ninth Auburn Gymnast, and the 14th overall All-American, to earn this honor in Auburn program history. Auburn opens the 2014 season against Texas Woman’s University on January 10 at 7 p.m. in Auburn Arena.
No. 1 preseason Florida opens the program’s 42nd season in the same arena it closed the 2013 season by winning its first NCAA team title – UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. Florida will face preseason No. 4 UCLA on Saturday, Jan. 11 in the season-opening dual meet for both programs. The meet airs live on the Pac-12 Network. Since 1980, Florida has opened the season on the road 10 times and owns a road season opening record of 18-16 in that span. The Gators return four gymnasts in 2014 (Mackenzie Caquatto, Kytra Hunter, Alaina Johnson and Bridget Sloan) who own a total of 26 All-America honors and five NCAA event titles (Hunter – 2012 all-around, vault; Johnson – 2013 uneven bars; Sloan – 2013 all-around, balance beam). The Gators won the Southeastern Conference, NCAA Gainesville Regional and NCAA championship team titles last year. In 2014, Florida returns 17 of 24 routines it competed in the 2013.
The Georgia gymnastics team embarks on the 42nd season in program history when it opens the 2014 campaign at the University of Oklahoma Friday night 7:45 p.m. ET. Georgia returns 11 gymnasts from the 2013 NCAA Super Six squad including All-Americans Brittany Rogers, Sarah Persinger, Lindsey Cheek, Brandie Jay, Chelsea Davis and Kaylan Earls. This year’s roster includes three seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen. Friday’s meet marks the beginning of head coach Danna Durante’s second season at UGA. The Tulsa, Okla., native led the Gym Dogs back to the Super Six for the first time since 2009 in her first season in Athens … In the preseason coaches’ poll, Georgia came in at No. 8, which is two spots below where it finished the 2013 season. The Gym Dogs opened the 2013 season ranked 11th and have been in the top-nine of each edition of the rankings since. Georgia will have a short turnaround as it travels to No. 9 Stanford for a 5 p.m. ET meet on Sunday … This year marks the most freshmen Georgia has had on its roster since there were six freshmen in 2007. The last time the Gym Dogs had more than six freshmen was in 2004 (7).
The No. 21 University of Kentucky gymnastics team opens the 2014 season with Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic Friday at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats host No. 15 Penn State, West Virginia and Ball State in the annual event. UK is ranked 21st in the Troester Preseason Coaches Poll, its highest preseason ranking in program history. The Wildcats, who finished 21st in the national rankings last season, return 14 gymnasts from the 2013 squad that posted the program’s highest-ever NCAA Regional team score of 195.575. UK earned a Regional bid with a school-record regional qualifying score of 196.06 and notched three wins against SEC opponents, the most in team history.
LSU is set to open the 2014 season on Friday when the Tigers host Centenary at 7 p.m. CT inside the Maravich Center. LSU enters the meet ranked No. 5 nationally in the coaches preseason poll, the highest ranking the Tigers have ever earned coming into a season. LSU returns 13 letterwinners and 21 of 24 routines from last year’s Super Six squad, including seven All-Americans, five All-SEC performers and one national champion in junior Rheagan Courville who is the reigning SEC Gymnast of the Year. The Tigers are under the direction of D-D Breaux, who enters her 37th season as head coach. Jay Clark is in his second season as associate head coach, while Bob Moore begins his 15th season as an assistant coach at LSU. Against Centenary, the Tigers will look to open with a 196-plus score for the second season in a row after setting the school record for highest score in an opener last season with a 196.075 against NC State.
The Missouri Gymnastics team kicks off a new chapter in their program's history, as head coach Shannon Welker begins his first season in Columbia, Mo. ... Welker joins the Tigers after serving as an assistant coach the past five years at the University of Michigan ... Missouri kicks off their 2014 regular season schedule this Friday (Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m. CT), with a road-trip to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide ... The Tigers look to rebound from an injury-riddled season last year, and are equipped with an ensemble of proven upperclassmen and exciting newcomers. Junior Rachel Updike leads the Tigers into Tuscaloosa, as she looks to build off her outstanding 2013 season where she earned a trip to the NCAA Regionals ... The No. 2 pre-season ranked Alabama Crimson Tide have dominated the all-time series against Missouri ... The Tigers hold an 0-27 all-time record against Alabama, and will look for their first ever victory against the perennial SEC power ... Missouri just missed the 2014 pre-season Top-25 rankings, and currently are among the teams receiving votes.