UGA Gym Dogs Win National Championship

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006 2:31 pm by Neal
ABH article: The Georgia gymnastics team begins celebrating its second straight and seventh overall national championship. (photo: Diane Cebula/ABH)

(UPDATE: NCAAsports.com has this story and recap of the championship. Also, we have an update from HR below)

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Congratulations to the UGA Women’s Gym Dogs for winning the 2006 NCAA Championship! This is the seventh national title for the gym dogs who put the finishing touches on a stellar season: they are the reigning champions from 2005 and finish this season undefeated by taking the final event in a blowout.

We haven’t heard much from HR lately, but he’s a big fan of gymnastics in general and the gym dogs in particular, and he had this observation of the event:

Georgia scored their highest score for the year, 197.750, to beat out Alabama for the championship. A score of 198 would be nigh on perfect in the current judging climate.

Alabama led after two events, but those two events were the best for Alabama all year, and Bama stumbled badly on the balance beam, their last event. Meanwhile Georgia did great on the vault as their last event; lately the vault has been somewhat problematic for UGA, but they got it together tonight.

Yippee!!!!

It’s over now and Utah takes second with 196.800. Bama is third with 196.725. Everybody else is way behind. Georgia wins by .950 in a huge blowout.

UPDATE: HR has more links and insight into the UGA championship.

Here are two sites with all the scores from last night:
HR site one – collegesports.com
HR site two – ncaasports.com

The Georgia site [site one - ed] lists the events in the order they happened which tells you more about the flow of the meet. The NCAA site [site two - ed] gives more information about the ranking of individual performers.

A key point in the meet came in the third rotation with Bama doing the vault and UGA on the beam. The first GA girl fell off the beam which really puts the pressure on the other five to come up with good scores. If another GA girl had lost her balance, Bama would have gotten a big lead halfway through the meet. The second GA girl on beam, after the one that fell, is Audrey Bowers. The only thing Audrey did in the championship meet was her beam routine. She only scored a 9.7 but boy was that an important pressure-packed performance. Kelsey, the girl that fell, leads off on the beam because she is generally so reliable.

One of the quickest and easiest way to get wiped out in gym meets is by multiple beam falls; sometimes it seems like the falling is contagious. Bama had multiple falls off the beam in the championship which eventually pushed them down to third. In one meet this year GA had three people fall off the balance beam, but they managed to win anyway.

AJC article: The UGA Gym Dogs, coached by Suzanne Yoculan (center), win their seventh national title Friday (photo: Ryan Gardner/AP)

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has this article on the victory.

Corvallis, Ore. — Gill Coliseum sits on Oregon State’s campus, but every time the NCAA gymnastics championships are held here, the place belongs to the University of Georgia.

The undefeated and top-ranked Gym Dogs won their seventh national title Friday night, scoring a 197.75 to repeat as champs and edge Alabama.

The last time Georgia competed here in the NCAAs was in 1993, when the Gym Dogs set a then-NCAA record with a 198.0, finishing 1.175 ahead of the Crimson Tide.

Alabama was more in the hunt this time around, actually leading Georgia 98.775-98.675 after two events. Georgia overtook the Tide on its third rotation, when it scored a 49.425 on the floor, led by Kelsey Ericksen with a 9.95 and a 9.925 from Courtney Kupets.

Alabama, meanwhile, earned a 49.3 on the bars. The combination gave Georgia a .025 lead going into the final rotation, where the Dogs would be on the vault and Alabama would end on beam. Georgia, known for its power, knew it could close strong and the Tide crumpled under pressure, suffering two falls on the beam.

The Gym Dogs finish the season 36-0, their sixth undefeated season. They’ll have a rally at 6 p.m. Sunday at Stegeman Coliseum to welcome the team home.

The championships conclude Saturday night with the event finals. Kupets, who on Thursday became Georgia’s fourth all-around champion, qualified for the finals on all events except for vault. Tiffany Tolnay qualified on the vault and beam, Ericksen on the floor, Katie Heenan on the bars.

ABH article: Celebrations break out after winning the national championship. (photo: Diane Cebula/ABH)

The Athens-Banner Herald reports on the championship in this article, “Magnificent 7: 1987 1989 1993 1998 1999 2005 2006. Georgia vaults to seventh national title”.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Suzanne Yoculan gathered her team into a tight huddle and said a few words of praise, causing even more smiles and sending several index fingers skyward.

Technically, the NCAA Championships weren’t finished, but anybody who was watching Georgia’s reaction knew the result.

The Bulldogs, who held a slight lead through three rotations, dominated vault on their final event of the season to clinch the national gymnastics championship, giving them two in a row and seven in the past 20 years.

“That was great. Awesome,” Yoculan said. “We knew we had to have a great performance on vault. Alabama pushed us all the way. That was a war without guns.”

The Bulldogs finished with a season high 197.75, thanks mainly to their season best 49.65 on vault to finish 36-0 and becoming the fourth team in the program’s history – 1993, ’98-99 – to go undefeated and win the national championship.

“My hat’s off to them,” Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said. “They handled the pressure of an undefeated season and the pressure of winning back-to-back national championships. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. We stayed with them through three events and made them be great.”

The Bulldogs, who were No. 1 every week of the season except for one this year, owned the vault, beginning with Megan Dowlen’s 9.875 and ending with Tiffany Tolnay’s 9.95.

Katie Heenan had a 9.9, Ashley Kupets had a 9.85, Kesley Ericksen had a 9.95 and Courtney Kupets added a 9.975.

When Tolnay stuck her landing, the Bulldogs, already excited from the scores, went into a frenzy. By that time, they knew their fate.

“We don’t talk about scores. We knew what we had to do and we ignored the scores,” Ericksen said. “We knew we had to hit that event because we knew it was a close meet. We went out there and did what we had to do. It’s about confidence and being aggressive and nailing it.”

Dowlen replaced senior Brittany Smith, who has battled injuries this year, on vault and finished with a season high 9.875.

“That’s the best vault Megan has ever done,” Ericksen said.

ABH article: Sophomore Nikki Childs performs a beam routine. (photo: Diane Cebula/ABH)
The Kupets: UGA gym dogs Ashley (left) and Courtney (right) with their mom, Patti (center). (Photo: Ten-O NCAA Regional Tailgate)

The AJC article ends with this observation of Courtney Kupets — Georgia’s freshman sensation:

The championships conclude tonight with the event finals.

Kupets qualified for event finals on all events except for vault. Tolnay qualified on the vault and beam, Ericksen on the floor, Heenan on the bars.

On Thursday, Kupets became the fourth Georgia gymnast to win the all-around title and the first freshman to do so since Hope Spivey in 1991.

Kupets scored a 9.9 on the floor in the last routine of the night to overtake Utah’s Ashley Postell. Tolnay finished fourth in the all-around.

Kupets, a 2004 Olympian who won a bronze medal on the uneven bars, competed like she practices, according to Yoculan.

“She comes into the gym every day and is almost perfect,” Yoculan said. “She comes in and tries to be perfect in every respect .”

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(NOTE: The NCAA Championships will be televised on CBS at 1 p.m. May 6)

One Response to “UGA Gym Dogs Win National Championship”

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