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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Florida, Georgia, and Nebraska advance to Super Six

By Tony Pizza

Given Georgia’s postseason injury woes, it seemed like Florida would finally be able to separate itself from its SEC rival going into Nationals.

That turned out not to be the case Thursday afternoon at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

Georgia and Florida both advanced to the Super Six along with Nebraska, but it was Georgia that got the best of Florida with a 197.700 first place finish in the afternoon preliminary session.

“We are not going down without a fight,” Georgia head coach Suzanne Yoculan said. “I don?t think many people expected us to do what we did today.”

Instead of sulking over the loss of senior all-arounders Kelsey Ericksen and Ashley Kupets, the Georgia Gym Dogs came out with teeth barred and pulled off the top score in the first of two preliminary sessions, led by the impressive performance of Courtney Kupets.

“I really dug deep, not just me but our whole team,” Kupets said. “I felt like I did a good job today. I picked up today — especially on the landing area.”

Kupets wowed the crowed of 7,712 by starting out with a 9.9 on beam before finishing with three-straight scores of 9.95 on floor, vault and bars respectively to finish with an All-Around score of 39.750.

The reigning All-Around National Champion’s most impressive performance came on bars when she perfectly executed an under-bar transfer from the low bar the high bar, known as the Shaposhnikova.

Although Georgia’s strong showing did surprise some people, Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn has come to expect nothing but the best from its SEC foe.

“I think that every time we get together, any competition within the conference we know is going to be extremely competitive,” Faehn said. “I think that’s what makes us such a strong conference, because we’re always head-to-head.”

Although the Gators were slightly outdone by Georgia in the prelims, in no way did they have a disappointing meet. Their score of 197.400 was just under their Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 197.435.

Florida’s extremely deep team was led by the performance of freshman Amanda Castillo, who posted a 39.550 in her first appearance at the national championships. Not far behind were Corey Hartung and Ashley Reed who both scored 39.400 for the Gators.

“I just feel confident that they’ll be able come in tomorrow, hungry, fresh, rested and ready to take on for the national championship,” Faehn said.

One other surprise that came from the afternoon preliminary session was the fact that Alabama basically didn’t show up.The Crimson Tide, who finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the country, barely broke the 49-point mark in their opening rotation on floor. Their scores hovered around that mark for the rest of the session and the Crimson Tide finished No. 5 overall.

It was not, however, surprising to see Nebraska capitalize on the wide-open opportunity. The Cornhuskers have hovered around the 196.68 mark all season long, and they came in just under that score with a 196.625 to advance to its third straight Super Six appearance.

Nebraska advanced to the Super Six despite an opening fall from Emily Parsons on beam.

“Even though we started out with a fall I think we did a great job of picking it up,” Michele Zabawa said. “I think on bars we did that. We ended up finishing pretty well.”

Florida will be making only its sixth appearance in the Super Six, and the pressure of being one of the top teams in the field this year doesn’t faze Faehn one bit.

“We have nothing to lose,” Faehn said. “It’s when you have titles and you?re afraid of losing them that there’s more pressure — we have everything to gain. We don’t have extra pressure.”

For the Gym Dogs, this is their 21st appearance in the Super Six, and the last two times they have been a part of the final day of team competition, they have emerged as national champions. With their perfomance in the preliminary session, they are certainly one of the favorites to repeat that accomplishment again.

Notes: Georgia’s score of 49.525 on vault is the highest any team in the country has scored on that event this year. Kupets is trying to become the first person to repeat as All-Around National Champion since Gym Dog gymnast Kim Arnold accomplished that feat back in 1998.

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