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No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia tied at 197.25 Saturday in Stegeman Coliseum.

Saturday January 27, 2007No. 1 Florida Gymnasts Tie No. 2 Georgia in Athens


No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia tied at 197.25 Saturday in Stegeman Coliseum.

The nation’s top two gymnastics teams battled to a tie Saturday afternoon in front of a record Stegeman Coliseum crowd. No. 1 Florida (7-0-1, 1-0-1 SEC) and two-time defending NCAA champion and current No. 2 Georgia (6-0-1, 2-0-1) exchanged the lead throughout the meet, but the contest finally ended at 197.25 each. It was the second tie in the 35-year history of Gator gymnastics, with the first coming at Towson on March 15, 1997.


Saturday’s meet was the first time that the GymDogs did not come away with the win facing the nation’s No. 1 team in Stegeman Coliseum. Since 1992, Florida was the fourth team to come to Georgia’s home arena ranked No. 1.


Florida and Georgia had one competitor each record a fall, but neither team was forced to use that routine toward its team score. Both teams put up strong routines throughout the meet, with just small bobbles and steps deducting from the highest potential final score for both teams. For UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn, a tie was a new experience that she believes her team will learn from for the future.


“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a tie before,” said Faehn. “We are definitely proud of how the athletes came into this environment and competed with such a strong mindset and fought for every little thing. We made some errors here and there, but that’s the name of the game. It’s the fourth meet of what is a long season. I’m proud of how they keep improving a little bit by little bit at each meet.”


Georgia owned a .05 advantage after the first rotation, but UF took a .125 edge at the midway point after matching the fifth-highest vault team total (49.40) in school history. It was announced to the crowd that the two teams were heading into the final rotation tied at 147.95, but actually the GymDogs owned a .05 advantage after Nikki Childs’ balance beam score was raised from a 9.80 to a 9.85 following a score inquiry. In the final rotation, the Gators posted a season-best balance beam total of 49.30, while the GymDogs tallied a 49.25 on floor, pushing the final team scores to identical numbers.


This meet could have gone either way, Faehn said.


Georgia is a very strong team. Mistakes were made on both sides. Any given day anybody could win. You’ve got to be perfect and every little tenth counts. This was a great learning experience for a lot of our athletes,” Faehn said. “Coming up with a tie just shows that there are two very, very strong teams in our conference.”


For the meet, Florida turned in season-best team totals for final score (197.25), vault (49.40) and balance beam (49.30).


Red-shirt freshman Melanie Sinclair, who took second in the all-around with Florida’s season-best total of 39.525, thought the Gators did well in this tense environment.


“We did really, really well. We were solid, we were confident, we were loud. It was very exciting and it boosted everyone’s energy,” Sinclair said. “We were on a roll today and you could tell. It was very exciting. I don’t think we’ve had that much energy before at a competition.”


Sinclair was the only Gator to win an event Saturday, collecting her third uneven bars title of the season at 9.95. Freshman Amanda Castillo equaled her collegiate-best bar mark of 9.90 to tie for third in the final standings. Junior Ashley Reed and senior Katie Rue shared third in the final vault standings as each matched the Gator season-best of 9.90 on the event. Reed again matched her collegiate-best beam mark of 9.90 to tie for second on the event. Sinclair was UF’s top floor performer Saturday, turning in a collegiate-best 9.875 to take third. Reed equaled her collegiate-best all-around total of 39.425 to take third.


UGA junior Katie Heenan took the all-around title (39.65). She shared the vault (9.95) and floor (9.925) titles with teammate Tiffany Tolnay. Sophomore Courtney Kupets took the beam title with a mark of 9.95.


Saturday’s meet was held in front of a record Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,224. The previous high crowd for a gymnastics meet at Stegeman was 10,217 set for the 1994 Georgia-LSU dual meet.


Team colors were set aside for Saturday’s Think Pink meet, as both teams wore pink leotards (but different shades). Events surrounding the meet were to help raise breast cancer awareness. This was the second time Florida has participated in a sell-out breast cancer awareness meet. Last year, Florida competed in front of a crowd of 15,162 at the University of Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum - the then third-largest in the history of collegiate gymnastics. Florida will play host to Gators Link to Pink, a breast cancer awareness meet, on Feb. 16 versus Kentucky and both teams will don pink leotards for the competition.


The Florida-Georgia dual meet will air tape-delayed on Sun Sports at 9 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 4.


The Gators return home to play host to a dual meet with No. 10 Auburn (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Friday, Feb. 2. It will be Dodge Night and the first 500 fans will receive a lunch bag courtesy of Dodge. Admission is $4.00 for adults, while youth 17 and under and UF students with identification are admitted free.


No. 1 Florida versus No. 2 Georgia

Stegeman Coliseum (10,224) – Athens, Ga. – Jan. 27, 2007























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