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Lady Bulldogs lead NCAA gymnastics championships
Georgia’s Tiffany Tolany performs on the beam during the first day of the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships on Thursday in Athens. - photo by The Associated Press

ATHENS — Host Georgia had little trouble in winning the second session of the preliminary round of the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships before its home crowd Thursday night.

The Gymdogs scored 197.625 to dominate the night session and join three more Southeastern Conference teams in Friday’s finals. Earlier, Florida, Alabama and LSU advanced from the afternoon session.

The only interlopers in the finals will be Utah and Stanford, second and third in the night session, respectively.

Utah scored 196.95, and Stanford 196.9.

UCLA’s Tasha Schwikert won the individual all-around title with 39.6 points. Utahs Ashley Postell was runnerup at 39.55.

No. 1 Georgia was led by Katie Heenan and Tiffany Tolnay, who tied for third all-around at 39.525, along with Utah’s Kristina Baskett and Floridas Melanie Sinclair.

Heenan would have won the all-around title except for a one-tenth deduction for stepping out of bounds during her floor routine. Heenan equaled her career best with a 9.95 on the beam.

Georgia got a boost on vault from Marcia Newby with a career-best 9.95.

Michigan was 17 routines into the meet before it scored a 9.9. Becky Bernard and Kylee Botterman scored 9.9s on the bars.

Florida won the afternoon session with a 196.875 score. Alabama scored 196.65, and LSU 196.575.

For the Bengals, it was their first time in 20 tries to advance to Friday’s Super Six finals. “I haven’t had a monkey on my back, I have had a gorilla,” said LSU Coach D-D Breaux.

LSU led the afternoon meet at the halfway point but was deflated after team ace Ashleigh Clare-Kearney scored a season-low 9.775 on the vault. She won the regionals two weeks ago with a perfect 10 and averaged 9.95 over the season.

Clare-Kearney bounced back with a 9.95 on the uneven bars, best of the day along with Florida’s Melanie Sinclair. Clare-Kearney fell off the beam on the final routine of the day, but LSU had already clinched the third spot in the Super Six, led by Susan Jackson’s 9.85 on the beam. Jackson was second in the all-around with 39.5 points.

Oklahoma finished fourth at 196.075, followed by Arkansas at 195.825 and Oregon State at 195.475.

The Gators were led by Sinclair. She turned in a near flawless 9.95 on bars en route to a 39.525 score.
In the afternoon, both Amanda Castillo and Ashley Reed of Florida scored 39.425s, and Corey Hartung scored 39.4. Hartung, Castillo and Alabama’s Morgan Dennis had the highest floor scores at 9.925.

Alabama missed two routines, but still got strong all-around performances from Dennis, 39.4, and Ricki Lebegern, 39.2.

Dennis’ 9.925 on floor was matched by teammate Kassi Price on bars.

The best vaulters of the day were Michelle Stout of Arkansas and Kayla Hoffman of Alabama with 9.9s. Nebraska’s Emily Parsons, competing as an individual, led the beam scores with a 9.875.

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