Originally created 01/14/02

Gymnastics: Georgia tops No. 1 UCLA



ATHENS, Ga. -- For the second time in three days, second-ranked Georgia defeated defending national champion UCLA in gymnastics, paced Sunday by the second-best all-around performance in school history.

Sophomore Cory Fritzinger of Virginia Beach, Va., scored 39.8 in the four events combined to spark Georgia to a 197.9-196.875 victory over UCLA before a sellout crowd of 9,951.

Friday Georgia won the Super Six Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., where UCLA was third.

"This was a big meet for us," said Georgia Coach Suzanne Yoculan. "It was obvious that we wanted badly to win the meet, while it was not that important to UCLA."

UCLA's Coach Valorie Kondos Field agreed, to a point.

"I take all the responsibility," she said. "We spent all fall on new skills. With the kind of athletes we recruit, we have to allow them to advance. When you spend every day learning new skills, you can't polish them."

At least one UCLA gymnast fell in every event, and in floor the Bruins were forced to count Jamie Dantzscher's fall on her last pass, spoiling what otherwise would have been a perfect 10.0 routine.

Dantzscher, a U.S. Olympian in 2000, did score a 10.0 in vault on the way to a 39.325 all-around score. The fall cost her the all-around honors for the meet.

"It was just a fluke," she said of her mistake. "I thought about it too much. It won't happen again."

The Bruins were competing short-handed after freshman Christie Tedmon broke her toe in the Super Six meet Friday night, forcing some last-minute lineup shuffling by Field.

Georgia had to do some shuffling on the fly Sunday after sophomore Chelsa Byrd slipped on the vault board and slammed into the horse. She dislocated and fractured a finger on her right hand and is expected to be out three to four weeks.

But freshman Kinsey Rowe responded with a near-perfect 9.975 vault, followed by a career-best 10.0 by Fritzinger and a 9.975 by Marline Stephens.

"I was a little more nervous after Chelsa got hurt," Rowe said. "But that's what being fourth, fifth and sixth in the lineup is all about. You have to step it up."

Rowe finished with a career-high 39.675 all-around. Stephens, who subbed for Byrd in the bars, scored 39.575. UCLA's top scorer was Onnie Willis, 2001 NCAA all-around champion, with 39.65.

Georgia's score was its highest ever in a January meet.

"I hope we are not peaking too early as a team," said Fritzinger. "I guess as long as we stay consistent as a team, we'll be OK."

The only Georgia gymnast to ever score better than Fritzinger's 39.8 is Karen Lichey, who scored a perfect 10 on all four events in a 1996 meet.

Georgia's strong opening in the vault set the tone for the event, but UCLA was outstanding on the uneven bars, scoring 49.325, led by Dantzscher's 9.975. But after her fall on floor and Georgia's strong 49.5 score on balance beam, there was no drama remaining about who would win. Georgia counted three 9.9s or better on beam, including a 9.95 by Fritzinger, and five 9.9s or better on floor

"This was an unbelieveable weekend," said Yoculan. "I'm usually the one with the high expectations, but not with these girls. I'm sure we will have some bumps in the road."

Yoculan said that Georgia will do verry little work this week in preparation for Friday's meet at Alabama, runnerup in the Super Six meet.

Last season, UCLA won the national championship in Athens to runnerup Georgia. UCLA also won the NCAA titles in 1997 and 2000, while Georgia won in 1998 and 1999.

"We love coming here," said Field. "We figure we are not Alabama, and the Georgia crowd loves good gymnastics, and they appreciate you for it."