Originally created 02/16/02

Georgia women's gymnastics tops Alabama



ATHENS, Ga. -- A fall and two big wobbles on the balance beam enabled top-ranked Georgia to overtake No. 3 Alabama in the last rotation for a 197.2-196.95 win in their women's gymnastics meet Friday.

The meet, which was held before a capacity crowd of 9,951, came down to two Houston natives in the final routines. Georgia sophomore Marline Stephens scored a season-high 9.975 on floor exercise to punctuate the comeback, just seconds after Alabama senior Andree Pickens' 9.95 score on balance beam.

The Gymdogs (13-2) opened the meet with a strong performance in the event, scoring 49.5, their second highest total of the season. Stephens led the way with a near perfect 9.975, matching her career high. But if Stephens had any momentum, she lost it on the next event when she fell early in her uneven bars routine.

Four Alabama (8-3) gymnasts scored higher than any Gymdog on the uneven bars, led by a 9.9 by senior Natalie Barrington. Alabama's Pickens matched Stephens on the vault with her own 9.975, tying the meet at 98.45 apiece halfway.

The balance beam figured to be an event in which Georgia could make up ground. The Gymdogs entered as the nation's second-ranked balance beam team in the country, but turned in an average performance at best, scoring 49.25. Breanne Rutherford helped with a career-high 9.85, but Stephens had the high score with a 9.9. The home crowd booed lustily when Cory Fritzinger received a 9.775 score.

Meanwhile, Alabama, the nation's top-ranked floor team, scored 49.45 in the event, paced by Alexis Brion's near-perfect 9.95 score. Alabama led by .175 points entering the final rotation.

The Tide's Raegan Tomasek kicked off the balance beam event with a strong 9.85 routine, but when Tiffany Byrd fell on her routine, it put the pressure on the rest of Alabama's lineup to hit without incident. But on the very next routine, Hrozek nearly fell twice and scored just 9.575.

Jeana Rice was the top-all-around performer at 39.525, and Pickens closed strong on beam with 9.925 and 9.95, respectively, but it was too little too late.

Meanwhile, Georgia's only misstep on floor came when Chelsa Byrd stepped out on her first pass, but Loren Simpson scored a career-high 9.925, and Stephens climaxed the meet with a 9.975, clinching the win.