Georgia wins fifth national title in a row

Friday, April 17, 2009 10:15 PM
Last updated 10:59 PM
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LINCOLN, Neb. — It was a perfect start and finish for Courtney Kupets, and a perfect ending to Suzanne Yoculan’s 26-year career at Georgia.

The Gym Dogs sent out their retiring coach with a fifth straight national title and record 10th overall at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships on Friday night.

Kupets, who won her third all-around title in four years on Thursday, opened the evening with a 10 on the uneven bars and wrapped up her collegiate career with a 10 on the vault.

As Kupets stuck her final landing, Yoculan pumped her fist, let out a “Yes,” and raced to embrace the woman Alabama coach Sarah Patterson calls the “queen of college gymnastics.”

Tiffany Tolnay, a star in her own right who was overshadowed by Kupets here, followed with a 9.95 to give Georgia a season-high 49.625 in the event.

Georgia finished with a four-event score of 197.825, easily beating the 197.450 it posted at last year’s national meet. Alabama, which upset Georgia at the Southeastern Conference meet, was runner-up with 197.575. Utah, runner-up the last three years, was third with 197.425.

Florida (196.725), Arkansas (196.475) and LSU (196.375) followed as the SEC sent five of its seven gymnastics programs to the Super Six, an unprecedented feat for a conference.

Kupets, a 2004 Olympic medalist and the SEC Gymnast of the Year, recorded 10s seven times this season, with three of them coming in the last five events of her college career. She finished Thursday’s preliminary with a perfect score on the balance beam.

After Kupets’ stuck her landing on the bars Friday, her teammates and the Gym Dogs’ pom-pon-waving fans raised their hands, fingers pointed skyward, and chanted “10-10-10,” imploring the judges to reward her flawless routine. When the 10s went up, the fans started “woofing” in celebration.

If there was a lull in the Gym Dogs’ performance during the team finals, it came on the beam. But they finished the event strong, with Kupets posting a 9.95 and Courtney McCool a 9.9.

They exploded in the floor exercise, with no Gym Dog scoring lower than 9.9. Kupets — who else? — led the way with a 9.95.

After Georgia’s big finish on the vault, Alabama went into its final event, the floor, needing to score 49.75 to tie the Gym Dogs. The Tide scored 49.4.

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