Utes finish 2nd at NCAA Gymnastics Championships

Utes finish 2nd at NCAA Gymnastics Championships

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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Georgia's gymnasts celebrated another NCAA title with a little style.

The "Gym Dogs" were unofficially crowned with plastic fedoras that had "Hat Trick" written on the band after they clinched their third straight national title Friday night at the NCAA championships.

Georgia needed the last two rotations to pull ahead of host Utah, which was tied with the Gym Dogs for the lead with two to go. Georgia took over with a stellar floor exercise, capped by Courtney Kupets' 9.95.

Katie Heenan also had a 9.95 for Georgia on the vault, which was the final event for Georgia and sealed the win.

The Gym Dogs, who lost two seniors to injuries just before the championships, won their preliminary round Thursday to advance to Friday's championships.

"We had a great meet last night and there was no reason for us to doubt anything," said Heenan, whose over all score of 39.600 tied Kupets for second best Friday.

Heenan was the fourth vaulter for Georgia and tied the highest score of the night. Only Kupets and Tiffany Tolnay were left and although they couldn't match Heenan, they were good enough.

Kupets got a 9.90 and then Tolnay scored a 9.925 as the final vaulter.

Tolnay knew she had gotten the job done after her landing, when her teammates rushed her before she could make it back up the runway.

The Gym Dogs led the Georgia fans at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center in a chant of "U-G-A! U-G-A!" before the official scores were announced. When they finally were, Georgia had won it handily with 197.850 points.

Utah was second for the second year in a row with 197.250 points and Florida finished third (197.225).

Georgia won its eighth national title, moving within one of Utah's record of nine during the 26 years of NCAA championships. The Gym Dogs are the first team to win three straight titles since Utah won the first five NCAA crowns from 1982-86.

The Utes, who received roaring cheers every time they ended a routine, couldn't keep up as Georgia was pulling away on the floor exercise. Finishing second was actually an accomplishment for Utah, which struggled through the regular season.

"It's a mixed bag," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "Two months ago I wasn't even sure if we would be here. This team has come so far in the last six weeks."

The Utes and Gym Dogs were tied for the lead with 98.750 points after two rotations and both had a bye at the same time.

Georgia came out after the break on the floor exercise and had the highest scoring round of the evening with 49.575 points. Kupets was the last to go for Georgia on the floor and got a 9.95.

Utah was on the balance beam and couldn't keep up. Ashley Postell's 9.9 was the highest score for the Utes, matching the lowest score for the Gym Dogs on the floor.

Kupets' only score below a 9.9 was an 9.85 on the beam, where Kupets salvaged her routine after nearly falling by making another crisp dismount. That was the only event the Gym Dogs struggled through, other than Courtney McCool's 9.95.

"Everybody was surfing up there but nobody was coming off," Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said.

Postell was the only other gymnast with a 9.95, which she got in Utah's final floor exercise.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-04-27-07 2336MDT

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