Utah gymnastics: SEC dominates early NCAA session
Los Angeles • The results of Friday's afternoon session at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships assured the Super Six would have a strong SEC flavor as top-ranked Florida, No. 4 Georgia and No. 7 LSU all advanced.
The Gators won the session with a 197.775, followed by LSU (197.325), Georgia (197.15), Minnesota (196.375), Illinois (195.7) and Stanford (194.7).
Florida coach Rhonda Faehn likened the results to the 2009 season when five of the six teams in the Super Six were from the SEC. The exception was Utah, which finished third.
"No doubt the competition we see week in and week out in the SEC has helped prepare all the athletes and coaches for this situation," she said. "Starting with all the dual meets and to the SEC Championships, we're fortunate we're in a conference that provides that experience."
This is the second year in a row the Gators have been the top seed. They finished second to Alabama last season.
Getting to the Super Six was new ground for the current gymnasts on the LSU and Georgia teams since neither team has qualified for the finals since that 2009 competition.
Georgia, in particular, has had some rough seasons since coach Suzanne Yoculan retired following the program's championship in 2009. UGA failed to qualify for the NCAAs in 2010, placed ninth in 2011, and finished a disappointing 11th in 2012.
The Gym Dogs are back under new coach Danna Durante, who replaced Jay Clark, who resigned last May.
Interestingly, Clark is now an assistant for LSU.
A huge point of contention during the coaches pre-event meeting on Thursday was the so-called "celebration rule." Gymnasts are not supposed to celebrate until they are off the podium. If they do, they will be deducted a tenth of a point.
The rule, which was voted into place by the NCAA Gymnastics Committee before the season started, was expected to influence the vault the most since gymnasts are accustomed to running back down the runway to their teammates.
Most coaches who participated in Thursday's meeting disliked the rule, saying it took away from the fun of competition.
To make sure there weren't any deductions, many coaches had an assistant at the end of the vault who made sure the gymnasts stepped down from the podium before celebrating.
Utah had one of the largest fan followings at the meet with more than 200 from Salt Lake City making the trip to Los Angeles. The Utes led the nation by averaging 14,349 fans this year.