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College gymnastics: Florida, Oklahoma tie for title

Published April 20, 2014 4:56 pm

College gymnastics • Gators and Sooners leapfrog Alabama for victory.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Birmingham, Ala. • Georgia had the throwback leotards and Alabama had the home crowd, but in the end it was a mix of old and new that won the NCAA Gymnastics Championships here at the Birmingham Convention Complex.

Florida, which won its first national title last year, finished in a tie with Oklahoma for the championship on Saturday.

The meet came down to the final rotation, where Alabama led 148.7, Oklahoma was second with 148.625 and Florida was third with 148.55.

Georgia, which started with a shaky rotation on the balance beam, was a distant fourth at 147.525 while LSU and Nebraska were finished with 197.6 and 196.5, respectively.

Alabama had the disadvantage of ending on the balance beam while Oklahoma was on the vault and Florida was on the floor.

The Tide got in a bind early when leadoff gymnast Diandra Milliner fell. The rest of the line came through with solid routines until Kim Jacob fell on her mount. Jacob won the all-around title Friday night, but evidently couldn't beat the pressure on the balance beam on Saturday and scored just 9.35. The Tide finished with a disappointing 48.85.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma finished with a 49.55 on the vault and Florida scored 49.625 on the floor.

Both teams milled around the floor unsure what the result was until the official announcement was made there was a tie for first.

Ties in qualifying rounds are broken by counting all six scores on each event, but no such tiebreaker is used for the finals, a technicality that didn't seem to bother the winners.

"It's such an incredibly challenging competition, every athlete puts her heart out there," Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. "I understand you have to break it for qualifications but we can share the title."

Oklahoma is just the fifth team to win an NCAA gymnastics title, joining Florida, Alabama, Utah and Georgia.

The Sooners finished on vault early enough to watch Florida finish its floor routines.

"It was pure torture," Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. "All we could do was sit and watch. I wanted to run to the locker room and take the team with me. It was hard to sit there and watch every score come up and try to do the math in our heads. It was pure torture, but worth the wait."

Kindler, who is in her eighth season with the Sooners, said she was cautioned when she took the job that she could never win a title at Oklahoma.

Last year's second-place finish behind the Gators gave her and the team the last bit of belief in themselves that prepped them for their effort this season.

"I have seen this team progress over the year and it has been amazing," Oklahoma gymnast Taylor Spears said. "It was a different feeling than last year."

For Florida, being able to win after losing several key gymnasts from the 2013 title team added to the satisfaction, Faehn said.

"We didn't have much depth, so all year we were managing the health of the team," she said. "That was the hardest part of the season, maintaining their health, and that we made it this far and we won again is still crazy to me." —

Super Six Final Standings

1 • Oklahoma and Florida 198.175

3 • LSU 197.6

4 • Alabama 197.55

5 • Georgia 197.05

6 • Nebraska 196.5 —

Super Six glance

In short • Alabama had two falls on its final event and Oklahoma and Florida scored high on their events to overtake the Tide.

Key stat • Florida's floor lineup earned a 49.625, including a 9.95 from its final two competitors, to earn a share of the title.

Key moment • Alabama slipped from first to fourth when Kim Jacob fell off the balance beam and scored just 9.35.