Defending co-champs Florida, Oklahoma make gymnastics final
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Defending co-champions Oklahoma and Florida will get another shot at the NCAA women’s gymnastics title.
The Sooners joined the Gators in the Super Six finals by finishing in the top three in the second semifinal session Friday night.
Florida, which has won consecutive team titles, and Utah tied for the top score in the early session at 197.475. Stanford qualified in the third spot.
Oklahoma survived two falls on balance beam, its last event, to advance along with Alabama and Auburn in the late session. Auburn is making its first trip to the finals since 1993.
Sooners coach K.J. Kindler changed the routines of the gymnasts later in the beam rotation after Haley Sorensen and Kara Lovan fell in the first two turns.
”When they had their routines changed, you know that they know that there’s been an issue and they have to be strong,” Kindler said. ”So they’re going up there full well knowing.”
Oklahoma had a cushion for its errors on beam because McKenzie Wofford and Brenna Dowell tied for the top spot in the late session on uneven bars at 9.95 and Ali Jackson and Haley Scaman joined Myia Hambrick of LSU atop the evening vault standings at 9.95.
Utah’s Georgia Dabritz helped her team move on in the early session with a 10 on uneven bars, the only perfect score of the day.
Florida’s Kytra Hunter and former Olympian Samantha Peszek of UCLA shared the all-around title. Both gymnasts posted the winning score of 39.6 in the early session. Auburn’s Caitlin Atkinson and Rheagan Courville of LSU fell short in second semifinal, finishing tied for third at 39.55.
Peszek scored a 9.9 on all four events, while Hunter made up for a slightly lower score on vault with the top early score on floor exercise at 9.95. Scaman matched Hunter in the late session.
The 23-year-old Peszek came back as a fifth-year senior more for the team than the pursuit of the all-around title, and the Bruins fell short by finishing sixth in the early session. Despite that disappointment, there was gratification seven years after injuries interfered with her Olympics hopes.
”This year I’ve kind of had a different perspective of just being my best and not worrying about the things that weren’t in my control,” Peszek said. ”I think that helped me mentally.”
The Sooners had the top score in the late session at 197.4, followed by Alabama at 197.1. Auburn finished at 197.075, having to wait through the final rotation to see if it would advance in just its fourth NCAA appearance.
”We knew how close the scores were,” said Atkinson, who had the top score on beam at 9.95. ”Waiting and keeping out hope that we had done enough was kind of stressful. But it was also really fun because we knew we had a chance to make history and we did.”
Dabritz’s perfect score on bars pushed her past a three-way tie at 9.95 that included 2014 bars champion Bridget Sloan of Florida. She had just the third 10 on bars at the NCAA meet after falling off the balance beam, Utah’s first event. That fall kept her out of the all-around lead.
”I had to change my attitude real quick and turn it around for the team because we were heading into our second event,” said Dabritz, who was the national runner-up on bars in 2013. ”I think that definitely happened and then ended my night on a high and it was just amazing.”
The Cardinal came in as one of six teams without a championship, while Utah has nine titles but hasn’t won the championship since 1995. In the first national meet held in Texas, Stanford and Utah advanced to the finals for the first time since 2012.
”One of our themes this year was to do it big,” said Stanford’s Ivana Hong, who once trained at the same Dallas-area gym that produced Olympic gold medalists Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin. ”And coming to Texas, the state where everything is bigger, it just works out very nicely.”