April 22, 2010

By Paul D. Bowker
Special to NCAA.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Nine-time NCAA women' s gymnastics champion Utah, five-time national champ UCLA and Oklahoma finished among the top three teams in a semifinal session Thursday to advance to Friday's final round of the NCAA Div. 1 Women's Gymnastics Championships.

UCLA topped a group of six teams with 196.875 points despite a sluggish start in its first two events, sending the Bruins into the Super Six final for the first time since 2007.

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow (Friday) night more than words can ever express," UCLA coach Valorie Kondas Field said.

Utah, which hasn't won the national championship since 1995 but placed third last year, finished second with 196.625 points and Oklahoma was third with 196.550 points. Eliminated from the competition were Nebraska (196.175), Oregon State (196.050) and Louisiana State (196.025).

A second semifinal session was to be held Thursday with six other teams, including No. 2 seed and host Florida. The three top teams from that competition will join UCLA, Utah and Oklahoma in Friday's Super Six round (6 p.m. EDT) at Florida's Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Friday's competition will decide the national champion. The NCAA individual champions will be decided Saturday.

Although LSU, the No. 9 seed was eliminated, Susan Jackson, a senior and the Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Year, placed first in the all-around scores, hitting at least 9.85 on every event. Her 9.95 on the vault, tying a personal best, was the top score of any gymnast on any of the events. Jackson qualified for the individual finals in vault and uneven parallel bars.

Courtney McCool, the only University of Georgia gymnast at the competition after the five-time national champion Dogs were eliminated in regionals, tied for first place in the balance beam with a score of 9.9 and also qualified for the individual finals in the floor exercise with a score of 9.875.

UCLA's Brittani McCullough won the floor exercise with a score of 9.925 and teammate Anna Li, a senior, placed among the top three in two events.

"I'm so proud of my team," Li said. "I've never been on a team that is so much fun."