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gymnastics-women-nc flag | February 15, 2014

Top-ranked Florida wins Valentine's meeting with No. 11 Arkansas

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Top-ranked Florida won its Valentine’s Day meeting with No. 11 Arkansas on Friday in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 6,124. Florida turned in a 197.525 and the Razorbacks posted a 196.025.

Junior All-American Kytra Hunter ended the Gators’ first rotation with a bang, scoring her first 10.0 on vault. Hunter had been oh-so-close to the perfect mark, earning a 9.975 at six previous meets.

It was Florida’s fourth consecutive meet with a 10.0, as Hunter and sophomore Bridget Sloan started the streak with perfect floor routines on Jan. 24. Hunter earned her second floor 10.0 on Jan. 31 and Sloan collected the mark for her beam routine last Friday at Kentucky.

Hunter started a Gator sweep of the event titles, as senior All-Americans Alaina Johnson and Mackenzie Caquatto shared tonight’s uneven bars win as each equaled Florida’s season-high of 9.95.

Sloan took the balance beam (9.90) and floor exercise (9.975) titles, helping her equal her career-best all-around total of 39.75 for the second time in 2014. That total also is the nation’s leader in 2014. Sloan, the defending NCAA all-around champion, has won five consecutive all-around titles this season.

Arkansas senior Katherine Grable was the all-around runner-up at 39.575 while teammate Amanda Wellick was third at 39.30.

No. 5 Alabama 197.500, No. 12 Auburn 197.100

AUBURN, Ala. -- Alabama pulled out a close win against Auburn on Friday night in Auburn Arena with a score of 197.500-197.100 in front of 7,123 fans, the second largest gymnastics crowd in Auburn Arena. Sarah Patterson's squad tied its season-best total set a week ago against Georgia.

The two teams were within .025 of each other through each of the first two rotations before the Crimson Tide started to pull away through the second half of the meet, and earning its 108th consecutive win over the Tigers.

Senior Sarah DeMeo led the Crimson Tide with a career-best 39.500 to win the all-around. Alabama also swept the individual titles, posting the highest score of the season on all four apparatus.

As a team, the Tide tied its season-best score on vault and posted its season best on the balance beam as well as its second highest floor exercise total of the season.

Alabama closed out the meet with a huge balance beam rotation, posting a 49.325 behind career-best scores from freshmen Katie Bailey (9.9) and Aja Sims (9.925).

No. 8 Michigan 196.650, No. 7 Nebraska 196.125

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Behind an energetic and lively floor exercise rotation, Michigan went into Lincoln and secured a huge road win against a top-10 team, toppling Nebraska 196.650-196.125 on Friday inside the Devaney Center. The Wolverines handed Nebraska its first loss of the season while jumping to atop the Big Ten regular season standings at 4-0.

Senior Joanna Sampson and Nebraska senior Emily Wong were neck-and-neck for the all-around title all evening, but Wong prevailed in the end by one quarter-of-a-tenth, putting Sampson in second with a score of 39.450. Sampson won vault (9.925) and tied for first on balance beam with freshman Nicole Artz at 9.825. Artz also competed as an all-arounder for the first time in her career, scoring 39.150 to take fourth.

The Wolverines looked sharper on uneven bars than the previous week, posting 49.025 to start. The team's high scorer on the apparatus was senior Shelby Gies at 9.850, hitting clean handstands and her double tuck dismount. Sampson got nice height on the Tkatchev, but took a tiny hop on the landing, finishing with a 9.800. Sophomore Austin Sheppard was very fired up after her routine, swapping out a piked Tkatchev -- which she had performed in the first five meets -- to a normal Tkatchev and sticking her double front dismount.

Michigan had a pretty strong with a steady string of Yurchenko Fulls and Yurchenko 1.5s during the vault rotation, scoring 49.275 as a team. Sampson led the way with a 9.925, thanks to some serious distance on her Full. Sheppard tied for third with a 9.875, hitting the horse with her trademark power. Fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein and junior Sachi Sugiyama performed nearly identical 1.5s, as each gymnast got great distance on their attempts. At the halfway point, Nebraska led, 98.475-98.300.

The Wolverines had perhaps their strongest floor exercise rotation of the season so far, scoring 49.375, thanks to some terrific tumbling from all six competitors in the lineup. The five counted scores started with freshman Talia Chiarelli, who hit a double tuck on the start and a double pike on the back end to tie her career high through six meets at 9.850. Beilstein followed, hitting all three tumbling passes to score 9.875. Artz had her best routine of the night and one of the best of her early career, scoring 9.900 to tie her career high. Senior Reema Zakharia scored 9.850, while Sampson lit up the Devaney Center with a 9.900 routine to close. Coupled with some mistakes by Nebraska on balance beam, the Wolverines found themselves in the lead, 147.675-147.125, heading into the fourth and final rotation.

Armed with over a five-tenth cushion, Michigan needed to hit five routines on balance beam to secure the win and did just that. Artz led off in her typical spot and tied for the event title at 9.825, followed by her freshman counterpart in Chiarelli at 9.800 until the seniors took over to bring it home. Gies had a balance check midway through the routine but recovered to hit for a 9.750 score. Zakharia went up and came through despite a slight wobble on her back tuck, scoring 9.775. Sampson performed a brilliant routine to essentially seal the win, scoring 9.825.