Georgia Edges Gym'Backs In Key Meet

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas nearly pulled off a monumental upset in gymnastics on Friday night, losing to No. 6 Georgia by just 195.300 to 195.150.

The No. 12 Gym'Backs trailed by .825 going into the final rotation, but closed the gap as 3,063 fans in Barnhill Arena cheered them on in the floor exercise while the first two Gym Dogs beam performers fell.

Suzanne Yoculan, Georgia's 22nd-year coach who boasts a 674-94-6 record and five national titles, said, "I wasn't sure if we won. Arkansas did great and we didn't."

When Georgia beat Arkansas' inaugural team by three full points two years ago, UA co-coach Mark Cook compared it to a 40-0 defeat in football.

Friday night, he said, "This meet was like losing by a two-point conversion."

Though the Gym'Backs posted their highest score of the season and Georgia's was slightly below its average, Cook said, "We were a little out of sync. We made a few little errors on the bars, but our girls are very good at covering up. Then (Dana McQuillin) fell on the beam and our next five girls all had to hit their routines under pressure and they did."

Junior Katie Hardman had another excellent meet for Arkansas, scoring 9.800 on the bars, 9.825 on the beam and 9.775 in floor exercise.

"This was exciting for us, because Georgia has won so many national titles," Hardman said. "It will help us in the gym and give us more confidence."

Cook said the crowd was held down some by the nasty weather, but he credited the fans in attendance with being very involved.

"Our fans understand the sport a lot better, and that makes us more calm," Hardman said. "It's really nice."

Sophomore Kelsey Eriksen of Georgia led the all-around competition with 39.350 points, followed by freshman teammate Katie Heenan with 39.250. Arkansas freshman Samantha Cortez was next with 38.850, while McQuillin settled for 38.450 including her 9.275 on the beam.

Freshmen Mallory Machnik and Emily Peacock paced the Gym'Backs in the floor exercise with 9.825 points each, with Machnik getting a late boost after an inquiry by UA co-coach Rene Cook.

"The judges gave Mallory a deduction for a technical thing at the end of her routine, but then they gave back the credit for it," Mark Cook said. "It's a confusing thing Mallory does that we'll probably just take out now."

Yoculan said she knew the score at the midway point (97.875 to 97.400, Georgia's favor), but not after that.

"We knew Arkansas was a great team, and the home crowd elevates your performance," Yoculan said. "It's so fun to come here. If the students could have wished (a third Gym Dog) off the beam, they would have. But the whole environment and production were great."

Yoculan said the floor exercise was the only event in which the Gym Dogs performed well.

"I thought the scores didn't represent how well we did on floor," she said.

Still, Georgia had one score of 9.250 on vault and seemed fortunate to get a 9.650 from its last vaulter, Ashley Kupets, who nearly fell on the landing.

Call it a reputation win for the Gym Dogs.

Yoculan, asked if the final tally was too close for comfort, said, "I've been doing this for 22 years. What do you want me to say?"

She did say she expected to see the Gym'Backs at the NCAA Championships in Auburn, Ala., in April.

While a couple of Gym Dogs did well to stay on the beam and preserve their team's victory, Mark Cook said his team was not rooting against them.

"We try to promote good sportsmanship and keep it in perspective," he said. "Georgia did count a fall tonight, but we're gaining on them. It was a great atmosphere and a good meet."

The fans enjoyed Machnik's "Dragnet" floor exercise, and clapped to Cortez' Spanish-theme routine.

"We love our fans," Mark Cook said. "We really appreciate all the students who came out."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories