Georgia Wins Women's Gymnastics Tourney
April 17, 1998
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A year ago, Georgia literally fell short of the NCAA women's gymnastics team championship when three Gym Dogs tumbled off the beam in their first event.
This year, defending NCAA champion UCLA drew the unlucky rotation of starting on the 4-inch wide beam. Three of the Bruins fell, sending their hopes of a second straight title crashing to the ground with them.
Georgia, meanwhile, began on bars and none of the six high-flying Gym Dogs scored lower than 9.8, giving them a lead the team never relinquished on the way to winning the NCAA title Friday night with a score of 197.725.
It was Georgia's first title since 1993 and third overall.
Florida finished second - its best showing since the competition began in 1982 - with 196.350.
Susan Hines, the defending NCAA vault champion, helped the Gators move up with a perfect 10 as her team's final competitor on the vault in the second rotation. She also scored a 10 on the vault in Thursday's preliminaries. Those scores did not carry over to Friday.
Alabama, which failed to make the final six last year, finished third at 196.30. Utah rebounded from being shut out of the finals in 1997 to score 196.025 for fourth. UCLA was fifth at 195.750 and Arizona State sixth at 195.450.
Cheered on by a large home crowd at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins recovered from the disastrous beam rotation with solid floor routines. Senior Stella Umeh, the 1995 NCAA floor champion, received a perfect 10.0 - the first of her career. Umeh, Heidi Moneymaker and Kiralee Hayashi fell on beam.
"I'm not one to take falls from event to event. I felt really good on floor. I had fun," she said. "I got the 10 and I thought, `Cool. Let's go home."'
Georgia wasn't perfect on the beam, either. Freshman Kristi Lichey fell on her landing, but her low score was thrown out and none of the other five women were worse than 9.8. Lichey's older sister, Karin, had a 9.9.
It was Karin's turn to fall out of bounds on her floor routine. It didn't cost the Gym Dogs because her 9.2 was dropped. Kim Arnold, who won her second straight all-around title Thursday night, had the night's second-highest floor score of 9.975 behind Umeh.
Georgia could increase its title haul Saturday night during the individual event finals. Karin Lichey qualified in all four events, while Arnold will compete in vault, beam and floor. Kristi Lichey will get another chance to stay on the beam when she competes against her sister.
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