UF gymnastics loses close one

Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 11:38 p.m.

When the final routine ended, and the music faded, Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan was certain her team had been defeated.

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Florida's Corey Hartung performs a flip on the balance beam against the Georgia Gym Dogs at the O'Connell Center on Friday.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun

"I thought we lost," Yoculan said. "I wasn't paying attention to Florida's scores."

Evidently, Yoculan didn't notice two Florida seniors who fell on bars. That turned out to be the difference in No. 2 Georgia's narrow win over No. 1 Florida Friday night in the O'Connell Center as a school-record 10,855 fans looked on.

Georgia won by the slimmest of margin's 0.025 to be exact in their 196.850 to 196.825 victory. The Gators lost in spite of junior All-American Corey Hartung recording the fifth-highest all-around score in school history, a 39.700.

Gators coach Rhonda Faehn is hoping her team learns from its mistakes.

"It's extremely early and we have a long season to go," Faehn said. "This will be really good for our athletes and it will fuel their hunger."

It was the second time in nine months the Gym Dogs have beaten a No. 1-ranked Gators team. Georgia topped then-undefeated and No. 1 Florida last April in the NCAA Championships for the Bulldogs' third consecutive national title.

"It's better to do this now than at NCAA's," Florida's Corey Hartung said. "We'll learn from it. It's only the second meet. We have a long way to go to nationals."

The Gators put themselves in a huge hole on the second rotation when seniors Nicola Willis and Ashley Reed each fell on bars. It was the first time Florida had to count a fall in the event in two years.

"We had two huge mistakes on bars," sophomore Amanda Castillo said. "We knew we couldn't afford anything else after that. We had to hold our chins up high and get back up there."

Florida scored a 48.500 on bars. Willis' fall came on the first routine of the event and rattled the Gators a bit.

"Mistakes happen," Faehn said. "They admitted they got tight after Nic's first mistake. They were missing handstands and got tight."

Florida rebounded well on the final two rotations, but it wasn't enough. The Gators received a sensational performance from Hartung, a junior All-American. Hartung's all-around title included the second-highest vault score in program history, a 9.975. Hartung also won the beam title with a 9.950 and also scored a 9.90 on floor.

"I knew it was possible," Hartung said. "I just took it one event at a time."

Faehn was proud of the performance.

"That was a long time coming," Faehn said. "It was so well deserved. She's one of the most beautiful athletes out there and for her to be rewarded like that is wonderful."

Florida also recorded the second-highest vault total in school history with a 49.525. Hartung shared the vault title with Georgia's Courtney Kupets. Kupets also won the bars title with a 9.925. Georgia's Courtney McCool won the floor with a 9.950.

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