4 SEC teams advance in NCAA gymnastics

JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer Published:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Four Southeastern Conference teams advanced Friday night to the Super Six of the NCAA women's gymnastics championships.

Defending champion Florida and Alabama, which won in 2011 and 2012, led the way in the second semifinal session to join the SEC's Georgia and LSU. Oklahoma and Nebraska also will compete for their first national title.

"Our goal at the University of Alabama is always to be on the floor on the last night of the season with an opportunity to compete for a national championship, and our ladies did that," Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said.

Competing an hour from campus, the Crimson Tide matched the top-ranked Gators for the top score with 197.65 to make their seventh consecutive Super Six. Florida closed with a 49.425 on the floor exercise to produce the tie in the BJCC Arena where the league championships were held less than a month earlier.

"We feel that having the SEC championships here in the last month has been an aid for our athletes, because they already have their visual cues," Gators coach Rhonda Faehn said. "They're already familiar with the arena.

"That helps prepare our conference for this type of competition. I'm really proud of our conference."

Alabama's Kim Jacob won the all-around title with a 39.65, edging Florida's Alaina Johnson and Arkansas' Katherine Grable. Both scored 39.60.

"I'm still a little in shock," Jacob said. "I'm not really sure how to think. But just an amazing way to go out my senior year."

Florida's Bridget Sloan, a 2008 Olympian, lost her chance to win a second straight all-around title when she fell on the beam.

Oklahoma, last year's runner-up, had the high score in the first semifinal at 197.50. Ten-time champion Georgia scored 197.30 and LSU finished with 197.10.

Nebraska also had a 197.10 to advance to Saturday's competition for the first time since 2011 while competing in a session with four past national champions.

"I've had a team all year that hasn't worried about things like that," Cornhuskers coach Dan Kendig said.

Nine-time champion Utah failed to make the Super Six for the second straight season after snapping a 13-year streak in 2013. The Utes were fourth in the second semifinal at 197.025. UCLA, which has six championships, was fifth with a score of 197.

Oklahoma posted the top team scores on the balance beam and floor exercise in the first session. Taylor Spears had the high score on the beam with a 9.925.

"We were actually very excited to start on beam and I was very impressed with how they kept their wits about them," Sooners coach K.J. Kindler said. "I thought they were aggressive and I think that was really the key to our success, to come out on balance beam and be that strong."

Sooners teammates Maileana Kanewa and Haley Scaman and Michigan's Joanna Sampson all scored 9.95 on the floor. Oklahoma will seek its fourth top-three finish since 2010 on Saturday.

Georgia's Brandie Jay had the top score on the vault with a 9.95 while teammate Lindsey Cheek and Stanford's Kristina Vaculik both scored 9.925 on the uneven bars.

"Without a doubt this will be a super Super Six," LSU coach D-D Breaux said. "We've got so much parity and the teams are so even."