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The Southeastern Conference: Setting the stand

BY ANDRES FOCIL
The Southeastern Conference: Setting the stand

        The Southeastern Conference is widely regarded as one of the most dominating gymnastics conferences in the NCAA. Since the inaugural NCAA Championship in 1982, the SEC has had at least one team in all 23 national championship meets, with Florida being one of only two teams nationally (Utah is the other) to have appeared at all 19 contests prior to the Gators barely missing the cut in 2000. The SEC has also had at least one team finish in the Top-10 in the NCAA since 1982.
        The SEC entered the record books at the 1998 NCAA Championships, becoming the only conference in women’s collegiate gymnastics to sweep the top three spots. Georgia won its fourth championship title with the largest margin of victory in over 10 years. The Bulldogs outdistanced second-place Florida who finished just ahead of Alabama. It marked the 12th consecutive year that the SEC placed at least two teams in the final top five.
        At the 1999 NCAA Championships, Georgia won its second consecutive and fifth overall first-place title. Alabama, Florida and LSU all finished in the top 10.
        In 2000, both Georgia and Alabama finished in the top five, with LSU coming in at ninth. Georgia was the national runner-up in 2001, with Alabama finishing fourth and Florida seventh.
        In 2002, Alabama once again brought the NCAA title back to the SEC by claiming its fourth National Championship, and brought the SEC its eighth overall title. The Crimson Tide edged out SEC rival Georgia 197.575-197.250, making the Bulldogs the NCAA runner-up for a second consecutive year and having SEC teams claim the top two spots for the first time since 1998. LSU finished eighth at the Nationals, while Florida placed 10th.
        In 2003, the SEC sent five teams to the NCAA Championships for the third time, with four of those finishing in the top ten. Alabama finished as the runner-up, with Georgia finishing third. Florida finished seventh and LSU finished tenth. It is the 12th time that the SEC has had two teams finish in the top three. The SEC also brought home an individual title, as Alabama’s Ashley Miles won the vault.
        In 2004, the SEC placed three teams in the top five at the NCAA Championships. For the third straight year, the SEC sent at least four teams to the championships and the 12th straight year of sending at least three. In addition to phenomenal success on the team level, SEC athletes have also excelled at the individual level, claiming a total of 56 individual championships.
        The SEC added three other individual titles in 2004 as Alabama’s Ashley Miles won both the vault and floor titles, while teammate Jeana Rice won the all-around crown. The SEC added two other individual titles in 2002 as Alabama’s Andree’ Pickens won the uneven bars title with a 9.925, while LSU’s Nicki Arnstad won the floor title by scoring a 9.95. In 2001, Georgia’s Cory Fritzinger won the vault title and in 2000, UG’s Suzanne Sears won the floor.
        Previously in 1998, the SEC added six individual titles at the NCAA meet as three Georgia athletes took home individual honors in four events and two Florida gymnasts also won titles. In its own right, the SEC has swept all five individual titles on three separate occasions – 1991, 1993 and 1994.

SEC Gymnastics Notes
• Alabama won its fourth national championship in 2002 and brought home the SEC’s eighth overall title.
• In 1998 the SEC entered the record book as the only conference to sweep the top three spots at the NCAA meet. (Georgia, Florida, Alabama).
• 2004 marked the20th consecutive year that the SEC placed at least two teams in the final top five and the 11th consecutive year placing three in the top 10.
• 14 times in the past 19 years the SEC has placed at least four teams in the Top 10 at the NCAA meet, including 1991 and 1993 when five teams were ranked.
• SEC leads all Division I conferences in NCAA Individual titles with 56.
• Georgia leads all Division I schools in NCAA Individual titles with 27.
• The SEC was awarded 39 first and second team All-American honors in 2004.
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