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UF gymnasts to meet Georgia on own turf for region championship

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


The gymnastics team will face nemesis Georgia on Saturday for the fourth time this season, but one thing will be different.

The turf.

The Gators will host the NCAA Southeast Region championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at the O'Connell Center.

The winner and runner-up from each of six region competitions will make up the 12-team NCAA Championships field April 19-21 in Athens, Ga.

The six-team Southeast Region includes three of the nation's top-seeded teams -- No. 2 Georgia, No. 12 Florida and No. 14 Iowa -- plus Maryland, George Washington and N.C. State.

"We're looking great," UF coach Judi Markell said. "Everyone is healthy, and all of our difficulty is in. At this point of the season it's mostly mental. Georgia seems to bring out the best in us and in the judges. We usually rise to the occasion."

The Gators, ranked No. 12 by GymInfo magazine, lost all three previous meetings with Georgia this season and have not beaten the Bulldogs since the 1997 NCAA regional, a losing streak of 16 meets.

Florida is hosting its ninth NCAA regional and has won five titles, the most recent in 1997.

Last season the Gators finished third in the Region V meet by five one-hundredths of a point to host Penn State and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time in the meet's 19 years.

With the Bulldogs favored Saturday, the competition likely will be for runner-up.

Tickets are $10 for reserved seating in Level 1; $8 general admission; and $5 for students, senior citizens and ages 17 and under.

SWIMMERS CHOSEN: Two freshman women were selected for the United States team at the World University Games in Beijing on Aug. 22-Sept. 1.

Jaime Ellis of Spring, Texas, will swim the 400-meter individual medley. She finished seventh at the World Championship trials in 4 minutes, 52.42 seconds and third at the NCAA Championships, where she earned five All-America honors.

Sara McLarty of DeLand will swim the 400 freestyle. She finished sixth at the World Championship trials in 4:16.71 and earned three All-America honors at the NCAA Championships.

BASEBALL HONOR: Senior rightfielder Peter Nystrom of Dunedin was named the SEC Player of the Week after hitting .579 (11-for-19) with 11 RBI, 3 doubles and 2 home runs in five games.

In Friday's 9-6 win against Vanderbilt, Nystrom had a career-best four hits and four RBI, including a game-winning double in the top of the 10th inning.

The Gators, who play Florida A&M today, have won 10 straight.

BOOSTER BARGAIN: Fans can purchase a $10 pass valid for three events Saturday: the spring football game at noon, the baseball game against Kentucky at 3 p.m. and the gymnastics regional. A limited number are available. Call (800) 344-2867, ext. 6800.

Joanne Korth covers Florida athletics. She can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 7306, or by e-mail at korth@sptimes.com.

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