The Super Six Challenge used to begin the NCAA season for three SEC teams and three others from around the country. Given how contentious the SEC was in the late '90s and early '00s, it was always wonderful to see the diva bitch coaches and their feisty athletes on the floor together.
Things were different in the late '90s and early '00s. Gymnasts competing in NCAA were either a member of the '97-'00 National Team of Disappointment and jaded over it, or they were the less fortunate members of the Mag 7 era and finally had a chance for success. The gymnasts were 'real' people back then, as opposed to the religious robots who make T-Shirts and are all huggy and touchy feely with one another. The girls of the bygone era each wanted the be THE STAR. No one pretended that they were all nice girls on the competition floor. Val never tried to claim that Jamie, Jeanette and Doni were nice. Kinsey, Marline, Cory, Chelsa and Sierra wanted to WIN. They didn't just want to beat you, they wanted to slaughter you. And most of all, they wanted to embarrass Alabama at home. When it was announced at the 2004 Northeast Regional that UGA had outscored UCLA (at another regionals) by a significant margin, a seated Cory Fritzinger jumped five feet in the air. Quiet Chelsea Byrd unleashed an inner beast for the 2003 and 2004 seasons once she got healthy and switched from a Tsuk to a Yurchenko. Holy shit. Note how the media always emphasized just how dykish Cory Fritzinger was. "Cory loves hunting, NASCAR, deer burgers." They loved when she couldn't practice due to being too distraught over the death of Dale Earnhardt. Need further proof of her Doc Marten-wearing tendencies? Watch her work the beam.
Suzanne was on edge those years when UGA was turning up the perpetual bridesmaid and it was always entertaining to see what stressed out Suze would say to her team or the media. Sarah Patterson always managed the worst outfits from Target and dressed her team in the drabbest of ways.
The Bama team of the early '00s was truly 'ew.' I can't think of a better or nicer adjective for Kristin Sterner than 'ew.' Let's just say I was not a fan. And Jeana Rice...well we could certainly tell how much she'd been drinking.
One of the most interesting storylines of the era involved Ashley Miles. Both UGA and Alabama made room on their rosters for Miles once they learned she wanted to enter college a year early. If you notice, Marline Stephens was not on the floor with her team in '03 for much of the season. Marline was actually dismissed from the team for the rest of the year after she wanted to rehab during practice and not take part in daily practice sessions as a cheerleader. Yet, she wanted to travel with the team. Marline and Miles trained together back with the Crazy Twins and Marline was supposed to show her around campus, but she had just joined a sorority and pawned her off on other teammates. Having already medically retired a gymnast to make room for Miles, it was quite a blow when she decided to go to Bama. Sarah freed up a scholarship the year before when she released Tiffany Byrd from the roster (even after she contributed to the team for the 2002 NCAA win.) Tiffany's release was quite the elbow nudge at the time, as it was generally agreed upon by everyone that Stephanie Kite was only on scholarship so her famous golfer father would donate money to the school. Ms. Kite was pretty craptacular all-around, yet garnered far more TV Time than she otherwise would've due to her father. We saw her embarrassingly lame floor routines far more than we ever needed or wanted to.
Nebraska was on a roll in 2003 and was by far UCLA's biggest threat to capturing the NCAA Title. Adorned in lovely sparkly black leotards, the team was perhaps the most anorexically thin in all of the NCAA. Richelle Simpson left PSU a decent gymnast only to become THE star at the NCAAs. Strong on three events, Richelle with her questionable bars and Jamie Dantzscher with her questionable beam, made quite the fierce battle for top all-around honors.
Love me some AJ Lamb, even though we get it...she's the hometown girl and both of her sisters competed for the Huskers. And let's not forget the sexy-legged Tami Harris. Such a shame that she struggled with her bar dismount that April.
Rhonda left Nebraska the year before to take over at UF. Let's just say, as evinced here, the team she inherited was quite 'large and in charge,' yet she did manage to get quite a few victories out of them. Those gators had some unfortunate names for girls with "womanly bodies." It is generally not good to be another other than a twig when you're wearing a leotard and have a last name with the word 'house' in it.
Note the scoring at this meet. 2003 and 2004 had the most fucked up scoring in NCAA history. No name ASU was the worst offender, even scoring a ''49.875'' balance beam total in '04. Take special note of Cory Fritzinger's 9.900 for her bent-armed vault with a huge step.
UGA raised a lot of eyebrows and generated quite the snark after they improved their score by almost 2 points from the weekend prior. They have had some of their worst meets against Nebraska and 2003 was one they'd like to forget. UGA was always interesting back then because you never knew who'd be available to compete for week to week. Was Sierra injured this week? Meeting the weight requirement? (Loved how we got to know whenever she gained five pounds once Suzanne was doing damage control for the Kupets comment.) Sierra and Kinsey were injured one week, 9.900 the next. Would Sierra do bars? Would she debut another 9.900 at SECs? The drama never ceased.
Note: Jamie Ackerman was actually a good gymnast before she made our ears bleed.
And for those who don't know much about Katie Rowland, Ms. 'TK' (Katie Backwards) as she was known at PSU, competed in the All-Around every meet of her career, all four years, while with her PSU Teammates.
Such a shame that this meet is no longer. It even had a perfectly confusing name to confound the more casual fans.