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Powerful Pac-12 flexes its muscles at NCAAs

Staff Photo: John Bohn Oklahoma's Sara Stone competes in the vault during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Oklahoma's Sara Stone competes in the vault during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Stanford's Ivana Hong competes in the vault during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa competes on the balance beam during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Utah's Tory Wilson celebrates her vault score during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Minnesota's Kayla Slechta competes in the uneven parallel bars during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Stanford's Nicole Pechanec performs in the floor exercise during the NCAA 2012 Women's Gymnastic Championships held Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

DULUTH -- On its final event, its best event, Stanford clinched a Pac-12 sweep of the first semifinal at the NCAA gymnastics championships Friday in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Stanford led Oklahoma by .050 of a point heading into the final rotation, the beam.

"We honestly weren't thinking about scores or placement or anything like that," Stanford senior Alyssa Brown said. "Coach (Kristen) Smyth talked to us before the rotation and said, 'Beam is our best event and it has been all season.'"

The Cardinal (197.125 points) posted the early semifinal's best cumulative effort on that apparatus to join UCLA (197.400) and Utah (197.200) in the Super Six. They got two 9.9s from Ivana Hong and Amanda Spinner to edge out Oklahoma (196.925).

"To qualify for the Super Six tomorrow night says a lot about this team," Smyth said. "A lot of people counted us out, I think, and the team just put their head down and they went to work every single day.

"Amanda Spinner has sat out for two years. She was coming back from injury after injury. To come in and know that you're going to have one event, beam, I don't think anybody worked harder or has more heart than that kid. So I wasn't surprised to see how steady and to see how well she performed the beam."

It set up a Pac-12 vs. SEC showdown.

In the second semifinal, defending national champion Alabama (197.675), top-ranked Florida (197.650) and Arkansas (197.150) advanced to today's 4 p.m. team finals.

It's an unusual feeling for the Pac-12 teams, not to be outnumbered for once.

"I think all of our programs have experienced being in the Super Six with very heavy SEC representation," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field, who has led the Bruins to six national titles, most recently in 2010. "You do feel like you're a foreigner at times.

"Walking through the hotel, walking through the hallways here, walking onto the floor when the teams are marching out, that's when it really hits you. When you're surrounded by so many SEC schools, you feel like you're a foreigner."

The Pac-12's expansion included Utah, making the conference immeasurably stronger. Utah is tied with Alabama and Georgia for the most Super Six appearances (17) and is the only team to have made every one since 2000.

"We're really excited about being part of a bigger family and to have three Pac-12 teams qualify into the Super Six was probably even the most exciting part for us," Utah coach Megan Marsden said. "A few years back when we qualified in the Super Six and there were five SEC teams, standing in the hallway, they did their chant. We didn't even have a chant. I mean, we're Mountain West. I think our girls were chanting 'Sugar Bowl!' because that's all we had to hang our hats on at that point.

"But they've already talked about how they can't wait to be in the hallway tomorrow night. So they can chant their chant with the group and be part of a family."

The Pac-12 had a chance to add another team to the mix with Oregon State in the evening's semifinal.

Even with UCLA and the rest of the teams that already qualified sending out good vibes, the Beavers finished sixth.

Alabama was first, just ahead of SEC champ and No. 1 Florida. The Crimson Tide opened with the session's strongest beam performance and closed well on the bars. Arkansas rounded out the top three to make it an even split between Pac-12 and SEC schools for the Super Six.

"To be able to do this again, it never gets old," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "I'm especially proud of our team and our individuals, but also I have to give thanks to all of the conference and the SEC in general.

"Week in and week out, us competing against each other, I think that's what prepares us for the championship. To have three teams from our conference in it, that says a great deal."

Georgia, despite the support of the vociferous hometown crowd and the day's best cumulative vault scores, failed to make the cut. The Bulldogs struggled on the beam, their second event, and never recovered. They dropped from third after the first rotation, to sixth and finished fifth.

"I wish we could have had all of our conference teams make it to the finals," Patterson said. "I feel like we're going to go out there and do the absolutely best job we have. And to my peers (in the SEC), I know that we prepared each other for this night throughout the whole season."