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Men’s Gymnastics Could Be Dogfight

April 22, 1999

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska has the homecourt advantage for the NCAA men’s gymnastics championships, but the Cornhuskers may not have the depth to bring home the title.

With three gymnasts out with injuries, the Huskers will try for their ninth title with just six competitors.

``The team race is wide open,″ Penn State coach Randy Jepson said. ``Nebraska is held back by a lack of depth. The team that wins will need to put together two great meets, back-to-back.″

Nebraska’s Jason Hardabura says his team isn’t about to give in, though.

``I don’t know what you expect from this meet,″ he said Wednesday’s news conference, ``but I guarantee you’re going to see a dog fight out there. It will be a battle with six teams giving 100 percent. When Friday comes, and there’s three teams left, it’s going to be another war.″

Nebraska, the West Regional winner, will be going against top-ranked Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Brigham Young and Stanford in the six-team competition.

Team preliminaries will be Thursday and the top three will advance to Friday’s finals. The all-around championship also will be decided Thursday, and Nebraska has two of the top five ranked all-arounders in Hardabura (No. 1) and junior Derek Leiter (No. 4). Individual event finals are Saturday.

``This is as good of an NCAA field that I’ve seen,″ Nebraska coach Francis Allen said. ``I watched Ohio State and Michigan practice, and I was very impressed.″

Michigan is making its first NCAA championship appearance since 1974.

Brigham Young enters the meet under a cloud. BYU coach Mako Satamoto recently was told the school is dropping the sport after next season. The announcement shocked coaches and gymnasts.

``(The administration) never really gave us an answer why,″ BYU’s Guard Young said. ``We had no idea that we were being considered to be dropped.″

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