The good news is that the Gym Dogs’ season didn’t end in abject disaster the way it did in Jay Clark’s first year. The bad news is that, despite getting an absolute gift of a postseason matchup, Georgia finished second to UCLA in the Athens Regional.
Five scores of 9.85 or better paced a 49.325 effort by the Red and Black on the vault. While this put the host squad ahead of Louisiana State (49.075), Maryland (48.925), North Carolina State (48.7), and West Virginia (48.65) in that event, UCLA’s 49.4 gave the Pac-10 squad the top vault score for the regional.
Cassidy McComb’s 9.9, Gina Nuccio’s 9.925, and Kat Ding’s 9.95 on the bars led the Georgia gymnasts to post a 49.425 team score in the event. The Tigers (48.75), the Terrapins (48.625), the Wolfpack (48.575), and the Mountaineers (47.775) all failed to match that mark, but the Bruins tied the Gym Dogs with a 49.425 of their own.
The Athenians proved unable to card more than one score above a 9.775 on the balance beam, leading to a disappointing 48.8 mark that trailed the scores posted by UCLA (49.2) and LSU (48.875). Georgia still finished ahead of NCSU (48.6), WVU (47.075), and UM (47.025) on the beam.
No Bulldog competitor failed to earn at least a 9.8 in the floor exercise, which allowed Hilary Mauro’s and Shayla Worley’s 9.85s, as well as McComb’s 9.9, to produce the 49.2 overall result that exceeded the West Virginians’ 49.0, the North Carolinians’ 48.875, the Louisianans’ 48.65, and the Marylanders’ 48.625, yet still trailed the Californians’ 49.4 on the floor.
When the tallies were completed, the Gym Dogs had carded the 196.75 that enabled them to finish ahead of LSU (195.35), N.C. State (194.75), Maryland (193.2), and West Virginia (192.5), allowing Georgia to advance to the NCAA Championships, which begin in Cleveland on April 15. However, the eighth-ranked Athenians could not match the 197.425 carded by a sixth-ranked Bruin outfit that fell to Georgia in Pauley Pavilion on March 6.
Obviously, it is good to have the Red and Black back among the top twelve teams in the nation, but it is disconcerting to see Georgia once again fielding the second-best gymnastics squad in Stegeman Coliseum on a given weekend. That this program is in a better position than it was a year ago should not blind us to the fact that Georgia gymnastics is nowhere near where it was two years ago, nor to the fact that, on Saturday, Jay Clark once again was no better than the second-best coach in the building.
Settling for no better than second-best in the regional round for the second straight season is beneath a program that won five straight national championships in the seasons immediately preceding Coach Clark’s ascension to the throne he has occupied so unworthily. Jay Clark’s substandard stewardship of the Georgia gymnastics program, like Liz Lemon’s romantic relationship with Floyd DeBarber, should end after a trip to Cleveland.