As we head into our holiday weekend, there is much to celebrate here on the red clay hills of Georgia. The football team is picking up commitments and keeping guys in school. This week, the women’s basketball team beat Florida. Today, the women’s tennis team trounced Kansas State. Unfortunately, that salutary trend did not continue through tonight, as the No. 9 Gym Dogs came up short in the renewal of their heated women’s gymnastics rivalry with No. 2 Alabama, falling by a 196.475-196.325 final margin in Tuscaloosa on Friday evening.
Georgia was on the uneven bars for the first rotation, carding a quartet of 9.875s to post a 49.225 tally in the event. When it was the home team’s turn on the bars, Alabama was forced to count a fall, resulting in a 48.625. Buoyed by Cat Hires’s career-high 9.9, the Red and Black notched a 49.1 in the vault, but the Tide compiled a 49.55 in the same event, leaving the Gym Dogs out in front by a 98.325-98.175 score at the midpoint.
That lead did not survive the third rotation, in which the visitors’ highest score was Christa Tanella’s 9.85 in the floor exercise. The resulting 48.875 team mark, coupled with Alabama’s 49.1 on the balance beam during the same rotation, left the home team holding a narrow 147.275-147.2 edge as the two teams switched positions in preparation for the meet’s closing, and decisive, stanza.
The Gym Dogs were on the balance beam in the fourth rotation, when they put up a trio of 9.8s and capped off the meet with Shayla Worley’s 9.95 to record an overall 49.125. However, the host squad collected a cumulative 49.2 mark on the floor to claim the victory.
The Gym Dogs started strong, recording eight scores of 9.8 or better in the first two rotations, but they faltered down the stretch, managing just four such marks in their next nine performances. While the Athenians’ effort was valiant, the execution ultimately was lacking, costing the Red and Black a critical victory on a grand stage, in the sort of situation at which Suzanne Yoculan’s teams invariably excelled. Under Jay Clark, the opposite is true, as the Gym Dogs, after scoring a 196.525 in their previous meet, tallied just a 196.325 in this one. The visitors’ early lead was the product not of the Athenians’ perfection, but of their hosts’ mistakes.
The trend in women’s gymnastics is downward, and it has been for some time, as the Red and Black’s stock has continued to drop in a sport Georgia once dominated. This program needs a reversal of its fortunes, and, consequently, 2012 should be Jay Clark’s final season as the head coach of the Gym Dogs. While never a fan of his stewardship of the Georgia women’s gymnastics team, I held out some tiny sliver of hope, which now has been dashed. Jay Clark is Suzanne Yoculan’s Ray Goff, a loyal assistant and an exceptional recruiter who was promoted beyond his level of competence when the iconic head coach who guided the program to new heights retired. Like Coach Goff, Coach Clark should be thanked sincerely for his dedicated service, but, also like Coach Goff, Coach Clark should be informed that his employer has elected to go in a different direction . . . namely, upward, to a better successor.