Gymdogs I love you!!— Tavarres King(@TKUnoDos) March 3, 2012
In the biggest Georgia sporting event of a busy day in Bulldog Nation, the No. 4 Gym Dogs were at their best against No. 3 UCLA, claiming a 197.7-196.975 victory in Friday evening’s clash between teams who have won 13 of the last 15 NCAA women’s gymnastics national championships.
Like a pair of prizefighters in their primes, the Bulldogs and the Bruins matched one another punch for punch. On the vault, Georgia posted 9.85s from Chelsea Davis and Sarah Persinger, 9.9s from Noel Couch and Cat Hires, and a 9.95 from Kat Ding to card a 49.45 on that apparatus. UCLA likewise earned a combined 49.45 on the vault.
The same held true on the beam, where the Red and Black notched a 9.875 from Laura Moffatt, a 9.9 from Couch, and 9.925s from Ding and Shayla Worley to post a collective 49.475 that matched exactly the Bruins’ mark in that event.
The Classic City Canines edged their guests on the bars and in the floor exercise, however. On the bars, 9.85s from Couch and Ding, a 9.9 from Gina Nuccio, and a 9.95 from Davis added up to a 49.375 tally that inched out in front of UCLA’s 49.3, while scores on the floor of 9.875 (Nuccio and Persinger), 9.9 (Couch), and 9.925 (Ding) put Georgia out in front, 49.4-49.2, in that exercise.
Noel Couch’s 39.55 total marked a career-best all-around score for the junior gymnast, but she placed second to Kat Ding, whose overall 39.65 mark for the meet was the best all-around score posted by a Gym Dog since Courtney Kupets and Tiffany Tolnay at the 2009 Super Six . . . which, not coincidentally, was the last meet at which the Red and Black clinched a national championship.
Georgia posted season-best tallies on the balance beam and on the vault, and the Gym Dogs also tied their highest team score of the campaign on the bars en route to their largest overall team total in nearly two years. The Red and Black’s 24 straight rotations of 49.0 or better mark the longest such streak in the nation.
This, simply stated, was Jay Clark’s finest hour as a head coach. After the meet, Coach Clark said, “I was as calm as water that looks like grass.” I have no idea what in the Sam Hill that means, but, if performances like this are the result of tranquility like that, I hope Coach Clark is as calm as grassy water more often, because, tonight, his team performed like a Suzanne Yoculan-coached team. I can’t give a group of athletes any higher praise than that.