Gym Dogs Advance to Nationals

Senior Kaylan Earls - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Gym Dogs will be competing (once again) in Birmingham. Thus ends the good news.

The Georgia Gym Dogs went into the NCAA Athens regional needing to finish in the top 2 in order to advance to the NCAA national meet in Birmingham.  They were the top seed and ranked 6th nationally, though the second seed Michigan was right behind them nationally at #7.  After the smoke had cleared, Danna's Dawgs didn't impress and didn't rise to the occasion, but did what they needed to do to extend their season.  The Gym Dogs finished second behind Michigan, and will compete in one of the two semifinal sessions on April 18 at nationals.  The final standings from the Athens regional were:

1) Michigan - 196.750
2) Georgia - 196.375
3) Central Michigan - 195.600
4) Ohio State - 195.100
5) NC State - 194.550
6) Rutgers - 193.725

Georgia opened the meet with a bye rotation, which I personally dislike. As the top seed, the Gym Dogs should have had the benefit of going through their normal rotation series and getting one bye during the run of the meet, with their final bye on the final rotation (meaning they get to have fewer interruptions in their normal routine, which they would have earned by virtue of being the top seed).  Instead, they were essentially behind the 8-ball from the start, and didn't even start the actual action on the vault, which is their customary "first rotation."  (In all NCAA meets, there are 6 teams competing per session, which means that all teams have 2 "bye" rotations during the meet.)

After the bye, the Gym Dogs took to the uneven bars, which has been their one shining star all season long.  Brittany Rogers, though she was still working through an injury suffered at the NCAA meet, led the way with a score of 9.95. Lindsey Cheek also carded a 9.95, and scores of 9.90 were put up by Kiera Brown, Cat Hires, and Brandie Jay.  The team put up a rotation score of 49.600, which is its best bars score in a regional since 1998.

The third rotation saw Danna's Dawgs on the balance beam, where they suffered two falls, which meant they'd have to count one of them.  (For the record, it was Lindsey Cheek's 9.25 that went on the score sheet.)  No gymnasts scored higher than Morgan Reynolds' 9.85, and Ashlyn Broussard was the only other gymnast that even broke the 9.8 barrier. The team's score on beam was a disastrous 48.475.

The fourth rotation saw the Gym Dogs get another bye, and the fifth rotation sent them to floor exercise. Brandie Jay was the lone bright spot, with a 9.90 mark to her credit. We once again had major problems with two routines, however, which means that we had to once again count a disastrous score, in this case the 9.475 carded by Cat Hires.  For the floor rotation, the team scored 48.875.

After two disastrous rotations in a row, the Gym Dogs were facing an uphill climb just to finish second, let alone win the regional for which they had been prohibitive favorites as the host. To Danna's Dawgs' credit, however, they did get the job done on vault in their final rotation.  Lindsey Cheek carded a 9.95, Brandie Jay scored a 9.90, and the team put up a total of 49.425, for the previously-referenced final total of 196.375, which was good for second place.

I really don't have too much to say about this effort.  Time and time again as the season has rolled on, we have seen flashes of brilliance from this squad.  Just as often, though, we have seen maddening inconsistency, and falls on apparatuses at the worst times.  And on this day, to borrow (and slightly alter) a quote from Dennis Green, we are who we thought we were. We have become a team that blows everybody away on bars, puts in a solid contribution on vault, and throws it all away on beam and floor.

For some programs... many programs, even... simply making the NCAA national meet is a point for celebration.  We, however, are not "many programs."  The University of Georgia gymnastics team should not only always be making the national meet every year, but should also be qualifying for the Super Six every year.  This day's result is merely one step towards meeting our expectations, though it was step taken in a very uninspiring manner.

If we give this performance on April 18 in Birmingham, we might finish 12th out of 12 teams, which would be an unmitigated disaster. (But to be honest, I would consider any result that sees us missing the Super Six as an unmitigated disaster.) We can only hope that our ladies find some way to avoid the missteps that have plagued them on beam and floor and give a performance more representative of the "flashes of brilliance" they have shown us throughout the season.  That's what we're going to need to finish in the top half of the 6-team semifinal meet on the 18th.

If the brackets put out by the NCAA are correct, the teams that Georgia will be facing in the semifinals are (current ranking in parentheses):  Michigan (7), LSU (3), Stanford (10), Oklahoma (2), and Illinois (11). In other words, we'll have to beat Michigan in the rematch to get where we want to go.

The top 3 finishers from each semifinal session will advance to the Super Six, so we don't have to worry about the other side of the bracket.  Just in case you're curious, though, the qualifiers from that side were: Florida (1), Penn State (15), Alabama (4), Nebraska (9), Utah (5), and UCLA (8).

Go Dawgs!

UPDATE: The NCAA has confirmed that Georgia will be competing in the afternoon session starting at 1:00 PM on April 18, and will be facing Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan, Stanford, and Illinois (as we expected).

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