Although there is still some postseason wrap-up work to be done, football season (alas) is behind us, and, unlike Doug, I don't have politics to fall back on during the offseason. (Oh, all right, I guess I do, but, other than telling my fellow Henry Countians to vote for Keith McBrayer for sheriff, I don't plan to delve into that arena.)
Fortunately, the University of Georgia continues to field athletic teams in intercollegiate competition even when Sanford Stadium is shut down for the winter, including Suzanne Yoculan's three-time defending national champion Gym Dogs, who kicked off their 2008 season last week.
While fielding a squad hampered by injuries, Georgia, which entered the new year as the country's top-ranked gymnastics team, opened its schedule with back-to-back road meets against No. 3 Utah and No. 5 Stanford in a three-day period. Explained Coach Yoculan:
Some people think we're crazy to start our season on the road against two top-five teams, but we're not going to get any better competing against a weak schedule. We're going to improve a lot quicker than most teams because of the schedule we have.
If you didn't already love Coach Yoculan before reading that quotation, you'd danged sure better love her after reading it.
Despite being less than fully healthy, the Gym Dogs performed well in three out of four events in Salt Lake City on Friday. Led by Courtney Kupets's 9.95 on the uneven bars and Courtney McCool's 9.9 in the floor exercise, the Red and Black took a lead into the final rotation, where a pair of falls from the balance beam cost the visitors the event and the meet. Utah escaped with a narrow 196.3-196.2 victory.
On Sunday, the Gym Dogs fell behind early in Palo Alto, posting a 49.225 team score on the uneven bars in the first rotation but finding themselves trailing the Cardinal, who put up a 49.275 on the vault. Kupets's 9.925 on the vault set the pace in the second rotation, allowing Georgia to grab the lead and cruise to a surprisingly easy 196.875-196.15 victory over Stanford.
The Gym Dogs, who feature the Touchdown Club of Columbus's inaugural Female Athlete of the Year and who have shattered last year's record for season ticket sales, will appear on ESPN2 for this Friday night's meet in Gainesville against the hated Gators, who tied Georgia during the regular season last year and edged Georgia for the S.E.C. championship but fell to Georgia (twice) in the N.C.A.A. tournament.