We take our women’s gymnastics pretty seriously around these parts, so it was a big deal that Friday night saw the season-opening meet between Jay Clark’s Gym Dogs and Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart’s Denver Pioneers in Stegeman Coliseum. Fortunately, the home team emerged victorious by a 196.525-193.700 final margin.
The first two rotations were spent on the bars and on the vault, with the Red and Black outperforming their guests in both events. On bars, Kat Ding’s 9.975 and Gina Nuccio’s 9.9 paced an overall 49.250 effort that enabled the Athenians to exceed Denver’s 47.550 tally. Likewise, on the vault, Ding carded a 9.925 en route to a 49.225 team total, surpassing the Pioneers’ 49.025 and allowing Georgia to build a 98.475-96.575 lead at the midpoint of the meet.
In the third rotation, Shayla Worley led the way with a 9.875 on the beam in the course of compiling a combined 49.125 score. In their turn on the balance beam, the visitors earned an overall 48.400. Georgia closed out the meet in the floor exercise, notching a 48.925 mark on the strength of a 9.875 from Noel Couch. Denver’s floor score was 48.725.
This was a somewhat promising start to what will be a pivotal year for the Jay Clark era in Athens. Dispensing with a preseason top 20 Denver club at home was a good beginning, but the real test will come in Tuscaloosa next Friday night, when the most heated rivalry in women’s gymnastics will be resumed. It will take the Gym Dogs’ best effort to roll the Tide, but, if Coach Clark cannot get his gymnasts to perform at their peak against the reviled Sarah Patterson’s squad, it will be a clear sign that it is time to begin looking for someone a bit more Suzanne Yoculan-esque to succeed Coach Yoculan’s chosen successor.