Competing without senior Noel Couch for the second straight meet, the sixth-ranked Gym Dogs traveled to Arkansas for Danna Durante’s first road meet as the head coach at Georgia. The competition also produced Coach Durante’s first victory with the Athenians, as the Gym Dogs emerged triumphant from a hostile environment by a 196.2-195.775 final margin.
The Red and Black opened the meet on the bars. Led by freshman Brittany Rogers’s 9.825 and by sophomore Chelsea Davis’s and senior Christa Tanella’s 9.85s, the Athenians posted a 49.025 in the first rotation, but the Razorbacks took an early lead with a 49.1 in the vault.
Despite the slow start, the Gym Dogs rebounded when the two teams swapped apparatus for the second stanza. Georgia carded a 49.325 in the vault, thanks to freshman Brandie Jay’s 9.85, Rogers’s 9.875, and juniors Lindsey Cheek’s and Cat Hires’s 9.9s. Arkansas failed to earn a mark higher than 9.775 on the bars en route to an overall 48.725 score. The Red and Black led, 98.35-97.825, halfway through the meet.
The Gym Hogs narrowed the gap in the third rotation, posting a 48.95 to eclipse the visitors’ 48.825 when the Athenians were forced to count a pair of 9.7s. Sarah Persinger’s 9.85 and Tanella’s 9.875 salvaged the floor exercise for Georgia while Arkansas profited from a pair of 9.875s on the beam. At the three-quarter turn, the Gym Dogs were ahead, 147.175-146.775.
Despite faltering in the middle of the lineup in the final rotation, Georgia started and finished strong on the beam with Cheek’s 9.85, junior Kaylan Earls’s 9.875, and senior Shayla Worley’s 9.9 to compile an overall 49.025 mark in the event. Despite concluding with a 9.925 in the floor exercise, the Razorbacks managed only a 49.0 in the last event.
Paced by a very solid cumulative vault score, the Gym Dogs won three of four events and showed distinct improvement from last week to this. Of particular note is the fact that, with Noel Couch sidelined by injury, freshmen Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers each competed in three of the four events, with Jay anchoring the Georgia lineup on the beam and in the vault. There will be growing pains early this season, but there is young talent emerging and reason to believe the team will continue to improve. The Georgia gymnastics program isn’t where it was under Suzanne Yoculan, but it appears that it isn’t any longer where it was under Jay Clark, either.