The 11th-ranked Georgia gymnastics team opened its 2013 campaign, the program’s 41st overall and its first under newly-named head coach Danna Durante, by hosting No. 4 Oklahoma for just the sixth dual meet ever between the two clubs. Despite an impressive early surge, the Red and Black fell apart in the final two rotations, going down to a 196.45-195.425 defeat.
The Gym Dogs opened the meet on the vault, carding a cumulative 49.3 team tally thanks to 9.825s from junior Lindsey Cheek and sophomore Sarah Persinger, a 9.85 from freshman Brittany Rogers, a 9.875 from freshman Brandie Jay, and a 9.925 from junior Cat Hires. On the bars in the first rotation, Oklahoma notched a combined 49.15 score.
The two teams swapped stations for the second rotation, in which the Red and Black put up an overall 49.15 on the bars, on account of Hires’s 9.825, Cheek’s 9.85, and sophomore Chelsea Davis’s 9.875, while the Sooners managed a collective 48.9 on the vault. Georgia therefore led, 98.45-98.05, at the midpoint of the meet.
The Gym Dogs faltered on the balance beam in the third rotation, but senior Shayla Worley salvaged the Athenians’ performance on the apparatus with the 9.9 that bumped Georgia up to 48.975. On the strength of a trio of 9.85s, Oklahoma cobbled together a 49.2 mark in the floor exercise to close the gap to 147.425-147.25.
In the meet’s final stanza, the Red and Black took their turn in the floor exercise, where Hires’s 9.075 forced the Gym Dogs to count both Jay’s 9.175 and Persinger’s 9.375. Even with senior Christa Tanella’s 9.825 and junior Kaylan Earls’s 9.85, Georgia only was able to post a cumulative 48.0. The Sooners between them managed to earn five marks of 9.825 or better, for a 49.2 total on the beam.
After such a solid start, the Gym Dogs’ late collapse was extremely disheartening. It appeared early that Danna Durante would kick off her career in Athens with a noteworthy upset win over K.J. Kindler’s Oklahoma squad. It was just Coach Durante’s first meet, of course, so there is no cause to question the wisdom of her hiring, but the Red and Black had a golden opportunity to confirm straight out of the gate that Greg McGarity had found the right woman to restore the sport’s most storied program to its proper status. Because that chance was squandered, Georgia remains, at least for now, where the Red and Black have languished for far too long: good, but not great; accomplished, yet inconsistent; and almost, though not quite, there.