Yesterday, the preseason polls for Women's Gymnastics were released, and the Georgia Gym Dogs debuted at #8. If you're not familiar with how NCAA gymnastics rankings work, everything other than the preseason poll is basically the exact opposite of football and basketball. Rankings are mathematically tabulated based how teams actually perform during the year. Since there are no scores upon which to base rankings in the preseason, however, the preseason poll is a more traditional coaches' poll.
Head coach Danna Durante had the following reaction to the preseason rankings (emphasis added by me):
It doesn't surprise me that we're ranked eighth. The preseason poll is usually close to where you finished the previous year, and we were sixth a year ago. Eight is not bad, but we know we are better than that. For us it's motivation. We know the work our team is putting in every day, and we are looking forward to the first competition and the season ahead.
The fact that the Gym Dogs are ranked #8 reflects the general perception of their continued rise back to relevancy in the gymnastics world, and encourages me greatly. Georgia entered Danna Durante's premiere season in the Classic City ranked #11, but fought their way back into the Super Six (the final 6 teams in the NCAA tournament) for the first time since Suzanne Yoculan was at the helm. In addition, 8 gymnasts earned a total of 15 All-America honors in 2013, and 6 of those ladies are returning for 2014 (accounting for 12 of the All-American achievements). On top of all that, however, I find Coach Durante's enthusiasm and aspirational attitude to be a breath of fresh air from the rhetoric that we had previously seen from the gymnastics program in recent years before her tenure. She knows this team can be even better, and she wants this team to be better, and the ladies who compete for her will feed off of that attitude.
It can fairly be said that this second edition of Danna's Dawgs is strongly positioned to pick up where they left off last year, propelling Georgia Gymnastics back into the national championship conversation... which is exactly where they belong.
For those fans who don't want to wait until the first home meet on January 17 to see the 2014 edition of their team, the Gym Dogs are hosting their annual "Sneak Peek" event this Saturday, December 14, at 10:00 AM at the Suzanne Yoculan Gymnastics Center (located in the Coliseum Practice Facility adjacent to Stegeman Coliseum).
The Sneak Peek event is a great chance to meet and see your Gym Dogs in a more casual setting. If you're in the Athens area tomorrow morning and would like to see this team in action, check it out!
Update: We've posted a Fan Shot for the video recap of the Sneak Peek event, which can be found here.
We'll have more about the 2014 Gym Dogs as the season approaches, including a "primer" to understanding how NCAA gymnastics differs from the Olympic version and a preview of the 2014 season. Until then...