I'm not ashamed to admit it... I was sitting in front of my computer pushing the F5 button on Florida's crappy live scoring web page. I hate Florida with the fire of a thousand suns being fueled by the fire of an additional thousand suns, and with the Georgia Gym Dogs continuing to improve in their first 4 meets, it was actually within the realm of possibility that they could ruin the home opener for the Gators, who were officially celebrating their 2013 national championship on this night.
And certainly, the meet started off very well for the good
guys girls on the bars. Uneven bars has been the best apparatus for the Dawgs all season, and they absolutely blew it away tonight. Senior Lindsey Cheek carded a 9.975, and junior Chelsea Davis and sophomore Brittany Rogers both turned in scores of 9.95. Every gymnast did extremely well, and UGA didn't have to count a score lower than 9.85 as Danna's Dawgs tallied a staggering 49.600 to open the night.
For those keeping score at home, that's the highest rotation Georgia has had on bars since 1999, back when Suzanne Yoculan only had 4 national titles to her name (but was marching towards a 5th). Florida carded a 49.350 on vault, which was still a great opening score, but every Dawg fan was already starting to dream.
The teams switched apparatuses for the second rotation, and Lindsey Cheek once again led the way with a 9.925 on vault. Brittany Rogers scored a 9.90, and we didn't have to count any score lower than a 9.80 enroute to a total vault score of 49.300. Not our best vault score of the year (that was a 49.375 against LSU), but it was our second-best, and was still a solid mark. Florida continued to fight like the elite program they are, and put up a 49.450 on bars to narrow Georgia's lead.
At "halftime," Danna's Dawgs still held a one-tenth-point lead, 98.900 - 98.800. I figured the next rotation would be the real telling mark, however, since beam has been Florida's strength so far in the young season, and floor has been Georgia's weakest. If we could come out of the third rotation somehow still holding a lead, I knew we'd have a great chance to come out on top.
And wouldn't you know it, the Dawgs came up with their best floor exercise score of the season so far! Sophomores Mary Beth Box and Brandie Jay both came up big with 9.90's, and we didn't have to count any score lower than a 9.825 as the Gym Dogs rolled to a 49.350. Florida's first beam participant had a fall (or maybe a missed technical component, it was hard to tell from the terrible internet broadcast thanks to Florida's inability to provide an internet connection out of that godforsaken place), and although they were eventually able to drop that score, they still barely scored better than their average, carding a 49.375.
So, after 3 rotations, the Georgia Gym Dogs, (starts bad Munson impersonation) in Gainesville, Florida, of all places... we were nowhere near the state of Georgia... we were leading after Florida's best event. (ends bad Munson impersonation) Going into the final fourth rotation, with Georgia on beam and Florida on floor, the Dawgs had a lead of 148.250 - 148.175. That's a lead of 0.075... about as razor-thin as it gets. But these are the margins that you deal with with elite college gymnastics. In my mind, we had taken Florida's best and still come out strong. All we had to do was win the final rotation, and then we'd have an epic signature victory on our hands.
we scored a game-winning touchdown, but found out that Florida had called timeout just before the play was run. our first two gymnasts, Ashlyn Broussard and Morgan Reynolds, both freshmen, fell during their balance beam routines. You only get to drop 1 score in the team tally, so that meant we would have to count one of those falls (for the record, Broussard's 9.10). And just like that, the meet was effectively over. It seemed like our ladies knew it, too, as they virtually limped home the rest of the way. Senior Kaylan Earls anchored the beam rotation and finished up with an impressive 9.95 (not to be downplayed... this was amazing), but that was after a trio of 9.8's before her. The Dawgs' beam rotation ended up being a disastrous 48.450.
One has to give Florida credit, too, for smelling blood in the water and capitalizing on the opportunity. Their first floor competitor (who went after our first beam routine, which was a fall) scored a 9.875... which is a solid score in and of itself. Then we had our second fall, and the pressure was off of them, and you could tell. Of their remaining 5 floor routines, two were 9.95's, one was a 9.975, and two gymnasts, Kytra Hunter and defending NCAA All-Around individual champion Bridget Sloan, scored perfect 10's. That's two perfect 10's, and they didn't have to count a score lower than 9.95 for the entire rotation. Florida's final rotation on floor was a total score of 49.875... about as close to a perfect 50 as you're ever going to see in college gymnastics.
At the end of the day, Florida carded the highest score seen so far in the 2014 college gymnastics season with a 198.050, and the Gym Dogs ended up with a 196.700. I'm not overly discouraged, though. If you were to replace that 9.1 fall with a very-good-but-not-amazing score of 9.85, our final score would have been 197.450. We still wouldn't have beaten Florida, but nobody in the entire country would have beaten the Gators after that floor rotation, which was one of the best ever recorded in college.
And that really goes to show how much difference literally one routine can make in the overall scheme of things. A score of 197.450 would have been cause for celebration, really. You don't generally put up huge scores on the road on other guy's home field, and a 197.450 would have been just that. As a result, I'm not too down on Danna's Dawgs. I'll chalk the beam rotation up to freshman jitters during a key situation in a hostile environment, and I think that's ok. It will take the freshmen time to learn the poise that the more experienced meet veterans can teach them, and as long as they've got it by the end of the season... that's what really matters.
So, I applaud you, Gym Dogs. You put up a season-best floor and bars score, and put up a near-season-best vault score. That'll do for tonight. Keep on improving, and things will turn out just fine.
Georgia's next meet is next Saturday, February 1, against the Kentucky Gym Cats in Stegeman Coliseum. (I don't know if they're actually called the Gym Cats, but they should be.) The Gym Dogs actually have a score to settle here, as last year's UK meet in Lexington resulted in a (very uncommon) tie that was the low score of their 2013 season. Come on down to the Steg next Saturday and cheer on Danna's Dawgs!