This past Saturday's meet was a welcome return home for both athletes and fans, since Danna's Dawgs hadn't performed in front of the Bulldog partisans in exactly a month. (The Missouri meet two weeks ago was cancelled due to snowmageddon, so our last home meet was the February 1 win against Kentucky.)
The Dawgs were also carrying some nice momentum, having notched their first away win (and highest away score) of the season last week, a 196.875-196.100 victory over Auburn. (T. Kyle King hates Auburn.)
And on top of everything else, this was the day we were honoring the 25th anniversary of Georgia's second national championship in 1989. Clearly, this was set up to be a big day for Georgia gymnastics. All our ladies had to do was deliver, and they magnificently finished the day's script once the action got started.
The 1989 national champion Gym Dogs being honored. (I see you standing there in that gold outfit, Suzanne Yoculan.) Photo Credit: UGA Sports Communications
As usual for a home meet, the Dawgs started out on vault, and as usual, they put up a big score. Lindsey Cheek flirted once again with that ever-elusive perfect score, carding a 9.975 (who keeps inviting that dang Soviet judge?), and the team didn't have to count any score lower than a 9.825 enroute to a first rotation total of 49.375. The Gym Hogs stated very strongly, as well, carding a season-high (for them) 49.225 on uneven bars, and it looked briefly like we might have a competition on our hands.
Fortunately, however, Georgia is the nation's #1 team on bars, and during the second rotation we showed why that's the case, as all 6 Gym Dogs scored 9.9 or better. Lindsey Cheek, Brittany Rogers, and Chelsea Davis all scored 9.95's, Cat Hires carded a 9.925, and Brandie Jay and Kiera Brown turned in 9.90's. I always love the feeling I get when I see that our lowest score is a 9.90. This translated into a season-high bars score of 49.675 for the Dawgs. That is Georgia's best bars score since 1999 (though it's only the 7th-highest bars score in program history, which boggles my mind). Arkansas turned in a 48.950 on vault, and at "halftime" Georgia had a 99.05-98.175 lead.
Lindsey Cheek continued her stellar season by being nearly perfect on vault, bars, and beam. Photo Credit: UGA Sports Communications
Danna's Dawgs were on beam for the third rotation, and we all understandably held our breaths when our second competitor, Sarah Persinger, fell. The beam has been incredibly unkind to us on the road this year, though we've not had to count a fall yet at home. As strong teams always do, however, the rest of the ladies picked it up a notch and carried on, with Lindsey Cheek and Kaylan Earls both carding 9.95's. There were no additional falls, and the team turned in a rotation total of 49.350, which is their second-best beam score of the season. (On a side note, one has to feel for Persinger, who is coming back from injury and just hasn't yet been able to really get back into form.) Arkansas turned in a 49.050 on floor, so we went into the final rotation with a prohibitive 148.400-147.225 lead.
For whatever reason, the floor exercise is just not our best apparatus. For most teams, floor is where they shine brightest, but as long as we don't fall on beam, I'd say it's actually our worst. Not sure why that is, but we seem to be doing just fine by putting up the "servicable" floor scores we have so far this season, so I'm not really complaining that much. On this night, Mary Beth Box and Kaylan Earls both scored 9.90's, and the team didn't have to count any score lower than 9.80 as we carded a rotation total of 49.250 to close out the night.
Kaylan Earls continues to have a magnificent senior season. Photo Credit: UGA Sports Communications
When the dust had settled, the Georgia Bulldogs were once again victorious at home, with the final tally being 197.650-195.675.
I could really get used to continuing to see these phrases like the one about bars tonight that says "best score since (one of the years in the Suzanne Yoculan era)." It's like the early days of the Mark Richt era in football, when we kept seeing statistics that said things like, "This is the first time we've accomplished (x) since 1982." That's a sure sign that things are definitely on the right track. Quotes like this from the ladies themselves also warm my heart:
Going into today and this week, we talked about being fearless throughout the meet. We talked about having each other's backs. I think we did that the whole meet.
- Cat Hires
The new gymnastics rankings have been posted this morning, as well, and our great performance Saturday night helped us pip the Utah Red Rocks for the 5th spot in the rankings. So, your Gym Dogs will be ranked 5th as they go into their final regular season meet of the year this Saturday against the University of Denver at 4:00 in Stegeman Coliseum. (I qualify that as "final regular season meet," because Athens is a regional host site this year for the NCAA tournament, and as long as we don't completely screw up our final two meets, we'll be hosting that regional at home.)
Everything is right on track for us, in my opinion, and we're continuing to improve as the regular season draws to a close. That's right where we want to be, so come on down to the Steg (if you can get a ticket!) and cheer on your Gym Dogs in their final regular season meet this Saturday!