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Gym Dogs Finish 5th at SEC Championships with a 196.850

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Brandie Jay won the individual SEC vault championship with a 9.95, 4 competitors earn All-SEC honors.

David Barnes/UGA Sports Communications

Coming into the SEC championship meet today in Little Rock, Arkansas, I anticipated that Georgia's scores would be lower than usual, because our ranking position of 5th in the SEC forced us to participate in the afternoon session, not the evening session.  And though they're supposed to be impartial, many judges inherently judge a little "tighter" (i.e. give lower scores) in the afternoon session, because they understand that the teams they're watching are not supposed to be as good as the teams in the evening session.

Now that the evening session has concluded, I think that assumption was correct.  This wasn't our best meet, not by a long shot... but I still think, as a team, we got shorted a couple of tenths or so on at least 3 rotations. And those tenths add up quickly in a close meet like this.

Let's look at the event results. Since we were the highest-ranked team in the first session, our event rotation was the classic 1-2-3-4 of vault, bars, beam, and floor:

1) Vault: 49.300
- Ashlyn Broussard: 9.80
- Lauren Johnson: 9.70
- Gigi Marino: 9.825
- Sydney Snead: 9.825
- Brittany Rogers: 9.90
- Brandie Jay: 9.95

Brandie Jay's score of 9.95 was good enough to earn her the SEC individual vault championship, shared with a gymnast from Florida and a gymnast from Alabama, who also scored 9.95's. Both Marino and Snead could, perhaps should, have had 9.85's, and Lauren Johnson continues to disappoint after she replaced Natalie Vaculik in the vault lineup. As usual, we didn't stick enough of our landings, and if we could grow some sticky feet, we could have a really huge score in this event.

2) Uneven Bars: 49.200
- Sydney Snead: 9.85
- Gracie Cherrey: 9.75
- Natalie Vaculik: 9.825
- Rachel Schick: 9.90
- Brandie Jay: 9.875
- Brittany Rogers: 9.725

Once again, we get a relatively disappointing score on bars. We didn't have to count a fall this time, but a 9.725 by Brittany Rogers is incredibly disappointing.  Her consistency has, for some reason, dropped off the map in the last third of the season. On the other side of the coin, Rachel Schick has come on strong in that same time, and has become a regular top contributor.  And I don't see why Jay's routine wasn't a 9.90 or better, but maybe it was the handstands.  Our handstands on bars just kill us. I just don't get why we've suddenly gotten so poor at handstands, in particular.

3) Balance Beam: 49.025
- Brandie Jay: 9.875
- Natalie Vaculik: 9.85
- Brittany Rogers: 9.85
- Vivi Babalis: 9.65
- Ashlyn Broussard: 9.4
- Mary Beth Box: 9.80

We were actually on track to have a pretty good beam score, and I even think all of our first 3 gymnasts were shorted by the judges. But the back half of our lineup all had problems. Vivi didn't fall, but came pretty dang close, which led to her 9.65. And Ash was having a great routine until she suddenly fell near the end of it. In fact, her score of 9.4 after the mandatory 5-tenth deduction for the fall really tells you all you need to know about how well she was doing right before she hit the floor. Mary Beth Box had an uncharacteristic big wobble, as well, though she held it together well enough to still grab a 9.80.

Overall, we look more confident on the beam than we have in the past, and even though we had to count a 9.65, I still think we've managed to exorcise most of the demons that had plagued us on this "Satan's apparatus" earlier in the season.

4) Floor Exercise: 49.325
- Morgan Reynolds: 9.825
- Vivi Babalis: 9.85
- Sydney Snead: 9.775
- Gigi Marino: 9.85
- Mary Beth Box: 9.925
- Brandie Jay: 9.875

Let's not mince words here: I think all of our final 5 performers got shorted by the judges. We had a slight bobble here and there on a few floor passes, but somebody's going to have to explain to me, in particular, why Sydney Snead got a 9.775. Her final pass was a little low, but not so poor as to merit that kind of a deduction. And Brandie Jay and Gigi Marino both earned a score of 9.90, even though the judges clearly didn't want to give it to them (again).

Overall: 196.850 (1st in the afternoon session, 5th overall)

All-SEC Honorees:
Brandie Jay (Vault, Bars, Beam, Floor, All-Around)
Brittany Rogers (Vault)
Mary Beth Box (Floor)
Rachel Schick (Bars)

Look, y'all, the SEC is, by far, the best gymnastics conference in the country.  Five of the top eight teams in the national rankings are from the SEC. It's just that Georgia is used to being one of the best teams in the country, no matter how good the rest of the SEC is. And when you finish 5th in the SEC, it doesn't really matter whether or not that's good enough to be one of the 8 best teams in the country. It's still disappointing.

And as I've said many times, this meet doesn't really mean anything in terms of the NCAA... it's just for bragging rights and an extra piece of hardware.  Still, though, you want to perform well when you're competing against teams you'll see again at the NCAA championships. (Of course, we technically weren't competing against those 4 teams above us, since we were in different sessions, which is part of the problem.)

The bottom line, though, is that even though we got shorted by the judges, we've still got to do better. We've got to stick more landings on the vault. We've got to get our **** together on the bars. And we've got to tighten up more on beam and floor.

We'll have 2 weeks to tighten up our routines, since our next event, the NCAA regional competition, will be held on April 2. And though the regional pairings will be announced on Monday, we already know that Georgia will be competing as the 2nd-highest-ranked team in the Athens regional, due to our #8 ranking. The Athens regional will start at 4:00 PM on April 2, so be prepared to come out to the Steg to cheer on your Gym Dogs as they compete for a spot at nationals!

I'll keep y'all updated when regional pairings and TV/streaming coverage of the regionals is announced. Until then...

Go Dawgs!