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Gym Dogs Reboot, Beat Auburn 196.800-196.075

Major improvement over first meet of the season

Your Gym Dog seniors, who performed well on Friday
UGA Sports Communications

Welcome back, Gym Dog fans! After last week’s calamitous start to the season in Baton Rouge, any new fans of the Gym Dogs could have been forgiven for not really wanting to come back for week 2. Fortunately, however, our ladies proved that they have the intestinal fortitude to pick themselves up off the floor and come back with a vengeance the following week.

Danna’s Dawgs, ranked just 33rd in the country after week 1, rolled into Auburn, Alabama on Friday night and successfully rebooted their season by rolling to a big victory over the 13th-ranked Gym Tigleswomen.

Let’s get right to the rotation recap, since this was a really good one. (As a reminder, the gymnasts are listed in the order they performed, any scores of 9.9 or above are bolded, and the score the Gym Dogs dropped is struck through.)

Rotation 1: Uneven Bars - 49.275

Hayley Sanders - 9.80
Morgan Reynolds - 9.825
Lauren Johnson - 9.875
Rachel Dickson - 9.775
Rachel Schick - 9.875
Sydney Snead - 9.90

What a difference one week makes. After the disastrous start that Hayley Sanders had last week, she came out and absolutely blasted her routine out of the water this week. Her skills (especially the dismount) aren’t the most difficult ones, but she nailed the routine, and for her efforts, she earned a career high score for her. Sanders’ previous career high in competition was 9.70, though she did earn a 9.725 in an exhibition routine last year. Hayley looks like she’s been making big strides towards becoming a solid contributor for the Dawgs, and her handstands, in particular, looked very crisp to me. (Having completely vertical handstands is critical on bars.)

After Sanders’ very solid first routine, it looked like the rest of the team fed off of that energy to continue building their momentum in a positive direction. In fact, all 6 Gym Dogs either tied or exceeded their career highs on the bars.

Certainly, we want to see continued progress, and by the end of the season, we want to see more than just Sydney Snead reaching into the 9.9+ range. But this was a major step forward particularly for Lauren Johnson and Rachel Schick. Rachel has shown great potential on bars for a couple of seasons now, and Lauren has apparently had that potential, too, but both have been hampered by nagging injuries over the last couple of seasons. There’s progress here, and hope for the rest of the season.

Rotation 2: Vault - 49.275

Ashlyn Broussard - 9.825
Morgan Reynolds - 9.80
Rachel Dickson - 9.85
Lauren Johnson - 9.875
Gigi Marino - 9.85
Sydney Snead - 9.875

Again, this is a huge improvement over last week’s marks. We didn’t get the stuck landings I’d always like to see, but no Gym Dog scored lower than a 9.80, and that ain’t bad. Lauren Johnson continued her positive start on bars with a really strong vault, earning herself another 9.875 score. I hope this is the start of a strong, consistent 2017 season for Lauren, since she showed us as a freshman that she’s capable of showing out big-time on vault. (Lauren won the SEC Vault title as a freshmen when she was a last-second lineup replacement for injured senior Noel Couch.)

As with bars, there’s plenty of room for improvement here, especially on landings, but a 49.275 is a solid place to start the season. We just need to keep building each individual score by a half-tenth here and there, and then we’ll have something really special.

Rotation 3: Floor Exercise - 49.025

Morgan Reynolds - 9.775
Beth Roberts - 9.65
Vivi Babalis - 9.80
Sabrina Vega - 9.80
Sydney Snead - 9.80
Gigi Marino - 9.85

The floor rotation in this meet was better than last week... but hell, almost literally anything would have been better than last week. I didn’t see many mistakes that couldn’t be tightened up with some additional practice and coaching, though. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see someone taking Beth Roberts’ role in the rotation here, since Beth has underwhelmed in both meets to start off the season. If we’re struggling with injuries and illness the way the rumors say we are, however, Beth might still be the best option we have for now.

Rotation 4: Vault - 49.225

Sabrina Vega - 9.825
Rachel Dickson - 9.20
Sydney Snead - 9.875
Ashlyn Broussard - 9.825
Vivi Babalis - 9.80
Rachel Schick - 9.90


After a nervous start (from the fans’ standpoint, anyway) with freshmen Rachel Dickson falling on the second routine, the rest of the squad simply refused to give in to the pressure. They stepped it up and turned in four solid performances to salvage the rotation and give themselves a very commendable beam rotation score.

I’m especially proud of Rachel Schick, who earned her first 9.9 on beam, and appears to have been huge strides in the offseason on this apparatus. Rachel just wasn’t that consistent on beam in the few appearances she made last year, but she was able to advance to the point where she’s now the anchor of this rotation for the team. And lordy, did she throw out a huge, clutch anchor performance in this meet. And for that matter, Vivi’s routine might have been a 9.9-worthy performance if she hadn’t practically hopped off the mat on her dismount.

Overall, great strides, and we just need to keep getting better. (Sense a theme here?0

Conclusion - UGA 196.800, Auburn 196.075

The skeptic might look at this result and say, “Well, we went into LSU and wilted like a second-rate contender, then we went into a meet with fellow second-rate contender Auburn and destroyed them.” I think that view would be selling this crew short, however.

Coming into this season, we knew we had a relatively inexperienced squad. The freshmen and sophomores look like some of our best gymnasts, but they’re still relatively new to the college game. And the juniors and seniors have some potential, but most of them haven’t been huge contributors in the past. Clearly, building this team’s confidence was going to be a key, especially early in the season.

First, we apparently have some injuries. Gracie Cherrey, who looked to contribute on bars and beam, has been in a walking boot for the last two weeks, and the rumor is that she’s out for the season. And Natalie Vaculik and Jordyn Pedersen have both been notably absent from the lineup, as well, though they haven’t been visibly injured. And then we came out with a clunker for the ages last week... a nightmare start. But this team came out and showed resilience this week. As Danna Durante said after the meet:

We decided on Sunday that we were going to put last week behind us. That did not need to define us for the rest of the season. We talked about focusing forward, and these guys were just so united. When adversity hits it can either bring a team closer if they're really strong-willed, or it can fracture and separate them. This group is so strong. This is how they train. This is who they are.

And to the Gym Dogs’ credit, they successfully “rebooted” their season on Friday night. Now, it’s time to carry that momentum forward into the next meet, which will be a very short turnaround into their home opener tomorrow.

The Gym Dogs’ next meet is their home opener in Stegeman Coliseum tomorrow, Monday afternoon, against NC State. The meet starts at 2:00 PM, and will be streamed live via SEC Network+ at

If you can make it to the Classic City tomorrow, come cheer on your Gym Dogs against the alma mater of Sydney Snead’s parents! And if you’re not in the area, tune into and watch along with me as we see if Danna’s Dawgs can build on the momentum they’ve created!

As usual, I’ll be back with a recap of the NC State meet. Until then...

Go Dawgs!