Your 10-time national champion Georgia Bulldog Women’s Gymnastics team opens the 2022 season on the road against the 2021 national champion, and pre-season #1 Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
One would be forgiven for not thinking of Michigan as a gymnastics powerhouse, it is not usually lumped with the likes of Oklahoma, Alabama, Utah, or Georgia. Yet the Maize and Blue have finished in the top 13 in the country for the last 10 years, so they are no strangers to holding their own. Not even winning the B1G championship in 2021, they qualified for nationals and ran through the rest of the post-season, turning in clutch performance after clutch performance to win the whole shindig.
Georgia did not fare as well. After a 2021 season with some highs (we beat ‘Bama!), there were some lows, especially on the road. Having to pull out of the SEC Championships due to athletes contracting COVID-19 really took the spotter out from under the bars, so to speak. The following NCAA Regionals in Athens saw the Gym Dogs finish 3rd behind Denver and Minnesota and not able to advance. One might say it was a fitting end to an inconsistent gymnastics season in Athens.
The 2022 Gym Dogs squad is full of super seniors, many I’m sure wanting a chance at redemption after the disappointing (and injury-riddled) 2021 campaign. Megan Roberts and Rachel Baumann are two of those, and both might compete for all-around. Whether Rachel Lukacs is healthy enough to reach her potential on floor is a question, as is Victoria Nguyen (who did not attempt an event at the pre-season “First Look” last month). The 3 newcomers (Maeve Hahn, Sarah Cohen, and Riley Milbrandt) may not get much run with a upperclassmen heavy roster. With all of that, Georgia has a preseason ranking of 15th, and a ton of conference competition that is frankly better than what resides in the Classic City.
We are entering year 5 under the leadership of Courtney Kupets-Carter. After a 7th place finish in 2018, there has been a steady slide with the following final rankings of 8th, 12th and 18th. Previous Gym Dogs coach Danna Durante lasted but 5 years, yet included 4 top 10s and nothing worse than 11th (2017), Considering Kupets-Carter is still an NCAA record holder and likely the greatest college gymnast in history, certainly the best Gym Dog, it will be interesting to see what leeway and leash she has as she battles an ever-increasing competitive landscape and top recruits who are enrolling elsewhere.
The meet is at 7:00 pm ET (6:00 pm local in Ann Arbor), and is only being televised by the Big Ten Network +. I’m assuming this is a subscriber version of the Big 10 Network. There aren’t too many highly ranked on highly ranked matchups this first week in January, but #3 Oklahoma is traveling to #6 Alabama and it will be televised on ESPN2 at 1:00 pm Sunday.
So will the Gym Dogs be able to beat the higher ranked Michigan Wolverines?
Just like football.. clap clap clap!