ATHENS, Ga. — This year’s UGA gymnastic team isn’t your mom’s Gymdogs. And they aren’t your older sister’s either.
A far cry from the national championship winning teams of a decade or two ago, this year’s edition of the Gymdogs are still capable of competing nationally, but are certainly flawed in areas. The team opened up its home schedule Monday, narrowly falling to Stanford by a score of 195.875 to 195.750.
The Gymdogs’ season will continue over the next two weeks with meets at Missouri and Kentucky before the team returns home in February to host the rival and defending national champion Florida Gators.
Here are five observations:
No steam on beam?
The Gymdogs’ biggest weakness in 2015 looks like it’s carried over into this year.
Coming into Monday’s meet, the Gymdogs ranked in the top 10 in the country on the uneven bars, vault and floor routine. However, just as they did last year, the team has struggled mightily on the balance beam, scoring a 48.0 and a 49.1, respectively, in the two meets heading into Monday’s home opener, good for the 27th best average in the NCAA.
“I’m sure fans are thinking (déjà vu),” Georgia coach Danna Durante said. “I can just imagine their thoughts. But this is a very different team. So I think the thing that we’ll pull out of it is why. Why did that happen for you? Where was the breakdown for you? I think it could be different for each athlete.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Gymdogs Monday, as they managed to score just a 47.600 on beam, having to count three falls, two from seniors.
“Certainly as you get to Brittany [Rogers] and Mary Beth [Box], even though they just want to do what they do in practice no question, as you go further in the lineup you’re feeling a little more tension and you’re feeling ‘I do have to be perfect now,’” Durante said.
Now in the fourth year of Durante’s tenure at Georgia, this season’s class of seniors was the first one brought in by the coach to graduate with her. And for Brandie Jay, Mary Beth Box and Brittany Rogers, they’ll be expected to do a lot more than just be along for the ride.
The three seniors combine to compete in nine events for the Gymdogs with Rodgers competing in the all-around (participating in all four events), Jay working each skill except the balance beam and Box doing a balance beam and floor routine.
Monday, Georgia’s seniors showed up as expected. Despite both Box and Rogers falling on beam, the rest of the day went splendidly for the trio. Rogers and Jay scored 9.95 and 9.975, respectively, on vault and 9.90 and 9.925, respectively, on bars and Box scored a 9.9 on floor.
“We try not to have seniority on this team because we all want to feel equal and level-headed. It’s a great skill to have. But Mary Beth, Brandie and I all just said ‘No, don’t worry about this. We’ll get this,’” Rogers said of the leadership during Monday’s struggles. “It’s a great mentality to have because mistakes happen and you can’t do much to change it.”
Youth steps up:
A new face for the Gymdogs working behind the seniors is freshman Sydney Snead. While many freshmen wait a few events before they are assimilated into the starting lineup to better understand the pace of college competition, Snead jumped into the lineup in three events – bars, vault and floor – from Day 1 and has so far not disappointed.
Aside from a slip-up on bars against Arkansas, Snead had been stellar for the Gymdogs in her first two meets as a collegian. Her median score coming into Monday was 9.8, with a high of 9.9 in her debut on the bars against Michigan.
In her three events Monday, Snead scored a 9.825 on vault and bars and a 9.850 in her floor routine.
With a cumulative team score of 49.500, the Gymdogs not only wowed fans on vault Monday but also set a nationally impressive mark. That score – working out to an average of 9.9 per counting score – is the highest single-event mark for any team in the nation this season. The Gymdogs came into Monday ranked fourth in the nation on vault.
“I’ve been so consistent sticking it in practice,” Jay said of her 9.975 vault. “I kind of have been all four years, but this year I’ve been really consistent. And I was like ‘I really want this 10 this year. I’m so mad that I haven’t gotten it!’ But we’ll get there. We’ll get there eventually.”
From Athens to Rio:
In addition to being a senior and UGA’s all-around competitor, Rogers is also training to represent her native country of Canada in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. If her team-high performance on bars Monday is any indication, Rogers is certainly capable of translating her craft onto the Olympic stage just as she did in London in 2012.