University of Georgia
2007 – 2008


2008 Team
Front Row (L-R): Courtney Kupets, Tiffany Tolnay, Hilary Mauro, Grace Taylor, Abby Stack.  Second Row (L-R): Cassidy McComb, Lauren Johnson, Courtney McCool, Christi Fortunato, Paige Burns.  Third Row (L-R): Marcia Newby, Megan Dowlen, Katie Heenan, Audrey Bowers, Nikki Childs, Lauren Sessler.


Gym Dogs’ Competition Schedule for the 2009 Season
Date Opponent Location Time (ET)
Fri, Jan 09 West Virginia Athens, GA 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Jan 16 LSU Baton Rouge, LA 8:00 p.m.
Mon, Jan 19 Utah Athens, GA 4:00 p.m.
Fri, Jan 23 Alabama Athens, GA 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Jan 30 NC State Raleigh, NC 7:00 p.m.
Sat, Feb 07 Auburn Athens, GA 4:00 p.m.
Fri, Feb 13 Kentucky Lexington, KY 7:00 p.m.
Fri, Feb 20 Arkansas Fayetteville, AR 8:00 p.m.
Sat, Feb 28 Florida Athens, GA 4:00 p.m.
Sun, Mar 08 UCLA Los Angeles, CA 5:00 p.m.
Sat, Mar 14 Michigan Athens, GA 7:30 p.m.
Sat, Mar 21 SEC Championships Nashville, TN To be announced
Sat, Apr 04 NCAA Regionals To be announced To be announced
04/16 - 04/20 NCAA Championships Lincoln, NE To be announced


Home Pages of 2008 NCAA Contenders
(Listed in Alphabetical Order)

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Katie Heenan Lands Nation’s
Top Gymnastics Award

Katie Heenan
Katie Heenan won more than
20 event titles per year
during her four years
as a Gym Dog

      Katie Heenan has been voted the Honda Sports Award winner for gymnastics by coaches from the NCAA member schools, prevailing over Utah’s Ashley Postell, Michigan’s Lindsey Bruck, and Stanford’s Tabitha Yim (the other nominees).  The award was voted on by approximately 1,000 NCAA member schools as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program. Heenan is the second straight Georgia gymnast to earn the honor.  Last year, Courtney Kupets was the Honda Award recipient.

     “To follow in Courtney’s footsteps is literally amazing to me.  She is super-human to me and an amazing all-around athlete.  I would never compare myself to her.  To be able to have this right after her is very rewarding for me.”  Heenan, who became Georgia’s all-time leading scorer this season, competed this year with two herniated discs in her back.  Physical therapy and limited repetitions (especially of her floor skills) kept her healthy enough to compete effectively; however, the 13-time All-American was held out of all-around competitions until the final part of the season.

     The star senior was All-SEC for four straight years and is just the fifth gymnast ever to achieve that.  She was named the SEC gymnast of the year last season, and this year she tied for third in the all-around competition at the NCAA Championships.  She was one of the most consistent gymnasts this season, counting just one fall. She hit more than 95 percent of all her routines at Georgia and finished her career with 81 individual event titles.  She notched two 10s in her career, one each on floor and vault, both coming this season.  “All the coaches have been joking with me,” Heenan said.  “I’ve been part of four NCAA Team Championships, gotten engaged to be married, and won the Honda Award.  It’s going to be all downhill from here!”

     The Honda Sports Award is widely considered the Heisman Trophy for college gymnastics — quite an honor!


Georgia Captures Two Individual Titles
(April 26, 2008)

  McCool and Taylor
Courtney McCool and Grace Taylor
congratulate one another on their
NCAA Individual Titles

     Athens, GA.— A day after the Georgia gymnastics team won the program’s ninth national title, Gym Dog sophomores Grace Taylor and Courtney McCool claimed NCAA Individual Titles at Stegeman Coliseum.  Taylor captured the title on balance beam with a 9.9500, while McCool won the crown on floor exercise with a 9.9625.  LSU sophomore Susan Jackson won the vault title, and UCLA senior Tasha Schwikert won the bars title.

     Gym Dog Katie Heenan finished as the runner-up on uneven bars, won by UCLA’s Schwikert.  Other Gym Dogs with top-10 finishes on events were Marcia Newby on vault (6), Nikki Childs on bars (4), Tiffany Tolnay on floor (4), Grace Taylor on bars (8), and Cassidy McComb on floor (7).

     On vault, each competitor had to perform two separate vaults — not something they do during the season — and their two separate scores were averaged to get their final Vault Championship score.  There is a 1.0 deduction from this average if the athlete does the same vault twice in the finals.


Gym Dogs Win the NCAA Team Championship!
(April 25, 2008)

Utah Utes
Stanford Cardinal
Florida Gators
L.S.U. Tigers
Alabama Crimson Tide
NC State Wolfpack
Auburn Tigers
Kentucky Wildcats
Arkansas Razorbacks
Michigan Wolverines
UCLA Bruins
Iowa State Cyclones
SEC Championship
NCAA Regionals
NCAA Prelims
NCAA Super Six
NCAA Indiv.

Abby Stack

     Athens, GA.— The Georgia gymnastics team once again proved to be the best in the country as the Gym Dogs won their fourth straight national title with a score of 197.450 Friday in the NCAA Super Six Finals, held in Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia is the first team to win four straight titles since the Utah Utes ran off a string of five consecutive championships from 1982-86. Georgia’s 197.450 was their fifth highest score in Super Six competition. Utah finished second with a 197.125, followed by Stanford (196.750), Florida (196.700), LSU (196.350), and Alabama (196.125) to round out the field.</p>

     “I can’t say enough about this team,” Georgia head coach Suzanne Yoculan said. “They just get it. They know what it takes to win at the highest level and under extreme pressure, and they proved that again tonight. This senior class will leave Georgia with four titles in four years,” she continued. “Not many athletes in any sport get to accomplish that, but these girls have deserved everything they’ve gotten. They are the kind of gymnasts that make being a coach worth it.”

     The Gym Dogs opened the competition on floor, immediately opening up a lead on the rest of the field with a team score of 49.475. Katie Heenan led the team with a 9.950, while Cassidy McComb and Tiffany Tolnay both posted 9.900s.

Marcia Newby

     For the second rotation, the Gym Dogs moved to the vault, which has been their Achilles heel all season, especially since losing Courtney Kupets to a season-ending injury.  They opened with a pair of 9.750s from Page Burns and Lauren Sessler.  Tiffany Tolnay and Marcia Newby added a pair of 9.850s; Katie Heenan added a 9.875; and Cassidy McComb scored a 9.900.  Although their team score of 49.225 was well behind the 49.400s posted by Florida and Utah, it was good enough to keep them in the hunt.

     After a bye in the third rotation, Georgia resumed competition on the bars. Georgia had a few miscues on bars from All-Americans Katie Heenan and Grace Taylor, but thank goodness for teammates! Cassidy McComb and Courtney McCool both stepped up, tying career-best 9.900 and 9.925 marks, respectively. Nikki Childs added a solid 9.850, and Tiffany Tolnay scored a 9.875, giving the Gym Dogs a team score of 49.375 for the event.

     Due to the random draw, the Gym Dogs would be finishing their quest for the title in the fifth rotation on beam, watching their competion from the sidelines during the sixth and final rotation. They knew that they had to put as much daylight as possible between themselves and both Stanford (who would be finishing on vault in the sixth rotation) and Utah (who would be finishing on bars in the sixth rotation). Wanting to put as much pressure as possible on their competitors, they went to work.  Hilary Mauro led off with 9.800, and Nikki Childs added a 9.850.  Grace Taylor contributed a 9.875.  Katie Heenan and Courtney McCool wrapped up the rotation for the Gym Dogs with scores of 9.950 and 9.900, respectively.

  Ashley Postell
Ashley Postell

     Heading into the sixth and final rotation, Utah, Stanford, and LSU were still in the hunt, but they would have to score in the 49.700 range to catch the Gym Dogs, which meant pulling out all the stops. Playing it safe simply was not an option for them; they needed to take risks and hope for the best. As so often happens when teams are under such intense pressure, LSU and Stanford paid a price, although they deserve praise for their courageous efforts.

     Utah almost pulled it off, not having to count any major deductions, although Jessica Duke, Nina Kim, and Gael Mackie had minor deductions that they probably could have avoided if they had been able to play it a bit safer.  After their first four competitors had finished, Utah was mathematically eliminated from catching the Gym Dogs, but they still had Stanford nipping at their heels for second place.  Utah’s Ashley Postell quashed any hopes Stanford might still have entertained, anchoring with her third 9.950 of the evening, a truly amazing night for the Utah gymnast, her lowest score having been a 9.900 on the beam!

     Georgia will have seven athletes participating in the NCAA Individual Finals on Saturday at 6 PM (Eastern Time).  Katie Heenan and Tiffany Tolnay will compete on all four events.  Marcia Newby will compete on vault; Nikki Childs will compete on bars; Grace Taylor will compete on bars and beam; and Cassidy McComb and Courtney McCool will compete on floor.


Gym Dogs Win the SEC Team Championship!
(March 29, 2008)

  Katie Heenan
Katie Heenan at the SEC Meet

     On Saturday, March 29, the Gym Dogs won the Southeastern Conference Team Championship by the slimmest of margins—indeed, by the slimmest margin in SEC history—defeating Alabama and Florida (who tied for second) 197.350 to 197.325.

     Georgia began the competition on floor and scored a 49.325, taking an immediate lead.  Katie Heenan, who became Georgia’s all-time leading scorer and tied for second in the all-around competition, scored a team-high 9.925 on floor.  Courtney McCool, who is ranked #1 in the nation on floor, anchored for the Gym Dogs with a 9.900.  but received a 10 from one judge.  Cassidy McComb, who was named the SEC freshman of the year, had the lowest floor score for the Bulldogs as she stepped out of bounds.  Her 9.7 was not counted.

     After a bye in the second rotation, Georgia moved to vault for the third rotation, where they scored their lowest event total of the competition a 49.225.  Georgia’s first three competitors scored 9.775 or below, two of those relatively low scores having to count towards the team total.  Then Marcia Newby added a 9.850, Katie Heenan, competing in the fifth position, scored a 9.950, and Tiffany Tolnay anchored with a 9.900 to salvage a team score that kept Georgia’s chances alive.

Tiffany Tolnay
Tiffany Tolnay at the SEC Meet

     After another bye in the fourth rotation, the Gym Dogs returned to the bars for the fifth rotation.  Although Nikki Childs fell and scored a 9.300 in the leadoff position, the Bulldogs went on to score the highest event total of the meet with a 49.500.  Three gymnasts scored a 9.900 or above: Courtney McCool (9.900), Tiffany Tolnay (9.950), and Grace Taylor (9.950).

     For the sixth rotation, Georgia went to the beam, knowing that the competition was close and that every 0.05 was likely to be important.  All six competitors scored 9.800 or above.  Nikki Childs scored 9.850; Grace Taylor added a 9.900; Katie Heenan contributed another 9.850; and Courtney McCool anchored with a 9.875.

     Georgia had a bye in the seventh and final rotation, while their closest competitors, Florida and Alabama, would both be in action.  Although Georgia had finished with a 197.350, the scoreboard listed their score as 197.200, which was easily within reach of Florida and hard-charging Alabama.  For reasons that are still unclear, the scorers had not tallied Georgia’s score correctly, but few people knew this as the seventh rotation began.  Florida was on beam; Alabama was on vault.  Florida’s anchor, Amanda Castillo, needed a 9.850 for Florida to claim victory, a 9.825 for a tie.  But she suffered a fall in an otherwise outstanding routine, scoring only a 9.400.  Over on vault, Alabama needed a team score of 49.475 to tie the Gym Dogs, and they almost got it, scoring the highest vault score of the meet with a 49.450.

     This had been Grace Taylor’s birthday, and she got the present she wanted most.  Next for the Gym Dogs will be preparations for the NCAA Regional competitions and, if all goes well, for the NCAA Finals in late April.


Gym Dogs Defeat the Cyclones 196.750 to 194.450
(March 21, 2008)

  Grace Taylor
Grace Taylor scored a 10.0 on bars, and …

     Athens, GA.— In Georgia’s final regular-season home meet of 2008, a series of excruciating lows was trumped by a pair of dramatic highs as the Bulldogs beat Iowa State 196.750 to 194.450.  The two best individual performances of the night were Grace Taylor’s perfect 10.0 on bars, followed two rotations later by Katie Heenan’s perfect 10.0 on floor. At the other end of the high-low continuum, however, the Gym Dogs hit only 20 of their 24 routines, having to count a fall on bars, and having to count uncharacteristically low scores on both vault and beam.

     Georgia began on vault, where Katie Heenan scored an excellent 9.950 and Cassidy McComb scored a solid 9.850, but the Gym Dogs as a team could manage only a 48.950. Over on bars, Iowa State could manage a team score of only 48.525, let by Jasmine Thompson’s 9.800.

     Moving to the beam for rotation two, Georgia was immediately hit by the “Senior Night” jitters, as senior Nikki Childs completely missed the high bar on her mount, flying past it and landing on the mats below. After getting a 0.500 deduction in the first split second of her routine, she settled down, completing a very nice routine (aside from small deductions, mostly during the transition as she tried to get going again), eventually receiving a score of 9.275. Courtney McCool also suffered a fall, scoring 9.275. At the high end, Katie Heenan scored a 9.925; Tiffany Tolnay scored a 9.950, and Grace Taylor (as noted above) scored a 10.0—the first of her collegiate career. Over on the vault, Katie Sweetin had a 9.800 for Iowa State, and Jennifer Salfen added a 9.825.

Katie Heenan
… Katie Heenan added a 10.0 on floor!

     For the third rotation, Georgia was on beam and Iowa State was on floor. Again, the “Senior Night” jitters arose, as seniors Megan Dowlen and Nikki Childs led off with a pair of 9.700s, well below their averages. In their last home meet, the seniors always want so badly to shine, but nervousness often produces the little imperfections that eat into final scores.  Senior Katie Heenan, however, continued to be on fire, scoring a 9.900, and Courtney McCool rebounded from her fall on bars to score a 9.900 as well.  Over on floor, Nikki Dibert scored a 9.800, Jasmine Thompson scored a 9.850, and Katie Sweetin scored a 9.825 for Iowa State.

     Wrapping up the competition on floor, the Gym Dogs had their best rotation of the evening, led by Abby Stack (9.875), Grace Taylor (9.925), Cassidy McComb (9.925), and Katie Heenan (the perfect 10.0).  Georgia’s final counting score was Nikki Child’s 9.800, a solid finish for the Georgia senior. On beam, Jasmine Thompson led the Iowa State Cyclones with a nice 9.825, and Ceilia Maccani added a solid 9.800.


Gym Dogs Defeat the UCLA Bruins
(15 March 2008)

Tiffany Tolnay

     Athens, GA.— With back-to-back NCAA All-Around Champion Courtney Kupets on crutches watching from the sidelines, the Gym Dogs bounced back from their loss a week ago to Michigan, defeating UCLA 197.900 to 196.925.  Senior Katie Heenan won the all-around title with a 39.725, junior Tiffany Tolnay capturing second with a 39.650.

     The meet got started about ½ hour later than scheduled, due to a tornado warning in the area that kept UCLA’s team confined to the basement of their hotel and not allowed to leave until the warning had passed.

     When it did finally get underway, Georgia began the evening with its second highest vault mark of the year, a 49.550, led by Tiffany Tolnay’s 9.950, Cassidy McComb’s 9.950, and Katie Heenan’s 9.925.  The Gym Dogs did not have to count a score below 9.850.  Over on Bars, UCLA received a pair of 9.900s from Tasha Schwikert and Ana Li.

Katie Heenan

     Moving to bars in the second rotation, the Gym Dogs had another solid outing, although their team score of 49.225 was their lowest event score of the night.  Tiffany Tolnay led the team with a 9.900, Katie Heenan and Courtney McCool contributing 9.875s.  On vault, UCLA won their only rotation of the night, receiving a 9.925 from Tasha Schwikert and a 9.875 from Ariana Berlin to score 49.275 as a team.  At the halfway point, the Gym Dogs led 98.775 to 98.300.

     On beam in the third rotation, despite one fall, the Gym Dogs put together a 49.400, led by Katie Heenan’s a 9.950 and Grace Taylor’s personal best 9.975.  She and Courtney McCool are the only two gymnasts in the country so far to post a score that high on the balance beam.  On the floor, meanwhile, UCLA’s Mizuki Sato posted a 9.875, Ashley Jenkins added a 9.900, and Jordan Schwikert added a very spirited and dynamic 9.925.

     Going to floor for the final rotation, the Gym Dogs cemented their victory with a season-high 49.725, Abby Stack led off with a 9.875.  Cassidy McComb added a 9.925, Tiffany Tolnay contributed a 9.950, Katie Heenan edged that with a 9.975, and Courtney McCool anchored with a perfect 10.0.  What a night!  Meanwhile, over on the beam, UCLA finished strong with a team score of 49.300, led by a pair of 9.900s from Kristina Comforte and Tasha Schwikert.

     Georgia will conclude their regular season next Friday against Iowa State at 7:30 p.m., Senior Night for Audrey Bowers, Nikki Childs, Megan Dowlen, and Katie Heenan.


Georgia Upset by Michigan 197.600 to 196.950
(07 March 2008)

  Cassidy McComb
Sarah Curtis scored 39.600 all-around for the Wolverines

     Ann Arbor, MI.— Michigan’s Sarah Curtis (all-around 39.600) and Lindsey Bruck (all-around 39.475) led the Wolverines to an upset victory over the Gym Dogs, 197.600 to 196.950, in front of 4,039 fans in U of M’s Crisler Arena.  Although the Gym Dogs had some memorable performances, they got one of their lowest scores of the season both on vault (49.175) and on floor (49.100).  While it is tough for the Gym Dogs to absorb a loss, give Michigan their due:  the Wolverines had a terrific meet, showing that they are ready to compete against any of the top teams in the nation.  As for Georgia, one small consolation is that they did raise their RQS to 197.235, which should keep them in the #1 national rank for another week.

     Georgia opened on bars with a 49.350 led by Tiffany Tolnay’s 9.900.  Katie Heenan and Grace Taylor each added 9.875s. After Michigan posted a 49.475 on vault, Georgia trailed by 0.125 heading to the second rotation.

     Paige Burns led off the vault with a 9.750.  Then in her first time competing collegiately on vault, freshman Hilary Mauro hit a 9.800, which would have been a very nice score indeed if she had not had a hop back on her landing.  After a fall from Lauren Sessler in the third spot, Cassidy McComb came back to score a 9.900 and Marcia Newby added a 9.825.  In the anchor position, Katie Heenan stuck her vault, scoring a 9.900.

     The Gym Dogs had some struggles on floor that included two gymnasts stepping out of bounds, recording (as noted above) a 49.100.  Meanwhile, over on the beam, Michigan put together a 49.350 with three scores of 9.900 or better, catapulting themselves into a practically insurmountable lead of 148.150 to 147.625 going into the final rotation.  At this point, the Wolverines would have had to have suffered a complete melt-down for Georgia to win the meet; however, to the Gym Dogs’ credit, they battled hard on beam in the final rotation, scoring a 49.325, a solid finish to a very tough meet.

     Georgia will host UCLA at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 15.


Georgia defeats Arkansas 197.900 to 195.950
(01 March 2008)

Katie Heenan

     Athens, GA.— A perfect 10.0 by senior Katie Heenan on vault, together with a 39.600 all-around score, helped propel the top-ranked Georgia gymnastics team past #11 Arkansas 197.900 to 195.950, before 10,224 fans at Stegeman Coliseum.  Opening on vault, Georgia put together a 49.575, their highest score of the season.  Courtney Kupets tied her career high and set a season high with a 9.975, and Cassidy McComb posted a 9.925.  Tiffany Tolnay vaulted sixth for the Gym Dogs and scored a 9.850.  Over on bars, Samantha Cortez and Casey Jo Magee scored 9.825s for Arkansas, and Alison Daniels scored a 9.875.  Following the first rotation, Georgia held a 49.575-49.175 advantage.

     In the second rotation, Georgia moved to the bars, where they posted their second highest score of the year with a 49.500.  Kupets led Georgia with a 9.950, and Courtney McCool, competing on bars for the first time in her college career, scored a 9.925.  Katie Heenan, Tiffany Tolnay, and Grace Taylor each posted a 9.875.  Nikki Childs tallied a 9.850 to round out the scoring.  On vault, Sarah Nagashima scored a 9.875 for the Razorbacks, while Casey Jo Magee, Amy DeFilippo, and Samantha Cortez contributed 9.850s.  At the conclusion of the second rotation, the Gym Dogs led the Razorbacks 99.075 to 98.325.

     Performing on beam in the third rotation, Georgia scored a 49.325.  Grace Taylor and Courtney McCool paced the Gym Dogs with a pair of 9.925s. Tiffany Tolnay posted a 9.875.  Katie Heenan and Hilary Mauro, performing first and second for Georgia, each scored a 9.800.  On floor for Arkansas, Sarah Nagashima and Casey Jo Magee each scored a 9.825, and Emily Peacock scored a 9.875.  Entering the final rotation, Georgia led the Gym Backs by a score of 148.400 to 147.425.

     In the final rotation on floor, Georgia scored a 49.500 despite Courtney Kupets’ tragic fall (see below).  Katie Heenan and Cassidy Mccomb led the way with a pair of 9.925s, and Courtney McCool posted a 9.900.  Hilary Mauro set a new career-high with a 9.875.  Meanwhile, over on the beam Arkansas was having more than their share of problems.  Although Casey Jo Magee closed with a nice 9.875 and Amy DeFilippo earned a 9.800, Arkansas could manage only a 48.525 as a team.

Courtney Kupets

     Update.— Some very bad news for the Gym Dogs on Friday evening is that they have lost defending NCAA All-Around Champion Courtney Kupets for the season, due to an Achilles tendon injury suffered during her floor routine, which required her to stop her routine abruptly at that point.  She had surgery 2½ days later.  Her surgery was performed Monday morning at Athens Orthopedic Surgical Center by Dr. Dan Moye, who has had success with such surgeries in the past.  At this point, the surgery appears to have been successful, but she will be healing for several weeks and then rehabilitating the injury for at least all summer.  She had a similar injury (on the other ankle) a year before the 2004 Olympics, and she was back in top form for the USA Olympic Trials and for the Olympics, so we are hopeful that she will return to top form for the Gym Dogs next season.


Georgia Bests Kentucky 197.675 to 194.800
(23 February 2008)

  Cassidy McComb
Georgia freshman Cassidy McComb set new career-highs on vault with a 9.925 and all-around with a 39.550

     On a team that returned a pair of former Olympians and seven All-Americans, Cassidy McComb was not sure that she could even get into the lineup at Georgia, but this evening she set career highs on vault and bars, also matching career highs on floor and beam, to lead Georgia to a season-high point total:  a 197.675 to 194.80 victory over Kentucky.  As a team, the Gym Dogs scored season highs on vault (49.475), bars (49.550), and floor (49.550), but they had a few problems on beam (49.100).  Tiffany Tolnay returned to the all-around lineup after recent nagging injuries, scoring 39.525, which, like the Gym Dogs as a team, included excellent scores on vault, bars, and floor, but enough minor errors on beam to hold her to a modest score (9.800) by her usual standard. Arguably, beam is the Gym Dogs’ strongest event, so it will be interesting to see what they can do if they put four good rotations together in the same meet.

Marcia Newby

     In the first rotation, Georgia jumped out to what would turn out to be an an insurmountable lead, scoring (as mentioned above) 49.475 on vault, while Kentucky was scoring 47.975 on bars. Tiffany Tolnay scored 9.900, Cassidy McComb scored 9.925, and Katie Heenan scored 9.950 for the Gym Dogs, everyone else scoring 9.850s — clearly the Gym Dogs’ best total vault performance of the 2008 season.  Meanwhile, Kentucky received a 9.800 from Hilary Ferguson, a 9.825 from Crissy Cannon, and a beautiful 9.875 from Emilie Rymer.  Unfortunately, they had to count not just a relatively low 9.650, but also an 8.825 in their team score, which blew the bottom out of any chance they might have had to keep themselves in the meet.

     Moving to bars for the second rotation, Georgia went from good to better, scoring 9.550 behind Cassidy McComb’s 9.900 in the leadoff spot, Tiffany Tolnay’s 9.925, and Courtney Kupets’ near-perfect 9.975.  On vault, Kentucky rebounded somewhat, scoring 49.025 behind Emily Green’s 9.875.  Kentucky used only five athletes in this event.  Heather Hite was in the lineup as insurance, but she did not compete after Kentucky’ first five competitors hit their vaults.

     On beam in their third rotation, Georgia once again seemed to run out of steam, hampered by nothing major, but their first five athletes had balance checks, bobbles, or other miscues.  Courtney McCool salvaged a decent team score by hitting a 9.925 in the anchor position.  On floor, Kentucky scored a very respectable 49.175 behind Emily Green’s 9.875 and Hilary Ferguson’s 9.925.

     In their final rotation, Georgia scored 49.550 on floor, their lowest counting score being Katie Heenan’s 9.875.  Grace Taylor led off with a 9.850, and Abby Stack, Tiffany Tolnay, Cassidy McComb, and Courtney McCool all scored 9.900 or above.  Over on the beam, Kentucky was again having problems, although Heather Hite’s 9.825 was a nice routine.  Kentucky has a strong quartet of gymnasts in Heather Hite, Hilary Ferguson, Emilie Rymer, and Emily Green, but they will have to find others to step it up a notch if they want to achieve teams scores that will be competitive in the SEC.  Presently, they are the only SEC team that is not ranked in the top 12 nationally — finding just a little more help in each event could make a huge difference for them.


Gym Dogs Defeat the Auburn Tigers at Auburn
(15 February 2008)

Lindsey Puckett

     Auburn, Alabama.—Top-ranked Georgia (now 6-1-0, 4-0-0 SEC) defeated #16 ranked Auburn Tigers (now 4-5-0, 0-5-0 SEC) 197.125 to 195.475 Friday evening in Auburn’s Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Going into the meet, the Gym Dogs knew that the Auburn Tigers were a potentially dangerous opponent, being nationally ranked in the top 25 on all four events. Their weakest event (#23 on floor) is not one on which they should be weak, considering that they have a lineup that includes such accomplished floor performers as Lindsey Puckett and Julie Dwyer. If they were to get their floor routines working for them, they would be strong competition for any opponent.

     Auburn got off to a good start, scoring 49.175 on the vault; however, the Gym Dogs also got off to a good start, scoring 49.275 on the bars.  In the second rotation, Georgia put the meet away, scoring 49.325 on the vault as Auburn ran into all kinds of trouble on the bars, scoring only 47.925, having to count a 9.050 due to falls from the aparatus.  Auburn’s high score was a 9.775 from Lindsey Puckett, while the Gym Dogs’ high score was Katie Heenan’s 9.925.

     Auburn rebounded in the third rotation, scoring 49.075 on beam to the Gym Dogs’ 49.025 on floor.  The Gym Dogs were led by Grace Taylor’s 9.850, while Auburn received a 9.900 from Lindsey Puckett and a 9.850 from Julie Dwyer.  Because of the second rotation, primarily, Georgia still maintained a commanding lead; and Auburn still had their weakest even — floor — coming up.

     If Auburn needed something to boost their confidence, their final rotation should have done it:  they scored a season-high 49.300 behind Julie Dwyer’s beautiful 9.925 and Lindsey Puckett’s 9.900.  The Gym Dogs, however, were not about to rest on their lead through three rotations:  competing on the beam, Katie Heenan and Grace Taylor both racked up 9.925s, and Nikki Childs added a near-perfect 9.950, giving the Gym Dogs a team score of 49.500, which equalled their season high.


Georgia 196.875, NC State 195.175
(08 February 2008)

Bars Routine

     Athens, GA.— In a meet in which the Gym Dogs showed impressive form for two rotations, but in which their final meet score was reduced by a variety of minor and major deductions, Georgia defeated the NC State Wolfpack 196.875 to 195.175.

     Everything began encouragingly, as the Gym Dogs scored 49.425 on the vault, highlighted by a 9.875 by Tiffany Tolnay and a pair of 9.950s by Courtney Kupets and Katie Heenan.  Over on bars, NC State had nice routines by Taylor Seaman (9.825) and Heather Zolton (9.800), which would have scored even better except for hops on their landings.

     The Gym Dogs continued their impressive showing on bars, scoring a 49.375 behind 9.850s by Marcia Newby and Katie Heenan, a 9.875 by Tiffany Tolnay, and a near-perfect 9.975 by Courtney Kupets.  Meanwhile, on the vault, NC State was led by Taylor Seaman’s 9.800 and Brittney Hardiman’s 9.850.

Karen Lichey

     Moving to the beam for the third rotation, the Gym Dogs seemed to lose their momentum.  Although Katie Heenan led off with a 9.850, the Gym Dogs’ next two routines were wobbly.  Hilary Mauro added a 9.825 with a strong routine, but she did not stick her landing, costing (probably) 0.1 of a point.  Courtney Kupets followed with a mount that had the crowd ooh-ing and ahh-ing, but she fell on her dismount, earning a score of 9.425, providing a wistful indication of what might have been without the ½-point deduction.  Courtney McCool anchored with a solid 9.850, giving the Gym Dogs a 48.925 team score for the rotation.  Over on floor, NC State’s Taylor Seaman (9.825) and Leigha Hancock (9.850) gave impressive performances.

     For the final rotation, Georgia was on floor and NC State was on beam.  The Gym Dogs continued to have some problems, but Grace Taylor’s 9.825, Abby Stack’s 9.875, and Courtney McCool’s 9.925 in the anchor position salvaged a respectable 49.150 team score.  Cassidy McComb fell during an otherwise strong routine, and Tiffany Tolnay stepped out of bounds on her second pass on a close call.  Over on the beam, NC State was showing some impressive skills, but they had a fall, plus several lesser deductions.  Leigha Hancock anchored for the Wolfpack with a solid 9.825.


Georgia 196.625, Alabama 196.600
(01 February 2008)

     Tuscaloosa, AL.— In a meet featuring both superb performances and costly mistakes by both teams, the Georgia Gym Dogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 196.625 to 196.000 before 15,075 fans in Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum. Georgia opened up a lead of 0.525 in the very first rotation, scoring 49.425 on bars to Alabama’s 48.900 on vault.  The Gym Dogs were led by Grace Taylor (9.900), Katie Heenan (9.950), and Courtney Kupets (9.950).  Alabama’s top score was a 9.875 by Kayla Hoffman.

     Georgia lost some of their lead in the second rotation, with only Courtney Kupets (9.950) scoring 9.9 or higher. Over on bars, Alabama received four 9.800s, plus a 9.950 from Kassi Price.

“The Courtneys” notched three 9.950s between them!

     Moving to the floor for the third rotation, the Gym Dogs’ Hilary Mauro and Abby Stack opened with a pair of 9.825s. Cassidy McComb contributed a 9.900; Tiffany Tolnay added a 9.825; and Courtney McCool anchored for the Gym Dogs with a 9.950. Meanwhile, on the beam, Alabama was having to count uncharacteristically low scores of 9.675 and 9.525, neither of which could be thrown out because of an earlier fall.  Their top score was a 9.825 from Kassi Price.

     Finishing on the beam, the Gym Dogs had a string of good performances, none below a 9.750, yet each routine had enough deductions to keep the scores well below what the team is accustomed to getting.  Courtney Kupets (9.800) and Grace Taylor (9.850) led the Gym Dogs.  Over on the floor, the Crimson Tide was finishing strong, led by a pair of 9.875s from Kassi Price and Kayla Hoffman, and a 9.950 from Morgan Dennis in the anchor position.

     Coming up next for the Gym Dogs is a meet with NC State in Athens.


The Gym Dogs Prevail Over L.S.U.
(26 January 2008)

Courtney McCool
Courtney McCool led
outstanding Gym Dog efforts
on beam and floor with a
pair of 9.975s!

     Athens, GA.— Georgia defeated L.S.U. in the Gym Dogs’ home opener Saturday afternoon, winning 197.550 to 195.925 in front of 10,224 fans in Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum.  On the strength of this victory, the Gym Dogs moved into the #1 national rank, followed by Utah (#2), Florida (#3), Alabama (#4), and Michigan (#5).  L.S.U. dropped to #7, sandwiched between Oklahoma (#6) and UCLA (#8), with Arkansas (#9), Stanford (tie-#10), and Oregon State (tie-#10) rounding out the top teams as of GymInfo’s January 28th tabulations.

     Georgia took the lead in the first rotation with a 49.150 on vault behind Courtney Kupets’ 9.925 and Katie Heenan’s season-high 9.900. Aside from these outstanding scores, the Gym Dogs got off to a relatively slow start. Paige Burns led off with a 9.575, on a vault whose height and distance were impressive, but she landed off balance, which cost her a large chunk of what this vault potentially could have been worth. For the team, this meant that the Gym Dogs had to count a 9.675 by Cassidy McComb, which also was a basically good vault, but with enough flaws to merit the deductions. Meanwhile, LSU was having some problems on the bars, scoring only a 48.825 team result, Ashleigh Clare-Kearney’s 9.825 being their top individual score.

     The Gym Dogs increased their lead in the second rotation with a 49.325 on bars, led by Katie Heenan’s career-high 9.950. Georgia had four other scores of 9.800 or better, including Courtney Kupets’ 9.925, Nikki Childs’ 9.800, and 9.825s by Tiffany Tolnay and Grace Taylor. Georgia led at the halfway point, 98.475-97.825.

     Anchored by Courtney McCool’s career-best 9.975 and Courtney Kupets’ 9.950, the Gym Dogs posted a 49.500 on beam, their highest beam score since a 49.500 last year against Alabama. Grace Taylor, Katie Heenan, and Hilary Mauro also were impressive on beam with scores of 9.875, 9.850, and 9.850, respectively. Georgia’s 49.500 on beam is the nation’s highest beam score in the new season..

     In the final rotation, Georgia posted another season-high with a 49.575 on floor, led by Courtney McCool’s career-high and team season-high of 9.975 and Courtney Kupets’ season-high 9.950. Cassidy McComb added a beautiful 9.925, and Abby Stack had a season-high 9.875. Hillary Mauro also set a new career-high with a 9.850 to round out the scoring.

     In the individual all-around, Courtney Kupets, the two-time defending NCAA individual all-around champion, showed herself to be a force to be reckoned with, scoring a 39.750 all-around, the top score in the nation so far this season. L.S.U.’s Ashleigh Claire-Kearney’s all-around score of 39.350 was well below her average, but it took second place. LSU drops to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, while Georgia advances to 2-1-0 overall, 2-0-0 in the SEC.

     Next, the Gym Dogs will face fourth-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa next Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (8 p.m. local time). Competing against the Crimson Tide is always a tough meet for the Gym Dogs, but their performance against L.S.U. certainly is a confidence builder!


Georgia Defeats Florida
(18 January 2008)

  Cassidy McComb
Cassidy McComb scored a 9.825 for the Gym Dogs on floor

     Gainesville, FL.— Georgia defeated Florida by the narrowest of margins Friday night, winning 196.850 to 196.825 in front of 10,855 fans in Florida’s O’Connell Center Arena. Each team hit 22 of their 24 routines, each having the misfortune of missing two routines on the same event (and thus having to count a fall). Florida had two falls from the bars, while Georgia had two falls from the beam. Yet the high points outshined the mistakes for both teams.

     The Gym Dogs opened with a season-best 49.350 on bars, led by a 9.925 from Courtney Kupets and a 9.900 from Grace Taylor. The Gators , however, notched a 49.525 on vault to take the lead after the first rotation, led by Corey Hartung’s 9.975 and Tiffany Murry’s 9.925.

     In the second rotation, Georgia retook the lead, as Florida’s two falls on bars cost them dearly. Georgia scored a 49.275 on vault, led by Courtney Kupets’ 9.950 and Tiffany Tolnay’s 9.875. For Florida, although Melanie Sinclair scored a 9.900 and Corey Hartung scored a 9.875, the team could up a 48.500 score on bars.

     Georgia moved to the floor for the third rotation, where all six of Georgia’s competitors had solid routines, giving Georgia a team score of 49.400 and a 0.600 lead over the Gators. Courtney McCool led all gymnasts of both teams with a 9.950 on the floor, followed by Courtney Kupets with a 9.900 and Tiffany Tolnay with a 9.875. Over on beam, Florida was earning a team score of 49.350, led by Amanda Castillo, Ashley Reed, and Corey Hartung.

Courtney McCool
Courtney McCool anchored with a 9.950 in the third rotation

     The Gym Dogs would need every bit of their 0.600 lead heading into the final rotation, as Grace Taylor, coming back from an ankle injury, led off with a nice routine—until she fell on her dismount. After four hit routines by Nikki Childs (9.850), Tiffany Tolnay (9.900), Katie Heenan (9.850), and Courtney Kupets (9.875), Georgia again had a miss, as Courtney McCool fell during an otherwise near-perfect routnine. Florida finished very solid on floor, scoring 49.450 as a team, but the Gym Dogs held on for the victory.

     An outstanding feature of this meet was the all-around performances by both teams. Florida’s Corey Hartung won the top honors with a score of 39.700. Courtney Kupets finished second with a 39.650; Tiffany Tolnay finished third with a 39.525; and Florida’s Amanda Castillo was fourth with a 39.425.

     This concluded a three-meet road trip for Georgia, who faced three top-five teams in eight days. Georgia returns home to face LSU on Friday, January 25. Both teams will wear pink leotards in the meet, which is a breast cancer awareness event, and Georgia fans are asked to wear pink as well in support of the fight against breast cancer.


Three Tough Challenges in Eight Days
(Friday, 11 January 2008)

     The Gymdogs’ first test will be at Utah tonight at Jon M. Huntsman Center — which is very familiar territory. “We're all just ready to get out there and have a meet that really counts,” senior Katie Heenan said. “Also it's exciting to be going back to Utah because that's where we ended the year. Last year we won nationals there, and I think it's a great way to kick off the season.”

     In addition to all the injury setbacks Georgia has suffered before the season begins, the Gymdogs will have to compete against three of the top teams in the country in their first eight days of the 2008 season. They begin with No. 3 Utah tonight and then travel to No. 5 Stanford on Sunday. After returning to Georgia and getting just a few days of practice in, the Lady Bulldogs will head to No. 2 Florida for a meet next Friday.

     "I keep telling myself logically that it doesn't matter if we win or lose," Head Coach Suzanne Yoculan said. "But my nature is to want to win, so I'm sort of feeling competitive suicide right now. It's going to be difficult."

     Even though a win won't be effortless, Yoculan wouldn't have scheduled any other teams. "Nobody has ever been able to tell me why not to compete against the best teams in the country. They prepare you best," Yoculan said. "Considering the way our sport is laid out in terms of how we qualify and how we advance to national championships, it really is wise to compete against the strongest teams in the country."

     Georgia junior Courtney Kupets, a former Olympian and five-time NCAA gold medalist, is just as determined as Heenan to win another national championship this season. She can't wait to get started against the top competition. “Everyone, in my point of view, looks great and is totally ready to go,” Kupets said. "Going back-to-back in one weekend with two really good teams, it will be an accomplishment at the end of the weekend no matter what happens."

WHEN: 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time this evening

WHERE: Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

RECORDS: No. 3 Utah 0-0, No. 1 Georgia 0-0


Prospects for the 2008 Season

     First, we must recognize that if an upcoming season could be predicted in advance, there would be no need to hold any meets — the NCAA could simply award the trophies!  So much depends on the athletes’ abilities to stay healthy and motivated, and to adapt their skills to the current college judging code, that predictions are risky.  Still, the Gym Dogs look very strong on paper; and coaches Suzanne Yoculan, Jay Clark, and Doug McAvinn have a way of bringing out the best in their athletes.

     The Gym Dogs return nine athletes who started in one or more meets, these being Paige Burns (Jr), Nikki Childs (Sr), Megan Dowlen (Sr), Katie Heenan (Sr), Courtney Kupets (Jr), Courtney McCool (So), Marcia Newby (So), Grace Taylor (So), and Tiffany Tolnay (Jr). In addition, Audrey Bowers (Sr) and Abby Stack (Jr) have been important contributors in the past and could add important strength this season. The Gym Dogs lost Kelsey Ericksen and Ashley Kupets through graduation, but new freshmen  Hilary Mauro and Cassidy McComb will help to pick up the slack.

Hilary Mauro
Freshman Hilary Mauro might very well start for the Gym Dogs in their season opener against Utah on January 11

     One intangible that the Gym Dogs have going for them this season is that the NCAA National Championships will be held in Athens, Georgia, in 2008, which means that the gymnasts will be performing in front of large numbers of fans, friends, and family members, not just the few who are able to travel to far-away venues. Being emotionally high can sometimes backfire, but a look at the recent past shows that the hosting team almost always does quite well. Alabama, Utah, and UCLA are among the teams who have won recent Team Championships during years when they have hosted.

     While the results cannot be perfectly foretold, it does seem clear that this will be an exciting season of gymnastics for Gym Dog fans.  All seven teams in the Southeastern Conference are ranked in the top 25 nationally, according to the pre-season coaches’ poll, which means that the Gym Dogs will be competing against first-rate competition week after week.  Stay tuned!