Georgia Gym Dogs 2012


Kat Ding
Kat Ding performs on the beam.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

This is a University of Georgia Gym Dogs site (unofficial) whose purposes are analysis of 2012 performances and coverage of dual meets and tournament action over the 2012 season. After the 2012 season is over, this page, like its predecessors covering earlier seasons, will serve mainly as part of a Gym Dogs archive. Do you want coverage of the 2012 dual meet between the Georgia Gym Dogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide? That and similar information is hard to find, even though it’s probably buried somewhere on the official Gym Dogs website. But you can easily find it here!

Anyone who arrived here by accident and actually wants the official University of Georgia Gym Dog’s site can find it at; also, the official booster club for Georgia Gymnastics (the Ten-O Club) can be found at

There are some first-rate collegiate gymnastics sites on the Internet — notably, the College Gym Fans site (CGF) — but they deal with all of collegiate gymnastics and more. They cannot devote the time and energy to any one gymnastics program that a site of narrower scope can. This site deals the Georgia Gym Dogs almost exclusively, other teams only insofar as they provide important context for understanding the Gym Dogs. Also, we have summaries of Georgia gymnastics competitions from four previous years, which makes this site nearly unique in having more historical context for understanding the present.

Recent Past and Current:
Current Season
2010-2011 Season
2009-2010 Season
2008-2009 Season
2007-2008 Season

As for other sites that share this smaller scope, this page is intended to help fill a gap between the official sites and the miscellaneous Internet forums/blogs that are out there. Suffice it to say that this site is a Gym Dogs-focused site that is objective, grounded in the history and past successes of the program, and guided by relevant data and trustworthy statistical methods. Like any good newspaper or news magazine, we will editorialize upon occasion.

We hope that you find this site always interesting and from time to time provocative!


§ § §

Danna Durante Hired as Gym Dogs’ Head Coach
(Announced May 21, 2012)

Denver Pioneers
Alabama Tide
Auburn Tigers
L.S.U. Tigers
Utah Utes
Arkansas Razorbacks
Kentucky Wildcats
Florida Gators
UCLA Bruins
Michigan Wolverines
NC State Wolfpack
SEC Championships
NCAA Regionals
NCAA Prelims
NCAA All-Around
NCAA Finals
NCAA Individs

Danna Durante
Head Coach Danna Durante

Athens, GA (May 21, 2012).— The University of Georgia has hired former California-Berkeley Head Coach and Nebraska Associate Head Coach Danna Durante as the new head of the Georgia women’s gymnastics program. Durante spent nine seasons at Nebraska as their beam coach and choreographer. She moved to Cal after the 2011 season and led the Golden Bears to an 8th place finish in the PAC-12 in 2012. She was honored by the NCAA in 2007 as the National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Durante was an accomplished athlete herself. At the college level, she competed for Arizona State from 1992 to 1995, earning All-PAC-10 (now PAC-12) honors in 1992, 1994, and 1995. She shared the ASU record on the beam after turning in five 10.0 scores in her career; in addition, she was named to the PAC-10’s All-Academic team as a senior. She has coached at the club level as well as at the collegiate level at Nebraska and California.

2012 NCAA
Individual Event

April 22, 2012

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Prior to her collegiate career at Arizona State, the Tulsa Oklahoma native was a two-time member of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation National team in 1988 and 1990. She qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials and won top honors in the all-around in 1986 and 1987 at the South African Cup. She also has competed internationally in Germany, France, Bulgaria, and South Africa. Besides competing and coaching gymnastics, she served as a USAG Elite Level Judge from 1996 to 2000.

Durante graduated from Arizona State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science/Exercise Wellness. She and her husband Joe have one daughter, Samantha (11), and two sons, Jaxson (9) and Jordan (8). Given her experience as an Elite athlete, a collegiate athlete, an NCAA Division I coach, and an Elite Level judge, Georgia Gym Dog fans and athletes have much to be pleased about that someone of her caliber will be leading the UGA gymnastics program. As this is written, there still are more than 200 days before the start of the 2013 season, but we will eagerly anticipate the “Durante Era” — go Gym Dogs!

Update (May 31, 2012).— On Thursday, Head Coach Danna Durante announced that she and the Athletic Department had named two Assistant Coaches for the 2012-2013 season. The new Assistant Coaches are Jay Hogue and Philip Ogletree.

Jay Hogue

Hogue has been a professional member of USA Gymnastics for 25 years. He has spent most of his career at Orlando Metro Gymnastics, where he developed a number of excellent gymnasts and coached at the U.S. Classic and at the JO National Championships. He has spent the last two years at the University of Denver, where he earned various Western Athletic Conference awards.

Philip Ogletree

Ogletree has spent the last 12 years as an Assistant Coach at L.S.U under Head Coach D-D Breaux, coaching the uneven bars and serving as the Tigers’ head recruiter. He competed in men’s varsity gymnastics as a college student. Before moving to L.S.U., he coached at the club level, first at the Georgia Gymnastics Academy and later at the Atlanta School of Gymnastics.

“We are excited to have Jay and Phil join the staff here at Georgia,” Coach Durante said. “Their technical knowledge of the sport and their previous success in recruiting will be of great benefit to this program.”

§ § §

Up Next: NCAA Championships
at the Gwinnett Center Arena on
April 20th — 22nd

The Gym Dogs will be in the evening session of the NCAA preliminary round, where their opponents will be Florida, Alabama, Oregon State, Arkansas, and Ohio State. This session will take place beginning at 6:00 PM on Friday, April 20, at the Gwinnett Center Arena (Duluth, GA). The top three teams from this competition will advance to the NCAA finals, to be held beginning at 4:00 PM on Saturday, April 21.

Before Georgia’s session takes place, the afternoon session of the NCAA preliminary round will have been completed. That session’s competitors will include UCLA, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, and L.S.U. As with Georgia’s session, the top three teams will advance to the NCAA finals.

Besides deciding which teams will advance to the NCAA finals, the preliminary round will decide which individual athletes qualify for the Individual Finals, which will take place on Sunday, April 22, beginning at 1:00 PM. The top four athletes, plus ties, from each session on each event will be eligible to compete in the Individual Finals. Also, the all-around competition will be decided on Friday.

The spots in each rotation are: (1) vault, (2) bye before bars, (3) bars, (4) beam, (5) bye before floor, and (6) floor. A team moves through the six rotations in this order, with the qualification that if they have started anywhere besides vault, they will go back to vault after floor and then continue in this order until they have completed all four events. By a random draw, Georgia was chosen to begin in the third spot, bars. The starting spots for the session as a whole will be Florida, vault; Ohio State, bye before bars; Georgia, bars; Alabama, beam; Oregon State, bye before floor; and Arkansas, floor.

Go Gym Dogs!

§ § §

NCAA Gymnastics Individual Finals
(April 22, 2012)

Kat Ding and Lindsey Cheek
UGA First-Team All-America Honorees Kat Ding and
Lindsey Cheek.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Duluth, GA.— Georgia Gym Dogs senior Kat Ding won two individual event titles and captured third on another event to go with her second place finish in the individual all-around. Besides those four First Team All-America honors, she had placed 17th (out of 43 competitors) on the balance beam in her qualifying round on Thursday — not All-America, but certainly very good by the standards of excellence generally applied to collegiate gymnasts. An outstanding finish to a memorable gymnastics career!

It was the second straight NCAA bars title for Kat, who became the eighth gymnast in Georgia history to win national titles in multiple years, the first to win back-to-back crowns on the same apparatus or event since Heather Stepp on vault in 1992 and 1993. She joined former Gym Dogs Corrinne Wright (1989), Hope Spivey (1991), Heather Stepp (1993), Kim Arnold (1998), and Courtney Kupets (2006, 2007, and 2009) as the only Gym Dogs to win more than one NCAA Individual Crown in the same season. Former Gym Dog Lucy Wener won back-to-back NCAA bars titles in 1986 and 1987.

As noted a moment ago, Kat also finished third on vault. She was the seventh competitor in the lineup and took the lead with a 9.8125 with only three competitors remaining. Kytra Hunter of Florida won the title with a 9.875, while Alabama's Diandra Milliner took second with a 9.825. Gym Dog sophomore Lindsey Cheek was the second athlete to compete on vault and held the lead for a while, eventually tying for seventh place with a 9.7313. The vault competitors were required to perform two significantly different vaults, which means that most were performing the vault they train regularly, plus one that they seldom practice.

On bars, Sami Shapiro of Stanford took second behind Kat Ding with a score of 9.9000; Olivia Courtney of UCLA took third with a score of 9.8875. We should note that the reason for reporting the scores to four decimal places, rather than the usual three, is that there were six judges of each routine for these finals, the high and low scores being discarded and the remaining scores being averaged to get a gymnast’s official score. For instance, on bars, Olivia Courtney received judges’ scores of 9.900, 9.850, 9.850, 9.900, 9.900, and 9.900 from judges one through six, respectively. One 9.900 is thrown out and one 9.850 is thrown out, leaving three 9.900’s and one 9.850 to be averaged: (9.850 + 9.900 + 9.900 + 9.900)/4 = 9.8875.

Turning now to the beam competition, Geralen Stack-Eaton took the gold with a score of 9.9375; Megan Ferguson of Oklahoma took the silver with a 9.9250; and Katie Matusik of Arizona took the bronze with a 9.8875.

Finally, on floor, Kat Ding of Georgia finished in the top position with a 9.950; Geralen Stack-Eaton of Alabama tied for the silver with Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of UCLA, each earning a 9.9375. It’s interesting to observe that the Southeastern Conference won all four individual events, Alabama and Florida taking one title each, Georgia taking the other two. As always, the PAC-12 was a force to be reckoned with; but the SEC had a very good three days in terms of wins!

NCAA Gymnastics Team Finals
(April 21, 2012)

For Gym Dog fans, the absence of Georgia from the NCAA Super Six Finals took away from much of the interest; however, anyone who appreciates women’s collegiate gymnastics would have to concede that these finals were exciting. The six rotations with two teams having byes in each rotation made it seem on the surface that the lead was constantly shifting. But what is very clear is that Florida, UCLA, and Alabama were in a tight battle. Stanford and Utah, as well, were in position to strike until near the end. Arkansas had a rough outing on floor, putting them out of contention early; but they still ended up with a respectable team score.

In the end, Alabama finished first with a team score of 197.850; Florida took second with a 197.775; UCLA was third with a 197.750; Stanford was fourth with a 197.500; Utah was fifth with a 197.375; and Arkansas, which was solid on every event except floor, scored 196.300. Congratulations to all the finalists!

NCAA Gymnastics Preliminary Sessions
(April 20, 2012)

UCLA, Utah, and Stanford advanced to the NCAA Super Six Finals from the first preliminary session. Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas advanced to the NCAA Super Six Finals from the second preliminary session. A fuller summary of the team scoring is given below; and a listing of the top four finishers in each event and in the all-around (plus ties if fourth place was not uniquely determined) can be found on a separate results page.

Preliminary Session 1
Teams’ Finish Places and Scores
Place Team Vault Bars Beam Floor Total
1 UCLA 49.275 49.450 49.325 49.350 197.400
2 Utah 49.525 49.225 49.175 49.275 197.200
3 Stanford 49.300 49.300 49.375 49.150 197.125
4 Oklahoma 49.125 49.225 49.325 49.250 196.925
5 Nebraska 49.225 49.150 49.000 49.250 196.625
6 L.S.U. 49.250 48.950 49.250 49.100 196.550

Preliminary Session 2
Teams’ Finish Places and Scores
Place Team Vault Bars Beam Floor Total
1 Alabama 49.400 49.400 49.600 49.275 197.675
2 Florida 49.575 49.450 49.350 49.275 197.650
3 Arkansas 49.275 49.275 49.450 49.150 197.150
4 Ohio St 49.175 48.975 49.225 49.150 196.525
5 Georgia 49.600 49.400 48.275 49.225 196.500
6 Oregon St 49.050 49.150 49.275 48.975 196.450

Kat Ding
Kat Ding turned in an outstanding
performance, earning First Team
All-America honors on vault, bars,
floor, and all-around.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Duluth, GA.— Although the Gym Dogs showed flashes of excellence, they hit only 19 of 24 routines, having to count two falls off the balance beam after a leadoff fall had put pressure on the remaining competitors. If there was a silver lining in that rotation, it would be Laura Moffett’s 9.900 and Shayla Worley’s 9.925, each of which was worthy of Second Team All-America honors. Kat Ding’s 9.850 also helped salvage a 48.275 team score; but those three solid routines were not enough and Georgia failed to advance to the NCAA Super Six Team Finals.

There were bright spots for the Gym Dogs in the meet as a whole. Kat Ding provided the brightest spots of all, taking second in the NCAA All-Around competition with 39.650 points. She also qualified for Sunday’s individual championships on vault, uneven parallel bars, and floor exercise, giving her a total of four First Team All-America honors and a chance not only to defend her Individual National Championship on bars, but also possibly to add other podium honors. “My emotions are very mixed,” Kat said. “We’ve got people competing on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean [as much when] it’s not with your team.” The others who will be competing on Sunday are Chelsea Davis on bars and Lindsey Cheek on vault.

Chelsea Davis
Freshman Chelsea Davis earned First Team All-America on bars, Second Team All-America on
vault and floor.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Georgia began the meet on bars, and the fact that this was going to be a challenging day was apparent at the outset, when Christa Tanella fell twice to lead off the rotation. To their credit, the Gym Dogs then regrouped to score a season-high 49.400 on bars, led by Kat Ding, Chelsea Davis, and Gina Nuccio.

Then Georgia moved to the beam, where Noel Couch fell to lead off. This time the Gym Dogs were not able to regroup, as first-year performers Kaylan Earls and Sarah Persinger also suffered falls. As mentioned above, Laura Moffett, Kat Ding, and Shayla Worley had solid performances; but anytime a team has to count two falls it creates a very difficult situation for them.

After their first two events, the Gym Dogs had a score of 97.675 points, dead last in the competition at the halfway point. But with two events remaining, there still was an off-chance that other teams would falter and create openings for Georgia. Thus, the Gym Dogs soldiered on. On floor, they scored a solid 49.225, led by Kat Ding, Chelsea Davis, and Sarah Persinger. Sarah showed admirable grit after having fallen off the beam. The other teams, however, did not provide any opening for the Gym Dogs to move up in position; but vault would provide them with one last chance.

Sarah Persinger
Freshman Sarah Persinger earned
Second Team All-America honors
on floor exercise.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Leading off for Georgia on vault, Chelsea Davis scored a 9.900, the Gym Dogs’ best leadoff routine of the evening. Noel Couch added another 9.900 and Sarah Persinger added a 9.800. Then Lindsey Cheek hit a very impressive 9.950, which was followed by a solid 9.875 from Cat Hires. Anchoring for the Gym Dogs, Kat Ding nailed a near-perfect 9.975. Although their impressive vault score of 49.600, their best of the season, moved them up one place in the final standings (they leapfrogged Oregon State), Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas were not to be caught.

At this point, the team, their coaches, and the fans need to get behind Kat, Chelsea, and Lindsey as they seek to add to Georgia’s history of successes in the NCAA Championships. Go Gym Dogs!

Gym Dogs Win the Auburn NCAA Regional
and Move Up in National Rank
(April 07, 2012)

Gina Nuccio
Senior Gym Dog Gina Nuccio Tied for 1st on bars and tied for 4th on floor.
Photo by OnlineAthens Staff

Auburn, AL.— From third in their conference to third in the nation is quite a leap. Actually, their national rank for seeding purposes at the National Team Championship moved up from sixth to fifth; but that was due to having finished third nationally in the combined Regional scoring.

Notable individual performances for Georgia included those of Noel Couch and Kat Ding on vault; those of Kat Ding, Gina Nuccio, Chelsea Davis, and Shayla Worley on bars; that of Kat Ding on beam; and those of Noel Couch, Chelsea Davis, and Gina Nuccio on floor. More details can be found on a separate page.

This competition, however, was mainly about teams. Here are the twelve teams that qualified for the NCAA National Team Championship, based on finishing in the top two in their respective NCAA Regional meets:

Teams’ Finish Places and Scores
(Six Regionals Combined)
Place Team Vault Bars Beam Floor Total
1 Florida 49.550 49.300 49.200 49.275 197.325
2 UCLA 49.450 49.075 49.225 49.475 197.225
3 Georgia 49.300 49.300 49.100 49.400 197.100
4-t Oklahoma 49.100 49.150 49.325 49.450 197.025
4-t Alabama 49.325 49.350 49.225 49.125 197.025
6-t Utah 49.225 49.250 49.025 49.325 196.825
6-t Arkansas 49.200 49.225 49.175 49.225 196.825
8 Stanford 48.950 49.400 49.250 49.075 196.675
9 Nebraska 49.275 49.125 48.975 49.150 196.525
10 Oregon St 49.125 49.300 48.950 49.075 196.450
11 Ohio St 49.225 49.125 48.925 48.950 196.225
12 L.S.U. 49.000 48.925 49.100 49.050 196.075

This has to be a confidence booster. The Gym Dogs are nipping at the heels of the teams widely regarded as the best in the nation.

For seeding teams and placing them into Preliminary Sessions at the Nationals, the NCAA uses something called the National Qualifying Score (NQS), which is the sum of RQS and Regional Score. This week’s national ranking is based on NQS, not on Regional performances alone or on pre-Regional RQS alone. The two have been weighted equally:  NQS = sum of RQS and Regional score.

But the real importance of what the Gym Dogs did on Saturday is that they are going to be in the hunt for the biggest prize of all: National Team Champion. You may recall the Preseason Coaches’ Poll put the Gym Dogs at #9 in the nation. The jury is not yet in on that assessment; but it now seems quite possible that the Gym Dogs could finish higher than the preseason expectations, which would be a solid achievement.

We will know for sure in less than two weeks. The NCAA Championships (preliminary sessions) are scheduled to begin on Friday, April 20 in Duluth, Georgia (Gwinnett Center Arena) at 12 noon (Prelim 1) and 6:00 PM (Prelim 2) Eastern Time. For the six teams that make it past their preliminary rounds, the NCAA Team Finals will begin on Saturday, April 21 at 4:00 PM.

Go Gym Dogs!

Gym Dogs Place Third in the
SEC Women’s Gymnastics Championship
(March 24, 2012)

Kat Ding
Kat Ding gave a strong performance, tying for 2nd on bars and 7th on floor. She placed 8th in the all-around in spite of 0.10 and 0.05 deductions on beam.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Duluth, GA.— Florida with a score of 197.150 took first place in the 2012 Southeastern Conference Women’s Gymnastics Championship. They were followed by Alabama (196.775), Georgia (196.575), L.S.U. (196.425), Kentucky (194.350), Arkansas (194.175), and Auburn (194.100). Georgia finished third for the third straight year. Going into this meet, Florida was nationally ranked #1, Alabama was nationally ranked #3, and Georgia was nationally ranked #5; thus, the finish order is not shocking; however, coming out, while Florida probably will retain the top spot nationally, Alabama will fall to #4; and Georgia will fall to #6. Alabama will be leap-frogged by UCLA and Georgia will be leap-frogged by Nebraska, whose RQS rose from 196.960 to 197.030 on the strength of their 197.100 victory in the Big Ten Conference. Georgia’s RQS remains at 196.995.

The Gym Dogs did not have any major failures, but numerous balance checks, sloppy turns, and missed dismounts added up to many scores that would have been 0.100 higher except for the minor slip-ups. Over the course of a meet with 20 counting routines, merely five one-tenth deductions is the difference between a 196.575 team score and a 197.075 score. If the Gym Dogs had achieved the latter, their RQS would have risen to 197.095 and they would have stayed at #5 in national rank. Nebraska improved their RQS from 196.960 to 197.030 and in the process, as just noted, leap-frogged Georgia.

Shayla Worley
Shayla Worley combines exceptional style and athleticism, a pleasing combination. She tied for 3rd on beam in the SEC championships.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Since there were seven teams in this championship, the top seven athletes in each event (plus ties) are the roughly the top 17% of the entire field. (In all-around, there were only 17 athletes competing, making the top 7 about 41% of the entire field.) Gym Dogs in that top stratum included Kat Ding on bars, Shayla Worley on beam, Laura Moffatt on beam, and Kat Ding on floor. Congratulations to those Gym Dog athletes!  Georgia did not have any individual champions, although Kat Ding tied for second on bars and Shayla Worley tied for third on beam.

Next up for the Gym Dogs will be their NCAA Regional competition. As this is written (Sunday, March 25th), NCAA Regional assignments have not yet been made, but we anticipate that Georgia will be joined by Oregon State and Auburn in the Regional hosted by Auburn. But the official announcement may contain surprises, based on extenuating circumstances of one sort or another. Besides the trio determined by RQS, the Gym Dogs’ meet also will include three lower ranked teams chosen to represent the geographic region where the meet takes place. We will know for sure sometime on Monday!

Georgia Defeats North Carolina State
(March 11, 2012)

Mariel Box, Gina Nuccio, and Kat Ding.
Photo by Richard Hamm
Athens Banner-Herald

Athens, GA.— “Senior Night” traditionally is the last home meet of the season, which this season fell on March 11 while most of the University of Georgia students were on Spring Break. Nonetheless, the Gym Dogs’ competed in front of a crowd of roughly nine thousand fans as they defeated the North Carolina State Wolfpack 197.375 to 195.525. Seniors Mariel Box, Kat Ding, and Gina Nuccio received warm applause, standing ovations, and other heartfelt appreciation from the Gym Dog fans in Stegeman Coliseum. They will be missed. They have been valuable players for the Gym Dogs over the last four years.

As a team, Georgia raised their RQS to 196.995 in their two meets this week, ever so close to that symbolic 197 barrier. Much depends on how the other top teams perform this weekend, but Georgia probably will remain behind Florida, Oklahoma, UCLA, and Alabama; they probably will stay just ahead of Nebraska and Utah.

In the first rotation, the Gym Dogs got off to somewhat wobbly start, with only three scores > 9.8. But a pair of 9.825’s from Sarah Persinger and Cat Hires, plus a 9.925 from Kat Ding in the anchor position, gave them a team score of 49.175 on vault. Over on bars, the Wolfpack also was getting off to a wobbly start, having to count a 9.600 and three scores in the 9.7’s. But Rachel Fincham anchored with a 9.850 to salvage a 48.750 team score for them.

Changing apparatuses for the second rotation, Georgia got off to a good start and NC State continued to flounder. Georgia received a 9.850 from Christa Tanella, a beautiful 9.950 from Chelsea Davis, a 9.825 from Gina Nuccio, and a 9.925 from Kat Ding, leading them to a solid 49.325 team score. For NC State, a pair of 9.775’s led them to a a 48.800 team score.

By this point, it was clear that NC State was not going to challenge Georgia for the win; however, as we have noted in other contexts, a team’s won-lost record actually plays no operational role in collegiate gymnastics. Through its conference championships, the only role that matters is that of a team’s RQS. Needless to add, gymnasts are human beings and greatly prefer winning to losing. Bragging rights are at stake! Those are sources of pride to any good athlete; and something akin to them also surely matters to seniors on “Senior Night.” From the second rotation onward, a mixture of intellectually appreciating the value of RQS and emotionally appreciating the value of the seniors finishing in style would carry the Gym Dogs to their second best score of the 2012 season.

Mariel Box
Senior Mariel Box has averaged 9.825 on floor this season. The Biological Sciences (Pre-Med) major scored a 9.900 against NC State.
Photo by OnlineAthens Staff

On beam in the third rotation, Georgia was most notable for a near-flawless 9.950 from Shayla Worley and a very impressive 9.900 from Kaylan Earls, sending them to another solid team score of 49.325. Their total team score through three rotations was then 147.825, raising the spector of cracking the 197 barrier … but only if they could finish strong on floor. Over on the floor, NC State seemed to perk up a bit, led by 9.800’s from Anna Kronenfeld, Stephanie Ouellette, and Jess Panza.

For Georgia, the floor lineup would include all three seniors, and who better to push for the strong finish that would give Georgia their fourth 197+ score of the season? As it turned out, every single member of the Gym Dogs’ lineup would post a 9.850 or higher. Regarding the seniors in particular, competing in the third lineup position, Kat Ding scorched a 9.925; Mariel Box added a strong 9.900; and Gina Nuccio posted a 9.875. The Gym Dogs as a team posted a score of 49.550, easily putting them into 197+ territory. NC State showed that they, too, have a goodly portion of that pride we were mentioning, scoring a 49.050 on beam. It was nice to see them finish strong.

While this was the Gym Dogs’ final home meet of the 2012 season, it was not the end of the regular season. From the NCAA’s point of view, the conference championships also are regular meets, contributing to what will become every team’s final RQS. After the SEC Team Championship on March 24 (Saturday at 4:00 PM), Georgia will learn where it finished in the the national ranking; and shortly thereafter it will learn its NCAA Regional assignment. The NCAA’s procedure for making Regional assignments is designed so that the the higher a team’s RQS, the less risky its Regional assignment — in effect, they stack the deck so as to practically guarantee that the highest ranked teams will make it to the NCAA Team Championship. If the Gym Dogs do well at the SEC’s, they’ll improve their odds in the upcoming Regional competitions.

Georgia Defeats Michigan on the Road
(March 09, 2012)

Katie Zurales
Michigan’s Katie Zurales gave a strong performance, but the Gym Dogs as a team easily won the meet.
Photo by Greg Long
Longshot Photography

Ypsilanti, MI.— Georgia defeated Michigan 196.575 to 195.300 in front of 1,253 fans in the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, where the meet had been moved due to renovations on the Wolverines’ regular facilities (i.e., those of the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor).

The Gym Dogs won despite being without the services of Gina Nuccio and Shayla Worley, who missed the meet with what we hope are only minor injuries.

Georgia opened the meet by posting its highest bars score on the road with a 49.325. Kat Ding, who competed on only one event after suffering an ankle injury during Tuesday’s practice posted a 9.950 to win her 18th event title of the year. Chelsea Davis, who last week posted a career-best 9.950, followed it with a 9.925 on Friday. Christa Tanella added a 9.875 in the leadoff position, her career-high. Meanwhile, Michigan opened with a 48.500 on vault, led by a pair of 9.925’s from Katie Zurales and Joanna Sampson.

The Gym Dogs then went to vault, where they scored a 49.175. Sarah Persinger led the team with a career-best 9.900; Cat Hires had a 9.875, and three 9.800’s gave Georgia a two-rotation score of 98.500. The Wolverines posted a 48.850, led by a 9.825 from Katie Zurales, for a 97.350 team total through the half-way point. Michigan competed only five athletes on bars, a disadvantage that they also had later on floor.

In the third rotation, the Gym Dogs posted a 49.225 on floor, led by Noel Couch’s 9.900, Sarah Persinger’s 9.875, and a pair of 9.825’s from Kaylan Earls and Christa Tanella. Over on the beam, Michigan continued to stuggle, eventually posting a team score of 48.725, let once again by Katie Zurales, this time with a 9.900.

In the final rotation on beam, Laura Moffatt turned in a new personal best with a beautiful 9.900 (tying Katie Zurales for the best beam score of the night), while Kaylan Earls added a solid 9.850 and and Kati Breazeal posted a personal best 9.825. (Kati Breazeal also had contributed a personal best 9.800 earlier on vault.)

Michigan senior Katie Zurales won the individual all-around title with a score of 39.450; Michigan’s Joanna Sampson and the Gym Dogs’ Sarah Persinger tied for second with scores of 39.350.

Georgia will close out the dual meet portion of the regular season against NC State on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. It will be the final home meet for Mariel Box, Ding and Nuccio, who will be honored prior to the meet during “Senior Day” festivities.

Georgia Defeats UCLA in Stegeman Coliseum
(March 02, 2012)

Kat Ding
Kat Ding, here finishing on floor, had a career-best all-around performance for the Gym Dogs.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Athens, GA.— In their victory over UCLA in Stegeman Coliseum, the Gym Dogs had so many highlights that it is hard to decide which ones to describe. Of course, gymnastics at the collegiate level is a team sport — the most important statistic is their 197.700 to 196.975 team victory.

Georgia got out of the gates very quickly, scoring a 49.450 on vault in the first rotation, as UCLA was accumulating a 49.300 on bars. Chelsea Davis and Sarah Persinger posted a pair of 9.850’s for the Gym Dogs; Noel Couch and Cat Hires added a pair of 9.900’s; and Kat Ding raised her personal best to 9.950 in the anchor position for Georgia. For UCLA, Samantha Peszek scored a 9.900 and Aisha Gerber added a 9.875.

Switching apparatuses for the second rotation, Georgia’s highlights included a collegiate personal best 9.950 from Chelsea Davis and a 9.900 from Gina Nuccio. Noel Couch and Kat Ding added a pair of 9.850’s, and Christa Tanella added a 9.825. UCLA, meanwhile, recovered 0.075 of their team deficit, led by a trio of 9.900’s from Mattie Larson, Olivia Courtney, and Vanessa Zamarripa; and by a 9.950 from Tauny Frattone. The Gym Dogs still led by 0.075 at the half-way point of the meet.

In the third rotation, Noel Couch led off for the Gym Dogs with a personal best 9.900 on the beam. Laura Moffatt contributed a 9.875; Kat Ding and Shayla Worley added a pair of 9.925’s; and Kaylan Earls and Sarah Persinger posted a pair of 9.850’s. Georgia’s team score of 49.475 put them well ahead of UCLA, who scored a 49.200 on floor, led by Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs’ 9.925 and Olivia Courtney’s 9.900.

Gina Nuccio
Gina Nuccio, here performing on floor, is a key player for the Gym Dogs on both bars and floor.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Trailing by 0.350 going into the final rotation, UCLA had to pull out the stops if they were going to have any chance of achieving a victory. As so often happens when a team is under great pressure (perhaps especially on beam), they had some problems, which led to Olivia Courtney scoring only a 9.675 and Vanessa Zamarripa scoring only a 9.050. Zamarripa fell hard, landing on the beam before bouncing off. We frankly did not expect her to continue her routine, but, after a delay of perhaps a minute, she did. We salute her determination, and we certainly hope that she is all right. UCLA posted a team score of 49.025 on the event.

Meanwhile, the Gym Dogs were accumulating a team score of 49.400 on the floor. Kaylan Earls led off with a 9.825, which seemed higher from our vantage point. (The judges evidently saw deductions that were unobvious from a greater distance away.) Sarah Persinger posted a 9.875, as did Gina Nuccio. Noel Couch scored a 9.900. If one had to select a highlight, it would have to be Kat Ding’s personal best of 9.925 on this event.

Kat Ding also set a personal best of 39.650 in the all-round, Georgia’s highest all-around score since 2009. In addition, the Gym Dogs’ Noel Couch set a new personal best of 39.550 in the all-around.

Next up for the Gym Dogs is the University of Michigan’s Wolverines next Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Georgia Falls to Florida
(February 24, 2012)

Alaina Johnson
Alaina Johnson and her teammates gave a strong performance.
Photo by Matt Tripp | Florida Alligator

Gainesville, FL.— The Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Gym Dogs 197.525 to 196.825 in front of a home crowd of approximately 6,000 fans in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Georgia improved its Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) from 196.660 to 196.830, which probably will put it at the #4 spot in the GymInfo ranking next Monday. From Monday onward, RQS will be the crucial statistic for determining national ranks and NCAA Regional assignments.

Georgia started the meet on bars, Florida on vault. Through each team’s first two routines, it looked like Georgia might hand the Gators a big surprise; Rachel Spicer’s 9.750 on vault was exceeded by Christa Tanella’s 9.825 on bars; and Marissa King’s 9.775 was followed by Noel Couch’s 9.875 (a new personal best for Noel). Georgia’s Chelsea Davis added a 9.875 and the Gym Dogs finished with a team score of 49.225; however, after a slow start, the Gators picked up steam and finished with 49.375 on vault, led by Ashanée Dickerson (9.900), Alaina Johnson (9.900), and Kytra Hunter (9.950).

Switching apparatuses, Georgia went to the vault, Florida to the bars. The Gym Dogs continued to perform quite well, although with small errors that hopefully can be ironed out in the coming weeks. Georgia posted a team score of 49.250, let by a pair of 9.900’s from Cat Hires and Kat Ding. Florida scored a 49.400 on bars, led by a 9.925 from Marissa King and a 9.900 from Alaina Johnson.

In the third rotation, the Gym Dogs were on floor and the Gators were on beam. Georgia turned in a 49.225 team score, led by a pair of 9.875’s from Kat Ding and Noel Couch and a 9.850 from Mariel Box. Florida accumulated a team score of 49.450 on beam, led by Ashanée Dickerson (9.875), Kytra Hunter (9.925), and Marissa King (9.950). As in the first two rotations, Georgia performed quite well, but little slip-ups put them behind Florida, which had a cushion of 0.525 going into the final rotation.

The Gym Dogs finished the meet with a team score of 49.125 on beam, led by an impressive 9.875 from Kaylan Earls. Laura Moffatt competed on beam for the second meet in a row, adding a classy-looking 9.825. Noel Couch and Kat Ding contributed a pair of 9.850’s; and Sarah Persinger rounded out the counting scores with a 9.725. Florida, meanwhile, was earning a team score of 49.300 on floor, led by Ashanée Dickerson’s 9.925 and Kytra Hunter’s 9.950.

The consolation for Georgia is that they improved their RQS and scored well enough to keep themselves in the running for a successful season. Up next will be the UCLA Bruins, who will come to Athens next Friday for a 7:30 p.m. meet in Stegeman Coliseum.

Gym Dogs Rout the Kentucky Wildcats 197.225 to 193.125
(February 18, 2012)

Sarah Persinger
The Gym Dogs’ Sarah Persinger, here performing on vault, has been a solid contributor on three
events this season.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Athens, GA.— Using a somewhat altered lineup, Georgia defeated Kentucky 197.225 to 193.125 in front of a home crowd of 9,443 fans. Kaylan Earls did not compete for the first time this season; however, Junior Kati Breazeal made her Gym Dog debut and scored 9.750 on vault and 9.775 on balance beam, while senior Mariel Box scored a 9.825 on floor exercise. In addition, sophomore Laura Moffatt hit a 9.825 on balance beam in her first appearance in the lineup this season.

When Kentucky’s first two performances of the meet included falls from the uneven bars, it seemed clear that the Gym Dogs would need to focus on themselves and try to put up scores that would be important for their national rank and for their Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). When a team is not pushed hard by their opponent, it can become difficult to find the motivation to push themselves; to Georgia’s credit, they put up their second highest team score of the season.

In the first rotation, Georgia on vault received scores of 9.850 from their first two competitors, Chelsea Davis and Noel Couch. Sarah Persinger added a 9.825. Cat Hires added a beautiful 9.925 with impressive height and distance; and Kat Ding matched that score to anchor the Gym Dogs to a 49.375 team score. Meanwhile, after their shaky start, Kentucky regrouped a bit to score a 48.475 on bars, highlighted by Caitlyn Ciokajlo’s 9.875 in the anchor position.

Kentucky began the second rotation on vault, which, for them, again included a fall. Holly Cunningham hit a 9.825 for their high score; but they had to count two scores in the 9.6’s due to their fall. Over on bars, Christa Tanella led off with a 9.825, followed by a pair of 9.85’s from Noel Couch and Shayla Worley. Chelsea Davis added 9.900 (her best as a collegian); Gina Nuccio contributed a 9.875; and Kat Ding anchored with a 9.900.

Noel Couch
Noel Couch finishing her floor routine and insuring that Georgia would surmount the 197 threshold.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Moving to beam for the third rotation, Laura Moffatt and Kat Ding registered the Gym Dogs’ highest scores, a pair of 9.825’s. Noel Couch and Sarah Persinger added a pair of 9.800’s as Georgia put up a team score of 49.025. Over on the floor, Kentucky achieved their best team score of the afternoon, a 48.450, led by Kayla Hartley’s 9.800.

As the two teams prepared for the fourth rotation, the Gym Dogs led 147.775 to 145.500, leaving little doubt about which team would chalk up a victory. The suspense, however, rested on whether the Gym Dogs could crack the 197 barrier. They would need a 49.225 on floor to reach it; anything less would leave them short.

Sarah Persinger led off for the Gym Dogs with a 9.850 — if each of their counting scores matched that, they would have a 49.250 team score on floor and end up in 197-territory! But they had grander things in mind. Kat Ding contributed a 9.900; Gina Nuccio added a 9.925; and Noel Couch sealed the deal with a 9.950. Their team score of 49.450 notched them a 197.225, raising their average team score this season to 196.725 and their RQS to 196.660.

Georgia Prevails Over Arkansas in Stegeman Coliseum
(February 10, 2012)

Kat Ding
The Gym Dogs’ Kat Ding scored 9.900 on vault, 9.950 on bars, 9.850 on beam, and 9.850 on floor for a 39.550 all-around total
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Athens, GA.— In front of a home crowd of roughly 8,000 fans, the University of Georgia Gym Dogs defeated the University of Arkansas Razorbacks 196.825 to 195.875. Georgia was led by Kat Ding, who posted an all-around score of 39.550, Georgia’s highest all-around score since Lindsey Cheek posted a 39.550 on January 21, 2011. She tied for 1st with the Gym’Backs Katherine Grable on vault; won 1st outright on bars; tied for 2nd on beam; and tied for 3rd on floor.

Georgia raised their average team score to 196.642; and they now have a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.520. Starting February 27th, 2012, regional and national rankings will be based on RQS’s.

As the home team, Georgia began the meet on vault. Chelsea Davis led off with a 9.800, followed by Noel Couch with a 9.800 as well. In the third lineup position, Sarah Persinger added a 9.850, followed by a 9.875 from Kaylan Earls and a 9.850 from Cat Hires. In the anchor position, Kat Ding posted a 9.900. Over on bars, Arkansas was uncharacteristically out of sync, their highest scores being a trio of 9.800’s from Jaime Pisani, Shelby Salmon, and Mariah Howdeshell. At the end of one rotation, the Gym Dogs led the Gym’Backs 49.275 to 48.900.

Kaylan Earls
Kaylan Earls performs on beam, earning a 9.800 to go with her 9.875 on vault and her 9.850 on floor.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Switching events for the second rotation, Georgia posted a 49.175 on bars, led by Gina Nuccio’s 9.875 and Kat Ding’s 9.950. Over on vault, Arkansas closed the gap a bit with a 49.300, led by Jaime Pisani’s 9.875 and Katherine Grable’s 9.900. It would be interesting to see the judges’ score sheets from the bars routines—we would have scored a few of the routines a bit higher than the scores they received, but of course the judges are closer to the action and perhaps see deductions that aren’t obvious from 50 feet away.

In the third rotation, Georgia was on beam and Arkansas was on floor. Noel Couch led off for the Gym Dogs with a solid 9.825. Kaylan Earls and Sarah Persinger added a pair of 9.800’s; and Kat Ding contributed a stylish 9.850. Anchoring for the Gym Dogs, Shayla Worley responded with a 9.900, the highest beam score of the evening from either team. On floor, Arkansas again was running into difficulties, although they received a nicely done 9.925 from Jaime Pisani in the anchor position,

Sarah Persinger
Sarah Persinger performs on beam.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Heading into the final rotation, Georgia led 147.625 to 147.050, a fairly comfortable 0.575 lead. Barring a meltdown, they seemed headed for victory. When Kaylan Earls led off for the Gym Dogs and posted a strong 9.850, the pressure on Arkansas was intense. Kat Ding matched that score, as did Gina Nuccio. Noel Couch anchored for the Gym Dogs with a 9.875. On beam, Arkansas continued having problems, perhaps made worse by knowing that they had to play catch-up. Shelby Salmon led off with a 9.825 and Katherine Grable anchored with a 9.850, but Jaime Pisani had an uncharacteristic fall and others also made costly errors. For the night, both teams hit 22 of 24 routines. Neither had to count a missed routine, but Arkansas had to count scores in the 9.6’s and 9.7’s, which wreaks havoc with a team’s final team score. All in all, Georgia had a fairly good meet and probably will improve in the next national ranking.

Next up for the Gym Dogs is the University of Kentucky. The Wildcats come to Athens for a meet on February 18 at 4:00 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia Loses a Close Battle Against Utah
(February 03, 2012)

Utah’s Stephanie McAllister after her floor routine against Georgia
Photo by Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune

The bottom line is that Utah took the victory, 197.150 to 196.950; but this was one of the more exciting meets one is likely to see. In the first rotation, Georgia (on bars) took the lead from Utah (on vault) with a solid 49.275 to Utah’s 49.225. Kat Ding led the way with a 9.925; Gina Nuccio added a 9.900; Chelsea Davis and Shayla Worley added a pair of 9.825’s; and Christa Tanella scored a 9.800. For Utah, Georgia Dabritz vaulted to a 9.925 to help keep them within striking distance.

In the second rotation, Utah re-took the lead with a 49.250 on bars, as Georgia scored a 49.175 on vault. For the second time in two events, Kat Ding led Georgia, this time with a 9.900. Cat Hires contributed a 9.850 and Kaylan Earls added a 9.825. Sarah Persinger and Chelsea Davis contributed a pair of 9.800’s to close out the counting scores.

Moving to floor for the third rotation, the Gym Dogs took the lead once again on the strength of a 49.300 team score, their highest floor score so far this season. Utah scored 49.175 on the beam. Georgia was led by Noel Couch’s near-perfect 9.950. Gina Nuccio added a 9.875; and Kaylan Earls, Christa Tanella, and Sarah Persinger gave the Gym Dogs a trio of 9.825’s. On beam, Utah received a 9.900 from Corrie Lothrop and a 9.875 from Kyndal Robarts. After three rotations, Georgia led by a full tenth of a point, 147.750 to 147.650.

The drama was in whether the Gym Dogs could hold onto their lead, which clearly was not insurmountable. They would need a strong performance on beam; and they would have to hope that the 14,000+ Utah crowd did not inspire the Utes to … well, to give an inspired performance on floor. Georgia led off with a strong performance from Noel Couch (9.850), followed by a 9.800 from Kaylan Earls and a 9.825 from Kat Ding. Kat Ding is starting to look nearly as good on beam as she looks on vault and bars, meaning very good! Iron out a few tiny flaws and she’s going to be very good indeed. Sarah Persinger added a 9.825, and Shayla Worley anchored with a superb 9.900, which except for one small balance check was flawless. We get the feeling that the Gym Dogs are truly first-rate on the beam.

Unfortunately, Utah was first-rate on floor, at least on this night, led by a pair of 9.875’s from Kyndal Robarts and Georgia Dabritz, plus a pair of 9.950’s from Corrie Lothrop and Stephanie McAllister (see the photo above). While the Gym Dogs scored 49.200 on beam, Utah scored 49.500 on floor, squeaking past the Gym Dogs for a 97.150 to 196.950 victory.

Utah’s Corrie Lothrop took the all-around competition with a solid 39.475, followed by Utah’s Stephanie McAllister with a 39.450 and Georgia’s Noel Couch with a 39.150.

It was a bittersweet night for Georgia — they had Utah in their sights, but they couldn’t quite find the range. But there will be other opportunities later in the season. Now the focus must turn to Arkansas, which comes to Athens one week from tonight.

Gym Dogs Defeat L.S.U. 197.250 to 195.750
(January 28, 2012)

Chelsea Davis
Chelsea Davis scored 9.875 on vault, 9.825 on bars, and 9.850 on beam for the Gym Dogs.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Georgia defeated L.S.U. 197.250 to 195.750 on Saturday afternoon, compiling the Gym Dogs’ best team score since March of 2010. It also was their first sellout crowd in Stegeman Coliseum since January of 2010, an indication of increased enthusiasm for the Gym Dogs this season.

Georgia started the meet strong and set team season highs in all four events. Chelsea Davis opened the meet with her season-high of 9.875 on vault. Noel Couch followed by tying her career high with a 9.900. Kat Ding added a 9.925 as the Gym Dogs accumulated a team score of 49.325 in the first rotation. Over on bars, L.S.U. was getting off to a rough start with two falls, one of which had to count in their team score. Rescuing them to some extent was a 9.850 from Lloimincia Hall and a 9.875 from Rheagan Courville; but their 48.500 was well below their season high of 49.000 against Arkansas eight days earlier.

Shayla Worley
Shayla Worley scored 9.925 on
beam and 9.875 on floor for
the Gym Dogs.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

In the second rotation, the Gym Dogs posted another 49.325 team score, led by Kat Ding (9.950) and Gina Nuccio (9.900). A triplet of 9.825’s was added by Chelsea Davis, Noel Couch, and Christa Tanella. Back on vault, L.S.U. was rebounding with a team score of 49.300, led by Rheagan Courville’s 9.950 and Jessie Jordan’s 9.875.

Then it was on to the beam for the Gym Dogs, L.S.U. going to the floor. Georgia once again posted a season high, this time a 49.350, led by Shayla Worley’s 9.925. Kaylan Earls added a 9.875; and Noel Couch, Kat Ding, and Chelsea Davis each contributed a 9.850 to complete the counting scores. On floor, meanwhile, L.S.U.’s Lloimincia Hall put up a 9.900 as her team scored a 48.975. Rheagan Courville, who had scored 9.900 against Auburn and 9.875 against Arkansas, looked generally impressive this afternoon, but costly mishaps reduced her score to 9.675. More generally, inconsistencies in performance were L.S.U.’s downfall in this meet. They had to count low scores on bars, beam, and floor.

Sarah Persinger
Freshman Sarah Persinger scored 9.825 on vault, 9.775 on beam, and 9.875 on floor for the Gym Dogs.
Photo by AJ Reynolds, OnlineAthens

In the final rotation, Georgia showed much better form than in their previous floor performances, racking up a 49.250 team score. Gina Nuccio bounced back from her earlier troubles on floor with a 9.900 to lead the way. Sarah Persinger and Shayla Worley contributed 9.875’s and Kaylan Earls added a 9.825. Christa Tanella rounded out the counting scores with a 9.775. Over on beam, L.S.U. was led by Ericka Garcia, who scored a 9.850; in addition, they received a trio of 9.800’s from Kaleigh Dickson, Jessie Jordan, and Lloimincia Hall.

In the all-around competition, L.S.U.’s Jessie Jordan scored a 39.250 to take first, followed by Georgia’s Noel Couch and L.S.U.’s Lloimincia Hall with 39.225’s.

Next up for the Gym Dogs will be the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 3rd at 7:00 p.m. local time (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time).

Gym Dogs Defeat Auburn 195.975 to 195.600
(January 20, 2012)

Kaylan Earls
Kaylan Earls has been a solid performer this season.
Photo by AJ Reynolds

Auburn, AL. — Currently 6th ranked Georgia defeated currently 20th ranked Auburn 195.975 to 195.600 on Friday night in the Auburn Arena.

The Gym Dogs began the night on bars, where Shayla Worley led the way with a 9.850. Christa Tanella and Gina Nuccio added a pair of 9.825’s. Meanwhile, on vault, Auburn received a 9.850 from Brianna Guy and a 9.800 from Toi Garcia. At the end of the first rotation, Georgia led 48.975 to 48.925.

For the second rotation, Georgia moved to vault and Auburn moved to bars. In what would be the Gym Dogs’ highest scoring rotation of the meet, Sarah Persinger, Noel Couch, and Cat Hires each contributed a 9.825; Kaylan Earls added a 9.800; and Kat Ding anchored with a 9.900. For Auburn on bars, Allyson Sandusky led the way with a 9.875; Petrina Yokay and Kylie Shields earned a pair of 9.800’s. The Gym Dogs stretched their lead to 0.300, 98.150 to 97.850.

Georgia then moved to the floor as Auburn moved to the beam. Petrina Yokay led off for Auburn with a 9.750, which was matched by Kaylan Earls for Georgia. For the Gym Dogs, Christa Tanella and Noel Couch contributed 9.825’s. For Auburn, the highlight of the rotation was a 9.875 by Kylie Shields, which helped Auburn to cut their deficit from 0.300 to 0.275.

In the final rotation, Georgia scored a 48.975 on beam behind a very nice 9.875 by freshman Chelsea Davis. Kaylan Earls added a 9.800; Kat Ding and Christa Tanella contributed 9.775’s; and Shayla Worley rounded out the counting scores with a 9.750. Notable scores for Auburn on floor were Toi Garcia’s 9.875 Brianna Guy’s 9.900.

Auburn’s Kylie Shields won the all-around competition with a 39.250. Georgia’s Noel Couch scored 39.050.

Next up for the Gym Dogs will be L.S.U. next Saturday afternoon in Stegeman Coliseum.

Gym Dogs Drop a Tough One to Alabama
(January 13, 2012)

Ashley Priess
Ashley Priess, here scoring a 9.850 on beam, would cement the Crimson Tide’s victory in the final routine of the evening on floor. Photo by staff

Tuscaloosa, AL.— Alabama came from behind in front of their home crowd in Coleman Coliseum to defeat the Gym Dogs 196.475 to 196.325 on Friday night. This was Alabama’s first meet of the 2012 season; it was Georgia’s second of the season, but their first meet on the road. As one might expect, the Gym Dog freshmen showed some jitters in front of the loud, partisan crowd of approximately 14,500 Alabama supporters. It’s a tough environment for those who have never faced one like it, yet Chelsea Davis, Kaylan Earls, and Sarah Persinger showed considerable poise and should get better as the season progresses.

The Gym Dogs, whose “won-lost-tied” record is now (1-1-0), fell behind in the first rotation, 49.225 to 49.550; but they overtook Alabama to gain lead, 98.325 to 98.175, in the second rotation. After three rotations, Georgia had fallen behind again, 147.275 to 147.200, which meant that the meet would be decided in the final rotation, depending on whether the Crimson Tide could protect their razor-thin 0.075 advantage.

Georgia began the meet on bars, where they notched 9.875’s by Christa Tanella, Shayla Worley, Gina Nuccio, and Kat Ding. Chelsea Davis added a 9.725 to round out the counting scores. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide was scoring 9.8 or above on each of their vaults, led by Geralen Stack-Eaton, who scored a perfect 10.0, and Ashley Sledge, who added a near-perfect 9.975.

In the second rotation, Georgia scored 49.100 on vault, led by Cat Hires’ 9.900 and Kat Ding’s 9.875. Kaylan Earls and Noel Couch added a pair of 9.800’s; and Chelsea Davis added a 9.725. Over on the bars, Alabama had two falls, one of which had to count in their team score; but they contained the damage reasonably well with 9.800 or above from their other four competitors, including 9.875’s from Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess.

Georgia then marched over to the floor, while Alabama went to the beam. The Gym Dogs had their only missed routine of the night on floor, as normally solid Gina Nuccio received a 9.100. Christa Tanella led the Gym Dogs with a 9.850; Shayla Worley and Noel Couch added 9.825’s. Kaylan Earls (9.775) and Chelsea Davis (9.600) completed the counting scores. Over on the beam, Alabama again was led by Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess, who scored a pair of 9.850’s.

At this point, the question was whether the Gym Dogs could score 0.075 higher on beam, their final apparatus, than the Crimson Tide could score on floor. The Gym Dogs were not about to give up; after each team had completed their first five routines Georgia was 0.200 ahead of Alabama. Thus, the meet might be decided by what each team was able to do in their respective final routines. For Georgia, Shayla Worley anchored and scored a near-perfect 9.950, the highest beam score of the meet. That allowed the Gym Dogs to drop a 9.750 score. In the last performance of the night, Alabama’s Ashley Priess needed a 9.750 to tie (which would replace a 9.350) or anything larger than that to secure a team victory. Shayla Worley’s 9.950 on beam had thrown down the gauntlet and Alabama’s hopes rested on whether Priess could come through in the clutch. To her credit, she did, scoring a 9.900.

Alabama’s Ashley Sledge won the all-around title with a 39.450; Georgia’s Noel Couch was second with a 38.975.

While losing a meet is never something a team wants to do, the bright side for Georgia is that their team score of 196.325 was their best early season “away” score in several years. They topped it only twice in all of 2011, the first time coming in the last half of the season (February 18). Notable contributors for the Gym Dogs were Shayla Worley, Kat Ding, Crista Tanella, Gina Nuccio, and Cat Hires. Looking at the big picture, the Gym Dogs are well ahead of where they were a year ago.

Next up for Georgia will be the Auburn Tigers, whom the Gym Dogs will face in Auburn, Alabama on January 20 at 8:30 PM local time (7:30 PM Eastern Time).

Georgia Gym Dogs Versus the Denver Pioneers
(January 06, 2012)

Kat Ding
Kat Ding performs on the uneven
bars. Photo by AJ Reynolds

It was a good night for the Georgia Gym Dogs. The outcome — a 196.525 to 193.700 victory over the Denver Pioneers in Stegeman Coliseum — was Georgia’s best season opener in several years. Besides that favorable omen, there also were many other positive indicators. Both Kat Ding and Shayla Worley competed in three events and both showed signs of the team leadership that the Gym Dogs must have from them if this is to be a good season. In addition, Kaylan Earls (academically a sophomore but sidelined all last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon) competed in three events and looked very good. Fellow newcomers Chelsea Davis and Sarah Persinger competed in two and three events, respectively; each showed the potential to be solid contributors, in spite of the freshman anxieties one expects in the early going. Indeed, all the athletes mentioned so far showed some jitters, which cut into some of the scores, but “it’s mostly nickel and dime stuff” (Head Coach Jay Clark) and “it can only help but get better” (Kat Ding).

Shayla Worley
Shayla Worley performs on the
beam. Photo by AJ Reynolds

“It was a solid start,” Shayla Worley agreed. “There is something different in the air this year. … It’s hard to put our finger on it, but we have … confidence.” Much of that elusive confidence, of course, comes from credible leaders like Shayla and Kat who not only contribute big scores themselves, but also show the sort of team-orientation that brings out the best in others. Getting the “nickel and dime stuff” ironed out in January almost surely will pay dividends down the road. The basics are there.

Georgia started on vault and posted a solid 49.225, led by Noel Couch (9.850), Cat Hires (9.875), and Kat Ding (9.925). Chelsea Davis led off the meet with a 9.800; and Kaylan Earls and Sarah Persinger added a pair of 9.775’s. Meanwhile, over on bars, Denver was getting off to a rough start, Louise Mercer’s 9.775 being their high score as they tallied a 47.550 team score.

Next Georgia marched over to the bars, and Denver went to the vault. The Gym Dogs’ counting scores were Kat Ding’s 9.975, Gina Nuccio’s 9.900, a pair of 9.800’s from Shayla Worley and Chelsea Davis, and Christa Tanella’s 9.775. Their team score was a very credible 49.250. Over on the vault, Denver bounced back with a 49.025 team score, led by Moriah Martin’s 9.900. Kaitlin Moorhead contributed a 9.800, as did Melodie Pulgarin Linero.

For the third rotation, Georgia went to beam and Denver went to floor. Georgia’s Shayla Worley turned in the top beam score of 9.875; Christa Tanella added a 9.850; and Kaylan Earls added a 9.825. While Georgia had some of the “nickel and dime” deductions Coach Clark spoke of, they still earned a team score of 49.125, a pretty good start to the new season. Over on floor, Denver was scoring a 48.725, led by Jorie Hall’s 9.800.

Georgia concluded the meet on floor while Denver finished on beam. When Kaylan Earls led off with a solid 9.850, it looked like the Gym Dogs might be headed for 49+ team scores on all four events, but they finished a tad under with a 48.925. Noel Couch topped all competitors on floor with a 9.875. The three other scoring Gym Dogs were Gina Nuccio (9.750), Shayla Worley (9.725), and Sarah Persinger (9.725). Minor glitches cut into Nuccio’s, Worley’s, and Persinger’s results, but those should not be hard to fix. Georgia should crack the 49-point threshold easily after they repair minor matters. All in all, it was a good night for the Georgia Gym Dogs.

Next up for Georgia will be the reigning NCAA Team Champion, Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama next Friday night.

§ § §

Gym Dogs’ 2012 Schedule
Date Opponent / Event Location Time
01/06/12 Denver Athens, GA 7:30 p.m. ET
01/13/12 Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 8:30 p.m. ET
01/20/12 Auburn Auburn, AL 7:30 p.m. ET
01/28/12 L.S.U. Athens, GA 4:00 p.m. ET
02/03/12 Utah Salt Lake City, UT 9:00 p.m. ET
02/10/12 Arkansas Athens, GA 7:30 p.m. ET
02/18/12 Kentucky Athens, GA 7:30 p.m. ET
02/24/12 Florida Gainsville, FL 7:00 p.m. ET
03/02/12 UCLA Athens, GA 7:30 p.m. ET
03/09/12 Michigan Ypsilanti, MI 7:00 p.m. ET
03/11/12 NC State Athens, GA 2:30 p.m. ET
03/24/12 SEC Championship Duluth, GA 4:00 PM ET
04/07/12 NCAA Regional TBA TBA
04/20/12 NCAA Prelims Duluth, GA TBA
04/21/12 NCAA Team Finals Duluth, GA TBA
04/22/12 NCAA Individ Fnls Duluth, GA TBA

Gym Dogs’ 2012 Roster
Name Ht Event(s) Class Hometown/High School
Bekah Bennetts 5-6 AA SO Woodstock, GA/Sequoyah
Mariel Box 5-2 AA SR Calhoun, GA/Calhoun
Kati Breazeal 5-5 AA JR Allen, TX/Allen
Lindsey Cheek 5-5 AA SO Watkinsville, GA/Oconee County
Noel Couch 5-3 AA JR Towaco, NJ/DePaul Catholic
Chelsea Davis 5-1 AA FR Austin, TX/iSchool High
Kat Ding 5-2 AA SR Sparks, NV/Reed
Kaylan Earls 5-0 AA SO Chicago, IL/McAuliffe School of Arts
Cat Hires 5-5 AA SO Tampa, FL/Plant
Laura Moffatt 5-1 AA SO Kennesaw, GA/Cornerstone Prep
Gina Nuccio 5-1 AA SR Naperville, IL/Neuqua Valley
Sarah Persinger 5-5 AA FR Mount Holly, NC/East Gaston
Camille Pfister 5-3 UB FR Kennesaw, GA/Kennesaw Mountain
Christa Tanella 5-4 AA JR Lucas, TX/Homeschool
Shayla Worley 5-2 AA JR Orlando, FL/Boone

Preseason Gymnastics Coaches’ Poll

How do US Division I and Division II gymnastics coaches assess the Gym Dogs’ likely success in the 2012 season? With no further ado, let's get the data in front of us. Here are the results from the Preseason Poll:

Preseason Coaches’ Poll
National Ranks (12-01-2011)
Rank Team Name Points
01 UCLA 932
02 Alabama 926
03 Florida 903
04 Oklahoma 879
05 Utah 806
06 Nebraska 741
07 Oregon St 725
08 Stanford 702
09 Georgia 687
10 Michigan 641
11 Arkansas 617
12 L.S.U. 539
13 Penn St 496
14 Boise St 449
15 Illinois 371
16 Washington 343
17 Auburn 324
18 Ohio St 246
19 Arizona 233
20 Denver 214
21 Kent St 202
22 Minnesota 154
23 Kentucky 144
24 Iowa St 122
25 Iowa 120

While Georgia returns seventeen out of twenty-four of their starting routines from 2011, some of the most expert judges in collegiate gymnastics ranked the Gym Dogs ninth in the nation. In their judgments, at least, some of those 17 routines are not contention-caliber routines. The US coaches who participated in the preseason poll do not think that the Georgia lineups will be able to compete successfully against those of teams such as UCLA, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, or Utah.

Shayla Worley
Shayla Worley

They could be wrong, of course. The raters must base their judgments on certain assumptions. Unless they have solid reasons to think otherwise, the raters must assume that the returning athletes will perform about as they did last season. Also, they typically would presume that last year’s returning regulars would be in this year’s lineups; and that the newcomers would contribute (relative to other teams’ newcomers) about as they had in past elite or JO competitions. If one or more of those assumptions does not hold true, the raters could over-rate or under-rate a team.

For Georgia, if Shayla Worley competes all-around rather than one or two events (she has expressed a desire to do so), and if she has fire and confidence she’s had in the past, that alone could add 0.300 to the team scores (compared to last year) in Georgia’s meets. That amount often is the difference between winning and losing. With her intelligence, personality, and gymnastics résumé (e.g., top five all-around three straight years in the USA Senior National Championships), she is one of those who could play a pivital leadership role as the Gym Dogs attempt to confound the experts and craft a more successful season than what has been predicted.

Teams need leadership from within their ranks, not just from the coaches. Athletes with Shayla’s prestige and thus credibility could provide needed leadership, thus having both direct and indirect effects on their teams’ performances:  adding valuable tenths of points and helping to bring out the best in others.

Similarly, if Kat Ding were to compete up to her ability on vault, bars, and beam, not just bars, that could add another 0.200 to the team scores. For Georgia to compete effectively against the top teams, they also must get Chelsea Davis, Kaylan Earls, and Sarah Persinger into their starting lineups. If those athletes are permitted to develop, they could become solid performers by the end of the season, filling nine or more lineup positions with contention-caliber routines. In addition, Lindsey Cheek could play a larger role. Bold changes by the Gym Dogs’ coaches could improve the event lineups beyond what the pre-season poll raters could reasonably have anticipated.

Of course, it would be a mistake to simply take for granted that the returning athletes will step up their games; but we want that to happen and believe that it could. The challenges, and how they might be met, are further discussed later on this page. See below for more.

The Latest National Ranking of Women’s
Collegiate Gymnastics Teams

National Ranks (04-09-2012)
Rank Team Name Team NQS
01 Florida 394.770
02 UCLA 394.495
03 Oklahoma 394.385
04 Alabama 394.270
05 Georgia 394.095
06 Nebraska 393.555
07 Utah 393.530
08 Arkansas 393.370
09 Oregon St 393.210
10 Stanford 393.085
11 L.S.U. 392.645
12 Ohio St 392.470
13 Michigan 392.150
14 Boise St 392.105
15 Auburn 392.065
16 Penn St 391.880
17 NC State 391.845
18 Illinois 391.420
19 Washington 391.420
20 Missouri 391.375

National Ranks (04-02-2012)
Rank Team Name Team RQS
01 Florida 197.445
02 Oklahoma 197.360
03 UCLA 197.270
04 Alabama 197.245
05 Nebraska 197.030
06 Georgia 196.995
07 Oregon St 196.760
08 Utah 196.705
09 L.S.U. 196.570
10 Arkansas 196.545
11 Stanford 196.410
12 Ohio St 196.245
13 Penn St 196.230
14 Denver 196.090
15 Boise St 196.055
16 Arizona 196.020
17 Minnesota 195.985
18 Auburn 195.965
19 Missouri 195.925
20 NC State 195.870

National Ranks (03-19-2012)
Rank Team Name Team RQS
01 Florida 197.395
02 Oklahoma 197.310
03 Alabama 197.155
04 UCLA 197.140
05 Georgia 196.995
06 Nebraska 196.960
07 Utah 196.705
08 L.S.U. 196.550
09 Oregon St 196.550
10 Arkansas 196.545
11 Stanford 196.315
12 Penn St 196.230
13 Ohio St 196.115
14 Boise St 195.990
15 Auburn 195.965
16 Minnesota 195.880
17 Arizona 195.870
18 Denver 195.865
19 Missouri 195.825
20 NC State 195.715

National Ranks (03-12-2012)
Rank Team Name Team RQS
01 Florida 197.330
02 Oklahoma 197.310
03 UCLA 197.140
04 Alabama 197.065
05 Georgia 196.995
06 Nebraska 196.960
07 Utah 196.615
08 Oregon St 196.550
09 Arkansas 196.545
10 L.S.U. 196.440
11 Stanford 196.315
12 Penn St 196.120
13 Ohio St 196.000
14 Auburn 195.965
15 Boise St 195.830
16 Missouri 195.790
17 Denver 195.755
18 Arizona 195.750
19 Minnesota 195.665
20 NC State 195.600

National Ranks (03-05-2012)
Rank Team Name Team RQS
01 Florida 197.330
02 Oklahoma 197.310
03 UCLA 197.085
04 Alabama 196.925
05 Georgia 196.915
06 Nebraska 196.795
07 Utah 196.555
08 Arkansas 196.545
09-t Oregon St 196.405
09-t L.S.U. 196.405
11 Stanford 196.205
12 Penn St 195.995
13 Ohio St 195.940
14 Missouri 195.790
15 Boise St 195.750
16 Auburn 195.735
17 Arizona 195.525
18 Minnesota 195.470
19 Illinois 195.360
20 Michigan 195.345

National Ranks (02-27-2012)
Rank Team Name Team RQS
01 Florida 197.195
02 Oklahoma 197.145
03 UCLA 197.025
04 Georgia 196.830
05 Alabama 196.730
06 Nebraska 196.585
07 Utah 196.555
08 Arkansas 196.545
09 Oregon St 196.250
10 L.S.U. 196.245
11 Penn St 195.950
12 Stanford 195.895
13 Missouri 195.790
14 Ohio St 195.760
15 Auburn 195.515
16 Boise St 195.405
17 Arizona 195.390
18 Minnesota 195.285
19 Denver 195.270
20 NC State 195.175

National Ranks (02-20-2012)
Rank Team Name Team Ave
01 Florida 196.929
02 Oklahoma 196.784
03-t Georgia 196.725
03-t Alabama 196.725
05 Utah 196.721
06 UCLA 196.543
07 Arkansas 196.500
08 Oregon St 196.383
09 Nebraska 196.308
10 Penn St 195.982
11 Ohio St 195.856
12 Stanford 195.725
13 L.S.U. 195.575
14 Arizona 195.321
15 Auburn 195.250
16 Boise St 195.225
17 Missouri 195.211
18 Illinois 195.036
19 NC State 194.957
20 Denver 194.829

National Ranks (02-13-2012)
Rank Team Name Team Ave
01 Utah 196.855
02 Florida 196.833
03 Oklahoma 196.696
04 Georgia 196.642
05 Arkansas 196.554
06 Alabama 196.540
07 UCLA 196.504
08 Oregon St 196.305
09 Nebraska 196.200
10 Penn St 195.988
11 Ohio St 195.604
12 Stanford 195.595
13 L.S.U. 195.429
14 Boise St 195.175
15 Arizona 195.130
16 Missouri 195.017
17 Auburn 194.979
18 Illinois 194.860
19 NC State 194.833
20 Denver 194.725

National Ranks (02-06-2012)
Rank Team Name Team Ave
01 Utah 197.031
02 Alabama 196.675
03 Arkansas 196.667
04 Florida 196.630
05 Oklahoma 196.613
06 Georgia 196.605
07 UCLA 196.435
08 Nebraska 196.113
09 Oregon St 196.031
10 Penn St 195.855
11 Ohio St 195.530
12 Stanford 195.450
13 Auburn 195.245
14 L.S.U. 195.145
15 Boise St 194.963
16 Arizona 194.938
17 Denver 194.920
18 Missouri 194.915
19 Illinois 194.800
20 Washington 194.480

National Ranks (01-30-2012)
Rank Team Name Team Ave
01 Utah 196.992
02 Arkansas 196.756
03 Florida 196.563
04 Georgia 196.519
05 Oklahoma 196.444
06 Alabama 196.325
07 UCLA 196.231
08 Oregon St 196.050
09 Nebraska 195.900
10 Penn St 195.869
11 Ohio St 195.519
12 Stanford 195.117
13 Auburn 195.106
14 L.S.U. 194.900
15 Denver 194.738
16 Boise St 194.700
17 Missouri 194.663
18 Arizona 194.625
19 Illinois 194.500
20 W Virginia 194.444

National Ranks (01-23-2012)
Rank Team Name Team Ave
01-t Arkansas 196.775
01-t UCLA 196.775
03 Utah 196.713
04 Nebraska 196.575
05 Oklahoma 196.433
06 Alabama 196.325
07 Georgia 196.275
08 Florida 196.158
09 Penn State 196.000
10 Oregon St 195.675
11 Ohio St 195.483
12 Stanford 195.413
13 Boise St 195.288
14 Illinois 194.900
15 Arizona 194.763
16 Auburn 194.725
17 L.S.U. 194.617
18 Denver 194.517
19 Michigan 194.325
20-t Missouri 194.308
20-t NC State 194.308

National Ranks (01-16-2012)
Rank Team Name Team Ave
01 Nebraska 197.375
02 Utah 196.713
03 Arkansas 196.550
04 Oregon St 196.525
05 Alabama 196.475
06 Georgia 196.425
07 UCLA 196.375
08 Florida 196.100
09 Penn St 195.950
10 Oklahoma 195.925
11 Michigan 195.500
12 Ohio St 195.275
13 Arizona 195.150
14 Stanford 194.900
15 Illinois 194.725
16 Denver 194.463
17 Boise St 194.400
18 NC State 194.363
19 San Jose St 194.300
20 Auburn 194.288

Also of Interest:
Future Gym Dog Brandie Jay Shone
Brightly at the Pan Am Games

Guadalajara, México (Oct 27, 2011).— Although she was competing at the international level for the first time, Brandie Jay, who has signed a letter of intent to compete for the Gym Dogs in the 2013 season, won her second Gold Medal at the Pan American Games on Thursday, October 27. This one was an individual medal for winning the vault; her previous one was for being part of the winning team after the conclusion of the Team Championship. The US also took individual gold on the women’s uneven bars (Bridgette Caquatto) and on the men’s rings (Brandon Wynn). Brandie Jay also captured 6th in the All-Around.

This has been a banner year for Ms. Jay. She competed in the 2011 Visa Championships, where she placed 3rd on vault and 7th on the uneven bars; she followed that by participating in the 2011 CoverGirl Classic, placing 2nd on vault and 9th in the all-round; and then she competed in the 2011 American Classic, taking 1st on vault, 4th on the uneven bars, 7th on the balance beam, and 3rd in the all-round.

Fielding a Lineup for an Improved W-L Record
and Better Tournament Performances
(November 25, 2011)

The likely competitors for the Gym Dogs during the 2012 season consist of nine returning athletes and four freshmen or redshirt sophomores, the latter being Chelsea Davis, Kaylan Earls, Sarah Persinger, and Camille Pfister. (Four other athletes — Bekah Bennetts, Kati Breazeal, Demetria Hunte, and Whitney Kirby — also work out with the team, but it’s unlikely that they will compete in meets. If that assumption turns out to be incorrect, that would not alter this discussion.) Although there were notable exceptions at the individual level (e.g., Cassidy McComb), last season’s lineups on the whole did not perform as well as most Gym Dog teams over the last 20+ years. Simple logic suggests that the regular participants often did not score well. Regulars in the lineups are easily discovered by looking at Regional Qualifying Scores (RQS’s) for individuals on the four events, because an athlete had to have been in the lineup for at least three “away” meets and for at least six meets total (out of 12 possible) to have attained an RQS. Anyone without an RQS clearly was not a regular part of the lineup for the event in question. Before we go any further, let’s look at the returning athletes and their RQS’s:

2011 Individual RQS’s by Event
of the Returning Gym Dogs
Gymnast Vault Bars Beam Floor
Mariel Box 9.780

Lindsey Cheek 9.845
Noel Couch 9.850 9.775 9.805 9.850
Kat Ding

Cat Hires 9.780

Laura Moffatt

Gina Nuccio
Christa Tanella
9.825 9.805 9.810
Shayla Worley
9.710 9.870

Some might argue that RQS is not the best measure for assessing last season’s performances, because only an athlete’s best scores are counted — low scores get tossed out before making the calculations. Anyone who competes often enough may be throwing out scores that in fact are quite typical for them. However, everyone is likely to have a fall at some point, which hopefully is not typical for them. If an athlete hits enough routines to obtain an RQS of (say) 9.800, then they have the potential to be part of a lineup that could compete well against Alabama, UCLA, Utah, and other top women’s gymnastics teams.

Another objection, however, might be that the cut-point of 9.800 is too low — if all counting scores were that low, the team’s score would be only 196.000, which might not make it past the Regionals, much less win an NCAA Championship. That objection has some validity. A team score of 197.000 implies an average counting score of 9.850; the top teams at the NCAA Championships usually average a bit higher than that. But well coached athletes tend to peak at championship time, meaning that an RQS of 9.800 may mean a 9.850 at the end of the season when performances count the most. So let’s take that leap of faith and use the 9.800 threshold for purposes of this discussion.

By that criterion, Lindsey Cheek and Noel Couch were solid regulars on vault; Kat Ding, Gina Nuccio, and Christa Tanella were solid regulars on bars; Lindsey Cheek, Noel Couch, Christa Tanella, and Shayla Worley were solid regulars on beam; and Noel Couch, Gina Nuccio, and Christa Tanella were solid regulars on floor. Based on past performances, 12 of 24 lineup spots can be filled by the returning 2011 Gym Dogs at the level required for the Georgia to give the top collegiate teams a credible challenge. (In comparison, Alabama returns 17 contention-caliber routines.)

The critical question is whether Georgia’s newcomers can fill the 12 spots that need filling. That would be a tall order. Chelsea Davis, Kaylan Earls, and Sarah Persinger are the best bets to fill those lineup spots, but each of them would have to excel as all-rounders to fill 12 spots. Realistically, to be a contender in 2012, a few of the returning athletes must step up their games, plus the newcomers must compete in lineup spots where there were obvious weaknesses in 2011. In our judgment, Noel Couch should not be going all-around.

Competing on bars in all 14 meets last season, her scores ranged from 9.225 to 9.825, her average being 9.640, which was the lowest average bars score on the team. The trajectory of her performances was not good, either. Most athletes improve over the course of a season. In the first reasonably reliable GymInfo national ranking of individuals’ performances (January 17), she was nationally ranked 72nd on bars, but her national rank decreased over the remainder of the season, due to athletes at other schools improving. At the end of the regular season, she was nationally ranked 142nd (tied with six others for ranks 142 through 148).

Georgia’s First-Team All-America honorees in the all-round competition include Julie Klick, Corrinne Wright (3 times), Lucy Wener, Hope Spivey (twice), Heather Stepp, Agina Simpkins (3 times), Leah Brown, Kim Arnold (twice), Karin lichey (3 times), Lori Strong, Courtney Kupets (3 times), Kristi Lichey, Katie Heenan, Tiffany Tolnay, and Cassidy McComb. (There may be others we have inadvertently omitted.) What all these athletes had in common was being well above the team average on all four events. In 1991, for instance, Hope Spivey won the NCAA all-around title, but she also was First-Team All-America on vault, bars, beam, and floor. In the past, Georgia’s all-arounders have found themselves in that role because they were highly accomplished on all four events, not because they were anointed as occupants of a special role. Unless a team just happens to have an athlete who is highly accomplished at the college level on all four events, there is no reason to have anyone in that role. It is not a basic role that must be filled. Creating that role apart from the criterion of “exceptional on all four events” is likely to cost valuable tenths of points in team scores.

Other Gym Dogs who should be on the depth charts in various events include Camille Pfister, who has placed as high as 3rd on bars at the JO Nationals; Lindsey Cheek, one of only two returning First-Team All-America honorees; and Laura Moffatt, who did not compete enough to have an RQS on any event in 2011, yet her two appearances on beam yielded a 9.800 and a 9.875, giving her the highest average beam score among all the returning Gym Dogs.

Pfister might or might not add strength on bars, but it appears that she will not be training or competing on the other events, which means that there still would be at least 11 empty positions for Chelsea Davis, Kaylan Earls, and Sarah Persinger to fill. If they can’t, or if the coaches decide to go with lineups consisting of returners who did not perform at the necessary level last season, then the realistic prognosis is for a mediocre season with mostly losses against the top teams. If Kat Ding and Shayla Worley stepped up their games so as to be solid regulars on more than one event, that would help a lot in filling some of those slots. Regarding Kat Ding, individual acclaim on one event is much less valuable to a team than solid contributions on multiple events. Kat has indicated a desire to compete on several events and that should be strongly encouraged by teammates, coaches, and fans. Both Ding and Worley are potential First-Team All-America honorees on multiple events.

Even in the best-case scenario, though, where several returning athletes significantly step up their games, the freshmen will be crucial to the 2012 team’s success. Head Coach Jay Clark surely recognizes that reality; he should do what Coach Sarah Patterson did last season with her young team at Alabama (which included seven freshmen): get those young athletes into the lineup early and often. Let them shake off their freshman anxieties in January. We want them to be seasoned solid regulars by the time the last part of the competitive season arrives. Alabama, of course, won the NCAA Team Championship last season with decisive help from newcomers Sarah DeMeo (first-team All-America on bars), Kim Jacob (first-team All-America on beam and all-around), and Diandra Milliner (second-team All-America on beam).

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The University of Georgia Gymnastics Team, nicknamed the “Gym Dogs,” has a rich tradition of success. At the last official count, 61 gymnasts had earned 313 All-America honors; and Georgia gymnasts had won 38 individual NCAA titles. Georgia leads all US women’s gymnastics programs in the number of NCAA individual titles it has earned; only one other team has more than 25. Georgia also has 10 NCAA Team Championships; and she owns NCAA Championship records for team scores on three of the four apparatuses, as well as the best-ever NCAA Team Championship score of 198.575.

That is a great tradition that athletes, coaches, and fans wish to see continue. Inevitably, a team will have its ups and downs, just as any individual athlete will. That is the nature of athletics! If winning were inevitable, then there would be no point in holding competitions. What we wish for the Gym Dogs is that they continue to give their best, just as those who came before them did.

Thanks for visiting, have a wonderful day, and come back soon!

A Strong Georgia Gym Dogs Tradition
Gym Dogs 2009
Pictured above are the 2009 Gym Dogs meeting with Dr. Michael F. Adams, President of the University of Georgia, following their victory at the 2009 NCAA Championships. Georgia has a strong tradition of being in the hunt for a National Championship year after year. Gym Dog fans would love to see their team continue that tradition in 2012!

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