Before Georgia gymnastics’ first meet at the Critique Classic Invitational on Jan. 3, news broke that senior all-around gymnast Rachel Dickson would be out for the season after tearing her Achilles in practice.
Dickson, who was the only returning all-around competitor from the 2019 season, left an open spot in all four rotations: vault, bars, beam and floor, as well as an opportunity for other GymDogs to compete in the all-around in 2020.
After the first regular season meet gave a glimpse into what the rotations could look like in 2020, The Red & Black breaks down which up-and-coming GymDogs are likely to emerge in Dickson’s absence on each event:
Vault: Soraya Hawthorne
Hawthorne, a freshman from Memphis, Tennessee, landed a team-high 9.875 on vault at the Critique Classic Invitational. She also vaulted during the First Look event on Dec. 17 in her GymDog debut.
Hawthorne’s strong opening mark showed the potential to help make up for the loss of Dickson’s unique vault. Since Dickson changed her vault to a Yurchenko half-on front pike last season, she became a mainstay in Georgia’s 2019 vault rotation. Dickson scored 9.85 or higher in seven meets and earned the GymDogs’ best vault score last year — a 9.975.
Bars: Loulie Hattaway
Hattaway, one of three freshmen to have counting scores on bars in the season’s first meet, led the way with a 9.75. The bars specialist from Blakely, Georgia, also debuted during First Look and will provide depth on the event where Georgia seeks consistency after falling outside the top 10 on bars in 2019.
With Dickson’s absence, Georgia has more fresh faces in an already-young bars lineup. During the First Look event, Dickson tied with sophomore Megan Roberts for the highest score at the preseason meet with a 9.85.
Beam: Haley de Jong
Dickson’s absence leaves a chance for de Jong to get a regular spot in the beam rotation. The freshman from Vancouver, Canada, improved from her 9.8 during First Look to a 9.825 at the Critique Classic Invitational, tied for Georgia’s second-best score in the event.
The GymDogs return the most experience on beam, where four of the five counting scores at the Critique Classic Invitational came from returning gymnasts. Beam was Georgia’s best rotation at its first meet, earning a 49.2.
Floor: Alyssa Perez-Lugones
The sophomore from Duluth, Georgia, competed floor four times in 2019 but was sidelined after suffering a concussion midway through the season. Perez-Lugones reached a career-high 9.85 against Florida last year and will look to help replace Dickson’s floor routine, which earned a 9.9 or higher nine times in 2019.
Perez-Lugones’ first floor routine of the 2020 season earned a 9.7 at the Critique Classic Invitational, as she and Hawthorne made up two of the five counting scores from the GymDogs’ first meet.
All-around: Sabrina Vega
Vega, Dickson’s only fellow senior on the team, competed in the all-around for the first time as a GymDog in this season's First Look event. During First Look, Vega earned the highest score on vault, beam and floor — all three of her returning events — and debuted a bars routine.
Vega did not compete in all four events during the Critique Classic Invitational due to illness, but she did contribute counting scores on bars (9.65) and beam (9.8).