Georgia head coach Courtney Kupets-Carter speaks to an assistant coach during a meet against Utah at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Georgia GymDogs defeated the Utah Red Rocks 197.525 to 197.450. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

Despite their tri-meet winning score of 197.075 on Feb. 14, the GymDogs faced challenges from injuries that forced changes within the lineups. These changes could potentially be points of concern for the remainder of the season.

Bars became the first significant obstacle for the GymDogs last week. Freshman Amanda Cashman’s season-ending Achilles tear and junior Marissa Oakley’s continuously-monitored shoulder pain during 2020 took them both out of the lineup.

The GymDogs had only five athletes that had been consistent with full routines compete bars, as senior Sabrina Vega’s bars routine did not have a 10.0 start value. Head coach Courtney Kupets Carter didn’t allow this situation to change Georgia’s mindset.

“Alright,” Kupets Carter said when Oakley was pulled from the lineup after warmups. “We’re going to go with five athletes, and we’re going to be great.”

Junior Emily Schild made her 2020 debut on bars and Vega competed for the first time since her fall on Jan. 10 to fill lineup gaps. The GymDogs earned a 48.875 to make their lowest score on bars since Jan. 10.

Kupets Carter considers two factors when it comes to injuries: whether the injury is affecting how the gymnast does the skill and if it’s progressively getting worse. Both factors were affected at Friday’s meet.

“The communication is really big,” Kupets Carter said. “I don’t know what they’re feeling and can’t make those decisions without having their honest feedback.”

Kupets Carter decided to have Schild warm up on bars during the floor warmup. Assistant coach Josh Overton said it was the best bar warm up Schild had ever done.

Kupets Carter is familiar with the competitiveness that flows when the GymDogs are forced to step up under pressure, and she placed Schild into the bars lineup.

“I’m thankful that we have athletes that are still pushing and working on every event to get their routines together for moments like that,” Kupets Carter said.

Sophomore Sterlyn Austin also made her GymDog debut after suffering a fractured shin during the 2019 season.

“We know that they’re going to try to put the best people forward, and I think everyone’s just happy that I finally got a chance to get out there,” Austin said.

Distraction from the bars lineup didn’t impact the floor competitors, even though that lineup was also without Cashman.

“[Kupets Carter] told us just to focus on what you have to do and build the momentum for floor so I could have a great first meet,” Austin said. “They did that. They did an amazing job with that.”

Despite conflicts with injuries, the gymnasts are buckling down to improve individual skills that will better them in the process.

Kupets Carter hopes the GymDogs will rise above the challenges that may stand in their way as the GymDogs travel to Kentucky on Feb. 21.

When asked how uncertainty with lineups challenges the gymnasts, Kupets Carter says it does the opposite.

“The adversity this team is facing is making them the team they are,” she said.

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