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Georgia’s Sabrina Vega hypes up the crowd while being introduced. The University of Georgia beat Auburn 197.425-196.350 on Feb. 2, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Despite suffering multiple injuries during the week and being forced to make changes to every event’s lineup, Georgia gymnastics took home a first-place 197.075 in a Valentine’s Day tri-meet Friday night that featured season and career debuts for multiple GymDogs.

Georgia earned the highest score of the night with a 197.075, topping Ball State’s 194.725 and Eastern Michigan’s 194.7.

“This team rallied around,” head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said. “There's a lot of fight in them. They love this sport, they love this school and they love their team. It's really nice to see all those things, and that’s what makes meets like these happen after something that hits your heart a little hard.”

Absent from the meet were freshman Amanda Cashman and junior Marissa Oakley. Cashman suffered a season-ending Achilles tear on Thursday during an intrasquad practice just six meets into her college career. Cashman shares the same fate as senior Rachel Dickson, who tore her Achilles in the days leading up to Georgia’s start to the 2020 season.

Oakley intended to compete on Friday night, but a decision from Kupets Carter during warmups took Oakley’s name from the roster. The main factor in Kupets Carter’s decision was a shoulder injury Oakley has been nursing for most of the season.

Opening the meet on vault, Georgia scored a 49.3, with Mikayla Magee and Rachael Lukacs leading the event with a pair of 9.9s.

On bars, the GymDogs shuffled the lineup, as Oakley and Cashman could not compete. Instead, junior Emily Schild (9.675) made her 2020 debut in the event after suffering a knee injury in 2019, and senior Sabrina Vega competed in the lineup’s anchor spot, performing on bars for the first time since she suffered a fall in the Jan. 10 meet against LSU. Vega’s 9.525 did not count in the final bars score.

Bars has been an event Georgia struggled with at the beginning of the year but has made strides to improve. Megan Roberts led the event with a 9.9 and ushered Georgia into a score of 48.875 overall.

On beam, the absence of consistent competitor Oakley shifted the rotation once again, as spots were shuffled and freshman Soraya Hawthorne took Oakley’s place for her first beam performance as a GymDog. Georgia earned a 49.4 overall score in the event, led by Rachel Baumann’s season-high 9.95 performance.

Finishing on floor, Sterlyn Austin made her GymDog debut as Georgia earned a 49.5 total in the event.

“There was no way this team was going to let the meet continue on a path that wasn't going to set Sterlyn up for a great competition on floor,” Kupets Carter said. “They’ve really rallied behind her. … They see how hard she works.”

Vega earned her fifth 9.95 score of the seasson on floor to finish the meet.

“We are such a strong team, and the family bond we have together is incredible,” Baumann said. “It amazed me just watching us build off of each routine, one after another. It was amazing to see our team grow like that.”

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