Georgia gymnastics competed for the last time in its 2021 campaign on Friday afternoon after failing to clinch a first or second-place finish in the second round of the NCAA Athens Regional.
The GymDogs’ 196.75 final score was a quarter of a tenth of a point shy from advancing them to the regional final, and potentially, the NCAA Championship meet.
Minnesota and Denver posted the two highest scores of the afternoon in Stegeman Coliseum to move onto Saturday’s regional final meet, ousting Georgia and Oregon State in the process.
“Yeah, there's definitely disappointment on [the gymnasts’] faces, and it's okay to be disappointed, we should be,” said head coach Courtney Kupets Carter. “Our goal was to make it through, and so if we weren't disappointed, we wouldn't have cared … we gave Denver a fight, and never let up and I'm very proud of them for that.”
The GymDogs started out strong on their first rotation on floor, earning a total 49.275 in the event. Junior Soraya Hawthorne’s high-energy routine took the highest score of the event with a 9.9, followed closely by Rachel Baumann’s 9.875 score. Junior Megan Roberts earned a 8.5 while Sterlyn Austin and Alyssa Perez-Lugones took a pair of 9.825s each.
Georgia traditionally closes home meets on the floor apparatus in Stegeman Coliseum, but starting the day off on the mat proved successful.
The performance on floor earned Georgia a second-place spot after the first rotation behind Minnesota. The GymDogs stayed behind the Golden Gophers for the remainder of the meet.
On vault, Georgia scored a 49.075 total, led by Roberts’ 9.925. Baumann, Hawthorne and junior Rachael Lukacs each earned a 9.8 in the event, followed closely by Abbey Ward’s 9.75. Following the second rotation, the GymDogs remained in second place, but by a very narrow margin as Denver’s beam performances boosted the Pioneers to within .15 points of Georgia’s overall score.
Despite earning a 49.225 overall score on bars, it was not enough to hold onto the GymDogs’ second-place spot at the end of the third rotation. Sophomore Haley de Jong and senior Marissa Oakley earned a pair of 9.875 scores to lead the event, followed by three 9.825s from the remainder of the lineup.
Denver pulled ahead into the second place slot after posting three scores of 9.9 or higher on floor, despite scratching one routine from the lineup completely. The scoring order of Minnesota, Denver, Georgia and Oregon State after the third rotation remained until the end of the meet.
With a chance to advance to the regional final and possibly even the NCAA Championship on the line, the GymDogs were ultimately unable to pull back ahead of the Pioneers in the fourth and final rotation of the day, scoring 49.175 on beam.
Baumann led the lineup with a 9.9, followed by 9.875 from de Jong. As Denver competed on vault, it was a back-and-forth battle of missteps and unstuck landings between both teams that put the pressure on Oakley’s anchor routine to score a 9.875 or higher to advance to Saturday’s final.
Her routine earned a 9.85, effectively ousting Georgia from the regional competition and ending the GymDogs’ season.
“It's interesting, we talked a lot about .025s all year, like where can you find a quarter of a tenth [point] more, a quarter of a tenth here or there, it's been our actual focus,” Kupets Carter said. “And so to see missing it by an actual quarter of a tenth, it's just very telling that they were all over the place. … But I truly believe that sometimes you need to be kicked down a little bit to really find that heart and motivation, and it just drives you. And so that's what we're going to use for next year.”