The Georgia gymnastics team placed second in the final meet of the NCAA Athens Regional on April 6, but celebrations were fleeting as the GymDogs soon began preparing for their final postseason showing of the year.
A year ago, the GymDogs went into the postseason ranked No. 18 and climbed their way to the No. 7 spot to end 2018. This year, the GymDogs have found themselves with the third-best regional score of 198.05. They are now looking to prove that Georgia gymnastics belongs at the top once again like it did when the program rattled off five straight national titles from 2005-’09.
“I think a lot of the teams going are a little shocked and surprised by us,” junior Rachel Dickson said. “We just have so much to bring.”
In a week, the squad will pack up and head to the 2019 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, where Georgia is once again regarded among the nation’s elite programs after its elite regional score.
“It’s not over until the very last event, every 10th counts, and anything can happen,” Dickson said
Dickson’s line is the team’s mantra moving into nationals, and it is the mindset that carried the team through the NCAA Athens Regional, where the GymDogs were in third place heading into their third rotation.
Dickson said bars and vault will be imperative for the GymDogs during the upcoming meets. The team is ranked 11th on bars and fourth on vault nationally, as of April 10.
Bars has been especially hit or miss for the GymDogs this season, but in the last four to five weeks of the season, the team has been trending upward. Since its March 8 appearance at Elevate the Stage, Georgia has consistently scored a 49.225 or higher on bars.
“I think our strongest event is vault,” Dickson said. “But bars is a silent killer.”
In order for the team to hit bars as well as it needs to, Dickson said the GymDogs need to start off strong and build momentum.
Georgia hosted the NCAA Athens Regional at Stegeman Coliseum. While the meet was not exactly the same as a regular season home meet, the GymDogs did have the advantage of Stegeman Coliseum being filled mostly with their own fans.
“I think everyone just had a little more confidence, and being in the home arena helped a lot too,” Dickson said.
A sea of red filling the stands probably won’t be present when the GymDogs take the floor in Fort Worth, 887 miles from Athens. However, Dickson knows from experience that nationals is one of the loudest, most fun meets of the year.
Dickson said the key to building momentum in a large arena on a national stage is channeling the energy in the building and staying invested in each other, even if there is only a small pocket of Georgia fans.
"This team really thrives off that energy,” head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said.