NEW ORLEANS — Chants of L-S-U serenaded the Smoothie King Center throughout the 2019 SEC Gymnastics Championship.
The largest crowd in the event’s history caused Georgia to be nervous with a shaky start on beam. LSU fans made the one hour-and-fifteen minute trip from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to watch the Tigers win the SEC championship and Georgia finish in fourth place.
“It really just seemed like the environment shook them a little bit,” Georgia head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said.
The GymDogs intend to take the lessons learned from Saturday into the regionals April 4-6 and possibly the NCAA championship. Unlike at the SEC championship, the crowd at regionals will be pro-Georgia because it will be held at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens.
On Saturday, Georgia tied for its second-worst season score on beam, with a 49.050. The only score that was lower came on Jan. 11 against Oklahoma, when Georgia recorded its season-worst 48.825. Georgia also got a 49.050 against Kentucky on Feb. 15.
“Beam is always just kind of a make-or-break event,” senior Sydney Snead said. “The nerves are a little bit higher there.”
On vault and floor, meanwhile, Georgia only had two scores worse than its overall performances on Saturday. The GymDogs had a 49.175 on vault and a 49.300 on floor when it mattered most.
Junior Rachel Dickson took a deep breath on the beam prior to her routine in an attempt to ease the nerves. It fared well for her; Dickson had a season-high on beam. The team, however, couldn’t shake off the crowd and the atmosphere.
Kupets Carter, who competed in the 2004 Olympics, was even impressed by the LSU fans.
“It was great for them to be able to fill up the arena the way they did,” Kupets Carter said.
It wasn’t just the crowd that made a difference. Unlike in dual meets, every team competes simultaneously. The format quickened the pace.
“The judges even seemed to be quicker at scoring,” Kupets Carter said. “And so it just really sped the meet up, which is great. We want that … It’s televised so they’re being told they have to.”
Georgia had some experience competing in a podium meet at Elevate the Stage, but the SEC championship provided a different challenge. Dickson said the team will learn from the speed of the meet.
“I think that’s important to realize,” Dickson said. “Make sure you’re focused and ready to go on time.”