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GymDog Sabrina Vega competes on floor 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)

Sabrina Vega woke up at 7 a.m. on Friday morning to start putting on competition makeup and doing her hair. Instead of stuffing her backpack with chemistry books for class, the junior pre-med student prepared for a 9:30 a.m. call time and noon training session.

“I had to skip class, which kind of hurt my heart,” Vega said with a chuckle. “I really do love going to school.”

The GymDog shifted her busy class schedule around a 2 p.m. start time for the first session of round two at the NCAA Athens Regional. But counting three scores of at least 9.9 and tying two career highs in Georgia’s first-place finish on Friday afternoon was probably worth taking the day off from school.

Vega built on scores throughout her three events, vault, beam and floor. A powerful Yurchenko full vault tied a career-high 9.9. Vega’s smooth beam routine earned a 9.925. Vega’s electrifying floor exercise tied another career high at 9.975 and rounded out a solid first showing at regionals.

Two of the four judges raised a “10” after Vega stuck her final pass on floor, bringing a slimmer-than-usual Stegeman Coliseum crowd into a frenzy. Two other marks of 9.95 kept the junior from earning her first perfect 10, but to Vega, the score held just as much value.

“Honestly, it’s really surreal,” Vega said. “Having moments like that really does make all those hard days where you’re sore and you’re crawling out of the gym after a hard workout — it really makes it worth it.”

She continued to serve as the GymDogs’ solid anchor on both beam and floor. A 9.925 on beam Friday matched her national qualifying score that’s good for No. 8 nationally, and her 9.93 floor NQS stands at No. 13 in the nation.

Vega contributed one of the vault lineup’s three scores of 9.9 or higher, aiding Georgia’s season-high 49.5 on the event. Assistant coach Jason Vonk focuses mainly on vault and had been working all season to hit that peak, which catapulted morale through the meet.

“Coming out on vault was absolutely fantastic,” head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said. “We nailed that from the very beginning.”

Vega and the rest of the Georgia gymnastics team face a quick turnaround between this afternoon’s session and tomorrow’s Athens regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday evening, but the GymDogs have prepared for the physical challenge all season through weekly intrasquad meets.

Following an ice-down this evening and warm-ups tomorrow, Vega expects another round of top-notch competition from her team.

“Once the adrenaline kicks in, we’re ready to go,” Vega said.

No. 8 Georgia will be joined by No. 9 Kentucky and the top two teams from Friday evening’s meet between No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 15 California, No. 28 Maryland and No. 31 North Carolina State in the final session of regional competition Saturday. The top two scoring teams at the Athens regional final will head to the 2019 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship in Fort Worth, Texas, April 19 and 20.

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