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Abbey Ward, a freshman from Winter Green, Florida, high-fives assistant coach Jason Vonk after completing a successful vault during the University of Georgia the gymnastics first look event on Dec. 8, 2018 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. The gymdogs season gets started in earnest in January; the first home meet is January 5, 2019 against Ohio State at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

The Georgia gymnastics team fell to LSU in its first SEC matchup of the season on Jan. 10. Heading into the GymDogs' next meet on Jan. 20 against Iowa State, here are three takeaways from The Red & Black: 

Making strides on beam

The GymDogs started strong on balance beam in 2020, posting two consistent performances in their first two meets. The beam lineup earned a 49.225 against LSU on Jan. 10, improving from a 49.2 earned in its first meet at the Critique Classic Invitational on Jan. 3 in Orlando, Florida. Georgia returns experience on the event, with senior Sabrina Vega serving as a consistent anchor at the end of the rotation. Vega scored 9.9 on Jan. 10, improving from a 9.8 the week before. Sophomore Rachel Baumann is another regular performer on beam and counted a 9.875 against LSU. Freshman Haley de Jong’s Stegeman Coliseum debut earned a 9.875 as well. Georgia’s first two performances on beam rank it at No. 5 on the event according to RoadToNationals, improving upon its No. 9 standing on beam at the end of 2019.

Abbey Ward lands her vault

Vault specialist Abbey Ward earned her first collegiate 9.9 on vault during the GymDogs’ home opener on Jan. 10. Ward, the only Georgia gymnast in the lineup performing a Tsuk full, improved from a 9.775 earned in the GymDogs’ first meet. Throughout her freshman campaign in 2019, Ward peaked with a 9.85 three times and never scored below 9.75. She was a consistent contributor in last season’s vault lineup, notching a 9.8 or higher for 10 of her 13 vaults. Ward’s mark contributed to Georgia’s 49.325 team total on vault against LSU. Fellow sophomore Rachael Lukacs also contributed a 9.9 to the overall vault score, which improved from a 48.675 earned at the Critique Classic Invitational to a 49.325 at home. Georgia’s vault rotation ranks No. 13 in the NCAA, according to RoadToNationals.

The future is freshmen

Freshmen accounted for five of the GymDogs’ 20 counting scores on Jan. 10 and also led the way on two rotations — floor and bars. Soraya Hawthorne’s electrifying floor routine went 9.95 and tied with fellow GymDogs Vega and Lukacs for first place across both teams. Hawthorne also counted a 9.825 on vault, setting herself up as one of Georgia’s strongest competitors on both power events. Freshmen made a significant contribution in the GymDogs’ young bars rotation, where freshman de Jong’s 9.8 led Georgia on the event. Fellow freshman Amanda Cashman tied for the GymDogs’ second-best bars score, earning a 9.75 alongside sophomore Megan Roberts. de Jong’s beam score was the fifth contributing score earned by a freshman.

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