Georgia has hit the postseason exactly how it wants to — with forward momentum and soaring confidence.
The Gym Dogs posted their two highest scores of the year in their final two regular-season meets and will begin today’s Southeastern Conference Championships with their highest ranking of the season at No. 5.
“We’re feeling really good,” Georgia junior Cat Hires said. “We’ve done the physical work, and last week we really delved into the mental aspect of it. We talked about what we can do personally as a team to make our team stronger and make our team more confident and more calm going into the meet. I think that really helps because, as you can see, NC State went pretty well. We’ve got to continue to, like (coach Danna Durante) says, talk the talk but we’ve got to walk the walk, too.”
Georgia (8-6-1) will compete in the evening session of the SEC championships at 7 p.m. today at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark. It is the first meet of championship season for the Gym Dogs. NCAA regionals will be held on April 6.
“I’m really pumped because it feels like what we’ve been doing has been building and building,” Georgia junior Lindsey Cheek said. “It’s like a snowball and it’s just getting bigger and bigger. I’m excited just to go see what we have in store for this weekend. Because I know if we just do what we do every day in practice, we’re going to be perfectly fine.”
Georgia has hit its two highest scores of the season in back-to-back meets leading into SECs. Georgia scored 197.650 to beat then-No. 7 Utah on March 9 in Stegeman Coliseum. The Gym Dogs took their performance a step better when they scored 197.8 to win a dual at NC last Sunday.
“We’re feeling a great deal of confidence right now,” Durante said. “Honestly, it’s been building. We’ve been talking a lot about staying the course and not panicking and not getting too high and not getting too low, but to stay the course and keep plugging away. Their ability to do that, especially on the road, gives you so much more confidence than if you’re doing that at home.”
The end of dual-meet season brings a fundamental change in how teams compete. From now on, meets will include at least six teams with four of them performing at the same time in different events. Georgia has several newcomers who have never been a part of an SEC
meet, including first-year coach Durante. Canadian freshman Brittany Rogers competed in the Olympics last summer but has heard that the SEC meet will be different from what she’s done before.
“We’re not going to have 10,000 people in the crowd wanting you to do well, so that’s going to be different from a home meet,” Rogers said. “It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be constant and go-go-go. The pressure’s going to be high. But I think we’re all going to go in there with a calm, cool and collected mental state and that will take us far. You learn from bad mistakes but you also learn from good things. I think we’re going to take all those good things that happened this past weekend and put it into training and that will transfer over to SECs.”
Georgia has finished third behind Alabama and Florida in the last three SEC championship meets. This year the Gym Dogs will be seeded third behind Florida and Alabama again and ahead of LSU.
“We don’t need to do anything more than what we do here in the gym every single day,” Cheek said. “That’s what we focused on against NC State and it worked. We don’t need to change anything and we don’t need to do anything more. We just need to do what we do in practice.”