Georgia has gotten off to fast starts in every meet so far this season.
A big reason for those impressive beginnings is the Gym Dogs’ high scores on the vault.
“Vault has definitely been one of our strongest events this year,” Georgia junior Cat Hires said. “We’ve been very consistent and we’ve had far higher scores on that event. In past years we’ve had really high scores too. It’s one of those events where you can really go hard. If you get a good vault, you’re going to get a good landing, so you just go as hard as you can. It’s awesome, and it starts the energy off in a meet.”
No. 9 Georgia (3-1) will face No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 7 LSU, No. 16 Oregon State and unranked Washington at the Metroplex Challenge in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. First flip is scheduled for 8 p.m.
“I think it’s going to be really good for us, going to a meet like this,” Georgia coach Danna Durante said. “It’s going to be good preparation for SECs and nationals because it’s on podium. It’s good preparation for regionals and nationals because you have multiple teams. We’re going to take as much out of it as we can and we get to go in a different order and that’s also good training.”
Georgia began the week ranked No. 5 in the nation on vault with a 49.258 average. That number doesn’t yet include the 49.4 that the Gym Dogs scored lat Monday against Stanford. The Stanford scores will count in next week’s rankings released on Monday morning.
“That 49.4 is just an awesome score,” Georgia sophomore Sarah Persinger said. “That’s the kind of score you’d like to see later in the season when things are really starting to matter, like toward SECs and nationals. The fact that we can hit that kind of score this early and feel confident in ourselves, that’s just amazing.”
The secret to Georgia’s high vault scores has been its consistency through the lineup. Returning All-American Lindsey Cheek is Georgia’s highest-ranking vaulter at No. 18 with a 9.875 average that doesn’t yet include the 9.925 she hit against Stanford. Hires has hit 9.925 against Oklahoma and 9.9 against Arkansas. Freshmen Brittany Rogers and Brandie Jay also hit 9.9 against Stanford.
“We’ve got really good vaulters,” Durante said. “There was a point in the fall when we weren’t sure how good we were going to be but they kept at it and kept gaining confidence. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve got Cheek who is an All-American and Cat Hires, who is just phenomenal. We added a couple of freshmen in Rogers and Jay who are really good at it.”
The vault is one of the first two events in a dual meet and the home team’s leadoff event. It is a leg-driven event that requires energy but not too much energy that might cause a gymnast to overshoot the landing.
“It’s hard to balance, especially at the beginning of the season when the nerves are up,” Hires said. “But you learn to balance it and you learn how to cope with it by the end of the season. Early in the season we prefer that you have aggressive mistakes because they’re easier to correct than holding back and landing short.”
Georgia has used the same lineup in the same order in all four meets so far this season, Chelsea Davis at leadoff, followed by Persinger, Cheek, Rogers, Hires and Jay. The lowest score the Gym Dogs have counted has been a 9.775.
“So far this season, we’re doing amazing,” Persinger said. “In the fall we were a little worried about it because there wasn’t much depth. But we really zoned in on it and we kept working on it and we persevered. We’ve got a lot of really strong vaults working right now. We’ve got a lot of power and we’ve got big vaults and our landings are just going to get better as the season goes on. We’ve already put out amazing vault scores and I’m really proud of the team for that.”
Georgia at Metroplex Challenge
WHEN: 8 p.m.
WHERE: Fort Worth Convention Center Arena, Fort Worth, Texas.
PARTICIPANTS: Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon State and Washington.
RANKINGS: Oklahoma is No. 2, LSU is No. 7, Georgia is No. 9, Oregon State is No. 16 and Washington is unranked.
NOTEWORTHY: This will be the first time Georgia will see former head coach Jay Clark who is an assistant at LSU. … Georgia has already faced Oklahoma once this season and lost 196.4-195.425 in the season-opener in Stegeman Coliseum on Jan. 5. … Georgia is ranked No. 5 in the nation on vault and uneven parallel bars, No. 12 on balance beam and No. 29 on floor exercise. … Chelsea Davis is ranked No. 4 on bars (9.892) and Shayla Worley is No. 10 on beam. … Georgia comes off of a season-high 197.0 points on Monday against Stanford. … Georgia has never competed in the state of Texas before. … Georgia has two athletes from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Christa Tanella (Lucas) and Kati Breazeal (Allen). Davis is also a Texas product from Austin. … All four of Georgia’s anchors scored 9.9 on Monday against Stanford, Brandie Jay (vault), Davis (bars), Kaylan Earls (beam) and Worley (floor). … Noel Couch has missed the first four meets with a thumb injury. She is questionable for Saturday.