Chelsea Davis is a reliable anchor.
She has become a steadfast weight for the No. 6 Gym Dogs’ uneven bars lineup, averaging a 9.905 this season.
“It’s not luck every single time,” senior Lindsey Cheek said of Davis. “It’s really her hard work that she puts in every single day that makes her so consistent in competition.”
She has posted her career-high score (9.975) this season, coming against then-No. 2 LSU on Jan. 17, posted less than a 9.9 just once in five meets and climbed the national bars rankings to No. 3.
All with a new dismount Davis began toying around with in the offseason.
The junior’s dismount last season was a fullout, a half-in, half-out twisting of the body that would occasionally put stress on Davis’ tender left knee. Enter the double layout dismount.
“I just thought that changing my dismount would be a good challenge,” she said. “In the beginning it was kind of just something to play around with and then I started to really like it and started picking it up pretty good. We just stuck with it for a while to see if it would maybe stick for the season.”
Sticking is exactly what she has done this season, as has Georgia’s entire bar lineup, which is ranked No. 1 in the country and consists of Brandie Jay, Cat Hires, Kiera Brown, Cheek, Brittany Rogers and Davis. Last week against No. 3 Florida, the Gym Dogs posted the program’s highest score on bars (49.60) since 1999.
“We’re determined to hit those routines and make them as best as we can in practice every single day in practice, and I think that’s really contributing to those huge scores that we’re getting on bars,” said Cheek, who put up her career-high bars score (9.975) last week.
Davis said the double layout dismount and the 2014 season has brought with it a new focus for her and an ability to block out external pressures.
But the stuck landings haven’t gone anywhere.
“I’m just always really excited that I can bring home another good one for the team and hit my best for them,” Davis said.
Danna Durante earned even more respect from her team last week.
Georgia was on the verge of an upset last week at Florida when it led after three rotations, but the Gators turned out back-to-back 10s on floor as the balance beam gave the Gym Dogs fits.
Freshmen Ashlyn Broussard and Morgan Reynolds began Georgia on beam, but both fell.
Durante, whose team hosts No. 20 Kentucky at 4 p.m. today, made no excuses on her post-meet radio show, quickly taking blame for the mistakes, which forced Georgia to count its first fall of the season.
“First of all, I take total responsibility,” Durante said after the meet against Florida. “We had two freshmen leading us off. They’ve done a great job elsewhere, but they’ve not really had to compete with 10,000 fans. There’s no question it can get you a little bit rattled. Totally my fault for not preparing them the way they need to be prepared.”
The two falls resulted in a 48.45 on beam.
But Durante’s comments after struck a chord with Cheek.
“Some coaches don’t take the blame if their athlete falls, but I think it was really big of her and shows what kind of a coach that she is to right off the bat take the blame for that and maybe say she didn’t prepare the freshmen as much as she should have …,” Cheek said. “So I think that was really, really big of her. It shows her character.”
Cheek said the Gym Dogs (2-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) went into the gym this week on a mission to regain confidence on beam, trying to help the freshmen build up a tolerance for nerve-racking circumstances.
“Really it’s just getting to know competition situations and putting that pressure on everyone,” she said. “The only way you get there in competition and handling the pressure is if you experience it. We’ve been doing our competition lineup and putting a little pressure on everyone so we can really experience that and be more prepared for the coming up meets.”
Rachel G. Bowers: twitter.com/rachelgbowers