There‚Äôs a consensus among the three senior Gym Dogs and their coach, Danna Durante.
Cat Hires will be the first to shed tears during Senior Night, which is marked with No. 5 Georgia‚Äôs 4 p.m. meet today against No. 20 Denver.
‚ÄúCat. No question,‚Äù Durante said.
‚ÄúOn the day of, Cat,‚Äù fellow senior Lindsey Cheek said.
‚ÄúI would say me,‚Äù Hires said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm the most emotional one about everything.‚Äù
But Cheek and Kaylan Earls had the waterworks come early, thinking about their last dual meet at Stegeman Coliseum.
‚ÄúKaylan got pretty emotional last week,‚Äù Hires said. ‚ÄúWe were just in our meeting before the meet and she was just like, ‚ÄòI‚Äôm so thankful.‚Äô She teared up and it was surprising.‚Äù
Cheek broke down during an interview with GTV last week.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm the only one who cried in the interviews and that was very unexpected and everybody was kind of shocked,‚Äù said Cheek, whose regional qualifying scores are 9.915 on vault, 9.93 on bars and 9.895 on beam.
It was just seven months ago when the Gym Dogs (5-4, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) held their first team meeting of the season and each of the seniors expressed a nervousness and concern about their abilities to lead.
‚ÄúThey were all nervous and we said, ‚ÄòYou know what, guys? Just go with your instinct and that‚Äôs our job to teach you and mentor you and help you,‚Äô‚Äù Durante said. ‚ÄúI think they‚Äôve done an amazing job.‚Äù
Hires is the emotionally supportive prong of the seniors‚Äô trident. Cheek sticks with her businesslike approach, leading by example. Earls and her vocal cords have had no problem holding her teammates accountable. Earls came in as a freshman, shy and carrying a timid voice. But that‚Äôs not the case after nearly four years. She called her team out after the Gym Dogs lost at Alabama about a month ago. They have responded, and are now riding a two-meet winning streak.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs different when somebody that doesn‚Äôt talk much comes out and says something so powerful, you really hear it,‚Äù said Earls, whose RQS are 9.91 on beam and 9.855 on beam.
There are the memories: Running out of the tunnel of Stegeman Coliseum before their first meet, earning a spot in the Super Six last season for the first time since 2009, the long road trips with the team, coming back from injury to earn a spot in the lineups, team meetings.
There are the struggles: A coaching change halfway through their four-year journey, injuries, aches and pains, postseason shortcomings.
‚ÄúWe just think it‚Äôs crazy how fast it‚Äôs gone,‚Äù said Hires, whose RQS are 9.83 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.83 on floor. ‚ÄúWe remember running out of the tunnel for the first time and this is our last time. It helps that we have regionals here, so it‚Äôs not quite our last meet in Stegeman, it‚Äôs just our last Gym Dog meet. It‚Äôs depressing, but we‚Äôre just going to enjoy it and make it our best meet yet.‚Äù
Georgia hosts an NCAA regional meet April 5, a jumpoff point for the rest of the postseason. But today, as Hires said, is their last ‚ÄúGym Dog meet.‚Äù
‚ÄúAlthough it‚Äôs a sad time, I know they won‚Äôt and we won‚Äôt give ourselves time to grieve at this point because we‚Äôre not done,‚Äù Durante said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not even close to being done.‚Äù
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