Vault, bars performances push Gym Dogs to win over Denver on Senior Night

Danna Durante had her score sheet packet rolled up, anxiously passing it between her hands and hitting it through her partially clinched fists during Saturday’s post-meet interviews.

The score sheet showed No. 5 Georgia’s 197.025-195.825 win over No. 20 Denver on Senior Night and the team’s highest vault score of the season (49.625). But it also showed inconsistencies on beam and floor, as the Gym Dogs had to count a fall on floor.

“We obviously haven’t worked out all of the kinks, so we’re going to have to work out all of the kinks,” Durante said.

The Gym Dogs collected nine 9.9-plus scores through vault and bars (49.6), but just two through floor (48.725) and beam (49.075), which included senior Lindsey Cheek’s uncharacteristic sub-9.9 score after she missed a required leap connection and wound up with a 9.475.

“She never misses, ever. I’ve never seen her miss that,” Durante said. “Her leg just kind of gave out as she landed the switch leap. She was a little off. I told her, ‘A good lesson to learn today and now you know your backup.’

“That was kind of how today went on the last two events.”

Cheek, who along with fellow seniors Cat Hires and Kaylan Earls were honored before the meet, matched her career-high performance on bars with a 9.975, drawing a 10 out of one judge and a 9.95 out of the other.

“We didn’t exactly do what we’ve been doing in practice, but to go 197-plus with a fall is extremely incredible,” Cheek said.

Hires set a new career-high on bars for the second consecutive week and, like Cheek, earned a 10 from one judge — a first for her — and a 9.9 from the other, leaving her with a 9.95. Hires’ eyes filled with tears after she stuck her landing.

“That was pretty awesome, getting a 10,” she said. “It was wonderful. It was just the best feeling in the world and just knowing that my team was there right behind me and just getting to share it with them was just awesome.”

Slips on floor by Mary Beth Box, who wound up with a 9.025, and Brandie Jay, who scored a 9.275, left Georgia with a 48.725, well below its season average of 49.14.

“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves,” said Earls, who scored a 9.9 on floor and 9.875 on beam. “Just go back in the gym and fix those little mistakes. It’s just a fluke. We haven’t done that all season, so just go in there and build that confidence again and come out strong.”

Despite counting a fall on floor and a less-than-ideal beam turnout, the Gym Dogs (6-4, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) still managed to cross the 197 mark, though Hires said she thought they missed out on an entire point between the mistakes on floor and beam.

Durante said the Gym Dogs need to stay in the moment on their beam dismounts and tumbling passes on floor to make sure they are collecting every 10th of a point they can, especially with a road meet against No. 6 Utah looming on March 15, SEC championships on March 22 and NCAA regionals on April 5.

“I think we need to go in there (against Utah) with a chip on our shoulder and say, ‘Alright, let’s go,’” Durante said. “ Absolutely cross (the finish line) sprinting still. That’ll be what I’m dreaming about tonight and tomorrow and the next night. We need to spring across that finish line.”

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