Georgia 2017

Georgia conducted a public intrasquad sneak peek showcase gala preview last Friday, for which a number of videos are available here (with pertinent routines also linked through the post).

I’d characterize these scores, based on the videos I’ve seen, as normal-to-strict, which is what you want at a preseason intrasquad, for the judges to point out potential problem areas through their scores so that it’s not a surprise when your acro series doesn’t get credit in a real meet. The same routines would likely score a little better during the season, so the situation is not as dire and 195 as it might seem from these numbers, though they do highlight a few problem areas.

Ashlyn Broussard
  • Leadoff VT, weekly relatively non-terrifying BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.875, VT – 9.830
Lauren Johnson
  • Returned from injury to compete VT and a few UB routines in 2016
  • 2016 average: VT – 9.810, UB – 9.625
Morgan Reynolds
  • Returned from that weird E. coli thing compete FX in 2016
  • Competed BB in 2014-2015 and VT in 2014
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.819
  • 2015 average: FX – 9.850, BB – 9.746
Beth Roberts
  • Competed VT 8 times in 2015 for a 9.781 average
Rachel Schick
  • Weekly UB and occasional BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.855
  • 2016 average: BB – 9.604
Jasmine Arnold
  • Has not competed a routine in first two years
Vivi Babalis
  • Staple of BB and FX lineups for first two seasons
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.850, BB – 9.805
Gigi Marino
  • Top returning score on VT, FX from 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.905, VT – 9.880
Hayley Sanders
  • Competed one UB routine in 2015 for 9.700
Natalie Vaculik
  • Regular UB contributor, option on VT, heart attack on BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.850, BB – 9.810, VT – 9.755
Caroline Bradford
  • Did not compete in first year
Gracie Cherrey
  • Frequent UB contributor, early-season BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.795
  • 2016 average: BB – 9.269
Sydney Snead
  • Critical VT, UB, FX in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.880, UB – 9.870, FX – 9.850
Rachel Dickson
  • Michigan Elite
  • 2016 JO Nationals 3rd AA, UB champion
Jordyn Pedersen
  • Manjak’s
  • 2014 World Championship alternate
  • 2015 Canadian Nationals, 8th AA
Sabrina Vega
  • GAGE/Dynamic
  • 2011 World Championship team
  • 2011 Nationals, 5th AA

Recent History
2016 – 6th
2015 – 9th
2014 – 5th
2013 – 6th
2012 – 11th
2011 – 9th
2010 – 13th

While it’s still not likely to satisfy Georgia fans who have developed some expectations over the years, Danna Durante has stabilized the team’s results—Super Six three of the last four seasons—and restored a level of quality gymnastics (if not always a level of hitting routines, and we’ll get to beam in a minute).

Making Super Six in the final year of Brandie Jay, Mary Beth Box, and Brittany Rogers was a critical benchmark because it’s going to be quite a bit harder without them. On a couple events, the Gymdogs simply won’t be as good this year. That’s not to say we should throw the whole thing out and just quit. Georgia has plenty of serious routines, may actually end up becoming a top-4 SEC team again this year, and will remain among the compelling contenders to make Super Six, though it does not appear the most likely outcome.

Top returners – Marino (9.880), Snead (9.880)
Returning options – Broussard (9.830), Johnson (9.810), Vaculik (9.755)

Vault is among the areas where we can expect a scoring regression in 2017 given the absence those two 9.9+ vaults from Rogers and Jay. Georgia has relied on those Y1.5s to turn vault into a strength for a while, so now the problem arises, how does it remains a strength to the same degree without them?

Mitigating the problem will be Sydney Snead, the first Dr.-Seuss-character-American to compete in college gymnastics. Oh, the places she’ll go…now that she’s healthy. Because of injury problems last preseason, Snead had to ditch her 1.5, and you could see in every landing of every Yfull that she would clearly rather be doing the 1.5. It’s an excellent vault and should be the team’s top score.

Also expect Gigi Marino to be back with a 1.5. It’s not at Jay/Rogers/Snead level, but it did pick up a number of solid scores last season. Two 10.0 starts looks to be on the lower end of the spectrum among the top teams, but there are other Super Six contenders who will be in the same boat, meaning it’s not exactly a tragedy.

Georgia has enough fulls to round out a lineup, though the question looms as to what level those fulls will actually reach. They need to be not 9.7s. Broussard is the safest bet. She went as high as 9.875 in the leadoff spot with her full last season, and Georgia will need her score again. Beyond Broussard, it’s sort of a snaggle. In the freshman preview, I said Rachel Dickson would be a Broussard-equivalent score on vault, so I have to stand by that. None of us have forgotten Lauren Johnson‘s random SEC-winning 9.975 on vault in 2014, though she has been more like 9.800 since. Still, that keeps the lineup out of the 9.7s.

What do we think about the last spot? That’s a trouble zone. Natalie Vaculik will likely hover around the 6-7 position again this year, and while she can stick her full fairly regularly, she has enough form problems that she’s usually sticking for 9.800, which means the score can get pretty rough when she doesn’t stick. We know Sabrina Vega has the talent, but the tucked Yfull she showed at Friday’s sneak peek did not inspire confidence about her making the lineup.

As for the rest, Morgan Reynolds had a borderline-lineup full back when she competed vault in 2014. Jordyn Pedersen has a full, though her better and more important event is bars. She and Beth Roberts look to be in the “providing depth” category on a team that does have plenty of vaults. But, are those first couple fulls able to score over 9.8 each week? And even if Snead effectively replaces one of the Jay/Rogers scores, who is replacing the other?

Top returners – Snead (9.870), Schick (9.855), Vaculik (9.850)
Returning options – Cherrey (9.795), Johnson (9.625)

Similarly to vault, Georgia has lost its two best bars routines from last season, putting pressure on the team to conjure some new 9.9s from routines that were not 9.9s last season. Of the events at the sneak peek, however, bars did look the farthest along and seemed to have the most realistically 9.850 options of the four events (at this point, with a couple weeks until the season starts).

A big part of keeping pace with last season will be getting regularly high scores from Schick and Snead, two bars workers with tremendous talent who are capable of 9.9s. Schick’s work in particular is always so tantalizing, and then there’s one weird mistake that gives her a 9.825 she had no business getting. Schick and Snead don’t have a safety net in the lineup now. They have to be good every time, though they should have some critical freshman help. Rachel Dickson is quick and precise on bars with excellent rhythm and is going to be a thing. Bars is also where Jordyn Pedersen makes her best case for a lineup, and lovers of big-amplitude Paks will find a home in her routine.

Throw in Natalie Vaculik‘s usually reliable 9.850 (as long as her dismount isn’t too scary), and you have the basis for at least 49.2s and probably more. Ideally, Sabrina Vega would have been a member of this lineup because, you know, she did do bars in a World Championship team final, but she hasn’t competed bars in exactly 28 years and didn’t show a routine at the sneak peek.

Rounding out the options, Gracie Cherrey has ditched the DLO for a double tuck this year, which may help, but with scores usually around 9.800, there may be higher-scoring options bumping her out this year. Like Lauren Johnson, who is not supposed to be a bars worker…until she DLOs like this (though she does have other built-in deductions). Hayley Sanders is supposed to be a bars worker but is always sort of 8th or 9th on the depth chart.

Looking at this Georgia bars squad, I can easily see where a straight lineup of 9.850s comes from. That’s a completely usable score, but to be a truly competitive bars team, we need to see a couple of those more-refined routines prove themselves as regularly repeatable 9.9s and not three-times-a-season 9.9s.

Top returners – Broussard (9.875)
Returning options – Vaculik (9.810), Babalis (9.805), Schick (9.604), Cherrey (9.269)

Buckle up. And then throw yourself directly off Niagara Falls because we’re talking about Georgia’s beam. It was true last year, and it might be even more true this year, that Georgia has absolutely no business being a bad beam team. The beamers on this roster are far too lovely and talented for that. There’s just this thing where they’re physically incapable of hitting routines. Ever. At any time. Unless it’s Super Six last year when they suddenly decided to be good and everyone said, “WHERE HAS THAT BEEN YOU MONSTERS?”

As such, the only person who should definitely come back to this lineup is Broussard. She wasn’t exactly a paragon of sturdiness last year, but she fell only a couple times, so that’s good enough for me. Joining her should be Rachel Dickson, who has some fab potential on beam, Sydney Snead, who has returned to this event after sitting it out last season, and Sabrina Vega, who has always been more impressive on beam than any other event. That new trio is where Georgia’s beam reinvention can come from and is the reason beam seems the most likely event of the four to improve on last season. You know, if they can stay on.

Speaking of whether people can stay on, Rachel Schick is gorgeous on beam. She would have been in the lineup the whole of last season if she had hit even one routine in January, but she did end up deus ex machina-ing the lineup just in time for nationals. If Schick is hitting, she’s a top-six beamer on this squad. I’d actually put Vaculik and Babalis in that category as well. Both tremendously talented, both tending to work beam like it’s made of spikes, lava, spiders, and hard-boiled eggs.

That’s seven people. If six of them were able to go up in competition and do a normal routine, that’s an excellent beam score. We’ll just have to wait and see if it ever happens. Morgan Reynolds will also put herself back in the conversation on beam, and Jordyn Pedersen should be in with a shot, though if she’s really attempting an acro series of side aerial to side somi, that’s going to need a re-think. What are you, Aliya now?

Top returners – Marino (9.905), Snead (9.850), Babalis (9.850)
Returning options – Reynolds (9.825)

Hrm. Kind of sparse, right? I hadn’t really realized it until now, but Georgia has a number of gymnasts on the roster who either don’t do floor anymore (like Schick) or who should have been floor stars and never were (like Broussard), meaning there may not be a ton of depth or room for floor workers to get injured or fallsy. That’s sort of the deal with Georgia these days, but it seems more extreme this year than in the past.

Gigi Marino went through a transformation last year from good floor worker to floor star (a transformation she may need to pass on to someone else this season, a la the moon walk). Her DLO and dance elements were excellent and often worthy of 9.9s.

As on other events, the idea is that a fully in-form Snead will become a more significant score this year in an effort to fill the Box-Jay void. Beyond the big two, Vivi Babalis—even unable-to-do-a-bhs Vivi Babalis of last year—has been a constant in the lineup. Although, her landing consistency was compromised by her lack of back handsprings last season, going sub-9.8 eight times, which the team can’t afford this year.

Of the newbies, the training footage we’ve seen of Vega on floor looks promising, and since she’s always been a performer, she should become an essential component of the lineup as long as her Chronic Elite Syndrome allows her to. Last season, Georgia was given a lift by the return of Morgan Reynolds for an un-flashy yet completely reliable 9.825-9.850 in the leadoff position that took the pressure off of some of the less comfortable floorsies and allowed Brittany Rogers to not have to go all the time. She must fill the exact same role this season.

So that’s five people. There’s also…like…Mary Wollstonecraft and Cardinal Richelieu? I think? I’ve given up on Broussard being a floor worker and no other returning gymnasts have ever competed floor for Georgia, so for routines six and seven, I guess we’re looking to the freshmen Dickson and Pedersen in the hope that they’ll contribute countable scores. Dickson did have a solid double pike/double tuck floor routine in JO, and while comfortably completing floor tumbling was never Pedersen’s strong suit in elite, she did have more than the necessary assortment of elements.

But really, I think Arnold and Roberts going at the sneak peek tells us all we need to know about Georgia’s depth on floor this year.

To stay close to competitive with 49.4-level SEC floor teams, the Gymdogs will need both Snead and Vega to come up big and do so weekly to give Georgia a shot at the necessary three 9.9s. And exactly no one can get injured.

Reason for concern? Sure. This is a team that lost its two best routines on every event and does not have a random chest full of AA queens sitting around ready to replace those numbers. Losing those important vault and floor scores will be difficult to overcome, but the route to doing so looks to run right through finally figuring out beam and letting the excellence on the roster actually emerge for the first time in recorded history.

13 thoughts on “Georgia 2017”

  1. Beth Roberts had at least one exhibition (@ Auburn) on floor during her freshman season.

  2. Dickson can actually do a full-in on floor and it looked quite solid from the JO videos I’ve seen. That’s why I was confused when she didn’t compete it at sneak peek because she should totally be in that line up. Does she have an injury that’s prevented her from training on that event?

  3. FYI — In an interview with Red & Black (I believe) Lauren Johnson (a four-year walk on) talked about returning to UGA as a grad student and competing her redshirt season (due to missing sophomore year). Not sure if she’d walk on or if UGA has a scholarship to find for her…

    Also, I expect Morgan Reynolds to be a regular on UGA beam – she has inherited the famous moonwalk.

    UGA beam:
    Lead-off: Vega
    Second: Reynolds
    Third: Combination of Snead/Valculik/Dickson
    Fourth: Bablis
    Fifth: Broussard
    Sixth: Shick (hopefully she can hit this year because I think she gives them the best scoring potential).

    If any of the bottom three aren’t hitting then if the three gymnasts listed in the “three” slot could fill in if they’re hitting.

    I have this feeling beam may be UGA’s best event this year, but vault and floor will be major low-scoring problems – no falls really just a lot of low 9.6 to 9.7 wish scores, keeping them under-49 too often and in the 195 zone too often.

    1. A couple of things …

      If Johnson comes back, she’ll be a walk on.

      I think the clear beam line up is:


      I love Broussard on beam, I hate that she’s fallen at the last two public intrasquads. I am all for sacrificing a potential 9.9 for a hit 9.8+.

      They also have Vaculik and Sanders in the event someone implodes.

      I disagree about floor being a low scoring event. This year looks to potentially be stronger top to bottom. The scores for sneak peak were closer to JO standards based on who was judging. The returning 4 can all go 9.85+ and three of them have upgraded. In addition to Vega and Petersen/Dickson UGA will have E passes in every routine for the first time since Suzanne. This should be their best event.

      Vault will be lower, but not dire. If Dickson upgrades, that’ll be helpful.

      This will definitely be a rebuilding year, and next year will be a completely different outlook!

  4. I don’t think Georgia is loaded with scoring potential this year but I have this feeling (and have thought for a while) that Durante is underrated as a coach and her efforts at UGA will start to come together starting next year (2018) represented by contending consistently for SEC titles and Super Six appearances.

    1. Yes! This team will be major contenders by 2019. This year’s signing class is considered one of the strongest in the nation and the next class is arguably the strongest with room to get better!

  5. This post definitely made me feel better about the upcoming season and build realistic expectations! I see these girls practice weekly, and they are definitely working extremely hard. However I did have some concerns with the scoring potential of the team considering losing Box, Rogers, and Jay. Snead does look like she’s in the position to score highest on vault, bars, and second on floor, but my main concern is whoever or if someone will match her scores on those other events. Intrasquad was definitely had some good and bad, but hopefully it was just them getting some preseason jitters out.

    1. Slim. If she is going to compete at all this year, it’s likely going to be in one of the next two meets. Since UGA has a double-meet weekend coming up, they may choose to rest an athlete or two in one of the meets. If they rest someone, Bradford could get a shot but I wouldn’t expect it (I think Roberts, Arnold, Reynolds, Sanders, Cherrey etc. would fill those opportunities).

  6. Having watched and been involved in UGA gymnastics since 1973, well before the Suzanne Yoculan era, I thought your pre-season assessment was spot on. The only thing that needs clarification is the last sentence. Please amend the last sentence to read “letting the excellence on the roster actually emerge for the first time in recorded history since Danna Durante began coaching at UGA”.

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