Haley De Jong
2021 – 18th
2020 – 12th
2019 – 8th
2018 – 7th
2017 – 11th
2016 – 6th
2015 – 9th
2014 – 5th
2013 – 6th
2012 – 11th
2021 IN REVIEW
Georgia’s 18th-place result in 2021 marked the team’s lowest finish since it joined NCAA competition in 1983. So there’s that. While Georgia did snatch three home wins in conference meets, including one over eventual conference champion Alabama, the regular season road results were less impressive, peaking at just 196.375 and keeping Georgia ranked 7th in the conference. Not helping: An untimely COVID withdrawal from the SEC Championship temporarily halting the season right before the elimination meets.
But this is Georgia. An 18th-place finish to an 18th-place season isn’t going to cut it, no matter the circumstances.
Marissa Oakley – UB, BB
Sterlyn Austin – FX
THE NEW ONES
Georgia brings in three new athletes this year, but there remains quite a bit of uncertainty over how much they’ll actually appear, a significant factor in determining the team’s competitiveness. At Saturday’s preview, only Riley Milbrandt performed as part of the backup lineup on bars, and we saw nothing from Sarah Cohen and Maeve Hahn.
Ideally, Sarah Cohen would bring a lineup-ready floor routine, featuring a comfortable full-in, as well as an option on bars and beam to boost the realistic depth there. Hahn, a one-time junior elite, hasn’t reached those same levels since the 2018 season, but theoretically she should be able to bring some beam and bars, which the roster needs right now. While none of the first years are expected to be WOW STARS, Georgia really does need to get something from them this season to reinforce what is a semi-small and semi-injured roster.
This week, Georgia also announced three new gymnasts for the 2023 season, in addition to the three who had already signed in November, signaling a recognition that the roster needs some real expansion beyond this year’s seniors, who will have to do much of the work (potentially contributing half the routines) in 2022.
While Georgia’s first look on Saturday had shining moments, it just wasn’t different enough from last season to expect some dramatic shift in results—save for the presence of Victoria Nguyen rolling around on one of those leg-injury scooters, which could signal a shift in the wrong direction. With Georgia’s current conference peers like Missouri bringing in an excellent first-year class and Auburn bringing in Suni Lee, there’s real concern that Georgia could get left in the dust.
It has always been clear that Kupets will be allowed more wiggle room than other coaches would because she’s the greatest college gymnast of all time, but it’s also worth noting that Danna Durante got five seasons before the axe, and Kupets is now entering her fifth season with results that are clearly weaker than Durante’s. Is Georgia content to finish in the double digits and the bottom half of the conference again, or not? There needs to be a new and consistent sign of life this season, more than just a friendly home result here and there before a quiet exit.
2021 Event Ranking: 11
|Lineup locks: Megan Roberts, Soraya Hawthorne, Rachel Baumann, Abbey Ward|
|Lineup options: Mikayla Magee, Rachael Lukacs, Amanda Cashman, Haley De Jong, Nhyla Bryant|
The most encouraging news for Georgia this season comes out of the vault lineup. This event should be consistently competitive with most of the teams in the conference and should easily remain the best rotation of the four. Megan Roberts returns with her Y1.5 that was the strongest on the team last year, and while Soraya Hawthorne did not show a vault at the first look, she did show beam and floor, and her Y1.5 will surely be called upon. In upgrade news, Rachel Baumann has added a Y1.5 this season that looks viable and that Georgia hopes can act as a tangible boost to this lineup. Abbey Ward’s Tsuk 1/1 has been a mainstay in the six for her first three years, and that should continue in her senior season.
In best-case-scenario news, you’d have Mikayla Magee in this lineup because her Y1.5 form is the best on the entire team, but she was able to vault her 1.5 only a couple times last season, and without a tremendous amount of consistency. It’s essential that Georgia get that vault into the lineup when it matters if the team is going to rack up the big vault scores. It remains to be seen whether the Rachael Lukacs DTY is coming back (she went with a 1.5 at the first look that was a little in-betweeny), but even if she’s going with a full, I probably want that in the lineup for its amplitude. Georgia should also have viable backup Yfull options from the likes of De Jong and Cashman, so this lineup looks to be on the right track, with the requisite number of 10.0 starts and enough competitive fulls to keep these scores in line with nationals-level teams.
2021 Event Ranking: 21
|Lineup locks: Megan Roberts, Haley De Jong|
|Lineup options: Victoria Nguyen, Katie Finnegan, Emily Schild, Abbey Ward, Amanda Cashman, Rachel Baumann, Loulie Hattaway, Sarah Cohen, Maeve Hahn, Riley Milbrandt|
Greater concerns start to crop up on bars, where Georgia will no longer have Marissa Oakley and is potentially without Victoria Nguyen as well depending on what plays out with her injury. Those were two of Georgia’s best bars routines last season, leaving a pit in the current lineup that needs to be filled by…TBA.
Megan Roberts and Haley De Jong return as lineup locks with the best routines, ones that should be going over 9.800 every time with occasional 9.9s. Beyond them, the roster has plenty of options for routines and shouldn’t struggle to muster a six, the concern being whether there are gymnasts in that group who can get more than a 9.750 with any regularity. Interestingly, Abbey Ward has been a last-resort option for this event (she went twice last season for 9.5s), but her bars routine on Saturday was the best apart from Roberts and De Jong. Don’t be shocked if she gets into the lineup for realsies.
In the interest of consistency, I imagine we’ll see a lot of Katie Finnegan and Amanda Cashman. There are some formies in their routines, but you should get hits out of them (and Finnegan’s straddle Pak isn’t particularly visible from the side angle). In riskier choices, Rachel Baumann has a routine with technically few issues, but bars has always been the question mark for her, and there was that time she got an 8.0 last season. And then there’s Emily Schild. Talent, no question. Recruited to be a bars anchor. But dismounting is going to be an adventure for her at this point. Like Magee on vault, Georgia really does need to get a couple good bars routines from Schild at the counting meets. If Georgia had Roberts, De Jong, Nguyen, and Schild with a dismount, you can see the makings of a competitive lineup this year…but how likely is it?
2021 Event Ranking: 24
|Lineup locks: Rachel Baumann, Mikayla Magee, Haley De Jong|
|Lineup options: Soraya Hawthorne, Katie Finnegan, Emily Schild, Nhyla Bryant, Victoria Nguyen, Alyssa Perez-Lugones, Megan Roberts, Rachael Lukacs, Maeve Hahn, Sarah Cohen|
Concerns on beam for Georgia this season are more about depth than talent level because there are some quite excellent beamers on this team. Baumann, Magee, and De Jong all have 9.9-level work (when Magee doesn’t get a 9.9, it’s the lineup order’s fault), and they can drive up the scores to a pretty competitive place as long as they have some supplemental hits to join them in the lineup. That’s where the questions lie.
It’s imperative that Georgia have an actual working beam routine for Soraya Hawthorne this season because her talent deserves far more than going 3 times a year for 9.775s. I do like the choice to give her a combination of two standing switch jumps this year because that’s her best element. Keep going to that well. Katie Finnegan competed a few times last season for usable scores each time and will likely be called upon again, and as on bars, Georgia will aim to get Emily Schild in there as much as possible.
At the first look, Georgia showed just six beam routines and a no-dismount exhibition from Schild, the sixth routine coming from Nhyla Bryant, who fell three times but showed such presence and leaps that it made everyone say, “Get in the lineup, I don’t even care.” It probably won’t happen, but also I want it to, and also it might need to because no one else showed a full routine and we’re less than a month away.
2021 Event Ranking: 21
|Lineup locks: Rachel Baumann, Soraya Hawthorne, Megan Roberts, Alyssa Perez-Lugones|
|Lineup options: Mikayla Magee, Amanda Cashman, Haley De Jong, Rachael Lukacs, Nhyla Bryant, Sarah Cohen|
Georgia’s floor presents a somewhat similar scenario to beam in that there should be enough routines to get by (in this case with pretty much the exact same lineup as last season), but maybe only just. Rachel Baumann, Soraya Hawthorne, and Megan Roberts put up big numbers throughout last season and will return to the lineup, expected to be the top scorers once again. We did not see any of Alyssa Perez-Lugones in the first look, but her consistent 9.8+s last season should also earn her a returning spot in the six.
Much like on vault, the ideal lineup will include Mikayla Magee, who at her best has a piked full-in that will score very well, but over her first three seasons, she’s never been able to go more than occasionally on floor so will have to be managed to make sure she’s available at the right time. Haley De Jong and Amanda Cashman should present options again, and Nhyla Bryant may find her most likely lineup spot coming on floor, where her leaps are out of this world.
It’s a fine group, but we’re largely talking about the same lineup as last season, one that finished 21st on floor and peaked out at 49.350 in January. In the quest to inject something more, Georgia would like to lean on Sarah Cohen perhaps, or if Rachael Lukacs can go, that could be the game changer this lineup needs. It wasn’t long ago that Lukacs was one of the team’s most important floor workers, getting regular 9.925s, but she did just two FXs last season. It would be a real boon for Georgia if Lukacs could get back to 2020 level this year.