With USAG reaching some semblance of normalcy (well, call it a dumpster fire down to a smolder at the moment), real life took precedence for the last week. Mia culpa, mia maxima culpa. It’ll be weekly updates from here on out.
In the meantime, the NCAA is 99 percent quiet and 1 percent “summer upgrades, y’all.” Starting, of course, with the team that went from dead in the water to No. 7 in country by the end of the year. Yep, we’re talking about Georgia. Yes, the same team that was down to five competitive vaulters for most of the season and only had those because hereto-unseen-senior Jasmine Arnold kicked arse and took no prisoners for most the season (that 9.55 floor routine that should’ve been a 9.3, we’re looking at you…).
Few people doubted UGA would turn it around with Suzanne Yoculan coming back, Courtney Kupets Carter taking the reins and an incoming freshman class that offered plenty of options in terms of depth. But then the majority of that freshman class got injured one way or another, senior Natalie Vaculik hurt an ankle bad enough to go bars-only the back half of the season and all of a sudden, UGA was battling just to be seeded for regionals.
So, Sabrina Vega hits a beam routine and UGA goes to NCAAs. Nice season, guys. Only…Bama implodes in prelims, UGA survives a shaky start on floor and all of a sudden the team finishes No. 7 overall. NICE SEASON, guys!!!
Which makes upgrades this summer look all the nicer. Emily Schild and Marissa Oakley – two of the frosh who were on the injured list – are upgrading bars and beam.
First, Schild on bars. A healthy Schild in the UGA lineup could (and should) be a game-changer for the Gymdawgs. Given that Schild was out more than half of the season, came back on bars only, then added beam and finally vault in a pinch at NCAAs, an all-around slot for the former USA national teamer would be great.
And then you have Marissa Oakley. Oakley spent her whole freshman year on vault, bars and beam, and one can hope floor will be an addition as a sophomore. So, aside from the fact she was steady as a rock when UGA needed her, she’s already looking to do more. In a climate where gainer fulls off the side get more and more yawns, let’s applaud the cartwheel gainer double full we’ve seen pop up (sorry, can’t find the video) and then take a gander at this second upgrade.
I’m not 100 percent convinced UGA is is capable of making the first cut of “Four on the Floor” next season (and more to the point, making NCAAs is looking to be about as complicated as the new Olympic qualifying for individuals). However, if this team can stay healthy and the huge incoming freshman class does what it’s supposed to, I like what I’m seeing. As in, I’m going out on a limb and calling the Gymdawgs a potential dark horse for a title next year.
Crazy? Perhaps. But nothing shocks me with UGA anymore.