Handstands and landings.
That was a central theme throughout Georgia's week of practice when came to bars. And during the No. 14 GymDogs’ 197.000-195.850 win over No. 23 Missouri, the time put in to correct these two areas paid off.
The biggest beneficiary of the past week of practice was freshman Marissa Oakley, who drew a loud applause from the over 10,000 people in attendance after sticking her landing following her bars routine.
Oakley scored a 9.900 on bars, which is a career high for the Huntersville, North Carolina native.
“We’ve been working so hard and we know we’re capable of doing that,” Oakley said. “Just to be able to get that in the meet when it counts was really awesome, and just having everyone supporting me, and everyone happy for me was exciting for me.”
Oakley was especially pleased she was able to stick her landing, considering she wasn't able to last week in Georgia’s loss to Arkansas.
Oakley also shined on beam, posting a career-best 9.875 in that exercise. In her first season of college gymnastics, Oakley said she can often rush through her skills. A focus this week was to slow down and not rush through a routine.
“I tend to get a little ahead of myself when I compete,” Oakley said. “I’ve definitely been working a lot on that. I think I did a lot better with that today, just keeping it one skill at a time and focusing on staying in the moment, and I think that helped overall.”
Georgia head coach Courtney Kupets Carter was pleased with Oakley’s emergence, considering she couldn’t train much in the fall due to injuries. Although Kupets Carter said Oakley isn’t pain free yet, she is hoping to get her involved on floor soon. In addition to her bars and beam scores, Oakley posted a 9.775 on vault.
“She’s just an athlete we’re really pleased with,” Kupets Carter said. “She has the quality handstands and is doing a great job. The biggest thing with her is she’s having fun. That’s what so exciting for everyone and why we get so excited after she lands it. We know she works very hard in the gym and when she has that breakout performance like she did today, it makes everyone excited because they’re a family.”
As a team, Georgia (2-3, 2-2 SEC) scored its first 197 of the season. To do so, the GymDogs needed some help from its final three participants on floor. Needing a 49.2 to achieve the landmark number, Georgia was in a bind after an out-of-bounds stumble from junior Jasmine Arnold that led to an early 9.550.
Following senior Vivi Babalis’ 9.825, sophomore Sydney Snead earned a 9.950, which included one of the two judges handing her a perfect 10. Sophomore Rachel Dickson, who won the meet's individual all-around with a 39.625, followed Snead with a 9.95 of her own.
That left sophomore Sabrina Vega needing to hit a 9.925 to get the 197. Vega came through for her team with that exact number.
“I think the one thing is really working on is adjusting to the mistakes,” Dickson said. “Yes, Jasmine didn’t have her best routine, but we were able to have her back. That’s what this team is about. We’re about having each other’s back and being there for one another. We picked it up and we knew we had to, and we got that 197, which is really good.”
Entering the meet, Georgia was confident about hitting some quality scores across the board. The team set some goals at an intrasquad scrimmage and carried them over to Saturday's meet. On vault, Georgia was to hit a 49.100. On bars, it was a 49.200. On beam and floor, it was to score a 49.300.
Against Missouri (1-3, 1-3 SEC), the GymDogs met the vault score exactly and exceeded both the targets on bars (49.325) and beam (49.375).
“We got a 197 in our intrasquad, and sure enough (Saturday), we got the same thing,” Dickson said. “Having it only be February and the end of the season is in April, I think we are right on track.”