Bulldogs Beat

Quiet dominance: Sydney Snead’s selfless role as lone senior leads to career-best performance

Georgia’s Sydney Snead during a gymnastics meet between the University of Georgia and Ohio State University in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)
Georgia’s Sydney Snead during a gymnastics meet between the University of Georgia and Ohio State University in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw) Special to the Telegraph

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Sydney Snead has experienced a perfect floor routine at Stegeman Coliseum once, and there was a buzz to indicate it may happen once more Friday night.

On consecutive sequences, a belly flop and a double pike, Georgia’s lone senior gymnast knew the execution was flawless. Snead flashed a wide smile as her arms flailed into mid-air and her personality popped to the beat of up-tempo music.

“She really sells it, feels it and is genuinely excited about what she just did,” GymDogs’ head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said.

In this instance, Snead had two groups of people to sell: A capacity crowd and a panel of judges who had given a 9.725 to freshman Sami Davis on the routine prior. Snead was hopeful for the drastic jump and the fans were lured into the anticipation as perfect “10” posters were waved synchronously to jubilant leaping. She was instantly mobbed by her teammates and then the word “TEN” flashed on the jumbotron.

Suddenly, the roar became deafening. It could’ve been what allowed Georgia to prevail in a 196.900-196.875 loss to Alabama, and Snead could’ve mimicked her perfection set last season against Florida — back-to-back 10s on floor routine at Stegeman Coliseum. Suzanne Sears was the last Georgia gymnast to do so in 2001.

“It gives me chills to think about it, because everyone gives so much support in Stegeman,” Snead said. “It’s so loud you can’t hear yourself think. To perform a floor routine with your teammates behind you is amazing, and it was electric tonight. That gets everybody fired up.”

Snead fell narrowly short as the judges’ scores didn’t conform to the home-meet energy: a 9.925 to the senior. But there was still elation (Georgia had it at a “more than usual” level, Snead said, due to the rivalry with Alabama), because Snead had her best score on floor since the perfect 10 and set a career-best all-around score of 39.600.

Snead’s total was Georgia’s highest since Rachel Dickson recorded a 39.625 last season against Missouri. It began with a 9.9 on vault and matriculated throughout the meet as a 9.925 on beam, and a 9.85 on bars proceeded the finale that became a show.

As Georgia’s lone senior, Snead is this team’s backbone and has a determination to get it back to nationals. There’s a renewed confidence to the always-smiling Snead in her final go-round. She craves perfection, which can sometimes serve to her detriment, but isn’t deterred by a mistake (at least not for long).

“When vault was a hop here and a hop there, sometimes I worry she’s going to try too hard to be perfect and go for a ten,” Kupets Carter said. ”I’ll say, ‘oh Syd, let’s go for a really nice one-and-a-half vault.’”

Against Oklahoma, a meet that didn’t meet the GymDogs’ standard and later forced a team meeting, Snead’s qualities were illustrated. She stepped up to the uneven bars against the nation’s top-ranked team and fell on her dismount, which Kupets Carter said was “uncharacteristic.”

Her response? Quite the bold one with a career-best 9.95 on vault.

For Snead, it’s a testament to the approach of her last season. Her focus is the team, and it’s predicated upon one of her core messages: “Everything you do, it’s for your teammates. They have my back and I have theirs.”

Once about individual perfection, now about performing the best to benefit others.

“It has been a new role for me to step into, and focusing on the freshmen more in the meets has been huge for me,” Snead said. “It has allowed me to relax, personally, so that’s good.”

A sense of selfless leadership is a necessity for a GymDogs team with nine freshman as opposed to five returning gymnasts. But Snead has an undeniable trait that’ll never be admitted: consistent dominance. A mistake is a rarity, but the roar from 10,523 fans has become commonplace.

“It’s irreplaceable,” Kupets Carter said of Snead’s value to the team.

The teammates who parade around Snead as she finishes events feel similar amazement.

“She is one of the best gymnasts I’ve ever seen,” Dickson said. “She is confident, consistent and clean and is everything we all look up to. We can count on Sydney and she’s always there to have our back.”

Georgia’s Sydney Snead wishes Georgia’s Rachel Dickson good luck before her beam routine during a Gym Dogs meet in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw) KRISTIN M. BRADSHAW Special to the Telegraph