Hello from the always-exciting Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia! While most of the country is gearing up for the Death Valley Tigers Championship, college gym fans are getting amped up for the 2020 Battle of the Jay Clark Recruits. Both teams got off to a rough start, failing to crack 196.000. LSU struggled with multiple falls on bars and beam while Georgia dealt with Rachel Dickson’s season-ending Achilles injury and Sabrina Vega limited to bars and beam due to the flu. Combine those disappointments with an already-charged SEC rivalry, and you can expect both teams to be sharper—or at the very least, more intense—this week.
What to Watch For
- Loulie Hattaway: The walk-on freshman surprised and impressed at the Critique Classic, not only making the Bulldogs’ bars lineup but posting its highest score.
- Soraya Hawthorne: Though she only competed vault and floor last weekend, the freshman scored 9.875 on both events. If she competes beam, keep an eye out for her eponymous skill (a front toss to one knee).
- Other: Despite its struggles elsewhere, Georgia posted a very strong 49.200 on beam even with Vega’s lower-than-average (but still better than most) 9.800.
- Kiya Johnson: All eyes were on freshman Kiya Johnson, and—despite a fall on beam—she did not disappoint, leading the Tigers in scoring on both vault and floor (and a solid 9.800 on bars). Expect her to only get better from here.
- Sarah Edwards: Last season, it took Edwards a few meets to hit her stride on vault, and she only competed floor a handful of times throughout the season. Last week, she not only nailed her Yurchenko one and a half but also earned a career high 9.900 on floor.
- Other: Last week, LSU struggled on bars—historically, one of its strongest events—failing to break 49.000 for only the second time since 2017. This week’s competition should give us some insight into whether that rotation was a fluke or the beginning of a trend.
- Other Other: The Tigers are facing arguably their most-intense conference rival the same weekend as the NCAA football championship, which begs the question: What will D-D be wearing? Expect something delightfully Breaux-ver the top (I’ll see myself out…).
Very… Eclectic mix of music in Stegeman while we wait. We’ve gone from Contemporary Christian to Cardi B to the national anthem. If that doesn’t capture the essence of college gymnastics, I don’t know what does.
We’ve got a smoke machine, cheerleaders, dance team, fancy intro video and pyrotechnics. You can’t say the Gym Dogs don’t know how to put on a show!
Unsurprisingly, lineups on both sides look pretty freshman-heavy. Lukacs, Vega (!), Edney and Johnson are slotted to do all around tonight.
Bless D-D, she always delivers. She’s got black skinny legged pants with what looks like tiger stripes down the side.
Rotation One: Georgia vault, LSU bars
Cashman (UGA): A serviceable Yurchenko full to start. Not a ton of height or distance, but decent form and just a small hop back. 9.800
Johnson (LSU): Some form on Shaposh and rushes through the bail. Good DLO with just a little hop. 9.800
Ward (UGA): Fabulous Tsuk full! Great power and landing, just the slightest pikedown. 9.900
Rivers (LSU): Nice handstands. Again, some form on Shaposh. Nearly goes over on her handstand, but pulls it back. Pretty Tkatchev and a good DLO with another small hop.
Magee (UGA): Pretty Yurchenko full, great position in the air. Another small hop. 9.850
Durante (LSU): Fabulous blind change to straddled Jaeger. Leg separation on the Pak and a close catch. Almost goes over on an aggressive handstand, but saves it. Very nice stuck FTDT. 9.850
Vega (UGA): Her usual fabulous Yurchenko full with the mandatory small hop back. 9.850
Shchennikova (LSU): Completely botches her Shaposh and does a front tuck to her butt… Don’t know how she pulled that out safely. Crowd is cheering on as she remounts. Makes the Shaposh this time with lots of form. Also lots of form on Tkatchev and Pak. Messy DLO with a hop. Glad she’s safe, but seriously, she needs to take more time to recover. This is not safe. Apparently she’s not getting a score because she took longer than 30 seconds to remount?
Hawthorne (UGA): HUGE Yurchenko full with a hop in place. 9.825
Edney (LSU): Good height on Hindorff but catches close. A little shy on bail and maybe final handstand. Really lovely DLO with a small hop. 9.775
Lukacs (UGA): Super fast-twisting Yurchenko double with a near stick. Some minor form in the air, but that was a great vault. 9.900
Harrold (LSU): Way over on the handstand from the Zuchold, like basically goes into a planche. Close catch on straddled Jaeger. Large forward step on the double front dismount. 9.725
AFTER ONE: GEORGIA 49.325, LSU 48.900
All right, I think we can officially be concerned for LSU bars. Durante was the clear standout, with Johnson close behind. Georgia looked pretty good on vault. Obviously, not the start values we were predicting in preseason, but they’re looking really powerful and nice in the air (though they’d definitely benefit from a few more stuck landings).
Rotation Two: Georgia bars, LSU vault
Rivers (LSU): Yurchenko full. Really strong block and a definitive stick. Good start. 9.875
Lukacs (UGA): Just barely gets her Tkatchev around. She’s going for the handstands. Pak is much better than in warm-ups. Decent DLO in the air with a small hop back. She’ll be happy with that one. 9.700
Rau (LSU): Yurchenko one and a half with a big sidestep on the landing. Not a ton of height. 9.775
(Cashman): Gorgeous handstands and Tkatchev. Straddle shoot, nice. Pretty double lay with a small bit of leg sep and a hop. 9.750
Harrold (LSU): Really nice Yurchenko one and a half, better form than last week. A little step that felt more nerves than anything. 9.875
De Jong (UGA): Great handstands, and a HUGE Tkatchev. WEirdly off on bail and toe circle. Seriously excellent stuck DLO. Beautiful. 9.800
Edwards (LSU): A little bit of soft legs in the air, but had plenty of height to land upright. Just a small step. 9.875
Roberts (UGA): Pretty handstand stepouts. Some leg sep on Shaposh. Good handstand on bail. Another nice DLO with a small hop. 9.750
Johnson (LSU): Another fantastic Yurchenko double from her. A shuffle on the landing, but not much else to take. 9.925
Vega (UGA): Saves her first handstand after nearly going over. Ugh, face plants on the Geinger; she seems okay. Major leg sep on the Pak, does a hip circle and comes off. Beautiful final handstand and decent FTDT with a step. 8.500
Edney (LSU): Excellent Yurchenko one and a half, very minor hop. 9.875
Oakley (UGA): Beautiful first handstand and blind change. Really high piked Jaeger, and she can’t get her hands around the bar. Lovely Pak, Pulls a Tessen and holds her handstand for approximately 10 seconds. Lovely FTDT dismount with a tiny hop. Shame about the fall, because everything else was lovely. 9050
AFTER TWO: GEORGIA 97.375 , LSU 98.325
Really nice vault rotation for LSU. They’ve got the difficulty buffer, but they’re also performing the vaults really well. Landings especially looked more controlled compared to last week. Bars was a struggle for Georgia. Even without having to count a fall, things were a little too 9.7ish for comfort.
The scoring seems surprisingly not obscenely cracky so far. Not that there haven’t been some loose scores, but nothing completely outrageous.
Rotation Three: Georgia beam, LSU floor
Magee (UGA): Pretty straddle jump to straddle half, great amplitude. Bhs bhs loso, barely keeps it on the beam and has to check. Very nice round off one and a half dismount with the tiniest hop forward. 9.700
Harrold (LSU): Love Georgia fans screaming, “HEY RUBYYYY!” FHS to double twist, her usual legs and a slight stutter on the landing. Double pike, very nice. Couldn’t see the leaps from my seat, sorry! One and a half to front lay landed in a deeep lunge. 9.700
Lukacs (UGA): Love her round-off mount. Solid front toss. Bhs loso, some soft legs but nary a waiver. Back tuck to straddle quarter, fantastic. Big ol’ stuck double tuck dismount, and she’s PUMPED (she should be). 9.825
Gunter (LSU): Double tucked Arabian to open, maybe OOB? Front full to layout, nice. Really good energy and precision in her choreo. Stumbles back out of her double tuck, again maybe OOB. 9.575
De Jong (UGA): Textbook switch split to split. Front aerial to beat, perfect. Bhs loso, excellent. Straddle half, nice amplitude. Bit of a pause before her side aerial to stuck-ish full dismount. Gorgeous routine from her. 9.875
Edwards (LSU): Big double lay to open. Fhs full lay and she skids way OOB. A little shy on her split full, good straddle position. Double tuck with a good landing, but low chest. 9.650
Oakley (UGA): Wolf turn to straddle, so cool. Gainer bhs bhs loso, comes off. Switch split to ring, okay positions. Lovely side aerial. Cartwheel gainer full, fights for the stick. Ugh, again, so much loveliness besides the fall. 9.100
Campbell (LSU): Good two and a half to start. I’m still not used to her as a brunette. One and a half to another front lay skidded out of (she stayed in bounds, though). Beautiful leap series, especially her Popa. Double tuck almost to her knees, and she has to take a huge lunge forward. I love Reagan, but 9.750 is way too high
Baumann (UGA): Side aerial to loso, rock solid. Straddle quarter, great. Almost stuck one and a half. Excellent routine. I can’t stress how much more poised and polished she looks this year. 9.875
Edney (LSU): A little short on her double Arabian and has to take a step back. One and a half to front lay, gorgeous. Switch split full to split full, a little short back leg. Again, just a touch short on the double tuck. Lands with chest down and has to take a small step. 9.800
Vega (UGA): Floaty switch split mount. Switch split to ring, lovely. Front aerial to split, great. Moonwalk. Bhs loso, solid. I like how she kicks out of her full turn. Side aerial to full with a barely there scoot. 9.900
Johnson (LSU): Huge half in half out (bummer, Jay stayed on his feet). One and a half to front lay, excellent. Switch split full to Popa, really dynamic. BIG (and stuck) double pike to close. Killed it again. 9.925
AFTER THREE: GEORGIA 146.550, LSU 146.800
Solid beam rotation for the Gym Dogs, and arguably where they have the most depth. Expect this to continue to be a great event for them this season. Meanwhile, LSU looked really rough on floor. The usual energy and precision just doesn’t seem to be there yet (Johnson aside). I didn’t expect that to be the event where they lost ground.
Rotation Four: Georgia floor, LSU beam
Dean (LSU): A little over-rotated full turn, but nothing major. Side aerial to loso, major legs and has to come off. Didn’t quite hit the splits. Hip check on front aerial to split. Side aerial to stuck full. Why does no one want to win this meet? 9.250
Perez-Lugones (UGA): So glad to see her back in the lineup (the crowd is going nuts for her). Stumbles out of a big double pike to open. Front full to front lay, floaty. This choreo is dripping with sass. Straddle series to wolf, really dynamic. Slightly underrotated double tuck, has to step forward. 9.700
Rivers (LSU): Bhs loso, tiniest check but covers it well. Tour jete, good. Split to split half, doesn’t quite hit 180. Cat leap to side aerial with some form, but rock solid. Sticks her gainer pike and gets mobbed by the team. 9.950… Okay, there’s the SEC scoring I was expecting.
Magee (UGA): Wow, excellent piked full-in to open. Tour jete half to straddle, fantastic. One and a half to lay to stag, so precise. Nice double pike to close. Excellent routine. 9.825 seems low compared to the previous rotation.
Durante (LSU): Front aerial to split, well done. Bhs to loso, good. Switch split to straddle quarter, good. Side aerial to stuck full, just a little crooked and close to the beam. 9.850
Baumann (UGA): 2.75 wolf turn to open. Powerful one and a half to full. L turn to full en dedans, nice. This music and choreo really works for her, and she sells it well. Rocks her double pike back on her heels and slides, but nothing major. Ring to switch split to close, fantastic. 9.875
Johnson (LSU): Slight check on her full. Bhs loso with a hip check, but stays on. Front tuck, excellent. Cool shoulder stand. Switch split to switch half, well done. Big arm wave after front aerial. Double full with a slide back, but she gets the stick crown anyway! 9.875 is also too high.
Hawthorne (UGA): Mega high double pike. Tim Daggett would be yelling about scraping her off the ceiling. Switch full, very nice. Seemed to get hung up on split full. Front lay to Rudi to split, fabulous. Shushunova, yay! Excellent double tuck to close, and it’s deafening in here. 9.950
Campbell (LSU): Her usual perfect bhs loso. Front aerial to Sissone, very nice. Switch split to switch half (and the crowd went nuts in the middle of it, so props to her). Double full with some legs but a stick to close. 9.975
Lukacs (UGA): Powerful double lay to open. One and a half to front full to Shushunova, one of my favorite passes. Popa to wolf, great. Massive double pike to close. If Hawthorne went 9.950, I’m fully expecting higher than that. 9.950
Edney (LSU): Front aerial to split, a touch shy. Bhs loso with a slight hip check. Small wobble after her straddle quarter. Great front toss as always. Nobody does it like her. Fabulous stuck one and a half dismount. 9.925
Vega (UGA): The judges have finished their bottle of Moscato, and are in full-on crack mode. If she puts everything to her feet, we could see a 10! Big double pike to open. Nobody sells a floor routine like Vega. Front full to floaty lay to split, perfect. Great double tuck to finish, cheated the lunge just a bit. Fabulous routine. 9.950, I’m honestly shocked. Not because that’s too low, but because that seemed to be the direction the scores were headed…
AFTER FOUR: GEORGIA 196.150, LSU 196.725
So LSU takes it! Genuinely great last rotation from both teams. I’m going to do interviews and will wrap up soon!
Article by Claire Billman
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