Haley de Jong celebrating at 2022 SEC Championships

From Five in a Row to a Scoring Plateau, the Degradation of the Georgia Beam Lineup

Sometimes numerical vengeance can be the key to success for a program looking to thrive in the highly competitive college gymnastics landscape. Oklahoma spent its 2019 campaign touting the motto #pztsf (.0375, the amount by which it lost the 2018 national championship title to UCLA) as motivation to dominate throughout the season, which culminated in a fourth national title for the Sooners. But for Georgia, a much more somber number will be on everyone’s minds going into the 2023 season: 46.625. This number is the culmination of what may have been Georgia’s most embarrassing moment as a program, at least in recent memory: Its five-miss beam rotation against Florida early in the 2022 season. 

The Gymdogs were a top 10 beam lineup a mere 13 years ago when Georgia ended the 2009 season ranked first on the apparatus. So what has happened in those 13 years that led the Gymdogs from a dynasty of domination that culminated in five consecutive national titles to a lineup that failed to break 49 in half of the 2022 meets?

Shown above is Georgia’s beam NQS (blue) and average team beam score (red), with the overall trend in scores being shown with the black lines. It is important to note a change in the NQS system for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, which takes into account fewer scores in order to accommodate potential canceled meets due to COVID. 

Looking at those trends, we can see that while, yes, Georgia’s beam scores have been going down, there has not been a massive decrease in NQS from the glory days. However, as NCAA scoring continues to get less and less strict, the scoring plateau that the current Georgia program has reached isn’t going to cut it for a team hoping to return to the upper echelon of the sport. 

Eleven of the 12 conferences that sponsor gymnastics had their highest mean team beam score of the last decade in 2022, including the SEC. We see here that the black trend line is much steeper than the ones found on the graph of Georgia’s scores, showing that while the Gymdogs’ scores may not be trending too far downward, what constitutes a good score has consistently been on the rise for over a decade. Simply put, that 49.191 beam NQS, which landed Georgia the fourth spot in the rankings in 2011, doesn’t hold up to today’s scoring trends. That same score would be tied for 22nd in the 2022 rankings.

The start of this plateau came in 2010, the first year the Gymdogs were without legendary head coach Suzanne Yoculan-Leebern at the helm. Beam scores stayed relatively level throughout the following eight years under head coaches Jay Clark and Dana Durante. When nine-time NCAA individual champion Courntey Kupets-Carter was named head coach in 2018, she brought a number of coaches onto the team. Charlie Tamayo handled leg events (though he was quickly replaced by Jason Vonk) while Josh Overton primarily coached bars. This left Kupets-Carter to her own accord when it came to beam.

While Kupets-Carter’s head coach bio is full of her accolades from her time competing at Georgia, it conspicuously tiptoes around coaching experience. Unfortunately for Georgia, commitment to the program and an illustrious sporting career do not create the scores the Gymdogs need today. The Georgia beam lineup has been filled with talent, with athletes like Rachel Baumann, Victoria Nguyen and Sabrina Vega bringing immense amounts of talent to Athens. That has never been an issue for Georgia. It seems as if almost all of the issues that come up are mental. 

What plagued the beam lineup in 2022 in particular was not technical or form errors, but rather a litany of falls and major wobbles that prevented the lineup from reaching its full scoring potential. However, a break for Georgia may be in store for the 2023 season due to the hiring of former Alabama assistant coach Ryan Roberts. Roberts brings immense amounts of coaching experience to the Gymdogs’ coaching staff, something that Kupets-Carter lacked. He has served as the Norwegian National Team head coach, coached numerous elite gymnasts at WOGA in Frisco, Texas, and worked at many developmental camps across the country.

Along with Roberts comes one of the most prolific and talented recruiting classes in recent years, especially on beam. Athletes like JaFree Scott, Jacquie Moran and Ariel Posen bring a new level of talent to the team, so it’s now up to the coaching staff to oversee the development of their abilities. With Kupets-Carter recently signing a contract-extension until 2025, it seems as if she is being thrown one final bone to deliver scores that align with her gymnasts’ talent and the program’s history of success. If she is unable to shore things up in the coming seasons, it seems likely that Kupets-Carter would face one final fall—her career as Georgia’s head coach.

Read this Next: LIVE BLOG: Georgia First Look 

Article by Ian LeWarn

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  1. At their preview meet, it was pretty much their best event. And the transfers actually looked like the 2 of the likeliest lineup pieces. And for the 80th time- quit sleeping on Naya Howard. She is who will be carrying this team (although DeJong looked ready for a breakout year on leg events???)

    In that 5 year final run they almost missed nationals in 05 because of beam and had a horrid beam rotation in 2009 Super Six (those nifty 39.9 and 39.6+ AA totals Kupets and Tolany posted in super six hid plenty of weaknesses.) One of the other years also had a bum beam rotation.

    Kupets Carter is not under contract for five years but for 3. Given the additional wave of talent coming in over summer ’24, she likely recruited her way to another extension but the current one ends in ’25.

    This seems like a pretty phoned in effort.

  2. Yes, Naya Howard gets overlooked frequently. She should definitely be the biggest contributor of the freshmen this year. Posen is already out, and Moran wasn’t even in the preview, so not sure of the hype on them.

    I feel that Kupets’ biggest issue has the regression of so many talented athletes, not just issues on beam. I don’t recall a team having so many athletes take such steps backwards.

    1. I don’t really see regression but she & Durante definitely recruited a slew of injury prone athletes. They also seemed hit by COVID protocols a lot the last two years. those tendencies had to hurt performance.

      If they keep Moran healthy she really has pretty gymnastics so I understand that risk. The walk ons actually looked strong as well but I suspect we both agree the Howard, Angeny and the seniors are going to need to do the heavy lifting while they put together the rest of the pieces.

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