Georgia is always my favorite intrasquad because it’s reliably so weird yet actually informative about the team’s prospects. Last year’s First Look, coming off a disastrous 2022, was refreshingly workman-like: Some jitters, some form, but very few falls and a beam rotation that didn’t make you want to hide behind the couch with sympathetic anxiety. The optimistic reading of that performance was that 2023 Georgia was a tougher iteration that was willing to dig its heels in and do what it took to reverse its slide down the rankings, and that’s exactly what we ultimately saw.
This year, Georgia can afford to dream a little bigger. An astounding amount of recruiting hustle went into this year’s top-ranked freshman class, from flipping Lily Smith from Alabama to bringing Ady Wahl to Athens a year early. (Speaking of Smith: She’s a real possibility for SEC Freshman of the Year. She probably won’t vault, but as a legitimate 10 threat on all three of the other events, does it even matter?) This freshman class could very quickly take up half of the Gymdogs’ lineup spots or even more. I’ll be looking for some clarity on which events high-octane, all-purpose talents like Wahl and Holly Snyder will contribute to early. I’ll also expect to be confused on bars, since it looks like some big returners including JaFree Scott have changed their routine composition this offseason.
One big question I have is how many 10.0 SV vaults we’ll see tonight. Senior Katie Finnegan’s Yurchenko one and a half has looked surprisingly excellent through preseason while fifth-year Haley de Jong has a new Omelianchik. The underclassmen bring enough that it’s possible for Georgia to show a full lineup of six. That feels optimistic, and even if it’s possible in the long term, we likely wouldn’t see all of them today. Still, vault is an event where the 2024 Gymdogs could improve hugely over the 2023 crew, and we’re likely to confirm at least a few viable additions today.
Naya Howard is unfortunately in a brace and crutches today, but that looks like the only injury paraphernalia.
Rotation 1: Vault
My stream didn’t come on in time for me to catch Kelsey Lee’s vault!
Snyder: FTY, high with loose legs and a long bounce-step back. She can be more controlled here but it’s early.
Cashman: FTY, piked down with a little shuffle back. Normal for her.
LaClair: FTY, nice with a hop back. Not as high but good body line.
Battle: Huge clean one and a half! Big hop forward.
De Jong: The new Omelianchik looks relatively strong. A little scruffy on the table and a hop straight forward. 9.9!
Finnegan: One and a half, maybe one shoulder lagging a little but securely landed with a hop diagonally back. It wasn’t badly underrotated, for sure: I’m not scared watching it, and we’ve seen her rotate it many times including in warm ups today.
Good start with three 10.0 SV vaults! Battle was the strongest of the three today. Others I’d like to see here include Ady Wahl and Heather Parker, who both competed 10.0 SV vaults in level 10.
Ah well, looks like Parker is in a boot. Wahl, then.
Uh, I guess we’re doing bars and beam together?
Snyder (UB): Church to overshoot, bit of form. Archy straight body casts. Double back dismount that I don’t think was in combo? 9.8
Morgan (BB): Full turn. BHS LOSO, pretty good, bit of feet. Switch… breaks the connection… switch half to beat, the switch half didn’t make split. Side aerial tentative. One and a half dismount, pace forward.
Finnegan (UB): Ray with a bit of feet, Pak with leg separation, I swear that used to be better. Making the handstands. FTDB drilled. 9.95 apparently haha
Fitzgerald (BB): BHS LOSO, form and a check. Full turn. Cat leap switch side, short. I think that was an aerial round off, low chest. One and a half, big pace forward. Not one of the stronger lineup options. 975
De Jong (UB): Maloney to Pak is fine. Making the handstands well, DLO with a little hop back. Ready for season. 9.9
Battle (BB): Full turn, side split half , switch to split, a little short on all the leaps. Kickover front, check. BHS LOSO clean and aggressive wow! She just moves so fast. BHS gainer full off the side, the same dynamism there with a step.
Scott (UB): Ray to Pak. Van Leeuwen with a little leg separation. DLO stuck. I like this composition, I think. Shows off her swing really well. One judge went 10 which is a little silly but I’m not scandalized.
Deniz (BB): Full turn, check, looking a little nervy. Side aerial BHS is good. Front aerial, reaches for it with an adjustment, beat jump. Gainer tuck full clean and stuck, just a little close to the beam.
Smith (UB): Maloney to bail so clean, her body line is just remarkable, FTDB. Give it a 10. 9.975 okay fine
Wahl (BB): BHS BHS LOSO, saw a tiny bit of knees in the first BHS but she straightened them out. Full turn with a check. Side somi secure. Turning leap sequence is solid, hops off the end instead of dismounting. So, coming back from something. That’s okay.
We’re at 49.625 on bars with just half the team. We don’t need to break down the ins and outs of intrasquad scoring, we can accept the point that this event will be absolutely bananas.
Turner (BB): Full turn, BHS LOSO and a fall. The first of the day. Switch half to beat, borderline position, good side aerial. Stuck one and a half with leg sep. Nice except the fall.
Deniz (UB): Toe on to Maloney to bail, flat footed with some leg seps. A little short on the high bar. Blind full, bad feet, to double back with two steps back. I saw a 9.55 flashed and that’s about right.
Snyder (BB): BHS LOSO LOSO is GREAT, just a tiny shuffle of the front foot. Full turn, switch half to beat, double full slightly underrotated with a hop back.
Battle (UB): Maybe shy on the first handstand, blind to Jaeger far and falls. Repeats, same fall. She’s too far from the bar and falling reaching. Never her best in level 10, we might not see this routine this year but her technique is good enough that we might see it in future years if she keeps working.
Scott (BB): Full turn, lovely precision, FHS with a check… BHS LOSO great. Front aerial split BHS. She looks stronger to me this year than last, really showing off the fluidity and feel that can make her gymnastics so memorable. She’s got the moonwalk this year! FHS front full dismount, hop.
Fitzgerald (UB): Toe to Tkachev to overshoot, little leg sep but nothing drastic and good dynamics. DLO with a baby hop back. Leg sep on the forward angle but you couldn’t see it clearly from the side. She’s definitely a lineup option here.
De Jong (BB): Switch…. misses the connection. Switch split. Front aerial to beat. Triple series looks off toward the end but aggressive arms get it back under control. BHS one and a half, arm adjustment to hold the stick.
Cashman (UB): Tkachev, narrow position and looks like a heavy catch. OK baol, double layout nearly stuck.
Smith (BB): Front aerial, big bend check. BHS LOSO is nice and clean, good switch split. Pike kickover front is lovely! Great full turn. Gainer layout to high mats. She might have a sore ankle too. Being conservative with dismounts is fine.
Wahl (UB): Maloney to Pak: Keeps the legs together well, tiny bit of feet. Strong handstands. DLO good with a pace back.
Nobody from the second bars group cracked the scores from the top five, but there were still some solid choices for the sixth and alt positions there. Beam felt unfinished: Relatively tentative showing there all around and with some missing dismounts and such, but definite potential.
Just floor now. No Wahl and Smith as expected, so won’t be reading a ton into this.
Battle: DLO high and clean, with a spot but she didn’t need it. Switch side Popa underrotated. Front through double back is great. That’s lineup material for sure. 9.825
Deniz: Whip to two and a half, cross step that narrowly stays in. Tour jete half to split, neither a real split nor a real full twist. Music switches to Dancing Queen and it doesn’t fit at all. Rudi to split is solid.
Fitzgerald: Toxic routine! BHS LOSO, form and awkward punch. Switch side wolf full is mostly rotated which is a first for this lineup, solid double back.
LaClair: Front full through double full basically stuck WOW. Ashlyn LaClair, YOU are in the Georgia floor lineup! Nailed her leaps, Rudi to LOSO wonky but figured out. Also her music wasn’t too ridiculous, it was mostly just Tequila, so I can work with that.
Williams: Double pike, short with a shuffle forward. Front full front lay is solid, nice double back with a scoot back.
Cashman: I like her opening dance honestly. One and a half front full is really solid. Nice straddle leap series, precise rotation, nailed the double back.
de Jong: Nice Rudi LOSO, super secure. Switch side split full is good! Awesome triple. It’s going to be a great year for her. 9.925
Snyder: Pike full in short, step forward. Switch half wolf full is solid, nice Rudi LOSO. 9.875
I wish we had more scores, but that was fun! Biggest concerns are about beam for sure, but I also think that they’re being extremely conservative with the Wahl and Smith leg situations (if you can land a double lay off bars, you can probably also land a beam dismount). Floor impressed me: there are a couple routines there that look more lineup-viable than I had anticipated. Bars is obviously bananas and I’ll be thinking about that Lily Smith routine for quite a while.
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Live blog by Rebecca Scally