Athens, GA - The seventh-ranked Georgia gymnastics team opens the 2011 campaign Sat., Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. ET in a quad-meet in Denver, Colo. The meet will be held at Magness Arena and will feature Denver, Air Force and BYU.
The Gym Dogs return nine letterwinners from the 2010 squad after losing five seniors to graduation. This year’s roster includes two seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen. Jay Clark enters his second season as the UGA head coach and his 19th with the Gym Dogs program.
This will be the first of Georgia’s two trips outside the Southeast in the regular season. The Gym Dogs will face defending national champion UCLA in a tri-meet with Arizona March 6 in Los Angeles. UGA is no stranger to taking long trips during the regular season. Last year the Gym Dogs competed at Utah and Michigan.
Georgia enters the season ranked No. 7, while Denver is No. 16. Air Force and BYU are not ranked. The Gym Dogs will face seven opponents in the preseason top-12 including UCLA, Alabama, Florida, Utah, Michigan, Arkansas and LSU. Georgia had been ranked No. 1 in the preseason from 2006-10, and was No. 2 to start the year from 2002-05.
In the team event rankings, Georgia was ranked in the top-six in three out of four events in 2010. The Gym Dogs were second on beam with a 49.300 RQS, fourth on bars (49.245) and sixth on floor (49.290). UGA was ranked No. 10 on vault (49.235). Individually, Kat Ding ranked fourth on bars (9.915 RQS) and was tied for 18th on vault (9.895).
GEORGIA IN OPENERS
Georgia boasts a 42-9-1 record in season-openers, including dual meets, the old Super Six competition and other invitationals. This marks the first year since 2006 Georgia has not opened the season with a dual meet. That year, the Gym Dogs won the Cancun Classic. It was also the last time UGA opened the season on the road. Last season, Georgia edged Stanford in Athens, 195.150-195.050. In the last 10 years, Georgia’s highest score in a season-opener is a 197.375 in a win over eighth-ranked Stanford in 2007. The highest score in a road season opener during that time is a 196.200 in a loss at No. 3 Utah in 2008.
GEORGIA IN QUAD-MEETS
Georgia’s last quad meet was in 2007 when the Gym Dogs scored a 197.250 to finish first against No. 24 Ohio State, Iowa and NC State in Raleigh, N.C. The Gym Dogs’ last regular season meet that involved more than one team was in 2009 when they won a meet with Kentucky and Centenary with a 196.970 in Lexington, Ky. In the postseason a year ago, Georgia finished third in the seven-team SEC Championship and tied for second in the six-team NCAA Columbia (Mo.) Regional.
GEORGIA IN DENVER
Georgia last competed at Magness Arena in the 2007 NCAA North Central Regional. The Gym Dogs cruised to a first place finish with a score of 197.275 and went on to win their third straight NCAA title. Denver also advanced to the NCAA Championships with a 195.825 and a second place finish in the regional.
Georgia returns three gymnasts who earned All-American honors as freshmen. In 2008, Hilary Mauro was an All-American on the balance beam, while Cassidy McComb earned AA honors on floor. Then in 2009, Kat Ding was an All-American on bars. Last season, Maruo and Ding were SEC individual champions on vault and bars, respectively.
Georgia has five freshmen on the 2011 squad: Bekah Bennetts (Woodstock, Ga.), Lindsey Cheek (Watkinsville, Ga.), Kaylan Earls (Chicago, Ill.), Cat Hires (Tampa, Fla.) and Laura Moffatt (Kennesaw, Ga.). Cheek graduated from Oconee County High School in December and is an early enrollee at UGA.
Georgia sophomore standout Shayla Worley will be back in action this year after missing the latter part of the 2010 season. The former world champion suffered an ankle sprain during Georgia’s win over LSU in the eighth meet of the season a yeara ago and did not return to action. The Orlando, Fla., native was twice named SEC Freshman of the Week and scored a 39.500 in the all-around against Kentucky.
EARLS TO MISS SEASON
Georgia freshman Kaylan Earls will miss the 2011 season after she ruptured her Achilles tendon in a practice on Dec. 30. She underwent surgery on Jan. 4. A native of Chicago, Earls was a Junior Olympic national all-around champion in 2008 and 2009 and was a seven-time national qualifier. She was also a Level 10 Illinois state all-around champion in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Earls, who was in the lineup on vault, beam and floor during the Gym Dogs’ preseason workouts, plans to redshirt the 2011 season and will be ready to train again this summer.
WINNING STREAK AT STEGEMAN COLISEUM
The Gym Dogs are unbeaten at home in their last 34 regular season dual meets dating back to the 2005 season. Following a loss to Alabama on Feb. 18, 2005, Georgia won its next 10 dual meets in Stegeman Coliseum until tying top-ranked Florida on Jan. 27, 2007. Since then, the Gym Dogs have won 24 straight meets at home.
During the summer of 2010, Stegeman Coliseum underwent a $13 million renovation, upgrading the fan experience and enhancing the aesthetics. The existing main concourse level of approximately 30,000 square feet was fully renovated, including modernization and addition of restrooms, upgrades to concession area, a new merchandising area, a first aid room, a new ticket sales area, and new graphics and signage. The renovation did not affect seating within the bowl.
NATIONAL ATTENDANCE LEADER
Last year, Georgia led the country in average attendance - both home and away. A total of 108,719 fans watched the Gym Dogs’ 11 regular season meets this season - an average of 9,883 per meet. That is 1,000 more than second-place Alabama’s average of 8,508 per meet. Utah was third with 8,030 per meet.
UGA also led the country with 96.05 percent capacity in its six home meets in 2010. Three of Georgia’s meets attracted more than 10,000 fans: 10,224.
GEORGIA ON TV
Ten of Georgia’s meets this season are slated to be on TV, including four on national television. The Auburn, Florida and Alabama meets will be shown on ESPNU, while the SEC Championship will air on ESPN2. When the 2011 season ends, 74 of the Gym Dogs’ 99 regular season meets over the last nine years will have been televised.
GEORGIA ADDS TWO FOR 2012
Chelsea Davis, a member of the 2010 USA World Championship team, and Sarah Persinger, a former international elite gymnast, signed with Georgia during the NCAA Early Signing Period in November and will join the Gym Dogs in 2012. Davis, a native of Austin, Texas, trains at Texas Dreams, while Persinger, from Charlotte, N.C., trains at Southeastern Gymnastics.
Georgia will put its 34-meet regular season home unbeaten streak on the line when its plays host to Utah in the home opener on Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. It is the first of three home meets in a span of seven days, as West Virginia comes to Athens on Jan. 17 followed by Auburn on Jan. 21. All three meets will be televised on a tape-delay basis.