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Gymdogs feel the thrill, set high expectations for floor routine: ‘It’s just so electric’

Georgia’s Sabrina Vega during a gymnastics meet between the University of Georgia and Ohio State University in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
Georgia’s Sabrina Vega during a gymnastics meet between the University of Georgia and Ohio State University in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.

As Sabrina Vega landed a double tuck on the last pass of floor routine, her head whipped back, arms bolted through the air and a wide, open-mouthed smile shone under the bright Stegeman Coliseum lights.

Behind Vega stood her teammates who jumped up-and-down in excitement, and behind the GymDogs were 10,523 fans who felt the same as a bark echoed throughout the arena.

The thrill of taking part in Georgia’s floor routine was back.

“It’s my favorite event, because it’s just so electric,” Vega said. “My personality shows a little bit, probably too much sometimes. We just kept momentum and that’s something that we’ve been working on as a team, and remembering that we push through a mistake and get your team rolling.”

Georgia’s floor routine was what capped a 196.600-194.900 win over Ohio State, which marked its highest season-opening total since 2007 in a win over Stanford (197.375). Courtney Kupets Carter, the GymDogs’ second-year head coach, was on that team to eventually claim a national title.

Georgia was able to win its meet due to the anchors on each event who set the tone. There were freshmen to compete on each event, and some posted solid scores — such as a 9.825 on vault from Rachel Baumann and a 9.8 on bars from Alexa Al-Hameed. But the work of Vega, Sydney Snead and Rachel Dickson carried Georgia to posting a pleasing total.

On floor, it was no different.

Freshman Alyssa Perez-Lugones started the event with a 8.875 after stepping off of the mat (the score would later be deducted from the team’s total). The Snead, Dickson and Vega trio — along with a 9.85 from Rachael Lukacs — brought what the GymDogs have been used to for many seasons: a strong performance that brought a jolt of energy.

Dickson led the trio with a 9.9, Vega trailed behind with a 9.875 and Snead rounded out the strong scores with a 9.85.

“Floor is going to be a very strong event for us this year,” Kupets Carter said. “We need to clean up the little details and can have four-to-five 9.9s on that event consistently, or higher.”

None of the scores posted by the three returners were career-high marks, and Snead’s record of a 10 against Florida last season may be tough to match. Nevertheless, it was a performance that Georgia was pleased with because it was a new-look lineup with some newly-implemented routines.

Perez-Lugones, Lukacs and Makayla Magee each took on the floor routine as a GymDog for the first time, and Kupets Carter indicated there were some small technicalities that needed to be improved.

Dickson (double arabian) and Vega (full-in pike) — both of which rank in the “E” category of difficulty, the toughest level — each have new passes on their routines, and Snead picks up tempo with a music change on the same routine.

“It’s to increase difficulty, because last year we only had five and we needed to pull down on it to make sure we could hit,” Kupets Carter said. “We are pushing them now to do more in the gym.”

Each gymnast heard a cheer from the crowd after landing a pass, but the ultimate thrill came when the judges held up a high score. Georgia’s joy of experiencing winning gymnastics was back.

“It gives you the juices and you want to go compete for everybody,” Vega said.

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