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‘Only greatness from here’: GymDogs go back to basics, yield positive results on bars

Special to the Telegraph

It took ages of searching the depths of the internet to discover just what goes through a gymnast’s head when she’s competing on the bar routine. Well, sort of.

If you’ve watched gymnastics before, you know the bars competition. It’s the routine where a gymnast flings her body back and forth between two (wait for it) bars — one around three feet higher than the other — as thousands of anxious spectators watch on.

Nothing came up. Thanks, internet.

Luckily, Sydney Snead, who tied a career-high 9.9 on the bars Friday night, could offer a little insight. Snead led off for the GymDogs on the rotation and set the tone with a commanding performance on the bars.

Her method? Keep it simple. A common theme Friday night.

“We said, ‘you know what? Just do your normal bars,’” Snead said. “We’re not going to pick out little things (to correct). We’re not going to over-analyze it. I think today was a huge step for us, taking that next step.”

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Sydney Snead celebrates after recording a 9.9 on bar routine against Arkansas at Stegeman Coliseum. Kristen Sudge - Kristen Elise Fine Art Photography Special to the Telegraph

The sixth-ranked GymDogs tied a season-high 49.275 on the routine (vs. Alabama, January 18) and only one GymDog scored below a 9.8 on the event. The team even set a season-high on total score in its 197.475-196.125 win over Arkansas.

But back to the bars, which Georgia entered Friday night ranked No. 18 nationally in (the team ranks inside the Top 10 in each competition aside from bars).

It’s a complex event, and arguably the most. Gymnasts who compete in the bars must perform one “flight element,” a second (and different) flight element, one turn and a dismount.

GymDogs coach Courtney Kupets Carter knows the event’s complexity better than anyone. A former gymnast herself, Kupets Carter saw the need for improvement on the event before the team’s season even started.

That’s clearly still the case a month later, as the GymDogs scored a season-low 48.8 on the routine six days prior, in a loss to No. 13 Auburn. But Friday night’s season-best performance served as a mighty good start.

Kupets Carter, along with the rest of the bars team, nitpicked their performances throughout the season, according to the first-year coach. She said the bar competitors “got in their heads too much,” and overanalyzed their performances.

“They just felt the pressure of having to be perfect,” Kupets Carter said. “We constantly tell them, it’s not about being perfect. ... It’s not focusing on those (nitpicky) things.”

The repeated corrections in practice — to focus on sticking the landing and getting the right release off the bar to stick said landing — yielded a negative effect on the competitors. They felt, according to Kupets Carter, that they “weren’t doing it good enough.”

So, the solution was a simple one: Go back to basics. And it worked.

Rachel Dickson matched Snead’s 9.9. Alexa Al-Hameed scored a 9.85. Megan Roberts and Emily Schild each scored at least a 9.8. Al-Hameed and Roberts are both freshmen.

“I definitely don’t think we have a weak bar team,” said Sabrina Vega, who scored at least a 9.9 on each of her three competitions. “We do have freshmen that need a little more experience. ... I think we are strong. We’re still in the beginning of the season.

“Only greatness from here.”

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