Number six Utah headed down to Athens to face off against eighth-ranked Georgia for a highly-anticipated top ten, rivalry clash. With both teams looking for high scores to solidify their rankings heading into postseason, the meet was intense from start to finish as the teams competed in front of a sold-out Bulldog crowd of over 10,000 at Stegeman Coliseum.
Starting out on vault, the home Gymdogs team opened the rotation with a stuck Yurchenko full from freshman Mikayla Magee for a 9.875. Snead called Magee’s vault the highlight of the meet for her, saying it “started [them] off on a great note,” and that the momentum just “kept building”. They closed with huge scores of 9.950 from freshman Rachel Lukacs on her massive Yurchenko double full and a 9.900 from Snead, who was honored at the meet as the lone senior on Senior Night.
Lukacs clalled the moment when she landed “the best feeling”, and added how happy she was to hit for her team. Georgia’s rotation total of 49.475 on vault to start gave them a lead over Utah through one, who scored a 49.325. Utah’s bar rotation was led by a pair of 9.900s from MaKenna Merrell-Giles and MyKayla Skinner.
Georgia moved to the uneven bars for the second rotation, and they were lead by sophomore Marissa Oakley, who anchored the rotation with a 9.900. Georgia scored a 49.275 on the event, with Rachel Dickson the second highest score with 9.875. Utah was able to gain some ground with their 49.325 on vault, led by Skinner’s 9.925. At the halfway point, Georgia held just a .1 lead over Utah, leading 98.75 to 98.65.
Georgia had a great rotation on beam, with a pair of 9.900s from freshman Rachel Baumann and junior Sabrina Vega anchoring the 49.425 performance. Utah was solid on floor but had a few issues with landings, with Merrell-Giles and Skinner boosting the rotation score up to 49.325 with their scores of 9.900 and 9.975, respectively, to close out the rotation. Skinner’s difficulty packed routine, complete with a tucked double-double and a closing tucked full-in, drew applause even from Bulldog fans. Heading into the final event, Georgia led Utah 148.175 to 148.025.
Georgia closed out strong on floor in front of a home crowd, with juniors Dickson and Vega the high scores of the rotation with 9.925 and 9.900, respectively. The 49.35 final rotation featured Snead’s final floor performance in the regular season in front of her home crowd, and the senior said she was reminding herself “Don’t cry, don’t cry” before her performance.
Snead’s final performance was emotional for the whole team, with Lukacs saying she “almost started crying before she went.” Snead has been a leader for the team all four years, but especially this year and she says she came into this year “ready to step into that role,” with Rachel Lukacs adding that Snead has done “so much for her” in her freshman season.
Head Coach Courtney Kupets-Carter also spoke about Snead’s leadership, saying that the four-time all-American has been “such a great senior for so many freshman.” The other senior honoree for Georgia, Gracie Cherrie, medically retired after her sophomore season but has still had a positive impact on the team, with Snead saying that the two “have been best friends since they stepped on campus.”
Georgia’s final total of 197.525 was enough to take down Utah, who came up just short with a 197.45. The Utes closed strong on beam with a 49.425, started off with a 9.900 from Kari Lee and led by a 9.950 from Merrell-Giles.
Snead talked about the message after the win being to “fix the little things and continuing to grow,” with Kupets-Carter adding that this was the teams first competition without a fall, saying that they have “really stepped up as a team.” Lukacs talked about her excitement that regionals will be in her home arena this year, calling competing at her first regionals in Athens “a dream come true,” with Snead adding that being able to compete in front of their fans on their own equipment will “definetely help [them].”
Utah and Georgia will both be going for conference titles next weekend, Utah at the Pac-12 Championships at home for them in Salt Lake City, and Georgia at the SEC Championships in New Orleans, so keep an eye out for both competitions next weekend.Tags: Courtney Kupets Carter, Georgia, Georgia Bulldogs, Gracie Cherrie, Kari Lee, MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Marissa Oakley, Mikayla Magee, MyKayla Skinner, NCAA Gymnastics, Pac 12, Rachel Baumann, Rachel Dickson, Rachel Lukacs, Sabrina Vega, SEC, Utah, Utah Utes