Exciting news from the world of the Gym Dogs today! Senior Kat Ding has been featured in the Feb. 27 Faces in the Crowd section of Sports Illustrated, which hit newsstands Wednesday.
Ding caught the attention of Sports Illustrated following her performance against No. 3 Arkansas on Feb. 10. In just her second career all-around, Ding placed first with a 39.550 in the Gym Dogs' win. She matched the highest all-around score by a Georgia gymnast since Courtney Kupets and Tiffany Tolnay in the 2009 NCAA Super Six.
A native of Sparks, Nev., Ding had her second straight 39.550 in the all-around last Saturday against Kentucky. The reigning NCAA uneven bars champion also tied for first on vault with a season-high 9.925, on bars with a 9.9 and on beam with a 9.825. She closed the meet with a 9.9 on floor to retain her No. 1 national ranking in the all-around, and is ranked No. 5 on vault, No. 8 on bars and No. 11 on floor.
Faces in the Crowd has been published every week in Sports Illustrated since 1956. The publication posts its Faces in the Crowd selections each Wednesday afternoon at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/scorecard/faces.
Ding and the third-ranked Gym Dogs return to action Friday night against No. 1 Florida in Gainesville.
*Interesting note: other Bulldogs included in the publication in the past are:
Anne Marie Armstrong (WBB), Hunter Cole (baseball), Jennifer Dahlgren (T&F), Travis Helgeson (MTennis), Torrin Lawrence (T&F, twice), Michelle Morris (EQU), and Ashley Razey (softball).
By Steve Colquitt, Associate Sports Communications Director
After leading his Georgia swimming and diving team to another Southeastern Conference title, Coach Jack Bauerle joked that the only thing that went wrong at the meet was his part of the celebration.
Victorious teams traditionally jump into the pool together, followed by a school cheer or song. The head coaches, including Bauerle, jump in last. On Saturday in Knoxville, Bauerle decided to do a flip into the water -- with one tiny issue.
"I think I made it about three-quarters of the way on my flip," Bauerle said, still dripping wet from his plunge. "And I got water in my ear. Let's just say I would not have gotten any diving points."
Truth be told, the Lady Bulldogs garnered plenty of points on their own. Georgia rolled up 781 points to outdistance host Tennessee's 629.5. (That is the equivalent of a 25-point win in basketball.)
The title was the third straight for the Lady Bulldogs and the ninth in school history -- all coming under Bauerle. Three straight championships is the second-longest streak in school history, trailing only the five earned from 1997 to 2001.
"It was a great meet, and I could not be prouder of our ladies," Bauerle said. "It's always nice to get to hold that trophy on the last day. Winning a title in this conference is no small feat. Teams just keep fighting and fighting. That's what I like about our team. We have fighters too, and they don't back down from a challenge. They are a tough bunch. As a coach, you always want to see effort and consistency. That's what we have with this group. They deserve this title. This is a feeling that never gets old.
"It's nice to come back to Athens with the trophy. This is something these kids will never forget."
The Lady Bulldogs won six events during the four-day meet. Wendy Trott took the 1,650 freestyle, becoming the first woman in league history to claim the mile all four years. Megan Romano won the 100 and 200 freestyle. (Romano also placed second in the 100 backstroke, breaking the school record in the process.) Michelle McKeehan was victorious in the 200 breaststroke and Amber McDermott came in first in the 500 freestyle. Georgia additionally won the 800 freestyle relay with Shannon Vreeland, Melanie Margalis, Jordan Mattern and Romano.
After the meet, McDermott was chosen as the SEC Female Freshman of the Year.
"It was a great team effort," Bauerle said. "I'm not sure we had a bad swim, and you can't say that often. Most of the time, we were really good, even great. Everybody had a hand in it, too. That's the main thing in winning a championship. You have to have a lot of depth -- and we are fortunate that we do."
In addition to lapping the field, the Lady Bulldogs assaulted their own record book. Seventeen times in 13 events were top-10 efforts in school history, led by Romano's Georgia mark in the 100 backstroke. And of the 13 set in individual races, 10 were established by underclassmen.
The Bulldogs came in third, fighting off the host Volunteers for the spot. Martin Grodzki won the 500 and the 1,650 freestyle races, while Nic Fink swept the 100 and 200 breaststroke events, and Doug Reynolds claimed the 100 butterfly. Grodzki won the 1,650 freestyle for the third straight year, giving Georgia its eighth consecutive crown in the event. Reynolds became Georgia's first 100 butterfly winner since 1965 when Bo Holland won the event. After the meet, Fink was selected as the SEC Male Freshman of the Year.
Michael Arnold set the school record in the 50 freestyle, eclipsing Georgia's longest-standing mark. Allan Murray set the previous school mark in 1993. (Murray lives in the Bahamas, and Bauerle joked that he and Arnold should break the news to Murray in person.) Arnold, Fink, Reynolds and John Simmons also set the school record in the 200 medley relay. All told, 15 top-10 times were established in 13 events.
"Our men sometimes get overshadowed by our ladies, but they had a heck of a meet too," Bauerle said. "They really battled and gave us great effort. Some of our young guys really grew up at the meet. We're enjoying what's going on right now, and we feel like we have a bright future with our men's team."
The Lady Bulldogs will compete in the NCAA Championships March 15-17 in Auburn as they seek the program's fifth national title, while the Bulldogs will head to the NCAAs in Federal Way, Wash., March 22-24.
ESPNU will televise highlights from the SECs on a tape-delay basis. The men's meet will air Monday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m., and the women's meet will air Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m.
Georgia's teams will be back in action Saturday and Sunday at Gabrielsen Natatorium hosting the Bulldog Last Chance Meet.
By Aimee Russo, Sports Communications Graduate Assistant
As we gear up for today's annual Pink Out meet, you may not know that the Georgia Gym Dogs' talents extend off the floor.
Junior Christa Tanella had a hand in the new and heart-pumping pre-meet video. In fact, she wrote the script to the beginning of the video, highlighting the strength that the Bulldog nation gives to the team. Be sure to check out the uniquely intense video at the meet as the Gym Dogs take on Kentucky at 4:00 p.m in Stegeman Coliseum.
Another creative Gym Dog, senior Kat Ding, who added a Fashion Merchandising minor to her Advertising major, has designed many of the team's leotards over the last three years, including this week's Pink Out meet uniform. See more about Ding's design skills here.
And did you know that NCAA Gymnastics designated Pink Out meets for all participating institutions after former Gym Dog Talya Vexler was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 23? Survivors like Talya will be honored as they line the vault during introductions tomorrow. Read more about how important the Pink Out meet is to the GymDogs here.
Hope to see all of you out at the meet today supporting the Gym Dogs, but if you can't be there, you can follow along with live video coverage on Georgiadogs.com, including commentary with Kevin Copp and Cassidy McComb with a subscription to GTV, as well as the Gym Dogs Live Chat starting right before the first rotation gets underway.