Senior Kaylan Earls
March 8, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. --- Focused. Tenacious. Caring. Leaders.
The 2014 Gym Dog seniors—Lindsey Cheek, Kaylan Earls and Cat Hires—have an impressive résumé, but it is their leadership that truly sets them apart.
“They are all very vital to our team chemistry, our team camaraderie, our success and our ability to overcome struggles,” Georgia head coach Danna Durante said.
What makes this group of seniors so special is that they lead by example.
“They don’t jut talk the talk, but they walk the walk as well,” junior Demetria Hunte said. “They maintain such a positive attitude for this team to feed off of on a daily basis.”
Leadership can take many forms. It is not something that is always easy to observe from the stands on meet day. Sometimes leadership looks like speaking up. Sometimes it looks like a listening ear. And sometimes it looks like baking cookies on a Friday night.
“These girls have been there for me from the first day I arrived on campus,” junior Chelsea Davis said. “From teaching me the bus system to baking cookies in the dorms, we have built friendships and bonds that I know will last long after our years as Gym Dogs.”
Great leadership earns respect, and Cheek, Earls and Hires have done that. The underclassmen listed numerous qualities in the seniors that they love and admire, including their hilarious personalities, competitive spirit, hard work, acceptance, drive, determination and trustworthiness.
“They know how to include everyone and how to make the team united,” sophomore Brittany Rogers said. “They deeply care so much about everyone. They are hardworking, and their leadership is irreplaceable. They’ve helped me build trust with others because of how much I can trust them.”
“They never settle for anything less than they are capable of,” Hunte said. “Not only do they strive to be the absolute best athletes they can be, but they are also amazing role models as students and people of the UGA community.”
As athletes, Cheek, Earls and Hires boast a total of 61 wins over the last four years. They contributed to two region championships and an appearance in the 2013 Super Six, a feat that a Georgia team had not accomplished since 2009.
As individuals, the three seniors are unique. Durante commented on the characteristics that each of them brings to the team.
“Cheek is focused. Her work ethic and her focus every day in practice sets an example. She gives everything she has every day at practice, and the result is that she’s having an amazing year. She is a great example that hard work does pay off.
“Kaylan [Earls] is feisty and tenacious. She doesn’t talk a lot, but when she speaks, everyone knows that it comes from her heart and there’s strong meaning behind it. She’s direct. She tackles things head on, and she leads this team a great deal by her actions.
“Cat [Hires] has a huge heart. She loves people. She loves this team. Her way to lead is to be incredibly supportive. She’s always there, no matter what—success, struggle, in life, in the gym—It doesn’t matter. She’s always there for them.”
Even with such unique attributes, the seniors are united, and they lead the team by their love for each other and their sport.
“They truly are an amazing class that compliment each other,” sophomore Anysia Unick said.
Saturday’s meet against Denver will be the final dual meet in Stegeman Coliseum for the seniors. As Cheek, Earls and Hires are drawing near to the end of the their Georgia gymnastics career, Durante wants them to leave this program knowing how much they are loved and appreciated.
“I’m incredibly proud of their growth as athletes and young women in the two years that I’ve gotten to coach them. I want them to know that we are proud of them and their willingness to take risks and trust us as a staff. They have continued to lay groundwork and foundation on a program that’s deep in history, success and tradition. They’ve continued to uphold those traditions, and we are just so proud of them.”