No. 16 Nebraska (6-1 Overall, 5-0 Big Ten), No. 17 Georgia (3-5 Overall, 3-5 SEC), Stanford (6-9 Overall, 0-8 Pac-12), and Illinois (7-3 Overall, 4-2 Big Ten) are set to compete in Augusta, GA, the home of the Masters Tournament, on podium prior to the postseason.
By Patricia Duffy
AUGUSTA, Ga. — No. 16 Nebraska (6-1 Overall, 5-0 Big Ten), No. 17 Georgia (3-5 Overall, 3-5 SEC), Stanford (6-9 Overall, 0-8 Pac-12), and Illinois (7-3 Overall, 4-2 Big Ten) are set to compete in Augusta, GA, Friday evening at 7:30 Eastern in James Brown Arena.
Elevate the Stage is a regular season, on podium invitational. The Cardinal, led by senior all-arounder Elizabeth Price, competed in an early season stop for the meet series in Reno, NV, coming in fourth place against UCLA, Utah and Washington.
Since that meet, Stanford is 1-5. The team is struggling with youth (six out of the 13 team members are true freshman) and injuries, but Price, the lone senior, seems to be peaking in her final season. She has recorded two Perfect 10s, one on uneven bars and one on vault. Currently, Price ranks second on floor (9.916), fourth on vault (9.906), fifth on bars (9.853) and third in the all-around (39.532). First-year Stanford head coach Tabitha Yim is the most decorated women’s gymnast in program history. She was a 14-time All-American and earned a biology degree in 2008.
Yim is in good company with Georgia first-year head coach Courtney Kupets-Carter, the most decorated gymnast in Bulldog history, leading her team.
Kupets-Carter’s presence, along with volunteer assistant coach Suzanne Yoculan Leebern, has put Georgia back in the spotlight, but the transition hasn’t been all smooth for the Bulldogs. The team has won just three meets this season and is putting up only five gymnasts on vault and floor. Conversely, junior all-arounder Sydney Snead scored a Perfect 10 on floor at home against the Florida Gators two weeks ago. Her first Perfect 10 and Georgia’s first since 2016, Snead ranks 17th in the all-around rankings. Her teammate, sophomore Rachel Dickson, comes in at 38. Both will be strong opponents for Price.
While Elevate the Stage is Stanford and Georgia’s only meet this weekend, both Illinois and Nebraska are on part one of a multi-meet weekend.
Illinois tallied season-best team scores on bars (49.225) and floor (49.175) against Missouri and UIC last weekend. The weekend prior to that, the Fighting Illini tallied a season-high 196.350 team score at Michigan State. Sophomore Karen Howell has one two-straight bars titles, hitting a career-best 9.900 last weekend. Freshman all-arounder Nicole Biondi is looking to continue her string of success after earning the first event titles (bars and all-around) of her career against Iowa on February 2, where she scored career-high marks on bars (9.900), beam (9.850), floor (9.825) and in the all-around (39.325).
Undefeated in the Big Ten and tallying only one loss in a close one to top-ranked Oklahoma (196.425-196.175), Nebraska comes into the meet as a force to be reckoned with. Coming off a victory against Pittsburgh, the Huskers are lead by major contributors juniors Sienna Crouse and Megan Schweihofer. Crouse and Schweihofer swept the five individual titles last weekend, with Crouse taking the bars, beam and all-around titles, and Schweihofer winning vault and floor and coming in second in the all-around. Both all-around performances marked career-highs for the gymnasts. The Huskers have some new star power of their own with 2016 USA Olympic Team captain Chris Brooks in his first season as an assistant coach. He leads the team’s vault and floor lineups.
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