Georgia gym news

Suzanne Yoculan, who nursed the Georgia Gymdog program from puppyhood to maturity during the past quarter century, will retire after the 2008-09 season, the University of Georgia announced today. Georgia alum Jay Clark, Yoculan’s assistant coach since 1990, will take over the program.

Yoculan is leaving behind a legacy most coaches can only dream of. In 24 years, Yoculan’s team has finished no lower than 9th at the NCAA Championships. In the past decade, Georgia’s never been off the podium at Nationals. If ever there has been a gymnastics dynasty, this is it.

Longtime Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan celebrates another win with the Gymdogs.

Nor does it appear things will change anytime soon. Part of Yoculan’s success has been her ability to attract top athletes to her program.

Among the classes Clark is credited with recruiting are the classes of 1998 and 1999, which consisted of All-Americans Kim Arnold, Julie Ballard, Jenni Beathard, Karin Lichey, Sam Muhleman and Canadian National Team member Stacey Galloway. Those two recruiting classes are regarded as the “two best recruiting classes ever in the history of Georgia gymnastics and possibly in all of collegiate gymnastics” by Yoculan.

Arnold, Beathard, Lichey and Muhleman were former U.S. National Team members. Also due in large part to his efforts, Georgia signed the No. 1 recruits in 1993 (Leslie Angeles), 1994 (Arnold) and 1995 (Amanda Borden). The Gym Dogs’ roster currently includes two former Olympic medalists in Kupets and sophomore Courtney McCool.

Gymnasts who have been among the lower echelon of the elite ranks have typically done well in college programs, and Georgia has been no exception. Cases in point: Arnold, who won the NCAA all-around in 1997 and 1998, and Lichey, who won the Honda Award for women’s gymnastics in 1999. Following the tradition, South Carolinian Grace Taylor wowed the Gymdogs as a freshman last year, placing second on balance beam at the NCAA Championships.

Grace Taylor at the 2004 Friendship Classic:

And at the 2007 NCAA Championships on balance beam:

Georgia freshman Hilary Mauro

This year, former national team member Hilary Mauro, who at 4’7″ has the distinction of being the smallest gymnast ever to join the Georgia team, will make her collegiate debut. She is one of only two freshman on Georgia’s team — the other is Cassidy McComb, who trained at Gymcats in Las Vegas under coach Cassie Rice.

Mauro, who was 16th at the 2006 U.S. Championships, has already been impressive at practice, training a double pike off beam, a running double front and a whip double pike on floor and a one and a half twisting Yurchenko vault, Yoculan said in an internet video release. She has been writing a weekly column, titled Hilary’s Highlights, since September.

Hilary Mauro, 2006 Ghent World Cup Event Finals, Balance Beam:

According to the Athens, Ga. Banner-Herald, the announcement of Yoculan’s impending retirement elicited an emotional reaction from the Gymdogs.

Tears were shed when Yoculan told her team on Monday about her retirement plans. Recruits that have committed to Georgia and will sign in November were informed last week.

“It was kind of a shock; we weren’t ready for it,” Taylor said. “It’s all good emotion. I think they definitely put a lot of thought and planning into making sure that when Suzanne retired that it was the best time possible. We were all happy for her. Everyone wants to decide when they retire, and it’s a long way off, too.”

(via Gymnastics Coaching)

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