April 22, 2009

Gym Dogs do it again

Georgia huddles before the last rotation of the Gym Dogs' first place finish in the NCAA Championships afternoon preliminary Thursday, April 16, 2009, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

There is only one thing I love more than sportraits and that is shooting gymnastics. Lucky me the Georgia Gym Dogs are the best there is in collegiate gymnastics and I've gotten to shoot the last two of their 5 consecutive National Championships. The most recent of these was last week in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a whole week of nothing but gymnastics.

Georgia's Courtney McCool practices on beam Wednesday, April 15, 2009.

Georgia's Tiffany Tolnay gets a hug from coach Suzanne Yoculan after competing on bars in the NCAA Championships preliminary Thursday, April 16, 2009.

Georgia's Courtney McCool placed second on beam in the NCAA Individual Event Finals Saturday April 18, 2009.

Georgia's Grace Taylor hugs teammate Courtney McCool after McCool's 9.950 on beam in the Gym Dogs' first place finish in the NCAA Championships afternoon preliminary.

Georgia Gym Dogs from left Hilary Mauro, Abby Stack, Gina Nuccio, and Cassidy McComb dance in their locker room with teammate Lauren Johnson looking on before the start of the NCAA Gymnastics Championship final Friday April 17, 2009.

Georgia's Courtney Kupets performs a Shushunova on
floor in the NCAA Gymnastics Championship.

The limitations of the photo boxes during competition was a challenge as usual. Last year I battled the photo nazi trying to kick me out every time a toe came out of the taped off rectangles. This year luckily I was only reprimanded by an official once and it was completely justified. Georgia had come back after being down near the halfway point of the competition. Their final event was on vault which was wrapped up with Courtney Kupets scoring a perfect 10 followed up by a near perfect 9.95 by Tiffany Tolnay. That was the moment when the emotion was at its peak. Legendary coach Suzanne Yoculan and Tolnay ran to their team as the realization that they had done it hit.

Georgia's Courtney Kupets sticks her vault landing.
Kupets scored her third 10 of the week.

There were no photo boxes near the team and I wanted to shoot them celebrating wide. I like getting right in the middle of things. I just feel those shots really take people into the moment more than shooting long. I took the risk of sacrificing the ongoing celebration to leave the floor and make my way through the back halls of the coliseum to pop out at the entrance near the team. I emerged and got right in the mix trying to capture something special.

Coach Suzanne Yoculan cries after realizing the Gym Dogs have won the NCAA Gymnastics Championship Friday, April 17, 2009, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. This is the retiring Yoculan's 10th and final title.

Georgia sophomores Cassidy McComb, left, and Hilary
Mauro hug as it sinks in that the Gym Dogs have won
the National Championship.

I only got these two moments before being politely told by an NCAA official that photographers need to be in photo boxes. I later got the standard trophy shot, but the other two are still my favorites because the emotion was so raw. The adrenaline and excitement of being there was unreal. So far in my career this tops it all.

The Georgia Gym Dogs scream as they are presented with
the NCAA Gymnastics Championship trophy.

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