Amy Farnum, NCAA.com

Georgia freshman gymnast Lindsey Cheek is living out her dream as a Gym Dog. But what she could have never dreamt as a five-year-old in Jay Clark’s gym in Athens, Ga., is that he would one day be her collegiate head coach.

The native of Watkinsville, Ga., exhibited talent for the sport early on, and Clark asked Cheek’s parents if he could put her on a team even though she was too young to compete.

“You could see this kid had it,” said Clark. “We didn’t want to waste her time in recreational gymnastics. She started training nine hours a week as a five-year-old. It’s pretty neat to have that happen, never really knowing things would work out like they did.”

Clark eventually sold the gym, but Cheek stayed there and worked with former Gym Dog Kim Arnold, and developed into a strong competitor that has made an immediate impact for Georgia despite joining the program less than a month ago.

Cheek officially graduated high school on Dec. 15, and once the paperwork was finalized and certified, she was able to join the Gym Dogs in practice the very next day. NCAA rules prohibited her from working out with the team during the fall.

“We didn’t have any input at all in terms of how she was training during the fall,” said Clark. “She made a couple unofficial visits where she would look and see what we were doing in practice and then try to mimic that. She did that all on her own. When it was finally certified that she had graduated and was able to train with us, it was really encouraging that she came in not very far behind in any area.”

In her first competition as a Gym Dog, Cheek competed in three events and won the vault title (9.95) as Georgia took first place in a quad meet against Denver, BYU, and Air Force last weekend.

“I had pictured that moment in my life, and it was much bigger than I expected,” said Cheek. “It finally happened after waiting for it for so long.”

On Saturday, Cheek will get the chance to compete in front of her hometown crowd as the No. 6 Gym Dogs host No. 3 Utah at the newly-renovated Stegeman Coliseum.

“It will probably be sold out and when her name gets announced – a local kid – I’m sure the crowd will be exponentially louder than normal,” said Clark.

Clark will make sure Cheek does not get too excited with all of her family and friends in the stands with an important meet on the line, but the moment will undoubtedly be something she will remember forever.

“I’ve been a Georgia fan my entire life,” said Cheek. “It was the only place I wanted to go, and going here is like a dream come true. I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else.”

Georgia will host the Utes on Jan. 15 at 4 p.m.

Kentucky Athletics
Kentucky's Andrea Mitchell

Need to Know

There seemed to be no sophomore slump for reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Ashanée Dickerson when the University of Florida opened the season with a 196.925-194.950 defeat of Nebraska last Saturday. Dickerson, a two-time All-American, won her eighth career all-around title with a 39.550, and claimed the vault, balance beam and floor exercise titles with a 9.925 on each event. The native of Jacksonville, Fla., ranks first nationally in the all-around after the first weekend of action.

West Virginia’s Hope Sloanhoffer garnered East Atlantic Gymnastics League Specialist and Rookie of the Week honors after opening her collegiate career with a 9.925 to win the vault in the Mountaineers’ upset of then-No. 13 Missouri last weekend. The native of Cornwall, N.Y., is the first WVU freshman to post a 9.9-plus mark since 2009.

Michigan State senior gymnast Kathryn Mahoney is recovering at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago after fracturing her C6 vertebra during a vault attempt on Dec. 29. Teammates have rallied around Mahoney and will dedicate this season to her and her recovery process according to fellow senior Nikki Argiros. Cards and letters of support can be mailed to Kathryn Mahoney at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: 345 E. Superior St., Chicago, IL 60611, while those looking to donate to the “Kathryn Mahoney Fund” for necessities during the recovery process may do so by mailing checks to either the Michigan State Federal Credit Union, 3777 West Rd., East Lansing, MI 48823 or MSU Gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages, 312 Jenison Field House, East Lansing, MI 48824-1025.

The University of Kentucky tumbled its way to a stellar opening weekend with four career-high scores on the floor exercise, led by senior Andrea Mitchell, who notched a 9.950 for the third-best event score in school history. Right behind Mitchell was fellow senior Jasmine Minion with a 9.925 - the fourth-best floor score in program history. Mitchell and Minion are currently first and second nationally in the individual floor exercise rankings.

Quick Hits

Alabama freshman Sarah DeMeo debuted with the top balance beam score in the nation (9.925) as the Crimson Tide opened the season with a win over Penn State. … Kent State freshman Marie Case garnered Mid-American Conference Gymnast of the Week after winning the all-around (39.075) in a season-opening victory over Maryland on Jan. 9. She won the floor exercise and beam in the meet, and helped the Golden Flashes vault to a No. 12 national ranking after the first week of action. … Although defending NCAA champion UCLA did not win either of its meets last weekend, junior all-arounder Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs shined for the Bruins, and was named Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week for her efforts. She won the all-around at the Pac-10 Showcase with a 39.55, as well as the beam and floor titles, and claimed the uneven bars title at Utah capturing third place in the all-around competition.