Things Are Happening – December 2, 2016

A. The Decis-Ernst

This week, Peyton Ernst was finally allowed to shake off the gag order and reveal that this January she’ll be heading to Gustavus Adolphus.

No. She’s going to Alabama. Obviously. We’ve known this for a while based on her literally everything about her and that time Bailie Key committed, but now it’s “official.” And by official, I mean there was a picture on Twitter. Which is what official means now.

Based on this tweet, we can assume Ernst ultimately selected Alabama because of the coaches, the teammates, the butts, and the white baseball caps.

We’ll have to talk beam lineup once we get to the Alabama preview portion of the month.

B. Training!

As always, Utah is going for the December championship of training videos. Kim Tessen’s 1.5 looks on track.

Highlights of local freshman Kim Tessen (AKA Kim Possible) from the intrasquad last weekend. #GoUtes #RedRocksPreviewDec9

A video posted by Utah Gymnastics (@utahgymnastics) on

 

Skimmy Gibbler (I don’t know either…) is retaining the DTY and the tucked double double just like I told her to.

Highlights of freshman MyKayla Skinner from the Thanksgiving Intrasquad. #GoUtes #RedRocksPreviewDec9

A video posted by Utah Gymnastics (@utahgymnastics) on

Highlights of super-soph Makenna Merrell from our Thanksgiving Intrasquad. #GoUtes #RedRocksPreviewDec9

A video posted by Utah Gymnastics (@utahgymnastics) on

Merrell also appears to be trying to bring back her 1.5 from JO days. Many teams are showing a distinctly different strategy from last year’s “we’ll wait and see if it’s worth it to try the 1.5,” having learned that it almost always is.

Continue reading Things Are Happening – December 2, 2016

Under the Lights: Suzanne Yoculan and Guests

Back in 2007, our beloved Suzanne Yoculan—or Suzie Yocks, as no one calls her but me—woke up one morning and said, “I can’t believe you think I like attention!” and invited cameras into the gym to profile her team’s preparation for the 2008 season in AFI’s #1 all-time best film ever, Under the Lights: Georgia Gymnastics. Directed by Suzanne’s hair, produced by Suzanne’s heels, it costars Suzanne Yoculan and Suzanne Yoculan.

Let’s begin.

The team opens proceedings by gathering around a giant G so that Katie Heenan can ominously threaten us that we’re about to go Under. The. Lights.

Is this like a waterboarding?

“Hey Katie, could you do another take, but this time make it 64% less Guantanamoy?”

Next, we meet Suzanne and some other nameless rabble who are here to tell us how awesome they are. They’re pretty awesome.

Suzanne’s like, “Pretty awesome???”

She gives us her best recruiting spiel about Georgia’s pedigree of champion awesomeness while surrounded by all her most comforting and supportive trophies, including what appears to be a glass foot because of the reasons.

winefoot

For…Best Performance by Heels on a Competition Floor?

Meanwhile, Jay Clark goes, “We’re the best team, we’re always going to win the national championship, and I can’t imagine anything possibly changing that ever.” Me neither. Continue reading Under the Lights: Suzanne Yoculan and Guests

Things Are Happening – November 18, 2016

A. NCAA Training

FLOG has continued its whistle-stop tour of the American South with visits to Alabama and Georgia.

Sabrina Vega not only exists but now also has a floor routine. The choreography looks a little “we’re worried about your stamina” because it’s entirely on the floor, but she’s getting through it. She has real skills back.

Over Alabama way, Maddie Desch is showing routines. She’s now dismounting bars with a double front instead of that increasingly chucked tucked full she used in elite. I’m usually not in favor (though Alabama loves its double fronts), but in this case it’s probably the better choice given the road her previous dismount was going down. A road called Hitting The Bar And Landing On Your Face Avenue.

Shea Mahoney was in a boot earlier this fall, but she’s getting back to bars now.

“Sassy” for Aja Sims. “Spicy” for Nickie Guerrero. OK, FLOG. Also, Aja Sims’ floor music is sirens. Discuss. Continue reading Things Are Happening – November 18, 2016

And the Rest: 2017 Freshmen

“But when are you going to do William & Mary?!?!?!” asked no one.

Still, freshmen exist at other schools, and they may or may not be worth taking a look at—based on their gymnastics or the fact that I actually recognize their names (!)—as we head into the season. I’ll wrap up the freshman rundowns with this so that we can move on to full team expectations, preseason rankings, and lineup/scoring previews post-Thanksgiving. It’s getting real now.

Southern UtahAutumn Jorgensen and Madison McBride
SUU’s freshman class is a national record 868 people big, and the team you always forget is good has added a sack of new routines that should continue the process of breaking down that top-20 barricade. Also, they’re pretty much all from the same gym. Does Southern Utah’s recruiting process just consist of heading to All-American with a net? Got em! Done!

I believe Jorgensen was supposed to be a 2018er, but she popped up early and just happens to be a JO champion on beam.

Madison McBride, meanwhile, is a JO champion on bars.

McBride (and her sister Megan) will also bring usable vaults, with Madison having trained the 1.5. This is a real class of ninja Level 10s. Continue reading And the Rest: 2017 Freshmen

Does It Pay to 1.5?

The start value of the Yurchenko full may have been changed to promote more variety on vault, but the most delicious byproduct of the move has been the creation of a big, fat dilemma. The new strategic twist for coaches to grapple with: does an extra .05 actually make the Yurchenko 1.5 worth it, or is it smarter to stay with the trusty full?

Preseason training videos reveal that this dilemma is even more widespread this year than last year, and over the next month or so, coaches will have to make major decisions about whether their gymnasts should actually compete that wonky 1.5 they’ve been training.

So……should they?

Thankfully, we now have a whole season of evidence to use in making that decision for them, so let’s take a look at whether competing the Yurchenko 1.5 actually ended up being worth it in 2016.

Item 1: The average vault scores from the national championship (semifinals and Super Six), separated by type of vault. The first table includes all vaults, while the second table removes the falls.

2016 Nationals – Average Scores (with falls)
Yurchenko 1.5 9.829
Other vaults 9.821
Yurchenko full 9.803
2016 Nationals – Average Scores (no falls)
Yurchenko 1.5 9.867
Other vaults 9.863
Yurchenko full 9.803

The story these tables tell is a relatively optimistic one for Team 1.5. Even with a few falls at nationals, the 1.5 still ended up being more valuable than the full on average, a good argument for its being worth the risk. When falls are not included, the margin between the vaults balloons to 0.064, greater than the 0.050 difference in start value. Continue reading Does It Pay to 1.5?

SEC and Pac-12 Freshman Round-Up

For most of the schools in the Pac-12 and SEC, I already have specific posts full of overly charitable impressions of how this season’s freshmen might end up contributing to their teams, but in the event of dramatic laziness, they’re right here:

Alabama
Arkansas
Auburn
Cal
Florida
Georgia
LSU
Oregon State
Stanford
UCLA
Utah

BUT WAIT! These conferences also contain other schools (sometimes…), so here’s a brief (ha!) overview of the key freshmen joining those remaining SEC and Pac-12 programs, the ones you may want to know about for various fandom/fantasy gym needs.

WASHINGTON
Madison Copiak, Michaela Nelson, Evanni Roberson, Haley Roy, Maya Washington

Elise Ray should basically be bouncing off the walls that this is the first freshman class she gets to work with as head coach. It’s a thing. Madison Copiak was just a hair away from being on Canada’s 2015 worlds team and brings elite-level difficulty across four events, including a 1.5 on vault and a bars routine that nearly got her on a few teams here and there. It will just take some refining to turn her routines into useful NCAA scores.

Continue reading SEC and Pac-12 Freshman Round-Up

Things Are Happening – November 11, 2016

A. NCAA training

LSU invited FLOG to this week’s intrasquad, which featured McKenna Kelley’s new vault—a handspring piked 1/2—and a whole mess of other routines. Almost like an intrasquad or something. In addition to Kelley’s new vault, we’ll see 1.5s from Edney, Hambrick, and Harrold, along with Gnat’s DTY of course. (No routines from Ewing here.) Lexie Priessman continues to show a full that’s way too easy for her but probably a good idea considering, you know, her everything. Highlights:

Yes:

Choreography teaser with @ajackson_10 part ✌🏼️! #OUrpreseason #committo3

A video posted by Oklahoma Women's Gymnastics (@ou_wgymnastics) on

 

Yes:

Choreography teaser with @chaysecapps part ✌🏼️! #OUrpreseason #committo3

A video posted by Oklahoma Women's Gymnastics (@ou_wgymnastics) on

Continue reading Things Are Happening – November 11, 2016

NLI Week 2017-2018

On the bright side, at least we’ll all be dead soon.

Anyway, Wednesday marks the beginning of NLI week, the annual period during which schools finally reveal to us which gymnasts have signed on to join their programs for the 2018 competition season. The large majority will not be a surprise since most of these gymnasts have been verbally committed since the late 1860s, but there are always a few little pieces of interest (usually regarding who doesn’t sign rather than who does).

To review:
-NLI = National Letter of Intent
-When a gymnast signs an NLI, it signals the end of the recruiting process and confirms a gymnast’s intent to attend the school in question. At this point, all other schools must cease recruiting.
-The NLI is accompanied by the athletic aid (scholarship) agreement. Gymnasts can’t sign NLIs if they are not receiving athletic aid, though they can receive athletic aid without signing an NLI.

So, let’s see what we see.

The cool thing these days is to announce the signees one-by-one on twitter, so if this information is urgent to you, keep checking there. I’ll add teams here once they issue the formal release about the entire class.

FLORIDARelease
Megan Skaggs and Vanasia Bradley

Two former elites for Florida. (Former elite??? Florida??? Well I never!) Skaggs competed elite through 2015 and into the senior division, while Bradley was a junior elite until her 2013 injury.

In addition to this pair, Alyssa Baumann is also slated to join the entering 2017-2018 class, but she signed her NLI last season with her original class. Continue reading NLI Week 2017-2018

2017 Freshman Preview: UCLA

UCLA just has so few interesting freshmen this year! What on earth are we going to talk about?

Returning Routines – UCLA
VAULT
Hall – 9.840
Preston – 9.830
Cipra – 9.830
Lee – 9.825
Honest – 9.810
Meraz – 9.774
Ohashi – 9.738
Dennis – 9.675
BARS
Lee – 9.875
Honest – 9.875
Meraz – 9.810
Dennis – 9.792
Ohashi – 9.733
Mossett – 9.592
Savvidou – 9.490
BEAM
Ohashi – 9.865
Gerber – 9.860
Meraz – 9.835
Preston – 9.775
Savvidou – 9.550
Lee – 9.471
Cipra – 9.375
FLOOR
Cipra – 9.930
Mossett – 9.863
Honest – 9.861
Preston – 9.855
Ohashi – 9.830
Meraz – 9.825
Hall – 9.804
Gerber – 9.760

Of all the major schools, UCLA’s slate of returning routines is the least representative and least relevant. Just throw it into the fire. The expectation should be that a solid half of UCLA’s routines in 2017 come from freshmen. Half may actually be a soft estimate. The freshmen, more so than the returners, will dictate whether the Bruins ultimately end up contending with Oklahoma and the top SEC sides, as they should based on talent.

The significant challenge for UCLA in 2017 will be managing that talent so that everyone is safely able to compete by April, no small task given the War and Peace medical files of several Bruins from whom the team will need three routines come the postseason.

And yes I am talking about Madison Kocian. I think we all had that moment this summer where we went, “Oh yeah. She’s, like, good at floor. Weird.” We forget about that sometimes because Kocian has competed floor twice in the last her entire lifetime. It’s a similar story on vault, where she wasn’t even supposed to compete at Trials in order to protect her fragile sparrow skeleton, but then she threw out a SURPRISE full because she could. (But could she?) The way I see it, Kocian is surely more than capable on the leg events, but any leg-events you can safely get from her are just a bonus. Bars and beam will be the true prize, especially this season coming right off the grueling schedule she has been maintaining.

As for bars, derrrrrrr.

The only question is what composition we’ll end up seeing as UCLA will have to balance minimizing deductions/strain with making sure the routine still says, “I’M MADISON KOCIAN.” Kocian never really contributed much beam to Team USA, but she happens to be a gem there are well. On beam, I’m not really concerned about whether we see the Arabian or much significant difficulty again. Just give us an extended side aerial and a wink (and don’t lose that back foot) and we all go home happy.

Now, KYLA ROSS. The clouds parted and the kingdom was bathed in sunlight the moment Kyla decided to go straight to UCLA, do not pass Trials, do not collect 200 knee injuries. The writing was on the wall with regard to the Olympic team, and while simply making it to Trials is a worthwhile accomplishment for most to pursue, Kyla had already played that game.

Like Kocian, Ross will help revitalize what was a cobbled-together orphanage of a bars lineup for the Bruins last year. It’s a miracle they got out of championships with 49s, but with these fancy new ladies, bars should transform from a get-through event into a strength. That’s not to say it’s all roses for Kyla on bars. It has been a journey this quad, what with her GIANT MONSTER HEIGHT (meaning 5’7″). I love that, listening to the gymnastics world, you would think that Kyla is two basketball players on top of each other, and she’s 5’7″.

Aw, remember the days?

In NCAA, the question of what bars skills LeBron Ross can do should be much less of a conundrum. She’ll do the skills if she can, and if not, she has 38 other skills she can do/learn in her sleep to choose from. In dismount land, I’m hoping the double layout comes back rather than the double front.

As for beam, get your 10HANDS ready. Ross’s methodical, patient style may have caused the judges at 2014 worlds to clutch their rosaries and pitchforks in horror, but her exceptional precision is what NCAA 10s are made of. She hits her positions and simply doesn’t wobble as much as humans do.

In training, Kyla has been vaulting an Omelianchik, and I’m all for this decision. I’m not just saying that because it’s my favorite vault, either. (Lie.) It’s a vital 10.0 start that should work for her.

As for floor, I’m most interested in seeing what that routine becomes from a performance standpoint. The knock on Kyla’s gymnastics has always been Stiff Kyla. Robo-Kyla. A criticism at times overstated, but never untrue. Throughout her elite career, Kyla was afflicted by varying levels of “this is the part where I do my choreography now” face, presenting alongside chronic “get ready I’m really going to do it now” arms. A troubling affliction.

I’m looking forward to meeting who UCLA Kyla becomes as a performer. On the composition front, Kyla had to gradually step down the floor difficulty during the course of this quad, though she kept the double arabian throughout and would still have that E pass in her pocket. But for Kyla, I don’t think it’s in any way essential that she have a big, fat E pass. Let’s be honest, she could just Kyla around for a while then do two beautiful rudis and get a 12.

On a lineup note with regard to both Kocian and Ross, it will be interesting to see how and where UCLA uses them. Neither will need to perform in the anchor spot in order to get high scores. They’re too talented and famous to need to anchor, and that could be a real score-building asset for the rest of the team. I’d love to see, for example, UCLA try Kyla suddenly leading off beam. Are judges really going to lowball Kyla in the first spot? They wouldn’t be worried about saving their scores for anyone else later in the lineup because…she’s Kyla Effing Ross. Who’s going to be better than that?

When UCLA last won a national championship, it was done with Anna Li in the first beam spot and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs in the second, the team’s top-two beamers at the time. Now, that move was made as a last resort because of FALL TERROR, not because of scoring strategy, but it sure did work and sure got Mizuki Sato some fancy scores in the anchor spot that she wouldn’t have received in the second spot.

TANGENT OVER! Felicia Hano now. While I’m optimistic about our chances to see leg events from Kocian and Ross, I expect their most prolific contributions to come on bars and beam. Taking charge of vault and floor may then fall to a gymnast like Hano.

The defining characteristic of Hano’s time as an elite was her preposterous ability to stick every DTY she ever performed. True life fact. More often than not, Hano’s vault D actually ended up being 5.9 because of that stupid extra tenth of stick bonus.

That vault training video from this fall features Hano continuing to do this DTY. It did not look competition-ready, at least at that point, but her ability on vault should allow us to assume that Hano can provide a 10.0 start value of some description this year. And yes, I have decided to ignore entirely the existence of that wildly misguided Tsuk 1/1 that caused her injury at Classic in 2015. We’re just going to pretend that never happened. Cool? Cool.

Double layout. UCLA 2017 will be a pretty floor team, with more and better options for 9.9s than the Bruins have had the last couple seasons, but across the board, these floor routines aren’t all that big. Hano, however, does have some pop and should be counted as a significant floor contributor, whether they decide to keep the DLO or go for a Syd Sawa-style “this double pike is way too easy for me” routine.

I’m less certain about bars and beam. Bars has never been the good event for Hano. She’ll still provide an option, and if Janay Honest and Sonya Meraz can make the bars lineup, Hano certainly can, but she’s not going to be a Kyla Ross on bars. No one’s expecting that. On beam, Hano can provide solid acrobatics across a well-hit routine, no question, but there’s quite a bit of competition for that lineup and her positions aren’t as pristine as some of the others. Will her routine prove a more prudent choice than, say, a Mikaela Gerber or Grace Glenn? There won’t be room for everyone.

Speaking of Grace Glenn, let’s admire that transition for a moment.

Done.

TWINS. Though the Glenns don’t have the name recognition or familiarity of the elites on this team, don’t overlook Team Glenn. We’ll start with Grace, whose basics on bars and beam are fabulous.

It’s just pretty gymnastics. I imagine Team Bruin having a very difficult time resisting the lure of that beam routine. On bars, the amplitude, handstands, and toe point are a yes from me. The dismount difficulty will be a question, though she has performed that double tuck with a full twist in competition in the past.

Grace’s floor work fits right into that category of not being big work, but she is very clean through her twisting elements, even if it’s not WOWFLOOR. She has been training a front double full so far this fall, which seems the ideal choice.

Both Grace and Anna Glenn present technically sound Yurchenko fulls, though we’ll have to see what the needs of the team are on that front as they aren’t among those who have shown us 10.0 starts.

As for Anna Glenn, it should be noted that she hasn’t competed since May of 2015 and has yet to appear in any of UCLA’s training uploads. But, like her sister, Anna does show excellent line on bars and sharp beam work with extended acrobatic elements. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think her splits are quite as strong, but their gymnastics is similar enough that we’re going to need some sort of an elaborate identifying sound-effect procedure for meets—something the McNairs are disappointingly still yet to accomplish—like a whale call when Grace performs and a rooster when Anna performs. I don’t know. I’m just spitballing here. I’ll let Miss Val decide what the final sound effects should be. But also, rooster.

Grace Kramer is an interesting one. A year ago at this time, she was signing an NLI with Arizona State. Yada, yada, yada, not that. Now, she’s walking on at UCLA, much to the delight of the Bruins’ prospective vault scores. Kramer’s event is, without question, vault. She boasts a Yurchenko 1.5 and, GET THIS, actually has competition experience with it.

Everyone in the known universe is fully aware that UCLA needs to be better on vault this year. The 10.0 vaults in 2016 came only from Pua Hall’s occasional Terrorchenko 1.5 and the Yurchenko Arabian (RIP, no one misses you) from Sadiqua Bynum. That isn’t good enough. Kramer’s 1.5 is a significant part of the revolution.

I’d imagine Kramer will also be somewhere in the mix on floor, though there are quite a few viable 9.850s on this roster that could shake out in many different lineup permutations. Kramer is another who goes the front double full route and shows respectable punch and solid landings in her tumbling overall. In fact, she should be at least in the conversation on all four events, though leg breaks (and just a double back bars dismount) will put her farther down the depth chart on bars and beam. Still, Kramer is far from your average random walk-on who just showed up.

Speaking of random walk-ons who just showed up…

I kid.

Sort of.

The freshman class is rounded out by Giulianna Pino, Mercedez Sanchez and Maria Caire.

Pino has competed internationally for Ecaudor, with beam being by far her strongest piece. In fact, her beam work is lineup realistic. Pino has the mix of splits and acro and will be able to give the Bruins an option there, just one that they may not actually need.

Sanchez can also put together some vault and some beam. On vault, she works a perfectly normal Yfull, which can act as a useful backup should things go south with Project 10.0 Vault and Project Your Legs. She actually has some chops on beam as well, though in what I’ve seen of her beam, she also looks so terrified of her own life that she might faint.

As for Maria Caire,
screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-3-31-36-pm

I have exactly nothing for you, the end.

Things Are Happening – November 4, 2016

A. Halloween training landslide

If there’s one thing NCAA gymnastics can’t resist, it’s a theme. Halloween-based intrasquads are all the rage this forever, and since the actual season will be upon us in just two short months, the pace of training-video posting is becoming all the more feverish.

Here’s the highlight video of Alabama’s annual Snapchats v. White Suspenders (I guess…) intrasquad that I mentioned yesterday. Apparently, the Snapchats won. Overall, it was a really good showing for Back of Unidentifiable Blonde Head. She had a great meet.

Florida also held a Heroes v. Villains intrasquad last week, though the teams seemed to be differentiated only by different-colored plastic masks. Someone didn’t really get into the spirit of villains there, did they? In this video, we see the DTY from McMurtry, a DLO from Hundley, and the hs pike 1/2 from Slocum, among a number of other bits and pieces.

Weirdly, UCLA didn’t create any sort of elaborate Halloween intrasquad video. When has UCLA ever passed up an opportunity for hamming it up while wearing costumes? Continue reading Things Are Happening – November 4, 2016

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama