Nationals Preview Part 3: The Individuals

Welcome to Afterthought City.

The individual titles for the all-around and apparatuses are awarded on Semifinal Friday, which ensures that everyone will kind of forget they exist while focusing on team qualification standings—and then three minutes later, everyone turns to everyone else and says, “Oh yeah, wait, who won vault?” It’s a national tradition.

This year, we’re primarily rooting for having fewer than six people tie for the bars title. And by fewer, I mean more. The real goal of the event titles is to have so many people tie for a single spot on the podium that they have to Jenga it, and hilarity ensues. I really feel like floor is going to come through for us this time around.

But first…


The favorite
Maggie Nichols – Oklahoma
RQS: 39.830
High: 39.900
Ranking: 1

For the second straight year, Nichols enters nationals as the favorite for the title and clear #1 in the country, which she accomplished this season with a record-breaking 39.830 RQS, eclipsing Jeanette Antolin’s total of 39.795 from 2004.

Only 16 gymnasts in NCAA history have scored over 39.825 in the all-around on even a single occasion, and Nichols’ RQS is higher than that. If Nichols hits, she is a heavy favorite—though not an exclusive favorite—for the all-around title.

It was a fall on beam in the semifinals that dropped Nichols out of contention last season, but Alex McMurtry ultimately went on to score so high in the second semifinal that the fall from Nichols didn’t matter. McMurtry would have won regardless. (I think I’ve heard/maybe said before that the fall cost Nichols the all-around title, which is not correct.) The only thing the Nichols fall took away was any controversy over who the rightful winner was.  Continue reading Nationals Preview Part 3: The Individuals


Jesolo Live Blog

The competition is streaming on FLO, but I’ve got your backs with the live blog. We’ll work through these hard times as a family.

Warmups have concluded. We’re having special Ferrari time before the competition begins, where she is being awarded a melted frisbee?

Touch now. Remember the US gymnasts are competing as individuals, so they are spread across three different rotation groups here. Smith/Malabuyo are together, Kenlin/Dunne are together, and Shchennikova/McCallum are together.

ROTATION 1 – Part 1

Kenlin – VT – USA – inbar to stalder full to Ricna, hit, just slight late moments – inbar full, very late to Pak, brushes legs on mat on Pak – hits Shap 1/2 – toe 1/2 to front 1/2 back out dismount. A hit but will be disappointed in the Pak, totally lost form and hit the mat with her legs. Continue reading Jesolo Live Blog

Things Are Happening – April 13, 2018

A. Say Yes to Jesolo

The Trofeo Citta di Jesolo—or as it is known in the US, “[Pause] Italy meet”—is upon us once more with many of the best countries in the world converging on Jesolo, lured by its format of having barely any rules about roster size. A one-stop shop for international experience!

With the individual US gyms stepping up to send gymnasts (in absence of USAG sending an official team), the assembled roster is shaping up much like in other years with the US group a mix of top seniors (Smith, Malabuyo) and newbies at their first rodeo. Meanwhile, Russia has sent a pretty solid senior and junior squad this year led by Melnikova, Brazil is getting Saraiva and Barbosa back out there, Romania is sending a full team to show it still has a program kind of, and Italy is bringing the typical large army of everyone.

Junior Team/AA – Saturday April 14, 4:00am ET, 1:00am PT
Senior Team/AA – Saturday April 14, 10:00am ET, 7:00am PT
Event Finals – Sunday April 15, 8:30am ET, 5:30am PT

Only on FLO for us Americans.

On the US side, it will be fascinating to see how the scores put up by Smith and Malabuyo compare to what we’ve seen this year from Hurd as we start to clarify the picture of who the most significant contenders will be this summer/fall among a group that remains rather indistinct. Continue reading Things Are Happening – April 13, 2018

National Semifinal #2: The Preview

April 20, 6:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (beam)
[4] Utah (vault)
[5] Florida (bars)
[8] Washington (floor)
[9] Cal (bye before floor)
[12] Kentucky (bye before bars)

Morgan Lane, North Carolina – AA (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Elizabeth Price, Stanford – AA (rotating w/ Utah)
Cami Drouin-Allaire, George Washington – AA (rotating w/ Florida)
Shani Remme, Boise State – AA (rotating w/ Washington)
Rae Balthazor, Illinois – AA (rotating w/ Cal)
Lexy Ramler, Minnesota – AA (rotating w/ Kentucky)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan – FX (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Shannon Hortman-Evans, BYU – UB (rotating w/ Utah)
Meaghan Sievers, Iowa State – VT (rotating w/ Cal)

As in the first semifinal, the second semifinal has a clear, built-in delineation between two sets of three teams. We have the ranking favorites, former champions, and famous programs in Oklahoma, Utah, and Florida, and then we have the upstart challengers in Washington, Cal, and Kentucky.

Before this year, the three bottom-ranked teams in this semifinal had reached NCAA/AIAW nationals a combined ten times (Washington eight times, Cal twice), and only twice in the current millennium (once each for Washington and Cal). As for the top three teams combined…well counting that took too long and I got bored.

Anyway, it’s around 100. So…it’s more.

Washington, Cal, and Kentucky are still newbies to this level of competition, each one looking for some way to make the Oklahoma jump—an upset in the semifinals to get into Super Six is exactly how you start to make that jump. The actual scores from this year are of course more relevant than the history of the programs, but the scores tell the same story. A 197.0 would be a fantastic performance in the semifinal for Washington, Cal, Kentucky and would constitute a miss for Oklahoma, Utah, or Florida, which is why they’ll enter as the favorites.

How the upset happens

Washington under-performed at regionals and ended up being fortunate in its draw that a 196.275 advanced out of Penn State since that score would have been eliminated from several other regional competitions. The scores from various regionals are not necessarily directly comparable—all of Washington’s vault scores were stuck in the 9.7s when some would have been 9.8s at drunker meets, those early beam scores looked disproportionately low—but it does serve as a warning sign that a repeat of that regionals performance will not come close advancing from this semifinal and would allow the top teams to have major mistakes and still qualify—or at least outscore Washington. Continue reading National Semifinal #2: The Preview

National Semifinal #1: The Preview

April 20, 12:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[2] LSU (beam)
[3] UCLA (vault)
[6] Alabama (bars)
[10] Arkansas (bye before floor)
[11] Nebraska (bye before bars)
[18] Georgia (floor)

Brianna Brown, Michigan – AA (rotating w/ LSU)
Cairo Leonard-Baker, Arizona State – AA (rotating w/ UCLA)
Drew Watson, Auburn – AA (rotating w/ Alabama)
Lauren Bridgens, Penn State – AA (rotating w/ Arkansas)
Jovannah East, Bowling Green – AA (rotating w/ Nebraska)
Lynnzee Brown, Denver – AA (rotating w/ Georgia)
Samantha Cerio, Auburn – UB (rotating w/ UCLA)
Jamie Stone, Ohio State – VT (rotating w/ Arkansas)
Abby Milliet, Auburn – BB (rotating w/ Nebraska)

How the upset happens
Because that’s what we’re all here for. In this semifinal, we have a fairly clear separation in ranking and scoring potential with three favorites to advance to Super Six in LSU, UCLA, and Alabama, and three challengers in Arkansas, Nebraska, and Georgia.

But that’s boring. The whole point of the semifinal round is to see if anyone can knock out the favorites, otherwise we could just advance the top six right to the final. So, here’s what the bottom-three teams need to do to make it good.

For Nebraska, the path to the upset is more or less “do exactly what you did at regionals, and you’re in with a good shot.” Nebraska’s regional score ranks in the top three among the teams in this semifinal and reflected a performance well above the level of Nebraska’s #11 ranking. That’s what it will take for one of these bottom-three teams to advance. Other than waiting for meltdown-city to arrive for one of the big-girl teams (always possible, but you can’t assume it), making Super Six means performing way better than during the season, which is what Nebraska just did.

Maintaining that level is not a given. Taking the season as a whole, that regionals performance was an outlier, featuring a score (197.525) that’s four tenths higher than Nebraska’s previous high and outpaces the team’s RQS by a significant margin on every event. Proving that level is the new normal is still a major task. Continue reading National Semifinal #1: The Preview

Onward to St. Louis

We now know which lucky ducklings have advanced to nationals, so let’s set this scene for St. Louis. Just over a week to go!

Remember that we don’t have event finals anymore, so event titles are awarded based on the first day of competition, just like the all-around title. Six judges are used instead of four, with the high and the low dropped and the remaining four scores averaged, which as we learned last year gives us some really ugly decimal places like 9.8625. These extra judges were added to avoid having a thousand people get the same score and tie for titles. Unrelated: There was a six-way tie for the bars title last year.

Full draw

Semifinal #1 – April 20, 12:00 CT

[2] LSU – Beam
[3] UCLA – Vault
[6] Alabama – Bars
[10] Arkansas – Bye before floor
[11] Nebraska – Bye before bars
[18] Georgia – Floor

The significant story in this first group of six is Georgia’s very existence following its upset of #7 Michigan at regionals, an upset that turned inside out what should have been the more competitive of the two semifinals. Georgia claimed the spot at nationals when Michigan struggled through its regional performance while Georgia…also struggled through its regional performance? At least for the first two events. We’ll remember that one for a while because anyone who watched the first half of the meet would have thought there was no possible way Georgia could advance and that Illinois had the upset locked. But then no other team did noticeably better than Georgia, so it turned out that a theoretically disqualifying 48.950 floor score was a totally useful and respectable number in that meet.

The importance of rotation order also should not be overlooked in that one. Georgia got to end on its better events while Illinois had to start on its better events and end on its worst event. In a close meet, that kind of thing can make a difference. Continue reading Onward to St. Louis

Regionals Live Blog

Saturday, April 7
Scores Stream
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Raleigh
[2] LSU
[11] Nebraska
[14] Oregon State
[19] George Washington
[20] NC State
[31] Maryland
LINK ESPN3 Preview


Projected lineups

4:00 ET/1:00 PT – University Park
[5] Florida
[8] Washington
[17] Arizona State
[27] West Virginia
[29] Penn State
[30] New Hampshire
LINK Vault



Projected lineups

5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Minneapolis
[1] Oklahoma
[12] Kentucky
[13] Denver
[24] Minnesota
[28] Iowa State
[35] Iowa



Projected lineups

5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Tuscaloosa
[6] Alabama
[7] Michigan
[18] Georgia
[22] Missouri
[23] Illinois
[36] Central Michigan



Projected lineups

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Columbus
[3] UCLA
[10] Arkansas
[15] Boise State
[25] Ohio State
[33] Pittsburgh
[34] Kent State
LINK Vault



Projected lineups

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Salt Lake City
[4] Utah
[9] Cal
[16] Auburn
[21] BYU
[26] Stanford
[32] Southern Utah



Projected lineups

And so it begins. 36 become 12. GOODBYE ALMOST ALL OF YOU.

The primary focus of the live blog will be the borderline teams, the actual fights for regionals qualification, with an emphasis on bars and beam because that’s usually the place where things go wrong and I’m a glutton for disaster. At least that’s the plan. Hopefully the broadcasts understand our needs. Continue reading Regionals Live Blog

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama