One of the primary qualities that separates championship teams from good teams is the ability to not only master the balance beam but also limit the damage after mistakes. There will always be falls on the beam. While champions ensure that the fall is dropped, weaker teams get tentative (at best) or fall apart (at worst).
In 2011, the beam was even more of a problem than usual, and at championships Oklahoma appeared to be the only school for whom the beam was not the weakness. While Alabama mastered the event enough to win the title, the beam was still the most troublesome piece for them, and they did have to absorb the fall from Kayla Hoffman during Super Six.
In examining this issue, I took a look at the beam scores for the top ten teams (as decided by me and the 2012 preseason poll) for all gymnasts going up at any point after a fall or fall-equivalent performance, meaning a score of 9.500 or lower. The team rankings came out as follows:
Average Beam Score after a Fall – 2011
1. Utah – 9.807
2. Oklahoma – 9.792
3. Alabama – 9.770
4. Stanford – 9.753
5. Georgia – 9.742
6. Oregon State – 9.721
7. Michigan – 9.654
8. Florida – 9.648
9. UCLA – 9.633
10. Nebraska – 9.603
Based on my assumptions, seeing Oklahoma and Alabama near the top of the list was not a surprise, nor was seeing UCLA and Florida near the bottom of the list. Florida did not perform as many routines after falls as most of the other top teams, but the routines they did have were largely unsuccessful in the most crucial moments.
The big surprise to me was Utah’s placement at the top of the list. Out of 33 beam routines after falls, they had a grand total of zero subsequent falls. They are the only team of the bunch that did not have to count a beam fall at some point during the season, which is pretty remarkable. Utah will want to bottle that quality for 2012 but also add an ability to break out of the 9.775-9.825 range in which nearly all of those scores fell.
Another interesting note: Stanford had the fewest routines after beam falls in 2011 (8), but it was having to count a fall on beam that took them out of regionals.
We can also take a look at the numbers for individuals (minimum 3 routines):
Best Average Beam Score after a Fall – 2011
1. Megan Ferguson – Oklahoma – 9.879
2. Geralen Stack-Eaton – Alabama – 9.875
3. Leslie Mak – Oregon State – 9.870
4. Natasha Kelley – Oklahoma – 9.863
5. Kylee Botterman – Michigan – 9.856
6. Kim Jacob – Alabama – 9.850
7. Sarah DeMeo – Alabama – 9.836
8. Mackenzie Caquatto – Florida – 9.819
9. Cortni Beers – Utah – 9.818
10. Hillary Mauro – Georgia – 9.814
Here we see the Oklahoma and Alabama success through the numbers. The 5 and 6 gymnasts for both of those teams were unshakable in 2011. Also, a special MVP award for Kylee Botterman who went up 9 times after falls last season and hit every routine.
Worst Average Beam Score after a Fall – 2011
1. Brittany Skinner – Nebraska – 9.450
2. Tauny Frattone – UCLA – 9.456
3. Ashanee Dickerson – Florida – 9.485
4. Jamie Schleppenbach – Nebraska – 9.500
5. Joanna Sampson – Michigan – 9.542
6. Emily Wong – Nebraska – 9.581
7. Brittani McCullough – UCLA – 9.585
8. Maria Scaffidi – Nebraska – 9.610
9. Kayla Hoffman – Alabama – 9.620
10. Christa Tanella – Georgia – 9.633
Poor Nebraska. And UCLA will hope that Zamarripa and Larson can solidify that lineup in 2012.
Both Brittany Skinner and Ashanee Dickerson were the victims of scores in the 8.4s, which brought down their averages significantly.