In many ways, the runt of the competitions at Nationals is the All-Around. It doesn’t get its own day, no one prepares for it because everything is supposed to be about the team, and the result is almost an afterthought because of the focus on which teams advanced, but it’s always such a fun race because it could go so many different ways.
Depending on how you choose to look at it, you could make the argument that there are as many as 20 legitimate competitors for the All-Around title. Now, I am not that charitable, so I’m going to eliminate some of those from consideration pretty easily. But I do think there are about 7-10 gymnasts who can reasonably imagine taking the AA title. Because there are so many nominees, I’ve broken it down into a few categories to help organize our competitors.
Jaime Pisani (Arkansas) – The top-ranked performer for most of the season, Pisani has to be considered the favorite, as much as we can have one in a competition this tight. She doesn’t really have a weakness and will benefit from the possible score-building of performing near the end of every Arkansas rotation. Bars is the biggest question for her (as it is for most of our top competitors), and because I expect the winning total to be around 39.600, she probably cannot afford the 9.850 there that her routine usually merits. She’ll need to go at least 9.875 on bars as she did at Regionals and then hope to go 9.925-9.950 on floor, which is quite possible even though she will perform there in the first rotation.
Kytra Hunter (Florida) – I expect many people to be rooting for Pisani because she is a senior and Arkansas likely won’t advance to Super Six, but don’t expect Hunter to give it away. To no one’s surprise, she can go over 9.900 on vault and floor in her sleep and will be expected to do so. In fact, she will need to do so because she should not break 9.850 on bars. But if she can get those big scores (by that I mean more than a 9.900) on the power events, one 9.850 should be fine. It may very well come down to how well she manages her nerves on beam and how the judges react to her dance elements because that switch side is a major red flag the likes of which Pisani doesn’t have.
Jessie DeZiel (Nebraska) – Obviously there are a bunch of strong All-Arounders for Nebraska, and we’ll get to the rest of them soon, but I think DeZiel is the most complete of the group and the most likely to put up a competitive score. Like those above her, we know that vault and floor will be huge, so her biggest challenge may be overcoming her early lineup placement on bars. If she can get out of that first event with a 9.875, she’ll have just as much shot as anybody. She had a little hiccup on beam at Regionals, but she may be the most trustworthy beam worker in the lineup, so I don’t expect to see a repeat.
Sharaya Musser (Penn State) – If she were competing with a team at Nationals, I might be slightly more emphatic about Musser’s chances to win the All-Around. However, it is notoriously difficult to score well without a team to boost the numbers at end, especially for gymnasts accustomed to performing with teammates. Although, Musser will be rotating with Florida, so if score-building were to carry over to an individual competitor, she’s in the right rotation for it to happen. She had a pretty disastrous showing at last year’s Nationals, so I’m sure she will be looking to rebound by going clean this year. See the notes for everyone above her about bars, because it’s true again for her.
Sam Peszek (UCLA) – Peszek doesn’t have the one big event where she can bump up her scores, but she can be counted on to be solid enough to warrant a pretty high score for each routine. She did score 9.950 on vault at Regionals for performing that Yfull as well as she can possibly do it, but she is third in the lineup, so it will be difficult to count on repeating that feat. For Peszek to win the title, she’s going to need to stick that bars dismount for a 9.850 again and hope that the judges are impressed enough by her hands-free beam to go over 9.900 because floor probably caps out at 9.900 and she’ll need at least one 9.925-9.950 from somewhere. It would be risky to throw in the standing full in a crucial team setting, but she may need it to make the judges notice.
Vanessa Zamarripa (UCLA) – I’ve been going back and forth about which UCLA gymnast is more likely to place well, and while Zamarripa has the higher ceiling on vault and bars, her floor routine may keep her just short of contending. She has some leg separation issues that I think will keep the score down just enough that she would need to be perfect on the other three events to make up for it. It’s possible, but it’s going to require her sticking three events, which she hasn’t done in the same competition yet this year. Vault cannot be anything less than 9.950 for her to have a chance. If she gets that 10 (if anyone at Nationals gets a 10, it will be Zamarripa on vault), she could easily deal with a 9.850 on floor.
Geralen Stack-Eaton (Alabama) – Stack-Eaton should be a very likely candidate for the title, especially considering that she was just a competent beam routine away from winning last year, and she is one of the very few frontrunners actually capable of scoring 9.900 on every event. However, she has not been her usual high AA self over the past few meets. She has been throwing in uncertain beam routines, and her vault has deteriorated from the 10 we saw in the first meet of the season. Expect a few big scores, but I wonder whether she can put all the events together in one meet because it’s been a while since she has done it.
The Likely Stories:
Leslie Mak (Oregon State) – Mak is beloved by fans, coaches, and judges, as made evident by her second consecutive Pac-12 GOTY award, so it’s certainly possible to see her score very well on every event, but I don’t think she can go high enough on vault to contend, and she doesn’t have quite the scoring potential on floor. However, 9.950 is not outside the realm of possibility of bars and beam, so she could gain some points on events where the frontrunners have more trouble.
Ashanee Dickerson (Florida) – At Regionals, Dickerson proved that she can record a 9.900 on each event. The biggest question in her scoring potential has always been bars, but the judges don’t seem to have an issue with her routine this year. She’s not among my frontrunners because I don’t know that she can repeat the performance, and I do expect the judges at Nationals to be a bit conservative with their scores early in lineups. Dickerson doesn’t go later than 4th on any event, and we could see the judges save scores for later routines.
Rheagan Courville (LSU) – Courville has scored exceptionally well on vault this year has been consistent enough with her 9.875s on the other events to be in the All-Around conversation. There are no weak events for her, but I do wonder whether she can get enough 9.900s to get out of that 39.475-39.525 zone and have a shot at the title. Beam will be crucial. If she can go 9.900 there, she’ll be in it with a chance, but we haven’t seen that many times this year.
Marissa King (Florida) – At her best, Marissa King is competitive with all the other Florida AAers, so don’t be too surprised if she places very high. Her beam routine is excellent and consistently receives 9.950s from multiple judges, but her vault is so underscored and she has looked shaky enough on floor lately that I don’t have the same confidence that she can overcome a non-9.9 on bars in the way that a Pisani or a Hunter could. If she works out her floor routine, she can certainly get into the top 5 or so, but I don’t see her beating everybody even in the best of circumstances.
Ashley Priess (Alabama) – I have to admit being a little bit wrong right now because I seriously doubted Priess’s ability to compete in the All-Around for a whole season given her health history. She has done this valiantly and scored very well along the way, and her anchor scores on bars and beam have the potential be competitive with anybody. Vault is fine but unremarkable early in the lineup, but the routine to really watch will be floor. Her composition isn’t up to the difficulty of some others and she has struggled with landings, so she may be giving up a tenth or more to some of the top scorers on this event alone.
Kat Ding (Georgia) – Wouldn’t it be great if Kat Ding suddenly contended for the All-Around title? We’ve always known that she can easily go 9.925-9.950 on vault and bars, so expect those scores to bump up her other events and keep her competitive. However, I don’t think they will bump up beam and floor quite enough. She has improved exponentially on the last two events, but that improvement has resulted in her being a reliable 9.850 scorer, which will not be enough to unseat some of the others.
Alaina Johnson (Florida) – I don’t quite have the same expectations for Johnson that I have for the other Florida gymnasts because, much like Ding, I question her ability to go higher than 9.850 on beam and floor. We’ve seen it happen, but I don’t expect it to happen at Championships. Also of note, she has been scoring 9.900 a lot this year on bars, and her talent level makes her capable of more than that. Florida is too talented to peak out a 9.900 on bars, and she needs to go higher both for herself and the team.
Katherine Grable (Arkansas) – If not for the injuries, Grable would undoubtedly be in a higher category, but we haven’t seen her compete on vault in quite some time, and at Regionals floor was fine but not entirely back to form. She’ll have had an extra two weeks to progress, but I have a difficult time imagining her back in top shape again by Friday. If she is, she has a great shot at contending, but I don’t see her being in 9.900 form on the leg events yet.
Emily Wong (Nebraska) – Wong was the surprise winner of the Big 10 AA title with a 39.600, so there’s precedent for a great performance. However, the vault and floor performances from Regionals along with her early lineup placement on bars makes me skeptical about how many high scores she can actually get. Her RQS is not up to 9.900 on any event, so she would truly need a career performance to be considered with the top group.
Janelle Giblin (Nebraska) – Unlike Wong, who is very steadily 9.850-9.875 across the board, Giblin has some very good routines and some not so impressive routines. She could very well score 9.900 on vault and bars, but beam is a nail-biter and floor is unlikely to warrant a score that will be AA competitive. Her focus will be more on advancing to a couple event finals than on winning the All-Around.
Noel Couch (Georgia) – It would seem possible on paper given some of the scores she has received, but she is an early-lineup worker who needs to get her sturdy 9.800-9.850, and I expect the scores at Nationals to reflect that. Like so many of the other AAers, bars is the weakness, but for Couch it’s more like a 9.750 weakness instead of a 9.850 weakness.
Corrie Lothrop (Utah) – Earlier in the season I would not have expected to be placing Lothrop this low on the AA expectations because of the copious number of 39.5 scores she was getting. But this change of vault and placement in the early part of the beam lineup have severely halted her scoring potential. She is going to be very 9.850 at Nationals, which won’t be enough to be in the All-Around conversation.
Notes on Some Others:
-Stephanie McAllister will compete the AA for Utah, but the lower vault and beam scores will keep her out of the running.
-Makayla Stambaugh is a beam routine away from being in a higher category, but that event will keep her overall total lower. Vault is also a 9.825-9.850 routine, which won’t help her AA cause (or the cause of her team trying to get out of that 49.150 zone on that event).
-Schleppenbach and Skinner are the other All-Arounders for Nebraska, but Schleppenbach is a question mark after missing Nationals and Skinner has too many weak events to score that well.
-Brie Olson has looked quite strong in the AA over the past few meets, but she was a stand-in on beam for Kayla Nowak, so if Nowak comes back into the lineup we may not see Olson in the AA at all.
-LSU will also give us Lloimincia Hall and Jessie Jordan in the AA, but the bars routines from both of them make any AA dreams appear out of reach. Hall would need a 9.950 on floor and a newly secure beam routine to even consider it.
-Nicole Pechanec is Stanford’s lone contribution to the AA conversation, but she is more of an event specialist who has been asked to compete on all the events rather than an All-Arounder. Expect some 9.9s and some 9.7s.
-We have some standout individuals like Alina Weinstein, Rachel Updike, and Katie Zurales who are capable of recording some nice scores on certain events, but if any individual competitor places well in the AA, it will be Sharaya Musser.