Now that’s it has been a week since Championships, it’s time to reflect on the season and beyond with some notes. I just have a lot of feelings.
- E mounts don’t amount to much. We heard a lot of talk this season about who was mounting with E passes and who wasn’t, but this did not translate into the scores at any point in the season. The message is clear: be clean and start from a 10, nobody cares if it’s an E pass.
- Separation is the watchword. Scores are always going to go crazy at points in the season. That’s never going to change, and any substantive effort to homogenize judging across the country will probably do more harm than good. The most egregious scoring issues we saw at Championships didn’t involve fundamental overscoring but did involve a lack of sufficient separation between good and great. Encouraging judges to be more aware of that separation should be the goal.
- Pros and cons of Four on the Floor. Once again this season we had a team in the title race (UCLA) not competing during the last rotation. This is not good. On the other hand, ESPN’s live broadcast had trouble keeping up with two teams competing in the final rotation, and if there were three competing at the same time, it would have been a catastrophe. No solution is free of problems, and I’m beginning to feel one isn’t really better than another.
- The good trio. Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne continue to be the best commentary team in US gymnastics. Even when Bart concocts a bizarre pronunciation of Vanessa Zamarripa, this team makes you confident that they know what they are talking about. Kathy and Suzanne strike an excellent balance of being accessible to non-experts without being too simple for the rest of us. They show that you can name and explain skills and the subtleties of routine evaluation without becoming too technical for a lay audience.
- Vault finals: a problem. Something must be done because once again this year, vault finals were a boring disaster. We need to have a list of pre-qualified eligible gymnasts who have proven they can perform two vaults at 10.0, and then the top four from each Semifinal who also appear on the list will advance to finals. How about we have gymnasts show their two 10.0 vaults to a representative judge during podium training to get placed on the list? They wouldn’t have to worry about a good landing, just show they can do the vaults.
- Boo to neutral sites. Championships should be on a relevant campus. No good comes from a neutral site.
- Combination beam dismounts. I used to enjoy the bhs+loso+full dismount, but it seems everyone did it this year, and I’m getting tired of it. While the gymnasts who perform it can usually stick because it’s just a full, it’s very difficult to get any kind of amplitude out of the layout stepout, so we don’t get to see any impressive flight. The gymnasts just sort of trickle off the beam. I’m ready for that trend to be over.
- Let’s talk about split positions and legs. I need to see more attention paid to these qualities, and it probably has to start with the judging because otherwise there is no incentive to improve upon them. We’re seeing so many cheated splits and bent knees, and everyone just seems fine with it. Let’s make a pact not to be fine with it.
- Now let’s talk about same-bar releases. I like them. I need them in my life. I don’t want to see routines without them because they are flat and lack excitement and dynamic flight. Are nice, high same-bar releases with pointed toes too much to ask? Am I reaching for the stars here? Not really.
- What are we going to do about Georgia? This makes three straight years of not making Super Six, once again going out on a really feeble performance. The Gymdogs can’t say that they lost to a better team. They gave it away and finished behind Ohio State. They will be nowhere next year without Kat Ding. They need Chelsea Davis to become the new Kat Ding.
- Alabama needs Ashley Priess. We got the news this week that Priess has decided to stay on at Alabama for another year. Without Priess and Stack-Eaton next year, the Tide would have seriously struggled to make it three titles in a row. Now, they’re back in the conversation. I still question her ability to stay healthy, but she proved me wrong this year. Is it tempting fate to try again?
- Florida is on the right track. Even though the Gators once again failed to win the title, the performance in the postseason proved that Rhonda’s plan worked beautifully. A few adjustments so that they are a little more comfortable (and relaxed) with landings going into Championships and they should be in prime position again next year. The additions of Sloan and B. Caquatto won’t hurt either.
- New Bruins in 2013. While it was weak performances from the seniors that cost UCLA the title last weekend, those gymnasts provided a ton of routines and were crucial to UCLA’s success. We will see a different team with a different mood next year, with new pressure on the young gymnasts. Larson will not be allowed to be the non-factor she was this year, and Lee will need to contribute significantly right away.
- Stanford is real. Stanford employed what amounted to an extreme version of the Florida strategy and peaked in the postseason this year. While losing Brown and Pechanec will be a blow, they can still be a factor next year with Hong and a potentially healthy Shapiro leading the way. Judges respond to the cleanliness of their gymnastics, and with a bit more dynamics on vault and floor, they could be a factor again.
- So there’s our season. Just eight months until the next one. Before that, I’ll be popping in to talk about elite from time to time as we approach the Olympics. That should be a silly ride.