The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Ranking the 2012 Floor Final

Continuing the mission to pick the real winner of things, it’s time to look at the 2012 NCAA Floor Final, a.k.a. the vacation home of our very best friend, controversy.

Unlike the vault 10s, in this case we do have an actual winner. Kat Ding won the title with a 9.950 over the 9.9375s for Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Geralen Stack-Eaton. There were . . . a lot of opinions about this result the first time around, so it will be interesting to see how things have developed now that we’ve had months to reflect.

The top 5 finishers are included below. Watch the routines and rank how you think they should have finished. I did not include the 9.900 routines from Zamarripa, Dickerson, and DeZiel because, while they were solid performances, none would be mistaken for a potential winner. The real shame is that Jaime Pisani probably should have been our floor champ, but she didn’t have a strong performance in the final.  

(Where would we be without NastiaFan101 uploading all these individual routines?)

Kat Ding – 9.950

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs – 9.9375

Geralen Stack-Eaton – 9.9375

Melanie Jones – 9.925

Kytra Hunter – 9.9250

My ranking and thoughts:

1. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs
2. Melanie Jones
3. Geralen Stack-Eaton
4. Kytra Hunter
5. Kat Ding

Let’s begin with Kat Ding. She’s a gem, but this is the least impressive routine of the five. Perhaps the judges just felt bad that she has been stuck on such a stinker team for the past few seasons and wanted to give her two titles. As KJC points out, the dance elements are not quite there. The front leg is well below horizontal on the switch ring, and she has a bent leg on the wolf full. There’s also some leg separation in the twisting elements. She does get bonus points from me for the layout stepout on the dismount, which is to die for.

If we’re going to keep NCAA from turning into elite, then we have to place serious importance on choreography, and that is the primary reason for EHH outpacing the rest of the group. You can argue against the difficulty of her double tuck mount, but her tumbling was right on and the artistry is the best of the group. She manages not only to have interesting movements but to portray a cohesive, fluid character. Everything fits together, and she doesn’t fall out of the persona of the routine when she’s not specifically focused on the choreography, as so many do. She has laser eyes.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Melanie Jones in this final. Her form is strong across all the elements. I also live for a simple dive roll, and hers is placed and performed excellently. Like Stack-Eaton, she is using a very dramatic piece, but she pulls it off just a little bit better. People often want to use big music for their floor routines, but that is a challenge because you have to live up to that music continuously for a minute and a half. I wish Alabama had recut Stack-Eaton’s music and recomposed her routine. She ends up standing in the corner during some of the most sweeping parts of the piece, and it feels incongruous.

As for Kytra Hunter, her tumbling is crazy excellent, as we all knew it would be, but her performance is still just a little Hill’s and a little pose-y. You can see the moment when she remembered to smile. She could very well deserve this title in her junior and senior years, but right now it’s a tumbling show with a little bit of standing on her head in the middle. She needs to become a floor performer.

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