I smell trouble in 9.9-land for Oregon State. At Regionals and Championships combined last season, Oregon State recorded five scores of 9.900 or greater (which is already too few), and four of those scores came from Leslie Mak and Olivia Vivian.
Without Mak and Vivian in 2013, the Beavers’ world will be thrust onto the shoulders of seniors Melanie Jones and Makayla Stambaugh. Both of them can compete the AA if required, as they were last season, but they are not all-around stars. Jones will lead on beam and floor, and Stambaugh will excel on bars and floor, but the other routines are going to be in the lower-9.8 territory. Jones and Stambaugh will both post a flurry of strong scores, but their contributions alone will not be enough to carry the weight of the team.
The safety nets for OSU may be the transfer of Hailey Gaspar and the return of Stephanie McGregor. Neither is going to light the world on fire with scores, but Gaspar in particular may be the only thing standing between the vault lineup and certain peril. These gymnasts will be particularly necessary because of the current recruiting situation. Not only are the Beavers not bringing in American or international elites, they are not getting the best L10 athletes either. Each of the five incoming gymnasts is a perfectly serviceable JO performer who can compete in NCAA, but there is no one who looks primed to take over any kind of scoring responsibility. Tanya needs to get those Canadian and Australian pipelines up and running again.
Amplitude, distance, and dynamics. The Beavers are not a bad vaulting team, but when they compete against the powerful teams, their vaults look utterly flat by comparison. There is an awful lot of piking down. The team isn’t losing a ton of scoring potential on this event, but is it gaining that much?
Kelsi Blalock and Hailey Gaspar are the most 9.9-capable, and we can probably expect some 9.850s from Stambaugh and Brittany Harris, but this lineup is going to have difficulty breaking out of that 49.2 range. Jones and Chelsea Tang probably shouldn’t be competing under deeper circumstances, but they may be required to throw in their 9.775s. The former Texas Dreams/Metroplex gymnast Nicole Turner used to compete an Omelianchik, so that could be a helpful addition if she’s in the mix.
Bars is the event where the losses of Mak and Vivian really aren’t fair. It’s similar in degree to the loss that Georgia has to absorb without Ding and Nuccio, but Oregon State doesn’t have Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers coming in to soften the blow.
Stambaugh will anchor the event with her delightful routine, and Harris is always good for a 9.850, and then there’s, well, a lot of 9.8s from Jones, McGregor, Hannah Casey, and probably a couple of the freshmen, though they tend to be a bit more of a floor group. Still, this is the event where I see the most room for development for them. Routines can potentially be created, but once again, they won’t be able to become Mak and Vivian all of a sudden.
The most memorable feature of Leslie Mak’s gymnastics career was how many times she saved this team on beam, most notably at Regionals last year when her 9.925 sent the Beavers to Championships. Without that routine, consistency becomes a much greater concern. I’m not as worried about the actual quality of the late-lineup routines (there should be enough 9.850s to be getting on with at least) as the tendency last season to shove people onto the beam who shouldn’t be there because of lack of depth. Stambaugh is a great gymnast, but she is not a beamer.
Some of the freshmen and sophomores must emerge and must show they can deliver 9.8s every week. They don’t have to be amazing, but they do have to stay on the beam.
Floor is the event where I am the least concerned about Oregon State’s chances. Jones and Stambaugh should be 5th and 6th in the lineup with their 9.9 routines, and they are desirable anchors. Jones turned a lot of heads in the floor final last year, and that should help her scoring potential. Judges will be more willing to go 9.950 now.
Gaspar, Blalock, and Harris can all compete their routines somewhere in the 9.8 territory. Nicole Turner has competed a double Arabian in the past, and Sarah Marquez can be very precise in her landings, so potentially look to see her here. Consistency will remain a concern here (though Vivian was probably the biggest concern on that front), but if they hit routines, this is the event that will most frequently go toward the 49.300s.
Frankly, it’s a little gloomy. That is not to say that this team can’t 9.850 itself all the way to 197s. It absolutely can because with all the gymnasts coming in, there should be no shortage of routines. In fact, I don’t expect the ranking to be particularly low throughout the course of the season (something in the back end of the top 10 earned through frequent 196.500s).
The biggest problem is that this team is emerging as almost a stereotypical Regionals upset. Their success during the season will come from 9.850ing opponents to death, so unlike some of the teams that can count a fall at Regionals and rest on the strength of other 9.9s in order to stay ahead of a #15 seed for the second spot, Oregon State won’t be able to count a fall at Regionals and stay ahead of a 3rd seed. Combine that with serious questions about the beam lineup, and let’s just say it wouldn’t be a surprise.