The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Saturday Notes

We enter a solid day of Saturday competition, starting with UCLA and Arizona State in Pac-12 action, coming off a Friday marked by highs and lows. Utah finished the day yesterday by putting up a colossal 197.825, led by a 49.725 on floor in a season already characterized by big floor scores. Going into this season, we hadn’t seen a team score over 49.700 on floor in the regular season since 2008, and it has already happened twice so far.

Alabama also recorded a huge floor number of 49.625, which seems frankly paltry this year by comparison even though it is Alabama’s 4th-best floor score in the history of the program, en route to a 197.500, which will see them bounce up a couple places in the rankings to a place closer to where we expect to see Alabama. LSU and Florida also managed low 197s in road performances that they will gladly take for RQS and that will keep them in a comfortable ranking position.

On the contrasting side, we saw Michigan record a score in the high 195s in a meet with just weird scoring, a fair amount of the scores–but notably not each and every one of the scores–were lower than we would expect. You can always find reasons to justify a low score because the deductions exist even if the judges rarely elect to take them, but in the two rotations of that meet that I saw before Georgia and Alabama started, the standard of scoring was different from and inconsistent with what we have seen throughout the country this season. The Wolverines didn’t look great, we’ve seen much better from them, but they didn’t look all that bad either. They were evaluated with a different standard, which primarily accounts for the 195.

Bev Plocki had this to say about it:
“You can only control what you can control. You can’t control the judging. This was one of the strictest-officiated meets I’ve been at across the board in all my years. There were some really high-quality routines that were being scored well below their average. No matter how upset or disappointed we are with the way they were judging, we still opened the door for them to take those deductions. Tonight, they just chose to take more. We have to button those things up.”

The Oregon State and Cal meet has been cancelled because of poor weather, which is rough for everyone, especially if you were relying on Erika Aufiero’s bars score in your fantasy lineup to offset the low scores from Michigan. Just as an example.

I’ll be watching UCLA against Arizona State, which begins at 3:30 ET/12:30 PT and giving some general notes on the rotations as we go along.

UCLA will have Peszek on two events today, which they desperately need. Really, they desperately need her in the AA.

UCLA vault: Courtney had by far the top vault in that rotation, giving us her usual powerful yfull. She had to windmill to hang onto the stick and bent for it, but otherwise it was strong. Cipra and Bynum are both still trying to get the landings in order, Cipra with a big bounce back and Bynum with a lunge forward, though her vault was very clean in the air. Much of the early rotation was marked by significant piking in the air and not maintaining the shape we would expect and landing low. A weaker showing from Sawa in that regard in particular because she has been much better than that early in the year. Sawa and Mossett both took hops, but smaller, controlled hops, on their landings. 49.225 

Arizona State bars: ASU had a fall from Gades in the fifth spot on her double front dismount but were able to drop it. They had some handstand and form issues in much of the rotation, especially the beginning, along with some close catches and late pirouettes here and there. Miceli and Kraus showed the best line and strongest handstands in that rotation to hang onto an acceptable score and get the team over 49. They need to stick a few more of those dismounts because we saw hops even on the double tucks. 49.025

UCLA bars: It was the tale of two rotations for UCLA on bars. It started with two falls from Craddock in the first position in a disastrous routine, and both Sawa and Mossett struggled through their performances, Sawa with leg breaks and a large step on dismount, and Mossett with missed handstands and the usual struggle on the stalder. 9.850 was charitable for her. But, they got it together for the final three and hit one of the best series of three routines they have so far this season. Courtney was very clean, probably her best of the year. DeJesus also did quite well and stuck her dismount brilliantly, but the score of a 9.975 was out of control because she did still have some crazy legs on the gienger (though it’s getting better), and Amanda Borden commented that it looked like she caught it close as well. Peszek returned to the end of the lineup and hit a brilliant routine, and we knew if she stuck the dismount it was going to be a 10 because it was stronger than DeJesus’s routine. You can argue it, but they had nowhere to go after the DeJesus 9.975. It’s a 10 in the same way that the Sloan floor routine was a 10 against Georgia. 49.525. 

Arizona State vault: It was a solid enough rotation, including a tucked 1.5 from Sundby, which is also nice to see as a different look on vault. We saw some strong distance throughout the rotation on many of those vaults, especially for Kraus on her 9.850, but they need a little bit more control on the landings. A lot of people were bounding out with fairly large steps. They decided to do only five vaults because they were happy with the first five scores. Because they don’t have the huge, huge power, they’ll need some more control in the landings to get into those 49s but the talent is there. 48.975 

UCLA beam: If they could just get Peszek and Francis into the lineup at the same time, this rotation could actually be something for as much of a problem it has been so far, but Danusia is still sick, so we have to wait for that to happen. The rotation started off well enough with Craddock and DeJesus hitting their most comfortable beam routines of the season. DeJesus was in line for a great score before a hop on her 1.5 dismount. Then Gerber came up third to debut in the lineup and fell on her mount choreography and never pulled it together after that, with major wobbles on every skill, looking very tight and frail. Mossett got through her routine with nervous wobbles, and Sawa somehow saved a poor walkover and stayed on the beam with some fancy bending and facial expressions. It was mostly the facial expression. I’m still not really sure how that happened, but this rotation is far from comfortable. Lots of nervous struggles all over the place. They were saved by Peszek at the back of the rotation being all the kinds of excellent and performing exactly as we expect from her. Well, they went over 49, so that’s a victory. 49.175

Arizona State floor: There was not a ton of difficulty in this floor lineup except for the big tuck full from Sundby in the anchor spot, but the level of the double backs improved as the rotation went along, as we would expect. The back half showed strong amplitude, and Steigerwalt in particular showed the most comfort dropping into those landings. Perez had the showpiece routine choreographically and hit her tumbling securely, but the biggest score struggle for this team in the early part of the rotation is the dance elements, which aren’t hit to full extension and hurt the scores even if the tumbling is controlled. The scores are going up, and it looks like the judges are ready to give out some big numbers here. Lots of hugs from Hollie Vise. She needs to be in this rotation. 49.300

UCLA floor: UCLA was on pace for a very big score in spite of some of the early errors going into floor, but it was just a whole mess throughout. Mossett started off all right, though she’ll need to upgrade at some point, but then DeJesus came up with a wonky dance element and some low amplitude on her tumbling, Bynum had short landings on her DLO and her double pike dismount, and then Cipra upgraded to a tuck full mount and bounced OOB. She appeared to hurt her foot during the routine and was in tears after it, getting looked at by the medical staff. Talk about not being able to afford that injury. Courtney bounded way out of her double arabian and didn’t look ready to do a full floor routine coming off her wisdom teeth removal, just pulling off her double pike dismount. Sawa didn’t have her absolute best routine – a little bouncy on the mount – but it was by far the strongest showing on the team. 49.000

Arizona State beam: Arizona State started fairly well on beam with comfortable, confident routines from Steigerwalt and Perez with minimal wobbles, but then Gades, Miceli, and Sundby all came up with falls on their series make the rotation a disaster with two counting falls. There is potential there, but just a very insecure showing for almost the entire gang. It was one of those disaster days where the mistakes just compound each other. Not much else to say other than let’s pretend it never happened. 47.650.  

Final Score: UCLA 196.925, Arizona State 194.950

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