[6] Georgia @ [5] Utah Live Blog

We’re down to the final top-ten clash of the regular season before the teams run off to begin preparing their postseason assaults on our expectations. The meet will begin at 9:00 ET/6:00 PT on the Pac-12 Network.

But before we get to tonight’s main event, a few thoughts, one of which is a complaint! Yay!
Last night, Arkansas didn’t have a working scoring page for the meet against Oklahoma (and I already expressed my scowl at that technological regression), which meant that we were forced to rely on twitter updates for the scores. This reinforced a very strange team twitter phenomenon I’ve noticed over the past couple seasons. Many teams tweet the scores as the meet progresses, but only the good scores while ignoring the falls and pretending they don’t exist.
Aside from being unhelpful to fans who are left wondering how many people have competed so far, who was in the lineup, and how the rotation is going overall, it also comes across like the team is ashamed of the fall. As if, unless you get a good score, your routine is not to be acknowledged as part of the team’s performance. I’m not expecting any kind of criticism on the team’s twitter account, but just a statement of fact. “Unfortunately, Mykaylie had a fall on her jaeger. 9.150.” That’s not hard to say. I don’t understand the reasoning behind ignoring the falls and not acknowledging that they occurred. It’s just a fall. It happens. Identify and move on. It becomes more of a thing if you overtly decide not to mention it.        

I’m going to spare you any further rant on the tyranny of positivity at the expense of reality and instead move on to talking about today’s Big Ten quad meets. In one of the more unexpected results of the season, Michigan finished third out of four teams in its home quad. Michigan was going relatively strong and 197y for three events but had a collapse on the beam with a 48.075 after two multi-fall performances from Gies and Sheppard, which resulted in counting a 8.625 (or, as many team twitter accounts would say, nothing). The low 196 won’t hurt the Wolverines’ ranking, but it does raise more questions about beam – Casanova was also out of the lineup, which hurt – and puts them in a little more danger of being passed by Nebraska after the Big Ten Championships next weekend. For most of the other major players in the Big Ten, the day produced a solid result. Nebraska won its meet by breaking 197 for the second time this year, Illinois posted an impressive 196.875, Minnesota won the Michigan meet with 196.700 (and broke 49 on both bars and beam!), and Penn State also hit the mid 196s. Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State are all bunched together very close in the rankings now.

 But enough of that racket, let’s focus on Georgia and Utah. It’s going to be a raucous meet, and one where the very first rotation will be essential for both teams because it’s strength vs. strength with Utah on vault and Georgia on bars. Both need a lead after 1. Utah was right in the tri-meet last weekend going to vault, but recorded a second-straight vault score in the 49.3s (which is fine but not the 49.5 we have come to expect). The Utes will need to get back to those 49.5s because Georgia is the top team in the nation on bars by a fair margin, coming off two straight 49.6s at home and having scored 49.400 or greater in every meet January 12th. Get ready. 

Looks like both teams are planning to stick with the lineups they showed last week, with Utah using Delaney and Tutka on beam and sitting Hughes and Dabritz, and Georgia using Reynolds on beam and sitting Persinger. In Utah’s tentative early-week lineup, Delaney is also in on floor instead of Lofgren.

Coverage is beginning. Jim tells us this meet features the best gymnasts in the nation “on vault, bars, and floor exercise.” Yep, that about sums it up. Hailee Hansen is crying the most in the early race – but we’ll see who pulls ahead by the end, and now there’s a parade of senior citizens walking behind Amanda Borden.

Rotation 1 – Utah on vault, Georgia on bars  
Tutka – VT – Good stick on the yfull – some leg separation on the block and chest hunched a little, but very nice landing. This will be a good indicator of the scoring trend early.  9.850. Appropriate enough.

Jay – UB – Nice first hs, shaposh with a small leg break, clean bail handstand, nice Khorkina, legs together throughout the end, and a stick on the tuck full. A few areas, but great start.  9.875.

Lofgren – VT – yfull – another strong vault, but she didn’t stick the way Tutka did – bounce back – also a leg separation on her block. 9.825. 

Hires – UB – Great legs together in this routine, nice clean piked jaeger, hits her bail handstand, step back on the DLO – looked like she was going to stick, but a very strong routine. Maybe a small leg break on the bail, but otherwise they were pasted together. 9.850. 

Damianova – VT -She also has a bounce back on her yfull like Lofgren. They’re going to need these sticks to win this meet. She has a bit stronger body form than Lofgren, so while the landing was the same, expect a higher score. 9.875.

Brown – UB – Excellent tkatchev as usual, catches her pak, and the half turn on the low bar was OK – not too far past vertical – lands very squatty on her tuck full and takes a hop. Great routine going until the dismount, but that will break her score a little.  9.800.

Delaney – VT – Strong yfull – a small hop on the landing – maybe didn’t open up out of it the way we usually see her do, but great power and leg form as we usually see. 9.950. 

Cheek – UB -Strong tkatchev – did she catch a little close? Very pretty bail handstand, all of her cast handstands look good – great DLO in the air, but a step back. They’re not sticking the way they have at home, which will hurt.  9.850.

Wilson – VT – Yfull – pretty much the usual vault we see from her, big block – but she did hop back, a bit bigger hop than Delaney had. 9.950. These 9.950s are high for me for non-stuck vaults. Those were notable hops.  

Rogers – UB – Her stalders are excellent, great Ricna and pristine bail handstand – also has a step on the dismount, one small step back on the tuck full landing. 9.900.  

Dabritz – VT – She shows the full this time as well – Utah does tend to downgrade to safety as the season goes on. She hops in place, rather than back in the way that Delaney and Wilson did. 9.950. 

Davis – UB – Excellent tkatchev as always, great handstand, nailed and clean on the bail – all her handstands are hit – low landing on the DLO and a step forward. So few sticks for Georgia, that really hurts them. 9.850. 

After 1: Utah 49.575, Georgia 49.325
Solid vaulting for Utah from the back three. A 49.575 is too high a score for a rotation with just one stick (if the final three had stuck, would you have given all of them 10s? I doubt it), but the last three vaulters in that lineup are excellent in the air. They’re going to have to watch those landings, though, because come the postseason, it will be easy for the judges to hold them down if they’re not getting those sticks. Those last three vaults could have been brought down .050 realistically, maybe more. Away from home, you can never expect a 9.950 for a non-stick. I said this rotation was going to be important, and advantage Utah early on.

For Georgia, the story was the lack of sticks. That’s one of their lowest bars scores of the season, and it happened because they all gave away on the landings. It’s easy to make the argument that they gave away .250 in that rotation on the landings alone, and that’s the difference in the meet so far. They stuck so well at home, but not tonight. Georgia really is great on the bars themselves, though. Those bail handstands are solid, nailed with no question, legs together, and the releases all have excellent amplitude.

Rotation 2 – Utah on bars, Georgia on vault
Reynolds – VT – This has been a revolving door position in the lineup, but it appears to be hers. Yfull – a little piked in the air and a pretty large hop back, so that will probably be the lowest score we’ve seen on vault so far. 9.825. So, same as Lofgren. That makes sense.

Hughes – UB – Good first hs, hits her tkatchev, clean bail, finishes with the tuck full and she gets a stick – chest down but a stick – and Georgia wasn’t doing that. 9.875. We’re really judging landings tonight.

Davis – VT – Great form with legs pasted together on her yfull as always – she also has a hop back though – not a lot of sticks so far tonight. Besides the landing it looked good.  9.875.

Wilson – UB – Small break on the gienger and again on the shootover – one handstand early on looked short – and a hop on the dismount. Solid, but she’s one in particular who needs to stick that dismount. Count 1 on the “Jim Watson – Tory Wilson’s smile comment” count. 9.800.

Hires – VT – Strong yfull – she came in a little short on that vault as she does sometimes – some piking – and a hop. 9.900.

Hansen – UB – “Four years has come down to this performance” – so no pressure then? Hits her jaeger, short on her handstand before the pak, but this is a hit otherwise – nice final handstand – and a stick on the tuck full. 9.850. 

Rogers – VT – Big 1.5, came in just a bit short on that vault and hopped back – but only the smallest bit of knee bending in the air – nice form overall. Just the landing. 9.925.

Lothrop – UB – Nice compact jaeger, clean legs on the bail handstand and hits the position – a couple of these handstands are borderline – whips her DLO with a hop back. 9.875. The crowd was booing this score? That’s high for that routine.

Cheek – VT – Let’s see if she can get it this week. The scores have been setting her up and have been as high for Georgia as for Utah. Oh, girl! She fought for that stick so hard, and bent way down to the ground to get it. She would have been better taking a small step back than bending and swimming like that, which made the vault look worse than it was. 9.875. 

Damianova – UB -She casts with legs together, which we don’t always see in NCAA – leg break on the shaposh, she goes over on a handstand and covers it well to do an extra half swing, but there were some handstand problems on her improvised giant 1/2. Sticks her double back. 9.850. That’s a testament to her ability to cover going over on a handstand, but she did still go over on a handstand.

Jay – VT – Does the 1.5, great form in the air – just the small hop in place in the same way that Dabritz did on her vault, so we could see 9.950 again. She got a 10 from one judge last week for a stick. She tends to have some legs on her block, but that can be hard to see from the judges’ perspective. 9.950. 

Dabritz – UB – Strong jaeger – and a clean bail. I have a question about a short handstand before the bail, but the bail is strong. She sticks the tuck full, so let’s see what the judges will do. 9.925 is fair for that. One handstand looked short, and then there are issues like toes that don’t often get deducted but are notable if you decide to take them into account.

After 1: Utah 98.950, Georgia 98.850
A solid vault rotation from Georgia, but they have been better many times this year. They got the same benefit that Utah did in the scoring, and we didn’t see enough sticks for a 49.5. The same note about postseason meets goes for Georgia’s vaulting as for Utah’s.

Utah scored a bit higher than Georgia did on bars, but this rotation was a missed opportunity for Utah after gaining a lead in the first. Hughes led them off well and Dabritz had a nice routine, but Damianova had to improvise an extra skill, Lofgren and Hansen had a couple handstand issues, so that was just enough to see their lead dissipate by more than half. We’re seeing a solid meet so far, but nothing overwhelming. Lots of missed sticks and some form breaks. There’s work to do for both of these teams to be championships-ready.

Rotation 3 – Utah on beam, Georgia on floor
Rowe – BB – OK full turn to start – switch to straddle 1/4 is fine, hits her loso series, switch side. Is she singing or counting? Front toss. She still looks a little tight, but she’s not giving away wobbles. Small step on the 1.5, one of her better routines this year. 9.850.

Reynolds – FX – Rudi to loso looks good to open the routine, a little hunched on her double pike with a slide back – switch side and popa look hit – 1.5 to layout with some steppy dance forward. Not her best of the season, but a strong opening hit.  9.850.

Hughes – BB – She’s in instead of Tutka, who was in the tentative lineup. I like this decision. She’s more likely to 9.850. A little bend correction on her loso series but solid. switch looked short of 180, but hits her side aerial – short of position on her popa as well with a little bend, so a few things to take here, but but sticks her 1.5. 9.875.

Hires – FX – Nice height on her double pike and a very secure landing, also the switch side and popa dance combo – 1.5 to layout has nice form, and controlled enough. James Bond + Shimmy = SEC floor routines. Hits her double tuck as well – some low chest in the landings, but well controlled.  9.900.

Wilson – BB – Nails her two layouts series, switch is short of 180, but the straddle 1/4 was strong. She has wobbled on that skilled sometimes. They just need to get rid of her regular split elements because they are the weakest part of the routine. Sticks 1.5. “That smile lights everyone up.” That’s 2.  9.925. Utah home scoring.

Box – FX – She pops right up on the double pike, solid enough landing. another with the switch side to popa. We need to have a conversation with these teams about their hair and ribbons, but it’s a losing battle. Nice double tuck. 1.5 to layout – pulled it around well enough. Another hit. Georgia looking more secure on floor so far this week.  9.875.

Lofgren – BB – Side somi – a little step correction, hits her aerial to bhs, split and stag are nice, sticks her gainer dismount. One of her stronger routines of the year. One correction in the side somi, but well done.  9.900.

Rogers – FX – I don’t mind this routine choreographically – it’s all little arm- and writhing-heavy, but I like it. I have to say I don’t love all these routines, but I prefer Cassidy as a Georgia choreographer. Nice double arabian to start – hop forward but well done – very strong 1.5 to layout. Hips going back a little on that double pike, but if she can get floor together, that’s a big boost for this team. 9.875. 

Delaney – BB – very strong opening loso series, good straddle jump, wobble on tuck jump full, standing loso is hit, sticks her gainer full. Nice routine from her, one of her better of the year so far. 9.925.  

Earls – FX – Rudi to bhs loso mount, not a lot of amplitude but hit well, a little hunched over on her double pike landing but avoided sliding back. Comes in short on her double back and bounces up and awkwardly. That will be a lower score for them. 9.800.  

Lothrop – BB – uses her arms to pull it back without a wobble on her opening split skill – hits her loso series – switch side is secure, holds onto the full turn, not giving away wobbles here. Did Hailee Hansen have a stroke in the background? Small hop on the 1.5 dismount.  9.875.

Jay – FX – She has had a few breaks in this routien so far this year, but they need a hit now. Tuck full mount is stronger this week – she didn’t land as short as she has sometimes – 1.5 to layout looks good. And a strong double pike as well. That’s the floor routine they have needed from her.

After 3: Utah 148.450, Georgia 148.300
Having a lead bodes well for Utah going to floor while Georgia is on beam. But it’s still encouraging for Georgia to be close enough going to the end. There was home scoring in that beam rotation, but Utah won’t care so much about that. They’ll care more that they just hit six straight beam routines without any major breaks on any skills. As we’ve seen other teams continue to falter on beam, that’s a good accomplishment. Also a major accomplishment is Georgia’s hitting floor as well as they did. Earls had a break on one pass, but no OOBs, and no major errors. Two simultaneous encouraging rotations there on events that have been weaknesses.

Rotation 4 – Utah on floor, Georgia on beam   
Attendance is 15,224. That’s crazy.
Box – BB – wobble on the opening tuck jump full, strong loso series, switch to straddle 3/4, pretty full turn, small check on her aerial, hop forward on 1.5 dismount. OK, but a could wobbles on skills and the hop on the dismount will bring her score down. 9.800.

Lofgren – FX – So she is in on floor after all, secure opening double pike, split full to popa, whip to double pull – pretty big pike on that twist and bounced slightly, rudi to loso is strong. Clean opening overall.  9.875.

Reynolds – BB – front toss is OK, no real wobble – another smallest check on her loso series – she’s pulling these skills back well – full turn – side somi is secure – chest a little forward so it’s good she didn’t wobble there – double full with a hop in place.  9.875.

Del Priore – FX – Low on her tuck full mount – some bending there – it’s very hit or miss, 1/5 to layout is strong, though. A little hunched on the double back – a couple trouble landings there, but a hit overall.  9.825.

Rogers – BB – nice switch + split 1/4 opening combo – check on her loso series which she probably shouldn’t have had to take, hits her bhs 3/4 very well tonight, dismount bhs 1/1 to full twist with a small hop. Well done.  9.900.

Wilson – FX – Just the DLO this time, not the full, and bounces back and slides into the corner – no OOB but a significant slide – layout to layout full is fine, finishes with a very short double tuck with a stumble forward – almost fell but saved a fall. One of her weaker routines, they’ll want to drop that.  9.725.

Brown – BB – tight full turn with a small check on it, wobble on her loso series, she looks tight so far in this performance – just small checks on every skill, and a wobble on the switch 1/2, hop forward on the 1.5 dismount. She’s been looser usually, but that was a tight showing.  9.450. They took for every wobble there. I’m with the judge who gave that a 9.550, more than the 9.350.

Tutka – FX – Strong tuck full mount – layout full to split to front tuck with a hop, just a little bouncy on that one – popa and wolf full are well done – bounces on her double back with a slide. Good routine, but a couple places for deductions there.  9.925. With that bounce and slide on the dismount?

Cheek – BB – Strong loso series, great leg form throughout, switch side is excellent – great height and hit position – pristine side aerial – nice switch leap to straddle 1/4 – sticks her gainer full. Best routine for either team on beam so far. Well done. 9.925. Excellent score, but getting the same score as Wilson and Delaney? Hers was stronger.  

Dabritz – FX – Sticks her pike full in, very nice, strong 1.5 to loso as well, split half to wolf full looks fine, basically sticks her triple full – with kinds of a sheepish step back because she thought she was going to stick. Well, let’s see what they do. It was better than her 10 last week, but not quite her best of the year. 9.950.  

Earls – BB – very strong two layouts series, good switch to straddle 1/4 as well, swings her arms and wobbles on her side aerial to side position, big lunge back on the double back dismount, but they got through four events without a major error counting and will have a strong score. 9.800.

Damianova – FX – Just the smallest bounce on her double back – not quite the control we usually see there – 1.5 to layout is nice, and sticks her double pike – chest a little hunched. Strong routine overall. 10.000. Senior night 10, but good for her. She’s done that exact routine probably 15 times in her career for 9.900 and 9.925 scores, but it’s senior night. 

Final score: Utah 198.025, Georgia 197.600
A really positive meet for both teams. Georgia had a rough finish to the meet last week, and I was concerned that would happen again on beam, but while Brown had a low score, they were able to drop it and pull through for a very strong road score that will help their RQS cause and give them a very good shot to enter Regionals as a #1 seed. There are some areas they still need to improve, and they got some help from the high scores overall in this meet to get that 197.600, but those were four clean, hit rotations. More sticks are needed though, basically on every event. More sticks.

Utah put together four events, and that has been the goal. They’ll need to do it again in a week to have a chance at the Pac-12s title. There’s still work to do. They had errors in each rotation, some small and some larger, but they’re going to have to put together a few more sticks on vault and get rid of some of the bouncing on floor because those will need to be their highest scoring events in the postseason. The beam progress was important, but this is still a team that needs its vault and floor landings to be at its best. They can’t rely on beam.

It will be fun if these teams end up meeting again at Nationals and are fighting for a third spot to advance out of one of the semifinals, which may very well happen. 

Feeling Kinda Friday Live Blog – Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri

Friday – 3/14/14
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [3] Florida @ Missouri (Scores) (Video – all-access subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [1] LSU (Scores) (Video – school subscription)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma @ [16] Arkansas (Scores) (Video – school subscription)
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [11] Auburn @ [4] Alabama (Scores) (Video – free)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [24] Southern Utah @ Utah State (Scores) (Video)
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [12] Oregon State, Seattle Pacific @ Washington (Scores) (Video – free)
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ [22] Arizona State (Scores) (Video – free)

Current rankings:

We’ll get started a 7:30 ET/4:30 PT with Florida and Missouri facing off in the great battle for scores. Here are Florida’s averages on each event both home and away for reference during the meet as to whether they are being more home or more away in this meet:

Vault: Home – 49.450, Away – 49.256
Bars: Home – 49.480, Away – 49.319
Beam: Home – 49.395, Away – 49.250
Floor: Home – 49.655, Away – 49.250

Floor is the big one, so those will be the scores to watch. It’s not so much about Kytra, she can be worthy of a 10 anywhere, but how high the judges are willing to go for those early routines. Are they starting out 9.875-9.900, or more like 9.825? 

Important question of the day: Is Katherine Grable going to get a 10 on floor (or vault) on senior night?

We’re not too far away from Florida and Missouri getting started, and then soon after we’ll have Oklahoma and LSU at the same time, battling it out for the huge scores that will take them to #1. For Missouri, I’m looking for 48.8s and 48.9s. That’s where they need to be. Vault and beam have been the lower-scoring events this year, so if they can get higher 48s on those and hit 49 on the stronger events, bars and floor, that’s a very solid result. 

Getting ready to go now.
Rotation 1 – Missouri on vault, Florida on bars:
Kern – VT – Yhalf to start – step back. Fine opening. 9.850.

BDG – UB – Clean shaposh, hits her bail as well. Legs nice together throughout, handstands look almost entirely clean – and a stick/near stick on the DLO – legs apart in the second salto as usual, but high as usual as well.  9.875.

Eubank – VT – Yfull – lands very squatty, looked like she was going to sit it down, but she saves it with a large lunge back to stay on her feet.

B Caquatto – UB – Excellent Ray, she has exceptional handstands on this event each week, hits her bail, and sticks the DLO. Great, clean routine. Thought it was a touch stronger than BDG’s, so we should see some 9.9s here.

Heimsath – VT – More distance on her yfull than the first two had on their vaults – not the amplitude we’ll see from Florida, but solid. Step back. 

Hunter- UB – Exceptional power on her hindorff, bail looks OK, but completely overbalances her handstand after coming back to the high bar after her bail – didn’t come off the bar but had to take a thousand extra swings. Step on the DLO. Now that is a scowl. Awesome face Kytra. Thank you for always telling us how you feel. This has been happening – bigger issues on beam and usually smaller issues on bars – but now a big issue on bars. 9.250.

Kapler – VT – clean yfull – best form on the team so far, solid distance, step back. Good vault.

Sloan – UB – Another strong Ray, clean handstands, the usual leg break apart in the bail, but that’s really the extent of the issues there. Stuck DLO. Powerful and strong routine. Good recovery.  Boom. 9.975. So, we’re getting excited by these scores. They’re going high for both teams. It is often tough for the judges to see her leg break in the bail from a side angle, but it was there today. Great routine, though, so I would have been fine with 9.950.

Elmore – VT – Just a y-layout for her. Fine vault, but they’ll need to drop that. No sixth vaulter? Ouch. I didn’t know they didn’t have five 10.0 vaults to use. That hurts a lot.

M Caquatto – UB – Very pretty shaposh to bail combo, great form throughout. I thought she looked clearly short on her final handstand, but she stuck her tuck full dismount well. I’m impressed by these landings so far. Lots of sticks, which they have needed lately.  9.925.

Johnson UB – Beautiful handstands and another powerful Ray, she also has a bit of floppy legs on her bail like Sloan, but the toe point is undeniable. She’s another with legs apart on her DLO, and a hop back this time, but pretty on the bars themselves. 9.900. 

After 1: Florida 49.625, Missouri 48.750
It’s the end of the season, and much like the end of the school year, everyone is just a little more excited, and we’re seeing that in the scores. Florida performed a strong bars rotation, with clean routines throughout besides Kytra, but there were places to take – a couple of the bail handstands and a couple of the landings. Overall, though, it’s good improvement in the sticking department for Florida. The Kytra consistency watch is on, however. She tends to be the most likely to eat a mistake on bars and beam. 

Missouri also got some benefit of the doubt on those scores, which were fairly charitable. I said we needed to see 48.8s, and the 48.750 is almost there, but with only four vaults of 10.0 start value, they couldn’t really have asked for anything more. It will be interesting to compare Kern’s 9.850 to what Florida scores, because Kern had a perfectly fine, normal yhalf with a definite step back, so if the judges are being consistent between teams, we could see Florida’s vault lineup start out in the 9.9s.

Rotation 2 – Missouri on bars, Florida on vault:
Spicer – VT – Pretty good yfull, strong height and clean form- that’s an improvement over the Missouri rotation – and a fairly significant hop back on the landing.

Elmore – UB – Good full turn, not completed late at all – hits her tkatchev,  couple cast handstands looked short there toward the end of the routine, but she sticks her double back dismount. Acceptable start. 

B Caquatto – VT – yfull – another who doesn’t have her landing there yet. Pretty big hop back on that one. Everything else looked strong. Good height and distance and impeccable body shape.

Conkle – UB – She shows a gienger, which I always love to see, some form happening there but she catches it. DLO dismount with a step back.

M Caquatto – VT – Nice height on the yfull – not the same distance as Bridgey but a better landing. I’d give her the stick this time. She held it just a bit longer than she has done a couple times recently, when she leaned into a step salute and didn’t get credit for sticking. Well done on that front.

Sander – UB – A couple floppy handstands here that will hurt her score, gets her straddle back – finishes with a clean DLO in the air – another with a step back.

Johnson – VT – Pretty yfull – no question about the stick on this one, very well done. Good body shape and height.

Eubank – UB – Nice height on her piked jaeger, and connects it directly to the bail. Best line and best handstands in the rotation so far, and a stick on her double front. That will be an upgrade in the scores for them by a solid tenth over he people going before.

Sloan – VT – Beautiful yfull – sticks it. Great vault – very well done. Best of the rotation so far. Chest up, and more distance than both Macko and Alaina, which improves the impression of her vault. 9.950.

Johnson – UB – Piked gienger to overshoot is well done, a little short on some of her handstands, but she has nice legs together throughout the routine on the bars. Lands a bit squatty on her double back with a lunge forward.

Hunter – VT – Y1.5 – The usual excellent, powerful, clean y1.5 that she has been receiving 10s for this season, but that didn’t look like a stick this time. Not a step, but a shuffle on the landing. 9.950.

Trevino – UB – A little late and crooked on her opening full turn, goes for a gienger – lots of giengers on this team – and can’t catch it, so they’ll drop this score. Step back on the DLO.

Lauren Rose does exhibition on vault for Florida in her final routine for the team. Nice height on her yfull. Nice for her to get a final routine, even though it’s not senior night for Florida.

After 2: Florida 99.125, Missouri 97.725  
A good vault rotation for Florida. They were hurt in the first two routines by not getting strong landings, which brought down the score for Bridgey in particular. Macko and Alaina vaulted very well – I don’t think those scores reflected the quality of those vaults compared to some of the others in this meet tonight, but they do pop up on their vaults more than fly out. Potential chest position to take as well for Macko, but I’d want to see them again. Sloan and Hunter were immaculate as usual, and clearly Kytra would have been on the 10 train again with a true stick on her vault. Two rotations over 49.500 for Florida so far, so they are on the 198 road once again.

Missouri did about what they needed to do in that bars rotation. They just don’t have the cleanliness throughout the routines that Florida does, so it will always be hard for them to go too far over 49, but Eubank has a very strong routine. I don’t see how her routine scored the same as Johnson’s. They looked very different in quality to me.

Elsewhere, LSU has opened with a 49.450 vault rotation (so edge Florida on that event so far).

Rotation 3 – Missouri on beam, Florida on floor 
McGill – BB – wobble on her opening loso series but she holds onto it without giving up too much. Sticks her gainer full dismount. Should be a solid start.

Boyce – FX – Enough control on her front double full mount, keeps that back leg in check while lunging forward, 1.5 to front pike middle pass – dances out of it, finishes with a rudi – chest down a little? Fine opening. 9.850.

Heimsath – BB – hits her standing loso along with her loso series, and sticks her three series dismount to a 1.5. Solid routine, not a lot of amplitude on the skills and some mushy leg form, but no wobbles there.

Spicer – FX Pike full in opening – chest down as we have seen – and a little shuffley stumble this time, nothing major. Good front full to pike middle pass, stuck it. Split and wolf are OK, and just the smallest of absorption bounces on her double pike. A shuffle early, but a good hit.  9.900.

Kapler – BB – Also goes for her loso series, and you could see a fall coming just as she started. She was way off line and comes off the beam. They would be fine counting the first couple scores, so they’ll just need hits from here on out. Otherwise it’s a hit.

Johnson – FX – Strong landing on her double arabian, looked like she was going to land a little short, but she did well with one controlled step back – clean 1.5 to layout. Switch ring and split full look OK, and a fine double pike to start. Hit and solid. I thought it was slightly better than Spicer’s so we’ll see about the score. Same. 9.900.

Sander – BB – Small check on the straddle, hits her loso series, keeps her side aerial on the beam – it looked a little scary in the air but she hung onto it. Hop forward on 1.5 dismount. It’s a hit. They’ll take it.

Sloan – FX – We can barely hear the music at all on this broadcast, only the commentators and the team cheering. Sticks her front double full again. Split half looks fine, and the popa was excellent. Middle with a double pike – controlled enough. Small hop on the 1.5 to layout. Not her very strongest routine, but well done.

Bowers – BB – Pretty full turn to start, but comes off on her loso series, so they’ll be counting a fall on beam. They really can’t afford that in this close RQS battle to make Regionals. That’s a shame. Hop forward on 1.5 dismount.

Hunter – FX – Great and big on the DLO and control the landing, great start. Middle pass – 1.5 + layout + fhs + shush – very well done as always. Hits her switch side and popa well. Just hangs onto the control of her landing on the open double back. She was not going to lift that second foot. They’ve givern her the 10.000 again. It’s Kytra.

Conkle – BB – Nice form on the switch leap. Small wobble on the straddle. Goes for her loso, and comes off the beam. A three-fall disaster for Missouri. It was going OK before that. Low on her rudi dismount with a lunge.

B Caquatto – FX – Florida already has a 49.600 before this routine, so it’s going to be something massive again, and good pace for a 198 for Florida. Woah, her opening pass with the front double full was fine, but was her sting mat lined up with the floor lines? I couldn’t tell, but there were lines all over the place on that mat – it looked strange, and I got a little confused. I’m very sensitive. Rudi to split jump, strong straddles. Hits her double pike. 9.800.

After 3: Florida 148.725, Missouri 145.275  
Another big floor rotation for Florida. They’ll drop the Bridgey score. Her routine looked strong, so she may have received a mat placement deduction. Kytra gets another 10, as we have come to expect, and everyone got huge scores. They just have to be pretty good on beam now to get that road 198 they’ve been searching for, but it’s still beam.

A devastating result for Missouri on beam with a 47.550. Three falls, and there’s no coming back from that.

So, we’re really not getting the scores from Oklahoma and Arkansas aside from twitter updates? Are we Amish? Why are we regressing in terms of providing information to fans?

LSU continues the pace of 49.4s on bars, so they are just under 198 pace after two events with a 98.925. They have a 197.500 to drop for RQS, so they are still on pace to increase that if they can keep things going on the beam.

Arkansas 49.250 – Oklahoma 49.125. Katherine Grable 9.925 on vault. Arkansas’s twitter is tough to translate because there’s a lot of unnecessary hashtagging. #ALLIN. #NeverYeild. #WhereIsYourScoringPage

Rotation 4 – Missouri on floor, Florida on beam   
Boyce – BB – gets her aerial to bhs, and her bhs loso series. Her elements aren’t the biggest or the cleanest, but she hits them like a leadoff should – now in this position in the lineup, which I like for her. That switch split looked a little wonky, but good split jump. Sticks gainer full.

Heimsath – FX – OK mount – double pike with a slide back – 1.5 to layout as her traditional middle pass – the amplitude on tumbling will be a big difference between the Missouri and Florida floor routines. Controlled double back dismount.

Spicer – BB – Hits her loso series as well, good full turn, holds onto her gainer loso and refuses to give a wobble there. Switch leap then down onto the beam. Remember when Brie Olson was forced to do that at the pro challenge? That still hurts me. Sticks her gainer full.

Conkle – FX – Front full to layout – hit. Well, that’s some choreography, I’ll say that. Really trying to be modern. Does a 2.5 for her middle pass, which is unusual – stumble on the landing. Good straddle positions, popa not quite fully around. Lowish on her rudi to finish.

In other news, LSU is fighting against a fall on beam for the final three routines.

Johnson – BB – aerial to bhs connection, looked like a small check. Very nice on the switch to split jump, strong full turn, side aerial to full dismount with a hop together on her landing.

Pokladnik – FX – Opens with a double pike, layout to front full as the second pass. Just some leg from here and there. Finishes with a rudi. Hit routine, another without a lot of amplitude, but no major issues.

Alabama opens with a 49.500 on vault. I’ll be going there after this.

Sloan – BB – has to take a step back after her bhs + loso series, not under control and avoids the wobble, but it is a step. Hits her front aerial to scale – good switch and split dance combo – strong side aerial, and a great stick on her double full as she does every week. 9.950. That’s high for the step on the opening series. 

Kapler – FX – She has very nice straddle positions – that dance combo was strong – but she has a stumble with a couple steps back on her middle double back pass, which will bring this score down. Low on her rudi.

It’s a 49.100 for Auburn on bars in their opening rotation,

M Caquatto – BB – Very strong bhs loso series. Check on her aerial to swingdown, breaks the connection but she doesn’t need the connection for her requirements. Good full turn. Switch to split jump is strong. Finishes with a gainer full. 9.925. 

Kern – FX – Nice height on her opening double pike, front full to layout is clean as well. She’s one where the tumbling is stronger than the dance elements, which tends to be the more common identity. Rudi with some crazy legs but a controlled landing.

LSU had three big final beam routines for another score in the 49.4s.

Hunter – BB – Interesting that she has been moved to the final position. She has been struggling the most with consistency, so this can work to put less pressure on her going up after five hits, but if there’s a fall before her, it works the opposite way. Small check on her loso series, switch side looks good, and a medium step back on the double back. 9.850.

Bowers – FX – Sticks her double pike mount with chest down – they need something great from her to get out of the 194.2s, but this will not be a counting score for RQS regardless. Front full to layout middle pass. Just saves her 1.5 to layout final pass but sneaking around that layout to her feet – looked like she would sit it down but she didn’t.

BDG doing exhibition, but that will do it for Florida, a 198.200 road score. The 198 gauntlet has been thrown down again for the weekend.

Florida’s RQS will increase to 197.790.

In the land of elsewhere, Oklahoma recovers from a lowish bars score with a 49.575 on vault, including a Scaman 10. Two 10s on the day so far, and the weekend is young.

LSU is on pace for a strong score, a high 197, but will fall behind Florida in the rankings after that result.

Over to Alabama and Auburn now – we’re waiting on Kaitlyn Clark to anchor the bars rotation.

Clark – UB – They have a couple 9.7s so far, so they need a good hit. A few breaks in this routine – the legs come apart on the shaposh and she has to arch and hang onto a handstand, but she does stick her DLO. 9.875.

Alabama gets a 49.275 on bars, so they’re right on mid 197 pace after two events.

After 2: Alabama 98.775, Auburn 98.300 

Oklahoma gets a 49.350 on floor in the third rotation to extend the lead over Arkansas by another three tenths. 148.050 to 147.300.

It looks like Florida has done enough with that 198.200 to take over #1, but we’ll wait until we have final scores.

Rotation 3 – Alabama on beam,  Auburn on floor
Milliner – BB – Strong walkover as always, switch to straddle looks good as well, hits her bhs + loso series, no wobbles in this routine – front toss – just a small adjustment on the double full. Good hit.

Kadous – FX -punch front through to double back – chest down and a pretty big lunge back out of that – 1.5 to front tuck middle pass – double pike dismount with a similar landing to the mount. Just a little low but secure.

DeMeo – BB – Good GAGE handspring mount, clean walkover, hits her bhs to whipped layout series as well. Alabam is very good at refusing to give away wobbles, they just tense and freeze when it looks like they might. Great switch and split, low landing on the double pike with a large lunge forward. That’s the risk of that dismount, but still a good routine. 9.875 is high just because of the dismount.

Kluz – FX -Good tuck full to start – popa looks fine – clean layout to front full. Remember to perform through the whole routine, not just in the “performance parts.” Controlled dismount. Hit routine, should be a solid score.

Bailey – BB – Pretty L turn as always,just a small check on the loso series, good switch and tuck full jump, sticks her double full. Another strong hit. This is a great rotation so far.

Webster – FX – Nice pike full in – some legs apart issues, but I tend to be more forgiving of that on pike full ins unless I’m cranky. I’m not that cranky right now. She has clean twisting form, which I like to see from someone who also has the power to do a pike full. My criticism of Auburn’s choreo is that it’s a lot of “I’m going to stand and do arms now.” Comfortable dismount.

A Sims – BB -hits her walkover, strong loso series. She’s another who lands with her legs in different counties on that skill. The splits are a highlight of her routine. Strong full turn, and a great double back dismount. Small shuffle back if even that. Another great hit.

Demurs – FX – Sticks her pike full in – chest in the knees but stuck – dance elements are OK – sort of dancey-run-stumbles out of her front full. Low landing on her double pike dismount with a slide back. 

Clark – BB – Hits loso cleanly. Secure on the landing of her sheep jump as well, hit landing the front toss, sticks her 1.5. Another very strong beam rotation for Alabama, just fewer wobbles than anyone else is showing.  10.000. 10.000? Are we OK with that? I honestly didn’t even consider it an option.

Atkinson – FX – Another full in, best one so far – split full to wolf full as her dance combo. They have lots of difficulty, but her tumbling is up to a different level. She has been carrying this team without Guy, and that’s another excellent showing.

Jacob – BB – Good switch to popa to start. She’s the one I would have thought was in 10 contention. Strong two loso series. The barani is back – Yay! And she nails it. And she sticks her 1.5. Well, if Clark’s routine was a 10, then why not that one?  9.950. OK.

Walker – FX – Rudi mount to a bouncy split jump afterward. Layouts – also a little bouncy – as her middle pass. I assume she’s in the final position to bump up her score a touch. 2.5 dismount with a small stumble. Still a solid hit.

It’s a 49.650 for Alabama on beam after the 10 for Clark and 9.950s for Sims and Jacob.

After 3: Alabama 148.425, Auburn 147.550

LSU wins with a 197.800. A very strong score, and their third-highest of the season as well, but with a 197.500 coming off, they can’t increase RQS by very much, and will go up to 197.720, behind Florida.

Rotation 4- Alabama on floor, Auburn on beam
Kadous is going on beam and hitting her routine until a big break on her series, but more importantly, Katherine Grable got a 9.975 on floor. Now, I’m not one to call for 10s all over the place, but this girl needs one before she graduates. That other judge and I are going to have a talk. Kadous has a fall, so Auburn has work to do on beam now. And Frost leads off for Alabama instead of Jetter with a hit.

Hlawek – BB – Hits her acro series without a wobble, gets her split full around – I would argue the split, but it was around. Front toss is low but right on the beam. Sticks her 1.5 dismount. She did well not to give away wobbles in that routine.

Jetter – FX – Sticks her double arabian – one of the best she has done that skill this season – split and popa look good as well – clean and secure 1.5 to front full as well. Automatic .200 deduction for car sounds in the floor music. Very good, floated 1.5 to layout finish. Nice routine, will score well.

Demurs – BB – Secure bhs loso series, switch to sheep. The sheep was very NCAA but no wobble. Side aerial to tuck full dismount and a stick. Two down, three to go.

Bailey – FX – Good double arabian, but not her strongest, small shuffle. Switch ring was fine, split full looked fairly short of 180 to me. Hits layout to front full well – and a solid rudi to finish. Good, regular, hit routine.

Rott – BB – Small adjustment between the switch and straddle, but I would give the combination. Huge break on her loso series and comes off the beam, so Auburn will be counting a fall. Lunge forward on front tuck but stays on the beam, hits the switch side. Step back on gainer pike dismount.

Beers – FX – DLO to open – a little short but controls the landing to hang onto its being a stick, strong layout to front full, just loses her feet a little on her final double pike with a strange step back – but she does stay in bounds.

Walker – BB – Just limiting damage time now for Auburn. They don’t need what happened to Missouri. Hits her front toss. Small adjustment on loso series, full turn, split + sheep. Sticks her gainer full. Pretty routine.

Jacob – FX – Strong pike full in, like most of Auburn’s the chest is very down, but no questioning the security of the landing, bounces back pretty far on her double pike – that’s uncharacteristic – switch side and popa look good. And a strong 1.5 to front full to finish, but that middle pass will hurt her.

Atkinson – BB – Strong walkover, and a secure loso series, hits her switch plit and wolf jump positions well. Important dismount now – sticks her double pike. Wow. Great dismount after an excellent routine. 9.950.

Milliner – FX – Strong double arabian, just a little slide back – followed by a strong front layout to front full – the high 197 is already guaranteed, so this is just bonus now. Fine final double pike – hips going back a little bit there. Oh, so much crying on the floor now.

9.950 for Milliner gives Alabama a 197.925 for the second-highest score of the day, to Auburn’s 196.175. They did well to save a 196 after counting a fall on beam, but it won’t help them move up in the rankings.

The final from Oklahoma was a 197.425 to Arkansas’s 196.650. Even though it’s a big win for Oklahoma, the score is much more important for Arkansas than it is for Oklahoma. The Sooners move up only slightly in RQS and will be third in the nation now with a 197.660, to LSU’s 197.720, and Florida’s 197.790. 

The Weekend Ahead – March 14-16

Don’t be alarmed, but it’s the final weekend of the regular season. How did we get here? This season is negative 16 seconds old. Unacceptable. We’ve barely had time to decide which beam lineups are the least acceptable, and now it’s almost over.

The anticipated confrontation between Georgia and Utah on Saturday night will be the showcase meet of the weekend, but we have plenty to attend to before that.

This week, the #1 ranking is open for business and ready to be taken by several different teams. It gets around town, this #1 ranking. LSU, Oklahoma, and Florida all could end up with it by the conclusion of shenanigans on Friday, and with all three of those teams competing at the same time, it will be another thrilling day of multiple scoreboard windows and ctrl+R-ing. Ctrl+R is the national pastime of the NCAA gymnastics fan. Well, that and assigning 9.825s to everyday objects and mild acquaintances.

The three contenders for #1, along with Alabama, will headline the action on Friday with a number of different agendas and storylines. Florida is up first, visiting Missouri in a meet they should win comfortably. Even though the result is not interesting, the scores will be significant for both teams. Missouri is currently stuck in a three-way tie for the final Regionals spot with Utah State and West Virginia (so keep an eye on those teams as well). Making the top 36 will be a challenge for Missouri since Utah State has an extra meet remaining and Iowa, just a spot behind, still has a 193 to get rid of to move up. Missouri is hanging onto a 194.525 as a low score right now, so they’ll probably need a mid-195 at this meet to feel anything resembling comfort going into SECs. For the Gators, it’s all about the road scores right now. With a 197.075 to drop, they have the most room to improve of the top three teams and can put some serious pressure on LSU and Oklahoma with a high 197+.

The remaining top teams competing on Friday are heavily favored as well, though we can expect Arkansas and Auburn to give their opponents (Oklahoma and Alabama, respectively) a bit more of a challenge. It will be very tough at this point for Arkansas to move into the coveted top 12, but the Razorbacks are coming off a big road victory and their second-highest score of the season, so they should still improve somewhat on that #16 ranking. This is Arkansas’s last home meet of the season, and it will be a preview of how dangerous a Regionals host the Razorbacks are going to be, or not be. Auburn has several stronger scores than Arkansas does, so they are in a more comfortable ranking position but could still move into the top 10 with a 196.600. Oregon State, however, may have something to say about that in later action.

As for the four top-ranked favorites on Friday (Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and LSU), they all have plenty of high scores already and have secured strong rankings regardless of the order they end up, so while we do have an exciting race for the regular-season #1 going on right now, that’s a fairly cosmetic topic. Being ranked #1 or #4 going into the postseason doesn’t make it more or less likely that one of these teams will win the championship. For these top teams, the score this weekend is almost entirely a matter of bragging rights, so it will be interesting to see how that factors into their lineup decisions. Will some teams use this relatively unnecessary occasion as a final opportunity to rest important contributors, or will they want to ensure their lineups are set and comfortable going into the stuff that really matters? That’s a story to watch. There are arguments either way, and it just depends on the style of coach. But, if there are people who still need to get into lineups because of injury or what have you, that needs to happen immediately. 

Saturday action begins with a pair of Big Ten quad meets, which is a new tradition that sees the eight teams split up into two mini Big Ten Championships the weekend before the real deal. Note the times of these meets below because they have changed since the original schedules were released. The results of this meet will be fairly important in terms of dictating Regionals placement, given the relative importance of being a top 8 team right now and the fact that three of those teams are currently on the cusp between being a second seed and a third seed.

But come nightfall, we have the main event with Utah and Georgia in their annual clash, which could go either way. It’s on the Pac-12 Network, and I’ll be back to live blog it. Be sure to place your bests on how high the scores will go at this thing, but no matter how many 11.775s we see, it should be a treat to watch because these teams have different styles and strengths, which means we could see the meet go back and forth as the rotations pass. Georgia will need to be on task right from the first routine because UB is their main asset. The Gym Dogs have been offensively good on bars. They can outscore Utah by multiple tenths there and will need to do just that to even think about winning this meet. On the other side, Utah will have the late edge because of floor. The Utes are strong on floor, especially at home where we’ve seen some 9.9 parades, whereas Georgia has been much weaker than they can afford. Counting a fall last weekend is just the latest example.

Both teams are excellent on vault, so that will come down to which manages more sticks, and both teams are worthy of downing some prescription medication on beam. Perhaps the vault edge to Utah for being at home and tending to stick more consistently, but then perhaps the same consistency edge goes to Georgia on beam. Translation: It’ll be a good one.

Not to be outdone, we have UCLA as the lone stalwart on Sunday, hosting Bowling Green and Utah State (remember, a team to watch in the race for the top 36). The Bruins are coming off two improved road scores and will look to bring that same quality to the friendly confines on senior day for a chance to nestle into an even more comfortable ranking spot.

Be sure to indulge and enjoy as I will in one of our final marathon weekends of gymnastics.

Top 25 Schedule
Friday – 3/14/14
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [3] Florida @ Missouri
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [1] LSU
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma @ [16] Arkansas
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [11] Auburn @ [4] Alabama
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [24] Southern Utah @ Utah State
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [12] Oregon State, Seattle Pacific @ Washington
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ [22] Arizona State

Saturday – 3/15/14
1:30 ET/10:30 PT – [13] Minnesota, [15] Penn State, Iowa @ [8] Michigan
1:30 ET/10:30 PT – [9] Nebraska, [14] Illinois, [23] Ohio State @ Michigan State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Western Michigan @ [18] Central Michigan
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] BYU, Texas Woman’s, Bridgeport @ [20] Arizona
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Kent State, Centenary @ Pittsburgh
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [17] Boise State, Iowa State @ [21] Denver
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [6] Georgia @ [5] Utah
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – UC Davis @ [19] California

Sunday – 3/16/14
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Utah State, Bowling Green @ [7] UCLA

Monday – 3/17/14
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [20] Arizona @ Air Force

2014 Regionals Outlook

Let’s talk Regionals. It’s about time. While nothing official will be decided until after conference championships on March 22nd, we’re close enough to the postseason now that we can begin to put together a reliable view of how things might play out. As a quick refresher, here is how the top 18 seeds will be divided into the six regional championships to be contested on April 5th, with the top two teams advancing to Nationals from each competition:

Regional 1: Seeds 1, 12, 13
Regional 2: Seeds 2, 11, 14
Regional 3: Seeds 3, 10, 15
Regional 4: Seeds 4, 9, 16
Regional 5: Seeds 5, 8, 17
Regional 6: Seeds 6, 7, 18

This year, the hosts are LSU, Georgia, Minnesota, Arkansas, Penn State, and Washington, so adjusting the rankings slightly to make sure that no two hosts would be placed in the same Regional, we would see the following Regional placements if the season ended today:

Regional 1: [1] LSU (host), [12] Oregon State [14] Illinois
Regional 2: [2] Oklahoma, [11] Auburn, [13] Minnesota (host)
Regional 3: [3] Florida, [10] Stanford, [15] Penn State (host)
Regional 4: [4] Alabama, [9] Nebraska, [16] Arkansas (host)
Regional 5: [5] Utah, [8] Michigan, [17] Boise State (this would be the Washington Regional)
Regional 6: [6] Georgia (host), [7] UCLA, [18] Central Michigan

Are you excited by this? I’m getting excited. This would be a pretty competitive slate if it ends this way or relatively close to it. We’ll have some changes, of course, but the overall impression of the Regionals will be something close to this. Usually, we’re glad to have one Regional with a potential delicious upset, but this setup gives us several up-in-the-air contests because the most dangerous thing in a Regional is a third-seeded host. Third seeds often haven’t showing the consistent scores to contend with the second seeds, but give them that little boost of home advantage, and suddenly they’re competitors or even favorites. That’s how Missouri was able to knock out Georgia in 2010. Georgia had a couple gymnasts out, and Missouri swooped in with a mid-196 at home and said thank you very much and packed for Nationals. 

More often, when a seeded team fails to advance to Nationals, it’s the result of a total implosion rather than a close-fought struggle against a slightly inflated host, but as we develop more teams outside of that top 12 group that are capable of scoring in the 197s, it becomes more likely that smaller issues will decide which teams advance. An implosion won’t be necessary to cause upsets this year, and we only need to compare current #11 Auburn to current #16 Arkansas to see that. Both have a season high of 197.100, and Arkansas’s season average of 196.247 is actually nearly a tenth higher than Auburn’s. There’s enough parity in that second- and third-seeded group to render many of these Regionals very open and many of those spots interchangeable.

Let’s take a deeper look at what we have here.

If I’m Georgia, UCLA, Utah, or Michigan, I would light a votive offering to Mercury to keep the rankings just the way they are now because those four teams would be able to advance comfortably from those Regionals with anything resembling a normal performance. Interestingly, the last time Georgia hosted a Regional, they were also placed with UCLA in that 6-7-18 Regional. That was the meet when Shayla did the Shayla on her bars mount that we’ve never forgotten and will never forget. You’re welcome, Shayla. Also, the #18 seed in that Regional happened to be LSU. It was a different time. (Evidence: Sarie Morrison got a 9.725 on bars). Things change quickly round these parts. What a Regional it would be if those three teams were together this time around.

Beyond those two meets, things would get very competitive. While LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama should be able to advance from any Regional, none of the other second slots would be in any way clear before the meet. Who would you favor right now in the Arkansas/Nebraska, Penn State/Stanford, Auburn/Minnesota, and Oregon State/Illinois showdowns with Arkansas, Penn State, and Minnesota as hosts? They could go either way.

Nebraska has been scoring higher than Arkansas almost each week, but then we just saw Arkansas beat Nebraska in Nebraska this past weekend. It might seem like Stanford would be the comfortable choice over Penn State (and I would still take Stanford), but then again, Stanford’s away average this year is 196.204 while Penn State’s home average is 196.363. Across the last four meets overall, both teams have an average of 196.575. The identity of the host team can completely change what might otherwise seem a clear-cut result.  

Sure, things won’t play out exactly as we have now, but interchange any of those teams in that 9-16 range, and you have a competitive meet with upset potential. And that’s what we want. Easy regional match-ups and obvious winners don’t make for compelling sport. What we likely have going on this season? That does. This is why I’ve been rattling on this year about teams getting out of that 9-16 ranking section because it’s too competitive for their own good. No one wants to get stuck with Minnesota, Penn State, or Arkansas because they will have no margin for mistakes. There will be no comfort for the second seeds placed in those Regionals, and it won’t take an implosion for an upset, just a slightly off day, or even a regular one.