Freshman Notes: LSU, Stanford, Nebraska

It’s that time of year again. Time to meet some of the brand new characters who will be joining the cast of The Calm and the Confident for the 2015 competition season. Fingers crossed that someone has an amnesiac twin we don’t know about yet.

Once December rolls around, I’ll preview the top teams in full, but for now, let’s at least familiarize ourselves with all these newbies, starting with LSU, Stanford, and Nebraska for reasons that don’t exist.


I still think that current co-champions Florida and Oklahoma head into 2015 as the clear frontrunners, but if you wanted to put up an argument for LSU, I wouldn’t fight you. This is a big season for LSU, with Courville, Hall, Jordan, and Ranzy all in their final year of eligibility.

The Tigers have lost 6 routines from last year: the early-lineup AA contribution from Kaleigh Dickson and the frequently 9.900 vault and bars routines from Sarie Morrison. That bars routine from Morrison is the critical loss because while LSU has improved dramatically on bars, they still have relied heavily on Morrison to remain competitive with the stronger bars teams. That’s gone now. (Maliah Mathis is also gone, but recovery from her Achilles injury prevented her from making any postseason lineups last year.)

But, LSU has two standout freshmen that should be able to make up the majority of the lost scoring potential. Erin Macadaeg competed as a senior elite in 2013, and while she didn’t have the difficulty to make an impact in the standings, she caught some eyes for her gracefully executed gymnastics and performance awareness. Note: At Championships, she was one of 3 senior gymnasts to break a 9.000 in execution on beam, the others being Ross and Biles. She just missed it with her elite sojourn by one year. If she had competed this season, she would have been all over that selection camp.



As noted, LSU should be excited about Macadaeg’s potential on beam as she tends to be secure on her acro elements and shows precision and mostly clean form, along with the power in that double pike dismount (which is staying in her routine for now). I approve of the amplitude on those leaps as well. Beam has been a struggle in the past for LSU, but last season a stellar three emerged in Courville, Jordan, and Gnat, with Ewing developing into a possible fourth solid beamer. Now, Macadaeg can make the lineup deeper. LSU should be right up toward the top of the standings on beam this year with the group they have now.

Vault and floor are going to be much harder to break into. Derrrr. It’s LSU. But, Macadaeg is a real option on both events. She does a double arabian without any major cowboy on floor, so she already gets points from me, and without Morrison and Dickson in the vault lineup now, there’s room for some new yfulls with solid form and distance, which she has.


I mentioned the need to find some reinforcements on bars, but that has been Macadaeg’s weaker event. You can see in this elite routine from 2013 that the handstands are a problem. Still, she does have the toe point and the usable straddled jaeger to be coached into a solid NCAA routine, so I’m not totally writing her off there yet. That dismount looked good enough in the above training video.

Macadaeg will be joined by L10 standout Myia Hambrick who finished third in Senior C in 2013 and was a floor problem away from repeating that feat in Senior D this year. First of all, your last name is Ham Brick. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Overall, Ham Brick has very similar strengths to Macadaeg and could contribute, at least as a possibility, on three events. I could actually see Hambrick and Macadaeg fighting it out for lineup spots between themselves because they bring many of the same things to the team.


As with Macadaeg, I enjoy Hambrick’s work on beam, where she finished second in her division at JO Nationals and has consistently placed toward the top of the standings for hit routines. It’s easy to see why. There’s sort of an old-fashioned quality to her presentation on beam (in a good way). Does anyone else see that? She could fit in any era. And that double full dismount is right on. You see why I’m bullish on LSU’s beam this year? 

Hambrick can be a legitimate contender on vault and floor, with a very comfortable yfull on vault and overall power and difficulty on floor, including a piked full in. Oh look, another LSU gymnast with a big E tumbling pass. None of this mounting with double pikes business around here. Speaking of Stanford . . .

Actually, before we get to Stanford I should mention that LSU is also adding walkon Kylie Moran, of whom I’ve seen next to nothing, and transfer Scarlett Williams from Arkansas. Williams struggled somewhat last year coming back from injury, but before that, I loved her Y1/2 on vault and she was a solid 9.825 beam leadoff on a team that desperately needed it. Watch that space. Now, Stanford . . .

Stanford is bringing in just one freshman this year to replace the outgoing Shona Morgan and Amanda Spinner, but in case you haven’t heard, she’s kind of a big deal. Elizabeth Price is an exciting addition for Stanford not simply because she was a successful elite (we know that elite success and NCAA success are not always BFFs) but because her strengths are Stanford’s current weaknesses and her presence will make this a more well-rounded team.

We know Price has the skill set to contribute big scores in the all-around because she’s Ebee Price, so as with most gymnasts in her position, maintaining health and intactness will be the biggest concern rather than the skills. She clearly has the skills and should be a 9.9 gymnast on every event. 





Price should be the keystone at the back of those vault and floor lineups (although depending on how well Ivana Hong can come back, I would love to see Price go right before Hong in some lineups because Price will have more difficulty and can bump up Hong’s scores – much like Florida does intelligently with Kytra Hunter and Bridgey Caquatto on floor). She has the amplitude, form, and difficulty to bring Stanford out of the land of 9.825s and yfulls and meager double pikes that destroyed their scoring potential on those two events last season. That DLO on floor is a breath of fresh 9.9s for this team. Now we just have to wait to see what routine composition they come up with for her because she has so many options.

On vault, we could see pretty much any Yurchenko option. Price is the first gymnast with an Amanar to enter college gymnastics, and while I firmly believe she could perform it in NCAA for good scores, the 1.5 is probably the smartest choice. She should be able to stick that. Maybe break out the double every once in a while and make everyone lose their minds? Please?

As for bars and beam, Price isn’t known as much for those events, but that was truer in her junior elite days than it is now. Once she built up her difficulty on bars, that routine was a thing, and she’ll be able to contribute just as much on bars and beam as on vault and floor. In elite, Price did not get the same execution scores on bars and beam, but she should benefit from NCAA routine composition. In the bars routine above, the biggest trouble spot is the hip full after the shaposh, which she certainly won’t have to bother with in college. It’s much the same with the switch 1/2 on beam. No one is going to make her do that anymore to squeeze out a slightly higher D score. They’ll be able to pick and choose the more deduction-free dance elements.

Important question: Is it worth the risk to keep her tuck full on beam? And could we have a Peszek/Price Pac-12 tuck full showdown?

Nebraska tends to be a small team, and that’s the case again this year with just the 12 gymnasts. The consequence of having a small team is that more is expected of each competitor, so it’s especially important that all three of the new freshmen have placed very well in the all-around standings in JO. While I definitely don’t expect all of them to compete the all-around, the option for 12 whole new routines is there. With only 6 outgoing routines from Wong and Schleppenbach, 2015 should see a net gain in depth for the team, even if there’s no replacing Emily Wong because obviously. 

This incoming Husker class has been on the excitement radar for a few years now because it features refugee Geddert’s stars Grace Williams and Kamerin Moore. Williams has been raking it in on the L10 circuit for the last 4 years or so, from winning the Nastia Pinkathon in 2011 to winning Senior C this May. She hits routines and wins. That’s the Grace Williams story, and that’s what she can bring to Nebraska, where we could expect AA contribution from her and strong scores as some of the details are cleaned up. 




Williams powers through these routines. I don’t really mean that in a bad way. Sometimes “powering through” is referenced as the antithesis of graceful blah blah blah, but she has a powerful and confident style across all the events. It’s bam-bam gymnastics. That quality is clearest on her beam acro elements in the above video. No question or hesitation. She doesn’t work tentatively, which we see from a lot of people, even at this level. That confident work is necessary for Nebraska’s beam lineup post-Wong. 

As for bars, say it with me now: “That was a deltchev!” Love to see a deltchev because we never do anymore. Brie Olson’s is the last one that comes to mind. Points for unexpected composition. We know unexpected composition can go very wrong in Geddertland, but this is one of the good ones. As for floor, Williams hasn’t competed much difficulty lately (the double arabian hasn’t made an appearance in a while), but what she does perform, she hits easily so that shouldn’t be much of an obstacle. The dance elements, however, may be an obstacle. Those are the real question marks for her on beam and floor, so once again they’ll have to be smart about composition.

Williams is joined by her teammate Kamerin Moore, and it wasn’t all that long ago that Moore and Jordyn Wieber were the dynamic duo of Geddert’s elites. Moore won an elite friendly in 2009, beating both Caquattuses, but chronic injuries in 2009 and 2010 took her out of elite and out of competition for seemingly forever. It took her a good long while to get her level back, but she did quite well at JO Nationals this year and was just a beam clunker away from winning Senior D (so were a LOT of people).


Moore won bars at JO Nationals with this routine. Those handstands aren’t really “won bars at JO Nationals” level, but the individual pieces make it understandable why she tends to place well on bars. She has sufficient amplitude on release elements (including that toe shoot—we often see flat ones) and a pak with actual legs together, at least from this angle. The routine has improved dramatically since they got rid of the tkatchev, which was helping no one, and brought her back up to the DLO dismount. I’m slightly concerned about Nebraska’s bars this year, so this is a routine it will be critical to hone.

Both Moore and Williams have solid yfulls with acceptable power and consistent landings. I could see both eventually becoming part of the legacy of Nebraska gymnasts who develop “DAYUM GIRL” blocks on their yfulls. Also like Williams, Moore doesn’t show big difficulty on floor these days but hits her double pike lights out and has developed into another member of the steely-faced, attack-minded “I will win floor by murdering it” school. In the dance-element category, she tends to be stronger, so that should work to her advantage.

Of note, Moore performs a double turn on beam that is consistent and excellent enough to be worth including in a JO routine, which is rare. I appreciate that touch. Extra credit.

The third newcomer is Danielle Breen who is a little overshadowed because she has the least name recognition of the three, but she’s not an also-ran in this group. Breen finished 2nd in Senior D, and top 5 on every event, which would be the standout result in most incoming classes. There’s sparse visual evidence of her recent routines from the successful 2014 season, so I’m really interested to see how her routines play out with Nebraska because that JO result is a significant improvement over the previous year to the tune of a couple tenths per event (and more on bars). 

Breen seems the type who can hang around as a possibility on any event. She’s usable, and the skills competitive enough, even if she doesn’t have the same amplitude or difficulty as some of the other newcomers in this year’s class and in this post. She doesn’t give all that much away on beam and floor and could be called upon in that clean, straightforward, early-lineup spot that many coaches seem to go for.

Hall of 10s

TABS! I’m getting all up in this tabs business. I’ve added a Hall of 10s link above, which currently includes the 10s earned in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons, organized by date, with available youtube videos of the 10s from 2014. I’ll continue adding to the list as the 2015 season goes along. I’m sure we’ll see plenty.

I’ve also updated the 2015 schedule to include the latest flurry of announced slates. We have just a few holdouts left. Minnesota in particular is being tardy, but for some reason I think getting the schedule up on their website in a timely fashion is the least of that team’s concerns right now. 

Worlds Final Thoughts

The World Championships are over for another year. Sigh. Now we have to return to normal sleep schedules of more than 2.5 hours per night. Like losers. On the plus side, this means it’s officially time to start thinking about the NCAA season again. I’ll be starting up the freshman profiles again in the coming weeks. We’ve got some good ones. But first, a few final thoughts about Worlds, including multiple mentions of Cheng Fei. Because I need to.

1) My theory that the best things about gymnastics competitions never have anything to do with actual gymnastics continues to hold up.

2) You should never stop watching this video. Ever. The bee was my third-favorite gymnast at these championships. Such poise. Such grace. It knows how to hit a cue.

3) This year is the most I’ve ever watched of a World Championships. So many sessions. And I was bleary-eyed for all of them. Scott Bregman and USA Gymnastics are nailing this whole coverage thing. Live coverage of Russia’s qualification session? Sure. Because heaven.

4) Simone Biles has 9 Worlds medals. 9. She basically just has to make the team next year to set the US record. Technically, I would say she’s tied for the record already. As much as I adore Alicia Sacramone, she wasn’t even in the same country as the team competing when she got her 10th, so it doesn’t count.

5) Only one member of the 2010 US team ended up making the Olympic team (Aly Raisman), and to be honest, I wouldn’t be all that shocked if it happened again for the 2014 team.

6) Competitive women’s AA final! Until things started to take shape a few weeks before Worlds, I don’t think many people thought it would be this competitive, but combine a slightly shaky Biles with a hitting Iordache and we had a real competition. An interesting one. For four whole rotations. We haven’t had a legitimate, international, multi-year rivalry in a long time, and I would love if Biles and Iordache got that going for the next few. With a Mustafina thrown in for luck.

7) Hopefully this competitiveness will put to rest the silly idea that Simone running the table in the AA this quad and winning all the competitions through the Olympics is inevitable. It’s not inevitable. There are challenges both in the US and outside the US.

8) Kyla Ross. Keeping it simple. Don’t fall, win medal. Repeat.

9) The Chinese women are hard to watch on floor right now. Dance of the Splintering Stick Figures. We need some Cheng Fei action out there. Stat.

10) Speaking of Cheng Fei, is the ragged Cheng the new hip thing on vault? At least it’s a different entry. I expect to see a number of Sosnitskaya Chengs at Worlds next year. It’ll be a thing.

11) Huang Huidan should have won bars.

12) But that’s really the only individual gold medal result I’m feeling worked-up about, which is pretty good. I think you can argue that Hong Un Jong was just another member of the broke-ass Cheng club and that she wasn’t adequately penalized for her landing on that vault, but the difficulty deficit was always going to be hard for Biles to make up, even with superior execution.

13) Also Beckie Downie didn’t medal on bars, so the final is invalid.

14) If you don’t fulfill all five composition requirements in your routine, as you try to land your dismount, the mat should automatically retract revealing a shark tank below.

15) These acro series on beam. I love originality and creativity and people not doing the easy, expected thing as much as the next person, but you have to be smart about it. I was very disappointed that Mustafina wasn’t able to muster some kind of acro series in EFs, especially because she has so many routine options to choose from and is usually good at routine improvisation.

16) That said, Mustafina still got the bronze on beam. HA! Only Aliya could miss a CR and still win a medal. Many are up in arms about this. I’m not.

17) Mustafina’s reaction to her floor bronze was priceless. Such shock and joy. Oh sorry, I meant COLD COMMIE DIVA. I forgot my narrative for a second. How silly of me. Many are up in arms about this one as well, and I’m still not, even if this is the weakest floor routine she has ever had. She still carries the hell out of it. Do I have a Zamarripa-esque blind spot where Mustafina is concerned? Maybe. I also don’t care. 

18) For those of us who focus on women’s gymnastics, the joke is that we can’t stand watching pommel horse, but I enjoy it (at least from people not in the “happy to get a 12.000 category,” but that’s true of every event). I find it visually soothing, like watching a screen saver, especially from people who make it look easy like Berki.

19) Speaking of Berki, let’s hear it for the talls! While our Dear Wonderful Shatilov didn’t make floor finals (mostly because he is currently sporting unauthorized facial hair), Berki and Moznik both got medals. I think those two might legitimately come up to my chin, which is an accomplishment. We’d actually look like part of the same species. 

20) So yes for pommel horse, but less yes for rings. That’s my 6th place men’s event. Although the “sup y’all” chin lift still makes me laugh every single time, so that’s something. In breaking news, parallel bars has moved to the top spot on my men’s event rankings. There is little more satisfying in the world than a perfect handstand on pbars.

21) Ryohei Kato looks exactly like a porcelain doll. I imagine that immediately after a competition ends, he goes all Toy Story and flops to the ground before being put back up on an old lady’s shelf.

22) Who is in charge of selecting the between-rotations music at Worlds? I really hope there’s a committee about it and they take it super seriously. With graphs and flow charts.

23) The World Championships of Hilarious Pronunciations finished on a high. During the men’s hbar medal ceremony, the PA guy introduced the gold medalist “Epic Zonderland.” Fitting.

Women’s Team Final

After a thrilling and controversial x 1000 men’s final yesterday, we had a not-that on the women’s side today. I don’t have a specific-enough understanding of the men’s code to make any kind of argument about scoring, at least with any confidence in myself (I’d start giving Kohei hair bonuses, and it would be all over the place). But, Uncle Tim has an excellent write-up of some of the issues involved in Zhang’s final gargantuan score. I defer.

I will say though, at first viewing, the Chinese high bar score that stood out to me as the stranger one was Lin’s preceding Zhang’s, with that completely horizontal turn at one point. Is this a situation like we often see in NCAA where a questionable 10 is awarded, and gets all the attention, but the real culprit is the super-random 9.950 beforehand that pushes the following score up?

But now some thoughts on the women’s team final.

1) The USA. Obviously. As much as I enjoy watching the US step all over everyone else’s faces while wearing Rene Lyst heels, it does make things super boring. A few more years of this, and I could see a serious change coming to start increasing the p-word. (Which is parity, if you don’t read here a lot.)

2) Alyssa Baumann’s lovely, non-broadcast leadoff beam routine. If I had to pick one place where I thought the US would fall in TF, it would have been here, but she got it down with just a couple wobbles. Martha’s little project scored big points (both real and figurative) for this.

3) Baumann had the smallest issues of the three US gymnasts on beam considering Ross did a third-base coach on her side somi and Simone had a larger-than-usual break on the layouts series. Of course, it didn’t matter, which was the problem with this final. That was such an uncharacteristic break for Kyla, but it was like, “Eh, whatever, go ahead and fall if you want. Have a blast. Do some jazz hands. Take a nap. It will change nothing.”

4) While we still have a chance to be excited before everyone gets injured over the next 12 months, the fight for the 2015 US team looks fuu-uun.  

5) Overall, this competition was terrible. We’re allowed to say that. Splatty bombatty. I’m looking at you, Russia and China.

6) Credit to Romania for pulling it together a little bit more in TF, or at least for letting Iordache be the star and not getting in her way too much. With that bars situation, fourth was as much as they could have hoped for, yet they almost got a Happy October gift of much more.

7) The Craig Heap and Christine Still pronunciation debacle is hysterical. Seriously, it’s not that hard. It takes two seconds of research to figure it out (the magic of youtube videos of domestic competitions—put your listening ears on!), and yet that definitely would have decreased my enjoyment of the meet tenfold. Craig stopped trying after a while. By the time we got to floor, he just introduced “Tan Jrrrrrr.”

8) Gah, Russia. You should be doing so much better. It’s not exactly an “I never expected the Russians to put up an athlete with so little talent” situation, but they’re seriously lacking in the non-Mustafina category.

9) It’s sort of offensive to me when people don’t even have the common decency to be Aliya Mustafina. There were so many people walking around today not being Aliya Mustafina. Unacceptable behavior.

10) I can finally (FINALLY) remember the difference between Alla Sosnitskaya and Daria Spiridonova after this competition. And I don’t like it.

11) I love how Grishina is seen as the fragile, headcase one in the eyes of the Rodionenkos and cronies because of the Olympics, but . . . as opposed to . . .? You have no less-headcasesque options. You better get on hands and knees to get that girl back when she’s healthy. You would be lucky to have her.

12A) China’s lineups. A side-eye experience. Why on earth was Shang Chunsong going on bars over Tan Jrrrrrr? Shang had been doing consistently worse than Tan at Asian Games and in prelims. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. No sense. A fall is appropriate punishment for that decision. Though a 7.666 is not appropriate punishment for that routine quality.

12B) Also, Bai Yawen, who qualified second on the team into beam finals, was not selected to do beam. It didn’t end up being a problem for the team, but it does reflect that she’s probably not in the highest standing with the team coaches if they didn’t even want to use her on her good event.

13) There’s no excuse for Hannah Whelan’s 4.5 D score on beam. She missed her acro series and lost 0.5 in CR, but when you do such a risky combination as your only acro series, there has to be a plan B in mind (and trained) just in case. This is like in 2010 when Mattie lost that decisive CR after not doing her combo pass or a simple forward element. That cannot happen. It’s too avoidable.


Let’s play “Who can actually find 1.2 in deductions in Kyla’s bars routine?” Remember after the first night of US championships when SHE CAN’T DO BARS ANYMORE?

15) It was nice to see Australia show up with three events worth of routines that are very well-executed, though somewhat low in difficulty. An important change from the “you must have a 7.9 D score on beam, otherwise get back in the cage” attitude from last year.

16) Italy managed to finish 5th at both Worlds and Euros this year. One of those is a good result, and one is a bad result. Today, Italy scored 7.5 points better than Euro team finals, Russia scored 2 points better, and Romania and GB did around 2 points worse.

17) Japan is also a team, and I’ll just say this about the leotards: at least they’re going for something different. In true Project Runway fashion, I give more credit to that than to the fourth-rate versions of SPARKLY GIRL TIME SPARKLES that we usually see.