The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

The Weekend Ahead – January 16th-19th

Week 2! We come off an eventful first week where the major talking point was the dramatic variation in judging standards from meet to meet, with the Florida/Ball State and Oklahoma/Arkansas meets being held up as the exemplars of looseness and the UCLA/Oregon State meet as the same for strict code construction. Those meets were certainly not judged with anything resembling the same standard or expectations of what a 9.900 means, which is not acceptable. One or the other, judges. One or the other. Someone needs to get everyone on the same page. I prefer the scoring of the UCLA/Oregon State meet because it allows for more room to separate routines, but only if that is being applied nationally. Otherwise, it just comes across as silly.

Sometimes, people hide behind the explanation of “Well, the judging was consistent within the meet,” which is true, but also not good enough. That might make sense if wins and losses mattered. If the only thing that mattered was UCLA getting the win and Oregon State getting the loss, then judge it with whatever standard you want. But that isn’t what matters. The teams are ranked by their scores and compared to all the other teams through their scores, so each score is important not just in its own meet but relative to all the other scores nationwide over the whole season. These results don’t exist in a vacuum and the scores must strive to be as consistent as possible. Otherwise, what’s the point?

In other news, the #2 theme of the weekend was terrible final passes on floor. Endurance. Let’s hope for some improvement this week.

Bridget Sloan Injury Watch 2015 has also been a big deal, and news came mid-week that she has a severe ankle sprain and will miss 6 weeks. It could have been so much worse. Now we can start Bridget Sloan Comeback Watch 2015. When watching Rhonda Faehn’s press conference this week, it buffered on a hilarious face of hers, and since I’m horrible, I screen capped it. 

This is exactly how I looked when Bridget did that double pike. I feel you, Rhonda.

Now let’s move on to this week. There’s a ton happening right at the beginning of action on Friday, so be sure to be as punctual as possible with your streams and scoring windows. All three of the 7:00/4:00 SEC meets will be available, with the Florida/Auburn meet on the SEC Network and the other two online.

I will be focusing mostly on Florida/Auburn unless it gets boring, in which case it’s a good thing there will be other options. For Florida, of course, the big focus will be how they react to being without Bridget Sloan in these lineups. Baker and McMurtry can still come in on a few more events to substitute some presumably high scores, but often when a big 9.950 is removed from a lineup, it exposes the rest of the group and reveals gaps we weren’t necessarily aware of before. Are there events or partial events that suddenly look flat without Sloan?

For Auburn, let’s hope for slightly less of a disaster. Just slightly. Fewer than 6 falls this time would be great. Bri Guy will be adding a third event this week, vault, to the bars and beam she performed last time out, so that’s encouraging, as is seeing MJ Rott continuing to go on her normal events after she had to stop her floor routine last week for a 1.000.  

Georgia’s is another performance I’m excited to see because I really hope that transforming that floor lineup into something competitive isn’t a months-long process. I want to see some serious progress from the troublesome landings that characterized last week’s meet. That could be said about many, if not all, of the teams. Even the top-scoring teams had floor landings that seemed weak, even by January standards.

Later in the day, Alabama will meet Arkansas, and I have a few lineup questions about Alabama. Last week, they seemed to be lacking something in the floor and bars departments (beam was just OK as well, but I expect Clark and Williams to have stronger showings this time). Missing Beers on floor and Clark on bars certainly showed up in the result. Let’s see if they’re back in those lineups immediately this week, but I do also hope Winston gets another chance at bars to make up for the problem last week.

Arkansas got stuck in the 194s last week, and it was clear from that performance that depth will be a serious issue this season. Do they have enough competitive routines? The injury to Braie Speed is a major blow, but we did see the emergence of Paige Zaziski last weekend as an AAer with some serious scores on a couple events, which the team sorely needs as they try to cobble together a few gymnasts to combine to be an ersatz Katherine Grable.

Saturday is all about the Big 10. And Oklahoma. The Oklahoma/Minnesota meet is an interesting one, with Oklahoma entering the weekend already holding a surprisingly large lead over all the other teams. The Sooners have set a high standard, but they had a few pretty charitable scores and a few wonky routines like Dowell’s floor and Kanewa’s beam that can be straightened out for an even higher score. They can be much, much better than they were the first week. I’m interested in whether Kanewa stays in the beam lineup as we go forward because she was a somewhat surprising choice and and there are many competitive options. There’s Sorensen, Wofford, and Dowell, and all sorts. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the toughest lineups in the country to make.

Minnesota did well to debut at #11 but had a disaster today for 193.350 in their meet against Maryland, not putting up 6 people on floor and recording a bunch of falls, including 3 on bars. Even Lindsay Mable fell on beam, so the world is over. That was a meet they should have won.Will they be able to recover those lineups in just two days?

Monday sees Georgia in their second meet of the weekend, traveling to Denver. It’s going to be a challenging balance to maintain for Georgia this weekend because they don’t have a huge surplus of routine options right now, especially on vault and floor if Rogers is still limited to one event. Yet, they may also want to try to rest people on certain events at one of the meets as well to keep from pushing too hard right away.

We’ll also see UCLA host Arizona, and I’m very interested in the scoring of that meet coming off the tightly evaluated meet for the Bruins last Monday. UCLA home meets are not exactly known for strict judging, so we’ll see if they get a reprieve from the 9.7s this time around or not.

This is the schedule for the top 25 teams, plus un-ranked UCLA, Oregon State, Boise State, Kentucky, and Washington. The full schedule can be found in the link at the top of the blog.

Top 25 Schedule

Friday – 1/16/15
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [2] LSU, [20] Arizona State @ Kentucky
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [21] Auburn @ [3] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Missouri @ Georgia
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Washington @ NC State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [24] Southern Utah, Boise State, UC Davis @ [4] Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [6] Alabama @ [12] Arkansas
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Sacramento State, UIC, UW-Stout @ [18] Arizona
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [10] Cal, UW-La Crosse @ San Jose State

Saturday – 1/17/15
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [5] Michigan, West Virginia @ [15] Ohio State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [15] Penn State @ Nebraska
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [1] Oklahoma @ [11] Minnesota
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Rutgers @ [9] Illinois
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [24] Eastern Michigan, Seattle Pacific @ Central Michigan
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Ozone Classic ([14] Bowling Green, BYU, Alaska, UW-Whitewater)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [23] Utah State @ [17] Denver

Sunday – 1/18/15
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – [13] Stanford, Bridgeport @ Penn
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – North Carolina, Pitt, Cornell, Temple @ [19] George Washington
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [22] Michigan State @ Iowa
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Oregon State, SEMO @ Iowa State

Monday – 1/19/15
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [7] Georgia @ [17] Denver
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [18] Arizona @ UCLA

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