The Position Has Been Filled

All of those coaching vacancies we had just a few days ago are disappearing. Because they have to. This is such a vital period of the year for recruiting, and a team like Florida cannot afford to go even a month without a head coach in place. The longer they’re without a head coach to snatch those recruits up, the prettier UCLA, Oklahoma, and Alabama start to look. Someone absolutely had to be in place by JO Nationals.

So, as Florida announced yesterday, former Auburn associate head coach Jenny Rowland has been hired to take over the position of Rhonda 2. Jenny Rowland’s was one of the first names bandied about once Rhonda resigned because she is among the biggest rising-star associate/assistants in the country, is a Rhonda favorite, and seems to fit the profile of a replacement Rhonda pretty exactly, considering her age, competition history, coaching history, and areas of expertise. It’s a logical fit, and if she does decide to keep the same assistants, their strengths would complement each other very well. Rowland’s best recent claim to awesomeness is her role as Auburn’s beam coach. That beam lineup this past season was on it.

Florida is clearly not going for a sea change here. They’re hoping for Rhonda Part 2, which may provide a few more initial challenges of the “but that’s not how Rhonda used to do it!” variety for those expecting her to be an exact clone, but ultimately may result in less boat-rocking than some other choices would have. Still, she is new to the program, so some degree of uprooting is inevitable.  She will need to change certain things to fit her style and develop the program identity she wants. Everyone else will have to adjust. It won’t be the same situation as Alabama this year or Utah next year, with new leaders who are more than familiar with the current system and clearly and openly want to keep things the same.

I suppose the one knock against Jenny Rowland is that she hasn’t been a head coach before, but meh. Many of the most successful current coaches were not head coaches before they took over their positions, and she’s hardly new to the world of top-program college gymnastics and the expectations of that. Inevitable growing pains? Sure. Major stumbling block? I seriously doubt it.

Not to be completely overshadowed (that much), Tabitha Yim has also been announced as the new head coach at Arizona to follow Bill Ryden after he “chose to resign.” I’m slightly obsessed with Tabitha Yim, so I’m all about this decision. What’s the Arizona choreography going to be like now? There’s a little bit more reason to have “enough experience?” questions in Tabitha’s case because she hasn’t been around very long and hasn’t held a leadership coaching position at a program before (in my mind she has still been in that “recent former team member, #3 coach on the team” slot), but at the same time, she’s Tabitha Yim. Don’t bet against that. It’s an exciting choice that helps usher in the newest generation of coaches, and I’m eager to see what she does to try to change a program that has stagnated in that 15-20 ranking territory. It’s time to have higher hopes and Tabitha Yim-level expectations for Arizona. Hopefully, she does not bring with her Stanford’s general attitude of unnecessary secrecy around the program if she wants to build it into something more. 

-In other news, and rounding out the action from nationals, NastiaFan101 generously put up some of the Super Six routines included in the ESPN taped broadcast that were not shown in the live version, particularly some of those Utah bars routines, which should help illustrate that Florida wasn’t the only one getting some fancy bars scores in there.

These routines were all judged with the same lens. It’s a cray-cray lens, but it’s the same one.

Also this, just because.

-Polina Shchennikova, of “why are there that many h’s in the transliteration of your name” fame, has verbally committed to Michigan for the 2017 season. Go ahead on, Michigan. That’s a solid get. If she can be held intact over the next couple years, she has some lovely qualities for NCAA, especially on beam. For a while, she was thrown into the pile of potential bars hopes because she was a US junior with a D score that wasn’t 2.1, but beam is my favorite event for her.

-Minnesota also snatched a very strong 2018 recruit in Lexy Ramler, who has competed as a junior elite for the last couple years and is noteworthy for having a comaneci and bhardwaj on bars (it’s an adventure of a bhardwaj, but it’s a bhardwaj) and for being actual human size, which is always hilarious when she is placed next to those junior elites who are one inch tall. Minnesota has been on the struggle bus on bars for a while, so getting someone with a comaneci and an overall solid routine that can be shaped into an excellent NCAA one is a pretty huge deal.

-Next weekend is JO Nationals, so as always, it will be worth watching how all the future NCAAers look just a few months away from joining their teams.