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Splatfest 2015


I like to consider myself a connoisseur of splatfests. It is my calling. And the first day of women’s competition at the national championships last night was a truly lovely vintage. It wasn’t quite 2000 Trials level (that’s an unrealistic standard to which to hold other competitions—we can’t all be 2000 Trials), but Aly Raisman did fall on a split jump, so it was pretty competitive. During the meet, I may or may not have started singing “Car Wash” but with “splatfest” instead of “car wash.”

Now, except for Maggie Nichols continuing to be a Solid Sandy and confirming her place in the new world order, and Simone Biles just casually throwing out the best E score of all time (have we confirmed that? I think it is, beating Nastia’s beam 9.800 at 2008 Pacific Rims, but has anyone scoured the records to make sure?), this meet will probably end up counting as an incomplete. For the rest of you, we’ll pretend it never happened and just start over tomorrow.

But, what I love about this splatfest most of all (other than how PISSSSSSED Aly and Simone looked the whole time—heartwarming) is that it throws some serious doubt onto that pre-summer presumptive team of Biles, Douglas, Raisman, Nichols, Key, Ross. Primarily because of bars. (And also maybe because of Alyssa Baumann…pleeeeeassse?)

There are still a million things that can change between now and the selection camp. Kupets will make a comeback. The Worlds team will be reduced to 2 and a half members (2 AAers and then whatever is left of Madison Kocian’s legs after this weekend). But, as we stand right now, that presumptive team has some pretty large cracks in it. Let’s talk about that to make this summer of selection a lot more interesting than it has been so far. At least until tomorrow, when everything will change again. I fully own the flippant and mercurial attitude I bring to team selection.

How do you solve a problem like Kyla? That’s not really the Sound of Music reference I would have expected to need to use about Kyla. She’s supposed to be the Edelweiss of USA Gymnastics. But her bars are turning into an issue. Partly because of the falling (this routine doesn’t make me feel warm and safe like a sweater the way her 2012 routine did), but mostly because of the potential score even when she does hit. Give her back a point for the fall yesterday, and she’s still in 7th on bars, well behind several of the bars specialists contending for a spot. Her difficulty is down to 6.0 from the more competitive 6.3 she was planning, and that’s not a good sign. She needs a selection camp step-up in that regard.

For now, it appears that if Kyla does makes the Worlds team, it will be because she’s a known and trusted entity who can hit in major situations (regardless of these recent performances). Which is not an unimportant consideration. Even though her beam scores have been lower, I would still trust her on beam in TF more than some other options who have been scoring higher. (Though I would also be perfectly happy with three of Biles/Raisman/Douglas/Baumann on beam, which is part of the problem for her.)

But a team with Kyla wouldn’t be the team with the highest scoring potential at this point. If you’re bringing Kyla for bars, why not bring Kocian or Locklear instead? If you’re bringing her for bars and beam, why not bring Gowey, who had an under-the-radar pretty awesome day yesterday, getting top five on both her events and stepping up that bars difficulty?

I’m still not sure how she managed to get a 6.6 D score for that routine since I have it as a 6.5 and she didn’t stick (maybe just because Gowey?), but she’s back on my radar for now because I’m obsessed with her. But also because that bars routine can score quite well, and she’s more usable on beam than Kocian or Locklear. Though bars is the real factor, so she would need to be able to score right with those other two, not a couple tenths below, to be considered. Watch that space. Also decisive will be whether Locklear can get all her skills back by Worlds. This is a downgraded routine that still got a 15.400. If she’s able to get her D score back, it’s hard to say no to the insane cleanliness of this bars work.

Or, you could combine two people to do the job and bring Kocian for bars and Baumann for beam. (If you feel you need another beamer, which I don’t really think the team does.) Or both Kocian and Locklear for bars again. That would put Bailie Key under pressure. Several weeks ago, she was in the same boat as Nichols, and I do think that if everything goes to plan, they have pretty similar scoring potential in the AA. The difference is Nichols’ Amanar, which is essential right now, leaving Key much lower in the pecking order.

In that pre-summer presumptive team, you would have Key doing bars in TF, but maybe only bars now that Nichols is scoring equivalently on floor. Key on floor is not the MUST routine it seemed like it would be. So that puts her almost in the same boat as Kyla. If she’s only there in TF to do bars, why not use Kocian/Locklear? Kocian/Locklear/Douglas is the best option for the US on bars, and with Biles, Raisman, and Nichols nailing the power events right now, that’s a legitimate team that didn’t seem as realistic pre-Classic.

If yesterday’s competition were the women’s team final at Worlds, here’s how a few different combinations of teams would have scored (using the team’s three highest scores on each event). Yes, I know it’s silly to use one day of competition to make sweeping conclusions about teams and scoring potential, especially because so many people fell and got unusable scores. That’s not the point. It’s just a fun exercise to clarify how much people are actually adding.

Biles, Douglas, Raisman, Nichols, Key, Ross – 181.600
VT – 47.300: Biles 16.250, Nichols 15.800, Key 15.250 
UB – 45.650: Douglas 15.300, Key 15.200, Biles 15.150
BB – 43.650: Biles 14.800, Douglas 14.450, Nichols 14.400
FX – 45.000: Raisman 15.550, Biles 14.900, Nichols 14.550

(Why Kyla really could have helped her argument with a normal Kyla beam set last night. It would have brought this team total way up instead of being a point behind other options.)

Biles, Douglas, Raisman, Nichols, Key, Kocian – 181.950
VT – 47.300: Biles 16.250, Nichols 15.800, Key 15.250 
UB – 46.000: Kocian 15.500, Douglas 15.300, Key 15.200,
BB – 43.650: Biles 14.800, Douglas 14.450, Nichols 14.400
FX – 45.000: Raisman 15.550, Biles 14.900, Nichols 14.550

Biles, Douglas, Raisman, Nichols, Kocian, Locklear – 182.100
VT – 47.250: Biles 16.250, Nichols 15.800, Raisman 15.200
UB – 46.200: Kocian 15.500, Locklear 15.400, Douglas 15.300
BB – 43.650: Biles 14.800, Douglas 14.450, Nichols 14.400
FX – 45.000: Raisman 15.550, Biles 14.900, Nichols 14.550

Biles, Douglas, Raisman, Nichols, Kocian, Baumann – 182.600
VT – 47.250: Biles 16.250, Nichols 15.800, Raisman 15.200
UB – 45.950: Kocian 15.500, Douglas 15.300, Biles 15.150
BB – 44.400: Baumann, 15.150, Biles 14.800, Douglas 14.450
FX – 45.000: Raisman 15.550, Biles 14.900, Nichols 14.550

That Baumann beam score would add a lot in this scenario, but it’s mostly because Raisman had a fall and Douglas had a wobbler. Her routine wouldn’t normally add that much to the team compared to other options. And actually, if you take that last scenario and put Locklear in for Douglas, you get to a 182.650 total, though Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Kocian, Locklear, Baumann is not going to be the team. That more highlights the problem of using one day of competition to make judgments more than anything else and that some of the big names who aren’t in that group have some work to do tomorrow to get back into it. 

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