The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Saturday Live Blog – Utah @ UCLA

Pac-12 Net
4:00 ET/1:00 PT

Ah, Utah and UCLA. One of my favorites. The unfortunate aspect of this rivalry over the last three seasons has been the road team throwing up an utter catastrophe on bars in the first rotation, deciding the meet and dulling any kind of competitive excitement after about three minutes of gymnastics before anyone has time to get interested. This is supposed be a close, back-and-forth affair (it’s Utah and UCLA), but we haven’t had that for a while, so…here’s hoping. No one is allowed to have a catastrophe until at least beam.

Today’s pre-meet discussion topic is Angi Cipra’s floor routine, which now that we’ve seen it four or five times, is taking on a new identity where the theme is the continued emotional bullying of Angi Cipra. Why do people keep hanging up on her so much? Prank calls are just mean, you guys. Does she have no friends? Do we have a clique problem at this school? She keeps being like, “Who’s calling me?????” and every time the whole team is like, “I don’t know…” Dicks. Don’t worry, Angi. It gets better.

Bars has been a good event for Utah so far this year, unless the curse of away bars continues, while vault has been lackluster for UCLA, so Utah will hope to have a multi-tenth lead after the first rotation. If UCLA is in any position better than a two-tenth deficit at that point, that bodes well for the Bruins, who should be better suited for success in the second half of the meet.

UCLA lineups – no Ohashi again, which is all kinds of bleak for UCLA’s prospects; Preston in on three events. Sophina in on floor (it’s a miracle!) Please land your passes. We all need you.

Jim just described Peng as “uber-consistent” – because she has missed two of her last three beam routines?

Cool that Peng, Alex, and Hallie did the national anthem.

Honest – VT – larger bounce back on full – mushy knees -9.750

“Two of the stronger vault lineups you’ll see.”

Partyka – UB -good finish on half turn – high jaeger – small leg break on the bail, toes could be more precise – short on final handstand, stick on DLO. 9.825.

Peng – VT – also bounces back pretty far, though better form, distance, and direction than Honest.

Schwab – UB -nice legs and toes – a little flat on tkatchev but OK – missed handstands in there – squats to try to hold the stick on the double back but steps –

Cipra – VT – starting to get better control landing that full – hop back, but smaller than usual and smaller than the other two – chest down on landing

Lopez – UB – good finish on full turn and high on tkatchev – solid handstands and into the bail – borderline final handstand but sticks DLO – one of her good ones, and that full turn early in the routine has improved

Bynum – VT – small hop forward on yArabian – also off direction, but better landing control than sometimes – just the small slide.

Lewis – UB – late on full turn, high on tkatchev but flexed feet – angled on bail – extremely short on final handstand – very small slide back on DLO.

Preston – VT – small hop back on full – chest down a little and not huge distance, but maintains form and direction –

Hughes – UB – good finish on full turn – the usual high but close tkatchev – maintains leg form well on bail – handstands are stronger than earlier in the lineup – lunge back on tuck full dismount. 9.775. All about the landings – hers was way better on the bars than the other 9.7s but missed the landing

Meraz – VT – No Pua. So that’s not a great sign. nearly sticks her full – small step back with one foot and piking in the air – People holding up 10 signs, for a 9.950 SV. Sigh. 9.800.

Rowe – UB – maintaining leg form well – good finish on full turn – clearly short on final handstand but sticks the DLO. We’ll see how much that short hs hurts her…or not. Still gets 9.9. Judge 2 on bars is all about the dismounts, giving this one 9.950 for a significantly missed handstand.

UCLA goes 49.075 on vault, which is about what is expected, especially with just Bynum’s arabian and nothing more difficult than a full today. Better control on landing later in the lineup, but not at the beginning. There just aren’t any 9.9-worthy vaults in this lineup right now, which stings.

Utah goes 49.200. Not the cleanest bars we’ve seen from Utah, but avoiding the curse. Lopez was very good, but everyone else either hand handstand trouble or dismount non-sticking trouble, which kept the scores lower than they have been. I said UCLA wanted to be closer than two tenths after the first, and they’ve done that. But now bars……….

After 1: Utah 49.200, UCLA 49.075
Judges showed they were willing to go 9.850 on vault for non-stuck fulls for UCLA, which bodes well for the scores Utah can get. Though similar story on bars if UCLA can stick dismounts.

Val camped out at the inquiry table. Just hangin’. As per expected.

Merrell – VT -good form on that full – slide back – better idea to have her do the full than the 1.5. – not a ton of distance at all, but normal.

Francis – UB -good first hs – nice legs on shap to bail combo as well – good height on shoot – late on final full turn and hop back on double pike – still not sticking that double pike. She needs the stick to get real scores for this routine.

Rowe – VT – better amplitude than Merrell on the full – also a small hop back – and slightly mushy knees.

Amanda struggling to figure out what scores are.

Mossett – UB – leg quiver on half trun but very pretty jaeger – some leg break on pak – solid half turn position on low bar – misses final handstand – hop back on tuck full – solid, but giving away in a couple places, and not getting those important sticks. 9.900. Oh. OK.

Lewis – VT – opens up well on her full – also a hop back, like everyone today – good distance, loses her legs together toward the end as she opens out –

Honest – UB – good first hs – high tkatchev but feet – really solid on handstands, until the last one – good straddle back – step back on tuck full – more ragged on feet than last week? Or just last week’s angle being more flattering?

Partyka – VT – good control on the landing, just the smallest movement, not the open or distance of Lewis but a stronger landing – small leg break on block, slight pike – 9.875. Your questions about scoring can be answered with LANDINGS. It’s all landings today.

Meraz – UB – rushes first hs – large leg break on her bail as Waller spots – mostly nice hs – flat on tkatchev but hit – pikedy leg breaky DLO with a small step.

Hughes – VT – lands short on her 1.5 but does well to save it – large step back and will lose plenty, having to bend her knees as well – One judge still gave it a 9.850. Eyes? 9,775

Metcalf – UB – leg breaks on shap and a small one on connected bail – good counter rotation on shoot – short handstand in there, clearly – cowboys double front with a small step – smashes one of her teammates in the eye trying to give a high five, so automatic 10.

Delaney – VT – Best dynamics on vault so far today – great height and form as always – slide back –

DeJesus – UB – good first hs – nice position on full – Sophina legs on gienger “perfect form” short of hs on bail with an angle – pretends she stuck her tuck full but actually took a large hop, very low chest – what happened to the form from the Florida meet? It was great, but hasn’t been great in any of the others.

Pretty uninspiring first two rotations for both teams. Amanda is complaining about the low vault scores, but you have to earn those scores. These vaults are not earning those scores. They’re not stuck, and when they are, the form is a problem.

After 2: Utah 98.300, UCLA 98.250
That’s the margin UCLA wanted going to what should be the strongest event for them. UCLA went 49.175 on bars, just around what Utah did. Got some definite charity there on a couple scores for some significant moments of sloppiness on a number of those routines. Utah also scored similarly to UCLA on vault, appeared to get hit harder than the Bruins did on a couple of those scores, but it wasn’t consistent throughout the rotation. I want to learn some things from the judge who gave Delaney and Hughes the same score. The SV difference is only .05 not 7. Utah didn’t really land well enough to earn a huge rotation score.

We’re seeing a clip of “Hip Hop Harry” when Sophina was on. Because magical.

Gerber – BB – strong wolf and comfortable walkover – wobble on loso series, leg flying slightly up – checks in the middle of her dance series, so adds an extra one to get her SV – solid on the side somi landing this time, but has shown a couple clear checks – long pause before dismount, small slide back on gainer full.

Merrell – FX – starts with a front full small loss of knees – splits look fine – 2.5 to front – punches sideways a bit but it’s fine and the landing is controlled – normal rudi to finish

Meraz – BB -secure three series into loso – secure on switch 1/2 as well – switch to straddle jump hits position – comfortable full turn – this is much more like Meraz gymnastics, sturdy German – but a larger lunge forward on the 1.5 will take down the score.

Lewis – FX – She was supposed to be the anchor earlier in the season when she was adding an E pass, but it wasn’t working for her, so she’s back to a double pike opener, small slide back – stuck her front lay to front full but lost legs a little in the front lay – switch side and popa are 180 and around if a little bouncy – bounces back on double pike, jammed those legs a bit

DeJesus – BB – uncertain on both aerial and back tuck landings and misses the connection – good kickover front to bhs – the thing with Sophina on beam is that if her landing isn’t absolutely perfect, she’s going to show it in a pause or little adjustment – nice attitude – SO ARTISTIC – gainer front lay, pretends to stick again and lunges forward


Delaney – FX – very nice control on double tuck opener – wolf 1.5 is one not often displayed – good switch side, popa could be more popa-y – small shuffle on front lay and full final pass – nothing big but mostly clean, much more control than the first two if this is going to be all about landings as well. 9.875. Yep.

Peng – BB -flairs are brilliant – small adjustment on switch into split jump but keeps connection going – BHS TO LAYOUT and it’s stuck – amazing how much better it is when not doing a crazy side aerial into it – Excellent double turn this time, amazing ease and control – side aerial to full – should have stuck but hops back – will still be a big score, but lost the huge potential on the dismount landing.

Schwab – FX -small slide back on double pike – she’s just sliding a bit on all the landings, but great form on twisting and layout in middle pass – hitting her straddles with no question – sticks that 2.5, excellent final pass will help the score, just needed a slight bit more control on the first two passes. 9.950. Everyone drinking the Kool-aid on this routine –

Francis – BB – corrects slightly after aerial walkover into combo but not enough to be a thing – strong loso series. What on earth she just totally botched a split jump – A SPLIT JUMP – and had to repeat the skill – y spin is great – excellent stick and body position on her dismount combo – but that botched split jump will kill the score – looks like she corrected in the middle of her dismount combo, may have broken it. We’ll see. Still gets 9.825, so they gave her the dismount combo for Nush reasons.

Hughes – FX – great control on double pike – hits the split position and the wolf – slides a bit out of her middle pass, but apparently that’s not a thing anymore, so whatever – what is this lightsaber-swinging-prayer choreo before her final pass? – Small bounce on double back dismount. 9.900. They’re setting this up for every UCLA gymnast to get a 10.

Preston – BB –  Large break on loso series as leg flies up – nothing says a team believes in you for your first routine than shoving you at the end because you’ll probably fall – short on switch split (“lovely flexibility”) but nice on the remaining dance elements – front 1.5 dismount, low chest with hop to the side. Val has “enjoy your only competition routine” face.

Partyka – FX – clean legs on control for 1.5 + 1.5 opening pass – low head down on double tuck, but also well controlled, which is what you need today – hits rudi – 9.875. Identical routine to her 9.975 last week.

Utah builds a lead on floor after a solid rotation matched by a just meh UCLA beam in which everyone gave away too much. 147.725-147.450. Still that’s not big enough for Utah to feel comfortable, especially going to beam while UCLA goes to home floor.

Utah didn’t have any major errors on floor but could still use more control on landing those passes. To many little slides to hope for gigantic scores under most circumstances. UCLA was not good enough on the beam dismounts and lost the needed big scores from Francis and Peng because Peng stepped and because Francis just had a completely weird one. UCLA needed a bigger boost and the usual 9.9s from Peng and Francis to be in a comfortable position.

Partyka – BB – starts split to straddle 1/4, a little tight in straddle – does well to stay calm in side aerial and not wobble when she was slightly off line – secure loso series – two switches combo – split elements are more of a struggle – sticks 1.5 – good start. 9.875. Amanda thinks it’s too low. OK?

Gerber – FX – very very short double tuck with a stumble forward, oh UCLA – whip+1.5 with a slight stumble out of it – bouncy dance connection but looks to hit her psoitions well, nice switch ring – control on double pike but very low chest – not one of her good ones.

Hughes – BB – small adjustment on loso series – split and rushes into split 3/4 but pulls it around – tough to hit a real split in that skill – side aerial to full and stuck. Landings are the name of the game today, and Utah is doing that better.

Preston – FX – small bounce on front tuck through to double back – great height and position on those straddle skills t, that’s how you do a dance element on floor – butt exorcist choreography before final pass – very good control on double pike – good one, especially as it went – 9.925. It begins.

Thanks for the comment that UCLA magic got Peng’s beam score up to 9.925. With that dismount? Hmmm.

Lopez – BB – steps back on loso series but holds it – looked insecure on punch front landing but stayed with it, held, and didn’t wobble – smallest correction on straddle 1/2 – hop back on 2/1 – good but gave away some itty bitties, so won’t be a massive score – but she looks more confident on beam this year. Still 9.850.

Francis – FX – whip to double tuck is one of her good ones – I’d still like the landing higher but good control – 2.5 twist always looks uncomfortable on the landing but she holds onto it – dance elements are the highlight of this routine as well – large slide back on double pike –

Delaney – BB – small bend adjustment on loso series – good straddle jump, check on wolf – standing loso is well done – sticks gainer full – 9.875. Utah getting the necessary scores.

DeJesus – FX – punch front double full with a step forward but keeping it controlled – sticks double tuck, low chest but stuck – the mix is wrong on this broadcast – we can’t really hear the floor music at all, which is a shame because I think I like this routine – good switch, wolf was wonky – pulled around her final pass – does a beat jump into a drop split, which is heaven – some of her best tumbling control she has ever had for UCLA on floor – they need her to say in this lineup. Trying to celebrate for a score a little here. 9.925.

Rowe – BB -wobbles on her straddle 1/4, which is odd to see from her – legs on loso series but the landing is solid – precise full turn – large break on kickover front, bends at the hips – hop back on 1.5. Will need to drop that one to stay up on UCLA, so a bit of pressure on Stover now.

Cipra – FX – bringing us an important comment about bullying again – great double back, controlled and high chest position – switch and split positions are excellent – 1.5 to half to straddle to front is quite nice as well – low chest on double pike but also controlled, one of her good ones and will be a great score. 9.975. One judge was like, “Y’all…”

Stover – BB – good walkover – does well to correct on the loso series as well, small bend but pulled herself back on line – switch and split jump – wobble on split jump, leg goes up, sticks gainer full, how much will that wobble hurt? still 9.900 in spite of the leg-up wobble.

Bynum – FX – bounces back on DLO, stays in – also slides back on double tuck side pass – she needs a huge score on this routine, and the judges were waiting to give it to her, but she may have just given it away with those landings – front tuck through to double back is well done. We’ll see how home-ish the judges feel.

This is the UCLA/Utah meet I was asking for, so thank you for delivering.

9.950 for Bynum. UCLA getting exactly the needed score to win the meet. Oh, home floor. Though, both teams did get gifts with the control of those floor landings, and I would say Stover’s beam score was also an overscore. But…home floor. 9.950 for those first two passes, both with slides.

FINAL: UCLA 197.100 – Utah 197.075

I don’t think this meet necessary taught us anything new about UCLA and Utah. The strengths remain the strengths and the questions remain the questions. Unsurprisingly, vault was the lowest total for both teams and is still the primary area of worry when considering ability to compete against SEC teams come April. As for the result, it’s one of those things that would have been flipped had it been in Utah, but home floor dictates all. At this point it’s a usable score for both.

It ended up that the Peng score raise on beam put UCLA on top.

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