First Meet History

The first meets of the season are in the books (for almost all the teams), and since everyone has decided based on only that who the Super Six teams will be, we should probably just fast forward to regionals, right? We have all we need to know.

Last night, Stanford performed a catastrophic floor rotation, a clunky beam rotation, and a surprisingly OK vault rotation to score the traditional first-meet 1.100 in a show of true compassion for Georgia. Stanford’s 193.250 is its lowest first-meet score in over a decade, and yet my general impression was, “Could have been worse.” So there’s that. Stanford would like us to know that starting slowly is all part of a cunning master plan that works almost a third of the time. UNSTOPPABLE.

Considering various teams and their general trends of starting slowly/quickly and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing or even matters, I plotted the first-meet scores of the eventual champions for each of the last 10 years.


What this tells us is that there’s not a rule. You could be Oklahoma in 2014 and start high, stay high, and end high (team motto?), or you could be Alabama in 2011 and start in the garbage before pulling it back. The good news for teams that struggled in the first meet this year is that apart from that Oklahoma 2014 number, these aren’t overwhelming scores. (But they’re also not 193s, Georgia and Stanford.) Champions don’t have to be champions in the first week and often aren’t.

That’s also reflected in the average first-meet scores for the six ultimate Super Six qualifiers.


In 2014, the good teams all started well and remained excellent right through to the end, but that’s sort of an outlier. In 2015, Stanford and Auburn were trash in the first meet and came back to make Super Six. In 2011, none of the six final qualifiers scored higher than 195.700 in the opening meet. Scores were lower as a whole in 2011, but not that much lower. So it can be done.

During Florida’s years of success, the first meet was usually good, but not crazy. In fact, Sunday’s 197.100 is Florida’s best start since 2008, which I definitely wouldn’t have called without looking it up.


Likewise, Alabama usually starts with mid-196s, and it has seemed to work out.



One thing that isn’t reflected in first-score history is this idea that starting well is some kind of handicap, or that teams that start with good scores will burn out toward the end of the season. Florida and Alabama have had their share of overcoming weak starts and ending successfully, but the occasions on which they did start in the 197s haven’t exactly been all alms for the poor.

In recent years, Oklahoma and LSU have made an identity out of starting quickly, and I sort of feel like that has maybe worked?



These two are currently making pretty compelling arguments for the idea of starting well being…you know…a good thing (BREAKING NEWS) and that startling slowly is more playing with fire rather than a cunning path toward later success. For as much as Stanford would like to talk about this…

…the one other time in the last 10 years that Stanford started with a 196—the 2008 season—was Stanford’s best season of all time. That part didn’t make it into the tweet. Weird.


You can’t really use Stanford’s history to make the argument that starting well is a mistake or forebodes doom…or forebodes anything at all. The truth is, we’re all over the place. Good starts end well. Good starts end poorly. Bad starts end well. Bad starts end poorly.

Utah’s best start of the last decade ended in its best finish, and its worst start ended in…also making Super Six.


Michigan’s best start of the last decade ended in a regionals beamtastrophe…


…while UCLA’s title in 2010 came from one of its best starts. Then its 2nd-place finish the next year came from one of its worst starts.


And Georgia, well, Georgia is entering brand new territory this season.


What all this means is, don’t read too much into the start. Unless it’s great. 197.7s aren’t a trick. 197.7s don’t disappear.

17 thoughts on “First Meet History”

  1. Stanford is so interesting to me. I like that their social media is generally positive and upbeat regardless of meet outcome; however, gymnastics is a sport and at some point the “agony of defeat” has to come into play. Calling Daum’s AA performance at the NorCal Meet a “quality performance” is a perfect example — she had a 9.7, 9.7, 9.75, and 9.55. I don’t think any other top 15 team would look at those scores and say that’s a quality AA performance.

    Stanford has the talent to be a Super Six team every year and a challenger for the title. Georgia has a rough meet and people call for Durante’s head, but somehow Stanford’s coaches slide by year after year. I suspect the Athletic Department at Stanford is uninterested in their gym program, which is why there is little to no scrutiny of the program’s results.

    1. Yeah I mean gymnastics seems like the perfect sport for Stanford to dominate. There’s literally 0 chance of going pro after college. Thus, academics should be a significant differentiator among schools. Stanford should do quite well and thus should be able to recruit whomever they want. The fact that they cannot do that speaks to something on their staff. I have heard their culture is toxic.

      1. Recruiting who they want and those individuals being accepted academically are two different things.

      2. I think we’re all aware of the culture issues at Stanford, but I think there’s also the reality that they can only recruit athletes who qualify academically. Plenty of gymnasts are bright, smart young women, but they also dedicate huge parts of their lives to being in a gym, which limits the time they can spend on schoolwork, and some of them have had relatively substandard homeschool educations. It’s a rare person who can be a top L10 or elite, AND have a 4.0, AND be able to score in the top of the standardized tests.

  2. Would be very interesting to hear why Kyla Ross chose UCLA over Stanford (assuming academically she was able to get into Stanford), since it was widely assumed she’d go to Stanford for many years. Plus it’s not like UCLA is a school for dunces, it’s a good high-quality school and probably the third-highest academic school in California behind Stanford and Cal.

    Actually based on their elite personalities both Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian would seem better suited for Stanford’s more serious team. I’ve also heard Maddie is super smart. Though I’m looking forward to watch both young women grow over the next four years as Bruins and develop a confidence to “come out” of their quiet demeanours and roar like Bruins.

    1. I’ll assume that you mean the third-highest academic school in California only counting schools that have gymnastics teams! Because otherwise, CalTech is generally considered to beat out Cal and UCLA academically… some people might argue its academics are better than Stanford’s, in the same way that one might argue that MIT students are more vigorously educated than Harvard ones. Anyway, I digress.

      If Stanford’s culture really is toxic like people have said, that sounds like a real shame to me. Imagine how excited those girls must be to get to go to Stanford AND do NCAA gymnastics, and then it turns out to suck. Where did you hear that from, Matthew? Have alumni spoken out, the way some have at Penn State?

      1. I do agree that UCLA is a high-quality school. Graduating UCLA with a high GPA will serve anyone well as a foundation for career and life. Plus, nobody’s going to do well in school if they’re totally miserable and in a toxic program, so if those things ARE true about Stanford, then getting good grades and maybe forming some good relationships with professors at UCLA >>> being isolated and getting bad grades at Stanford.

  3. I know a couple of girls who had set Stanford as their goal and then decide to pass after a visit. Felt the “culture” wasn’t right for them. And one past gymnast whose comment was ” it wasn’t the experience I was expecting” but ” I have a Stanford degree”. However, they always seem to get some good talent, but maybe not enough? I think the big issue is everyone else is making commitments way early. Unless you are national team or JO AA good, if you wait on Stanford and it doesn’t work out, then where are you? Especially with these 4 year plans, schools have fewer options to “trade up” , ie recruit an extra fall signee knowing someone will have to go in the spring.

    Stanford has a beautiful campus, great academic reputation. I tend to think “toxic” is too strong of a word or we would have heard more about it. However, if the program has its “toxic” elements, I doubt many know that before they go.

    1. Stanford has a number of challenges in filling out their roster:
      a. High admission standards (and relatively late “early” reads on admission apps) that limit the pool of athletes; the competitive nature may also scare away others.
      b. The academic reputation attracts recruits that are very focused on maximizing their academic experience. I’m not saying that athletes at other schools slack off of their academics or don’t care about their classes, but my impression is that you are not seeing the same level of dedication to maintaining or improving athletic excellence and fitness (Price being an obvious exception, and Vaculik before her).
      c. I’ve heard the alumnae talk in the stands (in the past) how Stanford always gets the best athletes because of the academics and location and the others schools can’t compete. Could not be further from the truth in gymnastics, recently, especially with last year’s class. Because of “a” they also seem to be taking more chances with their signees, in terms of medical issues and have trouble filling out their spots.

      1. I think there are plenty of elites that can meet the high academic entrance standards of Stanford; however, they seem to be choosing other schools. The question the Stanford AD should be asking is “Why?” Why is an athlete choosing Michigan, UCLA, Cal over Stanford when those schools can compete academically with Stanford? There are certainly other issues such as location and academic major specialization issues, but a full-ride to Stanford should be tempting to elites.

        I suspect Stanford’s primary concern isn’t the high academic standards but is coaching and recruiting. I don’t understand why Stanford hasn’t looked elsewhere for a new coach. They have nothing to lose (they’ve won nothing so far) and a new coach could potentially pull the program out of mediocrity. In my opinion, the AD should let the current coaches go and hire Tabitha Yim. She has connections to the program and athletes and seems like much more of a motivator and true coach than the current staff.

  4. Oh, and I heard Kyla didn’t want to take the number of AP courses her senior year they were requiring for admissions. And then there is the Val heavy lobby factor. I get the impression Kristin thinks everyone should want to come to Stanford, so she doesn’t send the ” I really want you vibes” that Val can/does. And let’s face it, everyone wants to be wanted.

    1. Oh yeah, I’m not a gymnast (just a fan), but if I could have the chance to work with and meet Miss Val I’d be on a plane to LA in a nanosecond.

  5. Gymnastics wise, they’re up against schools with the best training facilities in the world, programs that the community really cares about, and coaches who bring the best out of their athletes. And plenty of teams that can win stuff. I can’t see how Stanford could be a top choice in terms of just gymnastics. Where will they be when Price graduates?

    And every description I’ve seen of their coaching matches that Taylor blog, and sounds awful.

    Obviously the academics outweigh all of this for many, but I can imagine that they are intimidating to a lot of the recruiting pool.

  6. Stanford has a really fantastic class coming in next year, it’ll be interesting to see how they do. With Price and the freshmen class next year, that is probably the most talent they’ve had since the Yim/Janiga/Tricase days. Hopefully they can rise to the occasion because if they don’t I think it’s pretty clear they never will.

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