A. Weekend schedule
|Thursday, March 2
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-La Crosse @ Winona State|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Utah State @  Boise State||LINK||FREE|
|Friday, March 3
|6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Kent State @ Bowling Green||LINK||FB|
|6:30 ET/3:30 PT – West Virginia, Michigan State, Towson @ Pitt||LINK||ACC|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Arkansas @  Kentucky||LINK||SEC+|
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Beatification of St. Nastia||LINK||NBC|
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Rutgers, TWU @ SEMO||LINK||FREE|
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-Stout, Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-Eau Claire|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT –  Auburn @  Missouri||LINK||SEC+|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Stanford @  Utah||LINK||P12|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT – NC State @  Southern Utah||LINK||FREE|
|11:00 ET/8:00 PT – Centenary @ Alaska||LINK||FREE|
|Saturday, March 4
|11:30 ET/8:30 PT – American Cuppity Cup Cup Cup||LINK||NBC|
|12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Ithaca @ Cortland||FREE|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – UW-Oshkosh @ Hamline|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – North Carolina @ William & Mary||LINK||FB|
|3:30 ET/12:30 PT – Temple @ Cornell||Ivy $|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT –  Oklahoma @  Michigan||LINK||FREE|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Iowa State @  Iowa||LINK||BTN|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT – BYU @ Minnesota||LINK||BTN+|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT –  Ohio State @  Denver||LINK||DU $|
|10:00 ET/7:00 PT – UC Davis, Seattle Pacific @ Sacramento State||LINK||FREE|
|Sunday, March 5
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Brown, Yale @ New Hampshire|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Rutgers @ Central Michigan||LINK||FREE|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Penn State, Bridgeport, West Chester @ Penn||LINK||Ivy $|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Western Michigan @ Ball State||FREE|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Brockport @ Ursinus|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Southern Connecticut @ Springfield|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT –  Alabama @  Georgia||LINK||SEC|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT –  George Washington,  Eastern Michigan, Pitt @ West Virginia||LINK||FREE|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Bowling Green @ Michigan State||LINK||BTN+|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – TWU @ Lindenwood||LINK||FREE|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Air Force @ SEMO||LINK||FREE|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT –  Washington @  Oregon State||LINK||P12|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Arizona State @  Arizona||P12|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT –  Illinois, Northern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago @ Illinois State||FREE|
|3:30 ET/12:30 PT –  Florida @  LSU||LINK||SEC|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT –  Cal @  UCLA||LINK||P12|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT –  Utah State @ San Jose State||LINK||FREE|
|6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Centenary @ Alaska||LINK||FREE|
It’s the weirdest of weekends. We begin with a couple random Thursday meets (which, why don’t you just put all the forks in the spoon slot while you’re at it), then on Friday, the SEC women’s basketball tournament has bumped the major gymnastics TV meets—even though SEC women’s basketball has worse attendance than SEC women’s gymnastics—so we really won’t know what to do with ourselves.
Stanford and Utah will charitably fill in for us on Friday to provide some semblance of normalcy, though we’ll also have the competition that definitely isn’t all about Nastia to sate us. My primary live blogging attention will be on the actual NCAA meets, but La Nastia is something to pay attention to as well, either now or eight months from now when you’re scouring YouTube for videos of the new freshmen. It’s usually a good preview of how NCAA will look 2-3 years later.
Early Saturday will be all about the American Cup (twitter party!), which takes 764 hours and therefore will lead right into the Oklahoma/Michigan showdown. But really, Sunday has turned into the big day suddenly. The major SEC meets have been pushed to Sunday so they can be televised, where they’ll join a flood of Pac-12 action. If you want, you can go straight from Alabama/Georgia to Florida/LSU to UCLA/Cal. But who would do that?
B. Meet notes
- Stanford @ Utah
A much more important meet for Stanford than for Utah, but it is Utah’s senior night. If we thought the scores went crazy during the UCLA meet…I can’t wait. Baely Rowe is the team’s lone senior. She has never scored a 10 before. I mention that for no reason. None at all. Stanford’s scores are slowly getting better, so the fear of not even making regionals has mostly abated. Still, they won’t be completely out of the woods until they get another reasonable score. A 196 in this meet would likely establish sufficient distance ahead of the inevitable clawing pile-up around #36.
- Oklahoma @ Michigan
This meet is more interesting for the level of gymnastics than it is for any scoring/ranking development since Oklahoma is running away with #1 (but would set an RQS record with a 198.100), and Michigan’s home scores are already fine. Still, Michigan showed shades of Super Six-ishness in its last home meet, particularly on beam, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that performance in the hope of seeing a potential disruption to the pre-anointed six. Oklahoma also wouldn’t mind Michigan doing well in this meet to help get them out of that prospective Oklahoma/Michigan/Nebraska regional the current rankings would yield. Oklahoma will be the regional favorite regardless of opponent, but…it doesn’t need to be that hard.
- Alabama @ Georgia
This should be a good one, and not just because Alabama and Georgia’s recent scores haven’t been all that different from each other and Georgia is the host team. Actually, yes, that’s the main reason. Competitiveness. Sports. Alabama is supposed to be the stronger team, but winning this one isn’t a given based on form from the last couple meets. Georgia has a prime opportunity to get back to #7 in the rankings and knock on Alabama’s door by scoring an actual 197, while Alabama needs something comfortably 197 to avoid getting left in the dust by UCLA and Utah since both those teams should increase their RQSs this week.
- Florida @ LSU
Weirdly for a team ranked #3, Florida hasn’t emerged as a particularly compelling championship threat yet this season, where the title outlook has predominantly boiled down to “Oklahoma, and if not Oklahoma then LSU, and potentially UCLA sliding in as a spoiler if the famouses have big days.” What Florida needs to do to get into that conversation: prove competitiveness on the road (Florida’s road high is “just” 197.4) and prove it with a victory against one of the other contenders. That’s the opportunity presented in this meet. Florida needs to show that it can at least match LSU head-to-head, otherwise it will be difficult to make a good title argument.
For qualification to regionals, keep an eye on Western Michigan (38th), NC State (41st), Penn State (42nd), and Towson (43rd), all currently on the outside looking in but with some low scores still to drop and the opportunity to move up several tenths in a week. Right now, BYU in 36th has opened up a two-tenth gap over Davis in 37th (0.200 in RQS = 1.000 in individual meet scores, which is not an easy margin to make up in one performance), but it’s far from over yet.
For the seeded places, Southern Utah and Cal are both poised to make a move. SUU has a 194.3 to drop and Cal is going to UCLA, where a mid-196 should be doable, which would put them right back into contention with the meat of the teen-ranked teams. Washington also has a low number to drop, all of which puts pressure on Auburn and George Washington to get higher 196s and season highs to avoid being the teams squeezed out of the top 18 as the others move up.
C. American Cup
Because of waiting until the last possible second, we finally learned this week that Riley McCusker will be the US’s second representative at this weekend’s American Cup, joining Ragan Smith. It’s a spot McCusker earned by winning verification at the most recent camp, ahead of Smith in second and Morgan Hurd in third (RHYMING).
McCusker was an unheard-of entity this time last year, but she popped out like that snake in a can to earn silver at 2016 junior nationals behind the still-junior Maile O’Keefe. She managed that finish largely because of actually hitting with reasonable execution since her difficulty scores trailed behind other top juniors like Perea, Hurd, Thomas, and Jones, sometimes significantly.
For McCusker to have won senior verification and taken this spot at camp, she would have needed to upgrade from those 2016 routines (she has a DTY now instead of an FTY), so expect her new sets to be the big reveal of the American Cup. That’s sort of the deal with the American Cup, especially early in quads. Raisman and Biles also didn’t have much more than a top-3 junior nationals placement to their names before their senior debut “HERE’S MY BEAMAH, NEXT BEAMAH” American Cups.
|Wolf turn triple (E)|
|Wolf turn double (D)|
|Front aerial (D) + Split jump (B) + Straddle jump (B) = 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB|
|Back handspring (B) + Layout stepout (C) + Layout stepout (C) = 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB|
|Switch leap (C) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Back tuck (C) = 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB|
|Side aerial (D)|
|Switch ring (E)|
|Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Double tuck (D) = 0.1 SB|
|Acro – DDDC = 1.5|
|Dance – EEDD = 1.8|
|Composition requirements = 2.0|
|CV and SB = 0.8|
|D-SCORE = 6.1|
|Stalder 1/1 (D) + Toe-on Shap (D) + Tkatchev (D) = 0.3 CV|
|Stalder Tkatchev piked (F)|
|Stalder Tkatchev (E) + Pak (D) = 0.2 CV|
|Toe-on Shaposhnikova 1/2 (E)|
|Blind change (B) + Giant forward (B) + Front 1/2 in, back out (E)|
|FEEEDDDD = 3.7|
|Composition requirements = 2.0|
|CV = 0.5|
|D-SCORE = 6.2|
|Wolf turn double (D)|
|Switch leap 1/2 (D)|
|Back handspring (B) + Layout (E) = 0.1 CV|
|Back tuck 1/1 (F)|
|Front tuck (D) + Split jump (B) + Straddle jump (B) = 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB|
|Front aerial (D)|
|Wolf jump 1/1 (D)|
|Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Patterson (G)? = 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB|
|Acro – GFEDD = 2.6|
|Dance – DDD = 1.2|
|Composition requirements = 2.0|
|CV and SB = 0.6|
|D-SCORE = 6.4|
|Inbar 1/1 (E) + Inbar (D) + Inbar 1/2 (D) + Jaeger (D) = 0.1 CV|
|Stalder 1/1 (D) + Stalder Tkatchev (E) = 0.1 CV|
|Cast 1/2 (B) + Stalder shoot (B)|
|Full-twisting double tuck (D)|
|EEDDDDDD = 3.4|
|Composition requirements = 2.0|
|CV = 0.2|
|D-SCORE = 5.6
While McCusker and Smith don’t have competition-winning international pedigree yet, they will be expected to keep up the tradition of “this isn’t even a real competition, gold please” and “we’re the only ones actually prepared to do the all-around because it’s March.” Still, it will be worth watching whether their performances are more in the supporting-AA-score sphere of 2016 or in the world-championship-threat sphere. There’s a void for legitimate world championship threats, and it’s going to be filled by someone.
Most likely to join those two on the podium I supposed would be Amy Tinkler, depending on her current form and level of surviving the obligatory post-Olympic gym drama. Tinkler is the last-minute replacement for Tunney, and we know she’s capable of a competitive all-around total on her good days. She’ll be in it to win it on vault and floor, and as far as Brits go, she’s not even the scariest on beam (
and should have gone in TF, p.s. not over it). Although the fact that she wasn’t the original choice for this spot does open up some questions about her level of preparedness for an AA at this point in the year.
Japan is totally the cool kids club of women’s gymnastics right now, and Asuka Teramoto has been the graceful queen mother of the Japanese team for a while now. At her peak, she has a rudi along with the bars and beam execution to record a competitive AA total, though you know she’s going to get some random 7.6 E score on floor even though everyone else is getting 9.4.
Most likely to win the “she’s my new obsession” award is Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, the child of Sophina De Jesus and Daiane Dos Santos, because she’s basically just a sentient muscle with a 64-pack who can tumble the crap out of a floor routine. Her form is…there.
Tisha Volleman is the 38th different gymnast the Netherlands has claimed to be sending to this meet, ending up in the spot after Thorsdottir and Titarsolej both pulled out. It’s only right and just after she missed out on the Olympic team. I thought her upgrade to a DTY would have given her the spot over Van Pol, but alas no.
Most impressive on bars will be Kim Bui and Xie Yufen. Bui performs basically an advertisement for the current bars code that features traditional gooey, nougaty German bars goodness and a non-terrible Bhardwaj. I fear she’ll fall behind in the AA on the remaining events, however, with some 5.0-or-lower D scores. As for Xie Yufen, she’s not just a bars specialist. Now. Starting Saturday. That should be interesting. Xie has all the usual Chinese elements on bars to make a high-scoring Healy-Ling of a routine, but she hasn’t done much on the leg events. And by hasn’t done much, I mean I legit didn’t even know she trained floor anymore. So we’re either in for a real coming-out party or a performance that will peak on bars and then fall away. Her beam does have some pretty qualities, it’s just a little terrifying.
Rounding out the group is Who’s Emily Whitehead? I mean Emily Whitehead. To answer your question, she’s an Australian. The end. She competed only bars at Australian nationals last year but did win silver. She has toe point in casts, a Khorkina, and a double front. She has also shown a double front on floor. The actual end.
Also, the men. Oleg will be the standout, and we should expect Kato to do the usual (and by the usual, I mean look like a princess who was accidentally transformed into a porcelain doll, can never be touched, and must be cleaned with only a q-tip). Most interesting to me will be the comparison of Modi and Moldauer to the world’s best—how far behind are they really?—Sam Oldham being a person again instead of a sack of bandages, and of course the ever-dynamic Bart Deurloo arm-tattoo situation.
D. Let them eat pink!
Here we are, once again. Nastia’s annual opportunity to leave the palace walls and throw a leotard at a dirty street child because of monarchical generosity.
This year’s Nastia Jamboree doesn’t feature all that many of next season’s freshmen, but there are a few to keep an eye on. Anastasia Webb is Oklahoma’s latest ninja level 10 that you’ll become obsessed with, Rachael Flam is a major part of the class that’s supposed to save Stanford next year, and Lynnzee Brown is Denver’s next catch.
The 2018-2019 class boasts a few more competitors, particularly Rachael Lukacs, who is a title favorite but mostly just needs to get to Georgia posthaste. Mikayla Magee is going to Utah because that’s what Utah needs, more people named Mikayla/McKenna. Cristal Isa is headed to Arizona, and what is basically Michigan’s entire 2018-2019 class (Brenner, Heiskell, Wojcik) will be previewing itself for our enjoyment. Among the young ones who won’t be in our world for a while, Cal’s Andrea Li and UCLA’s Colbi Flory should show some things.
E. Russian Championships
This week, Russia was like
and reality was like
as the Russian championship went normally. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, beauty and the…
New senior Elena Eremina led after the first day, but then she was cornered by a wicked genie who smacked a cup of water out of her hand and said, “This is not your destiny, child.” Ergo, Eremina fell on bars and beam on day two, just like everyone. Yes, you’ll fit in quite nicely.
Representation of the modern human condition, Seda Tutkhalyan, ranked in second after the first day, but then…yada yada yada 52.032. Seda reasons. Melnikova also struggled on the first day, but just the normal amount, and then executed the rare triple-Seda on the second day for a LITERAL 49. Virtuosic. Reinventing the medium.
All of which opened an airplane hangar door for Natalia Kapitonova of not-just-a-bars-specialist-anymore-apparently fame to be like, “I’m the golden princess!” and take the title. But most importantly, a tragic time was had by all.
There was a lot to cover in the world of USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandals this week (I’m not spontaneously bleeding from the ear, you’re spontaneously bleeding from the ear), with the 60 Minutes piece and the fallout from the Legendres interview. We spoke with Nancy Hogshead-Makar about it, particularly USAG’s handling of the situation with Alaina Legendre versus what actually should have happened, because we all had a lot of questions about that.
Also gymnastics! There was some of that too! Particularly, the insane scoring parade that is NCAA and the Melbourne World Cup.
G. Beam routine of the week
The theme of the week’s posts—and really the theme of the season in NCAA gym—is high all-around scores from freshmen, so this week’s routine is the 10 from Karin Lichey during her 40.000 in 1996, to me her strongest routine of the four that day.