Things Are Happening – March 17, 2017

A. Weekend schedule

Friday, March 17
Scores Watch
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – DIII West Regionals
UW-La Crosse
Winona State
UW-Eau Claire
Gustavus Adolphus
Saturday, March 18
Scores Watch
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – ECAC DI Championship
William & Mary
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12:00 ET/9:00 PT – ECAC DII Championship
West Chester
Southern Connecticut
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 1
Michigan State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 1
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – EAGL Championship
George Washington
New Hampshire
North Carolina
NC State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – MAC Championship
Eastern Michigan
Kent State
Central Michigan
Western Michigan
Northern Illinois
Ball State
Bowling Green
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – MIC Championship
Texas Woman’s
Illinois State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Pac-12 Championship Session 1
Arizona State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 2
Ohio State
Penn State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big-12 Championship
West Virginia
Iowa State
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 2
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Mountain Rim Championship
Boise State
Southern Utah
Utah State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Pac-12 Championship Session 2
Oregon State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Mountain Pacific Championship
UC Davis
Sacramento State
San Jose State
Air Force
Seattle Pacific
Sunday, March 19
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – DIII East Regionals
Rhode Island

Conference championship weekend! First note: I’ll be at the Pac-12 Championship on Saturday so won’t be live blogging the day, but I’m sure I’ll have some observations to tweet.

I’ve also attached the day’s master schedule in chart form to help keep track of all the simultaneous flimflam and jibberjabber.

2017 Conference Champs Schedule

B. Meet notes

Check out my previews of the SEC and Pac-12 Championships for extensive thoughts on both of those meets.

We also expand to four judges per event beginning this week, an issue I haven’t really touched on yet this season. Rather than having two judges per event and averaging the scores, postseason routines are scored by four judges, the high and the low are thrown out, and the remaining two are averaged. Typically this doesn’t suddenly make a huge difference in how gymnasts score, but it can have the effect of blunting the influence of some random lunatic crack-smoker who sneaked in there somehow and is giving everyone a 10. That score gets dropped now. We’ve certainly needed that at times this season.

I remember several years ago there was one vault judge at SECs who was suddenly and randomly just like, “EVERYONE FROM LSU GETS A 10” and basically gave out a 50. Having four judges and throwing out two scores is essentially the NCAA gymnastics way of calling an Uber for the crazy lady.

I haven’t written a dedicated preview for Big Tens, but as is typical, Michigan enters as the favorite with the highest RQS of the bunch and best collection of 197s. Seven 197s have been bestowed in the Big Ten this year, six to Michigan and one to Nebraska. The level of gymnastics Nebraska has been showing lately sets the Huskers up as the #2 favorite and most likely spoiler. Nebraska’s bars execution and vault difficulty are legit. Michigan’s edge comes on beam and floor.

Iowa and Illinois will also be in there for 196s, but probably not in the hunt for the title unless Michigan counts a fall. Then it will be a ridiculous mad dash through a forest of potential winners. Both team are competitive on a couple pieces (Illinois’s beam in particular can challenge) but don’t have the full collection of competitive vaults, which really hurts. Vault alone could account for a three-four tenth deficit compared to Michigan or Nebraska, which is tough to make up even with strong showings on the other pieces.

The most exciting aspect of Big Tens may actually be Penn State, Minnesota, and Maryland’s fights to get a spot at regionals. Penn State needs only 194.900 to clinch, but Minnesota needs 195.725 and Maryland needs some teams to screw up, so it’s going to get tense. Full details.

Also, Oklahoma will win Big 12s and George Washington is the favorite to take EAGLs. The Boise State/Southern Utah clash at MRGCs should be a close one.

C. The Penny has dropped

After much thoughtful consideration and literally being forced to, Steve Penny has announced his resignation from USA Gymnastics in order to spend more time with his aggressively incompetent handling of sexual abuse that put the reputation of the organization ahead of the health and safety of its members. And also his family or whatever.

As has been pointed out by many, this in itself isn’t a solution, but it was necessary to create an environment where a solution could be allowed to survive instead of being put in a file somewhere and ignored for a decade.

I don’t have a strong opinion about whether Penny’s successor should be someone from inside gymnastics or outside gymnastics, but it needs to be someone who will create more separation and professionalism in the duties of the executive at USAG. An inherent problem that infects a lot of what happens in gymnastics is that the world of gymnastics is way too small. Friendships and personal relationships cloud judgment and decision making in what should be impartial situations, and regulations aren’t in place to separate people from situations where they have a disqualifying conflict of interest.

This happens mostly in relatively unimportant scenarios, like when judges are tasked with judging their BFF’s team or even judging their actual gymnasts at nationals where that kind of bias or previous relationship isn’t acceptable. But it also happens in very important situations, when the CEO is randomly calling Steve and Alaina Legendre to arbitrate sexual assault (not your role) and find out just how little he can do while still ensuring that they won’t sue, or when people don’t believe abuse claims against Larry Nassar because he has been nice to them before. Or even when Steve Penny is going into the room with the Olympic selection committee (not your role) or standing in the back cheering when Gabby Douglas hits vault at Trials (not your role). A level of professional distance must be created that does not currently exist.


We have two (count ’em two) World Cup events this weekend, beginning in Baku where qualification has already wrapped up and the competition is apparently taking place under mood lighting from 1993 because there are no rules in this sport anymore…?

Gymnasts have had it far too easy for far too long with, like, being able to see the apparatuses. Time to start cracking the whip.

We’ll all agree that’s the reason Shang Chunsong received an execution score in the negative numbers and Ocolisan got an actual 9. But also Romania bars.

It looks like someone turned on the lights on for the second day (miracle of miracles), when Ponor qualified first on beam and floor and was like, “I’m better than you, and that absolutely is a ring position so shut your stupid mouth.”

Stuttgart has two events going on this weekend, an AA World Cup beginning on Saturday, and a team cup that began on Friday. The US has sent gymnasts to the World Cup portion (Morgan Hurd and Allan Bower), where Hurd will compete against Thorsdottir, Melnikova, Alt, and Schaefer among others, and where Bower will lose to Oleg Verniaiev. The team competition actually contains its own even heartier field, with Bui, Seitz, Sanne Wevers, Spiridonova, Eremina, Shelgunova, Akhaimova, and Kapitonova all in action.

Pretty much just whichever Russians needed to stop in for a quick German surgery between meets.

E. GymCastic

This week, we broke down (emotionally) the Russian Championship and how Seda fell on beam 165 times and Melnikova just landed all her dismounts eye-first and it was everything we ever could have wanted. Then we sorted through all the highs and lows and Italian juniors from Gymnix, in addition to the weekly segments on NCAA judging, Steve Penny’s existence, and the Larry Nassar case. We also discussed how Grishina is living sixteen simultaneous soap operas, so be sure to give it a listen.

F. Beam Routine of the Week

In honor of the weekend’s upcoming conference championships, this week’s beam routine marks the last time a gymnast got a 10 on beam at any conference championship, Cory “shoulder roll” Fritzinger in 2004.

20 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – March 17, 2017”

  1. I hope USA Gymnastics brings in someone from outside gymnastics. Leave the gymnastics to Faehn and Liukin and the business administration role to a CEO. Part of the problem is that the elite gym world is small. Everyone knows each other and many are even related, which can pose a serious conflict of interest when things go wrong. It’s hard to fire or report or turn in a friend or relative for an illegal or unethical act and the CEO of USA Gym shouldn’t have to worry about any potential conflicts. I hope they look at CEOs of other USOC sports, look at VPs or executives of the big 4 pro leagues, look at university ADs, or look at NCAA Conference executives.

    As a side note, I also don’t understand how NBC keeps Nastia on as a commentator when her dad is the National Team Coordinator. She has a clear conflict in the reporting aspect of her job. She’s not going to talk negatively about the culture of gymnastics and she certainly wouldn’t say anything negative about her dad or his gymnasts. Her take on the recent scandal during American Cup was cringe worthy. I like Nastia and think she is a decent commentator, but as long her dad is National Team Coordinator, she shouldn’t be commentating elite meets.

    1. What about former U.S. gymnastics AA champion Jennifer Sey to take over for Penny? She has a background in advertising/marketing, knows gymnastics and the culture, but has been “out of the loop” for a long time so her personal relationships may not be that much of an issue.

    2. In regards to Nastia, yes it’s her dad but Tim and Al trautwig (as awful as he is) never talk about USAG or gymnasts in a negative way as you are implying. They usually just make up their own storyline, i.e. “Gabby doesn’t deserve the olympics and skinner does” (btw not saying this is true in anyway they both did have a legitamete shot for the last spot early last summer but Gabby proved more valuable for Martha ). It’s the NBC controlling of the narrative that influences what the commentators say. Much more than their own allegiances to anyone in the field/ coaching stuff.

      1. I second your opinion of Trautwig. I’m still ticked at him for the whole Simone’s parents thing during the Olympics and his subsequent weak apology.

    3. Nastia’s job is not to be a hard-hitting critic of the US women’s program. Her commentary is not her father’s annual performance review.

      Is she supposed to terminate her involvement in the sport because her dad is NTC now?

      1. No, it’s more of NBC’s issue than Nastia’s. Can and will NBC properly report on Nassar and USA Gymnastics when they employ the daughter of the coordinator? These are major HR issues that HR admins and in house counsel work on at corporations and media companies all the time — not to mention this almost a textbook journalism ethics issue. I’m somewhat surprised that it has never been discussed with regards to Nastia. If NBC wants to keep her as a commentator, that’s great, but I would argue that her role should be limited to strictly commentating meets (not providing commentary on legal and administrative issues).

        Plus, Nastia could always do NCAA coverage for ESPN or PAC 12. There would be no conflicts, no media ethics issues, and Nastia could still do on air commentating.

  2. I think Dominique Dawes would make a great CEO for USAG. She was president of the Women’s Sports Federation for a time and was appointed to Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. She clearly has the leadership skills and I’d also love to see a female at the helm of this organization with a majority of female members!

    1. She is the only former gymnast I can think of who may have the business background to be CEO. My only hesitation is the organization needs an overhaul. The corporate culture and the somewhat incestual nature of the sport need to change. Someone with a business background, possibly with a Risk Management background, could be a huge asset. It’s clear the Risk, Compliance, and Policies and Procedures of USA Gym could use some work and a new CEO will need to do that. The new CEO may also need to do some “house cleaning” and I question whether a former gymnast or coach would be able do adequately do that if they have relationships with so many players at USA Gym.

  3. Minnesota clinched a Regionals spot btw. 195.175 brings their RQS to 195.42, ahead of Maryland who didn’t improve their RQS and ahead of Western Michgan’s max RQS.

    1. I did the math as the meet was going and came to the same conclusion – though they sure made it suspenseful as it didn’t get clinched until the very last routine. I sure hope they figure out how to hit beam next year because they are becoming the new Georgia

  4. I love when they move to 4 judges so you can see how differently they score routines.

    One judge gave Erin Tucker’s beam (Towson) a 9.65, the others 9.1. One judge gave Mollie Korth’s vault (Kentucky) a 10, another 9.85.

    I’m sure there will be many more today!

  5. With the performance of Minnesota and Maryland this morning, just about all of the regionals spots of been decided – BYU, Penn State, North Carolina are also all in regardless of what they do today as they can’t be passed by enough of the teams. The only question mark is whether it’s Central Michigan or Maryland for the last spot and since Central Michigan only needs an average of 9.56 on vault to get it, I’m putting my money on Central Michigan for the last spot.

  6. LSU was really impressive today. The 198 didn’t look like SEC scoring to me. I think they are a legitimate threat to Oklahoma, though OU would still be favored if they have Magic Maggie in the AA.

  7. Utah was also really impressive. I don’t think they will get those scores on floor when judged against LSU, Florida, and Oklahoma though. The other three teams have more difficulty for sure.

    UCLA was obviously a dumpster fire. They shouldn’t have even broken 197. Pac 12 evening scoring was definitely looser than SECs and the other meets I saw today, particularly on floor, where it appeared the only deductions given were for obvious landing errors.

    1. UCLA’s floor scores were crazy. Obvious landing errors getting 9.9s, huh? I didn’t notice anything else too cracky with the evening teams, did you?

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