The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Florida Regional Preview

This regional pretty clearly exposes the nonsense of no longer seeding the 19-36 teams and moving back to the allegedly geographical placement of lower-ranked teams, which doesn’t really hold up from a competitive standpoint or a logistical standpoint.

Here, we’ve ended up with a fairly unbalanced regional featuring three teams ranked in the 30s and unlikely to challenge for qualification, while others are much much deeper. On top of that, a team like New Hampshire isn’t really benefiting from the supposed reduction in travel time and costs that geographical placement is supposed to bring because…Florida. Twelve hundred miles away and not exactly in region.

April 1 – 4:00 ET/1:00 PT

Teams (starting event)
[3] Florida (bars)
[10] Georgia (vault)
[15] Missouri (bye before floor)
[30] New Hampshire (bye before bars)
[33] Penn State (beam)
[35] North Carolina (floor)

Individuals
Chelsea Knight, NC State (AA)
Gabriella Yarussi, Towson (AA)
Tyra McKellar, Towson (AA)
Kristen Peterman, Maryland (AA)
Sarah Faller, Maryland (VT, BB)
Paris Phillips, NC State (VT)
Amanda Fillard, NC State (UB)
Melissa Brooker, NC State (UB)
Mary Elle Arduino, Towson (BB)
Alecia Farina, Maryland (FX)
Emily Brauckmuller, Maryland (FX)

The favorite – Florida
In this meet, home-gym advantage should be the least significant of all the regionals. Florida would be the favorite regardless of location.

We’ve seen Georgia and Missouri both score 197s on multiple occasions this season, so Florida may not have quite the same luxury for counting mistakes that Oklahoma and LSU do. Still, with any kind of hit meet, Florida goes through, and counting a fall would probably be fine. Basically, the Gators just need to be sure to avoid another at-LSU situation, a repeat of which seems highly unlikely.

SECs provided us with a useful method to compare Florida and LSU to emphasize what Florida needs to improve to have a shot at the national title. Florida was a touch behind LSU on every piece at SECs, and in particular, landings on bars and balance checks on beam saw Florida’s scores suffer. (They honestly could have suffered more.) The Gators will take heart that those are very fixable problems and not built-in deductions, but we need to see an improvement in those areas for regionals.

The fight – Georgia vs. Missouri
This qualification showdown, a delicious reminder of the Great Revolution of 2010, does not have quite the same parity as the #2/#3 seed battles in Washington or Nebraska.

Here, Georgia enters as the likely qualifier and Missouri as the challenger, rather than this being a true meet of equals. Georgia is expected to get through, and while these two teams’ presence in different sessions of the SEC Championship undermines the comparison of scores to some degree, Georgia did beat Missouri by 0.850 in a meet where Missouri did not count a fall. Advantage Georgia.

In many ways, the teams are quite similar, just with Georgia a tad stronger in each category. By RQS, Georgia leads Missouri on each piece but by more than a tenth on only floor. Oftentimes, what have seemed to be Georgia’s potential postseason obstacles, landings on the early vaults and form errors on the early bars routines, are mimicked by Missouri.

For Georgia, floor is key. Amplitude, form, and tendency toward 9.900-9.950 could create serious separation in that last rotation, as long as it’s not broken by landing control. What Georgia must avoid is allowing those early- and mid-lineup 9.7s to creep in. When Georgia has experienced off meets this season (after the opening debacle), it’s when the likes of Sanders and Babalis and Reynolds are stuck in the 9.7 zone.

Georgia is not a team that relies on stars—especially mid-season without Snead—which sounds great and teamwork-y and college-gymnastics-sisterhood-y, but it also means that no one is coming to save a rotation score if it starts poorly, particularly on bars and beam. There’s no magical 10 in the anchor spot (and 9.950s have been the home exception rather than the road rule), so all of the supporting actresses have to be firing for 9.850 for Georgia to have its best day.

Rachel Dickson is a wildly significant part of Project Supporting Actress, which makes her ankle injury at SECs and subsequent struggle on bars a worry. If she’s not at full strength, Georgia suddenly has to rely on exactly those same 9.750s that would let Missouri into the meet.

For Missouri, impressive work like Ward’s vault and beam and Schugel’s 3/1 on floor helps keep the team close with most schools and should be able to hold the total in the 196 zone. Missouri’s true chances, however, will be dependent on Georgia’s performance. It will take Georgia having an eh day for Missouri to be in this with a chance to qualify. That doesn’t necessarily mean Georgia counting a fall (the two teams are close enough that Missouri doesn’t need a fall in order to pass), but it means Georgia suffering an aggregation of 0.1 errors in those early spots, which we have seen this season. If Missouri sticks some landings on bars and beam, those slight advantages for Georgia can flip to slight advantages for Missouri rather quickly.

And the rest – New Hampshire, Penn State, North Carolina
As noted at the top, it’s quite unlikely that the lower-three schools will challenge for a team spot here. It would take a Kent-State-2011-style confluence of events for that to happen because each of their season highs, achieved in ideal circumstances, is lower than what we would expect the qualifying score to be here. It should take, at the very least, a mid 196 to advance.

Penn State improved toward the end of the season (we all wonder why) and does have big scores at the end of some of the lineups to boost the total to the high 195s, whether it’s Tsang’s 1.5 on vault, Garcia’s frequent 9.950s on bars, or Medvitz on beam. The lack of a full complement of competitive vaults, however, looks like a weakness from which PSU cannot recover. They’re going to give up 3-5 tenths just from vault.

New Hampshire also has some highlight moments, particularly on the non-power events. Mulligan’s auto-9.900 of a bars routine and Lauter and Pflieger on beam will compete with pretty much any team, but getting competitive scores on the leg events will be a struggle and will make it quite difficult for New Hampshire to get out of the 195s.

Making regionals was the victory this season for North Carolina, a feat that had not been accomplished since 2013. The final rankings had been trending downward, with last season ending at 52nd, so 35th this year and regionals qualification is a major improvement. UNC doesn’t have the scores to challenge Georgia and Missouri, so the mission will essentially be Get Morgan Lane to Nationals Somehow.

Individuals
This is not the deepest regional for all-arounders (as long as we assume Florida qualifies), which leaves the door open for some unexpected or lower-ranked gymnasts to advance to nationals.

If Georgia doesn’t manage to advance along with Florida, then health-permitting, we’d expect to see Rachel Dickson compete as an all-arounder. She would be a favorite to go with a hit meet.

If the regional goes as expected and Florida and Georgia do advance, however, then Briannah Tsang of Penn State looks like a solid nominee with her 1.5, late lineup positions on each event, and 39.425 season high. For Missouri, Aspen Tucker typically does the AA and has scored quite well, though she did not compete bars at SECs, which looms rather significantly now.

AND YET, ranking ahead of both of them is Morgan Lane for UNC, with her magical beam and Yurchenko full on, back pike off. It’s not unrealistic at all to think Lane can advance as an all-arounder from this region.

Also keep an eye on Garcia and Politz from Penn State, who also do the AA, though Tsang is typically the team’s highest scorer by a clear margin. New Hampshire will have Doolin and Pflieger in the AA, but they’ll probably need help from the favorites to get in. Chelsea Knight from NC State is another one to watch, but it’s quite rare for a gymnast without a full team to get through. Given that this is a relatively sparse AA region, though, she’s worth keeping track of.

For individual-event qualification, put a star next to Britney Ward if Missouri doesn’t go as a team because her vault and beam have proven the 9.950s necessary to win an event even in a regional where Florida exists. The same can be said for Lane on beam or perhaps Mulligan on bars, but it will take beating a whole bunch of likely 9.9ers there.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS

Rotation 1 – Georgia vault, Florida bars, PSU beam, UNC floor
1. Florida – 49.410
2. Georgia – 49.225
3. North Carolina – 48.980
4. Penn State – 48.925

With that tenuous advantage over Missouri on each piece, getting into the 49.2s for every rotation is crucial to avoid allowing Missouri a look.

Rotation 2 – UNC vault, N. Hampshire bars, Florida beam, Missouri floor
1. Florida – 98.810
2. North Carolina – 97.845
3. Georgia – 49.225
4. Missouri – 49.210
5. New Hampshire – 48.935
6. Penn State – 48.925

Missouri starts on its best-scoring event, floor, while Georgia starts on its worst-scoring event, vault, so a one-event Georgia lead is bad news for Missouri, even this early in the meet.

Rotation 3 – Missouri vault, Georgia bars, N. Hampshire beam, PSU floor
1. Florida – 98.810
2. Georgia – 98.455
3. Missouri – 98.415
4. New Hampshire – 98.030
5. Penn State – 98.015
6. North Carolina – 97.845

If New Hampshire is going to do anything, it will happen on and because of beam.

Rotation 4 – PSU vault, UNC bars, Georgia beam, Florida floor
1. Florida – 148.250
2. Georgia – 147.700
3. Penn State – 146.770
4. North Carolina – 146.670
5. Missouri – 98.415
6. New Hampshire – 98.030

It’s Georgia and beam. Yes, this season has been so much better, but still. Don’t rest. If Georgia gets through beam and retains the lead over Missouri, it will feel like smooth sailing on to floor in the sixth rotation.

Rotation 5 – Florida vault, Missouri bars, UNC beam, N. Hampshire floor
1. Florida – 197.715
2. North Carolina – 195.760
3. Georgia – 147.700
4. Missouri – 147.560
5. New Hampshire – 147.100
6. Penn State – 146.770

Missouri has scored well on bars this season but endured a rotation of 9.7s at SECs, which is not enough to stay close with Georgia. Missouri would have to be ahead of Georgia at this point because of finishing on beam (a good event for them but also beam) compared to Georgia’s floor.

Rotation 6 – N. Hampshire vault, PSU bars, Missouri beam, Georgia floor
1. Florida – 197.715
2. Georgia – 197.075
3. Missouri – 196.735
4. New Hampshire – 195.955
5. Penn State – 195.885
6. North Carolina – 195.760

Event-specific RQSs give Missouri more of a chance to challenge Georgia than overall RQS does. The overall RQS gives Georgia a five-tenth advantage, while event-specific RQS lowers it to just over three tenths.

By the numbers

[1] Florida
RQS: 197.635 [1]
Season high: 197.975 [1]
Season average: 197.470 [1]

VT RQS: 49.465 [1]
VT average: 49.441 [1]
UB RQS: 49.410 [1]
UB average: 49.339 [1]
BB RQS: 49.400 [1]
BB average: 49.320 [1]
FX RQS: 49.440 [1]
FX average: 49.370 [1]

[2] Georgia
RQS: 197.005 [2]
Season high: 197.325 [2]
Season average: 196.565 [2]

VT RQS: 49.225 [2]
VT average: 49.177 [2]
UB RQS: 49.230 [2]
UB average: 49.146 [2]
BB RQS: 49.245 [2]
BB average: 48.965 [3]
FX RQS: 49.375 [2]
FX average: 49.277 [2]

[3] Missouri
RQS: 196.540 [3]
Season high: 197.200 [3]
Season average: 196.192 [3]

VT RQS: 49.205 [3]
VT average: 49.135 [3]
UB RQS: 49.145 [3]
UB average: 48.875 [3]
BB RQS: 49.175 [3]
BB average: 49.073 [2]
FX RQS: 49.210 [3]
FX average: 49.108 [3]

[4] New Hampshire
RQS: 195.745 [4]
Season high: 196.450 [4]
Season average: 195.233 [4]

VT RQS: 48.885 [4]
VT average: 48.696 [5]
UB RQS: 48.935 [5]
UB average: 48.717 [5]
BB RQS: 49.095 [4]
BB average: 48.913 [4]
FX RQS: 49.070 [5]
FX average: 48.906 [4]

[5] Penn State
RQS: 195.590 [5]
Season high: 196.200 [5]
Season average: 194.970 [5]

VT RQS: 48.755 [6]
VT average: 48.595 [6]
UB RQS: 49.115 [4]
UB average: 48.839 [4]
BB RQS: 48.925 [6]
BB average: 48.850 [5]
FX RQS: 49.090 [4]
FX average: 48.686 [6]

[6] North Carolina
RQS: 195.430 [6]
Season high: 195.875 [6]
Season average: 194.823 [6]

VT RQS: 48.865 [5]
VT average: 48.783 [4]
UB RQS: 48.825 [6]
UB average: 48.515 [6]
BB RQS: 49.090 [5]
BB average: 48.733 [6]
FX RQS: 48.980 [6]
FX average: 48.793 [5]

 

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