The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2018 Outlook – UCLA Bruins

UCLA ROSTER 2018
Super Duper Seniors
Peng Peng Lee
(6th year)
UB
BB
  • Lineup star, top scorer on UB, BB
  • RQS of 9.955 (UB) and 9.910 (BB) in 2017
Seniors
Rechelle Dennis
  • Will miss 2018 season with torn Achilles
  • Plans to return for 2019
Pua Hall
VT
FX
  • Regular on VT with 10.0-start Y1.5
  • Can provide backup FX as needed
JaNay Honest
VT
UB
FX
  • Competes UB every week (9.865)
  • Will contend for FX lineup, provide backup VT
Sonya Meraz
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Made final UB lineup in 2017
  • Can contribute any event as needed and score 9.800+
Juniors
Katelyn Ohashi
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • #1 in nation on BB in 2017 (9.960)
  • Leadoff FX for 9.880
  • Looking to add back UB, maybe VT for 2018
Stella Savvidou
VT
UB
FX
  • Made final UB lineup in 2017 (9.855)
  • Can provide backup VT, FX
Sophomores
Anna Glenn
BB
  • Missed 2017 with torn labrum
  • Will contend for BB in 2018
Grace Glenn
BB
  • Missed 2017 with torn labrum
  • December knee injury
  • Will contend for BB in 2018
Felicia Hano
VT
BB
FX
  • Returned at end of 2017 for VT
  • Expected to contribute VT, BB, FX in 2018
Madison Kocian
  • Finally had labrum surgery
  • In doubt for 2018, could return at end of season
Gracie Kramer
VT
  • VT specialist for 9.810 RQS in 2017
  • Plans to compete Y1.5 tucked instead of straight, still 10.0 start
Giulianna Pino
  • Did not compete in first season
Kyla Ross
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Weekly VT, UB, BB in 2017
  • Top routine on VT (9.895), UB (9.965), #2 on BB (9.945)
  • Added FX at end of season
Mercedez Sanchez
  • Did not compete in first season
Macy Toronjo
(redshirt)
BB
FX
  • Returned to FX halfway through 2017 for a 9.825-9.950 range
Freshmen
Nia Dennis
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Legacy Elite
  • 2017 JO AA champion, Senior F
  • Expected to contribute AA from start
Sofia Gonzalez
BB
  • Competed internationally for Philippines.
  • Has a BB routine
Rebecca Karlous
  • South Coast
  • Annual walk-on mystery
Savannah Kooyman
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Precision
  • 6th UB, 7th BB, 2017 Region 1s, Senior F
  • Will contribute borderline possibilities/backups on any event
Kendal Poston
  • Azarian
  • 2017 JO Nationals 23rd AA, Senior E
Pauline Tratz
VT
BB
FX
  • German elite
  • Still holding out hope for that 10.0 start handspring pike 1/2 on VT
  • Will also contribute FX
Lilia Waller
  • A Waller

Recent History
2017 – 4th
2016 – 5th
2015 – 11th
2014 – 8th
2013 – 4th
2012 – 3rd
2011 – 2nd
2010 – 1st

All told, the 2017 season ended reasonably for UCLA. Based on the talent on the roster, we would have expected a title-contending team, but based on the routines we actually saw develop in 2017, the finish was never going to be higher than 4th, which is exactly what happened. It’s certainly not a WOW result for a team with Ross and Kocian and whatnot, but those final lineups did what they were capable of doing.

The outlook is mostly similar for 2018. There will be optimism for a higher finish as some of the weaknesses on vault and floor should be addressed with new routines, optimism that is then counteracted by Madison Kocian’s surgery, leveling things out.

I’m not including Kocian in any of the lineup projections right now because we just don’t know whether we’ll see her at all (and if we do, it will be late in the year), so her routines are not ones UCLA can rely on. If she does come back, of course she’d be in any lineup she’s physically able to make.


Vault
Lineup locks
Ross (9.895), Hano (9.825), Tratz (FR), Dennis (FR)
Lineup options
Kramer (9.810), Hall (9.805), Savvidou (9.800), Meraz (9.796), Honest (9.790), Ohashi (9.737 in 2016), Kooyman (FR)

Vault proved UCLA’s weakest event in 2017, a season spent hoping more 10.0 vaults would come to fruition, and they never did. Don’t expect that story to go away suddenly in 2018, but the Bruins should also see an improved baseline on vault and a few more realistically high-scoring options.

The biggest factor is a healthy Hano, who showed the best vault of the Meet the Bruins event with a viable Y1.5 that can score real-world 9.9s. That’s a late-lineup luxury that UCLA did not have last year. In 2017, the 1.5s we did see came from Hall and Kramer, but they were not lineup-leading scores. Kramer was too likely to fall to make the final lineup, so this year she has switched to a tucked 1.5 (still a 10.0 start) in the hope of hitting more consistently. Hall is still going for the layout 1.5 in theory, but it’s always a little tucked anyway. That’s why even on the days she sticks, it’s a 9.850 vault. Both vaults should contend for the lineup again and will make it if they’re landed consistently, but they’ll be middle-lineup scores.

That brings us to this season’s edition of the “Do You Have a 10.0 Start?” game show, featuring contestants Tratz, Ross, and Dennis. All three should be in the vault lineup regardless (and do make for a better crop of fulls than UCLA had last year), but the hope for Tratz in particular is that she can bring the handspring pike 1/2 instead of the Yfull. We haven’t seen it yet.

It’s tough to get these 10.0 starts into the lineup because unless they’re great, the Yfull is going to score better, but great 10.0 starts are what it takes to contend for a championship. This year’s national champion isn’t going to be throwing out Yfulls at the end of a vault lineup, even if they’re good Yfulls. Theoretically, Dennis should have a bigger vault, but it looks like the full is the choice for her this year, and after last year I think we’ve all decided that Ross’s Omelianchik That Cried Wolf isn’t a thing until we actually see it.

The Bruins should get discernibly better on vault this year—more frequently going over 49.300, which happened just once all of last season—but if those potential 10.0 vaults that are currently Yfulls don’t materialize, UCLA is left with one definite 10.0 start, two maybe-inconsistent 10.0 starts, and a bunch of 9.95s, which won’t quite cut it.


Bars
Lineup locks
Ross (9.965), Lee (9.955), Dennis (FR), Honest (9.865)
Lineup options
Meraz (9.850), Ohashi (9.700 in 2016), Savvidou (9.855), Kooyman (FR)

Worries about UCLA repeating last season’s success on bars without Kocian are not unfounded—she’s Kocian and it’s bars—but the introduction of Dennis into the lineup to take over as that third high score along with Peng and Ross should keep the bars total somewhat close to where it was last season. Dennis is doing the Shap+bail, DLO routine and will get criticized for not doing enough, but will also score very well for it, so until they force you not to…

Meanwhile, Ross has upgraded her dismount to a DLO 1/1 for some reason (because UCLA really wants her to score 9.850 instead of 10?), but once she goes back to the DLO in March, she’ll get huge scores. I’ll also be interested to see what UCLA does with the anchor spot because Peng doesn’t really need it to get big scores. It could be used to boost, say, Dennis’s total instead.

Because of those three big scores in the lineup, the Bruins will be fine. There’s still some concern about a tendency toward 9.800 from the rest of the lineup inhibiting the chance to compete with a school like Oklahoma, but Honest and Meraz have proven the ability to hang around 9.850, which will be enough to get by at least. Keep an eye on Meraz. She gets better every year and has now ditched the bail—and its weekly lack-of-vertical deduction—to help herself score higher.

Ohashi is working to get back into the lineup and would be a nice 6th option, but otherwise keep an eye on Savvidou to make it back in. A Glenn at some point? There aren’t a ton of excellent options on bars, but the main six should be able to get 49.4s again.


Beam
Lineup locks
Ohashi (9.960), Ross (9.945), Lee (9.910), Dennis (FR)
Lineup options
Meraz (9.805), Hano (-), A Glenn (-), G Glenn (-), Toronjo (-), Tratz (FR), Kooyman (FR),

Beam was UCLA’s best event last season with four very believable 9.9s, and it should return to that top-3 level in 2018. Ohashi, Ross, and Peng will be the major players again, for whom we’ll expect 9.9s pretty much each time out. Peng’s composition is always a question in terms of which risk she should go for and which she should ditch (note that she got a 10 for her downgraded routine at Super Six), but she’ll get her share of big scores regardless. Those are three of the 10 best beam routines in NCAA right now.

I’m perfectly content to add Dennis to the same category as those three, someone who is showing quite nice leaps and can go 9.850+ even from the leadoff spot, a position I like for her. For the remaining places, UCLA has way too many options, so we’ll see. Hano impressed at Meet the Bruins, and if she continues performing like that, she’s in the lineup. I’d also be partial to a Glenn or two, with those lovely toes, and I still maintain beam is Meraz‘s best event. And then there’s Toronjo, whom we’ve never seen on beam but I’d like to. Kooyman also presents a very real option there, and oops I’ve already named 10 people to the lineup.

This should remain a 49.4 and 49.5 event in 2018.


Floor
Lineup locks
Ohashi (9.880), Hano (-), Dennis (FR), Tratz (FR)
Lineup options
Ross (9.275), Toronjo (9.725), Honest (9.663), Kooyman (FR), Hall (9.610), Savvidou (9.575), Meraz (9.510), Kramer (9.225)

Optimism prevails for UCLA on floor this season, especially compared to last season’s frequently unremarkable showings, because of the introduction of three big-power options not available last year from Hano, Dennis, and Tratz. It’s a reinvented apparatus, not just because of the new routines but because of what appears to be an improved approach to preparation and conditioning now that Jordyn Wieber is in charge of floor.

Let’s be honest: Most years, if UCLA had to show public floor routines on December 9th, we would have seen three double pikes and three dance-throughs. Four E passes at Meet the Bruins was much better. It’s not going to blow down the top teams and suddenly make UCLA top-3 on floor, but it’s a step. In addition to Hano’s DLO, Dennis’s double Arabian, and Tratz’s full-in, Ohashi is adding back a DLO to give her routine an extra boost of difficulty. That should be a strong crop of four sets.

The other two spots are TBD. I’m not sold on Ross for floor. She’s still struggling to get around her double saltos (the good news being that she looks the same now in December as she looked last April, so there’s time), but she’s also Kyla Ross and needs to be in the floor lineup even if she’s doing a bare minimum two-pass random rudi routine. It’s not that hard to get a 10.0 start on floor, and you know she could get huge scores for a super simple routine in the anchor spot. You KNOW it.

We didn’t see Toronjo at Meet the Bruins, but she was quite clean last season once she made it into the lineup and would be an asset again. I also eternally want to see Honest in the lineup because she’s the best performer on the roster right now. As always, Meraz will be a usable choice, and Kooyman looks like a realistic option on this piece as well.

The hope is that, with a little more bigness and a little less unprepared inconsistency (look at those poor averages from last season in the “lineup options” category) that floor can be one of the strong events for UCLA again.


Even if Kocian doesn’t get back, there’s no excuse for this not to be a Super Six season for UCLA. Bars and beam should remain strong, and the introductions of Dennis, Tratz, and a healthy Hano should put vault and floor in a better position to succeed than they were last year.

What keeps the Bruins short of the very top teams is a concern that even if vault and floor do improve, it would take a lot for them to improve up to the level of the best teams. That’s why UCLA still looks like a contender in the lower half of the top six rather than the upper half. I need to see more vaults develop and more early lineup 9.850s across the events in order to truly upgrade UCLA’s chances.

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