Columbus Regional Preview

April 7, 6:00 ET, Ohio State State University

Qualifying to nationals: Top 2 teams, top 2 all-arounders not on advancing teams, any event winners not on advancing teams

Teams (starting event)
[3] UCLA (floor)
[10] Arkansas (beam)
[15] Boise State (bye before floor)
[25] Ohio State (bye before bars)
[33] Pittsburgh (bars)
[34] Kent State (vault)

Individual competitors
Jovannah East, Bowling Green (AA)
Lea Mitchell, Michigan State (AA)
Emili Dobronics, Eastern Michigan (AA)
Morgan Spence, Western Michigan (AA)
Rachael Underwood, Western Michigan (VT, FX)
Lauren DeMeno, Bowling Green (VT)
Hailee Westney, Michigan State (UB)
Kendall Valentin, Eastern Michigan (UB)
Laura Mitchell, Bowling Green (BB)
India McPeak, Bowling Green (BB)
Tia Kiaku, Ball State (FX)

The favorite

Like the other top-ranked teams, UCLA will head into this regional with the luxury of being able to make mistakes and still advance. The Bruins haven’t recorded a score that would be remotely dangerous at regionals since the very first week of the season, and even in semi-problematic meets like Pac-12s when UCLA counted a half-fall on bars, the total was still 197.500—more than high enough to advance comfortably out of a regional. With a real hit, UCLA will expect to win this one by a full point, meaning it would take more than just a counting fall to make things interesting for the top spot.

This is where I’m supposed to talk about vault (because the start values!), but I’m actually going to talk about bars. Bars was expected to be a strength for the Bruins this season, and while the bars performances have been good enough, a rotation that’s kind of 9.825-9.850y until Lee and Ross show up to save the day is not going to win a national championship against the other top bars rotations. At this point, UCLA is not going to change its start values on vault (or, whatever, UCLA things), but cleaning up those mid-bars landings and handstands is something that can still be achieved and will be necessary if UCLA is to be a legitimate title challenger. Watch for that progress at regionals.

The fight

A huge opportunity for both teams. Arkansas and Boise State couldn’t really have asked for a better draw, not tasked with having to beat a traditional power, and both will like their chances of getting through to nationals out of this meet. Of course, there can be only one.

This has been a magnificent season for Arkansas, coming back from the disappointment of 2017 to rank in the top 10 once again. We knew it would be better, but not that much better. As much as having Wellick again has buoyed the team’s performance, just as much of the credit (if not more) goes to new competitors like Shaffer and Carter and improved returners like Garner, forced to transform from a bars/beam specialist into an all-arounder because that’s what the team needed from her.

We have seen 197s and program records from Arkansas at home this year, but the question still lingers as to what Arkansas can score at a neutral, four-judge, postseason-eye environment. Nearly all of Arkansas’s road scores this year have been in the lower half of the 196s, and 196.3 or 196.4 is a score Boise State would feel comfortable in its ability to beat on a given day.

Isn’t it bizarre how things work out? Boise State has never made nationals before, and last year looked to be the year. Boise State finished the season 11th, came into regionals as a #2 seed, and then got saddled with Nebraska and promptly eliminated despite a fine-not-great 196.150. This season, Boise State performed weaker overall, finishing 15th, but has been given what looks like a much more manageable regionals task this time around, even as a #3 seed. BSU has gone over 196.5 in its last four consecutive meets (three on the road) and will hope that reflects legitimate postseason scoring potential.

The pedigree of away scores favors Boise State, reinforced most recently at the conference championships when Boise State scored 196.875 to Arkansas’s 196.425. But, does that really reflect Boise State being the better team at a neutral-scoring venue? Or was Boise State just the best team competing in its away MRGC meets, while Arkansas was not typically the best team competing in its away SEC meets, where the heights of the scoring range had to be saved for other teams?

Vault will be an enormous difference maker in this one. By a sizable margin, vault is the weak event for Arkansas in 2018, particularly since the injury to McGlone, with the score entirely reliant on five 9.95 starts being landed as well as possible. Boise State, meanwhile, will expect to deliver four 10.0 starts and a full lineup of six usable scores at regionals, meaning BSU has the opportunity to develop a multi-tenth margin on vault solely because of start values. That would be quite significant, possibly determinative, in a close contest like this. At the same time, Boise State’s actual vault RQS is only about a tenth better than Arkansas’s, not multiple tenths—primarily because of landing control. Good, useful, but not a meet-changing margin.

Arkansas will want to keep that vault margin around a tenth. Boise State needs it to be multiple tenths. If the vault margin in close, Arkansas will like its chances to pull this out on the other pieces since it was those big bars and beam rotation totals that lifted Arkansas’s ranking this season. Even then, there’s not a lot in this thing. Boise State is still Boise State on bars despite having to use a few more 9.750s this year, both teams are slightly terrifying on beam, and floor is quite close despite Arkansas paying the price at times this season for not having particularly big routines.

Don’t sleep on this one because it should be as good as the 12-13 and 11-14 fights.

The spoiler

We have another potential host spoiler in Ohio State—a team that started the season dreadfully with that bars disaster against UCLA, not the way a mid-range team wants to perform in its highest-profile setting of the season. But, once the full lineups got healthy and more comfortable, and now that Mattern has started Matterning on three events again, Ohio State turned into a 196-capable team that becomes especially dangerous here if Arkansas and Boise State have some special moments and get stuck in the low 196s. Not out of the question at all.

Normally, this Ohio State team wouldn’t look like a potentially compelling upset threat because there will be 9.7s peppered through the first few routines on each event, but in this regional, as a host, it’s not ridiculous to think Ohio State will be close enough to pounce on mistakes. It would take mistakes, though. A full-strength hit from either Arkansas or Boise State likely eliminates OSU, but full-strength hits aren’t a resting state for most teams.

The others

For Pittsburgh, even being in this position is massive. This is Pitt’s first time making regionals since 2013 and depending on Saturday’s result, 2018 could rank as one of the program’s best-ever finishes. Pitt did end up 26th in 2003, but other than that has not gone higher than 32nd in decades.

Pitt’s current ranking is 33, already a dramatic improvement from last season’s ranking of 53, one of the weakest in program history.

Feels like Samantha Snider is going to have this job for a while, unless she gets immediately poached. A twenty-spot ranking improvement in one year is the kind of thing that turns heads.

The introductions of Brechwald and Conrad have been tremendous this season in increasing Pitt’s scoring potential and making 196s a real possibility, a trend that would have continued at EAGLs with a hit beam. We’re less likely to see Pitt sneak into the 196s at regionals, which is what it would take to be a team threat here, but a hit meet regardless of the score is going to make for a historically excellent final ranking.

Unfortunately for Kent State, its regional outlook is clouded by the injury to Rachel Stypinski, suffered on her final routine on senior day. Because life. Stypinki’s 9.9+ ability on bars, beam, and floor carried the team toward 196 potential in her last few meets (and by the last few meets, I mean the last four years). Her absence could not be ignored in a sudden 194.375, multi-fall performance at MACs.

Kent State is hoping to have Stypinski back on bars at regionals, taking some pressure off that lineup, but it’s difficult to see Kent State pulling a Kent-State-2011 this season without full-strength lineups on beam and floor because it would take an absolutely full-strength hit to challenge all of these higher-ranked teams.

The individual qualification race in this regional will most likely be decided among the AAers from whichever seeded team does not advance. If it’s UCLA and Arkansas going through, then Shani Remme (#15) is a significant favorite to make nationals, most likely along with one of her teammates, Courtney McGregor (#46) or Sandra Collantes, who recently added back the all-around and can get a competitive number on each piece.

Their biggest challengers would be Haley Brechwald (#46) of Pitt, who is tied with McGregor in the rankings and typically goes 39.2 or 39.3, or Alexis Mattern (#61) of Ohio State, who can get the numbers on vault and floor to rival any of the individuals here but often has to use a low beam score, reducing her AA competitiveness.

If it’s UCLA and Boise State going through, then replace Shani Remme with Amanda Wellick, still the most likely of the Arkansas gymnasts to get a big AA score, and replace McGregor and Collantes with Sarah Shaffer (#40) and Jessica Yamzon (#49), who typically go back and forth between themselves for very similar scores.

Whichever way you cut it, we should end up with five major competitors for those two all-around spots.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS
Rotation 1 – Kent St VT, Pitt UB, Arkansas BB, UCLA FX
1. UCLA – 49.575
2. Arkansas – 49.285
3. Pitt – 49.155
4. Kent State – 48.840

Pitt would be very happy with keeping things this close against Arkansas after one event, but if Arkansas gets through beam with something like 49.2 or 49.3, it’s that much harder to see Arkansas coming back to the pack.

Rotation 2 – UCLA VT, Ohio St, UB, Pitt BB, Boise St FX
1. UCLA – 99.010
2. Pitt – 97.960
3. Boise State – 49.300
4. Arkansas – 49.285
5. Ohio State – 49.185
6. Kent State – 48.840

RQS says it should be close, but you have to think Boise State wants a real, hearty lead over Arkansas after one piece, having done floor versus Arkansas having done beam.

Rotation 3 – Boise St VT, Kent St UB, Ohio St BB, Arkansas FX
1. UCLA – 99.010
2. Arkansas – 98.550
3. Boise State – 98.460
4. Ohio State – 98.045
5. Kent State – 98.020
6. Pitt – 97.960

If this kind of margin between the top three and the bottom three has established itself at the halfway point, it’s hard to see the 4-6 teams making that ground back on both Arkansas and Boise State in the second half.

Rotation 4 – Arkansas VT, UCLA UB, Kent St BB, Pitt FX
1. UCLA – 148.435
2. Arkansas – 147.605
3. Pitt – 147.035
4. Kent State – 146.880
5. Boise State – 98.460
6. Ohio State – 98.045

Arkansas’s critical vault comes in the fourth rotation and cannot be a 48, otherwise Boise State will be eager to pounce.

Rotation 5 – Pitt VT, Boise St UB, UCLA BB, Ohio St FX
1. UCLA – 198.005
2. Pitt – 195.990
3. Boise State – 147.680
4. Arkansas – 147.605
5. Ohio State – 147.340
6. Kent State – 146.880

Ohio State does floor in the 5th rotation, so we’ll know if Ohio State is in it by seeing if that floor score catches Boise State and Arkansas. If there’s still a multi-tenth gap at this point, as RQS predicts, then Ohio State isn’t going to get it done.

Rotation 6 – Ohio St VT, Arkansas UB, Boise St BB, Kent St FX
1. UCLA – 198.005
2. Arkansas – 196.945
3. Boise State – 196.770
4. Ohio State – 196.425
5. Kent State – 196.130
6. Pitt – 195.990

Event RQS is much more favorable to Arkansas than overall RQS. The margin in the overall rankings between Arkansas and Boise State is less than a tenth, but by events, it’s closer to two tenths.

It’s also interesting how event RQS inverts the Pitt and Kent State positions pretty dramatically.

By the numbers

[1] UCLA
RQS: 197.840 [1]
Season high: 198.275 [1]
Season average: 197.554 [1]

VT RQS: 49.435 [1]
VT average: 49.285 [1]
UB RQS: 49.425 [1]
UB average: 49.346 [1]
BB RQS: 49.570 [1]
BB average: 49.452 [1]
FX RQS: 49.575 [1]
FX average: 49.471 [1]

[2] Arkansas
RQS: 196.820 [2]
Season high: 197.300 [2]
Season average: 196.454 [2]

VT RQS: 49.055 [4]
VT average: 48.983 [4]
UB RQS: 49.340  [2]
UB average: 49.194 [2] 
BB RQS: 49.285 [2]
BB average: 49.167 [2]
FX RQS: 49.265 [4]
FX average: 49.092 [5]

[3] Boise State
RQS: 196.745 [3]
Season high: 197.000 [3]
Season average: 196.441 [3]

VT RQS: 49.160 [2]
VT average: 49.091 [2]
UB RQS: 49.220 [3]
UB average: 49.111 [3]
BB RQS: 49.090 [3]
BB average: 49.018 [3]
FX RQS: 49.300 [2]
FX average: 49.220 [2]

[4] Ohio State
RQS: 196.215 [4]
Season high: 196.775 [4]
Season average: 195.656 [4]

VT RQS: 49.085 [3]
VT average: 49.000 [3]
UB RQS: 49.185 [4]
UB average: 48.908 [6]
BB RQS: 48.860 [4]
BB average: 48.596 [4]
FX RQS: 49.295 [3]
FX average: 49.152 [4]

[5] Pittsburgh
RQS: 195.875 [5]
Season high: 196.475 [6]
Season average: 195.005 [6]

VT RQS: 48.955 [5]
VT average: 48.734 [5]
UB RQS: 49.155 [6]
UB average: 48.934 [4]
BB RQS: 48.805 [6]
BB average: 48.357 [6]
FX RQS: 49.075 [6]
FX average: 48.980 [6]

[6] Kent State
RQS: 195.855 [6]
Season high: 196.625 [5]
Season average: 195.232 [5]

VT RQS: 48.840 [6]
VT average: 48.657 [6]
UB RQS: 49.180 [5]
UB average: 48.918 [5]
BB RQS: 48.860 [4]
BB average: 48.473 [5]
FX RQS: 49.250 [5]
FX average: 49.184 [3]




6 thoughts on “Columbus Regional Preview”

  1. Thanks to The Balance Beam Situation for the excellent Regionals previews.

    FWIW, Peng previews UCLA’s new regional leotards at her Peng Peng Lee Youtube channel video uploaded 4/1/18 entitled
    between the 6:55 mark and the 7:50 mark.

    UCLA is also going crazy that Ohashi’s Pac12 FX routine video has gone viral with over 40 Million views and counting via the International Gymnast Magazine facebook page

  2. I’d love India to sneak into Nationals by winning beam but it doesn’t seem likely with the UCLA beam lineup

    1. Yeah, Katelyn Ohashi, Peng Peng Lee and Kyla Ross all have a really good chance to win Beam, and if Kocian manages to get through with no wobbles, she might because the judges keep on giving her high scores even with visible errors. Peng also usually has mistakes overlooked to score a 10.

    2. If Arkansas doesn’t go through, I would love to see Sophia Carter go through on beam or floor. But being with UCLA makes that near impossible. It’s nearly guaranteed that at least one of Ross, Ohashi, or Lee goes 9.95. It will take a major wobble for them to go below 9.9 and even then they sometimes get a 9.9.

  3. I would love for Arkansas and Ohio State to qualify. I know the chance of that happening is 0.000001%, but a girl can dream.

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