Super Six 2018: What. Just. Happened?

UCLA wins! Just like we all predicted!

Except not. UCLA had situated itself cozily among the pack of four legitimate title contenders entering nationals—but was certainly not the leader of that pack. Third place would have been seen as a very solid result and sign of improvement in 2018, so winning a title will go down as a true upset. Not a completely baffling, shocking upset, but something along the lines of Oklahoma winning its first title with the tie in 2014. Oklahoma was likewise among the top contenders that year, but actually winning a championship was a leap for that team—about a year earlier than expected at the time—and similar is true for UCLA. The Bruins made the unforeseen leap this year, when next year (with the additions of Frazier and Flatley, having a fuller-strength Kocian) and the following season were supposed to be UCLA’s biggest shots at another championship.

Instead, it’s a 2018 title for the Bruins, their seventh overall, as they jump back ahead of Alabama for sole possession of third place on the all-time list.

So what just happened? An extremely competitive, deliciously exciting Super Six is what just happened, a meet that stylishly sends the Super Six postseason format to its rightful place—super six feet underground—while still serving as an excellent advertisement for next year’s four-team final since this…basically was a four-team final.

It’s tough to beat this year’s Super Six on excitement level, though I’m not among those shouting from the rooftops about the amazing quality of the actual gymnastics. There were fantastic moments of course, but what made the competition so exciting and enjoyable wasn’t some amazing high level of peak performance. It was that everyone had issues, keeping them all bunched together. Team “I just want everyone to do their best and hit at the same time” will not have enjoyed this one because that’s not remotely what happened. Team “GRRR BLOOD WAR PLEASE” will have enjoyed this one because it was close and dramatic and full of equal peaks and valleys. I enjoyed this one.

We saw an unexpected number of mistakes from teams that should have been able to go 24-for-24 in Super Six. Our national champion won with two falls, which hasn’t happened since Florida’s infamous beam in 2013. No one hit a complete and fantastic meet of four events, which also serves to stunt some potentially brewing controversy. Not a single one of the six teams, even UCLA, can righteously say “We deserved that win based on our performance on the day.” No one did, no one completely nailed it, so they all left it in the hands of the judges. If Oklahoma showed up and had been completely lights out again this year, Oklahoma would have won, but that’s not what happened, which gave us a thrilling meet and an upset winner.

If I had watched the meet without knowing any of the scores, I likely still would have named Oklahoma the champion, but it was extremely close. It’s far too simplistic and inaccurate just to say that UCLA was held up in the scores. All of the major teams were held up in the scores and showered with gifts on more than a handful of routines. For every mathematically impossible judge that gave Janay Honest an actual 10 on bars or even 9.900 (but really what?) or ignored Kocian’s double stag on floor, you can point to Oklahoma’s tentative beam performances or some of those bouncy floor passes, or Finnegan getting over 9.8 for a bars routine where she went over on a handstand. There were preposterous scores everywhere. You can’t talk about overscores for one without addressing the overscores for all. And, when seen with sober eyes, they were for all.

Or, the entire thing was rigged. Also a fair assessment. The NCAA gymnastics writers definitely earned their paychecks for this season finale.

Side note: I actually thought Florida got the fewest preposterous scores compared to the other three top finishers (what world is this??????) but had too many issues on beam and parts of floor to make a particularly compelling argument as a rightful champion. Having to count the Boren beam because of the McMurtry fall is the kind of thing that takes you out of contention in a close meet like this. Although, I did think it was a little harsh that Florida didn’t have the lead after two events. Florida was the best team in the first half of the meet, just couldn’t keep it going after that.

Florida will probably be playing the what-if game after that performance because it could have been a win with just a little more on beam. Or with a little Kennedy Baker.

So you have two performances from Oklahoma and UCLA, one that was quite good on all four pieces but that gave away a little ground on each from Oklahoma, and one that was kind of mediocre on two events and then absolutely fantastic on two events from UCLA. I suppose that evens out in the end, which is exactly what we had, a meet that was more-or-less a tie that went to UCLA because the Bruins got the hits in the important moments. It’s nonetheless unusual and still very surprising to have a team that was no better than OK on two events win a championship, but the door was open for it.

If you’re looking for specifics of what gave UCLA the advantage, the way the teams reacted to the early-lineup beam falls is a check in UCLA’s corner. Both teams had an early fall, but after the fall, UCLA got better and Oklahoma got tight. Not majorly tight, not significant errors, but leans on gainer fulls and checks on layouts and slower connections. A hole was poked in the confident crispness we expect from Oklahoma beam, and when the ultimate margin is smaller than a single deduction, these things matter.

The rotation order did end up being very beneficial for this year’s UCLA team—finishing on the event where it can best snatch drunken end-of-meet scores—but it was also an ideal rotation order for Oklahoma, getting to finish on its best event. Oklahoma’s bars performance was another of the surprises of Super Six because while good, it was definitely not great. Oklahoma, with a clear lead, going to the last event, finishing on bars? I think we all expected a stick-fest clinic, and that’s not what we got until Nichols. There were hops. There were handstands. It wasn’t perfect. We expect perfect from Oklahoma on bars, and it turns out that the rotation needed to be perfect because we did get perfect from UCLA. And by UCLA I mean Peng.

Peng’s Perfect 20 will go down as the legend of nationals 2018, and she certainly brought her best possible gymnastics at the best possible moment. She is capable of doing neither routine any better than she did in Super Six, and while the prudent judge would deduct for shape in the dismount on both events, those were not among the top 20 most egregious judging decisions on the day. I have little problem calling those routines, particularly beam, perfect. Should they actually be free from deductions? No. But in the current NCAA score-scape, those are 10s. In fact, all of the 10s we saw at championships were legitimate 10s. Not all of the 10s we saw from individual judges were legitimate 10s, but that’s why we drop scores.

Now it’s time to address LSU, the team that will probably be the most disappointed by its Super Six performance because several of LSU’s midseason meets would have been good enough to win this title on the day, and the scores were there for them. The judges were ready for LSU to win a title, particularly on bars and beam where LSU received the same benefit of the doubt as the other preordained championship options, but the quality of meet just didn’t happen. It was still a strong performance, but like Florida’s, one that had too many small mistakes to be a championship meet, without the same BIG AMAZING moments that allowed UCLA to cover up its own issues.

LSU had the Macadaeg beam issue (of course that would be Macadaeg’s final beam routine because goodbye cruel world), the Finnegan bars, the Priessman ankle that looked like it absolutely could not stand up to those floor passes, the everyone’s vault except Sarah Edwards. There was a moment after Edwards stuck that vault that I think everyone thought LSU would go on a run of sticks and be the team that made that huge, late push, but the majority of the rest of the vaults just weren’t there.

The question now is where LSU goes from here because despite a successful season, this 4th-place finish will feel like a regression immediately following two 2nd-place finishes. What’s more, there are currently no new gymnasts scheduled to come in for next year. Currently.

Get in loser, we’re going beam shopping.

The big four teams finished well ahead of Utah and Nebraska, which both ultimately came in a point behind and never really challenged the top few. Nebraska will not be overly pleased with its actual Super Six performance, which began with mistakes on bars in the first rotation (over on a handstand, a foot-brush), taking the team out of contention right away and ensuring it would not end up with an ideal score. At the same time, making Super Six was a gigantic victory for Nebraska and displayed clear improvement over last season. Even with a completely hit meet, Nebraska was probably peaking out at fifth place here, so the legacy of this nationals performance will be making Super Six in the first place rather than a bars rotation that took the air out right as Super Six started.

Utah’s fifth-place finish is one of the more interesting dynamics because unlike Nebraska, which will view reaching this point as a major accomplishment, Utah will view reaching Super Six as been-there-done-that-yawn, despite this result pretty accurately mimicking expectations based on the regular season. It’s another year of fifth place (which makes four times in the last eight seasons). Another year of getting to the final day but not finishing all that close to the best teams upon arrival. Utah’s actual performance was OK, but the team will be disappointed in the quality of the landings, which most clearly took away the scores on vault and floor for counting 9.7s, but kept all four events bunched down in the 9.8s overall.

The team will also, of course, be disappointed that UCLA won another title. Just pour some lemon juice on the wound. Next year ought to be fun.

In the next post, I’ll break down in detail the major stories of the semifinals and individual competitions and judging. There’s a lot more to get through.

82 thoughts on “Super Six 2018: What. Just. Happened?”

  1. I. Can’t. Wait.
    GymCastic Live Show AND Spencer’s detailed breakdown.
    My GymNerd heaven.

  2. I want to push back a little on the idea that you’re “supposed” to go 24-for-24 to win. Isn’t one of the beautiful parts of college gymnastics that you can afford a fall without your score being affected, that it allows a little more risk and a little more comfort and a little more actual teamwork?

    Obviously, there is the age-old point that you could theoretically get a 200 with 4 falls as long as they are on different events, but two falls on one event will take you out of contention, and that that is weird. But that is also beside the point.

    1. Yes. The mention that it was the first time a champion was crowned who had two falls since 2013 Florida wasn’t quite correct…

      Florida had TWO falls on BEAM and then nailed the other three events cold (though I do think their first floor worker also fell but it was drooped).

      UCLA had two falls (floor, beam) but NEVER counted a fall like Florida had to. If the Bruins had counted a fall they would’ve finished a distant fourth.

      1. No it was correct no other championship team has had two falls since that Florida team, whether counted or not. While it is true that theoretically it shouldn’t matter the reality is that your putting up gymnasts of different caliber and routines of different quality. If gymnast 4 falls and you have to count beam routine 1 you are leaving points in the table. UCLA was able to overcome this because other girls stepped up. They were able to absorb Kyla’s fall because Madison and pulla came through. They were able to absorb Maddie’s fall because Glenn got a huge score

  3. Spencer your analysis is golden and wonderful! Thank you for the terrific fun and accurate callouts on best moments and artful creative judging!

  4. The good news for LSU is that (hopefully) McKenna should be back and at full strength and doing three events, negating (hopefully) the loss of Myia on at least vault and floor and in one of the beam spots (though who knows if she’ll have as consistent of a beam as Myia). The rest of the beam though…don’t know who can take Macadaeg’s spot and hopefully Campbell will become more consistent and better-scored in her second year…Desiderio was showing the makings of a very consistent and potentially high-scoring beam/floor performer by the end of the season.

    For LSU, I think next year really might be the year with Kelley unlikely to redshirt and the other seniors (Priessman, Finnegan, and Canamela)

    Also, one point to address about Finnegan’s bars at nationals – yes, that is generally too high for the mistake that she made, but was in line with the judging for Kocian on a similar mistake on day 1 and for a nebraska gymnast in the rotation prior to LSU’s in the finals. Part of me thinks – they would have given her a ten after those two 9.95s from Edney and Priessman but for that mistake, and that might have made the difference… But it was a great and exciting meet and I am pumped for next year.

    1. Why do you think Kelley is unlikely to redshirt? I thought when she first was injured she was already talking about redshirting and getting the opportunity to do a fifth season while her little sister was a freshman?

      Did something change?

      1. There was local reporting in the Baton Rouge newspaper last week (a feature on McKenna) where she said that she didn’t think her body could handle two more years; in the article it made it sound that her redshirting was less likely than everyone e previously thought right after she got hurt; I think the article also mentioned that she would still miss her sister by a year (though that it is also not what was originally reported)

    2. I haven’t heard anything about Kelley not redshirting? I thought I heard her say she wanted to in one of her vlogs. Unless I’ve missed something.
      As for beam, it will be hard to replace Macadaeg and Hambrick. But I think Desiderio will be huge on beam, and Bridget Dean has a gorgeous beam that could be in that lineup.

      LSU has great recruits coming in the next few years, so I think they’re only going to get better even with the loss of Priessman, Finny, and Canamela next year.

      I’ve heard rumors LSU may get a transfer for next year. Or I hope one of the 2019 recruits will come in early. Not having any new freshman next season worries me lol.

      1. Kelley said that she is glad that she has that option but that she’s leaning toward not redshirting. LSU’s year kind of needed to come last year. unless they get an Edwards level walk-on (someone who can reasonably score a 9.9+ on more than one event), they could suffer. I think vault and floor will be about the same, Kelley can score 9.9 on floor, and as long as one of the current freshmen or Kelley can do the same on vault, they’ll be fine. Bars and Beam are a concern. Hambrick and Macadaeg are big contributors and with no clear replacement or freshmens, that could be a problem. They’re going to need a good bar or beam worker to graduate early in order to show up as a champion level team.

  5. I’m soo soo soooo happy that UCLA is on an upward trend. However, Norah Flatley really needs to nail bars and beam so she can effectively replace Peng. Also, Nia Dennis should step her game up, particularly on bars and vault. Add in a release, and perform a 10.0 sv vault please!

    1. I think that Frazier will bump Dennis out of the vault lineup, Wright will replace Pua, Frazier and Flatley will replace Honest and Peng on Bars, I think Flatley will replace Peng on Beam and that Frazier and Nguyen will battle for the Beam spot and I think Frazier will bump Kocian out of floor. Dennis will be the hardest one to predict, I can see her being an all arounder just as easily as a one event specialist. If Kocian can get back to consistently getting 9.9s on floor it’ll be a four way battle between Kramer, Ross,Frazier and Kocian and maybe Dennis can squeeze back in, but I’m not sure.

      1. Let’s not make the mistake of hailing Flatley as the next 10.0 queen just yet. We’ve barely seen her compete the past year and you also never know how former elites will make the NCAA transition.

      2. I completely agree with J. I remember in preseason when a bunch of people said Nia Dennis and Jazmyn Foberg were going to be huge stars for their teams. Both of those athletes were important contributors for their teams who put up usable scores on multiple events every week, but neither of them were among the highest scorers on their teams. You just never know until you actually see an athlete compete in NCAA.

      3. I don’t know if Flatley will be a 10 scoring gymnast off the bat like Nichols, Ross and Skinner were. But I do think she’ll be on the lineups for Bars and Beam. I expect her to get at least 9.85-9.9, not necessarily a 10, just usable scores.

      4. I think UCLA should put Kramer last on floor a la Bridgey Caquatto. If she is clean, her score would easily be 9.95 at Home and many away meets. Ohashi will score high whether 5th or anchor and Kramer could get that “anchor bump.”

    2. Don’t forget the Glenn’s will also be healthy and go on the events they didn’t this year and their clean gymnastics is always a 9.9 threat. Brielle has a nice floor at Illinois. I’d like to see

      V: Pauline, Kyla, Frazier, Hano, Kramer, Sekai
      Bars: Glenn/Frazier, Glenn, Nia, Norah,Madison, Kyla
      Beam: Nguyen, Norah, Glenn, Glenn, Madison, Kyla
      FX: Pauline, Madison/Nia, Kramer, Frazier, Hano, Ohashi

      1. You want them to remove Ohashi from their beam lineup? The only way I can see that happening is if she’s injured. She was first in the country on beam in 2017 and third in the country in 2018.

  6. Spencer, you’re forgetting Myia Hambrick’s vault in Super Six. She drilled it! Even better than Edwards.

    1. Hambrick’s vault was the best she has ever done and was better than Edwards’ and Cannamella’s full was also a cold stick. Due to score building with sticks the end may have been different had Harrold and Edney also stuck their 1.5s.

      1. The ending might have also been different if Lehrmann/McMurtry didn’t fall on beam, or if AJ Jackson didn’t go OOB, or… the list is endless!

        Saying that LSU would have done better if “xyz” happened on vault is nonsense, because it didn’t happen. The top 4 teams (UCLA, OK, FL, LSU) all had fantastic meets and should be proud of their performances/placements without this “well, if they did this landing, then they could have been 0.1 higher with the score building, then they could have edged out FL, and if Peng got 0.05 off, then…” It’ll drive you crazy to think about all of the “what ifs” lol.

  7. Usually the cracky scoring doesn’t bother me too much because the right team typically wins. I’m just not sure the right team won this time and it’s bothering me more than it probably should. Should a team win a title off of one and a half killer rotations? UCLA’s more pragmatic- to put it nicely- approach to bars obviously paid off, but other than Peng’s routine it’s not much fun to watch.

    Those beam judges just go nuts in the last rotation of Super Six. They did the same thing last year. Who would have thought that it would be an advantage to end on beam?

    1. I am not disappointed with the outcome because it was an exciting finish and the teams were all SO close, but I, too, am left wondering if the right team really won. Was UCLA as whole REALLY nearly 4 tenths better on beam than the rest of the field?

      1. In my opinion, absolutely. I think the question of whether that should have been enough to make up for their lackluster VT and FX is pretty fair (I say yes, but understand if others disagree). But I don’t think it’s nearly as debatable that UCLA was absolutely head and shoulders above the other teams on BB. They were excellent. Other teams, especially Oklahoma, were not.

      2. definitely. the bruins’ beam routines are all 9.9+ worthy. maybe less so for nyugen but with a hit everyone else in the lineup (glenn, kocian, ohashi, ross and lee) are 9.9+. their beam workers are absolutely gorgeous with little built in deductions and an ease that screams natural beamer.

        i love their beam team.

      3. It’s not like these are scores these girls haven’t gotten. All of them are 9.9+ sets that have revived those scores on the regular season multiple times. Go back and watch 9.85 and 9.875 routines from the other teams and look at the leaps etc. I think the scoring there was fair

  8. Loved this last super six(really 4) so much! As someone who isn’t passionate about any one team it was just plain good telly! I think a team other than Oklahoma had to win to make this a really fun one just because they were so dominate coming in. Kinda like Biles last quad where it’s “okay well let’s see who gets second”.

  9. I think there was a big issue with scoring not just by leotard, but by individual gymnast. Pauline Tratz hits and doesn’t get rewarded, Katelyn Ohashi stumbles and gets a 9.950. Similarly, Maggie Nichols gets a gift on beam, but Oklahoma’s freshmen are given almost cursory scores in the low-to-mid 9.8s for very solid hit routines. It seems like this whole meet could have been judged ahead of time, give or take a fall or a step out of bounds here and there. What I’m interested in is whether those really big gifts really did even out at the end of the day. On a day when the only 10s delivered went to Peng, and they won UCLA a championship, were the judges judging with their brains or with their feelings?

    1. I actually disagree with you about the low Freshman scores and here are a few examples:
      1. Nia Dennis is ALWAYS overscored (remember her 9.95 vault that was more like an 9.85 at best?)
      2. Anastasia Webb got a 9.95 on one of the bounciest floor routines at that particular competition. I think she is also consistently overscored.
      3. Evy Schopfer gets the floor scores she deserves, which tend to run 9.8ish
      4. Many freshman score well (deservedly) including Edwards’ 1.5, Baumann on floor/beam, Desiderio on floor/beam, Skaggs on bars, Woodard on beam, etc.

      However, there are certain more senior gymnasts who always have mistakes overlooked. Ohashi is the number one “gift-getter” in terms of scores. Finnegan, Priessman, Nichols, McMurtry, and sometimes even Peng are usually immune to reductions, too. I think Hambrick, Boren, Skinner, Gowey tend to be more fairly scored.

      1. These “overscored” complaints are always hilarious. If Dennis is “always” overscored, then maybe it’s you who is out of step and not the judges.
        Yes, Lee, and Ohashi, and to some extent Nichols as well, make small mistakes that could be deductions, but their difficulty counters those deductions and earns forgiveness. Most judges understand this. A lot of fans do not.

      2. I think Nia Dennis just looks so much more impressive live than on television. On the replay you see the bent knees, little pike on her vaults, but if you see it live from the side, you notice how much bigger, more explosive her vault is than of most of the other yfulls. Saw two of them in the arena and was “9.900!” And when I rewatched them at home.. “more like a 9.800…”

      3. “Difficulty countering deductions” is certainly true in elite, but has been less true in NCAA. I don’t like the concept because a routine with a 10 SV should start from a 10 whether the athlete goes above and beyond in difficulty or not. Judges, according to the code and rules, must take deductions. If they aren’t, then they aren’t doing their job.

  10. I called UCLA as the winner as soon as they made top 12…..and folks called me crazy. I just got a sense of judges having “Oklahoma faigue” and being sick of them winning …not because they’re not good but looking for a capable replacement….someone new, but not out of the only 6 teams to ever win new… My theory was if UCLA came sooooo close to Oklahoma , then the judging would go in their favor…and it did.

    Going into her routine , the commentators noted that Peng needed “at least a 9.975 to tie””and I said, if she has no glaring mistake (versus her overlooked shape deductions in her flight and dismount) , she would get the 10 and UCLA would win. The fact that not one of the six beam judges gave her anything but a 10 totally was in line with how I thought it would go. I’m not saying Peng wasn’t good and that wasn’t the best she could do but if a gym mom can spot a shape deduction, then 6 NCAA judges should be able to as well.

    I am happy for UCLA and especially Jordyn , who should be heir apparent to Val , Kyla and Ohashi…

    1. The form on the flight series actually isn’t even a deduction (open to pike is in the code in NCAA unlike elite, I know this blog has talked at length about it). And if we are talking flexed feet or slightly bent knees we know that wasn’t taken much of anywhere either unless especially obvious. Plus from watching the entire comp, shape on dismounts and landing positions on dismounts/tumbling isn’t something that was really taken for any team (Peng, Maggie’s stagger landings, Hambrick’s DLO, shape on many of the 1.5s for all teams, landing off bars & leaning forward almost to the point of a fall/hands down by lehramann still get 9.9s from multiple judges).

      I see where you are coming from and totally agree they are probably deductions, its just not things that were really being taken often much of anywhere for any team. I also truly don’t see any coaches committee agreeing to overhaul of judging that would lower scores across the board because high scores and “record breaking” meets/event totals/RQS is a good story and makes them look good to the athletic departments.

    2. The only shape deduction that should have been taken was on her dismount. Her flight series was fine. In NCAA, a bhs layout/pike is a separate skill from the layout and the pike, so there shouldn’t have been any deduction there. Yes, her dismount was slightly piked, but NCAA is very lenient, and her “shape” is a very very small deduction in the grand scheme of things. Compared to other routines that got tens, Peng’s routine(s) absolutely deserved the score they received.

      1. You make my point by saying ” the only shape deduction that should have been taken was”….there was a deduction , and it wasn’t taken. I said that if she had “no glaring mistake” she would get the 10, and she did. A 9.975 wouldn’t have been a “bad” score for that routine either.

        I just think the judges should do their complete jobs by taking deductions where they exist and let the scores be reflective of what is actually done. I get that coaches want high scores but it seems like the legitimacy of the sport is at risk…..or is it just folks familiar with gymnastics who realize the scores aren’t real?

      2. Well, NCAA is very different from elite. In elite, it’s pretty much impossible to do a routine without deductions. However, In NCAA, lots of deductions that could/should be taken aren’t, and that’s ok. NCAA has a very laid back environment, unlike elite, and that’s how the judging goes in that aspect of the sport. I guarantee you that every 10.0 routine would not receive a perfect E score in elite. I guess my problem was that Peng is an iconic gymnast, she just led her team to a national championship as a senior, and she scored a perfect 20 in her meet, yet you felt the need to tear her down and call her perfect, FINAL ROUTINE OF HER CAREER less than perfect. Yes, her shape is SLIGHTLY piked, but overall, that routine was the most confident, flawless routine she’s ever done, and I guess it irked me that you felt the need to criticize her for her form.

        And I understand what you’re saying about ncaa judging being too loose. However, NCAA is supposed to be the laid back, fun, easy going cousin of Elite. I like the scoring the way it is, where many gymnasts can standout, and score a perfect 10.0 and feel good about themselves. Every single skill is going to have some type of deduction. Peng’s 9 degree piked layout dismount is among the smallest of deductions and does not warrant a lower score because of it. (Side note, UCLA did not just win it because the judges got tired of Oklahoma, they won it because of hella strong beam and floor rotations, and a great fight/determination) good day to you!

      3. Honestly only people who understand the code of points (i.e. people who read blogs like this one) would have any complaints for things like shape deduction on a dismount for slight piking. It doesn’t really take away the legitimacy of the sports in the grand scheme of things because most people just don’t care.

        Just think back at Worlds 2017 and remember how unsatisfying it was to see a solid beam routine score a 7.8 E score. A 9.6 or a 9.7 (i.e. a top score in J.O.) for a great routine would be equally unsatisfying for NCAA spectators.

    3. Of course the judges saw the shape deduction. They chose not to deduct for it because her difficulty level was off the charts. You can get away with more if you do more. That’s how it’s always been. When a perfect beamer does a blase routine worthy of 9.95, and Lee follows with a slightly flawed out of this world beam, she gets a 10 because you can’t start from 11, which you should in Lee’s case.
      UCLA gets dinged on vaults because they have few high difficulty vaults. They get the benefit on beam.

      1. Other than Peng’s routine and Ohashi’s dismount, the rest of those UCLA beam routines are pretty stock NCAA beam routines, skills-wise. The rest of line-up shouldn’t be getting a difficulty bonus just because Peng’s routine is hard. When Grace Glenn got a 9.9375 in the lead off in Super Six, I knew the judges were going to give it to UCLA. Her execution is lovely, but that routine is nothing spectacular.

      2. That being the case, explain Skinner on Vault and Floor. Way more difficulty thank any other gymnast in the NCAA, strong hit performances week after week. She did not receive a single 10 this entire season. Not even at UCLA the home of the perfect 10. I am not snarking at Peng’s 2 10s at Nationals – she was brilliant – however your comment about difficulty being rewarded following another high scoring routine is not always true. There were so many glaring overscores over the two days it is hard to pinpoint the ones that “caused” the wins and losses. There are several that stick out in my mind but I am not going to give specifics. There were also a lot of underscores – this one I will mention – the worst was Tiffany Lewis from Utah. She was underscored on virtually every event. I also think Elizabeth Price was underscored – but just a little. I have watched meets over the entire season both recorded and in person (luckily I get to travel for work and can schedule some appointments to meet my gymnastics obsession). I have been to UCLA – OK – FLA – WASH – UT – Boise (love that place – super cool fans) – Denver – Kent St and a few others. There are some schools that are Waaaaaay over scored. UCLA this year put it together regardless of the season overscores and I think they earned the win. This Ute fan give them a hearty Congrats!!!! Peng will be missed – Janae and Sonja – my personal favorites – good luck to you both. Hoping for a better post season for Utah next year. Tiffany, hope you get the media job of your dreams. Spencer, thank you so much for a season of hard work. My final GO UTES!!

      3. I agree that Skinner has been underscored at times – and I don’t say that lightly, since I think complaining about scoring is usually petty nonsense. And as a UCLA fan, I never mind UT slipping a bit. But I actually like Skinner and think she’s amazing. Still, the final rankings this year turned out pretty accurate to performance. There will always be subjective differences in scoring. Rarely are the judges on crack.
        And yes, some venues tend to score higher than others during the year. UCLA, UT, FL easily come to mind. But in the finals that all goes away and they’re all scored equally. This was a brilliant competition, and I’m looking forward to next year.

    4. I too called the UCLA win but for slightly different reasons. I don’t consider it an upset because all season UCLA has shown they could score up there with OU – they just weren’t as consist with it all season like the Sooners were.

      A Florida or LSU win would have been a true upset and if either of the other teams had won, well it would’ve need a splat-fest from more than one of the top teams.

      Also there was just something different about the UCLA team this year – they were serious. They still had Bruin fun but there was a serious element where they worked on their cardio in order to be able to complete three floor passes and they actually seemed to care about sticking Y-fulls on vault and the two 1.5 vaulters actually worked to get better.

      UCLA also had strong leaders in Peng, Janay and Sonja Merez – she may not have competed much this season but the later was still important to the team. The competitiveness of the former US National team members also helped – when you get that many Type-A athletes the mix isn’t always right and the competitiveness could end up creating a hostile environment, another good reason the leaders on the team deserve props for not letting that happen.

      Injuries were also at a minimum for UCLA in 2018 after years of dealing with multiple key performers missing seasons or good chucks of seasons.

      Team chemistry just seemed so right with UCLA this year that all the stars aligned from there.

      1. I agree that UCLA was more serious this year. Like a lot of fans, I was shocked when I saw their floor rotation in the first meet – like wow, where did this come from? In her post-Super-Six interview, Miss Val said that last April they decided to really buckle down and get into the mindset of behaving like champions, and it showed. Last year it seemed like they felt like “well, we probably won’t win, so we’ll just have fun doing it!” whereas this year they definitely had their eyes on the prize.

        And yes, I also think that *who* is on the team matters, and how they transition. Having so many US national team members is a great thing, not just for the obvious reason of the scores they can put up, but because of their mental toughness and competitiveness. That said, transitioning to NCAA can be difficult, I think, coming out of that environment. Kudos to the team and coaching staff for allowing the athletes to have fun but still channel that competitiveness in a new atmosphere without relaxing *too* much.

      2. Disagree that a splat fest would have been required for either Florida or LSU to win. The separation from 1st to 4th was a mere 2 tenths.

    5. But pouting out a “shape” deduction for Peng that wasn’t taken for anyone and then using that as evidence that the judges had some conspiracy to give the title to UCLA makes you sound ridiculous

  11. I had an out of body experience watching the entire last two rotations of finals. The energy from all these amazing gymnasts, and the fans at the meet supporting them, literally blasted through my TV. It was so joyous that my disinterested parents, who believe Nadia’s first 10 has never been out performed and prefer classical dance (my career before injury) over sport, were drawn completely into the meet. Enjoying individual routines on YouTube and critiquing technique Sunday was part of the fun and frustration.
    Maybe that is just my perspective as a person from the performing arts, but I still wish the gymternet as a whole could experience the sublime awe of being caught up in that moment.
    That being said, this IS a sport and I agree that judging in NCAA needs some sort of independent oversight committee. In dance, the choerographer and/or artistic director is dictator and the public emotional core creates a nexus of success via ticket sales and/or grants. Gymnastics should be served by hawk-eyed, impartial judges to maintain it as a sport or doom it to the under-funding that the classical arts have experienced for decades.

  12. The back half of UCLA’s beam line-up is the most insanely deep trio in NCAA history. Peng, Ross and Ohashi are all best on beam and all World Class on that event as elites.

    1. Kupets, McCool, Taylor, Tolnay — I think Heenan was still there when McCool was a freshman too. Those Georgia teams, much like the early 2000s UCLA, were insanely stacked.

  13. I think the falls can be irrelevant because you can drop one score per event (heck, if a team got five 10s off the bat, they could theoretically not put up the last gymnast.) But you made a great point in that OK got tight after mistakes whereas UCLA stepped it up and that became the difference.

    I am a former Angelino but I feel for OK. They are an excellent team, and a defeat like this has got to sting, like suddenly losing by a buzzer-beater three-pointer from the half court in basketball. Well deserved individual titles though for Maggie and Brenna tho. I hope their victories and the fact that the men’s gymnastics team won gives some solace to OK. And I’m sure the women’s team will come back next year firing on all cylinders…

  14. It’s not like UCLA hasn’t gotten those scores before this season, so I don’t know why everyone is so surprised. They’re beasts on beam (and last season, on bars). Yes, Oklahoma was the front runner for a reason – they’re awesome, and usually a bit better than everyone else. They just weren’t this weekend – they were at the same level as LSU, Florida and UCLA. And all things being equal (which they were – they were all judged by the same judges), UCLA just had a slightly better day. Why all the bad blood? The gymnasts all seemed to accept the result, so why can’t you guys? Even Bridget Sloan (a former Gator) and Alicia Sacramone were thrilled for them! I would have been happy for Oklahoma if they had won, they’re an amazing team. This doesn’t change that. Especially after this year, they should be celebrating each other, not tearing each other down. Stronger together, remember?

  15. There is that extra competitive gear that Olympian and world team members can draw from. Nichols, Ross, Skinner, Lee, Kocian to name a few. They are gamers. I will say this UCLA did score big on beam. It was wow big. But again some UCLA defenders think it is normal that Glenn scored 9.9375 as lead off. It isn’t normal. Loved Peng Peng though. I would have given her two tens. I wouldn’t have scored the others so high. And does it matter. Yep got them the national championship. Oklahoma was not perfect but honestly felt they were consistently better and deserved the win based on performance. I do think vault of all events had weird scoring. McMurtry tied for vault champion with a hop back 9.9375. Sure she has pretty shape most of the time. Anyway. UCLA will once again have the dream team. A gazillion elite gymnasts. :).

  16. Why do so many people seem confused that Grace Glenn scored well? She ended the season ranked 6th with a 9.925 RQS. Are they suggesting that judges should low-ball a First-Team All-American just because of her lineup position? Seems pretty hypocritical.

    1. It’s not that she scored well, it’s that she tied for the highest beam score of the meet at that point and moved her foot on the dismount. Either she was overscored or Sarah Finnegan was underscored. Stefani Catour nailed her beam set and didn’t break 9.9 because she was first up. The judges just needed to be consistent, and they weren’t.

      1. Maybe this is an issue of subjectivity, not judging consistent. I would never have said Catour ‘nailed’ her beam. I thought it was pretty lackluster – looked tentative and her form wasn’t there. I thought Oklahoma’s entire beam lineup except Maggie was notably mediocre, far below the standard that I expect from that team. Their scores seemed, if anything, generous. I don’t remember seeing Finnegan’s routine, so perhaps that’s a better comparison, I don’t know.
        To me, Glenn’s leap series is better than almost every other gymnast out there. Her score seems a bit high to me but not the egregious travesty that many other commenters seem to think.

  17. To Matt’s Gym Blog…to be clear, I was not “tearing Peng down” , I was merely discussing what happened and the whys. In my group in our pool on the results, I was the only one out of 12 who had UCLA winning….the rest had Oklahoma, and some even felt with a mistake, Oklahoma could still win it.

    I had UCLA all the way so I am definitely not a hater…there was just a feeling that they could do it this year and the confidence was there…..not that I didn’t see that with Oklahoma but this year’s UCLA team was on a mission and it showed. Mission accomplished.

  18. I am fine as long as judging is consistent across the meet and for all the teams. By and large, I do think the judging was fairly consistent. Sure there were routines here and there that scored .1 higher or lower than it should have, but the judges were mostly consistent.

    As a Utah fan, I am looking forward to the next two years. They have some really good recruits coming in (Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson) that added to Skinner will really make for a dynamite team. That is if Skinner doesn’t try to go for the Olympics again. And they only lose 4 routines from this crop of seniors. Still, I am getting tired of waiting for another championship!

    1. Utah will rise, but I’m not sure if O’Keefe and Paulson alone can propel them to a championship. I think Skinner will have graduated before O’Keefe arrives. I’m sure they’ll be more of a championships contender as opposed to a super six team, but I’d say it will be a long shot.

      1. O’Keefe’s profile on USA Gymnastics shows her high school graduation year as 2020, so unless O’Keefe graduates early or Skinner ends up redshirting one of the next two seasons, there won’t be any overlap between the two.

      2. Really is too bad they likely won’t have Skinner and O’keefe on the same team. They could use both of them to build crazy scores, maile has such strong technique that she could succeed once she learns to compete in NCAA. Maile defintely has a shot to be one of the big stars of that “post olympics” group (not saying she is a lock or isnt but the group that goes for it and we have a big influx of elites who either were at trials or just missed the previous year ala the 2017 season).

      3. The other thing about O’Keefe is that she has potential to make the Worlds team in the next two years and possibly the Olympic team in 2020, and if that happens (Olympics especially) then there’s the possibility that she might go pro. Selfishly, I hope she doesn’t end up going pro because I’d love to see what she could do in NCAA.

  19. This might be a dumb question, but how does UCLA have such a large team and only 12 scholarships? Is half the team walk-ons? Who gets a scholarship and who doesn’t?

    1. They have a TON of walkons, but most are gymnasts who are from California and therefore are paying in state tuition (all of the gymnastics costs are covered though). I’m pretty sure as well that if you accept a “walk on” spot you get help with the admission process as well. UCLA is one (if not the top) public university in the country so you can definitely see the appeal from an educational standpoint! Quite a few chose UCLA and the chance at a backup spot, maybe a lineup spot at a top top gymnastics school and top education versus going to a lower level school far from home. Almost all of the walkons are from southern California!

      Notable ones — Gracie Kramer, Brielle Nguyen, Sonya & Janay (until this year), Savannah Kooyman who got quite a few chances earlier in the season.

      Also they have quite a few more but most really are just helping out the team in other ways, and I am pretty sure they come in with those expectations, knowing it will be unlikely to make lineups unless there are a ton of injuries (which has happened and therefore why UCLA never has a georgia situation with putting up only 5 on an event)

      1. The top public university in the country is Cal, without a doubt.
        But IMO UCLA is gaining.

    1. Any list that has USC ranked higher than UCLA is not to be taken seriously.
      I think UCLA and Cal can be said to be equals in most every academic category.

      1. Cal is considerably harder to get into than UCLA–most in CA would agree unless they are Bruins. But both schools benefit from walk-ons b/c in-state tuition is very reasonable.

  20. Any list that has USC ranked higher than UCLA is not to be taken seriously.

    1. mctrish,
      Not true. In 2017, UCLA admitted 16.1% of its 102,000 freshman applicants. Cal admitted 17.2% of its 85,000 freshman applicants. Both schools are ridiculously difficult to get into, but UCLA is slightly more selective.

  21. I guess I am just surprised by the sheer number of walk-ons they have! They have at least double compared to other top teams. Especially because Cal, UMichigan, and UFlorida are all in the top 10 public schools ranking.

    1. Other teams have roster caps placed by athletic departments. UCLA seems to accept nearly everyone as a walk on who is somewhat qualified. Part of that may come down to Miss Val’s husband being an associate AD at UCLA. She probably has a little more say within the administration than coaches at other universities.

  22. Perhaps UCLA’s team needs to spend more time on gymnastics and less time on dancing and vlogging. Oh, wait, they just won the National Championship. Nevermind 😉

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