The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2019 Preview – UCLA Bruins

Brielle Nguyen
  • Competed 13 BB routines in 2018 following transfer from Illinois — RQS of 9.850
  • Competed weekly FX in ’17 for Illinois
Katelyn Ohashi
  • Ranked #1 in nation on FX, #3 on BB in 2018
  • RQS of 9.970 on FX, 9.945 on BB
  • Competed 12 UB routines for 9.696 avg (scored 9.8+ on 7 of 12)
  • VTed 4 times for 9.831 average
Stella Savvidou
  • Did not compete in 2018 due to injury
  • Further wrist surgery in October
  • Made final UB lineup in 2017
Macy Toronjo UB
  • Did not compete in 2018 due to injury
  • Is no longer listed as taking a redshirt year
  • Competed 8 FXs in 2017, peaking at 9.950
Anna Glenn
  • Returned from 2017 labrum injury to make final VT, UB lineups in 2018 – VT RQS of 9.825
  • Competed 5 UB routines, peak of 9.875
  • Competed one BB routine for 9.900
Grace Glenn
  • Returned from 2017 labrum injury to compete BB in every meet in 2018
  • Hit 15 for 15 routines — RQS of 9.925
Felicia Hano
  • Competed weekly VT, FX in 2018 — ranked #7 nationally on FX
  • RQS of 9.935 on FX, 9.900 on VT for Y1.5
  • Competed 2 BB routines (9.775 avg) and one UB routine (9.025) in 2018
Madison Kocian
  • Returned from shoulder surgery to compete 13 BBs, 8 FXs, and 3 UBs in 2018
  • RQS of 9.875 on BB
  • Average of 9.861 on FX, 9.863 on UB
  • Also competed weekly VT in 2017 for 9.860 RQS
Gracie Kramer
  • Competed 13 FXs in 2018 for 9.890 RQS
  • Has 10.0 start VT, competed twice in 2018, hitting once
  • VTed 10 times in 2017 for 9.810 RQS
Giulianna Pino
  • Did not compete in first two seasons
Kyla Ross
  • Competed AA in 10 of 15 meets in 2018
  • Ranked #1 nationally on UB
  • RQS of 9.960 on UB, 9.910 on BB, 9.895 on VT, 9.890 on FX
Mercedez Sanchez
  • Did not compete in first two seasons
Nia Dennis
  • Competed VT, UB every week in 2018
  • Competed 11 FX routines and 3 BB routines
  • RQS of 9.885 on VT, 9.880 on UB, 9.860 on FX
  • Average of 9.792 on BB
Savannah Kooyman
  • Provided backup routines on UB, FX in 2018
  • Competed 3 UBs (9.800 avg) and 1 BB (9.825)
Kendal Poston
  • Did not compete in first season
Pauline Tratz
  • Competed VT, FX in 14 of 15 meets in 2018
  • RQS of 9.910 on FX, 9.875 on VT
  • Has potential 10.0 start on VT
Norah Flatley
  • Chow’s
  • 3rd at 2014 Junior P&G Championships
  • Expected to be replacement-Peng on UB and BB
Margzetta Frazier
  • Parkettes
  • Is continuing to train DTY on VT
  • Will be counted on for VT, FX, and UB. Can provide BB as needed
Sara Taubman
  • Head over Heels
  • 12th AA, 2018 Region 1s
Sekai Wright
  • Will miss beginning of 2019 with injury
  • AGA Long Beach
  • 1st on VT, 2018 JO Nationals
  • Has Yurchenko 1.5

2018 – 1st
2017 – 4th
2016 – 5th
2015 – 11th
2014 – 8th
2013 – 4th
2012 – 3rd
2011 – 2nd
2010 – 1st
2009 – 7th

Let’s be honest, for all of UCLA’s improvements in the 2018 season, none of us actually expected the Bruins to win the championship. They were supposed to finish 2nd or 3rd, make great strides to set up a title run in 2019, do a life lesson or two, and close the book on an altogether successful season. That’s not what happened. Christmas came early.

Winning a title bestows de facto favorite status the following year, yet UCLA will know that the 2018 victory did in fact come early. It was an upset, a phenomenal two-event performance on the day but an untenable strategy to maintain if this is to become a dynasty. “We’ll be ranked 3rd all year long, be kind of blah in the first two rotations of the final, and then Peng will get a 20, and wheeee!” isn’t exactly how you draw it up.

Now that this UCLA group has won a title, there’s no going back in terms of expectations, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements to be made. The 2019 roster was always supposed to be better than 2018’s team and does have realistic areas where it can aim higher, scoring weaknesses from 2018 to resolve, and lost meets from last season to win this time around so that a potential title this year would not be an upset. It would be normal.

VAULT 2019
Lineup locks: Marz Frazier, Felicia Hano, Nia Dennis, Kyla Ross
Lineup options: Pauline Tratz, Sekai Wright, Anna Glenn, Gracie Kramer, Kendal Poston, Norah Flatley, Katelyn Ohashi, Madison Kocian

You guys, a tradition is over. We can’t talk about Kyla Ross’s mythical 10.0 start on vault in the UCLA preview this year because it’s not mythical anymore. We saw it for realsies at Meet the Bruins as part of what will be an upgraded vault lineup in 2019. With just two 10.0s, UCLA’s 2018 vault team didn’t have the start values to get the necessary 49.4s in a postseason-scoring context, but this year’s lineup looks significantly more competitive.

Most notably, Marz Frazier should arrive as a lineup-best vaulter. She has been training the DTY in preseason and will need to deliver some manner of 10.0 start for the lineup to meet its true potential. UCLA will also be looking at a new 1.5 from Nia Dennis to join Felicia Hano’s returning 1.5 and take some of the pressure of Hano’s score this year.

Ross did show her own 1.5 at MTB with a large lunge forward (still worth it even with that landing—possibly as a leadoff, banking on some Kyla-scoring to boost the rest of the vaults), and on the topic of borderline 1.5s, Gracie Kramer has returned to the layout version this season. Kramer has been on “in the lineup if she can hit it” status in her first couple years, and the same will be true this season. If UCLA has Dennis and Ross’s 1.5s working, taking a risk with Kramer’s vault may not be as important, but they’ll gladly use it if she becomes a reliable hit. Sekai Wright is currently dealing with an ankle injury, but based on JO performances, she should have a lineup-ready 1.5 of her own when healthy.

All six of these 10.0 vaults coming through with controlled landings in the same lineup may be a stretch, but with so many options, UCLA should have no problem exceeding the two 10.0s from last season. Plus, they’ll still want Pauline Tratz’s full in the lineup over some of these 1.5s, even if her possible 10.0 start doesn’t materialize, and both Dennis and Ross will be in the lineup regardless of whether they’re doing 1.5s or fulls.

Kendal Poston has also made the leap to a handspring front pike 1/2 to deliver another 10.0 possibility, non-Yurchenko type. It wasn’t quite at competition level yet at MTB, but it could get there. Of the remaining fulls, Anna Glenn’s is the most likely possibility, a super clean option that ended up as UCLA’s highest vault score in Super Six last year. Hers could very well make the lineup over a lungey 1.5.

BARS 2019
Lineup locks: Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Marz Frazier
Lineup options: Norah Flatley, Anna Glenn, Nia Dennis, Macy Toronjo, Katelyn Ohashi, Felicia Hano, Savannah Kooyman

Bars may present the greatest lineup replacement challenge for UCLA in 2019, having lost the essential routine from Peng as well as a stalwart set from Honest (the only event on which UCLA is losing two Super Six sets from 2018). But, since both Frazier and Flatley are expected to contribute on bars, the lineup project shouldn’t end up being that complicated.

We know Ross and Kocian will be there, leading the lineup with 9.9+s, and Anna Glenn and Nia Dennis will both present options again this year after making the final six last season. We talk about Frazier more for vault and floor, but her bars routine is legit and there will be times this season when it’s her highest score. Norah Flatley is also far too Norah Flatley not to be in this bars lineup. End of story. That’s a very believable six and one that should mostly be able to mimic last season’s scoring, though there is the greatest risk of regression here if no one is quite able to Peng it.

Ideally, Ohashi would make her way into the bars lineup to replace whoever is scoring the lowest in the previously mentioned six, but bars has been a borderline prospect for Ohashi in her NCAA career. Getting a 9.9 from Ohashi on bars (which she can totally do) would be treated as a bonus, but if you’re talking about the six most talented bars workers on the team, she’s obviously in that six.

UCLA will have backup bars sets from Kooyman and Hano should they be needed, but those aren’t going to be final-lineup routines. Although, we do need to talk about Macy Toronjo’s “hey there stranger” moment on bars at MTB. That routine was real, and with a little less rushing, would be super believable.

BEAM 2019
Lineup locks: Katelyn Ohashi, Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Norah Flatley
Lineup options: Grace Glenn, Brielle Nguyen, Marz Frazier, Anna Glenn, Nia Dennis, Kendal Poston, Felicia Hano

Sure, UCLA will also have to shuffle on without Peng on beam this year, but the sheer number of compelling options means that the idea of a beam lineup without Peng is far more challenging than the actual reality, in which UCLA shouldn’t have much trouble finding a new 9.9 to fill that spot.

So, anyway, Norah Flatley. She’s tremendous on beam and will be called upon as the new star of the back half of the lineup, joining Ohashi and Ross returning with their realistic 10s. There’s also a little beam routine named Madison Kocian. Kocian is currently dealing with a stress fracture in her leg, because of course she is, but it would also be very Kocian to be like, “I have 18 broken polios, so I’ll be back in exactly one week, here’s my 9.9 on beam.”

That’s a pretty crazy four, added to which you have Grace Glenn and Brielle Nguyen, who more than did the job in the early half of the lineup last season. There’s really not much need to adjust from there, but UCLA could. Beam may be Frazier’s least likely event on which to contribute, but reducing to NCAA composition has made her routine look competitive, Nia Dennis was in the lineup at the beginning of last season and why not, and Anna Glenn provides a realistic routine here as well. And then there’s Kendal Poston and Felicia Hano…

The options are many, though with the number of big-money, obvious routines this team has returning, not messing with a good thing may be the watchword.

FLOOR 2019
Lineup locks: Katelyn Ohashi, Marz Frazier, Felicia Hano, Pauline Tratz
Lineup options: Nia Dennis, Kyla Ross, Gracie Kramer, Madison Kocian, Norah Flatley, Sekai Wright

UCLA doesn’t lose any of the six routines that made the final floor lineup last season and will boost that collection through the addition of Frazier, who should be a late-lineup floor star. UCLA will be very encouraged by the outlook on floor, returning as the #1 FX team from 2018 and clearly upgrading the options for 2019.

In the quest to keep that #1 floor status, UCLA will have Ohashi and Hano and Frazier but will also need to get Nia Dennis into the lineup for real this year. She’s too good at floor, both in tumbling and leaps, not to be competing, and if her piked full-in is on track this season, she’s basically like adding a second powerful freshman to the floor slate.

I expect Tratz to return to the lineup this year, which brings us to five people already with several very realistic options remaining. For instance, Kyla Ross. Floor is not Ross’s best NCAA event, but she has proven she can get the scores and continues to work on endurance and landing position to stay competitive in a deep group. You’d think “duh, Kyla,” but then there’s someone like Gracie Kramer, not to be ignored as a returning option, who was excellent last season with her front 2/1 and has the best choreography on the team for this year.

This slate of choices may mean that there’s no rush in jamming Kocian back into the lineup too quickly, but also she’s Kocian and can get 9.9. So there’s that too.

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