The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Week 2 Ranking Notes

1. Oklahoma Sooners

Average: 197.938
Previous ranking: 1

Oklahoma retains the #1 spot this week following a 197.825—a score that didn’t even get into the 198s, so psssh what are we here for? Of note, the Sooners brought out the holy grail of vault lineups six Y1.5s, which is so far ahead of the rest of the country at this point as to be comical—and certainly sets the new standard that all other teams will hope to catch by nationals. No contending teams will feel at peace bringing two 10.0s when Oklahoma has six. Also, there was the issue of Maggie Nichols limping a little after her floor routine, which broke several angels.

2. UCLA Bruins

Average: 197.475
Previous ranking: 2

UCLA cruised with a 197.700 at the Anaheim quad meet, a performance that is becoming more remarked upon for Katelyn Ohashi’s floor being shared online by various famouses than anything else. (When are famouses going to share Gracie Kramer’s floor routine, or like their money or something, that’s what I want to know.) There were certainly moments of cracktastic scoring in that one—the beam rotation that scored 49.475 had far fewer errors than the floor rotation that scored 49.700, and this why judging will be the death of me—but you absolutely take this performance for a January meet.

3. Florida Gators

Average: 197.300
Previous ranking: UNR

Florida debuts in 3rd place with a very respectable 197.300 for an opening meet that was also very much in the “solid progress for January” category. Vault isn’t there yet with quite a few landing problems, but the potential on bars and beam is tremendous, the lineups didn’t look to be totally lost without Baumann even though she’ll be in the best-case lineups on three pieces, and Trinity Thomas is already priming herself to get 10s this season by debuting with a 39.475 AA score.

4. Utah Utes

Average: 197.213
Previous ranking: 3

Utah drops a single spot this week because of Florida’s entry into the rankings but will nonetheless be pretty content with scoring over 197 in another January meet. It wasn’t a mistake-free performance—the team is clearly still working through some lineups, which is good because they should have options to explore—but Utah is already showing the ability to put up equivalent results in home and away contexts. I’m happy Utah isn’t settling on “reliable veteran for 9.825” when there are freshmen who could score higher in time to be given experience. For instance, Randall didn’t get a good floor score in this meet, but I like her potential for the lineup. 

5. LSU Tigers

Average: 196.525
Previous ranking: 4

LSU drops to 5th after a disappointing loss to Auburn, which will sting more because of the result than the score. A 196.275 is LSU’s lowest total in quite some time, but it’s a long season and that score will be a distant, dropped memory by late February. Meanwhile, this team is not going to forget losing to Auburn any time soon. Like basically ever. We don’t know how much the warmup injury to McKenna Kelley (which sounds like it’s not going to be too major) affected the performance, but floor and beam were far below LSU’s expected level—uncertain in landings on floor, shaky and tentative on beam. Issues to work out for next week.

6. BYU Cougars

Average: 196.475
Previous ranking: UNR

So BYU is in 6th now. That’s a thing that’s happening. These lower-mid 196s are what we came to expect from BYU last season, especially in home meets, so this result is largely picking up where the team left off. We’ll see how realistic those beam scores prove once BYU has to start fending for itself at out-of-state away meets in February, but the routines are there for this to continue to be a very 196 roster. And because apparently the only goal in this sport is to have a viral floor routine now, Shannon Hortman Evans’ Mario routine also got some traction. One question: exactly when does Mario do the floss? I feel like that routine might not be 100% tonally consistent with the source material.

7. Boise State Broncos

Average: 196.400
Previous ranking: UNR

With a performance later on Sunday, Boise State didn’t get the headlines for its 196.4 opening meet performance, but as is true for BYU, this score will keep Boise State in a very healthy ranking position while some of the more famous teams still try to get their sea legs. Boise State scored well on bars in the opener, surprising no one, but critical was the similarly useful score on beam, which has not been a traditional strength for this group. If Remme, Means, and Esmerian keep scoring like that…

8. Denver Pioneers

Average: 196.275
Previous ranking: 8

I mentioned for LSU that the result mattered more than the score, and Denver will feel the same way about its meet—except happy version. This 196.275 is not a shocking or dramatic score (even though breaking 196 in the opener is worth pride), but defeating Michigan and Alabama at the same time is a huge statement performance. Denver is trying to make the argument that it’s a top-8 team, and that results makes that argument pretty well. Also Alexis Vasquez on beam. The end.

9. Michigan Wolverines

Average: 196.038
Previous ranking: 6

What a nice, quiet week for Michigan. Root-dee-doo nothing to report. Michigan’s “just OK” 196.025 to take 2nd at the Alabama quad meet will be overshadowed by the record-breakingly short tenure of Rhonda Faehn as coaching consultant (whatever that means), appearing on the floor Friday and then dismissed by Sunday.

As with most things involving Rhonda and USAG, this situation defies easy categorization into a good guys team and a bad guys team, and I have 800 contradictory thoughts about it. Because my answer is that Polina‘s argument makes total sense to me and seems supremely reasonable. I agree. (Also, Rhonda’s probably less likely to have sex with a team member in a car—so step up?) But Rachael’s fury at what she views as Rhonda’s disqualifying silence is also completely understandable. Of COURSE it feels like a slap in the face to her to reward Rhonda following the last couple years. I don’t look at anything that’s been said and think, “you’re on the wrong side of this.”

So what I will say is that I don’t think we need to force survivors, whether prominent or not, tweeting or not, public or not, to all think the same thing just to make it easier for the rest of us to join in with “the right thing to think.” It’s more complicated than that. They’re not a monolith, and I don’t see a “right thing to think” in this case. (And no other cases ever.) No faction needs to be pressured to join the others and think like THE GROUP, even if it would make things easier for the lawyers.

Nancy is good on this.
Kathy is good on this.

Also, Michigan royally effed this up. If you’re going to hire a coach that inspires the kind of reaction you know Rhonda does, you better have a really good reason for picking her and a strategy for introducing her. You’ve thought it through and done the research and feel like you have a leg to stand on to justify the decision. You don’t treat it like a little secret and then suddenly go,”Gasp, people are mad? What? I didn’t expect this at all!” Where did that leg you were standing on go? Quietly hiring and then immediately dismissing her just makes Michigan look stupid and pitiful and incompetent in a USAG kind of way.

10. Georgia Bulldogs

Average: 195.950
Previous ranking: 5

It was going so well for a second. Georgia will quickly want to forget the 195.300 performance put up against Oklahoma, a meet that went wrong right from the start with two falls to lead off the bars rotation—and never really got back on track despite some solid vaulting. Beam was fairly tentative again, and odd mistakes crept into the floor lineup like Rachel Dickson not getting an automatic 9.900 or Rachael Lukacs struggling on her leap combination. It was not the composed meet we saw in the opener at home. Is this going to be another year of desperately watching the Georgia road scores?

10. Missouri Tigers

Average: 195.950
Previous ranking: 11

Missouri will absolutely enjoy the big 196.450 recorded away against Florida, taking advantage of this prime golden-goose away-score opportunity on the schedule despite it being so early in the season. This is already a keeper for the postseason. The first-meet issue on bars was resolved this time, Britney Ward came back into the vault lineup with her necessary 10.0 start, and a competitive slate of 9.8-level sets appears to be emerging again this year.

12. California Golden Bears

Average: 195.863
Previous ranking: 9

Cal drops a few spots in the rankings as more teams start going comfortably into the 196s, but Cal will nonetheless mark this performance at the Anaheim quad meet as progress—improving several tenths on the first meet and breaking 196. Make special note of Rachael Mastrangelo, who emerged as one of the strongest in the lineup on both of her events and could be making an argument as more than just a backup. Now, if the team can get Alma Kuc working bars consistently enough to be in the lineup and start doing beam at double speed, then we might be onto something.

13. Auburn Tigers

Average: 195.763
Previous ranking: 17

Auburn still isn’t ranked too high because of the first-meet floor disaster, but the team will be nothing but joyous about both the result and the score from the weekend, defeating LSU with a massive 196.700. Particularly encouraging will be that the team had one absolutely phenomenal, best they can do rotation on bars (it was like the whole team started taking Abby Milliet pills) but will see plenty of opportunities to improve on the other events. Which will be necessary to keep getting this kind of score on the road as well. Beam and floor were only meh in this one, which will be scary to the other teams in this section of the rankings.

14. Arkansas Razorbacks

Average: 195.688
Previous ranking: 10

Arkansas went 195 for the second straight week, which sees the team drop a few places in the rankings. It wasn’t a weak performance or one that will be setting off alarm bells—no disasters, just a little tight in places and a little reserved in the judging department on a few events. Next week’s visit to Kentucky will tell us a lot since those two rivals have been performing at a pretty similar level through the first two meets and both REALLY want a 196 out of it.

15. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Average: 195.625
Previous ranking: 8

Nebraska also got stuck in the 195s for the second straight meet to drop a few places in the rankings. In this weekend’s 48.8-a-thon of a performance, Nebraska didn’t quite have the performance it did against UCLA, missing Schweihofer on every event but beam, Houchin falling on her DTY this time. It just rougher in a few critical places, with some backup routines having to come into the lineup and ultimately count because of falls elsewhere. The beam routine from Sierra Hassel for 9.900 was a real treat. All the wrestling we had to watch was not.

16. Kentucky Wildcats

Average: 195.538
Previous ranking: 7

Kentucky plummets 9 spots this week following a 195.100 score at Illinois, the result of an unfortunate combination of a tightly evaluated meet along with a more sluggish performance than we saw in the first week of competition. Having to count an OOB on floor for 9.575 was characteristic of the little problems that cropped up in all of the rotations to drop the scores under 49. See note about the meet with Arkansas next weekend. Big recovery opportunity.

17. Ohio State Buckeyes

Average: 195.463
Previous ranking: 15

Ohio State will be exceptionally pleased about breaking 196 in its second meet and doing so away from home For a team that only had two away 196s all of last season, that’s already useful benchmark that can actually be used for RQS if needed. This bars lineup is emerging as the real deal, so its no surprise that’s the event score that took OSU over the 196 barrier.

17. Alabama Crimson Tide

Average: 195.463
Previous ranking: 18

Alabama did better in its second meet, getting over the 196 mark despite losing this quad meet at home. That part won’t be fun, nor will this continued ranking in the weaker half of teens, but breaking 196 was the minimum expectation for this one to try to reverse what happened in that opening 194. Shallon Olsen is emerging as an absolute essential on the power even, but Alabama is still getting stuck in the 9.7s for hit beam routines and needs to find a way out of that trap. They’ll hope a visit to Georgia next weekend will do the trick. It has been known to. That’s going to be a good (and by good, I mean weird) one given what we’ve seen from those teams so far.

19. Arizona State Sun Devils

Average: 195.338
Previous ranking: 13

Arizona State got nearly seven tenths better in its second meet, still showing more 9.7s than it would prefer but also revealing shades of the 9.8s that can get this team into the 196s when Leonard-Baker and Kuhm are both at their best. Ashley Szafranski returned to the beam lineup after missing the first meet, and while the beam total ended up being ASU’s weakest, it really should emerge as one of the team’s stronger events with the lovely work from Kuhm, Callis, Szafranski, and Udowitch highlighting the lineup.

20. Washington Huskies

Average: 195.250
Previous ranking: UNR

Washington debuts at #20, which I would have something to say about if we had actually been shown any of the Washington routines during the broadcast (#stillbitter). From the scores, it looks like a 9.775-a-thon, which is a perfectly acceptable non-disaster to build on but not exactly what the team would have hoped for. Geneva Thompson did get into three events and recorded the team’s highest score on vault, where she’s going to be a vital contributor.

21. Oregon State Beavers

Average: 195.225
Previous ranking: UNR

Oregon State’s is another one of those results that the team will be pleased with, even if the score of 195.225 is nothing to write home about. They’ll need to drop that number instantly, but it’s a win over the likes of Kentucky, and that’s the kind of result OSU needs to build itself back up after missing nationals again last year. The vaults aren’t there yet, and the bars score was very low as a result of routines not shown on the broadcast, but beam and floor were pretty solid overall, and Lowery’s quite useful displays on both bars and beam look like they’ll be essential pieces this year.

22. Western Michigan Broncos

Average: 195.075
Previous ranking:UNR

Now here’s a team we don’t talk about in the top 25 a lot. WMU put up a very strong showing in its opener against Northern Illinois to get up into this rarefied air. Most importantly, the score was not built completely on the numbers provided by star Rachael Underwood. She has to get help for WMU to remain competitive for mid-195s and a regionals place as the season goes, and many others brought out 9.775s and 9.800s in this one.

22. Central Michigan Chippewas

Average: 195.075
Previous ranking: 16

Central and Western Michigan are tied this week. Which I think is like a paradox or something? CMU improved on its score from the first week by a few tenths in the second week and will be particularly gratified by being able to go over 49 on floor even with Pedrick off the event this week and Macey Hilliker, traditionally one of their best floor scores, still not back on that event. That floor lineup can get quite a bit stronger than what we’ve seen thus far.

24. Stanford Cardinal

Average: 194.913
Previous ranking: 12

Oh bars. Stanford regressed in its score for week 2 as a result of two major misses on bars that left the team counting a score in the 8s. What, is it last season already? The team will take the floor performance from this one, getting a solid rotation score despite a low number from Bryant. The entire rest of the group stepped up for strong scores, and that’s the sort of even lineup depth Stanford will need to continue showing.

25. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Average: 194.875
Previous ranking: 20

Minnesota just gets into the top 25 this week after recording a 195.600 home score that dramatically improved on the previous week’s showing. Best of the bunch were of course the bars and beam rotations, where Lexy Ramler scored well but could have scored even weller for a bars routine that was the best I’ve seen so far this season. For 9.900. Hers were the highlight performances, but I saw a team here that should very comfortably get 196s when the scores are there to be had.

%d bloggers like this: