The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Week 6 Ranking Notes

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1. Oklahoma Sooners

Average: 197.813
Previous ranking: 1

What semi-inadvertently became Oklahoma’s “exploring depth road meet” because of Brenna-Bars-Gate 2019—in which Dowell had a scary moment on bars in the warmup and had to be pulled from the meet—still ended up as a perfectly high 197.700. It certainly wasn’t Oklahoma’s ideal performance and didn’t really get going until beam in the final rotation (and even that rotation had a fall), but for a meet without Dowell, without Showers, and with Nichols still limited to two events, being able to go 197.700 is not a bad thing. It did stretch the limits of Oklahoma’s depth right to the edge, though, with just five usable vault scores, only five people going on bars, and some definite backups in the lineup on floor.

2. Florida Gators

Average: 197.670
Previous ranking: 2

Florida’s 197.850 in a home victory over Auburn proved the big score of the weekend, seeing the Gators gain a little bit of ground on the Sooners in the quest for first place. Save for the first couple positions on vault, which still need to be resolved, I’m looking at the lineups Florida put up in this one and saying, “Yep, that’s the group.” Schoenherr entered the floor lineup with a solid performance that bolstered that six, in addition to following up last week’s vault success with another hit as she looks to be hitting her stride, and of course Trinity Thomas continues to be everything. Vault still lags behind the other pieces in looking sufficiently postseason-y, but we saw continued progress on those landings over the weekend. We’re still being promised some 1.5s that are vaguely side-eye-inducing, but 4-5 10.0s is going to be competitive enough if the landings get there. 

3. UCLA Bruins

Average: 197.575
Previous ranking: 3

UCLA’s performance against Washington on Sunday was speckled with a wholly expected amount of highs and ehs. Ross and Ohashi got 10s on vault and floor respectively (67% of the 10s awarded so far this season have gone to UCLA gymnasts—discuss), but it was almost entirely those couple big-money routines from the stars that got UCLA’s total up to the rarefied 197.6 zone because the rest of the lineups had some issues. Beam was pretty shaky for the majority, and those bars and vault lineups both had some issues in that they were not six-strong with competitive routines, and it’s unclear at this point who would make them six-strong. Well, I shouldn’t say unclear. You want Frazier on vault and Dennis on bars and Anna Glenn on both as needed, but that hasn’t been able to happen.

4. Utah Utes

Average: 197.196
Previous ranking: 4

Another week, another 197.1 for Utah to stay steady in the 4th position. Utah’s streak of all these low 197s to start a season is both record-breaking and frustrating at the same time—the college gymnastics special. On the one hand, it has never happened before (there’s always been some manner of 196), but on the other hand, these scores are a fall lower than what the top 3 teams are regularly being awarded, even when just kind of OK. Vault reigned as the big highlight for Utah on Saturday. Those landings were excellent and are farther along than most teams at this point in the season (just keep them for April…), but we’re still seeing a lack of non-Skinner 9.9s on bars and floor, with some uncharacteristically short handstands (I think about 5 people in the bars lineup had a deduction on the opening cast hs) keeping bars as the lowest-scoring event over the weekend.

5. LSU Tigers

Average: 196.850
Previous ranking: 5

LSU was able to hang onto 5th this week despite the performance that shall not be named for 196.025 against Kentucky. Still, the Tigers are falling well behind the top four and are nearing danger of being caught by those in the lower half of the top 10. Last season, LSU didn’t have a score lower than 197.575 as part of its RQS numbers. This year, LSU’s peak score is 197.450. With 7 meets remaining, we’re now in crunch time. The team has to start eradicating these weak performances, otherwise they’ll manifest in a rough postseason seeding. This week, it was a counting fall on bars and three OOBs on floor that eliminated LSU from contention for a usable score, despite what were some impressive fulls on vault and a couple pretty hits on beam.

6. Denver Pioneers

Average: 196.730
Previous ranking: 7

Our first change in the rankings this week sees Denver leapfrog Georgia on the strength of that 197.400 recorded against Oklahoma—in what turned out to be a surprisingly close and exciting contest. The moral of story was, Denver is legit. While Denver is not going to be quite that close to Oklahoma under typical circumstances, the bars lineup and the last few routines on the every event will score comfortably with those of any other team. Where Denver may struggle in March/April is the early routines on vault and floor, which were a little small in direct comparison to Oklahoma’s lineup difficulty and amplitude—and a little bouncy, which can be resolved—but Denver should continue to make a serious push for nationals as we go. As long as the equipment works…

7. Georgia Bulldogs

Average: 196.564
Previous ranking: 6

All things considered, Georgia got away with one in snatching a 196.300 road score against Missouri considering that the bars team counted a fall in the first rotation, Sabrina Vega fell on her beam mount randomly, and things could have gone rillllll baaaaaad. In the end, a196.300 is kind of what Georgia has been doing at road meets for the last two seasons anyway. But, Georgia’s road results continue as an area of focus because they’re not nearly at the level of home performances, which makes the remaining road meets pretty significant (congratulations, the next one is at Florida). Then again, Georgia is a regionals host this year, so maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

8. Michigan Wolverines

Average: 196.383
Previous ranking: 10

Michigan finally got its score and gains two spots in the rankings as a result, moving up to a more befitting 8th after the 197.350 home victory over Iowa on Sunday. The lineups do continue looking a little depleted following the season-ending injury to O’Hara and with McLean still not on vault—Michigan did get Abby Heiskell into the vault and floor lineups this week, which is progress, but she’ll need some more time. Nonetheless, we saw the top beamers deliver in a way they hadn’t yet this season, and Maxim stuck her first (counting) vault, giving Michigan hope for a very competitive group of five 10.0 starts on vault at the end of the season should Karas and McLean be able to return to their full difficulty.

9. Alabama Crimson Tide

Average: 196.371
Previous ranking: 8

Alabama did not do poorly over the weekend, defeating Arkansas on the road with a 196.700, but nonetheless drops a spot in the rankings because Michigan scored better—exactly illustrating the problem with this high-196 rut that Alabama finds itself in. These are not bad performances—Graber had a couple 9.9s, Armbrecht was back on beam for a good one—but they’re still opening the door to any manner of team that happens to put it all together that week, get some softer scoring, and zoom into the 197s. Despite having to work against some serious losses from last season and probably not being as strong as the 2018 team, Alabama shouldn’t be a 9.7y roster, yet had to count five 9.7s against Arkansas. The direct comparison to Florida next weekend will be exceptionally telling as it should provide some answers about how seriously to take Alabama’s chances this year. Are these routines consistently .050-.100 weaker than Florida’s lineup?

10. Boise State Broncos

Average: 196.205
Previous ranking: 9

A 196.075 in victory over Utah State depressed Boise State’s average by a smidge, but not enough to cause any real damage in the rankings. It’s still a 196, and in terms of maintaining a reasonable slate of 196s for a postseason ranking, Boise State is ahead of the curve and basically just needs to get three more good hit meets over the next six weeks to ensure a top-16 seeding, which isn’t too much to ask. This was simply a meet in which Boise State didn’t really get those wow scores (except for Shani Remme’s typically exceptional all-around performance) and had a few more falls and iffies that led to counting some of those early-lineup 9.7s that BSU would prefer to drop.

11. Auburn Tigers

Average: 196.158
Previous ranking: 12

Auburn continues creeping up the rankings, and while there will be some disappointment over the performance against Florida because vault and beam didn’t deliver quite like they could have, a 196.700 road score still gets the job done. But, the score could have been well into the 197s with a full hit so will feel like a bit of a letdown. It’s still not the most reassuring beam lineup—as in you’re kind of scared to death the entire time—though ideally Emma Slappey will be able to return there at some point to shore things up. The floor lineup did get its own necessary boost over the weekend with the return of Gracie Day, who hadn’t competed since scoring in the 8s in the first meet but has a top-3 routine on the team and will be essential in any postseason floor lineup.

12. Oregon State Beavers

Average: 196.115
Previous ranking: 11

Oregon State was forced to return to the land of the peasants this week following its UCLA-scoring-adventure of the previous weekend, but the 196.350 recorded away against Arizona is nonetheless OSU’s top road score of the season so far. The team will also know that this could have been in the higher 196s given a hit meet. Dropped falls led to some lower scores counting, most significantly in a 9.700-a-thon of a bars rotation. Bars really shouldn’t be Oregon State’s weak event—especially with Sabrina Gill back in the lineup for 9.900 as she was this week—but it has been so far this season with so many counting 9.7s. Gill is back, and we’ll see if Singley can get back there as well because those two should be able to allow for the lower scores to be weaned out of the lineup.

13. Kentucky Wildcats

Average: 196.025
Previous ranking: 17

Like Michigan, Kentucky finally got its big score this week for a hit meet that delivered the fancy home numbers, even though Kentucky is not typically famous for that. Kentucky’s new-found 197.150 in upsetting LSU is reflected in the rankings with a four-spot jump and an average that has finally reached the 196s. This Kentucky team had no business being in the 195s anyway. While Korth, Hyland, and Dukes delivered the big performances we expect of them, the difference-maker this week was getting Hailey Poland back on her two events and getting Ella Warren back on floor and Josie Angeny back on beam after missing both last week. For the most part, the supporting scores were there for Kentucky this time, and it showed.

14. California Golden Bears

Average: 195.946
Previous ranking: 14

It was a “so close” road score for Cal over the weekend, putting up a perfectly acceptable 196.225 performance at Utah but one that could have been a heartier road number if not for some struggles on beam at the end of the meet with falls and series credit. You know that thing where you’re Toni-Ann Williams and you have too much power for your standing front tuck on beam? Milan Clausi is starting to produce some real excellence on her three main events, putting up what I would deem Cal’s strongest routine on each of her pieces. Her presence is particularly important this year on floor, allowing Cal to be conservative with Williams and rest her as needed without the entire lineup being 9.775.

15. Missouri Tigers

Average: 195.921
Previous ranking: 13

A bit of a missed-opportunity week for Missouri saw the team lose a dual meet to Georgia despite Georgia counting a fall on bars because Missouri had to count its own fall on beam. Britney Ward was held out of lineups this week with a knee problem, vault and beam were Missouri’s low scores, and those two situations are very related. In addition to the beam misses, we saw a vault lineup that seriously yearned for its strongest routines to come back, even though freshman Frances Bidwill did get into the group for the first time to give it a boost. Bidwill was quite good on vault and floor in JO.

16. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Average: 195.913
Previous ranking: 18

The big win over Nebraska this weekend, earned with a third-consecutive score in the better half of the 196s, has seen Minnesota gain another two spots in the rankings as the competitiveness of these lineups becomes harder to ignore. Most of the focus deservedly goes to Ivy Lu and Lexy Ramler (whose scores I can’t even talk about because this meet’s judges were fairly obviously doing crack—and yet Ramler’s bars and beam were still low), but the floor routine from Paige Williams for 9.900 was ultimately what delivered Minnesota’s biggest rotation score. The high twisting, you guys.

17. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Average: 195.904
Previous ranking: 16

Nebraska, I can’t stay mad at you. Going for a vault lineup of six Y1.5s (the second team ever to attempt that) was probably a terrible idea because the first two fell and Nebraska ended up with a super low vault score at what otherwise would have been a big home 197, but it was also fun and unexpected, so whatever. Nebraska is much better than this ranking of #17 reflects but does not have the scores yet. With six meets remaining, Nebraska needs a solid five of those meets to be over the 196.5 barrier to feel comfortable with its seeding and not get a terrible regionals draw.

18. Washington Huskies

Average: 195.900
Previous ranking: 15

We’ve seen Washington fall in the rankings these last couple weeks because as most of Washington’s peer teams are starting to go well into the 196s, even when they’re not quite on, Washington is still stuck in the 195.8-196.0 zone for hit meets like the one we saw against UCLA. Getting Kristyn Hoffa back into the vault lineup was a step (she landed short this week, but will soon be among the top couple vaults on the team again), and the beam lineup can still perform with much more rhythm and sureness than it has, beam being the event where Washington can make the biggest strides in its quest for higher 196s.

19. Arizona State Sun Devils

Average: 195.783
Previous ranking: 19

Arizona State recorded its best result of the season on Sunday, a 196.375 in defeating Stanford at home. The score was predominantly built on five big floor numbers, but getting comprehensive hits out of the bars and beam lineups—and not solely relying on CLB to do all the scoring work—was equally important. Anne Kuhm putting up three strong events and recording season-high 9.875s on bars and floor were essential in this one as her performances thus far had been a little more 9.7y than we came to expect based on last season. ASU also got freshmen Stephanie Tripodi and Jasmine Gutierrez into lineups for the first time, important considering just how many of this team’s routines are coming from seniors. Without some increased contributions from underclasswomen (other than CLB), things might look rough for next season.

20. BYU Cougars

Average: 195.780
Previous ranking: 21

BYU gained just one spot in the rankings following a 196.425 road victory at Air Force, but it was a more important result than that ranking movement indicates because until this point, BYU had scored only 194s at road meets. Breaking 49 on every event outside of the state of Utah was essential in proving competitiveness. Of note, a massive bars score from bursting-with-potential Canadian Helody Cyrenne meant that event didn’t suffer even when Shannon Evans wasn’t getting the big number to lead the way. Gotta have those supporting routines.

21. Arkansas Razorbacks

Average: 195.500
Previous ranking: 22

Arkansas did pick up one spot this week following a 195.800 against Alabama, Arkansas’s third score of 195.8 in the first six meets of the season. In this one, the absence of Sarah Shaffer accounted for much of Arkansas not scoring up to its capability, as a couple not-a-fall-but-not-a-hit routines had to be counted across the events in lieu of the usable score you would have expected from Shaffer. It meant that big routines from Hambrick and McGlone, who both had excellent moments especially on vault, had to be used to save rotation scores rather than bring them well into the 49s. A fairly unsettled beam lineup was also an issue, not able to absorb a surprising miss from Sophia Carter.

22. Ohio State Buckeyes

Average: 195.408
Previous ranking: 20

Ohio State’s second rough meet in as many weeks saw the team fall another couple spots in the rankings. This weekend’s pretend-it-never-happened 194.250—a two-fall beam meet and a three-fall floor meet—will need to be dropped as soon as possible. It can be because OSU does already have three road 196s on the docket, so as long as things get better next week against Nebraska, this mid-season dip is not serious. But they’ll have to get better. The absence of Amanda Huang in this one accounted for some of the problems as she typically brings an essential routine on three events, but several of the misses came from people who would have been in the lineup regardless.

23. Iowa State Cyclones

Average: 195.396
Previous ranking: 23

Iowa State returned home and returned to the 195.3s this weekend, far less fun than the adventure into the high 196s that was the previous road meet. Still, 195.3s shouldn’t be treated as the normal for this team. The meet was on pace for a higher 195 (and possible 196) until mistakes on floor for 4-5 lower-than-expected scores brought the total down. Encouragingly, Iowa State has seen big, hit beam routines from Grace Woolfolk the last two weeks since hers should be the team’s best beam routine and has the potential to be a wow moment.

24. Penn State Nittany Lions

Average: 195.388
Previous ranking: 25

Penn State does gain a position in the rankings this week but won’t be particularly pleased about losing to Rutgers, a road meet that PSU would have expected to win quite comfortably. In this one, beam (which had been a consistency concern) turned into the starring event and the one that kept PSU’s score in acceptable-enough territory to gain a ranking spot, while the bars and vault scores stayed pedestrian. A surprising vault miss from AA star Lauren Bridgens meant that too many low early-lineup scores had to count, and similar low numbers in the beginning of bars, which is typically going to be the team’s best event, led to the same stunted scores there.

25. Arizona Wildcats

Average: 195.329
Previous ranking: 25

A 195.475 at home against Oregon State allowed Arizona to retain its spot in the top 25 as Stanford fell out of the picture following its 195.000. Arizona may have hoped for a little bit more out of this one since it’s the team’s second-to-last home meet (up next is an entire month of meets on the road), but it’s pretty much on track with the team average. The tendency to vault-9.7 the final score out of the 196s will continue to be an issue as Arizona tries to retain this ranking, but the team can hope for a reflected-glow big number in a visit to UCLA next week.

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