The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Onward to Fort Worth!

After that whirlwind weekend (as long as you consider Thursday part of the weekend, which you don’t, because it’s not), we now know which teams have advanced to the national championship and which teams think this new postseason format is a terrible idea.

FULL DRAW

Now, to set the scene.


SEMIFINAL #1 – April 19, 12:00 CT

[2] UCLA – Vault
[3] LSU – Beam
[6] Utah – Floor
[7] Michigan – Bars

Congratulations, you got the bad one. The hard one. All of the top-seeded teams advanced from this side of the draw—including what is now 4 of the top 6 teams at nationals overall—and we have just 2 spots remaining for them in the team final.

UCLA is the only team that will be comfortable with this draw because UCLA was going to be a major favorite to advance to the final regardless of the draw. UCLA hit 198 in the regional final, and used a B+ squad to go 197.675 in the semifinal, which still outpaced the scores for any of these others teams over either day of regional competition. The other three are in the danger zone.

LSU is your seeded favorite for the second spot, but Utah will look at Saturday’s result—finishing just .250 behind LSU at LSU—and feel it is in with at least a shot at advancing. By scoring 197.275 for what was still not an ideal performance either, Michigan proved it is not going to be an also-ran in this semifinal. No filler rotations here.


SEMIFINAL #2 – April 19, 6:00 CT

[1] Oklahoma – Vault
[5] Denver – Beam
[8] Georgia – Bars
[16] Oregon St – Floor

Congratulations, you got the good one. The elimination of Florida has blown up this half of the bracket, providing what should be a cleaner route to the team final for Oklahoma, as well as a true opportunity for someone unexpected to make it. Denver, Georgia, and Oregon State are not “supposed” to make the team final, and yet one of them will.

Denver is your ranking favorite, and the question we’ll have to tackle as we march toward this semifinal is how much being at home for regionals buoyed Georgia and Oregon State (both in scores and actual performances) versus how truly competitive they might be at a neutral site. Georgia’s regional final score was more than a fall better than Denver’s, but like…those scores.


EVENT DRAW

The rotation draws are fairly…normal here? They don’t look like they’re provide a significant advantage or disadvantage to any team or change what the scenario would be in any other context. Oregon State and Utah probably won’t love starting on floor because they both need that event to be a big score, but it worked out for them at regionals.

I actually think that the worst draw to get these days is starting on bars—because it means you have to finish on vault. Vault is the lowest-scoring event in NCAA and the one where the potential Carol-ness of end-of-meet scoring when everyone is drunk at getting 10s is dampened by start values. We saw that play out at regional finals for the teams with that rotation order. Minnesota ending on vault while Utah was on beam was ultimately a disadvantage for Minnesota, not Utah, even though beam. Michigan’s final vault rotation of 9.825s almost let Alabama back into the meet, and Kentucky finishing on vault meant it just couldn’t quite keep up with the 49.5-a-thon that was the Athens regional. Half the rotation scores at that regional were 49.550 or greater (not over it), but none of those 49.550+ scores came on vault.


FOUR ON THE FLOOR DRAW – April 20, 6:00 CT

For future reference.

Vault – 2nd place, Semifinal 1
Bars – 1st place, Semifinal 2
Beam – 1st place, Semifinal 1
Floor – 2nd place, Semifinal 2

The random draw typically causes ire because it doesn’t necessarily reward performance in the semifinals with a good event order, but this year I feel like Olympic order is an appropriate reward for whichever team manages to advance from that mire of the first semifinal in 2nd place. They’ll have had to fight for it.


INDIVIDUALS

National individual titles are awarded based on the scores in the semifinals, and we now use six judges with four scores counting throughout nationals, which is ostensibly to separate the scores a little more and avoid having ties for those event championships. Meanwhile, we had a three-way tie for the vault title last year and a two-way tie for the bars and floor titles.

The new individual qualification system gives us more eventers and fewer all-arounders advancing with just four AAers qualifying—Alex Hyland, Kentucky; Sienna Crouse, Nebraska; Lexy Ramler, Minnesota; Alicia Boren, Florida. Alex Hyland is the only one of those four who received Olympic order, drawn to rotate with UCLA in the first semifinal. All four individuals are capable of exceptionally strong scores, but everything so far this season has pointed to Kyla Ross as the all-around favorite with Maggie Nichols as the last-minute spoiler when she comes back on floor for nationals. With people like Finnegan and Skinner as the second tier of contenders.

Historically, discussion of scores rising in the second semifinal at nationals has been overblown (and teams tend to prefer being placed in the first semifinal because it allows for more rest before the final), but it’s worth noting that Nichols is the only one of those top four contenders who competes in the second semifinal.

The individual qualifiers are as follows:
Vault – Milan Clausi, Cal; Taylor Houchin, Nebraska; Derrian Gobourne, Auburn; Savannah Schoenherr, Florida
Bars – Sabrina Garcia, Penn St; Cally Nixon, Kentucky; Trinity Thomas, Florida; Cairo Leonard-Baker, Arizona St
Beam – Brooke Kelly, Missouri; Jessie Bastardi, Penn St; Alyssa Baumann, Florida; Hailey Garner, Arkansas
Floor – Sidney Dukes, Kentucky; Abby Armbrecht, Alabama; Trinity Thomas, Florida; Sophia Carter

Alyssa Baumann was drawn to rotate with Georgia, and will compete in the same beam rotation as her sister. Look how that worked out.

The most likely outcome has Ohashi, Ross, and Nichols dominating the individual titles, with Finnegan and Skinner right there on their best events (and then Wojcik, maybe Trautman for floor) because it’s going to take 10s to win most of these events if this season’s everything is any indication. But of the individual qualifiers, the Florida’s will put up a good fight. You can see Trinity Thomas winning events, and there is historical precedent for extremely high scores for the individuals coming from the famous team that got upset at regionals.

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