Onward to Nationals

Now that a solid 90% of us have had a chance to recover from the Salt Lake Heart Disease regional, we know which 8 teams and which individuals have advanced to nationals. So let’s run through it.


SEMIFINAL #1 – April 16, 12:00 CT

[1] Florida – Bars
[4] Michigan – Beam
[5] Cal – Floor
[8] Minnesota – Vault

If I were to pick a semifinal to be in, this is the one I’d pick. The top 8 teams all advanced this year, so we don’t have a horribly unbalanced semifinal setup like last time where most of the top teams ended up in the first session, but there are fewer juggernauts in this semifinal. Florida and Michigan will be favored to advance to the final and did produce the two highest scores from this group at regionals (Florida’s 197.950 in the semi and Michigan’s 198.100 in the final), but we saw enough shaky moments from both teams at various times—what with Florida’s near apocalypse in the regional final and Michigan’s trouble beam in the regional semifinal—that this one shouldn’t be considered finished.  


SEMIFINAL #2 – April 16, 5:00 CT

[2] Oklahoma – Bars
[3] LSU – Floor
[6] Utah – Beam
[7] Alabama – Vault

Ooof. So this is going to get interesting. If any team feels safe in this group it will be Oklahoma, which proved by outscoring Alabama in Alabama that it should be a step above the chaos, even if no one ends up being a disaster. But honestly every team here will consider itself a favorite to advance. LSU is ranked to make the final, but—putting it at its most charitable—LSU is lucky to be here after a beam rotation in the regional final that should have been about a 49.000 or 49.100 and scored 49.525. Now, when you take into account other overscores for all the teams, the controversy isn’t quite as clear-cut as it seems from that last rotation alone, but Arizona State and Kentucky have at least an argument that the fix was in.

Regardless, LSU’s performances at regionals were not top-4 quality and would be beatable in a national semifinal. Utah outcompeted LSU on both days of regionals and will certainly fancy its chances because of that, while Alabama defeated LSU at SECs—though does have some issues of its own to resolve since Alabama’s final scores at regionals were in the 197.5s (sort of pedestrian in this group) and came with the benefit of some very loose scoring. Like LSU, Alabama would need to improve on regionals to make the final here.   


EVENT DRAW

No aggressively significant developments in the rotation draws, though we do see Michigan starting on beam. That did not go super great in the regional semifinal and will be an early benchmark at nationals. LSU has the same rotation order as it did in the regional final, ending on beam, which…well I was going to say it also didn’t go great for them, but they’re here. So I guess it did.


CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW – April 17, 2:30 CT

For future reference.

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

The random draw typically causes ire because it doesn’t necessarily reward performance in the semifinals with the best event order. This year will be no exception because the people who advance from the first semifinal got the duds.


INDIVIDUALS

National individual titles are awarded based on scores in the semifinals, and from this point six judges are used on each event, with four scores counting. That is ostensibly to separate the scores a little more and avoid having ties for event championships. Meanwhile, we had a four-way tie for the vault and floor titles last time.

The four all-around qualifiers making it out of regionals were Lynnzee Brown (Denver), Chae Campbell (UCLA), Kennedy Hambrick (Arkansas), and Hannah Scharf (Arizona State). Of those, Lynnzee Brown should be in the main hunt for the national all-around title. The title race at this point is sort of up in the air depending on whether Trinity Thomas is able to return on all four events at full strength—in which case she would be the favorite—or whether co-favorite status goes to Brown and Lexy Ramler (with a whole host of others, I know, we’ll get there). One thing to watch out for with Brown’s scores compared to normal is that, competing as an individual, her beam routine will now anchor the Florida lineup instead of leading off the Denver lineup. That could change things. 

Historically, discussion of scores rising in the second semifinal at NCAAs has been overstated. In 2019, the scores were much higher in the first semifinal, which corresponded to stronger teams being in the first semifinal. In fact, qualifying teams tend to prefer being placed in the first semifinal because it allows for more rest before the final. That’s especially true this year because the final will be in the afternoon for the live ABC broadcast, which means the teams advancing from the second semifinal will have just 17.5 hours between the conclusion of the semifinal and the start of open stretch for the final (which doesn’t even take into the account the interminable individual awards ceremony that is scheduled after the second semifinal).

But, as for individual scores, it’s worth noting that Thomas, Ramler, and Brown would all be competing in the first semifinal, while many of the members of the next tier like Webb and O’Keefe, and Blanco compete in the second semifinal. So…a test of the theory.

The individual qualifiers are as follows:
Vault – Raena Worley, Kentucky; Angelica Labat, Illinois State; Nia Dennis, UCLA; Madi Dagen, Oregon State
Bars – Maggie O’Hara, Arkansas; Cairo Leonard-Baker, Arizona State; Marz Frazier UCLA; Hannah Demers, CMU
Beam – Bailey Bunn, Kentucky; Sydney Shaffer, Missouri; Morgan Tong, CMU; Hannah Joyner, Rutgers
Floor – Hannah McCrary, Missouri; Abbey Miner-Alder, BYU; Emily Shepard, NC State; Malia Hargrove, Arizona

Expect the usual AA suspects to dominate the event titles as well, especially as most of the top non-team event contenders were not able to advance as individuals (Emily Muhlenhaupt for bars, Elizabeth Culton for beam, Lauren Guerin for floor). Ramler, Thomas, Brown, O’Keefe, Johnson, Bryant, Webb, Wojcik. You know, the people.

48 thoughts on “Onward to Nationals”

  1. Extremely informative as usual! Question – why did Raena Worley advance for vault and not all-around from the Utah Regional?

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    1. Because only the top individual who isn’t on a qualifying team makes it for AA and that was Hannah Scharf. Qualifying is based on the regional semi-final results and Scharf finished 3rd behind Kiya Johnson and Maile O’Keefe, both on qualifying teams. Worley was 5th (also behind her teammate Bailey Bunn).

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      1. Ohhh I see! I thought it was based on finals …. which in hindsight doesn’t make any sense 🙃 thank you!

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      2. To be honest, using semi-finals seems kind of weird too, so I can see why you thought that. I am not as much of a fan of this format as Spencer is.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. @Anon they can’t use finals because only four teams compete in the final, for example if they used finals no one from Iowa would have had the chance to qualify.

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      4. Oh I know why they can’t use finals. But it’s one of the reasons why the format is stupid.

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  2. I’ll be rooting for Lynzee Brown. I feel like national coverage of her by NCAA is not substantial enough. She hasn’t just recovered from her injury, she’s thriving. Did any other individual gymnasts score 2 perfect 10s in regional finals? And yet when you go on the NCAA website, they posted a video of a UCLA floor routine that earned a 9.925. Umm… Lynzee is the epitome of athleticism, dedication, and joy for the sport.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. totally!! My biggest wish for the AA podium is Brown, Thomas and Campbell (ok that’s a dream, Blanco or Ramler will probably be in this top 3). Also I hope she returns next year, but since she is preparing for the 24 Olympics, I think we’re gonna see one more year of college then elite:)) gosh I love Lynnzee

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  3. I would argue that Luisa Blanco is now in the first-tier category. Whether you agree with her scores or not, she’s going very late or anchoring all of Alabama’s lineups and the scores have been there to grab, and she has been. A true 9.95 threat on all four apparatuses.

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      1. Wrong. Spencer very clearly names Trinity the favorite if 100% and if not, says Brown and Ramler are co-favorites. Later he lists Blanco with “next tier”. That is an intentional choice by Spencer, and quite childish. Blanco is 2nd to Trinity in AA NQS (ahead of Brown and Ramler) and she is 2nd in season average to Ramler (ahead of Trinity and Brown). She is the ONLY gymnast in the country with 3 AA scores of 39.8 or better. No others. She has outscored Brown 4 of the last 7 meet nights, and outscored Ramler 4 of the last 7 meet nights. She is the slight favorite or absolutely an equal co-favorite with anyone. Spencer knows this and let me repeat CHOOSES to intentionally slight her.

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      2. I mean, if you’re not an insane Luisa Blanco fan, it is pretty clear to see that she’s benefited from VERY generous scoring this season, more so than Brown or Ramler. Blanco is AA champion material if she hits all four to the best of her ability on the same day, but she’s also gotten top scores for some of her less-than-too performances and is a little less consistently at the top of her game than some of the other candidate AAers.

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      3. I agree that the comma placement leaves some things up to interpretation, but I don’t think he’s intentionally slighting Blanco. Most of the discussion revolves around Brown and Thomas because of the unknown variables surrounding their performances that can affect the outcome. He specifically states that there is “a whole host of others” that could be considered favorites, and equal attention is given to Blanco, Johnson, Bryant, and Wojcik. It will be very exciting to see how it all plays out!

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      4. To the Anonymous who said Blanco is second to Trinity in NQS, that’s incorrect. She is 4th. Ramler and Brown are tied for 2nd for NQS.

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      5. Blanco has been over scored ALL year long so comparing data for her is silly.
        She was free of any of the top AA athletes as Brown, Thomas, Ramler were all in Georgia. Blanco only had Webb to contend with and when in same session together was second to Webb.

        Once Brown, Thomas, and Ramler set the pace in the morning session, Blanco will have immense difficulty keeping up in comparison to the first group. What does benefit Blanco is anchoring Bama (tied with LSU for most over scored team 2021) and that she is in the second session. Generally, the AA champ comes from session 2 where the scores tend to rise.

        Also, Natalie Wojick can contend for the AA, especially if Michigan is hot and hitting right out of the gates in session 1.

        If all the top AAers hit to the best of ability. Blanco is 7th, maybe 6th at best overall.

        She is far from the favorite and is def. in the second tier of athletes. Spencer is extremely knowledgeable and I concur with his analysis over someone who is clearly a Bamastan/Blancostan

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  4. Based on the scores, there are five athletes who have gone 39.8+ this year who I’d consider the top tier for AA: Thomas, Ramler, Brown, Webb, and Blanco. I hope that Florida has Trinity going last on every event so she and Brown are directly compared to each other. In fact I hope that all the teams put their AA title contenders last in the lineup, I’m worried that Webb will be hosed if Trautman anchors vault and floor.

    and I’m still here to get upset about the way that qualifications to nationals happens, the top 8 or top 12 athletes from the regular season should be guaranteed. It’s just ridiculous De Jesus, Muhlenhaupt, Culton, Kenlin, Vasquez, Guerin, Miner Alder, and Henderson aren’t at nationals when they could all easily win their respective event titles

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    1. Couldn’t agree with this more. I’d love an individuals session, even, since this would otherwise mess with the pacing. That would work nicely with the top 12 Areas and eventers.

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    2. Kenlin is easily my favorite beamer this year. I’m so gutted that she didn’t qualify because she definitely could’ve been ncaa beam champ.

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    3. I wish they’d junk the concept of individual competitors at regionals altogether and find a less convoluted way of advancing top individuals to nationals.

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    4. Right. Five have gone 39.8 or better. Blanco has done it THREE TIMES., Trinity 2 times, and Ramler, Brown, and Webb once each. But Spencer chooses not to include her as a favorite LOL. That is a reflection not on his knowledge (because he is very knowledgable both about the sport and about the FACT that she has outscored both Brown and Ramler). It’s about bias. He literally and intentionally slights her.

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      1. I’m pretty sure Spencer made his tiers by NQS. Thomas, Brown, and Ramler are the top 3. Blanco, Webb, O’Keefe and Wojcik are next. If anyone was shafted, it was Wojcik, who is tied with O’Keefe but he didn’t mention. But we don’t hear the Michigan fans crying!

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  5. I feel like Minnesota night one was the toast of the Athens regional. Score rose noticeably between night one and two.

    It’s also conceivable no SEC team makes finals if they each turn in their weaker comp from regionals. That said, I think UF rises or falls based on Thomas. I feel UF and LSU are more dependent on their end of lineup routines than the other teams.

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    1. actually, I think Minndesota is more dependent on the end of their lineup, they often have a fall from the first or second athlete on beam or bars. Of it not a fall, a kinda shaky performance. Then it’s totally up to Ramler and Loper to save everything

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    2. Ooh, I have nothing in particular against the SEC teams (other than generally being an ASU fan), but I do kind of want an SRC-less final now that you mention it just because that would be a shock to the system

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  6. A surprising source weighed in on facebook today congratulating Luisa Blanco on being named Region 1 Gymnast of the Year – Suzanne Yoculan. Not surprisingly, one of the typical clueless haters posted that Luisa was overscored. Suzanne literally laughed at them and said Luisa had the most beautiful form in the country.

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    1. Luisa does have beautiful form, but you can still believe that and believe she is overscored. Anyway, good for Suzanne for congratulating her.

      The Bama fans in this chat seem to have gone a bit ballistic.

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      1. Exactly. Blanco does have beautiful gymnasts but CAN and IS often overscored. I wouldn’t mind 10s being given, but she gets them because she is anchors the event. Her regionals 10 was undeserved.

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  7. To Anonymous who said this: It’s just ridiculous De Jesus, Muhlenhaupt, Culton, Kenlin, Vasquez, Guerin, Miner Alder, and Henderson aren’t at nationals when they could all easily win their respective event titles

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m also sad no one from Iowa made it. Honestly, I could do with one less team and 7 more individuals rotating as a group in the 2nd semi. Call them wild cards, fill it up with anyone from top 15 NQS or so who aren’t otherwise qualified.

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    1. Yes to this and I would also like to throw in a word for Claire Kaji (came close but lost on a tiebreaker to Maggie O’Hara on bars). So many deserving individuals miss out on Nationals.

      A note re Miner Alder – she did qualify for floor. So at least there is one travesty off the list.

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    2. Exactly. How hard would it be to, for example, guarantee a nationals bid to anyone in the top 10 (by NQS) in the AA or on an event, regardless of whether their team qualifies? Or like, the top 8 by NQS for AA and each event once team qualifiers are removed?

      Making individuals (ESPECIALLY those without teams at regionals) qualify through regionals is forcing a square peg into a round hole and creates too much aribitrariness in terms of who makes it.

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      1. That is the problem with the new format.
        By eliminating 4 strong teams (from 12 to 8) the individuals make up the majority of one team usually. Think Florida in 2019.

        If 12 had gone to Nationals that would have been Denver, UCLA, Arkansas, Kentucky. That frees up individual spots for quite a few events.

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      2. Weren’t there fewer individuals under the old format though? I think an event specialist only could advance out of regionals if they won the event outright? So the fewer teams/more individuals tradeoff was always part of the plan, the execution just leaves something to be desired.

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      3. Well, there sort of were. First of all, there were six regionals and there were two AA qualifiers per regional. So right there, we got 12 individual AAers versus the 4 we get now. You are correct that before, the event winners had to win the event outright in order to qualify. In 2018, we saw only 6 people qualify vs the 16 we get now. In 2017, it was only 8. So it is easier for event specialists, but harder for AAers. And harder for everyone because, as was pointed out, more teams would have gone. But the total number of individuals is essentially unchanged if you add the AAers and event specialists together.

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  8. What I love about the AA race this year is that it truly is wide open. Yes, there are favorites, but based on rankings anyone in the Top 10 could legitimately win, if they hit. There are even a handful of gymnasts ranked 11-20 who are capable of that type of performance (DeSouza, Skaggs, Loper). We all have our favorites, but the overall high quality of gymnastics this season is exciting. The top 8 teams are competitive and any combination of four could make finals, and about a dozen AAers have an actual shot at the crown, which is more than in years past. I can’t wait for Nationals!

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  9. Is this the most wide open nationals field ever? I could honestly see any combo of these teams making it to the final.

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    1. I think it might be. Normally it’s only 2-3 teams with a legitimate chance to win. Honestly any of these 8 teams is completely capable of winning and that makes it so much more exciting (but so much more nerve-wracking!!)

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  10. How does it work with two UCLA gymnasts rotating with Alabama and one with LSU? Do any coaches travel with athletes who compete as individuals? Do those individuals get to have their own team coach with them on the floor, or do they have to be spotted by a coach of the teams they’re rotating with?

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