All posts by balancebeamsituation

Freshman Orientation: Oklahoma

It was a severely depleted Sooner team that limped to a still-respectable 196.925 at National Semifinals last year, missing out on Super Six for the first time in three years. Couple the graduations of Megan Ferguson, Sara Stone, and Candace Cindell with the returns of Kayla Nowak, Rebecca Clark, and Lauren Alexander and the introductions of Keeley Kmieciak, Haley Scaman, Maile’ana Kanewa, and Hunter Price, and I think we can expect the 2013 Sooners to be a completely different animal from the group we saw compete at the end of 2012. 

The most high-profile challenge for Oklahoma this season will be finding a way to withstand the loss of Ferguson’s three 9.9+ routines. In typical Oklahoma fashion, I expect that to be a team effort. I don’t see one single member of this 2013 group suddenly emerging as a multiple-9.9 machine. Different stars on different events will likely help this team 9.875 most opponents to death.

While the hole left by Ferguson will be notable, I’m more interested in how this group of freshmen will contribute on Ferguson’s nonevent, vault. Vault saw the most serious depletion last year (poor Haley Sorensen was put in the position of having to contribute even though no one could have expected more than a 9.700 from her). Still, no gymnasts recorded 9.9s at Regionals or National Semifinals, so even a healthy team would have been unlikely to contend with the 49.600 sisters. In addition, they have lost their best vaulter in Sara Stone, so the Sooners will need the biggest contribution from the freshmen there, and it appears they will get it.

Keeley Kmieciak was the strongest vaulter in JO last year and recorded the only 9.900 at JO Nationals with her stuck Yurchenko 1.5. Haley Scaman also has a very strong Y1.5 than can verge on excellent. Look for these two to help lift Oklahoma out of that gully of Yurchenko halves they have been sitting in recently.

In fact, every one of these freshmen stands out on vault and floor, which seems to indicate a concerted effort by K.J. Kindler to address the areas where she was falling behind the teams that can potentially put up six 9.900s. Kmieciak won floor in her division at JO Nationals as well and shows a nice tuck full, but more importantly she has confident landings and a comfortable performance persona that should serve her well in NCAA.

Scaman shows a double layout on floor and has strong amplitude overall. She had a bit of an episode on beam at JOs, but she can present well there at times and could make the lineup.

Kanewa, as mentioned, is also a vault and floor specialist who has shown a strong pike full for several seasons now (particularly good posture on landing) and has a workable 9.800-ish Yurchenko full. Based on her JO quality, I wouldn’t expect her to contribute on bars or beam, but Oklahoma always surprises by having unexpected gymnasts emerge on unexpected events. Observe:

Kanewa Bars – February 2012

Kanewa Bars – two weeks ago

The improvement fairy came to visit.

The fourth freshman, Hunter Price, has strengths, but I have trouble seeing her contributing. She shows a nice handspring front pike on vault, but it’s still just a handspring front pike. She would have to upgrade. Similarly, floor can be OK, but I’m not sold on the difficulty or the landings.

Overall, I’m encouraged by vault, but watch the progression of this group on bars because there will need to be continued development to make that a competitive event. We’re not made of Brie Olsons. 


Freshman Orientation: Alabama

The two-time defending champions are not the vogue pick to win a third-straight title this year. That has a little bit to do with a lack of positive reputation among vocal fans, many of whom are based in the greater Athens area, and many coaches. Tellingly, the coaches never select Alabama as preseason #1 even though it is almost procedure for Georgia and UCLA to be awarded preseason #1 after they win titles. It’s a reputation that does not extend to judges, though, hence the titles.

Much of the lack of favoritism this year, though, can be attributed to a loss of talent. Last year, the team didn’t feel the graduation of Kayla Hoffman particularly dramatically because Ashley Priess came back. It was mostly a wash. This year, they will feel the lack of Geralen Stack-Eaton. I foresee a season where we hear a lot of “If only Geralen were in that lineup” when the team needs a crucial 9.950 that doesn’t come.

The incoming freshmen, Lauren Beers and Carley Sims, cannot alone be expected to fill those 9.900s on every event. That wouldn’t be a fair or realistic expectation. The upperclassmen will have to be a little more 9.900 and a little less 9.850 across multiple events, but I’ll get to that more in December when I preview the teams as a whole. For now, let’s look at where we can expect the freshmen to contribute.

Lauren Beers

Lauren Beers has enough talent to compete in the all-around this season if needed, though I don’t anticipate that happening too often. She has the usual Bama strengths, vault and floor, featuring a Yurchenko 1.5 that she competed as an elite and improved in JO and a high double layout on floor. If she’s consistently landing the Y1.5, that should help get her into a very deep vault lineup.

She has the skill set on beam but is definitely not a beamer. My impression of her on that event will forever be tainted by a disastrous performance from elite Nationals when she fell on a stoop-through mount and only barely broke 10 (10.600 with a 5.200 execution). That kind of performance stays with you. On bars, she can compete and likely can score in that 9.800-9.850 territory that we’ve been seeing from Kim Jacob, Sarah Demeo, and Kaitlyn Clark. In fact, her overall style is very similar to Kaitlyn Clark’s, and I see them having similar careers.

Carley Sims
I know much less about Carley Sims, but based on her recruiting video, she was born for Bama. Vault is very nice (she outscored Beers there at JO Nationals this year), and floor could come along. Bars is just sort of fine, but I don’t expect to see her on beam at all. When there are wobbles in the recruiting video, it’s usually not a good sign.

I made the same comment last year (so it doesn’t necessarily hold weight because they won the title), but I have concerns about this team on bars. Priess and the occasional Sledge are the only names I anticipate sporting 9.900s next to them this season. They’ll need those 49.600s on vault.

Freshman Orientation: Utah

Because last year’s Super Six and the subsequent discussion was all about the close margin between Alabama, Florida, and UCLA, it’s easy to forget that Utah finished less than half of a point behind the champions. Now, I would make the argument that a lack of proper separation between scores was a problem there (and throughout the season, and always, a point I will be sharpening for, oh, the next six months), but even taking that into account, Utah wasn’t completely blown away by the top three last year.

The single biggest deficit that the Utes faced when compared to the eventual champion Alabama came on vault, which accounted for nearly half of the difference in scores. Utah fans should therefore be pleased that the new freshman class features two standouts on that event (Taylor Allex and Breanna Hughes), both of whom boast solid Yurchenko 1.5s that were consistently scoring in the 9.750-9.800 range in JO. With these two, Utah should be able to withstand the loss of Kyndal Robarts on this event and improve on last season’s scores (while also featuring a refreshingly low-ish number of Yurchenko fulls).

The less pleasant news comes when we rotate to bars. The team is losing routines from both Stephanie McAllister and Cortni Beers, but only one of the new freshmen (Hughes) looks like a potential contributor on that event. Bars is not nearly as strong for Allex or Haley Lange. Someone like Nansy Damianova could come into the lineup to fill the empty spot, but it will be difficult for the team to improve too much on bars from last year, and I foresee a lot of 9.800s.

Overall, this is one of the more unheralded freshman classes of the year because there are no elites, but I anticipate these newcomers competing at the same level we have seen from Utah the past three seasons or so. Expect Breanna Hughes to be the big all-around contributor. She doesn’t have a significantly weaker event, and her nice form on bars and competitive difficulty on all pieces should help her be an early-mid lineup worker wherever the Utes need.

Taylor Allex is a nice recruit for vault and floor, and I see her contributing in both places during the season. Beam is OK, but I would put an asterisk next to it for consistency. Utah has a habit of creating beamers, though, and the team prides itself on beam consistency, so we may see some of Allex there. I’ve seen the least of Haley Lange, but it appears (especially in her beam work) that acro elements are the comfort and dance elements are the nail biters. I do appreciate that she competes handspring vaults, but she will be the type who has to learn new skills and improve some areas of form while at Utah to be a contributor. She’s not entering as a lineup-ready gymnast. The team released video during the summer of her training a double layout on floor, which is exactly the kind of development I’m talking about.

Breanna Hughes
Watch more video of 2012 J.O. National Championships on

Taylor Allex

Haley Lange

Freshman Orientation: Florida

The biggest news of the weekend is Lexie Priessman’s verbal commitment to Georgia for 2015-2016. It seems like an appropriate fit stylistically, although who knows how the tenor of the team will change under Durante, if at all. Priessman is currently on the Olympic track, so early verbals like this are always to be taken with a hefty tablespoon of squinting.

But continuing our look at the new friends who will be gracing us with their skills this season, we turn to Florida. Of the top teams, Florida should be the least concerned about routine replacement from last season, and yet the Gators have the most accomplished freshman class of the bunch. Recall as well that Aly Raisman was going to be part of this class had that been a realistic commitment.

Last season, the Gators boasted four excellent routines on each apparatus, and Bridget Sloan and Bridgette Caquatto could certainly jump in and make that six out of six on each event (and that is not taking into account a potentially healthy Mackenzie Caquatto because I still have questions about the viability of those ankles). There should be no concerns about talent level here; health will be the biggest factor.

Bridget Sloan





Certainly, Sloan is capable of scoring 9.900+ on any event. Some of the most accomplished elite recruits of recent years still have a weaker event, but Sloan has proven adept enough on all four (even though beam has been a struggle over the years, I see her making that lineup). If all goes to plan, she will be among the prime favorites for the AA title.

We don’t know how things have been going for her since the elbow injury at Trials, and while she said that there would be a significant recovery time, there are no indications that it will legitimately impede her season. The biggest problem for Sloan will be that this is not a one-off injury. She has been constantly injured for the last three and a half years. Assuming that she is going to stay totally healthy for an extended period as a Gator is a gamble I wouldn’t be willing to make right now.

Injury history is the usual concern with elites coming in to NCAA, but as we saw with Caquatto the Elder last season, the Gators are deep enough that they can absorb an injury to a top contributor. That depth only increases this season. It’s sort of crazy that they might not even need a healthy Sloan to win the title this year.

Bridgette Caquatto





I know that she is a Bridgey, but I’m going with Bridgette for now because I’m giving her an opportunity to decide whether she still wants to be Bridgey in college. She may decide to change her identity. How many Katies did you know who suddenly became Kat within two weeks of freshman year starting? Although, Rhonda does love her nicknames. Her press conferences are always full of “BeBe and ReeRee and LoLo will be going on beam this week,” and sometimes you need a Gator-to-English dictionary to figure it out.

Caquatto the Younger is the big mystery of the year. After her success at Pan Ams last year, she just sort of went to Texas and disappeared with injury, opting out of the Olympic process. She was going to be a major long shot for the Olympic team, even under the healthiest of circumstances. It could end up being the best decision because it may allow her to be more refreshed going into NCAA than some of her elite counterparts, but since we haven’t seen her in a year, it’s difficult to know what to make of her quality. She’ll have to show me something in the consistency territory, especially on beam (hits in competition have been rare), but the potential is obviously there. On bars, I’d love to see them either scrap the toe-on skills or teach her a both-legs-at-a-time technique.

Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto





Now, I hope this one doesn’t take a nickname because I find myself really enjoying saying the full name Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto as much as possible. She’s in a similar situation to Kiersten Wang last season where it will be difficult for her to prove valuable enough to make a postseason lineup with all this depth. Wang did end up making vault (and credit to her for how much her vault improved from January to April), but lineups are going to get even harder this year for both of them, especially if Rhonda maintains the strategy of deciding her six early. She doesn’t hold as much with exploring depth and saving gymnasts as some other coaches. That beam lineup didn’t change one inch all of last season.

That isn’t to say Dancose-Giambattisto isn’t skilled. There’s some potential on bars and beam, but the team may just be too deep for her. I contend she was a bit of a recruiting miss for some other top teams who could have used her more. Perhaps she just really wanted to go to Florida, and I do think the Gators can use her in places during the season. She could be a backup on two events when the inevitable injury occurs.

Freshman Orientation: Georgia

Our NCAA teams have now moved out of the not remotely voluntary portion of the preseason and into the official practice portion. There will not be a great deal for them to report about their progress over the next month or two other than groundbreaking stories like “The team is coming together really well” and “We’re excited about the season.”

But for our purposes, it’s time to start familiarizing ourselves with the freshman on each of the top teams so that we can have our utterly arbitrary opinions about how they will perform solidified and gathering mold well before the season begins. 

I’m starting with Georgia, where (in addition to being reliable workhorses in the all-around) the hardest job for incoming standouts Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers will be finding a way to mitigate the loss of tenths on bars. Kat Ding and Gina Nuccio were bringing in 9.900s every week and showing their teammates what sticking looks like. Chelsea Davis will be expected to take on that Kat Ding responsibility this season, but both Jay and Rogers will need to prove worthy of late lineup positions to ensure there is not a major drop off from last season. Otherwise, they will be looking very 49.200 on an event where they will need 49.400s.

Brandie Jay





Jay has spent the last three years as one of those solid second-tier elites who lacked some precision and difficulty but who could excel in NCAA because she is talented, has a high skill level, and is relatively injury-free. She has the potential to be the gymnast they were hoping Tanella would be (9.875-y on multiple events).

Vault has been her signature event in the past, and even though it was weaker in 2012 than it had been before, she is capable of putting up a nice late-lineup Yurchenko 1.5 or full that could help make up for the loss of Ding.

Under the elite code, her execution scores were often low on the other events, but many of her major breaks were on skills she wouldn’t have to perform in NCAA. There is certainly some leg and foot form in places that I will harp on, and she’ll need to improve consistency on beam, but she could be a vital all-arounder. 

Brittany Rogers





Rogers had been written off by many after some extended injury breaks, but she returned to be a standout vault and bars worker on the Canadian Olympic team, and that’s where I expect her to be strongest for Georgia. But as we can see from these videos, she’s not hopeless on the other events. I don’t expect her to lead the team, but she could make lineups. They may need some 9.800ishness from her on each, which I can certainly see happening.

She won’t be joining the team until January, but if she’s in shape to compete right away, expect her to be a significant performer. The talent is there. Whether she can bring the team out that Noel Couch/Kaylan Earls/Sarah Persinger 9.825-9.850 territory remains to be seen.

Anysia Unick





Unick isn’t coming in with as much attention because she wasn’t a top international competitor for Canada. When she was recruited, Jay Clark touted her bars skills, and while her Tkatchev is high, I’m not ready to pronounce her a major contributor there. That’s a wait-and-see routine for me. 

I’m actually way more interested in her beam routine and that skill selection, which I hope (and know they won’t) maintain. Don’t discount this one.

Mary Beth Box
Box is a walk-on this year with similar strengths to Mariel. She doesn’t have much difficulty, but she could put together an efficient enough routine on floor to be a backup. She recently had knee surgery, so it remains to be seen if she will contribute in 2013. 

2013-2016 WAG Code of Points

There’s so little going on in the collegiate realm since it’s still September, so I can be forgiven for bouncing back to elite for the moment.

We have the offical Code for 2013-2016, so there is much to digest.

You can download it in the WAG section HERE if you don’t have it yet.

Most of this is similar to the provisional code from earlier in the year, so I won’t address most of that in detail, but there is also some interesting new stuff here that I will react to in no particular order after the jump:

  • I’m most interested in the new “Series Bonus” on beam which provides .10 for any connection of three acro elements valued at at least B+B+C. This means that D+B+C will be .10 instead of .20 (yay) but also that some easier combinations of three elements can also receive .10. I think I’m pro this move, but we’ll have to wait and see. This will be in addition to any CV earned in the combination, so C+C+C will now receive .20 in CV and .10 in SB. Don’t worry if you don’t get it yet, we will learn. Under this rule, a combination dismount like B+B+E will now be .10 instead of .20.
  • They’ve backed off the artistry deductions on beam that they presented in the provisional code, but there is now a .10-.30 deduction for lack of confidence, personal style, and uniqueness in the routine. Love it if it’s applied correctly, which it won’t be. 
  • No more combo pass requirement on floor (!). Instead, the double salto and full turn salto requirements are each different CRs. (Why not get rid of the dance combination while you were at it? Ugh.)
  • Removal of the .30 floor CV from the provisional code. I’m actually glad they did this because I thought .30 for C+E indirect was too much, but others will disagree.
  • UGH. They kept the D acro + A dance connection for floor. It was supposed to be changed to D+B. Not. Wanted.
  • Similar to beam, they have backed off the artistry deductions on floor. It’s a nice gesture but this is a little toothless. I do enjoy the deduction for the inability to play a role or character in the routine. 
  •  Good use of photos of Philipp Boy.
  • Downgrades of vaults are in line with the provisional code. Handspring rudi is down to 6.2, Produnova is down to 7.0, Tsuk 2.5 is down to 6.5, Amanar down to 6.3, Cheng down to 6.4. I appreciate their trying to keep vault scores down, but they’ve missed the point about non-Yurchenko vaults being undervalued.
  • Shushunova on bars down to an E instead of a G. Good. 
  • Kochetkova on beam now an E instead of a D.
  • Split jump with 1.5 turns and straddle 1.5 on floor are now D instead of C.
  • Cat leap and tuck leap 2/1 in floor are now C (kill me).
  • Double front 1/2 is now an F. Finally.
  •  Double double tucked is a new H skill for .80. Did we need that to happen? Double layout 1/1 is also an H. We did need that to happen.
  • They had four more years to learn how to spell people’s names in the named skills section and still no progress. Sigh.
  • There are more things that we already knew about because they were part of the provisional code (like no more bail HS+stalder shoot connection on bars and no more .20 CV for E+E pirouetting), and I’m sure I missed some things, but these are the thoughts for now.

    Tenths above Replacement

    Warning: Contains numbers.

    Even though coaches don’t like to talk explicitly about replacing routines because every team is different and every gymnast is a unique gemstone with her own personal sparkle blah, blah, blah, barf, finding the routines to replace scores that are no longer with the team can be a major struggle.

    Some teams have more work to do than others. As a way of measuring the value of a gymnast that has graduated or retired, we can compare that gymnast’s RQS to the score we would expect from an average replacement, a 7th-8th gymnast on a apparatus who competes in the event of an injury and keeps the team from falling apart. Certainly, that’s going to vary for every team, and Alabama on vault will be expecting a much higher replacement score than Ohio State on beam.

    Still, we can assume that on average most of the top teams will be looking at a replacement score of about 9.800. 9.800 is just OK for a team expecting to make Championships, and nearly all of these teams have 9.800s who were sitting on the bench last season.

    So, in analyzing how much replacement work the top 12 teams from last year have to do, we can examine how much the average team score would decrease if we replaced the graduated/retired routines from 2012 (measured by RQS) with 9.800s. That is the tenths above replacement score. For example, if all the Ferguson, Stone, and Cindell routines from last year become 9.800s instead, Oklahoma’s team score goes down an average of 0.700.

    A few notes:
    -Gymnasts are included if they made the final lineup for the team, be it in Super Six or Semifinals. That’s why Cindell is here even though she likely wouldn’t have competed if not for Nowak’s injury. A healthy Nowak makes up some of that 0.700 right away.
    -In cases where a gymnast competed on an event but the RQS was below replacement level (below 9.800), I did not include that routine in the statistics as it should be replaceable.
    -In cases where a gymnast did not have an RQS because of injury but did contribute in the postseason, I used the postseason average instead. I also intervened in the case of Kyndal Robarts since her very low RQS was not representative of the fact that Utah will have to find a score to replace hers on floor. It’s cheating, but it creates more realistic numbers. What can I say? I’m a rogue. Without that change, Utah’s number would be 0.390, if you’re interested.
    -The numbers slightly underestimate the importance of the seniors for Ohio State, where 9.800s were more rare and valuable last season. The Buckeyes have some of the most replacing to do.

    Tenths above Replacement:

    1. Oklahoma – 0.700
    Megan Ferguson – 0.380 (Bars: 9.910, Beam: 9.930, Floor: 9.940)
    Sara Stone – 0.295 (Vault: 9.935, Beam: 9.875, Floor: 9.885)
    Candace Cindell – 0.025 (Bars: 9.825)

    2. Arkansas – 0.545
    Jaime Pisani – 0.440 (Vault: 9.910, Bars: 9.895, Beam: 9.895, Floor: 9.940)
    Mariah Howdeshell – 0.105 (Bars: 9.905)

    3. UCLA – 0.510
    Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs – 0.220 (Vault: 9.815, Beam: 9.885, Floor: 9.920)
    Aisha Gerber – 0.145 (Bars: 9.890, Beam: 9.855)
    Tauny Frattone – 0.145 (Vault: 9.920, Floor: 9.825)

    4. Georgia – 0.458 
    Kat Ding – 0.338 (Vault: 9.910, Bars: 9.935, Beam: 9.830, Floor: 9.863)
    Gina Nuccio – 0.085 (Bars: 9.885, Floor: 9.800)
    Laura Moffatt – 0.035 (Beam: 9.835)

    5. Utah – 0.457
    Kyndal Robarts – 0.222 (Vault: 9.900, Beam: 9.855, Floor: 9.867)
    Stephanie McAllister – 0.180 (Bars: 9.865, Beam: 9.825, Floor: 9.890)
    Cortni Beers – 0.055 (Bars: 9.810, Beam: 9.845)

    6. Oregon State – 0.440
    Leslie Mak – 0.305 (Vault: 9.810, Bars: 9.885, Beam: 9.930, Floor: 9.880)
    Olivia Vivian – 0.135 (Bars: 9.895, Beam: 9.840)

    7. Stanford – 0.393
    Alyssa Brown – 0.233 (Vault: 9.908, Bars: 9.875, Beam: 9.850)
    Nicole Pechanec – 0.160 (Vault: 9.810, Bars: 9.900, Floor: 9.850)

    8. Alabama – 0.310
    Geralen Stack-Eaton – 0.310 (Vault: 9.895, Bars: 9.890, Beam: 9.820, Floor: 9.905)

    9. Ohio State – 0.240
    Alyssa Marohn – 0.080 (Vault: 9.840, Bars: 9.815, Beam: 9.825)
    Nicole Krauter – 0.060 (Vault: 9.835, Beam: 9.825)
    Taylor Jones – 0.050 (Vault: 9.800, Bars: 9.815, Floor: 9.835)
    Casey Williamson – 0.050 (Bars: 9.845, Floor: 9.805)

    10. Nebraska – 0.235
    Lora Evenstad – 0.235 (Vault: 9.825, Bars: 9.910, Floor: 9.900)

    11. Florida – 0.100
    Nicole Ellis – 0.065 (Bars: 9.865)
    Amy Ferguson – 0.035 (Floor: 9.835)

    12. LSU – 0.055
    Ashley Lee – 0.055 (Vault: 9.855)