All posts by balancebeamsituation

Jay Clark Resigns

Link

I must admit that I did not see this coming, and I think it’s a real shame. While there have been rumblings ever since the 2010 Regionals disaster about Jay not living up to Suzanne, no coach coming into this program would have been able to replicate that success.

While there were areas he needed to work on as a coach, the team was improving each year under his leadership. Even though this year’s group had a disappointing finish at Nationals, they were the most cohesive team with the most potential for success of the three during his tenure, even if the raw talent level was higher in 2010. It was clear that he was starting to find his footing in this position. The expectation that championships would immediately follow after Suzanne left was unrealistic. This is a rash move by Georgia and one that will backfire when a new coach comes in who is similarly unable to deliver championships right away.

Success in NCAA gymnastics is so dependent on trust and emotion and everyone buying in to the process. It is probably unique among sports in that way. In other sports we hear a lot about how the concept of team chemistry is overrated, but it is essential in NCAA women’s gymnastics. Not understanding that is an error. It takes time to build that kind of trust and chemistry and attitude for a program. Georgia was starting to get on its way toward rebuilding the program, and short of coaxing Suzanne out of retirement, they will be right back at 2010 again with a new coach.

There will be all kinds of speculation about who will replace Jay, but the pool of qualified candidates with the experience necessary who also want the job is extremely small.

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15 Thoughts

Now that’s it has been a week since Championships, it’s time to reflect on the season and beyond with some notes. I just have a lot of feelings.

  • E mounts don’t amount to much. We heard a lot of talk this season about who was mounting with E passes and who wasn’t, but this did not translate into the scores at any point in the season. The message is clear: be clean and start from a 10, nobody cares if it’s an E pass.
  • Separation is the watchword. Scores are always going to go crazy at points in the season. That’s never going to change, and any substantive effort to homogenize judging across the country will probably do more harm than good. The most egregious scoring issues we saw at Championships didn’t involve fundamental overscoring but did involve a lack of sufficient separation between good and great. Encouraging judges to be more aware of that separation should be the goal.
  • Pros and cons of Four on the Floor. Once again this season we had a team in the title race (UCLA) not competing during the last rotation. This is not good. On the other hand, ESPN’s live broadcast had trouble keeping up with two teams competing in the final rotation, and if there were three competing at the same time, it would have been a catastrophe. No solution is free of problems, and I’m beginning to feel one isn’t really better than another.
  • The good trio. Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne continue to be the best commentary team in US gymnastics. Even when Bart concocts a bizarre pronunciation of Vanessa Zamarripa, this team makes you confident that they know what they are talking about. Kathy and Suzanne strike an excellent balance of being accessible to non-experts without being too simple for the rest of us. They show that you can name and explain skills and the subtleties of routine evaluation without becoming too technical for a lay audience. 
  • Vault finals: a problem. Something must be done because once again this year, vault finals were a boring disaster. We need to have a list of pre-qualified eligible gymnasts who have proven they can perform two vaults at 10.0, and then the top four from each Semifinal who also appear on the list will advance to finals. How about we have gymnasts show their two 10.0 vaults to a representative judge during podium training to get placed on the list? They wouldn’t have to worry about a good landing, just show they can do the vaults. 
  • Boo to neutral sites. Championships should be on a relevant campus. No good comes from a neutral site.
  • Combination beam dismounts. I used to enjoy the bhs+loso+full dismount, but it seems everyone did it this year, and I’m getting tired of it. While the gymnasts who perform it can usually stick because it’s just a full, it’s very difficult to get any kind of amplitude out of the layout stepout, so we don’t get to see any impressive flight. The gymnasts just sort of trickle off the beam. I’m ready for that trend to be over.
  • Let’s talk about split positions and legs. I need to see more attention paid to these qualities, and it probably has to start with the judging because otherwise there is no incentive to improve upon them. We’re seeing so many cheated splits and bent knees, and everyone just seems fine with it. Let’s make a pact not to be fine with it.
  • Now let’s talk about same-bar releases. I like them. I need them in my life. I don’t want to see routines without them because they are flat and lack excitement and dynamic flight. Are nice, high same-bar releases with pointed toes too much to ask? Am I reaching for the stars here? Not really.
  • What are we going to do about Georgia? This makes three straight years of not making Super Six, once again going out on a really feeble performance. The Gymdogs can’t say that they lost to a better team. They gave it away and finished behind Ohio State. They will be nowhere next year without Kat Ding. They need Chelsea Davis to become the new Kat Ding.
  • Alabama needs Ashley Priess. We got the news this week that Priess has decided to stay on at Alabama for another year. Without Priess and Stack-Eaton next year, the Tide would have seriously struggled to make it three titles in a row. Now, they’re back in the conversation. I still question her ability to stay healthy, but she proved me wrong this year. Is it tempting fate to try again? 
  • Florida is on the right track. Even though the Gators once again failed to win the title, the performance in the postseason proved that Rhonda’s plan worked beautifully. A few adjustments so that they are a little more comfortable (and relaxed) with landings going into Championships and they should be in prime position again next year. The additions of Sloan and B. Caquatto won’t hurt either.
  • New Bruins in 2013. While it was weak performances from the seniors that cost UCLA the title last weekend, those gymnasts provided a ton of routines and were crucial to UCLA’s success. We will see a different team with a different mood next year, with new pressure on the young gymnasts. Larson will not be allowed to be the non-factor she was this year, and Lee will need to contribute significantly right away. 
  • Stanford is real. Stanford employed what amounted to an extreme version of the Florida strategy and peaked in the postseason this year. While losing Brown and Pechanec will be a blow, they can still be a factor next year with Hong and a potentially healthy Shapiro leading the way. Judges respond to the cleanliness of their gymnastics, and with a bit more dynamics on vault and floor, they could be a factor again.
  • So there’s our season. Just eight months until the next one. Before that, I’ll be popping in to talk about elite from time to time as we approach the Olympics. That should be a silly ride.

Event Finals Live Blog

The last competition from Nationals gets underway soon. It will take forever, as it always does, so buckle in. We don’t have that many vault qualifiers this year, though, because some of the best vaulters didn’t make finals. When you’re watching people flop out lame Yurchenko layouts, remember that we won’t see Vanessa Zamarripa because the rules are stupid. If you can’t do two 10.0 vaults, you shouldn’t be eligible for Event Finals.

Alabama is the National Champion for the second year in a row. I really feel for Florida because they did everything right this year and didn’t mentally implode at Nationals. Alabama landed their skills, and in a year when it was all about landings, that won them the title. It will take a little more time to reflect on what we saw and make some determinations, so on to Event Finals.

Watch Live

I sort of love Event Finals because the judging is often insane, but no one has much of a vested interest in the result, so we can all just laugh about it and enjoy the gymnastics.

Introductions starting now. I’m rooting for some Georgia and Oklahoma victories and for EHH to redeem herself from yesterday and win an event. Did someone just fall from the ceiling? What was that? They’re having people drop from the ceiling and then carry the signs? That’s just weird.

Marching to our events now. I hope we see people really go for it and pull out their big skills. DTY? Peszek’s standing full? I assume the latter would be a definite.

Vault and Bars:
Courville – VT – Low chest on Yfull with a step forward, that won’t do it. 9.800 is high for that. Second vault is just the layout, but stuck.

Zamarripa – UB – not quite as precise as Super Six and then the step on landing. Not her best.

Cheek – VT – good stick on the Yfull with a minorly low chest. Tucked Yfull, good for her for not doing the layout, but big steps back.

Olson – UB – nice deltchev, minor step back on the DLO dismount. Good routine, but I doubt it will stand up.

Gutierrez – VT – stuck Yfull, best so far. Layout second vault  – Alabama usually does this, but I assume Milliner will do a full later on.

Courtney – UB – surprise qualifier here, excellent dismount. She’s improving so much on this event, but I agree with Suzanne that she doesn’t have the appropriate level of difficulty. 9.8875, current leader.

Delaney – VT – fine Yfull with nice distance, but a hop back. Layout  with a big step back. At least we don’t have a thousand vaulters doing these weak vaults.

Ding – UB – lovely first ahndstand, missed her giant full handstand, beautiful stuck DLO. That should be in first place and I hope it wins again this year. The commentators told us it was a 10, but it’s not according to the scores. Still, she will win, but it would have been nice to see her finally get a 10. Sure she missed that handstand on the giant full, but who cares at this point? I would have expected to see a career 10 from all of them.

King – VT – defending champ – step back on her Tsuk 1.5, could have been better, a little uncertain on that landing. Low landing on Tsuk full. Two iffy landings, so her difficulty may not help her here. She goes in behind Gutierrez, so no repeat.

Warmups for the second group now. Hopefully we see some difficulty from Milliner and Hunter because our winner should not have a layout second vault.

Giblin – VT – very nice stick with good body position, similar to Gutierrez but maybe a bit less distance.  Tucked Yfull as second vault, hop in place. She will end up below Gutierrez.

Caquatto – UB – misses a handstand on the low bar and takes an odd step on her dismount. She almost never does that.

Ding – VT – beautiful in the air on the Yfull but had to take steps on her salute. Should have been a stick. Tuck full as well – they’re being critical about people just tucking their legs to do a second vault, but I’d rather see that than the layouts. Current leader.

Shapiro – UB – her handstands have improved at Stanford because they deteriorated during elite, close on dismount but a good stick.

Dabritz – VT – big hop back on landing the Yfull, which is a shame because she really does have those two vaults. I guess she didn’t. Same vault. She can do the 1.5, but didn’t here.

Gerber – UB – Handstands weren’t awesome, but she was lovely. Step back on the dismount. Great career. UCLA will need PPL to be their new elegant Canadian.

Milliner – VT – Starts with the full, step back with a little piking. Will probably still go ahead of Ding if she pulls out a good 1.5. Pretty good with a step back. Neither were awesome, but she’ll go into first surely.

Johnson – UB – Major issue at the start. I’ve never seen her miss this routine. That’s a shame. Ding is our winner, Shapiro 2nd, Courtney 3rd. Of the UCLA gymnasts in this, who would have thought Courtney would finish highest?

Hunter – VT – She starts with the stuck 1.5, best vault so far in the competition. Huge bounce back out of the Yfull. That could give it to Milliner. Florida looks spent.

We’re not getting updates on the scores for Milliner or Hunter (or Johnson but she had an error). Ding will win bars as we wait and move to our second two events. Scoring? Could we, please? Milliner goes 9.825 to move ahead for now. Hunter is our winner with 9.8750. Nice consolation for Florida.

How about this for a vault solution? Gymnasts must show two different vaults during the season to be eligible for vault finals at Championships.


Beam and Floor:
Stone – BB – nice pass into the Korbut, two swing down skills, though. Hop forward on dismount. Suzanne mentions the crossed legs deduction on dismounts, which they never take anyway.

Ferguson – FX – good 3/1, complete. “This reminds me of a mime or something. It’s so fun-loving.” Oh Suzanne. Good punch out of double full. Nice routine, but I don’t think it will win.

Peszek – BB – wobble on standing full, which is a shame. She can do that much better. Punch front, that’s new and nice. They should consider adding that next year. She won’t win with these mistakes, but this is fun to see.

Hunter – FX – good high DLO, she’s performing very well and seems to be the only Gator who’s in this mentally today. 9.925 is very good but not unreachable.

Grable – BB – excellent loso series, but doesn’t have to difficulty to contend with this routine.

Updike – FX – huge bounce back out of a double pike mount and has to put her hands down. Huge height on her 2.5, but another fall on the punch layout.

Stack-Eaton – BB – good acro, has to hang on with her toes on the walkover, good sheep (as far as sheep jumps go), onodi is very nice, I’m glad she added it back. Sticks 1.5 dismount, and she will be the leader and be hard to beat.

Pisani – FX – let’s get this girl a title. Bounce out of her half in half out, but it was minor. A little low knees in the double pike, so I think this won’t be enough to pass Hunter.

Wong – BB – wobble on her two loso series, so she won’t be the leader. Good popa and a stuck double full dismount.

EHH – FX – Didn’t upgrade the mount, so she won’t have enough difficulty, but this is excellent. Beautiful hit routine. Can we give this to her? Performance-wise it was no contest, and that should count in EFs. She goes ahead of Hunter. Could we really see a win here? I’d love that.

Priess – BB – They have been right on on this event all weekend. That was a little wonky on the Rulfova, so I don’t think it should go ahead of Stack-Eaton. Good difficulty, and I’m glad they are throwing it in. Nice, but GSE was better.

Warmups now for the final routines of our season.

Ferguson – BB – this has been perfectly clean through most of the routine. Sheep is a little lacking, but good stick on the double full. Clean but may not go ahead of GSE.

Ding – FX – Good first pass with a straddle + punch, drills double pike middle pass, lovely landings on everything in this routine. Best she’s done? Probably. She goes ahead of EHH, which is not appropriate, but this day is all about Kat Ding, and it’s hard to argue with that. Kat Ding NCAA FX Champion?

Hong – BB – clean on her walkover + bhs loso elite series. Wobble on the side somi will take her out of it.

Dickerson – FX – perfectly stuck landings on all of her tumbling, but just something a little missing. I don’t think it will go into the lead.

Pisani – BB – misses her switch split in both position and wobbling, otherwise a clean, strong routine.

Jones – FX – Efficient tumbling, nice split positions, this is an overlooked routine that is pretty nice. I hadn’t seen it for a while. Kathy is making it clear she thinks EHH should be ahead of Ding.

Matusik – BB – Well done to her for making finals, just a few too many deductions in this routine. Gainer 1.5 dismount.

Zamarripa – FX – She’s getting a bit better as a performer, but this routine is not up to event final calibre.

EHH – BB – Just off on her side aerial + loso series, didn’t fall but had enough of a wobble that she will not win a title. Not her best routine.

GSE – FX – Good dbl Arabian as always, great double pike to end. This could challenge Ding.

Spinner – BB – Finishing up the competition for us on beam, she’s been consistently 9.9, but the lack of stick means she won’t do that today.

DeZiel – FX – Last on floor, good pike full but I’d like to see her land a little more legs together. Good clean routine, but I don’t think it will be the leader.

Titles:
Vault – Kytra Hunter
Bars – Kat Ding
Beam – Geralen Stack-Eaton
Floor – Kat Ding

The only result you can really argue with is floor. Ding? I don’t see it, but a fun competition with some nice beam upgrades that made that final the most interesting.

Super Six Live Blog

Watch Live – 4:00 ET
Rotation Order: Florida VT, Stanford Bye, Arkansas Bars, Utah Beam, Alabama Bye, UCLA Floor.
Super Six is always a blur. A few short routines and then it’s over. You remember senses more than actual routines. We can only hope it’s not a dud. We’ve been building to this for months. I want excitement, and I’m going to be sad when it’s over.
We spend all this time and watch all these meets, and the end of all our discussion is to arrive right back where we began. In December, I said that the teams with a realistic shot at the title were Florida, UCLA, and Alabama. Now, hours before Super Six, I’m saying that the teams with a realistic shot at the title are Florida, UCLA, and Alabama.
After the performance in Semifinals, I’ve re-promoted Alabama to the top flight of contenders. However, I was not completely wowed by them on some events. With the scoring as it was, they should have gone much higher than 49.400 on vault by getting some sticks in the middle of the lineup. If Georgia is getting a 49.6, Alabama needs to be getting a 52. 
Florida looked mostly excellent and controlled, and they will be considered the favorites today, but they are not completely free of concerns. They looked shaky on floor at SECs, had two OOBs at Regionals, and had two OOBs (from the same people) in Semifinals. It’s very difficult to correct trends for Super Six. Marissa King will be the one to watch. She has a history of broken brain in major competitions, and she was definitely off yesterday. They probably need to be dropping Wang-VT, Ellis-UB, Spicer-BB, and Ferguson/Stageberg-FX. They can’t afford to drop a King score today.
UCLA scored lower than the other two in Semifinals, but they shouldn’t be concerned about the scoring from yesterday because they were in the afternoon session and were kind of bad. They will need to hope for some happy scoring from the start today, though, as they need to be 49.400 on floor to be competitive. I don’t expect to see repeats of the Zamarripa and Peszek mistakes, but watch out for Mattie. She’s Mattie and she scored 9.775 on her two routines yesterday. No one was impressed.
As for the other teams, Utah will have to be very solid for 9.875s and hope for a sloppy competition. Arkansas and Stanford should be very proud of making it this far, but they will struggle to reach above their Semifinal scores, and it’s going to take at least a 197.500 to win this (though I do expect the scoring to be more contained than it was last night).
Competition begins at 4 ET. Here we go!


Almost time now. Getting the stream connected to my TV so I can watch luxuriously, testing ESPN3 to make sure we have no hiccups.

Judges have switched events from yesterday. Vault and Beam switch, Bars and Floor switch.

Will we have the ESPN trio commentating? Or are they just doing the delayed TV broadcast? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

Your event is about to begin. Please stand by. (Um, it’s 1:00 . . .) (Um, it’s 1:05 . . .)

Dear ESPN, this isn’t football, where you can just leave us dangling and no one will care or notice. We’re gymnastics fans. We’re feisty, hungry, and judgmental. Don’t tell us to stand by.

Here we go. Oh dears, everyone but Sam Peszek should not pursue a career on camera.

Really glad we’re getting Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne. Kathy doesn’t know if Alabama can get better from yesterday, but they better do it because some of those landings were not up to championship level.

Rotation 1:
They’re starting us all of the sudden! Very little introduction at all. Lothrop looks fine but a little tentative. Hop on dismount. Spicer’s vault is fine with a hop back.

Canizaro on bars, a few handstand issues and a hop back. McAllister on beam, nice three series. Kathy and Suzanne agree with me about the lack of separation yesterday. Hop back on dismount.

Waiting on Ashanee for vault. Spicer got a 9.850, which is a little high. Very minor hop in place (maybe?)

Olivia Courtney on floor – don’t like these UCLA leos much. Courtney looks very nice in her tumbling. She has peaked at the right time. Really nice routine.

Beers on beam, she lacks amplitude in her elements and had an off split position. Pisani on bars, stuck dismount – very nice.

King was ever so slightly low on her vault, so not her best, but still excellent. Hunter has a huge leap forward, so Florida will be a little lower than yesterday.

Howdeshell on bars, trying to recover from yesterday’s fall – good releases – let’s watch the dismount – just a minor step.

Peszek on floor – strong DLO – big lunge out of double pike, but better than yesterday.

Lopez on beam, Utah is scoring very well here – just a wobble on the series, and another on a leap – so this won’t be a great score.

EHH now on floor, just a minor hop out of double tuck, but I wish she had kept doing her 2010 routine because it was the best one. Bounces OOB so they won’t count this score. Not an acceptable mistake for UCLA, so they’ll be counting Pritchett’s 9.825. Probably a tenth in overall score given away there, and you can’t do that in Super Six.

Kathy’s eating a potato chip. After one rotation, UCLA let Florida get away from them a little bit. I thought UCLA needed a 49.400, but they went 49.350. Not a problem, but they needed a bit better. Florida’s 49.475 is less than yesterday on vault, but it’s fine. Utah goes 49.350 on beam, which is a huge improvement for them from yesterday, and Arkansas trails with 49.175 on bars.

Rotation 2:
Florida and Utah go away while Stanford and Alabama come back in. It’s an opportunity for Alabam to get some distance on UCLA after the first rotation. UCLA goes to vault, and they need probably a 49.500.

Beam for Arkansas to start – solid landings on her acro – a little bit of leg form, and totally came off the side of the beam for her dismount but landed it. 9.775 – scoring is high on beam.

Baer on vault – she has to stick to minimize those leg deductions. Hop in place – fine.

Shapiro on bars – just a step on the tuck full. Solidly clean routine with good form.

Kathy is in love with Sam Peszek. Great distance, needs a bit more amplitude, minor hop. Priess on floor, not quite controlled on her tumbling but clean enough.

Alabama is scoring very well on floor so far. On pace to outscore UCLA there. Tauny tried to stick and almost did it. Better than it has been. Arkansas is stepping it up a little bit on beam.

Zam now – Bart butchers her name “Zarripova?” – needs a stick. FINALLY sticks it when they needed. Should be a 9.950.

Why on Earth is Hong in on bars? Well they have certainly fixed her DLO. Note this, Valeri.

Pisani hitting beam well – maybe not quite the 9.950 from yesterday with a minor shuffle on the landing.

10 for Zamarripa and UCLA NEEDED it. Wow. A 10 in Super Six is big deal.

Gutierrez on floor, perhaps a bit sloppier on some of this tumbling than yesterday, but good stick on the double pike to finish, so we probably won’t see it in the score.

Arkansas is not doing poorly, but they aren’t getting the 9.9s to keep pace. Stack-Eaton on floor, they need a 9.9 from her. Very nice on her dbl Arabian. Hits excellently, so Alabama will outpace UCLA on floor. Vault will be very telling now.

Zamarripa’s 10 has kept UCLA in this, but Florida and Alabama both started extremely well. Stanford and Utah are on pace with 49.350 rotations and Arkansas is falling a bit behind.

Rotation 3:
Florida to bars, where they need a 49.400, and Utah goes to floor where they will have to keep up with the previous teams. UCLA and Arkansas going on break. Alabama to vault, where they will probably need to match Florida’s 49.475 and will certainly need to be better than yesterday. They must have sticks.

ESPN3 momentarily told us that our event had ended. Um, no. Florida needs a 49.400 to level UCLA and Alabama needs a 49.425, both attainable but they will have to be very clean. I expect to see all three of those teams within two tenths by the halfway point, and Stanford and Utah must stay within about the same margin to stay in it.

Suzanne and Val having a talk. Val is excited now. We’ll see if it keeps up.

UCLA has bumped up the scores on vault, and Alabama may benefit. Shuffle from Kayla Williams.

Hong on beam, wobble on the walkover, otherwise very elegant and clean, hop back on dismount.

Dickerson fell on bars, which I think she also did in warmups. I’m assuming on her Hindorff. Four pressure routines now, but they’ll be glad it’s bars instead of beam. She’s a little tight on some of her handstands, but nice hit.

Williams got a 9.900 on vault, which I think is a little high, so we can assume the scores have been bumped up. Watch out for Alabama if Florida has a mistake right now on bars. Geralen sticks and may get that same 10 that Zam did, except she’s earlier in the lineup. 9.975.

Good stuck tumbling from Damianova, just a little low body position. Step back from Gutierrez on vault, not her best. 9.900 is high for that step.

Macko on bars now – sticks dismount. They shouldn’t have to count a fall, but they are counting a few 9.850s, so not quite the highest possible score here for them.

Dabritz with a triple full dismount, well landed just with the usual crossed legs.

Stanford is staying right in this with some 9.900s on beam. Don’t forget about them yet. Same with Utah.

Alabama goes 9.625 on vault, so they are .2 ahead of UCLA and will probably be the favorites right now at the halfway point.

Ashley Morgan on beam to finish – she hasn’t always competed this event. They are changing these lineups around a lot for Super Six. Good hit routine. They’ll be right there near UCLA.

Big bounce back for McAllister on mount, the flag went up, but it didn’t look like she went OOB there, did it?

Robarts will be the last to go on floor for Utah. Good dbl Arabian mount. Slight bounce out of double pike, but good hit overall. Utah should go ahead of Stanford but be just behind UCLA.

HALFWAY SCORES:
1. Alabama – 99.075
2. Florida – 98.900
3. UCLA – 98.875
4. Utah – 98.675
4. Stanford – 98.675
6. Arkansas – 98.400

It’s less than two tenths of a lead for Alabama, so this could still obviously go any direction, but you just get the sense that this will be Alabama’s day, don’t you. They have benefitted from this rotation order.

Rotation 4:
UCLA comes back in for bars, and they need to match yesterday’s scoring. Alabama and Stanford are on break. Florida goes to beam in the unfamiliar position of trailing after vault and bars. How will the freshmen respond? Utah to vault – will they take advantage of the rising scores as well?

De La Torre getting ready on bars. I really think UCLA cant contend unless they get a 49.375 here, which is a stretch for this team regardless of how they did in Prelims. DE La Torre is very low on her DLO dismount. Not the start they needed because now they will have to count Larson.

Can’t see much of beam from this angle. Can they please show us some of these routines? Stageberg starts beam with a 9.900.

Courtney sticks her dismount on bars to right things. Looks like Spicer hits beam as well. Putting pressure on Alabama.

Canizaro on floor and steps OOB and then falls. Johnson on beam – very solid on her series. A little too deliberate in this routine for my liking but clean. Peszek on bars wile Dickerson goes on beam. Peszek hits well, Dickerson must hit here and she looks confident, just a step back on dismount.

Perfect routine from Zamarripa. I know people have problems with her bars, but really, find the deduction. It may just be not enough though given how well Florida is scoring on beam. Hunter hits a similar routine to Dickerson, just a step on the dismount.

Gerber looking very nice on bars. Just a small hop on the dismount, so it won’t be the 9.925 from yesterday, but will certainly be higher than MDLT.

Grable on floor – must hit for Arkansas. King finishes up a great beam routine for Florida, so they are still right in this, but it was not enough to make me think they will pass Alabama right now.

UCLA has improved by leaps and bounds on bars in the last month, and they got a 49.475 to stay just .025 behind Florida. That could go either way at the end. Alabama needs a 49.300 on bars to go level with Florida.

Arkansas finishing the rotation last with Pisani on floor. Arkansas isn’t in this, but she’s a joy to watch. A little bounce out of the mount and then a ridiculous fall punching out of her middle pass. That’s such a shame and so unexpected.

Rotation 5:
UCLA will be finishing the meet in this rotation on beam and needs to be the best they’ve ever been to have a shot at reaching Alabama. Alabama goes to bars, where they will need those big 9.9 routines from Stack-Eaton and Priess, and they will need the first three to squeeze every bit of 9.850 life out of their routines.

Suzanne just said Florida’s beam was the best they’ve ever had. What?

Gerber starting beam for UCLA but we don’t get to see it finish, so that we can watch Arkansas wait. Why? Nice from Lewis.

Alabama has a mistake from Demeo to start on bars. Interesting. Pressure on the rest of them now. Jacob hits? Is this getting interesting? Dear ESPN, less Arkansas, more UCLA and Alabama right now.

It appears Aisha Gerber had a mistake on beam. Florida, are you seeing this?

Hong on floor, beautiful movement as always, but the tumbling isn’t quite there yet.

Ugh, they think Mattie is Vanessa. How hard is it to recognize Mattie Larson? A little low on landing, but a good clean routine. 9.900, which is high but consistent with the rest of the competition.

Good vault from Pisani with just a minor slide back. Sledge on bars now, great gienger, and excellent DLO as always. They are recovering from DeMeo’s mistake.

Great hit from Zamarripa on beam. That was better than Mattie’s routine, so we’ll see what happen.

Priess on bars, must hit – nice but a step on landing. They won’t get those same 9.9s from yesterday, so Florida is in this.

EHH has a fall on beam – bad competition from her – so they are counting the 9.725 from Gerber and will be out of this. That’s a shame, so it’s down to Florida and Alabama now. EHH is crying now, such a shame. She knows they can’t come back from that.

First final score – Arkansas at 196.300.

Waiting for Peszek on beam, she needs about an 11 to help UCLA here. Good hit, and UCLA will get an excellent score, but not quite good enough. They really were a good EHH day away from winning a national title.

The other big news, Alabama was not able to move ahead of Florida so they are within .025 going into the final rotation. This will be a great fight. Can’t wait.

UCLA gets a 49.450 while counting a 9.725 on beam. Where would they have been otherwise? Florida will need a 49.375 on floor to tie UCLA. Alabama will need a 49.400 on beam to tie UCLA.  Even though it was not the best for the Bruins, 197.750 is not a Super Six score to be disappointed in.

Rotation 6:
UCLA and Arkansas are done. Florida is on floor and Alabama is on beam.

Jacob has started on beam, and it looks like Florida has started floor as well. So why are we seeing Utah?

Ferguson starts with 9.850 for Florida, Stageberg must stay in bounds. She did this time. Alabama’s first two are hitting beam very well. This is going to be such a fight right now. Edge to Alabama on the first scores.

Johnson a little wonky on the dbl arabian, but fine – Williams a little wobble on beam – and hits overall, as does Johnson very well.

Now it’s up to Dickerson and DeMeo – scores getting very big in this last rotation. Dickerson has huge step out of her dbl Arabian – it’s the opening Alabama needs, but that was the only real deduction in the routine.

Major bend at the knees for DeMeo, she matches Dickerson in giving something away, minor step on double pike.

Marissa King time now, impromptu dbl Arabian – love her. A little low in her double pike, but it was solid.

Stack-Eaton now – hit routine that should confirm that they move ahead of UCLA and put some pressure on Florida after the King routine.

Final routine for Florida now – Hunter – beautiful DLO – she needs a 9.925 and should probably get it.  Going into the final pass now – must nail it though. And she did. It will probably be a 9.950.

Alabama can pass Florida, though, with a big routine from Priess – this is going to be within a tenth for the top three teams. Priess sticks her dismount, and I think that will be enough.

Florida passes UCLA by .025 and I think Alabama will pass them. They did.

That was all the excitement we could have asked for. Devastating for Florida. Alabama wins the second straight title. Top three teams were all within a tenth of each other. I felt UCLA and Alabama had places where they gave it away, but Florida really didn’t (except for Ashanee on bars I suppose). Great job by all the top teams, but I have to admit I’m a little disappointed by this result. I thought Alabama was the beneficiary of a good rotation order in terms of building scores (going right after UCLA) and that Florida was the stronger team overall today. What more could they have done? Part of this is also that it would have been great to see a new Champion. Alabama did very well, so I don’t want to be too hard on them, but this was Florida’s year.

I haven’t mentioned Stanford because they weren’t really in this by the end, but a huge 197.500 is a great accomplishment for them as well. They never went away.

FINAL SCORES:
1. Alabama – 197.850
2. Florida – 197.775
3. UCLA – 197.750
4. Stanford – 197.500
5. Utah – 197.375
6. Arkansas – 196.300

Live Blog – Semifinal #2

Whew. That was quite a little first session. We’ll get to Session 2 after the jump, but first a few notes about today so far. UCLA came out on top, but they had two falls and a really tight vault rotation. It was not assured until the end of the final floor routine. Val probably had six heart attacks. UCLA should be worried that they didn’t perform that well but can also be encouraged that they certainly haven’t peaked today. Improvements are there to be made for tomorrow.

Utah looked very solid, but there was a concerning lack of 9.900s in some of those rotations. Most of those lineups are not set up to finish with the strongest worker, which is safe but not conducive to the big scores that they would need in Super Six. Stanford was excellent and definitely defied the odds by qualifying, but this was mostly a peak performance from them. Can they improve on this score tomorrow? It’s doubtful.

We’ve heard a lot about the competitive depth at the top this season, and the first session showed that. We have seen many upsets over the years, but it usually happens when the top team has to count a fall. Neither Oklahoma nor Nebraska had any rotations scoring under 49, yet they failed to qualify because of 9.800s. Those aren’t good enough for Championships.

Now, I don’t expect to see the same kind of drama in the next session because the disparity between the teams is enough that it probably would take a fall from one of the top three this time to make it interesting, but we’ll see.

Loyal reader Alex wondered about the stats for the ultimate champions, namely which session they usually come from and how they rank overall after prelims, so here we go.

2011 – Alabama – Evening Session (Qualification Score 197.050, 1st place)
2010 – UCLA – Afternoon Session (Qualification Score 196.875, 1st place)
2009 – Georgia – Afternoon Session (Qualification Score 197.450, 1st place)
2008 – Georgia – Evening Session (Qualification Score 197.625, 1st place)
2007 – Georgia – Afternoon Session (Qualification Score 197.700, 1st place)
2006 – Georgia – Evening Session (Qualification Score 197.275, 1st place)
2005 – Georgia – Evening Session (Qualification Score 197.350, 1st place)
2004 – UCLA – Evening Session (Qualification Score 197.675, 1st place)
2003 – UCLA – Afternoon Session (Qualification Score 196.950, 2nd place)
2002 – Alabama – Afternoon Session (Qualification Score 197.300, 1st place)

So, we’re split down the middle between afternoon and evening session, but this does show how good it is to win on Day 1. That bodes well for Florida because UCLA’s 197.400 is hardly unassailable.

I’ll be here around 5:30 ET for discussion before our second Semifinal begins.

Getting ready to start now. How will the scores compare to the first session? Will we see score building? Some of that scoring in the first session was truly bizarre. Across the board, I thought the weaker routines were overscored and some of the stronger routines were underscored. Everything was too bunched together, especially on beam and floor. We didn’t get nearly enough separation.

Any chance at an upset here? I don’t see it, but I’m hopeful it won’t be a snooze.

I thought we’d see a bit bigger crowd for the evening session. Nope.

I’ve lost my video. Awesome. Let’s see if we can work this out before the meet begins. The insufferable facebook/twitter feed next to the video seems to indicate that everyone is having the same issue.

They have some time to fix things since the actual routines won’t start for a few minutes now, but I’m turning on Kevin Copp on the radio feed from Georgia as a backup. Video is back now. Good job, NCAA.

We’re seeing Georgia warm up bars now, looks like Christa Tanella is back in the lineup. I’ve kept Georgia’s radio on as well to get some commentary.

Rotation 1:
We’re already underway now, and Kim Jacob looks good to start on beam, and now we’re seeing Arkansas on floor. 9.900 for Jacob. Hello.

Tanella falls on bars, apparently. Well, here we go. Welcome to Nationals. Jay will be regretting that last minute change. Two falls. Watch out for Shayla now.

Ashanee has good flight on vault with a .1 hop back. Arkansas is hitting some solid mid-9.8 gymnastics on floor. Kayla Williams now on beam for Alabama, pretty solid on punch front followed by a good series. Sticks dismount.

Sounds like Shayla managed to get through her bar routine. They might be safe enough.

Nice to see Marissa King get a 9.950 on vault so she’ll make finals. Kytra is getting some 10s, wow. Wish we could have seen it. Arkansas has a bounce back on floor from Lewis.

Chelsea Davis sticks her bars dismount. 9.925 to bump things up. Demeo looks fine but just a little tentative on beam, but the double pike dismount is nice. Nuccio sticks very well on bars.

Grable on floor now [I had a typo before and said Pisani, but it was Grable]. Beautiful dismount – no deductions there. Love it. Geralen looks strong on beam, best she’s been in a while. Kevin Copp is shouting at me. Kat Ding stuck her bars dismount.

We have our answer about score building in the evening session. These are higher than we saw in the afternoon. 9.950 for Stack-Eaton. This is humongous. Alabama is extremely strong, but these scores cannot be compared to the previous session.

Now we’re getting Pisani on floor. Great routine, and a strong rotation from Arkansas, but it’s almost like they’re already out of it. 9.900 for Jaime. I really hope the scores don’t go so crazy that she misses floor finals.

After Rotation 1: Alabama 49.600, Florida 49.575, Georgia 49.400, Arkansas 49.150

So Georgia escaped the poor decision of putting Tanella up on bars. Even in the best case scenario, is she better than Persinger? No. Sometimes I feel like Jay doesn’t have an astute eye for elegance and it gets him into trouble. He needs Julie or someone else to tell him that, all other things being equal, Persinger will be better received than Tanella. So, how will they handle beam now?

Rotation 2:
Florida and Oklahoma say goodbye, OSU and OSU (see what I did there) come in. Neither of our newcomers will be feeling very optimistic after that first rotation.

Noel Couch falls on beam. Another pressure situation for five gymnasts, but this one is much harder. Will Jay have any hair left tomorrow? Bad OOB from Oregon State on floor, so they will need to drop this as well.

Solid bar routine from Ohio St with a step on dismount. Harris improves things for Oregon St, but they’ve got to hit four more like that.

Borsellino puts up a solid Yfull, but Arkansas is stuck in this 9.8 range, so they will basically need a fall from Georgia. Huge fall from Vivian on floor. She’s fine, but they are basically out of it already, as is Ohio State will all these 9.7s on bars.

Moffat hits beam for Georgia. Four more to go. Great stick from Zurales on vault. She can go 9.925. Moffat scores 9.9, just like everyone else in this session. 9.900 is the new 9.850 from the last session.

Kat Ding also hits beam with a step on dismount. It will be a miracle if they can get through these two rotations after a first fall. 9.850 for Ding.

Stambaugh is a little bouncy out of her mount, but otherwise very nice. They’re counting a 9.600, so everyone else has to be perfect.

Kaylan Earls falls on beam. Georgia counting a fall and Arkansas is right in this. Harrowing for the Gymdogs. I wish we were seeing more of this beam rotation and less of Oregon State floor.

Persinger falls. Looks like three straight years right now for Georgia unless they get some help from Arkansas. Absolute collapse. Three beam falls and Shayla wasn’t even one of them. 48.275. You can’t come back from that.

Rotation 3:
Georgia sulks back to the locker room, and Arkansas floats there. Florida and Alabama come back in, and they could stage a sit-in on the floor exercise and still advance to Super Six.

I’m interested to see how well Alabama is landing on floor because that has been a problem lately. Jacob starts well with a nice high double pike, strong opening overall. Will let us know a lot about the floor scoring.

Dickerson on bars, her usual routine. It will probably get a 10. It actually goes 9.875. I would have given it 9.850, so that’s fine.

Milliner looks nice on her mount (that was one of my questions), and finishes strong as well. This is looking like another strong rotation.

Hunter gets a 9.900 on bars. Interesting. AA champion? I think so. Oregon St. is struggling with these vault landings.

Priess on floor – didn’t look like she was going to get that front layout around but it was fine. Oh great, our foot camera worker is doing it again. A little low on dismount but fine. Not quite as clean as the others.

Macko on bars, very clean and will score very well but I’d like to see a little more risk from her.

Sledge now on floor, not quite controlled on the double tuck but no big deal. Should be another solid 9.800-9.850. Alaina Johnson hits bars, so this will be another big score. 9.950.

Musser hits bars, but she’s out of the AA after vault. Gutierrez hits her DLO well as always, best routine for them so far. Switch ring was creative. Solid double pike. They needed this because everyone else has been just OK. 9.850 is the score, but hers was better than Jacob and Milliner. They are continuing the trend of bumping up the weaker routines and bumping down the better ones.

Geralen will certainly go 9.9, then. She’s bringing it today to challenge Hunter. Someone threw a 10 her way, but it’s a 9.900.

HALFWAY SCORES:
1. Florida – 99.025
2. Alabama – 98.875
3. Arkansas – 98.425
4. Ohio State – 98.200
5. Oregon State – 98.025
6. Georgia – 97.675

Rotation 4:
Ohio State, who are actually in this, and Oregon State take a rest. Georgia will have to refocus for floor, and Arkansas will have to come back and stick some bar landings to get those 9.850s.

Florida needs to show me something on beam. They’re not in a pressure situation right now, but they will be tomorrow, so I don’t want to see any uncertain gymnastics.

Kevin Copp is trying to pretend like Georgia is still in this. Bless. Starting with Earls, bounces out of double pike, solid second pass and clean overall. Will be a fine score, but they’re going to need some 9.9s and some help.

Let’s look for these Alabama vault scores. What do we think? 49.650?

Arkansas is having a minor problem on bars – but not reflected in the score. Good double pike from Persinger, very nice routine. 9.850.

Alabama is not sticking these vaults again. This will be a problem tomorrow. Kat Ding on floor, looking very nice, sticking a double pike, lovely routine. Gutierrez does better on vault for Alabama, Milliner finishes the rotation with a stuck vault. Should probably go 9.950.

Ashanee is a little wobbly on her beam routine, and then there’s the feet, sticks the double back. Chelsea Davis hits a very nice floor routine. Too little too late?

Howdeshell takes a fall on her DLO (again) for Arkansas, but they will still score 49.275, led by a 9.900 from Pisani.

Ouch, Nuccio caught a foot on her dismount, so disaster there, but they can probably drop it.

Marissa King is oddly wobbly to start on her first two acro elements. Not her best routine by any means. Won’t matter for the score, but she should be doing better.

Noel Couch does her usual floor routine with the usual deductions. 9.825. Georgia is .800 behind Arkansas now, so they’ll need Arkansas to count a fall for this to be an issue.

Rotation 5:
In the fifth rotation, Georgia and Arkansas will be finishing up, Florida and Alabama take a little break and Ohio State and Oregon State try to pretend that they are going to catch Arkansas, but Arkansas can close it down with 5 hit beam routines. Whatever happens, we’ll probably know the result going into the last rotation, so that will be about Florida vs. Alabama for the session win. Edge to Florida.

We’re getting underway with Ohio State on floor. Nice double pike – this is where they have scored the highest this season. Stuck double tuck dismount with low chest. Nice vault from Davis to start. Doug is right in front of this vault camera angle and it’s not helping. Sounds like Couch stuck as well.

A little stumble from DeLuca(?) on her floor dismount. Davis went 9.900 on vault first up, and Noel Couch got a 9.925. If you ever wanted evidence of score building throughout Championships. There we are. Either that or the judges really want the Gymdogs to make Super Six.

Ohio State is very efficiently 9.800 on floor. Kat Ding sticks to end a great vault rotation for Georgia. She should be in a couple finals. Wow, 9.975.

Um, feed? Show us Arkansas please. They just had an 8.500 on beam and may be throwing this away. 49.625 on vault for Georgia. Can we have a conversation, please?

Big wobble on a front flip from Borsellino on beam, but she stays on. Must hit. Just Pisani and Grable now who have to seal it for Arkansas.

Leslie Mak is a little shaky on her Bhardwaj, which will hurt her EF chances.

Pisani hits a beautiful beam routine. She probably can’t take the AA away from Hunter, but she can get into a few EFs.

Ohio State is being very solidly 9.825, which could be enough to beat Georgia even after that vault rotation.

Massive routine for Grable now on beam. Series is very nice. Feet. FEET. Grable hits and that should do it. She’s losing it, so is the whole team. Two 9.950s to finish beam for Arkansas, so they finish with a huge 197.150. It will take a 9.950 to make beam finals, so Shayla will miss out.

Rotation 6:
We know that Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas will be our advancing teams. This rotation is about deciding who wins and crowning an AA Champion. The current leader is Kat Ding with 39.650, and you have to be rooting for her, but Kytra Hunter needs a 9.900 on floor to beat that, and Alaina Johnson would need a 9.925 to do the same. Not so realistic for Johnson, but it certainly is for Hunter.

Stambaugh hits beam, and we’re seeing congratulations instead of a rotation that matters. Someone who knows the sport needs to be there directing the broadcast.

OOB from Stageberg on floor. You could see that coming. Sledge is very nice on bars, and Florida will want to drop Stageberg. One of the better dbl Arabians from Johnson, bounce back out of her double pike dismount.

Ohio State finsihes with 196.525, just edging out Georgia in the overall standings. Dickerson had just the slightest lack of control on her mount, but the other passes were stuck.

Alabama finishes with three 9.900s and a 197.675. With the scoring today, they could have done better, but they are definitely on an upward slope and will contend tomorrow.

King is short on her DLO. That’s been happening. Huge stumble back OOB out of second pass, so this will be a drop. She needs to get that fixed for tomorrow. Not acceptable.

Stack-Eaton is not able to pass Ding in the AA, so it will be down to Ding or Hunter for the title. Kytra is a freshman. Kat Ding is amazing. Let her have this one.

Hunter hits her excellent routine. It looks like she will have this. 9.950, so Kytra Hunter is our AA Champion. Florida finishes just behind Alabama with a 197.650. Don’t let Hunter’s AA win overshadow the concerns we should have about Florida’s floor based on that. With this scoring in thsi session, both Florida and Alabama probably should have scored higher.

FINAL SCORES:
1. Alabama – 197.675
2. Florida – 197.650
3. Arkansas – 197.150
4. Ohio State – 196.525
5. Georgia – 196.500
6. Oregon State – 196.450

ADVANCING TEAMS:
1. Alabama – 197.675
2. Florida – 197.650
3. UCLA – 197.400
4. Utah – 197.200
5. Arkansas – 197.150
6. Stanford – 197.125

So, it did take a 197 to advance this year, after all.

EF Qualifier from Session 2:
Vault – Hunter, Ding, Gutierrez, Milliner, King, Cheek
Bars – Johnson, Ding, Caquatto, Davis
Beam – Stack Eaton, Priess, Pisani, Grable
Floor – Hunter, Stack-Eaton, PIsani, Dickerson, Ding, Jones, Updike

Live Blog – National Semifinal #1

Over the course of a season, we see a number of teams score well. Be it because of an outstanding performance, preposterous home scoring, or just a cruel trick played by swift-footed Hermes, so many teams record large scores that it is only our collective qualitative assessments that separate one from another. Today, we put those assessments to the test.
Six teams will advance to Super Six Team Finals. Logic would seem to tell us that Florida, UCLA, and Alabama will cruise safely into tomorrow, but it is impossible to be certain when a random fall on beam can make all the difference. I’m nervous, and I don’t even know about what in particular. I’m nervous for everyone in general.
And before we begin, a quick note to the judges. Please, in the name of my precious sanity, have some self-respect. Your 9.950 is precious. Don’t just give it away to anybody because all the cool kids are doing it. If Carole Ide jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? There are only a few routines that really deserve your 9.950, and I don’t want to see you throwing it away on some average stuck dismount that went up second on bars and won’t treat you right. Thanks for listening. I really do want what’s best for you.
OK. Now we can begin.
Here you may find your Live Stream links.
Semifinal 1, 12:00 ET: UCLA, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, LSU 
Semifinal 2, 6:00 ET: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Oregon State, Ohio State
Follow along after the jump for live commentary and panicked murmurings around 11:30 ET.
We’re almost there. There are a few lineup decisions I’m still interested to hear about, like how much Kayla Nowak is actually doing. Oklahoma needs her on vault otherwise they will be sending up a 9.9 SV. Automatic drops are a big no-no at Championships.

Your judges for Semifinal 1:

Event Number Name Rating
Vault Judge 1 Charlene Christensen Brevet
Judge 2 Lee Bjella National
Judge 3 Marian Dykes Brevet
Judge 4 Gay Ann Valkoun Brevet
Bars Judge 1 Carol Ide Brevet
Judge 2 Kat Sgamba Brevet
Judge 3 Linda Fenton National
Judge 4 Donnalyn Trevethan Brevet
Beam Judge 1 Kelly Dornon-Heimsoth National
Judge 2 Mary Dillard Brevet
Judge 3 Patricia Ethredge Brevet
Judge 4 Donna Meinecke Brevet
Floor Judge 1 Lois Colburn Brevet
Judge 2 Catherine Batsche Brevet
Judge 3 Laurie Reid Brevet
Judge 4 Kim Riley National
Stream is up. Let’s get excited. I’m starting to get an overwhelming sense of uncertainty, like we might see some serious upsets today. Just a feeling.

UCLA introductions first. Kozai is always one of their people on floor event though . . . does she do gymnastics? She’s the new Tiffany Hyland. Natasha Kelley is there on the floor for Oklahoma.

Intros over, warmups soon to start. Upwards of several people are waiting for the meet to start. It looks like about 64 Bruins are warming up vault, including De La Torre and Larson.

It always looks so awkward for the individual competitor. Judges are taking control of their events. Here we go.

Rotation 1:
Cut away from Tutka on floor so we can see the crowd. Helping no one, cameras. Finishes with a strong double tuck. Vault warmup still concluding.

K.J. holding forth at beam. Bars from Nebraska – we see a moment before cutting to Damianova on floor. Camera operators Utah fans? High double pike.

What we’ve seen from Nebraska so far on bars has been clean. DeZiel sticks a nice dismount.

Olson has a minor wobble on her series on beam, but hits the rest. UCLA getting some pretty low scores on vault. Interesting.

Dabritz finishes well on floor. I’m seeing 9.850s being waved around.

Bounce back from Zamarripa – not her best. Maybe we’re seeing some nerves here from UCLA because these scores are poor. Frattone won’t make vault finals again. UCLA gets just 49.275. They’re in trouble. Utah is hitting floor.

The bits of Nebraska we’ve seen on bars have looked good but not great. We’ll see how Giblin and Evenstad do.

Pretty major wobble for Spears on Oklahoma’s beam. They don’t look quite on yet either, but good dismount from her.

Megan Ferguson waiting on the beam, our last competitor of the rotation for Oklahoma. She’s hitting very well. UCLA could be behind both Oklahoma and Utah after the first rotation, which I would never have picked. Robarts hits floor to finish things off for Utah.

After Rotation 1: Oklahoma 49.325, UCLA 49.275, Utah 49.275, Nebraska 49.150.

Standout score of the rotation was a 9.950 from Ferguson on beam. Oklahoma and Utah did their jobs. Nebraska and UCLA have some work to do.

Rotation 2:
UCLA and Oklahoma go to byes. Stanford and LSU enter the competition. I’m interested to see what the judges make of Stanford on floor and how Utah vault now compares to UCLA since UCLA had troubles with landings. Will everybody?

LSU starts on bars, some sloppy legs in this routine into a double tuck dismount.

Big bounce back from Dayton on her floor mount, I don’t expect this to be a very big score. No major problems, though. Second from LSU on bars also has a little sloppiness into the dismount. Utah is losing it on vault, but I don’t know what about.

Some wobbles from Skinner on beam but she got through it, and we see Shona Morgan finishing strong on floor. We’re not getting any scores yet on the live scoring.

Huge mistake from Nebraska on beam, but she stayed on. Hall has to come off the bars for LSU. Disaster. Ivana Hong looking lovely on floor. Huge lunge forward from Robarts on vault. That won’t score well. Courville hits bars well to start saving things for LSU.

Hanset on floor for Stanford, followed by Morrison on bars for LSU, stuck dismount there. Wong on beam for Nebraska hits, and we’ll see Pechanec on floor, a little low on double tuck mount, good presentation but the tumbling in underwhelming.

If we had scores, we would know how Nebraska is scoring on beam, but things don’t look great. These camera angles are horrible. Everything is cut off or behind a sign. Ahsley Morgan finished floor for Stanford.

Some individual competitors finishing up now. Any word on scores? Utah 49.525 on vault? I have a lot of questions for these judges. UCLA will feel cheated by this since Courtney went just 9.900 for a stick. It will be fascinating to see what the judges do with Oklahoma now. Look at Marian Dykes’s scores for Utah on vault (judge #3). She was not as impressed as the others.

Rotation 3:
Utah and Nebraska on to byes, UCLA and Oklahoma rejoin the competition. UCLA probably needs a 49.250-49.300 on bars right now, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards. Rotation starting now.

Big lunge out of the mount for OK on floor, so Albright won’t get the 9.9s she’s been seeing. Score is 9.850 which is high. Floor seems a little charitable so far.

Ashley Morgan pretends to stick her yhalf but takes a big step forward. Hanset is very low-chested but appears to stick. MDLT starts UCLA with a needed 9.850 on bars. Pechanec bounces out of a Yfull.

Larson on bars now. Too much sloppiness everywhere but she hits her DLO better than usual.

Wobbles all over the place for Lau on beam. They’ll need to drop this. Oklahoma doing fine on floor, but the tumbling is not totally controlled. Good stick from Dayton on vault for Stanford.

Hall has some struggles on beam but stays on to help LSU stay slightly alive. Stanford scores a 49.300 on vault. These judges are judging landing and not form and amplitude. This is not acceptable. Dayton barely even left the table and got a 9.950 from one judge.

Courville hits her Arabian well, but has to struggle to save her front tuck.

UCLA has finished bars and scored a massive 49.450 to mostly make up for vault. They will feel much better about their chances now. We didn’t get to see anything except Larson, who was scored appropriately at 9.775, so it’s hard to judge.

Big wobble from Jordan on beam, but other major wobbles haven’t seemed to matter because the judges are giving everyone a 9.850, so we’ll see . . .

Interesting about the judging on floor, I mentioned it was loose, but it only seems loose for the weaker routines and harsher for the better routines. They’re keeping everyone too close together. Everything is a 9.850-9.875. Even Ferguson gets just a 9.900, when she has been going 9.925-9.950.

HALFWAY SCORES:
1. Utah – 98.800
2. UCLA – 98.725
3. Oklahoma – 98.575
4. Stanford – 98.450
5. LSU – 98.200
6. Nebraska – 98.150

Well, we certainly won’t be seeing any teams advancing with 196.200s like we did last year. Everyone is still in this. Oklahoma going to vault now, which will be the make or break event for them. They probably need to break UCLA’s score to feel safe enough. Similarly, UCLA is going to beam, so we know that it’s all still on the table. I thought LSU was overscored there, so let’s see what happens now.

Rotation 4:
Stanford and LSU leave the floor, Utah and Nebraska come back on. Just looking at the LSU beam scores some more. Courville had a clear full tenth wobble on a single skill and still got a 9.950 from one judge, so this is what we’re dealing with today. I can tell you right now that this session will not be controversy-free.

Oklahoma starts vault with Brewer doing a fine Yfull with low chest. Nebraska desperately needs a good 49.400 on floor right now to contend.

Looks like Gerber hit beam to start for UCLA. Baer now, have her dance elements deteriorated a bit from earlier in the season? Good same on the side somi as one foot was nearly off the beam entirely. This won’t be a great score but she’s staying on.

I hate seeing DLO bars dismounts head on, they always look terrible. Beers appears to hit bars. Utah started that rotation with a couple of 9.800s. Baer gets 9.875 on beam, which is too high but consistent with what LSU was getting.

These Nebraska floor routines are very 9.825, but we’ll improve as we get later in the lineup. Oklahoma went 49.125 on vault. Not good enough to feel safe now.

Zamarripa comes off on beam. Disaster for UCLA, and very unexpected. Wow. Everything to play for now. Huge pressure on EHH and Peszek.

McAllister finishes bars for Utah with a stick. EHH to go now on beam. She looks terrified.

DeZiel looking strong on floor. She needs to be 9.900 for Nebraska to get in this, little bounce out of dismount, but a strong routine.

EHH goes on beam now. HUGE hit for them. That should score well. Just huge pressure on Peszek. Well, we know she won’t be throwing her tuck full, that’s for sure. Evenstad follows to finish Nebraska off with a very nice routine. I enjoyed that even though the music choice has become a cliche.

Peszek now – hits series and gainer loso. Just the dismount left. Consider that bullet dodged by UCLA.

Wrong music on floor. Love that annoyed body language. Was focused on UCLA, but Utah gets a 49.225 on bars, which is OK but not great. No 9.9s in that rotation, so UCLA has actually moved .025 ahead of Utah. Would not have expected that after Utah’s massive vault scores. Both Utah and UCLA should feel OK right now, except Utah still has beam.

Rotation 5:
UCLA and Oklahoma head away, LSU and Stanford come back. Watch out for Stanford’s bar scores in this rotation. Oklahoma should not feel safe in their lead over the Cardinal right now. Nebraska and Utah will be finishing their competitions in this rotation.

Lothrop starts on beam (I still don’t like that decision), she hits very solidly but it will be hard for her to score that high here, just a minor hop on dismount. Stanford leads off witha hit bars and we see just a moment of LSU on floor.

Skinner vaults a fine Yfull with a pretty big step back, Giblin follows with a comfortable stick. It may be too little too late. LSU appears to be hitting floor, and Lofgren looks solid enough for Utah on beam. They probably just need to hit two more beam routines to advance.

Our first final: Nebraska finishes with a 196.625. Would have been enough to advance out of either session last year, but it won’t be enough this year. Ashley Morgan hits bars. Stanford is right in this. We may have a nice qualification fight in the last rotation.

Mathis is strong on floor except for the leg separations in her tumbles. Huge wobble for Robarts on beam now, but they can drop it.

LSU is looking out of this, but Courville appears to be hitting her routine well. She’ll still be looking for some EFs potentially. Big wobble from Lopez’s feet (thanks a lot camera work) on beam, but she hits. Utah should be fine.

My stream kept cutting out during Hall on floor, which seemed appropriate.

Oooh, Stanford is currently .050 ahead of Oklahoma going into the last rotation. Everything to play for, ladies and gentlemen.

Utah finishes with a 197.200. Oklahoma and Stanford would need really big scores in the final rotation to pass that, so the Utes are comfortably in the clubhouse right now. UCLA needs just a 49.175 to guarantee qualification, which is certainly very attainable for them on floor. They basically just need to hit.

Rotation 6:
Utah and Nebraska are done. Nebraska, done for the season. Oklahoma will be on bars and Stanford on beam in what will likely be the qualification race. UCLA warming up floor. Cory is dancing more than anyone on the team, as usual. Love.

I think we have to give the slight edge to Oklahoma here because bars is lower risk than beam, but Stanford has proven 9.9 capability from many corners on beam and Oklahoma ust lost Hayden Ward on bars, so who knows. LSU will be on vault, where they can score well, but not well enough to make it into the top three unless we see many falls.

Stanford begins on beam with Becky Wing. Minor wobble after walkover, solid on series. Lunge forward on dismount, but job done.

Mathis on vault for LSU, solid. Brewer on bars, clean, efficient, fine. Zam on floor looks nice, but those legs on the dismount I’m still not happy with.

Stanford and Oklahoma are trading off mid-9.8s. This could still go either way. HUGE 9.900 from Ivana Hong. Olivia Courtney hits floor, so they need just two more hit routines to win the session.

Stanford continues to set the pace on beam, Oklahoma will need something special from the final two bars workers to advance. Wow.

It’s official: Zamarripa will not advance to vault finals. That’s such a shame. So few can actually perform two real vaults.

Olson hits a solid bars to Oklahoma. Will it be enough? Outlook is doubtful.

Peszek bounces out of DLO, but it’s fine. She was ONE pass away from securing UCLA’s advancement to Super Six and she fell. Oh UCLA. Big pressure on EHH now. This is NOT a guarantee.

Pechanec hits beam for Stanford. GREAT day for the Cardinal. Huge surprise that they put four events together. EHH now has to hit her last pass and not pull a Peszek. She could even go OOB and it would be fine, she just needs to stay on her feet. Done. That was a nailbiter the whole way for the Bruins.

It’s official. Stanford will advance. They actually almost beat Utah. Huge for them after the horrendous most of the season they had. Devastating for Oklahoma. It’s so tough for a top team to come into semifinals, have no major mistakes, and still come away in 4th.

You have to feel for Oklahoma. With the injuries they’ve had, there’s not much they could have done better. They just didn’t have the routines top to bottom.

FINAL SCORES:
1. UCLA – 197.400 (that was the hardest easy victory I’ve ever seen)
2. Utah – 197.200
3. Stanford – 197.125
4. Oklahoma – 196.925
5. Nebraska – 196.625
6. LSU – 196.550

Note, every single one of these scores would have advanced from BOTH Semifinals last year.

Individual Qualifiers:
Vault – Delaney, Courville, Giblin, Dabritz
Bars – Gerber, Courtney, Zamarripa, Olson, Shapiro
Beam – Ferguson, EHH, Peszek, Wong, Stone, Hong, Spinner, Matusik
Floor – Zamarripa, EHH, DeZiel, Ferguson

Remember when I said that beam would have the fewest qualifiers? I’m smart.

Current AA leader: Rheagan Courville with 39.475, which will absolutely not hold up after the second session. It’s strange – a lot of people could have scored very well save for a weird fall. Zamarripa would have been the runaway leader had she not screwed up beam – same thing happened in 2010.

This thing is lengthy, so when we return for the second SF at 6 ET, I’ll start a new post, so follow along there.

The Nationals Scene: Event Finals

After the tension of Super Six, Event Finals day is a chance to cool down, smile, and allow everyone to pretend that they are best friends again. For fans, it serves as an effective coping mechanism so that we can say goodbye to the season slowly, sort of like a coma.
In some cases, there is a clearly deserving winner based on the performance that day, but usually event finals are a way for judges to reward an exceptional season, respectable career, or superior display of difficulty. Sometimes, it’s a way to recognize an individual gymnast whose team was unworthy of her during the championship season, as we saw in 2010 when the judges tried really hard to give McCool the beam title even though her routine was poor that day (ultimately, Susan Jackson’s [thanks for the catch] clearly stronger performance won out). A lot of the discussion surrounding Event Finals involves the word deserves, so it’s always fun and nonsensical. 
Unfortunately, the dark side of Event Finals is that they are endless. Vault in particular has the potential to be a nightmare, with a steady stream of gymnasts performing their grating and unnecessary layout Yurchenkos for 9.600. On Semifinals day, root for the cutoff score on vault to get up to 9.925 in both sessions so that we may see just the minimum 4 qualifiers instead of 12 people tied at 9.900 all advancing to finals. 
We always see a ton of random qualifiers, especially when the cutoff score dips to 9.875 in a session so that any sort of relevant routine with a stuck dismount can get through, so my preview will not be comprehensive about anyone with a chance to advance. Instead, I’ll take a moment to highlight a few gymnasts that I see as the most likely title contenders.
Vault:
As we all know, the stupidest rule in all of NCAA gymnastics requires gymnasts to suddenly perform two vaults in event finals. Either they need to do away with the second vault and just have them perform the same vault twice, or they need to require potential qualifiers to perform a second vault in Semifinals, like we currently see in elite. Both of those solutions would eliminate the insufferable parade on non-10.0 vaults in finals. 
Because the rules stand as they do, the vault title often depends on the quality of the second vault, and the result is notoriously difficult to predict because we don’t see that second vault during the season.
However, one of the favorites has to be defending champion Marissa King. We know she can perform a Tsuk full as a second vault, which could very well be the most impressive second vault in the competition and bring her another title. The biggest question is actually her qualification to finals. She’s been getting a few 9.850-9.875s this year, and that score will not be enough to advance. 

Beyond King, things get a little questionable. UCLA, Florida, and Alabama all have four gymnasts who can advance to finals, but we don’t know a lot about how prepared they are for a second vault. Obviously, Vanessa Zamarripa would be a clear favorite under fully healthy circumstances, but coming back from the Achilles injury, I wonder how much time she has spent training her RO 1/2 entry. I’m sure she’d go for it in finals, but I doubt it’s up to the level we saw when she won in 2010.
I’m going to assume that Kytra Hunter could easily crank out a Yurchenko full as a second vault, so the title may be hers for the taking since her Y1.5 will score very well. Tauny Frattone can make finals on the strength of her Omelianchik, and we know that she has trained a RO 1/2 tuck 1/2 in the past, so she may be planning for a second vault as well.
Look for Jessie DeZiel and potentially Diandra Milliner to have second vaults that start from 10s as well, so don’t discount them in the hunt for the title. DeZiel in particular should have no problem bringing in two vaults that can score 9.850, which has been enough to win in years past.
Beyond this group we have some former elites like Peszek and Courtney who competed harder vaults years ago but are unlikely to be training anything other than their usual competition vaults at this point. Hopefully we see some impromptu Y1.5s a la Anna Li in 2010 as long as it is safe. Katherine Grable may have been in this conversation at one point, but I doubt she’s ready coming back from injury. We also know that Corrie Lothrop has several vaults, but she would have to make finals first, and I don’t see it happening.
Uneven Bars:
There are probably 20 people in this competition who could make a 9.900 on bars, and I’m predicting that we will have many ties in Semifinals to make this a packed final. Winning the title is going to take an extremely clean routine (people who routinely miss a handstand but still make 9.875-9.900 will not be relevant in finals) with either notable difficulty or reputation.
As we did with vault, let’s begin with the defending champion, Kat Ding of Georgia. At her best, she is still the best bars worker in NCAA, so don’t be surprised to see her win again, especially since we’re in Georgia and it’s her senior year. It’s a true shame that she hasn’t received a 10 this year (and don’t expect it to come at Nationals), but a second consecutive title here would help make things right. 
Also, look for the Florida duo of Alaina Johnson and Mackenzie Caquatto to be competitive frontrunners. Like Ding, I think they were both a little bit cleaner last season, but nonetheless Johnson has wonderful presentation, notably her excellent flight and form on the Ray, and Caquatto has the reputation and is very comfortable with her routine. In the future, when she’s healthy, I’d like to see Caquatto increase the difficulty from what we’ve seen at the end of this season so that she can meet her potential on this event. She should be better than solid.
Kat Ding’s teammates Gina Nuccio and Chelsea Davis also both have fair shots to make finals with their solid 9.900 routines. Nuccio probably peaks out at that score and would struggle to win the title, but everyone loves Chelsea Davis and the impressive amplitude on her Tkatchev will help her stand out and contend for the win.
Megan Ferguson of Oklahoma always scores well on bars because she doesn’t give anything away on handstands or the dismount. If it comes down to being clean, she can win, but she may not have that standout quality it takes to win the final otherwise. 
From the Pac-12, Nicole Pechanec and Leslie Mak both have clean, 9.9-level routines with creative composition that will help them make an impression in the final as well, but with those composition choices comes more risk, especially for Mak, so both would have to be perfect to win.
There are a host of other people I’ve left out who can score 9.900 on bars, such as the Alabama duo of Stack-Eaton and Priess or the Nebraska duo of Giblin and Evenstad, but I think those gymnasts will be lost in the shuffle of finals a little bit and, while they could contend, are much more likely to be bunched in with a lot of others in a 5th-10th place range.
Balance Beam:
Unlike bars, I expect the balance beam final to be a pretty simple affair with 9 to 11 competitors. Because there are always some falls from expected qualifiers in prelims, we don’t see the same number of people reaching that 9.900 plateau that usually ensures qualification. 
Last year in finals, Sam Peszek had a couple deductions in her routine, but won over her teammate Aisha Gerber because she performed a standing full to open and numbed the judges to later deductions, an effective strategy that could work again this year. Also, don’t count out Peszek’s other teammate Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, who never seems to bring her best gymnastics to NCAAs but could very well make finals if she is on this year.
Outside of UCLA, Florida’s Marissa King and Oklahoma’s Megan Ferguson are fair bets to make this final and contend. King is having her best beam season, and her acrobatic skills are right on every time with no deductions. Ferguson is the most impressive part of a beam lineup that should score well from top to bottom, so scores of 9.950 are conceivable for both.
The Arkansas duo of Jaime Pisani and Katherine Grable have excelled all season to keep that rotation afloat for the Razorbacks, and their consistency could be rewarded in finals as well, though I would peg Pisani as more likely to contend on floor than on beam. 
On any given day, Alabama has several gymnasts who could make this final and be in the hunt, but because Stack-Eaton has been struggling lately and Jacob is leading off, I’m going to put my money on Sarah Demeo and Ashley Priess as the most likely to factor here. Demeo’s double pike dismount stands out, and Priess is usually very clean (and we may see her get some career recognition at some point at these championships).
Leslie Mak of Oregon State has a beautiful routine that could have won last year had she not fallen, but I wonder if the gainer full dismount could work to her disadvantage compared to people with much more risk. And speaking of gainer full dismounts, I would be remiss to forget Shayla Worley in this preview, but she has to hit in prelims first. The judges always love her, though, so don’t be surprised.
Stanford also has a few gymnasts who can advance to finals with 9.9s, but they will be unlikely to stand out from the group mentioned above.
Floor Exercise:
Floor should be good fun this year. I hope Lloimincia Hall qualifies to finals because I am fascinated to see what the judges make of her routine. 
Our defending champion Geralen Stack-Eaton should be in the race as she’s come along nicely this season since she added floor back, but I don’t see her repeating because the field is much deeper this year.


My favorite for the title is Kytra Hunter because she has exceptionally clean tumbling, and everyone has been looking for a chance to reward her insanely high tumbling since about 2009. She never got the recognition for it in elite because she wasn’t relevant enough on other events to make major international competitions, but this is the chance to do reward it now.

Hunter’s teammates Ashanee Dickerson and Marissa King can also score well enough to hang around the top of the standings, but both need to work out controlling those landings if they are even to make finals. 
If Hunter doesn’t win, though, I’m putting my bet on Jaime Pisani, especially if she doesn’t take the AA title. She is a beloved senior who always comes just short of winning major things, so don’t expect her to walk away from Duluth totally empty-handed. 
Interesting fact of the day: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has never made a floor final at Championships. I expect this will be the year she qualifies, and count on her to pull out the pike full in as a mount so that she has competitive difficulty. Most people are discounting her because this has not been her best year, but she’s my sleeper pick in this event. Sam Peszek has been controlling her landings a bit better lately and also could make finals here.
Rheagan Courville, Jessie DeZiel, Megan Ferguson, Ashley Morgan, and Noel Couch are other potential qualifiers, but I don’t think any of them quite have the whole package of complete leaps, difficult tumbling (throughout the routine, not just a mount and filler), and upright landings to win the title.