All posts by balancebeamsituation

The End of a Sarah

So, Sarah Patterson retired. That happened today. Everyone wear a houndstooth blouse and talk about how winning the SEC title is harder than winning the national title as a tribute.

I was completely caught off guard by this one, and it comes with more of a sour note and less of a celebratory one than we’d usually have for the retirement of a member of the coaching Mount Olympus because it’s clear she’s not retiring of her own choice. As outlined in the announcement, a series of knee replacement surgeries will take her out of action for the next year, so she has decided to give herself a medical retirement rather than redshirt the season.

We know her health issues must be serious and urgent for her to make this kind of immediate and dramatic decision. When I first saw the headline about Sarah’s retirement, I assumed she was announcing a retirement plan, like she would leave at the end of the 2015 season so she could do a whole farewell tour where all the other coaches give her flowers and say nice things about her and create tribute videos. Obviously, that would have happened if she were leaving on chosen terms.

The head coaching legends are abandoning us. We do have Marsden now and forever, and D-D Breaux signed a new contract, so they’re still flying the flag for the 3-decade team. You know D-D will be coaching until she’s 295 years old, just to prove a point. She’ll be nothing but a brain in a jar off to the side of the gym, yet no one will doubt who’s in charge. But with neither Suzanne nor Sarah around anymore, there’s a major void on the acidic rivalry, dramatic personality, and controversial gossip fronts. Let this be a memo to all our Rhondas, KJs, and Dannas to pick it up. Yes, you’re all very pleasant and professional and good at your jobs. Snore.

It’s helpful that ESPN made the Sarah and Suzanne documentary recently because that effectively covers the legacy portion of Sarah’s career. Even if I’ve never been rah-rah Sarah or rah-rah Alabama, the sport would be so much weaker without her and David’s work at Alabama. College gymnastics wouldn’t be remotely as healthy or interesting. 

And now we have so much more to talk about when it comes to Alabama and 2015. All eyes on the Tide.
There was already a workable chain of succession in place at Alabama, and assistant Dana Duckworth will now take over as the head coach. Because Dana is already such a crucial part of the program and has been there for a while, there’s a tendency to think that things will just carry on pretty much as usual, but . . . see Clark, Jay. We all lived through the trauma and know it’s not that simple.

Just like Georgia in 2009 with that hugely talented and influential class that graduated the same year Suzanne retired, Alabama also has a significant group that left after the 2014 season in the Jacob, Milliner, DeMeo crew. The Tide will be a very different team next year in every way. It has to be. Expect some growing pains, especially early on, as happens when an assistant coach must become a head coach and suddenly have her fingers in all the different pies. Some adapt better than others, as we know. 

The world won’t be expected of Dana right away. She’ll have some leeway, and if Alabama is able to keep this string of top finishes going in the 2015 season, that will be seen as a bonus. If the attendance, boosting, etc. continues at the same rate, that will certainly help. But I would imagine the leash will still be fairly short when it comes to performance. As we know, for a program where the stakes are higher than they are at most schools, consecutive years of results below expectations are tough to endure for a coach who doesn’t have the legacy and reputation. That’s especially true if this decision had to be rushed or if this was something Sarah specifically fought for and advocated rather than a decision made over time by people sitting around and saying things like “do our due diligence” and other verbal catastrophes.

I can’t help but keep comparing this to Jay taking over at Georgia for 2010, but in a number of ways I do expect a smoother transition than we saw at Georgia. The cult of Alabama gymnastics has always been less about Sarah than the cult of Georgia gymnastics was about Suzanne. It’s just the nature of their personalities. Alabama fans love and respect Sarah, but I don’t think we’ll hear as many “Well, she’s certainly no Sarah” complaints about Dana. Unless the results plummet. Then we’ll hear it.

We know Alabama won’t be the same without their legend of a coach, but the core identity of the team shouldn’t change all that much. Obviously, the choreography will stay exactly the same. And because Dana and Bryan Raschilla are sticking around, I also wouldn’t expect the kind of exodus of verbal commitments that we recently saw at Georgia and often see when there is a total coaching upheaval. My guess is that they’ll predominately stay with Bama. But that will be something to watch over the next year or so, as will the level of Sarah’s involvement. Will she still advise and linger, or will she remove herself entirely? I think she would have to remove herself, otherwise there would be way too many head coaches banging around, which is trouble.

The problem is that a huge bombshell transition like this makes me excited to see how it plays out next season. And it’s only July. Now we need an elite bombshell to help us refocus on the present again, at least for the moment. I have some nominees.

Things I Don’t Entirely Hate: 2014 Uneven Bars Edition

The early-summer lull. It can be a difficult slog to endure with so little interesting gymnastics going on, but we have had the pleasure of the World Cup and watching Miroslav Klose eat it on a punch front goal celebration (best part by far). There was also a web-streamed Pro Gymnastics Cup debacle that I skipped through most of. Katherine Grable did a comaneci, Luiza Galiulina is from Pakistan now, Jake Dalton’s eyes and Chris Brooks’ nipples did some high bar, and it was extremely pointless.

We’re at the bottom of the barrel. But that’s about to change soonish. The US women are heading south to the Theater of Broken Dreams for their final camp verification before things become real, a camp which has taken on a little more interest because of the Gabby Douglas comeback. We don’t really know anything yet, but Martha’s positive reaction from last camp has people mildly optimistic because she didn’t give the old, expected “It’s very difficult to come back. Just because you won in the past, that doesn’t guarantee you anything” routine, what we’ll call the Shawn Johnson treatment.

A somewhat in-form Gabby Douglas would throw a very pleasant little wrench into the whole post-Elizabeth Price elite landscape. The most interesting part of the Douglas comeback for me is bars because it’s the event I really enjoy her on, and it would be the biggest asset event (both for herself and the team) if she could perform at even 3/4 of her 2012 self. To be honest, she could sit on the low bar and knit a tea cozy and I would want her on the Worlds team to do bars.

USAG did produce a video about her return with some blips of her training bars and, at the very beginning, getting some brief shaposh action on to the tune of a music clip obviously called “general uplifting while overcoming obstacles #2.” The shaposh is new, but of course she would be training it. This is the quad of the shaposh.

Did you like that segue into a discussion of bars composition? Because I did.  

As much as it pains me to say it, the FIG’s adjustments to the uneven bars code for the 2013-2016 quad are smart and have produced better and more entertaining routines. I know. I’m sorry. I won’t make a habit of it.

The emphasis on rewarding flight combinations more than pirouetting combinations has forced gymnasts to compose more dynamic routines, which is what uneven bars is supposed to be. The bars final was the best part of Euros this year, and not just because Beckie Downie won and then everyone cried. Only mostly. 

Bars is my event for 2014. I have a different event every year. Last year it was beam. In 2012 it was vault. This year it’s bars. It hasn’t been floor in a long while. Let’s work on that. And by “work on that,” I don’t mean introducing more rules requiring people to look backward before starting a tumbling pass (ARTISTRY!)

It’s all very well to make vague proclamations about the changing nature of bars routines, but if you know me, you know that’s not good enough. If you don’t make a table including numbers and percentages, then it never happened.

In that spirit, I looked back at the uneven bars finals from the major competitions of the last four years, two from the 2012 quad and two so far in the 2016 quad (with Euros standing in for this year because we haven’t had anything bigger yet), and broke down all the skills by category—pirouettes/circle elements, transitions, and same-bar releases—to see how many of each type were performed and what proportion of the total skills they made up to get a sense of how routine composition has evolved in the last few years. 

(Note: This includes only C elements and higher, so no giants and casts mucking things up, and does not include dismounts. Spoiler alert: everyone has one of them.) 

In the 2011 final, over half of the C+ skills in routines were pirouettes and circles, a number which has drastically fallen ever since, replaced by a nearly equivalent rise in the number of transitions. Because those valuable 0.2 connections now require flight, the E release+pak+shaposh 1/2 combination is the holy grail of the current code. I think we all knew that anecdotally, but the degree and immediacy of the change in composition is interesting. A change was made to the code, and it’s sort of . . . doing exactly what it was meant to do.

Rebecca Tunney is a great example of someone whose D Score on bars has recently skyrocketed by exploiting releases and transitions and whose routine style is continuing to change the complexion of bars finals.

She has just two pirouetting elements in her current routine (a stalder 1/2 to get into her jaeger and a stalder 1/1 connected into her dismount), and she gets the majority of her value from the toe-on piked tkatchev+bhardwaj and shaposh+pak+shaposh 1/2 combos. It’s so flight-ful! That’s a more common approach now, but was much rarer in the 2012 quad, with only Tweddle and Komova among the big fish showing routines with just 2 pirouetting skills, both of whom were very much ahead of the curve in bars composition.

The number of same-bar releases is more all over the place. I guess I would have expected a consistent increase because of the new emphasis on flight, but most people have gone the transition direction instead to fulfill the flight expectation. But those releases are very valuable for those who can do them and are willing to take the risk, as Tweddle and Seitz showed in 2012 to push those release numbers up, and as Downie and Popa did in 2014 to a similar effect. Roxana Popa is repping the same-bar release like crazy in her routine right now because that’s how she can build a D score without those valuable E elements.

Also significant: The decrease in pirouetting began before the introduction of the 2013-2016 code, with the biggest drop over these years coming between 2011 and 2012. It’s not entirely the code imposing a change in routines but the code adjusting to reflect a change that was already taking place by the more forward-thinking coaches. The shaposh 1/2 skills were just as valuable in the last quad, but no one had figured that out yet. Once the Russians started doing them, they came into vogue, and everyone else followed suit. As it always goes.

By now, everyone recognizes the value of the shaposh 1/2. It’s the new walkover+bhs+layout stepout, except I don’t hate it. I could watch a pak into a direct stalder shaposh 1/2 all day, and the code agrees with me. As a result, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick in the number of E transitions over the past few years.

At both 2013 Worlds and 2014 Europeans, just 2 of the 8 competitors lacked an E transition, whereas in the 2011 final, only 2 of the 8 competitors had E transitions (those ahead-of-the-curve Russians, Komova and Nabieva.) In the 2012 final, Tweddle, Yao, and Mustafina also attended the party.

The equivalent lowering in E pirouettes is also dramatic. They were all the rage in the 2012 quad, either Ono/Bi family elements for those who could do them, or piked stalder fulls for those who could not. Neither are in fashion nearly as much these days, though they’re still valuable E elements and useful for those who can do them. 

20% of the C+ skills in 2012 were E pirouettes, which is a pretty huge number when you think of it. It should also be noted that some of the lowering in E pirouettes from 2014 Europeans can be attributed to the lack of Chinese gymnasts. In 2013, 5 of those 7 E pirouettes came from Yao and Huang.

But at the same time, it’s not just the Chinese who have to adjust to a code that doesn’t favor pirouetting as much. The idea that the changes to the code hurt the Chinese the most or were designed to hurt Chinese routines is, like most ideas in gymnastics, incomplete. Which brings us back to Gabby Douglas. In the 2011 bars final, Douglas counted the same number of pirouetting elements as Huang Qiushuang, and Wieber was just one behind. At the 2012 Olympics, Douglas and Mustafina both counted more pirouetting elements than He or Yao. While Douglas sported her two big same-bar releases, she relied on pirouetting to make up her routine rather than transitions (with just the pak and the stalder shoot, rather than any shaposh combinations), so in her comeback, recomposition of her bars routine to reflect current trends and code values will be something to watch.

And it all comes back to the shaposh.

How Very Mid-Quad Of Us

It’s that time of year again, the time of elite thinking. The 2014 NCAA season is well behind us, and it’s not really healthy to start thinking about the 2015 season in any depth for at least another three or four months (lying). So, it’s once again time for my annual attempt to return my attention to the elite scene, with all its D scores and team selections and switch ring full turns, and dive in feet first. (I’ve never been much of a diver, so headfirst seems inadvisable. Even though that’s the expression, I’m not comfortable with it, and it should change.) 

As we enter the second year post-Olympics, we’re starting to move into that meaty area at the center of the quad where things start to get a little more real. In the first year of a quad, we can only learn so much. It’s a year of posturing, where we just sort of quaintly applaud people who have decided to stick around but can’t make any real conclusions about the future. It’s so hard to keep up for a full quad, and what seems like a given in year one is often obsolete by year four. Just ask Ana Porgras and Rebecca Bross about that one.

True story: I forgot Ana Porgras’s name a few months ago. I was like, “Who was that good Romanian? The one with the face?”

But as we move into the second year, we start to wonder about who’s actually in this thing, not just to hang around the edge of a Worlds team here or there but to be a major player. Now the ramshackle, debt-ridden Rio venues become a glinting tease shining on the periphery of every conversation. It’s not close enough to be a thing, not nearly, but if you’re a gymnastics fan, you find yourself absentmindedly forming possible World and Olympic teams while chopping vegetables, or taking a shower, or drinking the blood of your enemies, knowing it’s too early and that none of these people will even have working bones anymore by the time 2016 rolls around, but still resculpting and reimagining the picture with the emergence of every new Gowey of the month.

But should we entertain that taunting Rio glint, or shut it out? How much is year 2 really relevant to year 4 of a quad? I don’t have any grand conclusions because every team is different and every quad is different, but it’s worth looking at how the years compare as we progress through a quad, keeping in mind how much things tend to change, or in specific cases, stay the same. In that spirit, I took a look back at 2010 Worlds and compared those teams to the 2012 Olympic teams to get some idea of how things progressed from year 2 to year 4. 

For the most part, the top teams returned 2 members from their 2010 Worlds teams to the 2012 Olympics, which was the case for Russia, Romania, Italy, and Germany. The US and Canada returned just one member from their 2010 teams (Aly Raisman for the US and Kristina Vaculik for Canada, with a little Stanford stint thrown in the center there). 

So it’s not exactly easy to remain relevant for a team even for three years running. And the people from 2010 who did manage to also make 2012 teams were big stars for their teams. They were the obvious choices who were mega-locks if healthy: Mustafina, Izbasa, Ferrari, Tweddle, Seitz. Of course they’re making the Olympics.

What’s interesting about these gymnasts who were already seniors in 2010 and stuck it out through 2012 is that their difficulty changed very little in the intervening years, putting up nearly identical D Scores in 2010 and 2012. The variation was usually just a tenth or two, nothing big. Mustafina, for instance, stayed very steady with her D Scores, adding a little on bars and shaving off a little on beam. She did have a net loss because she was no longer able to do the Y2.5 after that vault tore her leg off and used it to air-guitar “Another One Bites the Dust” at 2011 Euros, but other than that she was very constant. That’s true of many, many who stayed around: Seitz, Afanasyeva, Chelaru, Tanaka, Chusovitina, obviously. One or two tenths here and there. They didn’t continue pushing the difficulty with any significance between 2010 and 2012. And it’s because they didn’t need to. Either they were pretty maxed out already, like Tweddle on bars (who added two tenths, and what more could she even add after that?), or too touch-and-go with injury to risk upgrading, or able to rest easy in the knowledge that they were team locks and only had to show up to make it without needing to upgrade.

I suppose the lesson from this is not to count too heavily on upgrades in the coming years from people who are already seniors now. Most major players on the international scene didn’t during the last quad. But it did happen, and Aly Raisman is a great example.

Of all the people who made both the 2010 and 2012 teams, she blew everyone out of the water in terms of upgrades. It’s not even close. Like almost laughably. Between 2010 and 2012, Raisman upgraded her D Score a total of 2.0 across the four events, (0.8 on floor, 0.7 on vault, 0.3 on bars, and 0.2 on beam). That’s a ton, and it was probably necessary to make her the lock for the Olympic team she suddenly became. The difference between Raisman and those who didn’t upgrade as much is probably a combination of her sturdy ability to avoid injury and the depth and pressure of the US team, forcing the veterans to keep upgrading to remain in the picture. 

There were a few others who upgraded their difficulties between 2010 and 2012, and surprisingly, they were almost all super veterans from the previous quad, the people we think would be least likely to upgrade at that later point in their careers. Ferrari upgraded like crazy on beam and floor for 2012, going up 0.5 or more on both events, Daniele Hypolito stepped it up 0.4 on both bars and beam, and Hannah Whelan jumped up 0.5 on bars to try to give the team a third strong bars score. Koko Tsurumi is another who stepped up her bars composition significantly toward the end of the quad.

Returning to the composition of the teams, even though having 1 or 2 team members stick around was the most likely outcome, it was not the rule. Great Britain brought back 4 members of the 2010 team for the Olympics, and Australia’s whole Olympic team had also competed at 2010 worlds. Both teams had some slight increases in D Scores across the board, but the team makeup and team results remained pretty constant, with Great Britain performing about the same in 2010 as 2012 and Australia struggling more with the execution. Neither team improved its finish from 2010 to 2012, which is to be expected when the team remains the same.

It has been a fairly common trend to see the same gymnasts competing at international events year after year for countries like Great Britain and Australia because they haven’t had the depth to push people off the teams. If you have the difficulty, you’re there and you’re staying. It would then seem more realistic to use the 2014 seniors as a measuring stick for 2016 for those teams, but Great Britain is an interesting case right now because of the unprecedented increase in quality and depth over the last couple of years in their junior ranks. It’s getting considerably harder for the seniors to stay. Is the era ending when a stalwart like Hannah Whelan can stick around for a few quads making team after team after team? Will she still be the favored choice for Team GB once Generation Art turns senior? It’s something to watch.

The other interesting case I haven’t yet mentioned is China because 2012 was such an anomaly, both internationally and in China’s team history. Like the British, the Chinese team also returned 4 members of the 2010 team to the 2012 Olympics, but that’s much more unusual for a country where we tend to expect a very high turnover of gymnasts and a very young team. Who would have thought that China would be the country trotting out the same gymnasts year after year? Where were those sudden beam workers that no one had ever heard of popping up and being amazing for a day and then disappearing?

China is also anomalous because those 4 returning members all dropped difficulty. While all the other teams that qualified to the 2012 Olympics remained steady or increased their D Scores (all of them), these same Chinese gymnasts regressed, particularly Huang Qiushuang, who dropped multiple tenths on bars and beam, and Sui Lu, who dropped several tenths on floor from 2010 to 2012. It’s no surprise, then, that they also performed much better in 2010 compared to the ragged show they put on in 2012. Huang and Sui can be added to that large group of seniors who did not increase difficulty as the quad progressed, but that’s far from being the norm or the expectation for a Chinese team.

2014 NCAA Team Scoring: It’s Comfy at the Top

For the last few seasons, I’ve been particularly interested in the trend of rising scores in NCAA, which is a relevant issue considering that the average team score for the top 36 teams in the country increased four tenths from 2012 to 2013 (from 195.406 in 2012 to 195.802 in 2013). That’s almost a fall worth of increase per team per meet, which is fairly insane. Were teams really a fall better in 2013 than in 2012? No. The evaluation of routines is clearly getting more lenient across the board. Now that the 2014 season is over, it’s time to revisit the topic following a year in which scores appeared to increase another notch with all the 10s and 198s we saw. Here are the average scores for the NCAA top 36 from 1999-2014:

And here’s the same information, but limited to just the span from 2006-2014 to zero in on recent trends.

The results are somewhat interesting for 2014 because while the scores did increase over last season, just as anyone who watched this year would have guessed, the overall increase is not particularly large. Now, those of us who have been following the scores closely would certainly argue that the mega-scoring we saw this season is only part of a trend that began in earnest last season, which is reinforced by the numbers, with 2014 seeing another jump over 2013 and coming in as the second-highest scoring season in NCAA history behind 2004.

But, the increase is perhaps surprising in its smallness. In fact, the increase from 195.802 in 2013 to 195.861 in 2014 comes out to only .059, or just a little bit more than one step per meet per team, which is notable but not exceptionally significant in the grand scheme of meet scoring. It’s certainly not the full four tenths leap we saw the previous year. So, why is that? We saw more 198s in 2014 than in 2013, and way more 197s, and the general perception is that scores skyrocketed this season and showed a clear departure even over the high scores of the previous season. What’s the deal? Well, the deal becomes somewhat more clear if we break down the top 36 into manageable chunks. Here are the average scores for only the top 12 teams from 1999-2014:

Compare this to the average scores for the teams ranked 13-36 over the same years.

We see something closer to the expected, anecdotal increase when it comes to the top 12 teams. For those teams, 2014 marked the highest-scoring year ever, with an increase of another .153 over last season, while for the teams ranked 13-36, the scoring was remarkably consistent with last season, an increase of just .013 (or basically nothing). So, the scores this season did increase, but they did not increase consistently across the NCAA. They increased specifically for the very best teams while the rest remained the same.  
It’s interesting to compare 2014 with 2004, the year notorious for crazy scoring and everyone getting a 12 on every event at every meet, because in 2004, the scores were crazy high and crazy high for everyone. As we see from the last graph, that year had unprecedented scoring for the lower-ranked teams as well as the higher-ranked teams, but the increase was most significant for the lower-ranked teams. In 2014, the scores for the lower-ranked teams stayed constant (and much lower than that 2004 level), while the scores for the top teams bested that 2004 level and continued their ascent.

We all know that the Parity Parrots like to pat themselves on the back for their work to increase parity in NCAA, but there are different types of parity. This year, we certainly saw evidence of parity at the very top of the sport manifested in our most competitive Super Six, but beyond that, the gap between the very best teams and everyone else actually increased in 2014 rather than decreased. The “others” were farther away from being able to challenge the best teams this season than in 2013.

Is it talent? Are the top few teams just taking all the best gymnasts and best coaches and extending a lead over the rest? Is it reputation scoring? Are they getting a boost that the other teams aren’t based on name? Different people will argue different reasons, but it’s interesting to break down this information to know where the scores are going and who is getting them. And that’s not to say this 2014 phenomenon will necessarily continue next season, but it’s something to keep an eye on and helps provide evidence to either support or undermine some of the assumptions we had about the scoring during the 2014 season.
I think everyone had a sense that the scores ballooned in 2014, mostly because of all the 10s we saw—so many more than in 2013—but we had that sense because we pay the most attention to the top-ranked teams. For them, the scores did continue to increase at a noticeable rate with more 10s, more rotation scores in the 49.6+ range, and more 198s, but across the country and down the rankings, that was not the case.
  • Also, in non-numerical news, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez is transferring from Florida to Oregon State for the upcoming season, which is exciting news for the Beavs. They’ve had a rough couple years, and she could contribute on as many as four events for them with some 9.8s. Conversely, she wasn’t making any lineups at Florida, and given the quality of the incoming classes, didn’t look to be making many lineups in the future. Also, as it has been discussed that Alex McMurtry is planning to come early, something was going to have to give in the scholarship-count department. Silvia’s sister, Mariana, will also be joining Oregon State the following season. Now Tanya, put that transverse aerial back in her beam routine. You know you want to.

2014 Level 10 Nationals Results

Our Level 10s and future NCAA 9.875ers have concluded competition at their national championships, so it’s time to examine at who they are, what they’ve done, and where they’re going. If you’re not a JO follower (translation: if you’re not a parent of a JO gymnast, basically), the competition is broken down into 8 divisions (Junior A-D, Senior A-D) divided by age. For our NCAA purposes, the junior divisions aren’t immediately relevant because, even though some of them have already done fetus-verbals to college programs, they’re still a long way off and a lot can change.

Full results can be found here, (and associated college verbals and signings can, as always, be found at collegegymfans) but I’m paying attention to only the senior divisions right now with particular emphasis on Senior C and Senior D, the gymnasts we will see entering NCAA programs in just a couple months. Here’s what happened: 


Top 10 AA
1. Taylor Harrison – Ohio State 2014-2015
38.475 (VT – 2nd, UB – 2nd, BB – 2nd, FX – 10th)
Ohio State has been stuck in the 195s for a few seasons now, and with Shaffer, Miller, Aepli, and DeLuca all leaving, they are desperate for this kind of winning-senior-D-level gymnastics to remain somewhere in the vicinity of the top teams. They are in dire need of AAers, so seeing an incoming gymnast win with 9.6s and 9.7s in Level 10 in encouraging.

2. Danielle Breen – Nebraska 2014-2015
38.400 (VT – 3rd, UB – 4th, BB – 5th, FX – 5th)
Nebraska is one of the big winners at JO Nationals this year, with several new recruits emerging or confirming their statuses as potential impact gymnasts. Breen is less well-known, but finishing in the top 5 on every event helps. Don’t expect a post-Wong, post-Super Six slump for Nebraska in 2015. This is a goo-ood class that should continue bolstering the team’s depth.  

3. Kaitlynn Hedelund – North Carolina 2014-2015
38.200 (VT – 12th, UB – 10th, BB – 7th, FX – 10th)
This is Hedelund’s second straight year placing in the top 3 in her division, cracking the top 10 on beam both times. UNC also has Lindsey Lemke, a Geddert’s girl who placed well in the past, coming in next season, so at least there is some prior success coming in this year for a team that has been off the radar lately. Let’s see if it translates.

4. Maddy Stover – Utah 2014-2015
38.175 (VT – 18th, UB – 16th, BB – 1st, FX – 15th)
5. Tiffani Lewis  – Utah 2014-2015
38.125 (VT – 7th, UB – 10th, BB – 7th, FX – 20th)

Nebraska wasn’t the only team that had a good weekend. Utah should be toasting these results, with their incoming class recording solid AA placements. Look at those beam rankings. Utah still needs serious restocking on beam after consecutive years of the cracks emerging at the worst time, and they have the opportunity to wholly refresh that lineup for 2015. The interesting thing about Utah next year is that they’re losing four major contributors, but they’re not losing AAers (Damianova – 3 events, Lofgren – 2 events, Del Priore – 1 event, Hansen – 1 event), so the effect may not be felt as deeply as one would think.  

6. Zoey Schaefer – Washington 2014-2015
38.100 (VT – 29th, UB – 2nd, BB – 15th, FX – 1st)

7. Jordyn Penny – Ball State 2014-2015
38.000 (VT – 18th, UB – 4th, BB – 18th, FX – 12th)

8. Sydney Waltz – Kentucky 2014-2015
37.950 (VT – 18th, UB – 10th, BB – 14th, FX – 20th)

9. Kamerin Moore – Nebraska 2014-2015
37.875 (VT – 7th, UB – 1st, BB – 32nd, FX – 3rd)
Another of the much-anticipated Nebraska gymnasts, but she’s more well known because of her tenure as a junior elite and status as a Geddert’s gymnast. Moore would have placed right at the top with a hit beam routine, and it’s reasonable to expect big things from her. 

10. Alexis Mattern – Ohio State 2014-2015
37.850 (VT – 4th, UB – 37th, BB – 7th, FX – 20th)

Myia Hambrick – LSU 2014-2015
VT – 7th, UB – 10th, BB – 2nd
I expected a higher placement from Hambrick, but a floor error took her out of the top AA rankings. However, she is very strong on floor (she’s an LSU gymnast after all) and always seems to do well on beam – 2 years in a row placing 2nd there at nationals, which is the far more important quality for the Tigers right now.

Taylor Allexerrrr, Utah 2012-2013? (Is she planning to go to another program?)
VT – 1st, FX – 5th

Lauren Li – Penn State 2014-2015
VT – 7th, FX – 2nd

Lia Breeden – New Hampshire 2014-2015
BB – 5th, FX – 3rd

Amber Heltemes – Southern Utah 2014-2015
UB – 4th, FX – 5th

Lauren Rice – Sacramento State 2014-2015
BB – 4th

Nichole Guerrero – Alabama 2014-2015
VT – 4th

Corinne Rechenmacher – Kentucky 2014-2015
UB – 4th

Becca Schugel – Missouri 2014-2015
UB – 4th

Kiersten Sokolowski – Lindenwood 2014-2015
VT – 4th

Mary Jacobsen – Oregon State 2015-2016
UB – 4th

Gigi Marino – Georgia 2014-2015
FX – 5th

Alexis Brown – UC Davis 2014-2015
FX – 5th

Jill Van Mierlo – BYU 2014-2015
VT – 7th

Lianne Josbacher – Boise State 2014-2015
BB – 10th

Anya Olson – Brown 2014-2015
UB – 10th

Also, JaNay Honest competed in this session. I mention that just because at last word, she was set to walk on at UCLA, and she scored a solid 9.625 on vault for her yfull. Given the scoring gap UCLA has seen on vault lately (and losing Courtney doesn’t help), they’re in the market for vaulters.


Top 10 AA
1. Grace Williams – Nebraska 2014-2015
38.725 (VT – 7th, UB – 1st, BB – 3rd, FX – 2nd)
More from Nebraska? Given her years of strong placements in JO, Williams has a chance to be the best of the bunch for Nebraska’s incoming team. Note that Williams and Moore both won their division on bars, and that may be where the Huskers need the most infusion of scoring next year. They don’t have the Wongs and Giblins anymore.

2. Erin Macadaeg – LSU 2014-2015
38.700 (VT – 4th, UB – 17th, BB – 1st, FX – 1st)
We met Macadaeg and her clean gymnastics at P&G Championships last year, and it’s serving her well in JO. As mentioned with Hambrick, that beam placement is her most important virtue, especially considering how hard it will be for even excellent gymnasts to make those vault and floor lineups next year.

3. Kari Lee – Utah 2014-2015
38.475 (VT – 1st, UB – 2nd, BB – 5th, FX – 15th)
For a while we though Lee was going to Arizona, but she switched to Utah, which is a big get for the Utes. She has shown an important mixture of security and power on most of the events boasts an impressive yfull on vault. That vault lineup is going to be a thing.

4. Paige Zaziski – Arkansas 2014-2015
38.375 (VT – 1st, UB – 4th, BB – 10th, FX – 4th)
Arkansas will have to find a way to muddle through without Katherine Grable (as if anyone ever could), so I like those high vault and floor placements from Zaziski.

5. Joslyn Goings – Washington 2014-2015
38.200 (VT – 12th, UB – 13th, BB – 4th, FX – 17th)
Love to see two Washington gymnasts in the top 10 here. That team was so disappointingly depleted this season.

6. Ericha Fassbender – Florida 2014-2015
38.150 (VT – 4th, UB – 10th, BB – 16th, FX – 4th)
The hits just keep coming for Florida. She’s obviously a strong gymnast, but I do wonder where she fits in. It’s a similar wonder I had when Kiersten Wang joined the team, and to some extent Spice, Boyce, and SCP as well. Excellent gymnast, but does she make lineups? Kennedy Baker seems the most likely to fill some of those Macko/Alaina spots, and perhaps Grace McLaughlin in places as well. After that, it’s going to be a clawing fight of 9.850s to make the 6 on those events.

7. Brianna Brown – Michigan 2014-2015
38.050 (VT – 23rd, UB – 4th, BB – 10th, FX – 9th)
Michigan is losing almost a whole team worth of scores from 2014, so it’s hard to be too optimistic about the outlook for next year. Brown is going to be a major factor in restocking that team and will need to contribute all the routines all the time always.

8. Abigail Epperson – Maryland 2014-2015
38.000 (VT – 8th, UB – 4th, BB – 24th, FX – 4th)

8. Emily Liddle – Washington 2014-2015
38.000 (VT – 23rd, UB – 13th, BB – 6th, FX – 15th)

10. Jillian Winstanley – George Washington 2014-2015
37.900 (VT – 10th, UB – 24th, BB – 6th, FX – 31st)

Mackenzie Brannan – Alabama 2014-2015
VT – 1st, UB – 4th, FX – 2nd
For the second year in a row at JO Nationals, she wins the “would have won if not for a beam fall” award and should be one of the major freshmen in the country next year in spite of not making the top 10 here. She’s a likely contender for at least three events for Alabama in making up for the flurry of routines they must replace (11 of 24), especially some of those late Jacob/Milliner power event spots.

Rachel Stypinski – Kent State 2014-2015
UB – 4th, FX – 4th

Lauren Marinez – Michigan 2014-2015
BB – 2nd
(Placing 2nd on beam! You’re the anchor immediately.)

Angelina Giancroce – Georgia 2014-2015
FX – 4th

Hilary Green – Iowa State 2014-2015
UB – 4th

Madeleine Huber – Missouri 2015-2016
VT – 4th

Alex Zois – George Washington 2014-2015
BB – 6th

Shauna Miller – Missouri 2014-2015
VT – 8th

Haylee Young – Iowa State 2014-2015
FX – 9th

Rechelle Dennis – UCLA 2014-2015
FX – 9th

Morgan Lane 
UB – 9th

Stefani Catour – Oklahoma 2014-2015
FX – 9th

Katie Stuart – Kentucky 2015-2016
UB – 10th

Kayla McMullan – Lindenwood 2014-2015
VT – 10th

Heather Hannon – Ohio State 2014-2015
UB – 10th


Top 10 AA
1. Alicia Boren – Florida 2015-2016
38.700 (VT – 1st, UB – 25th, BB – 1st, FX – 1st)

2. Lizzie LeDuc – LSU 2015-2016
38.325 (VT – 7th, UB – 10th, BB – 7th, FX – 3rd)

3. Kirah Koshinski – West Virginia 2015-2016
38.225 (VT – 4th, UB – 23rd, BB – 3rd, FX – 7th)

3. Haylee Roe – Illinois 2015-2016
38.225 (VT – 7th, UB – 7th, BB – 12th, FX – 5th)

5. Abigail Ambrecht – Alabama 2015-2016
38.200 (VT – 4th, UB – 12th, BB – 15th, FX – 9th)

6. Shannon McNatt – Utah 2015-2016
38.125 (VT – 14th, UB – 21st, BB – 15th, FX – 1st)

7. Phoebe Pummarachai – UC Davis 2014-2015
38.050 (VT – 7th, UB – 19th, BB – 3rd, FX – 13th)

8. Alex McMurtry – Florida 2015-2016 (2014-2015)
38.025 (VT – 1st, UB – 44th, BB – 6th, FX – 7th)

9. Rachel Cutler – Minnesota 2015-2016
37.875 (VT – 28th, UB – 7th, BB – 18th, FX – 10th)

10. Brooke Kelly
37.850 (VT – 7th, UB – 1st, BB – 7th, FX – 39th)

We have another year before most of these gymnasts appear in NCAA so there’s plenty of time to address them, but Alicia Boren is becoming a JO queen. She wins every year. Florida is the big standout in this group with Boren and McMurtry (who isn’t so much with the bars but has been excellent on the other three events throughout her JO career), and if Florida is cornering the market on the top JOs now too . . .

Sabrina Garcia – Penn State 2015-2016
VT – 7th, UB – 2nd

Mackenzie Anderson – Arkansas 2015-2016
UB – 5th, FX – 10th

Kaitlin Green
BB – 2nd

Amanda Huang – Alabama 2015-2016
UB – 2nd

Sienne Crouse
UB – 2nd

Sarah Means – Boise State 2015-2016
VT – 3rd

Sarah Lippowitsch
BB – 3rd

Kristyn Hoffa – Washington 2015-2016
FX – 4th

Emma McLean – Michigan 2015-2016
FX – 5th

Jessica Ling – Michigan State 2015-2016
UB – 5th

Gracie Cherrey – Georgia 2015-2016
UB – 7th

Maria Ortiz – Iowa 2015-2016
VT – 7th

Delaney Cahill
BB – 7th

Selena Ung – Minnesota 2015-2016
BB – 7th

Jessica Jones
BB – 7th

Josalyn Ray – San Jose State 2015-2016
VT – 7th

Kennady Schneider
UB – 10th


Top 10 AA
1. Olivia Karas – Michigan 2015-2016
38.400 (VT – 1st, UB – 1st, BB – 10th, FX – 6th)

2. Sydney Snead – Georgia 2015-2016
38.225 (VT – 2nd, UB – 4th, BB – 10th, FX – 6th)

3. Lacy Dagen – Florida 2015-2016
38.150 (VT – 4th, UB – 18th, BB – 1st, FX – 13th)

4. Kasey Janowicz 
38.100 (VT – 9th, UB – 7th, BB – 15th, FX – 2nd)

5. Mackenzie Austin – North Carolina 2015-2016
37.800 (VT – 21st, UB – 9th, BB – 8th, FX – 13th)

5. Shani Remme
37.800 (VT – 26th, UB – 12th, BB – 7th, FX – 6th)

7. Makenna Merrell – Utah 2015-2016
37.775 (VT – 23rd, UB – 4th, BB – 4th, FX – 21st)

8. Brittany West – Pitt 2015-2016
37.725 (VT – 30th, UB – 20th, BB – 5th, FX – 6th)

9. Brittini Chappell – Arizona State 2015-2016
37.675 (VT – 21st, UB – 12th, BB – 15th, FX – 13th)

10. Meaghan Sievers
37.650 (VT – 5th, UB – 12th, BB – 34th, FX – 10th)

Several of the Senior A gymnasts haven’t made verbals yet, which is surprisingly nice to see. We do have a few top finishers here going to the usual suspect schools, and a few people who excelled on a couple events, like Lehrmann for Oklahoma who has done junior elite, and Kelley for LSU who we’ll obviously hear much about in the coming years. She didn’t have a great competition overall but still won floor.

Shynelle Agaran – Maryland 2015-2016
UB – 2nd, BB – 1st

Katelyn Lentz
UB – 4th, BB – 1st

Nicole Lehrmann – Oklahoma 2015-2016
UB – 3rd, FX – 10th

Mikailla Northern
VT – 7th, FX – 4th

Mikayla Waddell – Penn State 2016-2017
VT – 7th, BB – 4th

McKenna Kelley – LSU 2015-2016
FX – 1st

Ally Hoyer
FX – 2nd

Aya Mahgoub – Rutgers 2015-2016
VT – 3rd

Alexandra Hyland – Kentucky 2015-2016
FX – 4th

Morgan Wilson
VT – 5th

Sydney Converse – Iowa State 2015-2016
UB – 7th

Danielle Mulligan – New Hampshire 2015-2016
BB – 8th

Alyssa Sgro
UB – 9th

Cortni Baker – Towson 2015-2016
BB – 10th

Skyler Memmel – Western Michigan 2015-2016
BB – 10th

Riahanah Ali – Rutgers 2015-2016
VT – 10th


Another week, another batch of developments. I’ll keep these weekly updates going in the off-season as long as there are things to say. Otherwise, I’ll start delving into numbers. Comparing 2014 NCAA scoring to previous years seems like it will need to happen at some point.

  • First and foremost, it was confirmed today that Rene Lyst will be packing up her meet wardrobe and marching those heels over to Arizona State to take over as head coach following John Spini’s retirement. Rene at Arizona State–it makes sense. It seemed like only a matter of time before she extracted herself from that “awkward alert!” co-coaching situation with Mark at Arkansas, but it will be fascinating to see how things play out for her as an independent head coach for the first time. Arkansas has been a very successful team since its inception, but Mark Cook often receives the majority of the credit for that. This is a chance for Rene to establish her own coaching identity in a program that has been screaming for a major shakeup for years. They need to start working beam with the same attitude that Rene uses to shop for clothes, if that makes any sense. 
  • Last week, ESPNU profiled the Alabama/Georgia gymnastics rivalry in “Sarah & Suzanne: Into Darkness.” 
  • For those unfamiliar with the history of that time Sarah was pissed that Georgia used the wrong bars, it was a helpful, basic overview of the evolutions of the Alabama and Georgia programs into actual things with actual fans, unearthing the eyeroll-inducing “sweet” Sarah vs. “nasty” Suzanne narrative from back in the day. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked Suzanne so much. Even during the interviews in this . . . (are we calling it a documentary? That seems like a stretch . . . featurette?) she still looks like she’s holding a shiv just out of shot. I respect that. 
  • It didn’t tell us anything new or juicy (it was never going to), but it was a perfectly reasonable commercial for the programs and the borderline-terrifying grand dames that built them. Plus, we got to see Kupets again and also how amazing Ashley Miles looks. You know Ashley Miles just wanted to be part of this so that she could be like, “Check this out. Am I a model? Probably.” Also, could all those the goobers from the Athens Bee and the Tuscaloosa Aw, Shucks Times or whatever have been any bigger stereotypes of themselves? It was awesome.
  • But really, the clothes. The primary motif and thematic journey of “Sarah and Suzanne” concerns the leotard and fashion choices. Who told any of you that any of this was a good idea? You might try to explain it away by saying that it was a different era, but no. This wasn’t just some Kerri Strugg’s mom (a.k.a. the state bird of the year 1996) action. No one EVER wore clothes like this. 
    • Tone it down, Betty Crocker. 
    • There were all kinds of strange moments in “Sarah & Suzanne,” like when we were treated to a discussion of the perils of Georgia’s difficulty while seeing them fall on a layout stepout on beam and a giant on bars. THE DIFFICULTY! Or how much Georgia footage there was of Shayla Worley, Sarah Persinger, and Noel Couch, none of whom ever competed under Suzanne. But for a full guided tour through the trauma, check out Spanny Tampson’s breakdown. I mean that in the sense that she broke down the action from the featurette, not like she had a mental breakdown while watching this thing. But you never know. Al Trautwig did make an appearance, and it’s always hard to keep going emotionally after that. The biggest problem with Al is that in the last 20 years, he has never gotten past the fact that gymnastics is hard. Yeah, it’s hard. Now let’s progress from there.  
    • Back in modern times, we have a few more commitment developments. Lizzy LeDuc, of she-was-going-to-be-a-thing-for-a-while-when-she-was-little fame, is heading to LSU for 2015-2016. That class, you guys. We still don’t know what Lexie Priessman’s deferring plans are (hint: don’t), but for the 2016 season, LSU could be bringing in Priessman, LeDuc, and McKenna Kelley at the same time. They’ll need an amazing class that year because they’ll have just lost Courville, Hall, and Jordan, but being able to constantly restock talent like that is the sign of a program that’s here to stay at the top. 
    • Level 10 Nationals are happening this coming weekend, so keep an eye on those results. It’s a cutthroat qualification process to Nationals in the good regions (one beamtastrophe at Regionals and you’re out), so we won’t see everybody who will make a big splash on their teams next year, but it will give us a fairly solid sense of where our new NCAA gymnasts stand and where they can contribute. Check out the results from Senior C and Senior D last year, and it’s basically a who’s who of the impact freshmen from the 2014 season. So, we have that to look forward to, along with European Championships getting underway in a little over a week. The Russia is broken, so that could actually be a close race.