All posts by balancebeamsituation

NLI Week 2016-2017

Before we get ourselves fully entrenched in bracing for the inevitable disappointments that the 2016 NCAA season will bring, it’s time to take a moment to gaze with dewy-eyed optimism and childlike wonder at the possibilities resting on the post-Olympic horizon. Beginning today (Wednesday) and for the next week-ish, schools will reveal which gymnasts will join their teams for the 2017 season by confirming the completely informed and totally sensible verbal commitments those gymnasts made right before preschool graduation. You know, when you’re thinking about college. 

I’ll be updating this list with the various schools’ press releases as they announce their incoming gymnasts’ NLI signings. Now to review, NLI stands for Nine Long-term Injuries and is the document gymnasts sign to acknowledge that they are under no circumstances going to be healthy enough to compete four whole years of college gymnastics. But in real life, it stands for National Letter of Intent, and it signals an end to the recruiting process by confirming a gymnast’s commitment to attend the school in question. Once a gymnast signs an NLI, the choice of school is official, unlike the previously announced verbal commitments that can and do change.

The verbal commitment is kind of like when you run into a tiring acquaintance a party and they say, “We should do something sometime,” and you’re like, “Yeah, that would be great, we should” but barely mean it and can always back out when you think of a good excuse. But signing the NLI is like when that tiring acquaintance texts you to say, “You’re coming to dinner on Friday, right?” and you actually have to do it now because specific plans have been made. Just as a random example. 

So, let’s find out who has to go to dinner on Friday.

OKLAHOMARelease
Maggie Nichols, Jade Degouveia, Brehanna Showers

Alex Marks also signs to come aboard immediately to round out “Operation No Brenna.”

“This signing class is literally giving me goosebumps.” We’re gonna need a bigger swag-o-meter.

UTAHRelease
MyKayla Skinner (previously signed), Missy Reinstadtler, Kim Tessen

WASHINGTONRelease
Madison Copiak, Michaela Nelson, Maya Washington

FLORIDARelease
Alyssa Baumann, Amelia Hundley, Rachel Gowey, Maegan Chant

This is the “your job is to replace Bridget Sloan, so no pressure” group, and it will be the strongest of the 2017 classes, along with UCLA’s. Just get the duct tape and staple gun ready.

PENN STATERelease
Tess McCracken, Kristen Politz, Mikayla Waddell

MARYLANDRelease
Kirsten Peterman, Alecia Farina

ALABAMARelease
Maddie Desch, Wynter Childers, Shea Mahoney

ILLINOISRelease
Karen Howell, Lindsay Dwyer, Rae Balthazor

PITTSBURGHRelease
Lucy Jones, Megan Tripp

BOISE STATERelease
Courtney McGregor, Isabella Amado, McKinley Pavicic

TEXAS WOMAN’SRelease
Hannah Swoish, Hunter Vincent

MICHIGANRelease
Polina Shchennikova, Lexi Funk, Maddy Osman, Maggie O’Hara

CALRelease
Cassidy Keelen, Rachael Mastrangelo

ARIZONARelease
Heather Swanson, Courtney Cowles, Christina Berg

STANFORDRelease
Kaylee Cole

NC STATERelease
Alexis Beucler, Melissa Brooker (for 2016-2017)
Paris Phillips, Alexa Phillips (for 2015-2016)

MICHIGAN STATERelease
Ally Hoyer

UCLARelease
Grace Glenn, Anna Glenn

Hmmm, that sure is two people instead of the class of 1700 million we were promised, but there are some previously signed gymnasts along with some spring signings that will round things out. Allegedly.

GEORGIARelease
Sabrina Vega, Jordyn Pederson, Rachel Dickson

The big question was when the ghost of Sabrina Vega would officially be able to begin, and now it looks like she’ll finally start in the 2017 season. I’m just glad she got on the NCAA wagon at last.

I thought Jordyn Pederson signed last year and just deferred, but whatever. She’s coming. 

DENVERRelease
Samantha Ogden, Maddie Karr, Courtney Loper

WEST VIRGINIARelease
Kassidy Cumber, Julia Merwin (walkon)

MISSOURIRelease
Alyssa Johnson, Rachel Ley, Aspen Tucker 

SOUTHERN UTAHRelease 1, Release 2, Release 3
Madison McBride, Megan McBride, Autumn Jorgensen, Becky Rozsa

IOWA STATERelease
Laura Burns, Emily White, Riley Walsh, Molly Russ

MINNESOTARelease
Rebecca Taylor, Kristen Quaglia (scholarship)
Ivy Lu, Casey Betts, Ryan Stach (walkon)

EASTERN MICHIGANRelease
Amanda Arnold, Hollie Minichiello, Emili Dobronics

SEMORelease
Megan Dennis, Courteney Taylor

OREGON STATERelease
Isis Lowery, Brianna McCant

LSURelease
Ruby Harrold, Kennedi Edney, Ashlyn Kirby

KENTUCKYRelease
Alaina Kwan, Erynne Allen, Katrina Coca

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Event Finals, Please Pack Your 9.9s and Go

RIP, NCAA event finals. We’ll always have complaining about how long you take amid a vague hangover.  

During the great yfull purge of 2015, the NCAA League of Chief In-Charge Women also revealed that they were planning to decapitate the event finals in the town square at some time to be determined, and it turns out that time is immediately.

It is now confirmed that instead of the usual three-day competition, the 2016 NCAA championship will consist of the normal semifinals on Friday, the normal Super Six on Saturday, and then nothing on Sunday, eliminating a specific day devoted to events. (This is a slight improvement on the previously proposed Friday-rest-Sunday schedule, as advocated by the boring police from Lametown.) In another development, both the Friday and Saturday competitions will be televised live on ESPNU, a coup that the sport has been fighting for dating back to the days when TVs were a thing that people watched.

Getting live television is still a big deal in exposure for the sport (we’ve seen the very encouraging recent ratings from the Pac-12 and SEC Nets that helped propel this move and have brought more people into following the sport), especially for family viewing and people who still watch programs—but pronounced progrums—on the TV box, though it’s increasingly less important for later-teenage, early-twenties whippersnappers who Liketweet on their iDroids and aren’t particularly likely to watch the competition live on TV, and who make up a valuable demo for gymnastics that isn’t catered to quite enough, but that’s an issue for another day.

Well actually, it’s an issue for today because there is a real chunk of people, mostly younger and therefore still valuable as human beings, who will be excluded from watching the championship since ESPNU broadcasts fall behind a subscription wall. People who don’t have ESPNU or a WatchESPN login from their cable/sat package likely won’t be able to watch (unless a special allowance is made), which is a long-term issue for a sport that needs every set of eyeballs it can get on its main event to stay afloat and specifically needs to cater to people in that borderline age of “I’m not doing gymnastics anymore and I might start drifting away from it toward other interests if my attention span isn’t constantly reminded of it” to turn them into lifelong fans. Getting a live TV deal is still good news, but it’s not exclusively good news in the present incarnation. 

Personally, I’d probably choose to watch on the app anyway, just like the last few years, because that’s convenient for blogging and because someone might make a weird face at some point that I’ll need to screencap and never forget ever. But that’s just me.

Let’s also talk about some other problems. (Autobiography title, called it.) The move is being constructed as “we had to get rid of event finals for the TV deal” which is a problem because…um, hi? That makes no sense. Having competition on Sunday has no bearing on whether ESPN shows the team final on TV on Saturday or not. So, you don’t want to show an extra day of competition on Sunday? Then don’t show it. Throw it on ESPN3 like always and use the TV broadcast to focus on the team and pretend event finals don’t exist. NBC has been doing that with Worlds for years. This explanation is illogical.

Now, the other thing I’m struggling with is that I’ve always mostly hated NCAA event finals. They’re long, a complete afterthought to Super Six that no one thinks about until the morning of, and extremely arbitrary in determining qualifiers and awarding titles. The one or two fun upgrades that get thrown out there each year don’t really make up for that. I should be celebrating since they’re basically my arch-nemesis, but it feels hollow. Primarily because it means there’s less gymnastics, which is a disheartening continuation of gymnastics’ tendency to try to solve problems by shrinking itself down to seem more palatable. Whether its going down to fewer routines/all scores counting like in the elite or men’s NCAA TF, or going down to fewer team competitors for the 2020 Olympics. It always feels like it’s surreptitiously trying to dwindle away.

Also, we need to talk about how event champions are going to be determined now. Because it seems like it’s going to be a problem. The issue with awarding event titles based on scores from the semifinal day, like in the AA, is that every event will have 5-6 people tied on 9.950 in first place. And if they’re all co-champions, I’m going to riot. The Worlds bars final is not a role model. Is there going to be some sort of permutation based on season performance + semifinal performance? Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a permutation as much as the next spreadsheet-happy dorkburger, and that would result in more deserving champions, but it wouldn’t exactly adhere to the mission statement of making things straightforward and easy for all fans to follow.

Well, with all that said, it’s a brave new world. Let’s get ready for it.

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Fixed It

Sadly, the world championship has come and gone for another year, like a fleeting spurt from a stage-mounted flamethrower that you’re convinced is going to singe Max Whitlock in the everywhere. But it was a good one! From the delectably OTT pomp and circumstance of the event production, to the avalanche of live coverage being injected into our eye sockets all throughout each day (thanks USAG!), to Maurice Lardo, to that thing where that small fishing village won the bars final for some reason, this ranks as the most entertaining world championship in memory. Everyone’s memory. I tapped into all of them, so I know. And, frankly, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

A little wistful? A little wistful. So, now that we’ll never again get to ro-TAINT, ro-TAINT—which is what it sounded like, a bunch of children just yelling TAINT—or wait with bated breath to find out whether Glasgow is ready or not (I didn’t say I’d miss all of it), that means we have just two short months left to prepare with catlike compulsive licking for the upcoming NCAA season and for remembering that a 10 is, like, good and wobbles are, like, a problem. Freshman previews are around the corner, probably.

But there’s still one more day of competition to break down until it weeps for mercy, so let’s get into it.

-The big bad news is that Oleg Stepko did not acquiesce to wearing his I-just-had-sex-with-a-volcano lava-smear singlet from the European Games, but thankfully, he did remind us that just because you cut your hair with half a stolen blender, doesn’t mean you can’t be a star. Check your judgment at the door, you worthless moron.

-Oleg S’s hair and dystopian tattooscape carried him through to a bronze on pbars and a spot in the Olympics among an exceptionally high-quality pbars field that did this weird thing where all the routines were good and impressive, and the result came down to small things like hesitations in handstands and steps on landing. Almost like an event final, or something. Leyva had just a couple breaks in form, which was enough to shove him all the way down to sixth, and Nile Wilson had the gall to be just fine and got basically a 2.

-Speaking of exactly the opposite of that, beam. Let’s face it, that beam final was a steaming landfill covered in mayonnaise on a hot summer day. The people who fell were everybody. I fell during that beam final, and I was in bed. (I’m very talented.) Medals were awarded to the people who successfully completed routines, because of ACCOMPLISHMENT, minus Victoria Komova, who stayed on the beam but went Full Weeble on every acro skill, which was doubly disappointing because it both took her out of the medals and struck a devastating blow to the “Vika has no fight!” narrative because she kind of stayed on. BUT NOW WHAT WILL WE SAY WHEN SHE FALLS???? Oh right. Still that, because we’ll forget about this in 11 seconds and go right back to what we thought before. Yay, ignoring evidence.

-Pauline Schaefer and Sanne Wevers both had a number of wobbles and breaks, which means congratulations, you’re the best. Schaefer hung on for bronze, while Wevers spinderella-ed her way to silver. Meanwhile, the one competitor who hit a real routine without looking as though a ghost was passing through her center of gravity at every moment, one Dr. Biles, hopped to gold by a casual full point. The beam final was basically just The Simone and Nope Show.
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Fixed It

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Medal Stand

Obviously, we’re starting with uneven bars. Let’s just get that sarcastic leprechaun’s fever dream out of the way right now. Here’s how it went down.

This morning, Nellie Kim met with all the women’s judges to tell them of her plans for a passage of one-legged, no-look acro elements from side position in releve requirement for beam, because TEH ARTISTRY, at which point the judges robbed a Xanax truck at gunpoint, downed all of it, then hosed themselves into the uneven bars final going, “8.7 EXECUTION PROBABLY. EVERYONE TASTES LIKE WINNERS [coma].”

Everyone tastes like winners, indeed. Except for Gabby Douglas, apparently, since the judges looked at her cleanest-routine-of-the-final and went “Not quite. BOOP.”

But notwithstanding Gabby and Sophie Scheder, who sadly got the rickets in the middle of her dismount and temporarily forgot what walking is, the judges thought it would be funny (not ha-ha funny, more like sylvia-plath funny), if they just gave everyone and everything, all the flora and fauna, the exact same score. Because who the hell cares? Not us! Great. Fun. So once Fan Yilin got a 15.366, they said “Bingo, there’s the one” and conferenced for several short life cycles of a sea turtle about how to get Komova’s score down to 15.366. And with that never-say-die attitude they’re so famous for, they did it! Because of…sure. And…reasons. Komova thought that was some hilarious bullshit. Throughout the whole tie process, from getting her shut-up-nonsense-steroid-conspiracy of a score to being forced to hop up on that sister-wives medal stand with everyone else, she was basically this.

And once they got Komova in the tie, why not get Kocian and Spiridonova into the mix too? I CAN THINK OF NO REASON. This is such a fun game of Electronic Talking Fuck It! You stepped? That’s fine. You missed some handstands in there? That’s fine. 15.366! It’s a party! Four golds! We’re doing our jobs and there’s no problem with this! We definitely won’t run out of medals and won’t have to invite tomorrow’s winners onto the podium to give them a scrap of notebook paper with “Redeemable for one Mother’s Day present” on it.

Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Medal Stand

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everything I’ve Ever Loved

Well, there we have it. The annual Kohei has Koheied for another Kohei, and Kohei managed to Kohei through all six Koheis and Kohei the gold Kohei by Kohei points. In case that was unclear, Kohei “I, like, invented Simone” Uchimura did this thing where he pops out of a golden lamp, does all the perfects, and then laughs at all those pathetic sloths with leprosy that can barely even get a 90. Kohei persisted in being so much more un-terrible than everyone else that he physically died from lack of competition in the middle of his rings routine and still sent everyone else to the sadness corner by winning his 84th world championship and becoming sultan of hair and everything.

After this competition, if Kohei doesn’t fill a bathtub with gold medals and then take a picture of himself in it wearing only a captain’s hat while holding a cigar and a snifter of brandy with a parrot on his shoulder, then he and I have officially nothing in common.

[Spot reserved for Kohei Bathtub Pirate. Oh, I can wait……]

Hm. You want to play underwater charades? One word, five syllables? Talk to the hand because my finger is busy? Hi mom, but give me a minute? Hit me blisters, one more time? I just can’t crack your code.

-But memo to the world championship: you need to pick yourself up off of the snooze pile and pull your shit together. For a competition that started out with such promise of life-enforcing ridiculousness (remember when Romania got possessed by all those poltergeists on bars and got 11s? REMEMBER????), it has turned into a stale rehashing of three-year-old storylines these last few days. This isn’t Gossip Girl, you know. We have standards.

-The event finals really better bring out the big drama to make up for all this predictable Kohei/Simone will-they-won’t-they nonsense. At least give us a murder mystery, or a fake pregnancy, or an uneven bars mount, or an amnesiac quintuplet who bursts open the doors of the balance beam final and goes, “I’M THE REAL SANNE WEVERS! THAT’S AN IMPOSTOR!” Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. But let’s get into the men’s AA.
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everything I’ve Ever Loved