Category Archives: Meet Preview

Nationals Preview Part 4: Super Six

Super Six previews are weird to do, so here’s one.

At this point, we don’t know which teams will even be competing in Super Six, but we’ve all been watching this unfold for 80 million weeks and have a pretty solid sense of what’s going on.

Last season, we entered nationals with the expectation that Oklahoma would be the winner, LSU had the potential to be a fairly unsurprising upset champion, and Florida could challenge if things got weird. Ultimately, that’s what we ended up seeing. LSU made things a little more interesting than expected after the semifinal, but in the end, things went as regular season performance predicted.

This year, the scenario is not wholly different, with the only major change being that UCLA has become noticeably better than it was last year and should be included in this top-tier, medal-finish conversation (if medals were a thing here). The other differences are of small degree: Oklahoma has separated itself from the pack a little more this season, and Florida has fallen behind Utah with its inconsistent regular-season performances, meaning that a true title challenge from Florida would be more of a surprise than it would have been last year.

But besides going down the rankings and ticking off the favorites in order, it can be helpful to go through previous championship scoring standards to see which teams have proven the ability to meet those standards during this current season.

Winning scores
2017 – Oklahoma – 198.3875
2016 – Oklahoma – 197.675
2015 – Florida – 197.850
2014 – Florida/Oklahoma – 198.175
2013 – Florida – 197.575
2012 – Alabama – 197.850
2011 – Alabama – 197.650
2010 – UCLA – 197.725

The low in here is that 197.575 from when Florida counted a fall and still won, so that’s not too representative. The way scores have been going this year—as compared to the early 2010s—expect a winning total closer to the high-water mark here rather than the low. That’s the first standard to look at. Can you realistically score 197.8+? The winning score is likely to be in that zone. Sure, we could have another 2016 on our hands—not an insane thing to think—but season scoring evidence hasn’t really been pointing that direction. Continue reading Nationals Preview Part 4: Super Six


Nationals Preview Part 3: The Individuals

Welcome to Afterthought City.

The individual titles for the all-around and apparatuses are awarded on Semifinal Friday, which ensures that everyone will kind of forget they exist while focusing on team qualification standings—and then three minutes later, everyone turns to everyone else and says, “Oh yeah, wait, who won vault?” It’s a national tradition.

This year, we’re primarily rooting for having fewer than six people tie for the bars title. And by fewer, I mean more. The real goal of the event titles is to have so many people tie for a single spot on the podium that they have to Jenga it, and hilarity ensues. I really feel like floor is going to come through for us this time around.

But first…


The favorite
Maggie Nichols – Oklahoma
RQS: 39.830
High: 39.900
Ranking: 1

For the second straight year, Nichols enters nationals as the favorite for the title and clear #1 in the country, which she accomplished this season with a record-breaking 39.830 RQS, eclipsing Jeanette Antolin’s total of 39.795 from 2004.

Only 16 gymnasts in NCAA history have scored over 39.825 in the all-around on even a single occasion, and Nichols’ RQS is higher than that. If Nichols hits, she is a heavy favorite—though not an exclusive favorite—for the all-around title.

It was a fall on beam in the semifinals that dropped Nichols out of contention last season, but Alex McMurtry ultimately went on to score so high in the second semifinal that the fall from Nichols didn’t matter. McMurtry would have won regardless. (I think I’ve heard/maybe said before that the fall cost Nichols the all-around title, which is not correct.) The only thing the Nichols fall took away was any controversy over who the rightful winner was.  Continue reading Nationals Preview Part 3: The Individuals

National Semifinal #2: The Preview

April 20, 6:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (beam)
[4] Utah (vault)
[5] Florida (bars)
[8] Washington (floor)
[9] Cal (bye before floor)
[12] Kentucky (bye before bars)

Morgan Lane, North Carolina – AA (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Elizabeth Price, Stanford – AA (rotating w/ Utah)
Cami Drouin-Allaire, George Washington – AA (rotating w/ Florida)
Shani Remme, Boise State – AA (rotating w/ Washington)
Rae Balthazor, Illinois – AA (rotating w/ Cal)
Lexy Ramler, Minnesota – AA (rotating w/ Kentucky)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan – FX (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Shannon Hortman-Evans, BYU – UB (rotating w/ Utah)
Meaghan Sievers, Iowa State – VT (rotating w/ Cal)

As in the first semifinal, the second semifinal has a clear, built-in delineation between two sets of three teams. We have the ranking favorites, former champions, and famous programs in Oklahoma, Utah, and Florida, and then we have the upstart challengers in Washington, Cal, and Kentucky.

Before this year, the three bottom-ranked teams in this semifinal had reached NCAA/AIAW nationals a combined ten times (Washington eight times, Cal twice), and only twice in the current millennium (once each for Washington and Cal). As for the top three teams combined…well counting that took too long and I got bored.

Anyway, it’s around 100. So…it’s more.

Washington, Cal, and Kentucky are still newbies to this level of competition, each one looking for some way to make the Oklahoma jump—an upset in the semifinals to get into Super Six is exactly how you start to make that jump. The actual scores from this year are of course more relevant than the history of the programs, but the scores tell the same story. A 197.0 would be a fantastic performance in the semifinal for Washington, Cal, Kentucky and would constitute a miss for Oklahoma, Utah, or Florida, which is why they’ll enter as the favorites.

How the upset happens

Washington under-performed at regionals and ended up being fortunate in its draw that a 196.275 advanced out of Penn State since that score would have been eliminated from several other regional competitions. The scores from various regionals are not necessarily directly comparable—all of Washington’s vault scores were stuck in the 9.7s when some would have been 9.8s at drunker meets, those early beam scores looked disproportionately low—but it does serve as a warning sign that a repeat of that regionals performance will not come close advancing from this semifinal and would allow the top teams to have major mistakes and still qualify—or at least outscore Washington. Continue reading National Semifinal #2: The Preview

National Semifinal #1: The Preview

April 20, 12:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[2] LSU (beam)
[3] UCLA (vault)
[6] Alabama (bars)
[10] Arkansas (bye before floor)
[11] Nebraska (bye before bars)
[18] Georgia (floor)

Brianna Brown, Michigan – AA (rotating w/ LSU)
Cairo Leonard-Baker, Arizona State – AA (rotating w/ UCLA)
Drew Watson, Auburn – AA (rotating w/ Alabama)
Lauren Bridgens, Penn State – AA (rotating w/ Arkansas)
Jovannah East, Bowling Green – AA (rotating w/ Nebraska)
Lynnzee Brown, Denver – AA (rotating w/ Georgia)
Samantha Cerio, Auburn – UB (rotating w/ UCLA)
Jamie Stone, Ohio State – VT (rotating w/ Arkansas)
Abby Milliet, Auburn – BB (rotating w/ Nebraska)

How the upset happens
Because that’s what we’re all here for. In this semifinal, we have a fairly clear separation in ranking and scoring potential with three favorites to advance to Super Six in LSU, UCLA, and Alabama, and three challengers in Arkansas, Nebraska, and Georgia.

But that’s boring. The whole point of the semifinal round is to see if anyone can knock out the favorites, otherwise we could just advance the top six right to the final. So, here’s what the bottom-three teams need to do to make it good.

For Nebraska, the path to the upset is more or less “do exactly what you did at regionals, and you’re in with a good shot.” Nebraska’s regional score ranks in the top three among the teams in this semifinal and reflected a performance well above the level of Nebraska’s #11 ranking. That’s what it will take for one of these bottom-three teams to advance. Other than waiting for meltdown-city to arrive for one of the big-girl teams (always possible, but you can’t assume it), making Super Six means performing way better than during the season, which is what Nebraska just did.

Maintaining that level is not a given. Taking the season as a whole, that regionals performance was an outlier, featuring a score (197.525) that’s four tenths higher than Nebraska’s previous high and outpaces the team’s RQS by a significant margin on every event. Proving that level is the new normal is still a major task. Continue reading National Semifinal #1: The Preview

Onward to St. Louis

We now know which lucky ducklings have advanced to nationals, so let’s set this scene for St. Louis. Just over a week to go!

Remember that we don’t have event finals anymore, so event titles are awarded based on the first day of competition, just like the all-around title. Six judges are used instead of four, with the high and the low dropped and the remaining four scores averaged, which as we learned last year gives us some really ugly decimal places like 9.8625. These extra judges were added to avoid having a thousand people get the same score and tie for titles. Unrelated: There was a six-way tie for the bars title last year.

Full draw

Semifinal #1 – April 20, 12:00 CT

[2] LSU – Beam
[3] UCLA – Vault
[6] Alabama – Bars
[10] Arkansas – Bye before floor
[11] Nebraska – Bye before bars
[18] Georgia – Floor

The significant story in this first group of six is Georgia’s very existence following its upset of #7 Michigan at regionals, an upset that turned inside out what should have been the more competitive of the two semifinals. Georgia claimed the spot at nationals when Michigan struggled through its regional performance while Georgia…also struggled through its regional performance? At least for the first two events. We’ll remember that one for a while because anyone who watched the first half of the meet would have thought there was no possible way Georgia could advance and that Illinois had the upset locked. But then no other team did noticeably better than Georgia, so it turned out that a theoretically disqualifying 48.950 floor score was a totally useful and respectable number in that meet.

The importance of rotation order also should not be overlooked in that one. Georgia got to end on its better events while Illinois had to start on its better events and end on its worst event. In a close meet, that kind of thing can make a difference. Continue reading Onward to St. Louis

Tuscaloosa Regional Preview

April 7, 4:00 CT, University of Alabama

Qualifying to nationals: Top 2 teams, top 2 all-arounders not on advancing teams, any event winners not on advancing teams

Teams (starting event)
[6] Alabama (floor)
[7] Michigan (beam)
[18] Georgia (bye before floor)
[22] Missouri (bye before bars)
[23] Illinois (bars)
[36] Central Michigan (vault)

Individual competitors
Ashley Potts, Northern Illinois (AA)
Madison Cindric, Arizona (AA)
Katherine Prentice, Northern Illinois (AA)
Mikailla Northern, Illinois-Chicago (AA)
Kierstin Sokolowski, Lindenwood (VT, BB)
Schyler Jones, TWU (VT)
Christina Berg, Arizona (UB)
Serena Baker, Illinois-Chicago (UB)
Mallory Moredock, TWU (BB)
Anna Martucci, Northern Illinois (FX)
Alexis Brawner, SEMO (FX)

The favorites

And so we move to our final regional, the giddily anticipated Alabama-Michigan-Georgia clash. It’s quite considerate of Georgia this year (like Stanford two years ago) to be ranked so low that the traditional snoozer 6-7-18 regional suddenly becomes the most interesting one. Theoretically. A poignant gift in the year we say goodbye to this trash format.

Still, the fundamental nature of the 6-7-18 regional is that it features two excellent teams that have proven their ability to score significantly better than the other schools in the meet and will go through with cleanly hit competitions. That’s the story for Alabama and Michigan here. For as dangerous as Georgia is (and Missouri and Illinois are), Alabama and Michigan will expect comfortable 197s for good meets at this point, and that’s going to be enough to advance.

A great day (yet realistic in an away, postseason context) for the other teams here would be a high 196, as score that would constitute a semi-miss for Alabama or Michigan. That doesn’t necessarily mean a counting fall. The somewhat sloppy bars rotation from Alabama at SECs took the final total down to 196.975, which would almost certainly still be enough to advance but would start to verge on a dangerous result. And if either Alabama or Michigan do count a fall, Georgia will expect to beat them.

If both teams hit their normal meets, however, it’s likely that they’ll simply be competing with each other for the entirely meaningless accolade of regional champion, a competition with very little to differentiate the two teams from each other. Beam is the strength and most pleasant event on which to watch both, but you worry about the full-lineup competitiveness on the power events when it comes to nationals. They’re really very similar teams.

Continue reading Tuscaloosa Regional Preview

University Park Regional Preview

April 7, 4:00 ET, Penn State University

Qualifying to nationals: Top 2 teams, top 2 all-arounders not on advancing teams, any event winners not on advancing teams

Teams (starting event)
[5] Florida (floor)
[8] Washington (beam)
[17] Arizona State (bye before floor)
[27] West Virginia (bye before bars)
[29] Penn State (bars)
[30] New Hampshire (vault)

Individual competitors
Jacey Baldovino, Yale (AA)
Jade Buford, Yale (AA)
Kelsey Campbell, Bridgeport (AA)
Libby Groden, Rutgers (AA)
Sahara Gipson, Temple (VT)
Jaylene Everett, Temple (VT)
Jessica Wang, Yale (UB)
Kelli Tereshko, Bridgeport (UB)
Makenzey Shank, Rutgers (BB)
Kathryn Doran, Bridgeport (BB)
Maya Reimers, Bridgeport (FX)
Alex Hartke, Penn (FX)

The favorite

It hasn’t been quite the season expected of Florida so far, but Florida should nonetheless have this regional locked down. At SECs, we saw the Gators go 196.825 in a meet that included a counting fall, a score that would also be high enough to advance out of this regional. That means Florida doesn’t need to have figured out floor yet to get to nationals, but also yeah you do because it’s floor and come on.

Lost in Florida’s counting a fall on floor at SECs were the other three rotations, events where Florida performed at an excellent level that would have won the conference title and would have been a “Florida’s a thing again!” moment if maintained for all four pieces. That level reflected a definite step up from what we saw most of the regular season—particularly on beam. Of course, none of that mattered because of the weak floor rotation, something that cannot be dismissed just as “one of those things” because it’s not the first time that has happened in recent weeks. It’s two of the last three meets now, and it’s not even beam. Florida is having much more trouble filling out a competitive floor lineup in the post-Baker era than expected.

This is not for lack of options. Boren, Baumann, McMurtry, Slocum, Foberg, Gowey, Skaggs, Hundley, McLaughlin. More than enough strong gymnasts to be competitive. But which ones? Florida still has to figure out its best six and ensure that it’s not simply a lineup that can hit, but a lineup that starts at 9.850 (at least) and goes up from there because that’s what it will take to contend. “Hitting floor” is not the goal here. Winning nationals is the goal here. When those are your expectations, a hit for 9.775 is basically a fall—because neither is going to get it done. Lately, Florida has really had only the one definite 9.9 in the lineup, Boren. And that’s a problem.

This dynamic adds a little extra intrigue to Florida’s floor performance in the first rotation of this regional, but it’s weird intrigue because…it’s floor. Why are we even talking about whether Florida is going to hit floor? There’s no reason that rotation should be even in the vicinity of worrisome. It’s going to be fine. But will it though?

The fight

The second spot is Washington’s to lose. Washington outscores Arizona State most weeks, has gone into the 197s four times, and has five meet scores this season higher than ASU’s best. At the same time, this thing is close enough to be alive, and Washington will not feel completely comfortable heading in, especially after Pac-12s. Arizona State finished just three tenths behind Washington at Pac-12s, and that was with Washington performing in the evening session and Arizona State in the afternoon. The margin was just a half-tenth or so on most events, which is far too slim to be ignored. Continue reading University Park Regional Preview