Category Archives: NCAA Gymnastics Nationals

National Championship Final Notes

To round out nationals for another year (8.5 months away…), here are a few residual thoughts that have been rattling around my head since returning.

  • Largest margin of victory since 2006

The general sentiment about Super Six, from me and I think everyone: Oklahoma was ridiculous.

This was not supposed to be a blowout year. This wasn’t like some of those Kupets/McCool/Heenan seasons for Georgia, or UCLA in 2010, or Florida in 2013 (before counting a fall and making Super Six much more interesting than it had any right to be), where there was a clear #1 team that really should win by a lot.

Super Six 2017 was supposed to be extremely close between Oklahoma and LSU, but instead we were treated to a romp thanks to a comically excellent performance (particularly on beam) from Oklahoma, the only team to perform better in Super Six than it did in the semifinal. It’s very rare to see a team look that good and bring season-best gymnastics at Super Six, but that’s what Oklahoma did. Usually, Super Six brings performances more like what LSU showed. Continue reading National Championship Final Notes

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National Championship Headquarters

The national championship begins on Friday (FRIDAY), but since I’ll be traveling to the event soonish, this is probably the last post I’ll put up before the competition begins. So, here’s every piece of information you could ever possibly need for nationals.

As last year, all sessions will air on the ESPN family of networks, and the WatchESPN live streams will have a main feed and the dedicated individual event feeds. For television coverage of the second semifinal, after the first hour of competition on ESPNU (the first hour of three……), main coverage will pick up on ESPN, while ESPNU will continue with a four-event feed.

This is ESPN trying to save college gymnastics from itself and issuing a not-so-subtle message that maybe if the competition were two hours (or under), it would be more reasonable and possible to show it on real networks that people watch. The fact that even some of a national semifinal is going live on main ESPN on a Friday night (and live on ESPN2 during the day) is a step up from the years of tape delays and literally nothing, but it would have happened earlier if the competition weren’t so unwieldy. You think ESPN wants to give college gymnastics three hours on a Friday night? I barely want to give it three hours, and I’m me. Continue reading National Championship Headquarters

National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

I always hesitate to do a Super Six preview at this point because…well…we don’t actually know who’s going to be competing in Super Six or what sort of catastrophes may transpire in the semifinal to alter our view of what might happen, but as it stands, I don’t think the setup is dramatically different than we thought it would be heading into the season.

The first-tier favorites are Oklahoma and LSU. Oklahoma’s route to victory is through superior scores on bars (the Sooners’ 0.160 edge over LSU in the bars rankings is the largest for either team on any event) and the overall control and pristine execution of dance elements on beam and floor. Both teams are excellent on beam and floor, but it has been the Sooners’ precision that has put them ahead of LSU in the rankings on both events for most of the season.

If LSU were to win, it would be far from a major upset, but I still would characterize it as an upset. If it happens, it begins on vault. LSU has a giant collection of 1.5s, but the strength of the lineup is not just the 1.5s (even though they garner the most attention). LSU’s early-lineup fulls are the most stick-likely fulls in the competition, which can be just as much of an asset. In fact, LSU’s early-lineup scores are a critical potential advantage across most of the events, where they’ll hope to be rewarded for bigger floor routines to start the rotation and where no other team can match the quality of their first two beam routines. Oklahoma has the edge in the later-lineup beam routines, so LSU will need to gain a scoring advantage on those early routines and also use them to drive up the scores of the later sets. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 4: Super Six

National Championship Preview Part 3: Individuals

NCAA women’s gymnastics takes individual titles about as seriously as you take whether Kyndyllegra finished in the top 10 on vault at the Level 6 jamboree this weekend.

They’re pretty much just an excuse to cram 174 people onto a single tier of the awards podium and award a random 8th-place trophy for no reason. Who cares who gets them as long as THEY’RE SMILING THE LITTLE GIRLS I’M SO PROUD OF YOU YOU’RE NOT REAL ATHLETES.

Anyway, all the individual titles are decided on Semifinal Friday starting last year, ensuring that they’re right at the bottom of all of our attention priority lists. But, they’re still competitions where we (the dwindling few) might actually care about who wins, so here’s how the races break down.

All-Around
Maggie Nichols. Preview over.

The race for the NCAA all-around title has a tendency to be a complete random mess. With all the contenders this closely packed, the cliche of the title being decided by the tiniest step is actually true in this case. This year, a number of people do have a realistic argument for the title, but like Bridget Sloan last year, Maggie Nichols enters as the clear favorite who would need to have an off day in the semifinal to avoid winning the championship. No one else is as likely to go 9.950 on all four events as Nichols. With an RQS of 39.785 (2nd all time) and a season high of 39.925 (4th all time), Nichols is already in a territory all her own.

Oklahoma competes in the first session, and there’s NCAA gymnastics inherited nonsense-wisdom that you’ll often hear about the scores being lower in the first semifinal than the second, which is just untrue. There’s no numerical evidence to support that, and four of our last five national AA champions have come from the first semifinal (Sloan 2016, Hunter 2015, Peszek 2015, Sloan 2013). Afternoon or evening won’t make a difference.

But, if not Nichols, then… Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 3: Individuals

National Championship Preview Part 2: Eastern Semifinal

The evening semifinal is shaping up to be the juicier and more uncertain of the two. While the first semifinal has three favorites and three challengers waiting to see if it’s a sloppy meet (which it will be), the second semifinal defies classification when it comes to the middle seeds. Really only the qualification of Nebraska, the most mid-196y of the teams in this semifinal, would constitute a true surprise or upset.

April 14, 7:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] LSU (bye before floor)
[2] Florida (vault)
[3] Alabama (floor)
[4] Michigan (bye before bars)
[5] Georgia (beam)
[6] Nebraska (bars)

Individuals
Mollie Korth, Kentucky, AA (rotating w/ LSU)
Briannah Tsang, Penn State, AA (rotating w/ Florida)
Alex Hyland, Kentucky, AA (rotating w/ Michigan)
Zaakira Muhammad, West Virginia, AA (rotating w/ Alabama)
Sabrina Garcia, Penn State, AA (rotating w/ Georgia)
Cami Drouin-Allaire, George Washington, AA(rotating w/ Nebraska)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan, VT (rotating w/ LSU)
Elizabeth Price, Stanford, UB (rotating w/ Florida)
Katy Clements, Central Michigan, BB (rotating w/ Michigan)
Chelsea Raineri, George Washington, VT (rotating w/ Georgia)
Desiree Palomares, Cal, BB, (rotating w/ Florida)

LSU
LSU enters the first day of competition as the Oklahoma of the second semifinal, the team that really should qualify to Super Six barring any kind of 2015-style “the freshman LOST HER MIND” moment. The Tigers did, however, score a low-for-them 197.450 at regionals without counting a fall—which is cause for some vague concern about what would happen if they did count a fall—but the overall scoring potential is too high to see LSU being vulnerable without multiple and significant mistakes. LSU would have to give qualification away. No one is going to take it from them.

A flew blips did crop up in that regionals 197.450, and fairly unexpected ones. Aside from a bit of a flopsy-daisy in the middle of the beam lineup, LSU did not perform as well on vault as we would expect, an event that must not only be an asset but a win at nationals if LSU is to take the championship. At regionals, Harrold didn’t go—Cannamela’s full replaced her—and LSU ended up counting a couple lowish 9.8s. That would be fine even if replicated in this semifinal (because Gnat, because Edney) but wouldn’t be enough to give LSU the necessary advantage in Super Six. Something to watch. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 2: Eastern Semifinal

National Championship Preview Part 1: Western Semifinal

By the magic of the draw (and by magic, I of course mean trash), the semifinals have been divided by conference and geography, with the eastern-ish teams from the SEC and Big Ten placed in the evening session and the western-ish teams from the Pac-12 and Big 12 placed in the afternoon session. It’s pretty racist.

We’re a little more than a week away from nationals now, so to begin preparing, here’s a preview of the race to qualify to Super Six from the first semifinal, the one that appears the more straightforward of the two but is certainly not open-and-shut.

April 14, 12:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (bye before floor)
[2] Utah (vault)
[3] UCLA (bye before bars)
[4] Oregon State (floor)
[5] Denver (beam)
[6] Washington (bars)

Individuals
Jessica Yamzon, Arkansas, AA (rotating w/ Utah)
Alexis Mattern, Ohio State, AA (rotating w/ UCLA)
Shani Remme, Boise State, AA (rotating w/ Washington)
Angel Metcalf, Iowa, AA (rotating w/ Denver)
Katie Becker, Auburn, AA (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Haylee Young, Iowa State, AA (rotating w/ Oregon State)
Braie Speed, Arkansas, VT (rotating w/Oklahoma)
Samantha Cerio, Auburn, UB (rotating w/ Utah)
Clair Kaji, Iowa, BB (rotating w/ Utah)

Oklahoma
As much as a sure thing to qualify to Super Six exists, Oklahoma is it. Oklahoma’s score from regionals was nearly a point better than any other team in this semifinal and was .625 better than any other team in the country. The margin for error the top teams usually have heading into regionals is what Oklahoma has in the semifinal. Counting a fall would be fine, and that’s pretty rare for nationals.

My primary areas to watch at regionals were vault, where Oklahoma responded with basically-almost sticks from Dowell, Jackson, and Nichols for 49.575, and the Maggie Nichols AA, which she did and scored 39.750. So, I’d say both of those were a check mark. A dose of floor landings was the only knock on Oklahoma’s regionals performance, which would serve them very well if replicated at nationals. I’ll get into the title race in more detail in a later preview, but it would be quite the ridiculous shock if Oklahoma were not to advance to Super Six somehow. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 1: Western Semifinal

2016: A Season That Happened

Another NCAA season has come and gone, but our aggressive sighing from the corner of the room will live on forever. They may take our season, but they will never take our eye rolls.

Several days on from Oklahoma toe pointing off into the sunset with a trophy in hand, this seems an appropriate moment to cobble together a series of reflections and important frowns relating to the season just passed and college gymnastics in general. Only eight and a half months until it starts all over again! But, of course, we also have that pitiful little zone meet called the Olympics coming up not nearly soon enough, so I’ll be all over the elite action this year with the same level of dedicated preposterousness I usually reserve NCAA. You guys, we have a lot more things to break. At the time, I didn’t quite realize what a good job we did breaking Romania last year, but…it definitely took.

That Frogchenko 2/3ish is my new favorite vault. It’s going to start from a 10.0 in next year’s NCAA code. Cal is already training two of them.

Oklahoma
For the second time, and the first time outright, our champions are the Oklahoma Sooners, who were rewarded for their commitment to performing the cleanest gymnastics in the competition. Super Six wasn’t a perfect meet for the Sooners by any means, which is what made it exciting in the first place (a season-best hit from Oklahoma, and this thing isn’t very close). Weaker showings on vault and the second half of bars kept the competition finely poised, but Oklahoma’s errors were less egregious than those of the other teams and did not include any falls. Focus on details like split and chest positions made it much more difficult for the judges to deny Oklahoma those valuable 9.9s in a theoretically tighter-scored environment, and the Sooner managed to snatch twelve of them. Seven was the most 9.9s coming from any other team in Super Six.

My questions about Oklahoma’s title chances coming into the season primarily revolved around the necessity of replacing valuable 9.9 routines on bars and beam with gymnasts who were already on the roster but not making those lineups, often a recipe for regression. While Oklahoma did have to replace a number of those lost routines with tired old sophomores and juniors, the coaching staff was able to get Oklahoma-level routines out of each them. Ali Jackson doing bars? Chayse Capps getting her best scores on bars? What life if this? I went back to my notes about the freshmen from when Capps started, which I still have because I’m a gymnastics hoarder, and I wrote “Capps – VT, BB, FX. Bars – No.” So there’s that. I also wrote, “beam could be one of her potential contributions.” Could be? Potential? You unbelievable idiot.

This is one of the defining characteristics of the Oklahoma team. People compete events no one ever expected them to compete when they started, from Hollie Vise doing a vault her senior year to all these competitors this season. And while I wouldn’t consider these bars and beam lineups all-time great Oklahoma lineups, they more than got the job done.

Other teams also used gymnasts who weren’t making lineups in previous seasons, whether it’s McLaughlin and Fassbender filling in on floor for Florida or Sanders doing beam for Alabama, but those routines were the replacement-level 9.825 scores we would expect from someone on the cusp of the lineup. They didn’t become difference makers in the way that Oklahoma’s replacement routines did, a critical factor in the Sooners’ triumph.
Continue reading 2016: A Season That Happened

National Semifinals Live Blog

The time is now. The teams are here. The beam is angry. The only thing we have to fear is everything.

The first semifinal begins at 2:00 ET/11:00 PT, so you’ll be familiar with this as the moment when you start to get weirdly nervous, like too nervous, even though you’re not one of the competitors and don’t even have a vested interest in one result over another. And yet you’re still inexplicably freezing.

Live scores 
Live scores – Semifinal #2
ESPN3 stream-a-thon

By way of unnecessary repetition and…it’s nationals today!…here’s the rotation breakdown with team RQSs for each event. The highest score in each rotation is highlighted, i.e. the team that “should” win that rotation/gain ground there, but mostly just so that there are colors here to make it look brighter and therefore interesting.

The first semifinal begins with the favorites, Florida and LSU, on byes, so we’ll get a useful look at the presumed fight for the third spot with Auburn on vault, Stanford on bars, Georgia on beam, and Minnesota on floor. For Stanford, leading after this rotation is essential since bars must be such a high mark. For Georgia, it’s all about enduring. A whisker over 49 again? They’ll take it. We can talk about how important this rotation is to all the teams, but really this is about being glued to every quiver of a toe for Georgia on beam. No performance is more pivotal in this session.
Continue reading National Semifinals Live Blog

The National Championship Is TOMORROW

Tomorrow. As in, you know, tomorrow.

Let this be your headquarters for all the necessary and wildly unnecessary links and information you could possibly need for the championship. But before I present the links, I have some truly terrible news. Nationals will be using statbroadcast for the live scores. Sigh. They might as well be sent by raven or etched in cuneiform on a tablet and then buried by the sands of time. We all need to be there for each other in this time of crisis.

At least ESPN is continuing the system from SECs and giving us both a TV broadcast and the four-event online view.

“Live” scores
ESPN3 four-event and single-event streams

Going with the main TV feed and the four-event window seemed to work well during SECs. We’ll still miss things because there are too many important events going on at one time, but now we have only ourselves to blame instead of the old “I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY DIDN’T SHOW HER, BURN LIFE,” which is actually a shame. It’s a gymnastics tradition. Where would we be without it?

Times are central, with semifinal #1 at 1:00 CT and semifinal #2 at 7:00 CT. Just know that it’s your whole day. You will not be able to do anything else. These are the rules. Super Six is later this year than in the past, at 8:00 CT on Saturday. Oooh, nighttime. Spicy.

Previews
Semifinal #1
Semifinal #2
Super Six
Individual titles

Semifinal #1, projected lineups and regional scores

Semifinal #2, projected lineups and regional scores

A few little nuggets of news have also been rattling around this week, significantly that Lindsay Mable scored the upset of the century by beating Bridget Sloan for the AAI Award, news that has been communicated in exactly zero places. Great job once again, college gymnastics. Seriously, there’s not even an article on Minnesota’s website about it. Anyway, it’s kind of a big deal. I’m assuming some strategic voting was in place here that gave it to Mable instead of Sloan, enough people thinking that everyone was going to vote for Sloan, so they decided to throw votes at the underdog pick. Or people thinking that Sloan had already won everything and life, so why not go a different direction? Sloan got Streeped here, I think.

Yesterday also began the spring NLI signing period, which has become the annual Stanford and UCLA former elite announcement day. Stanford signed rare Canadian gem Aleeza Yu, who will fit right in because she’s already in a knee brace. Welcome to the team! UCLA announced the signing of Felicia Hano to join the giant bangarang class for next year that will cover everything in sheets of gold and fix all the problems, including Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Anna Glenn, Grace Glenn, Schmuel Glenn, Curly Glenn, and Zeppo Glenn. Nica Hults was also supposed to sign for next season but is currently nowhere to be found. If you’re thinking that’s a lot of people, it is. Even without Hults, my current count of UCLA gymnasts for next year who at least were on scholarship at some point is Cipra, Gerber, Glenn, Glenn, Hall, Hano, Kocian, Lee, Metcalf, Mossett, Ohashi, Preston, Ross, and Toronjo. That’s 14 people, so who wants to play a rousing game of Which of You Aren’t on Scholarship Anymore?

Also, can Hano maybe vault tomorrow? That’s probably allowed, right?

National Championship Preview Part 4: Do We Care About Individuals? (Not Really)

Individuals are the worst.

The quest for the individual AA title and event titles has never been anywhere in the vicinity of a primary focus during the NCAA gymnastics ALL ABOUT THE TEAM Championship, brought to you by THE CLOSEST GROUP OF SISTERS. Spoiler alert: It’s all about the team. All in. No regrets. Life lesson. Teamwork. Growth. Having each other’s backs.

Individual accolades are the ugly stepsister of college gymnastics, the one who is hidden in the attic and not allowed to come out when guests are around. (You have one of those too, right?) Publicly acknowledging a desire for individual recognition is strictly taboo. I’m just here to help the team succeed. No member of the team is more important than any other. Leader in the training gym.

To reinforce this culture, the coaches elected to do away with Sunday’s individual event finals entirely this season, ostensibly because of the new TV deal that will televise Friday and Saturday’s competitions live, even though…what does that have to do with Sunday? You could still have competition on Sunday, even if it’s not part of the TV broadcast. This has never been explained. Now, the individual event titles will be decided on Friday along with the all-around and the qualification to Super Six, making it, if possible, even more of a crapshoot afterthought parade of nothing than it was before. Remember how Lloimincia Hall never made a floor final in her whole career?

Individual Events

Let’s be honest, the winner of each event title will be whichever gymnast anchors the lineup of the last team competing on that event. You know it. On vault, that would be Gnat in the first session and Bresette in the second session, so we’ll go with Gnat. She would likely be the choice anyway. On bars, that’s Rogers in the first semi and Sternberg in the second, and I have no problem at all picking Rogers to win bars (even though it will probably be Wofford or one of the Floridas, both going in the 5th rotation of their semifinals). On beam, it’s Sloan in the first semi and Capps in the second semi. OOOF. Two very likely nominees to win. We’ll go with Capps. On floor, it’s Atkinson in the first and Hughes in the second. That’s tougher. They’ll both get good scores, but Gnat and McGee are probably the floor favorites.

Still, sticking to my principle that scores are too heavily based on lineup and rotation order and that the winner of each event will simply be the most recent competitor, my official picks are Gnat on vault, Rogers on bars, Capps on beam, and Atkinson on floor. Feel free to submit your own. We’ll all have a good shot of winning because I’m sure there will be a billion ties even with the increased number of judges.

Silver lining: we will no longer have to wait through an interminably long event final because thousands of qualifiers tied for fourth place in a semifinal. Those vault finals some years, when they did two vaults, and had 25 qualifiers…

Plus, what would have been the day of event finals is now the day of the WAG Test Event, so we can still use that to help pretend our lives are full. Romania, you guys. We broke it and it never got fixed.

All-around
The all-around title, also decided on Friday, is usually slightly less random, but only slightly. We all know who the top all-arounders are, and they’ll each be pecking around the top of the standings, but then also sometimes Kim Jacob wins. When the scores are this closely packed, weird things can happen very easily. To break the race down, I’ll run through the gymnasts I see as the most likely winners, so we know it will be none of them.
Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 4: Do We Care About Individuals? (Not Really)