Category Archives: Regionals

Florida Regional Preview

This regional pretty clearly exposes the nonsense of no longer seeding the 19-36 teams and moving back to the allegedly geographical placement of lower-ranked teams, which doesn’t really hold up from a competitive standpoint or a logistical standpoint.

Here, we’ve ended up with a fairly unbalanced regional featuring three teams ranked in the 30s and unlikely to challenge for qualification, while others are much much deeper. On top of that, a team like New Hampshire isn’t really benefiting from the supposed reduction in travel time and costs that geographical placement is supposed to bring because…Florida. Twelve hundred miles away and not exactly in region.

April 1 – 4:00 ET/1:00 PT

Teams (starting event)
[3] Florida (bars)
[10] Georgia (vault)
[15] Missouri (bye before floor)
[30] New Hampshire (bye before bars)
[33] Penn State (beam)
[35] North Carolina (floor)

Individuals
Chelsea Knight, NC State (AA)
Gabriella Yarussi, Towson (AA)
Tyra McKellar, Towson (AA)
Kristen Peterman, Maryland (AA)
Sarah Faller, Maryland (VT, BB)
Paris Phillips, NC State (VT)
Amanda Fillard, NC State (UB)
Melissa Brooker, NC State (UB)
Mary Elle Arduino, Towson (BB)
Alecia Farina, Maryland (FX)
Emily Brauckmuller, Maryland (FX)

The favorite – Florida
In this meet, home-gym advantage should be the least significant of all the regionals. Florida would be the favorite regardless of location.

We’ve seen Georgia and Missouri both score 197s on multiple occasions this season, so Florida may not have quite the same luxury for counting mistakes that Oklahoma and LSU do. Still, with any kind of hit meet, Florida goes through, and counting a fall would probably be fine. Basically, the Gators just need to be sure to avoid another at-LSU situation, a repeat of which seems highly unlikely.

SECs provided us with a useful method to compare Florida and LSU to emphasize what Florida needs to improve to have a shot at the national title. Florida was a touch behind LSU on every piece at SECs, and in particular, landings on bars and balance checks on beam saw Florida’s scores suffer. (They honestly could have suffered more.) The Gators will take heart that those are very fixable problems and not built-in deductions, but we need to see an improvement in those areas for regionals. Continue reading Florida Regional Preview

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Nebraska Regional Preview

Next stop, Nebraska. Or, as it should more accurately be known, the Air Force Regional of Nebraska, starring Air Force.

Let’s just get through that nonsense so we can talk about the actual competition. Because of a geographical quirk, Air Force is the only (non-DIII) team in the North Central region that did not qualify a full team to regionals. That means Air Force was the only team eligible to receive individual spots here and qualified the whole competition roster, including a gymnast for beam who didn’t even make her own team’s postseason beam lineup but had an RQS from earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, gymnasts like Lindsay Lemke (Michigan State, 9.845 RQS on UB), Jordyn Penny (Ball State, 9.840 RQS on UB), India McPeak (Bowling Green, 9.825 RQS on BB), Kayla Rose (Bowling Green, 9.850 RQS on FX), Kaitlyn Menzione (Ball State, 9.850 RQS on FX), Katey Oswalt (Lindenwood, 9.825 RQS on FX), Erin Alderman (TWU, 9.845 RQS on FX), and Anna Martucci (Northern Illinois, 9.845 RQS on FX) didn’t qualify to regionals only because their schools are located close to other schools and for no reason related to gymnastics at all. Almost like this system should be fixed…

The NC region is always sparse, but typically either Iowa State doesn’t qualify and sends a bunch of individuals as well, or the DIII sides qualify people to mix things up. But this year, Iowa State is going as a team and DIII nationals conflicts with regionals (what is WRONG with everyone?), so the DIII schools can’t send anyone.

Anyway, rant over. To the competition.

April 1, 2017 – 5:00 ET/2:00 PT

Teams (starting event)
[2] LSU (bars)
[11] Boise State (vault)
[14] Nebraska (bye before floor)
[25] Arizona (bye before bars)
[29] Iowa State (beam)
[36] Minnesota (floor)

Individuals
Mariana Murphy, Air Force (AA)
Kara Witgen, Air Force (AA)
Anna Salamone, Air Force (VT, UB)
Riley Hill, Air Force (VT, BB)
Jamie Lewis, Air Force (VT, UB, FX)
Darby Germain, Air Force (UB, FX)
Brittney Reed, Air Force (UB, BB, FX)
Rita Koenigbauer, Air Force (BB)
Chelsea Grimison, Air Force (BB)
Casey Bell, Air Force (FX)

The favorite – LSU
LSU occupies an identical position as Oklahoma when it comes to regionals, placed in what should be a very competitive meet but so much stronger than the other teams that it’s going to be a cakewalk, barring a multiple-fall disaster. All things mirroring the regular season, LSU will expect to be about a point clear of the peloton.

Like Oklahoma’s vaulting, LSU’s bars is a strong lineup that nonetheless looks like it could give away valuable tenths in the title hunt, at least in its current state. It has also been LSU’s lowest event score the last four meets in a row, so stepping up the precision on the difficult landings (Zamardi, Harrold) and the form (Harrold, Priessman) will be a critical development looking toward nationals on an event that doesn’t have to be the biggest score but still needs to be over 49.4.

Floor should be right there with the other very top teams, but LSU is spoiled for choice and still has some decisions to make about that lineup. Do you go with the big routine from Edney or play the execution card with Finnegan? (Or go with Priessman if she’s OK again, but it’s unlikely to be worth the risk.) It’s one of those decisions where they’ll probably be fine either way, but it will be revealing about how risk-averse/risk-embracing they’re feeling. Continue reading Nebraska Regional Preview

Washington Regional Preview

It’s time to get rid of some people! Phew. None too soon. After enduring eleven weeks of not being allowed to care who wins and who loses because we’re all just one big happy family that’s learning life lessons together, we have finally entered the elimination round.

Elimination round. Add that to the list of names that would be better than “regionals.” Knockout stage. National quarterfinals. Potluck hoedown. The end of days. Of course, it’s not a true knockout stage because half the teams that advance will have lost their meets. But you know…progress?

Let’s begin the previews with the top-seed Oklahoma Sooners and their trip to the long-anticipated, inevitably contentious Washington regional.

April 1, 2017, 7:00 ET/4:00 PT

Teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (bars)
[12] Kentucky (vault)
[13] Washington (bye before floor)
[24] Utah State (bye before bars)
[32] Stanford (beam)
[34] BYU (floor)

Individuals
Alexis Brown, UC Davis (AA)
Caitlin Soliwoda, Sacramento State (AA)
Lauren Rice, Sacramento State (AA)
Kaitlin Won, San Jose State (AA)
Ariana Harger, Seattle Pacific (VT, FX)
Julia Konner, Sacremanto State (VT)
Yonni Michovska, UC Davis (UB)
Rachel Heinl, San Jose State (UB)
Yasmine Yektaparast, UC Davis (BB)
Taylor Chan, San Jose St (BB, FX)

The favorite – Oklahoma
While we should still expect the Washington regional to fulfill the ancient prophesy of excitement and competitiveness when it comes to Washington and Kentucky (and…Stanford…?) competing for the second spot, Oklahoma will be about a point better than any other losers in this competition and should run away with it. It would take Oklahoma counting two falls to start getting interesting, but there are nonetheless aspects of Oklahoma’s performance that will be telling moving toward nationals.

Keep an eye on vault. That’s the one event where Oklahoma is not currently ranked #1, and it is a potential vulnerability in the title chase with LSU, a team with equivalent ability, one extra 10.0 start, and superior stickitude displayed over the last couple weeks. Oklahoma needs to begin getting sticks out of Dowell and Jackson more regularly because even a hop forward for 9.875-9.900 may mean losing ground at nationals. On the other hand, if Nichols, Dowell, and Jackson are all going 9.950, that minimizes or eliminates any advantage LSU might gain because of vault and would put less onus on OU’s bars to create a margin of victory. Things to keep in mind for next month.

It’s also imperative that Nichols get back to the AA for Oklahoma truly to be at title strength. The staff has been conservative with her on the leg events this month because of a sore knee, but clearly she showed no rust in her return to vault at Big 12s. You know, a 10, NBD. She’ll come back on floor at regionals, and similar lack of rust will need to be shown to give Oklahoma the full complement of competitive 9.9+ routines. Continue reading Washington Regional Preview

Regionals Draw & Pac-12 Championship Recap

First things first, the regional draw has been made and “announced” via the medium of an entirely unnecessary, dramatic-soundtrack web show that kind of didn’t even work. A good thematic representation of just everything. FYI, we would have been cool with a tweet.

Anyway, here’s how the part we didn’t already know shapes up for competition on April 1.

Rotation order is a follows
Team #1 – begins on bars, ends on bye
Team #2 – begins on vault, ends on floor
Team #3 – begins on bye, ends on beam
Team #4 – begins on bye, ends on vault
Team #5 – begins on beam, ends on bars
Team #6 – begins on floor, ends on bye

Semifinal #1:

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON REGIONAL
[1] Oklahoma – “KJ Kindlers”
[12] Kentucky –
[13] Washington
[24] Utah State
[32] Stanford
[34] BYU

AA
Alexis Brown, UC Davis (rotates w/ Oklahoma)
Caitlin Soliwoda, Sac St (rotates w/ Kentucky)
Lauren Rice, Sac St (rotates w/ Washington)
Kaitlin Won, San Jose St (rotates w/ Utah St)

VT
Ariana Harger, Seattle Pacific (rotates w/ Stanford)
Julia Konner, Sac State (rotates w/ BYU)

UB
Yonni Michovska, UC Davis (rotates w/ Stanford)
Rachel Heinl, San Jose St (rotates w/ BYU)

BB
Yasmine Yektaparast, UC Davis (rotates w/ Stanford)
Taylor Chan, San Jose St (rotates w/ BYU)

FX
Ariana Harger, Seattle Pacific (rotates w/ Stanford)
Taylor Chan, San Jose St (rotates w/ BYU)

CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS REGIONAL
[5] UCLA
[8] Oregon State
[17] Iowa
[19] Illinois – “Lizzy Deluc”
[22] Eastern Michigan
[26] Ohio State

AA
Nicola Deans, Michigan State (rotates w/ UCLA)
Anna Corbett, Western Michigan (rotates w/ Iowa)
Rachel Underwood, Western Michigan (rotates w/ Oregon State)
Ashley White, Centenary (rotates w/ Illinois)

VT
Jovannah East, Bowling Green (rotates w/ E. Michigan)
Lauren Feely, Bowling Green (rotates w/ Ohio State)

UB
Jessie Peszek, Western Michigan (rotates w/ Ohio State)
Hailee Westney, Michigan State (rotates w/ E. Michigan)

BB
Jessie Peszek, Western Michigan (rotates w/ Ohio State)
Jovannah East, Bowling Green (rotates w/ E. Michigan)

FX
Elena Lagoski, Michigan State (rotates w/ E. Michigan)
Kira Frederick, Michigan State (rotates w/ Ohio State)

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS REGIONAL
[4] Utah
[9] Denver
[16] Cal
[21] Auburn
[27] Arkansas
[28] Central Michigan

AA
Mikailla Northern, UIC (rotates w/ Utah)
Alexis Brawner, SEMO (rotates w/ Denver)
Ashley Potts, NIU (rotates w/ Cal)
Katherine Prentice, NIU (Rotates w/ Auburn)

VT
Schyler Jones, TWU (rotates w/ Arkansas)
Kierstin Sokolowski, Lindenwood (rotates w CMU)

UB
Jamyra Carter, NIU (rotates w/ Arkansas)
Courtney Dowdell, NIU (rotates w/ CMU)

BB
Nichelle Christopherson, Arizona St (rotates w/ Arkansas)
Kierstin Sokolowski, Lindenwood (rotates w/ CMU)

FX
Gabrielle Cooke, Illinois St (rotates w/ Arkansas)
Courtney Dowdell, NIU  (rotates w/ CMU)

Semifinal #2, aka the SEC semifinal:

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA REGIONAL
[2] LSU
[11] Boise State
[14] Nebraska
[25] Arizona
[29] Iowa State
[36] Minnesota

AA
Mariana Murphy, Air Force (rotates w/ Boise State)
Kara Witgen, Air Force (rotates w/ LSU)

VT
Anna Salamone, Air Force (rotates w Nebraska)
Riley Hill, Air Force (rotates w/ Iowa State)
Jamie Lewis, Air Force (rotates w/ Arizona)

UB
Anna Salamone, Air Force (rotates w/ Nebraska)
Darby Germain, Air Force (rotates w/ Iowa State)
Jamie Lewis, Air Force (rotates w/ Arizona)
Brittney Reed, Air Force (rotates w/ Minnesota)

BB
Rita Koenigbauer, Air Force (rotates w/ Nebraska)
Riley Hill, Air Force (rotates w/ Iowa State)
Brittney Reed, Air Force (rotates w/ Minnesota)
Chelsea Grimison, Air Force (rotates w/ Arizona)

FX
Darby Germain, Air Force (rotates w/ Iowa State)
Jamie Lewis, Air Force (rotates w/ Arizona)
Brittney Reed, Air Force (rotates w/ Minnesota)
Casey Bell, Air Force (rotates w/ Nebraska)

When not enough ranked AAers exist in a region, extra individual event specialists fill out the spots. Air Force is the only team with people in this “region.” Now you know why I hate regions. Air Force is sending an entire team to regionals even though they didn’t qualify a team, just because they are located in a more sparsely populated part of the country in terms of gym programs.

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA REGIONAL
[6] Alabama
[7] Michigan – led by “Taleeeah Cheeraralli”
[18] Southern Utah
[20] George Washington – Oh, “Jillian Wistingly”
[23] West Virginia
[31] Kent State

AA
Majesta Valentine, West Chester (rotates w/ Alabama)
Lyanda Dudley, Cornell (rotates w/ Michigan)
Caroline Morant, Brown (rotates w/ Southern Utah)
Libby Groden, Rutgers (rotates w/ George Washington)

VT
Tracey Person, Pittsburgh (rotates w/ West Virginia)
Kimberly Stewart, Bridgeport (rotates w/ Kent State)

UB
Taylor Laymon, Pittsburgh (rotates w/ West Virginia)
Daisy Todd, Temple (rotates w/ Kent State)

BB
Brianna Comport, Bridgeport (rotates w/ West Virginia)
Kaitlin Green, Cornell (rotates w/ Kent State)

FX
Brianna Comport, Bridgeport (rotates w/ West Virginia)
Maya Reimers, Bridgeport (rotates w/ Kent State)

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA REGIONAL
[3] Florida – You go “Alexis MuMurty”
[10] Georgia
[15] Missouri
[30] New Hampshire
[33] Penn State
[35] North Carolina

AA
Chelsea Knight, NC State (rotates w/ Florida)
Gabriella Yarussi, Towson (rotates w/ Georgia)
Tyra McKellar, Towson (rotates w/ Missouri)
Kristen Peterman, Maryland (rotates w/ NH)

VT
Sarah Faller, Maryland (rotates w/ Penn St)
Paris Phillips, NC State (rotates w/ UNC)

UB
Amanda Fillard, NC State (rotates w/ Penn St)
Melissa Brooker, NC State (rotates w/ UNC)

BB
Sarah Faller, Maryland (rotates w/ Penn St)
Mary Elle Arduino, Towson (rotates w/ UNC)

FX
Emily Brauckmuller, Maryland (rotates w/ Penn St)
Alecia Farina, Maryland (rotates w/ UNC)

Continue reading Regionals Draw & Pac-12 Championship Recap

Regionals Live Blog

It’s regionals day! The one day every year where your biggest problem is the decision whether to dedicate your phone to one of the competitions streams or put that pressure on your computer with a extra browser window and risk a critical-mass rebellion. It’s a really rough life. We probably need a charity. Or at least a hashtag. #prayforgymfans

Regionals headquarters with all the info is here, but these are the highlights:
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Athens, GAScoresStream
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Iowa City, IAScoresStream Stream (vault) Steam (bars) Stream (beam) Stream (floor)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Minneapolis, MNScores Stream
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Tuscaloosa, ALScores Stream
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Ann Arbor, MIScores Stream
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Salt Lake City, UTScores Stream Stream (vault) Stream (bars) Stream (beam) Stream (floor) 

After all these months, today is also the first time all season that results actually matter! Hooray! In a few short (long) hours, 36 becomes 12. Top two or bust! You know, that famous goal all athletes have. Clear eyes, full hearts, can finish second and still advance.

The hope for today is that someone, somewhere will pull off some manner of upset. After the top 12 all advanced to nationals last season, we earned something a little more fun. One teensy little meltdown doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Put in your upset predictions now, so that you can be showered with praise when it happens.

The day will start slowly, which is charitable, but it will become nightmarish pretty quickly. We will invariably start missing things in hour two, when a number of the crucial bubble teams will all be on beam. Nebraska, Denver, and Cal’s beam rotations will all determine quite a lot about what the #3 seeds will (or will not) have to do to score the much-anticipated upset.

Continue reading Regionals Live Blog

Regional Championship Headquarters

Tomorrow, you will all be compelled to participate in the annual gymnastics tradition that is Ironman Regionals. It’s seven straight hours of frenetic gymnastics watching, multitasking-based panic attacks, third-person auditory hallucinations, spontaneous Miss Val impressions, alcoholism, narcolepsy, uncontrollable blindness spells, dislocated bladders, and ultimately acceptance, during which you will need to commandeer all adjacent devices while clinging to the pipe dream that you’ll actually be paying attention at the right time when something important happens. 

As part of that pipe dream, I’ve put together my annual combined rotation schedule for all the meets, providing a rough estimate of when each team should be competing on each event for all your circling and highlighting and browser-window-prioritization needs. I allow 30 minutes per rotation, which usually ends up being close to accurate in most locations because of all the marching and the waiting and the byes. Oh god, the byes. There’s always a location or two that ends up slow as molasses for no reason and gets behind schedule, but this should be a relatively close overview of the timing.

Yeah, Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama, Michigan, and Oregon State are all on beam at the same time. This is well planned. 6:00-7:00 ET is going to be a hellscape.

And now…the meets! Here’s everything you could possible need to know. I’ll add links as they become available. Teams have not been on top of it with the scoring links so far…

2016 Regional Championships

4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Athens, GA Regional
[3] LSU, [9] Georgia, [14] Oregon State, [22] Arizona, [27] George Washington, [36] Michigan State
Preview
Live scores
Live stream
Score sheet/projected lineups/RQSs:

5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Iowa City, IA Regional
[1] Oklahoma, [12] Nebraska, [13] Arkansas, [19] Iowa, [30] Kent State, [35] Central Michigan
Preview
Live scores
Live stream (four-event view)
Live stream (vault)
Live stream (bars)
Live stream (beam)
Live stream (floor)
Score sheet/projected lineups/RQSs:

5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Minneapolis, MN Regional
[2] Florida, [11] Denver, [16] Minnesota, [20] Missouri, [28] Ohio State, [31] BYU
Preview
Live scores
Live stream
Score sheet/projected lineups/RQSs:

5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Tuscaloosa, AL Regional 
[4] Alabama, [10] Cal, [15] Boise State, [21] Kentucky, [26] West Virginia, [34] Bowling Green
Preview
Live scores 
Live stream
Score sheet/projected lineups/RQSs:

6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Ann Arbor, MI Regional
[6] Auburn, [7] Michigan, [18] Stanford, [24] Eastern Michigan, [25] Penn State, [33] New Hampshire
Preview
Live scores
Live stream
Score sheet/projected lineups/RQSs:

8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Salt Lake City, UT Regional
[5] Utah, [8] UCLA, [17] Washington, [23] Southern Utah, [29] Illinois, [32] Utah State
Preview
Live scores
Live stream
Live stream (vault)
Live stream (bars)
Live stream (beam)
Live stream (floor)
Score sheet/projected lineups/RQSs:

Michigan Regional Preview

Here it is. The big one. Are you excited? I’m excited. Ever since it became clear that Stanford’s ranking would not emerge from the pitiful category before the end of the season, we’ve all been waiting to see which of the poor souls that bothered to get good scores all year long would suffer the punishment of being placed with Stanford. The winners are Auburn and Michigan. It’s funny because the 6-7-18 regional is usually the boring one, the one where the top two teams have more than a fall of margin over anyone else, but this year, it’s the one everyone is anticipating the most. Yes, I just decided which regional you’re anticipating the most. It’s this. The end.

Of course, that means it will end up being super boring. Without a doubt. It always happens. All of the other regionals will be intensely close throughout, and then this one will be decided in the first rotation. You know it.

Competing teams (starting event) 
[6] Auburn (bye before bars)
[7] Michigan (beam)
[18] Stanford (floor)
[24] Eastern Michigan (bye before floor)
[25] Penn State (bars)
[33] New Hampshire (vault)

Competing individuals
Pittsburgh (Lindsay Offutt – AA; Tracey Pearson – AA; Miya Dotson – UB)
Rutgers (Libby Groden – AA; Nicolette Wilson – VT; Michelle Amoresano – VT)
Bridgeport (Brianna Comport – BB, FX; Christine Liautaud – UB; Randi Cutolo – FX)
West Chester (Majesta Valentine – AA)
Cornell (Kaitlin Green – BB)

The fight – Auburn v. Michigan v. Stanford

No favorites here. There can’t be because someone very capable of a 197 will miss out on nationals, and any one of these three teams could be eliminated even with a hit meet.

Still, Stanford must be considered the challenger to the throne rather than the reigning monarch because of a few more clear weaknesses than the others and the lack of consistently competitive scores during the season. In spite of Stanford’s definite potential to hit 197 and reputation for suddenly turning great once the elimination meets roll around, there’s a reason Stanford is 18th and not 6th or 7th. The scores haven’t been there the way they have for Auburn and Michigan, and Stanford really will have to put together a season-best performance to make it out of this competition. Normal won’t be good enough. It has to be a Price/Hong 9.950, Rice/McNair 9.850 kind of day to pull out the 197+ score it will take to advance. 

Auburn and Michigan are separated by essentially nothing. Auburn is a wisp ahead of Michigan in overall RQS, while Michigan is a wisp ahead of Auburn on each specific-event RQS. That indicates that Michigan has slightly higher peaks on each event but that Auburn has put it all together in the same meet slightly more often. It’s all slight. The advantage of being at home may tip the balance to Michigan, which is why (in addition to Michigan’s season high being the best in the competition) I see Auburn as more vulnerable than Michigan if both hit their meets. Really, there should only be a tenth or two between them either way.

Ergo…landings, landings, landings. On vault, for instance, Michigan has more difficulty, and the Olivia Karas grand finale has scored higher than the Caitlin Atkinson grand finale, but we have seen multiple meets this year in which Auburn has earned a very competitive vault score because of high-level landing control. Since Michigan’s peak scoring potential has been higher this year, those landings are all the more important for Auburn to close any scoring potential gap.  

For both teams, the vulnerability is beam. In fact, it has been a vulnerability for Stanford at times as this year well (but will be absolutely critical if Stanford is to stay in this), all of which is made evident by New Hampshire being ranked as the #2 beam team in this regional.  Each of these top seeds has the potential for multiple 9.9s. Atkinson, Milliet, Demers, Artz, Chiarelli, Price, Hong. There’s no shortage of impressive beamers in this meet, but Auburn has a tendency to throw a 9.7 or two out there early in the lineup, and Michigan has been a sudden fall-fest in the second half of the season. Beam will be the most telling indicator about whether Stanford is in this meet because secure hits from both Michigan and Auburn (in rotations one and three) would take away the primary area in which Stanford is looking to pick up tenths (in rotation five).

Stanford must win bars and beam to have a shot. If Stanford’s combined UB+BB score isn’t multiple tenths higher than either Auburn’s or Michigan’s, then qualification is a near impossibility because Auburn and Michigan are deeper and stronger on vault and floor. Stanford really should win beam here. Even though there have been a few nasties this year, the 9.9 potential across the lineup is the best in the meet. It’s not just Price and Hong. We’ve seen Chuang get 9.9s, and Nicki McNair often merits them, even if she doesn’t get them in the first spot.

A huge beam score is all the more important if Price keeps getting 9.900ed on vault. 

Those “Perfect 10!” posters are basically picket signs at this point. This is the protest movement of our generation.

Because of the rotation order, expect Stanford to trail early on, probably by a hefty margin. Floor and vault aren’t the big scores. It’s not necessarily a bad order for Stanford because they’ll end on the events where they really need huge scores and will hope drunk-judging has set in by then, but there is the potential for things to get out of control early if floor looks a little too 9.700. We’ve seen that before, and there will be no coming back from it this time. It’s in Stanford’s hands whether this meet is interesting or not. It really only gets close if Stanford is having one of those meets like at UCLA, where this weird thing happened where the talent of the roster actually manifested in the performance and the scores.

To keep an eye on whether season-best Stanford has shown up, I’ve taken each team’s season-high performance (Michigan’s 197.425, Stanford’s 197.400, and Auburn’s 197.325) and used the event scores from those meets to tell us roughly what kind of pace teams will want to be on rotation-by-rotation if they’re going to repeat those season-best performances. It’s the marker of where Stanford needs to be with respect to Michigan and Auburn (and vice versa) in order to make this meet a thing.

Rotation 1: Michigan 49.450, Stanford 49.250, Auburn BYE
Rotation 2: Stanford 98.500, Michigan 49.450, Auburn 49.350
Rotation 3: Michigan 98.775, Auburn 98.650, Stanford 98.500
Rotation 4: Michigan 148.075, Stanford 148.025, Auburn 98.650
Rotation 5: Stanford 197.400, Michigan 148.075, Auburn 147.950
Rotation 6: Michigan 197.425, Stanford 197.400, Auburn 197.325

To me, 98.500 is an optimistic estimate for where Stanford will be after vault and floor (RQS tells us more like 98.200), but it will take an optimistic-level meet for Stanford to advance. It’s what Stanford does in the postseason, anyway. Note that even with an optimistic score at the halfway point, Stanford still trails Michigan by 0.275 and Auburn by 0.150. They’d be fine with that deficit. That’s manageable. More than that is trouble.

Michigan and Auburn don’t tend to have the same highs and lows as Stanford, but floor is a big, necessary score for both of them because it’s 2016 and it’s floor. Michigan will have gone on floor in the first half of the meet and Auburn will not, so Michigan must have a lead after rotation three, and really should unless there’s another beam debacle.

And the rest
Most of the attention has to be on the big three in this meet because even if one of them has a meltdown, there are still two other 197-quality teams waiting to take those spots. Quite honestly, it will take two different multi-fall meltdowns from the big teams for any of the others to get into contention.

For Eastern Michigan, even making regionals would have been a tremendous accomplishment, but doing so as a #4 seed and the 24th ranked team, ahead of a much more heralded program like Penn State, is verging on phenomenal. This hasn’t been achieved just been by virtue of a weird score or two. Eastern Michigan has managed 196s at home, away, and while dominating the conference championship, because of bars, because of beam, and because of floor. It has been a deep and varied season of strength. This was supposed to be George Washington’s upstart season, and Eastern Michigan managed to out-George Washington George Washington.

Eastern Michigan’s way into this meet is beam. They’re #20 on beam (their highest event ranking), and since there is beam-meltdown potential across the competition, Eastern Michigan could just go, “Hi, 49.250 please” and suddenly make a serious impression with the same bunch of 9.875s that helped them overcome bars mistakes at MACs. Do keep an eye on Kendall Valentin on bars, though. She’s in the top 30 and has been a 9.9 machine.

Aside from one strong score at home during that insane Big Five meet, this has not been a positive season for Penn State, featuring a bunch of 195s and a continued commitment to creating enough behind-the-scenes drama to fill three full internets and still not even be done. While other teams have “Get to know the gymnasts!” features, Penn State should have a “Who’s quitting the program in tears this week” feature just to keep us updated. It’s only considerate.

It was always going to be difficult for Penn State to maintain the relatively competitive level from last season without Welsh and Sanabria-Robles, and the disappearance of Sibson has made finding any semblance of depth all the more difficult. Picking up Kiera Brown post-Georgia has been a helpful addition, and she seems to have regained her beam after losing it in spectacular fashion last season. Still, for the most part the 9.8s have dried up and not really been replaced, hence the dramatic fall from a “could make nationals” 13th last year to an “and the rest” 25th this year.

New Hampshire represent the last of our regionals qualifiers, a team that made a big splash at the beginning of the season by being ranked at near-Oklahoma levels on beam even though it’s New Hampshire and that’s not supposed to happen. The scores haven’t followed from that January success, settling into the mid-195s for hit meets ever since with a vault rotation that’s going to score mid 48s sometimes. There is still the potential for a fantastic beam rotation that puts pressure on the others when when Lauter, Aucoin, and Pflieger all hit together, and we can also expect a strong bars number from Mulligan, who has hit 9.9s multiple times this season, to round out some of the individual impressions this team should make. 

Individuals
Someone among Auburn/Michigan/Stanford won’t qualify as a team, and since all of those teams boast legitimate contenders for an AA national title, the race for the two AA spots may very well be done before we even address the bottom-three teams. If Stanford doesn’t qualify as a team, obviously Elizabeth Price needs to go to nationals, and Taylor Rice would be a compelling option to go with her. Even Ivana Hong is in the mix if Stanford decides to secret-weapon her on floor at regionals, about which there has been some chatter. Of course, if Hong doesn’t do the AA, we’ve all agreed she needs to get a 10 on beam to advance to nationals as a specialist, right? Right?

I was about to say “to do that routine in event finals” until I remembered that’s not a thing anymore, making all of this individual-event chatter matter even less because…like we’re even going to be paying one teaspoon of attention to the individual event races on semifinal day. Not when there’s team qualification and AA to focus on. That’s going to be about priority #50. 

Artz, Karas, and Atkinson are the three other strongest AAers in this meet aside from Price and, as long as they hit, will all have spots if their teams don’t qualify.

Still, there’s a fair chance that we’ll see mistakes from the team that doesn’t go (and Auburn does have the just one AAer right now), so I’d imagine there could be an open spot still available for one of the three bottom teams or individuals. There are quite a few contenders in the mix, but the highest-ranked is Lindsay Offutt of Pitt. She’s here without a team, making things a million times more difficult, but I like her chances. If not Offutt, then Tsang of Penn State has gone 49.3s in her NCAA career, and Catie Conrad of Eastern Michigan can reach that mark as well on the back of a big beam score. Jessica Jones? Kiera Brown? Danielle Doolin? Perhaps, but if everything adheres to the seedings, my guess is two Stanford qualifiers, which makes it really tough for everyone else.

Utah Regional Preview

Welcome to Pac-12s Part Deux: Megan’s Revenge, the thrilling summer blockbuster in which Utah will try to beat UCLA for the first time in 2016 following two consecutive losses in what feels like their fifteenth meeting of the season.

Repetitive matchups are one of the problems I have with creating a bracket for the postseason, in addition to the fact that it’s not a true knockout event and doesn’t have enough rounds for a bracket to be all that necessary. (It should be a true knockout event, but it isn’t. The meets are best 2 out of 6, or 3 out of 6, which isn’t the same thing and is fundamentally less dramatic. You don’t get a bracket until you institute a format that lends itself to a bracket. You don’t get dessert until you eat your vegetables.) You might as well just list all the teams at the beginning of the season in two columns, put a box in the middle for the winner, and say, “It’s a bracket!” It’s not a bracket.  

This will be the third meeting of the season between Utah and UCLA (and their third each against Washington, though at least they were in different sessions at Pac-12s). If they both do qualify, the semifinals will be their 4th meeting and the third consecutive meet day in which they’ve faced off. We get it. By contrast, Utah and Auburn would have been an interesting comparison, and they probably won’t meet at all.

Competing teams (starting event)
[5] Utah (bye before bars)
[8] UCLA (beam)
[17] Washington (floor)
[23] Southern Utah (bye before floor)
[29] Illinois (bars)
[32] Utah State (vault)

Competing individuals 
Sacramento State (Kalliah McCartney – AA; Lauren Rice – AA; Cassie Benning – UB, FX; Julia Konner – VT)
UC Davis (Alexis Brown – UB, BB; Stephanie Stamates – BB, FX; Katy Nogaki – VT)
Seattle Pacific (Maria Hundley – AA)
Alaska (M’rcy Matsunami – AA)

The favorites – Utah and UCLA

Unlike in the regionals previewed so far, this one features two teams that really should go through barring disaster. Disasters are always possible, and always the most fun, but if Utah and UCLA hit five-for-six on each event, they’ll advance. The other teams are hoping for a mistake.

The clash between Utah and UCLA should still be quite interesting and telling about both teams’ potential to do some damage in the postseason. UCLA’s position is bolstered by the two wins over Utah this year, while Utah’s position is bolstered by finishing only .325 behind UCLA at Pac-12s in spite of counting a fall. And by being at home this time. The Bruins would counter that they also had some mistakes at Pac-12s that brought down their score, like Cipra’s floor fall and Preston’s not-in-the-face vault. And we could go on. It should be a close-fought affair. With the home advantage and the stronger scoring pedigree over the whole season (a higher RQS on three of four events), Utah should come in as the favorite between the two, though far from a prohibitive one.

Neither team has a ton of difficulty on vault and both may struggle to compete with the three-1.5 lineups of the SEC once we get to nationals, but Utah’s landings were significantly stronger than UCLA’s at Pac-12s with a couple vaulters showing season-best sticks. Even without a difficulty edge, Utah’s vault beat UCLA’s by nearly three tenths because of landings (and direction, and knees), which would be a massive boon if that were repeated at regionals.

UCLA’s edge comes on beam, with a lineup that is quite smooth in rhythm, precise in split elements, and varied in skill selection and difficulty. Utah, meanwhile, showed the signs of the Stover-ectomy in counting a beam fall at Pac-12s. It’s clear the team needs her back as soon as possible not just to prevent using a fall but to provide a much-needed 9.9.

Interestingly, UCLA beat Utah on bars at Pac-12s, even though bars is supposed to be a weakness for UCLA that compromises postseason hopes while it has been a strength for Utah. If UCLA is able to continue minimizing the bars deficit compared to a team like Utah, perhaps aided by a mysterious secret-weapon appearance of Peng or Ohashi, that would eliminate one major obstacle to postseason success. I’m not convinced yet, but it will be worth watching.  

As for the rotation order, UCLA begins on its two best events, which I don’t love. It means the Bruins must get a bunch of big scores early and absolutely need a lead at the halfway point, and a pretty significant one, to have a shot at winning this thing. They’ll want a solid 98.800 after beam and floor, which is doable. The Utes will gain ground in the second half of the meet, particularly when they turn to floor as UCLA is turning to vault. As long as Utah is anywhere over 98.500 after bars and beam, even if still trailing, I would consider that on track to put up a competitive total/win. 

The challengers – Washington, Southern Utah, Illinois
All three of these teams have proven capable of a mid-196 this year, each peaking in the 196.5-196.6 territory. The problem for them is that both Utah and UCLA would consider a 196.6 quite a poor showing. Even when counting a fall at Pac-12s, Utah went 196.9, and UCLA’s last fall-counting score was 196.8. Both favorites will have some buffer. But which of these challenging schools is the most likely to put pressure on Utah and UCLA? It could go any which way.

If we judge by RQS, Washington is 3rd on vault, Southern Utah is 3rd on floor, Illinois is 3rd on beam, and Utah State is 3rd on bars. So that helps zero. Thank you, RQS.  

Somewhat in keeping with the theme of this regional, vault has been a nightmare for all of the challenging teams, and we’re going to see a rash of 48s. If Washington can in fact be the best of the group on vault, that bodes well since bars and beam really should be their most competitive pieces. With hits. Beam was an absolute catastrophe at Pac-12s, taking Washington out of the competition in the very first rotation, but the style in that lineup has not gone unnoticed. It’s only fitting when an accomplished butterfly charmer is coaching the event. There’s a universe in which Washington stays very competitive on bars and beam. I’m not sure if this is that universe, but I know it exists.

Southern Utah has been a floor force this year and will look to put up a score well over 49 there that can be ridden into the mid-196s with hits on the other pieces. Having to start on floor is unfortunate because we don’t know how much the floor scores will soar early before UCLA and Utah head there, but SUU has regularly scored 9.875-9.900s in a variety of contexts this season. Southern Utah should be leading the pack of challenging teams after one apparatus and will then look to hold on with consistency to remain in front of the peloton. Bars can be another strong SUU score, with a couple likely 9.850+s including a routine from Memory Shettles, whose name is Memory Shettles. She was an AA star two seasons ago but missed last year with injury and is just back on bars this season, though we’re seeing the shades of that success once again in her bars work. 

It’s sort of shocking to see Illinois sitting all the way down at a #5 seed. Illinois is a perennial nationals contender, but it just wasn’t happening this season, even before the storm of injuries to Horth and O’Connor. That’s eight essential routines lost that most schools would be unable to replace, and Illinois is one of those schools, having to throw out a yurchenko layout on vault and a number of 9.725s on the other events. There are still highlights. Sunny Kato is a joy and 3/4 on bars and beam, Erin Buchanan continues leading the floor lineup, and Lizzy Leduc has moments where she shows that elite training even if the consistency of execution isn’t there yet. We’ll see some good scores pop up for Illinois, and a total that could verge on 196 with a hit, but with all the injuries, the lineups just aren’t deep enough to fulfill the potential this roster seemed to be bursting with before the season began.

And the rest
Sorry, Utah State. You’re alone in this one. As mentioned, Utah State has been competitive on bars this season and should put up a 49 score there, but the 196s have been harder to come by than for the other challenging teams. Utah State is the least likely of the group to emerge as the top challenger, but this does mark the third-consecutive season that Utah State has advanced to regionals, following a long winter of hanging down in the bottom half of the 40s and not challenging for regionals places at all. Utah State had an absolute nightmare on bars and beam two years ago and counted a major mistake on bars again last year, so with bars such an important event for the team score this year, slaying that postseason demon is imperative to remaining in the vaguely competitive zone. Really, Utah State’s main goal will be a qualifier in the individual race, which is possible.  

Individuals
If we assume that Utah and UCLA do qualify as teams, then the biggest favorite to advance to nationals as an all-arounder is Allison Northey. She’s ranked in the top 15 and has proven her ability to hit that exalted 39.500 plateau. The other major player to keep an eye on is Danielle Ramirez from Southern Utah. She’s more than capable of going 9.850 across the board, and potentially higher on bars when she hits. There have also been some falls, but earlier in the season. If gymnastics betting were a thing, those are the two I would go for, but it’s not as straightforward as all that. There are some complications. Bailey McIntire of Utah State is a big one.

McIntire has gone 39.400 twice this season, including at the conference championship, and her ability to brush the 9.9 plateau on bars and floor is what makes those events USU’s most competitive scores. It’s always fun to have someone from a #6 seed to watch out for, and McIntire is a legitimate contender here.

Under normal circumstances, Illinois would have been expected to snatch both the AA spots with O’Connor and Horth, but now, individual qualification to nationals appears much less likely. It would be amazing to see Leduc sneak in there, and while she does have a few competitive scores and can stay close on one of her consistent days, vault may take her scoring potential down too low to challenge hits from Northey and Ramirez. Buchanan is probably the team’s top AAer now. She should be very competitive on floor and vault, but bars and beam can get a little 9.7y. They’re both in it, yet others have proven more 9.850ish across the events. The same is probably true for Goings, Washington’s second AA option. She’ll get a solid number, but Northey is more likely to score higher.

Alabama Regional Preview

While several of the regionals this year could produce an unexpected nationals qualifier that we will pretend signals the beginning of a new era until next season when everything returns to normal, the most exciting changing of the guard will happen in Alabama. Though some of the challengers elsewhere, like Denver and Minnesota, haven’t qualified to nationals for a few years, the teams in this regional have been stranded in the desert for much, much longer. Cal has been absent from the national championship since 1992, and Boise State and Kentucky have been absent since always. In fact, with three all-time nationals appearances, #5 seed West Virginia is the second-most accomplished team in the competition.

Competing teams (starting event)
[4] Alabama (bye before bars)
[10] Cal (beam)
[15] Boise State (floor)
[21] Kentucky (bye before floor)
[26] West Virginia (bars)
[34] Bowling Green (vault)

Competing individuals
SEMO (Alexis Brawner – AA; Lauren Israel – AA; McKinzie Jones – FX)
Northern Illinois (Andie Van Voorhis – VT; Jamyra Carter – UB; Lauren Africano – UB; Megan Greenfield – BB)
Arizona State (Allie Salas – AA; Taylor Allex – VT, FX)
Illinois-Chicago (Mikailla Northern – AA)
Illinois State (Amanda Mohler – BB)

The favorite – Alabama

Alabama is Alabama. Competing at home against a relatively unheralded squadron of challengers and coming off an impressive second-place showing at SECs should really be all we need to know about Alabama’s qualification outlook. Coleman may no longer the impenetrable home fortress it once was, now the site of previously unheard of losses to LSU and Arkansas, but the idea of Alabama getting upset at home by two whole teams in this meet is difficult to fathom. 

Unsurprisingly, Alabama had its best meet of the season at SECs, which happened to coincide with actually getting all the good people in the lineups simultaneously for the first time. Amazing how that works out. Winston returned on three events, all the top-scoring floor workers competed, and Bresette was able to show her Omelianchik, which is a higher-scoring option than her full. All of this combined to make Alabama look like a peer of Oklahoma, Florida, and LSU in the title race rather than the leader of the challenging pack. These lineups still don’t look fully finalized (you can’t quit depth exploration cold turkey), as I’d still perhaps like to see Winston vaulting and, critically, that was not the highest-scoring beam lineup Alabama could put out. Sanders did an excellent job of suddenly being a gymnast now, but hit routines from Beers and Bailey are going to score higher than what she (and potentially Brannan) can bring. 

It’s an issue of hitting (both Bailey and Beers fell the week before), but if the coaches feel comfortable putting Bailey and Beers in the lineup, this team looks more formidable and closer to 198. If not, Alabama may be giving up a crucial tenth or two on beam, the rotation that knocked them down below Florida’s at SECs.

The fight – Cal v. Boise State

This meet represents a brand new phenomenon for Cal. We’ve seen Cal perform well in significant meets against strong teams over the last three seasons, but for the first time I can remember, Cal will enter a significant meet not as an upstart, or an underdog, or a spoiler, or a sentimental favorite but as a favorite. Cal should finish second here and should qualify along with Alabama. Not doing so would be a disappointing result given the wonderful opportunity to make nationals presented before them. Welcome to expectations, Cal. It’s nice to have you here. 

That’s not to say it’s going to be a walk. Boise State has been in many ways the surprise of the season (after being the punchline of the preseason when one coach voted BSU #1), scoring a 197.025 at conference championships—at home—which bested the 196.725 Cal put up at Pac-12s. Boise State does, however, remain the least proven entity among the contending teams, having gone the whole season without facing any school seeded 1-3 in any of the regionals. We don’t really know how these routines are going to be evaluated when Boise State is suddenly not the biggest and the best in the arena for the first time. The Broncos’ last challenging road meet also came at Alabama, in 2015, when they did prove quite competitive through three events and were on high-196 pace until a floor meltdown.

Boise State has done well to continue improving this season even without stars like Perkins and Morris (and with critical freshman Sarah Means limited to beam), which seemed like a recipe for a regression year. Still, keeping pace on vault has been a challenge and the 48s do occasionally pop up. They have a few vaults that can take advantage of the new values, Bennion’s “arabian” and Bir’s handspring pike 1/2, but Cal has done the better job of the two teams, probably the best in the country, at exploiting the new values through a heterogeneous 10.0 SV vault lineup. Cal’s lineup really does squeeze every possible tenth out of a roster that doesn’t have a whole lot of big vaulting power aside from Toni-Ann. Cal will expect to venture over 9.850 more often than Boise State on vault and grab some tenths there.

The other advantage for Cal in this meet looks to be beam. Cal. Advantage. Beam. I know, it’s a brand new world. After a string of beam disasters pretty much single-handedly ended Cal’s season last year, beam has become…if not exactly a strength, then at least a value-neutral event. It still can be a worry, and the team is still susceptible to the wobbly-9.6 monster, but it’s much less scary and has featured some moments of brilliance from the likes of Howe. The return of Emily Richardson only helps to reinforce. For Boise State’s part, beam is also much less scary this year than it was last year, when both Cal and Boise State participated in the Regional of Beam Hell in which every team scored a 3.8, but less scary for BSU constitutes a 49.025ish score, so Cal will still look to pick up ground.

Really, if this were a three-event meet and bars weren’t a thing, Cal would be the heavy favorite. But then again, Alicia Sacramone would also be world champion. That’s not the world we live in. Boise State’s best event is bars by a hefty margin, as it always is. That’s where the Broncos will look to make up a ton of ground that may be lost to Cal on the power events. Bars is not a bad event for Cal by any means, but Boise State can still gain multiple tenths there because 49.4 should be the expected score.

BSU won’t head to bars until the fourth rotation, so we won’t necessarily know how competitive the meet is until that point because much of Boise State’s potential to get that high 196 is based on bars. Even a 98.300 after floor and vault in the early rotations (not a particularly formidable score in a regionals context), may actually be a useful pace. Cal will already have gone on its highest-scoring event (floor) by that halfway point and will expect to have a lead of at least a couple tenths to guard against what Boise State might gain in the fourth rotation. Then again, Boise State does end on beam, so…

Both of these teams entered the Berkeley regional last year as the spoilers, hoping to take advantage of a Georgia beam disaster (the more things change the more they stay the same) to qualify. This year, the dynamic between the two teams themselves is much the same, but they’re fighting for an actual spot now, not hoping for someone else’s mistake.

The spoiler – Kentucky

We saw a good Kentucky team at SECs, one that is supremely capable of playing the spoiler role in this regional, if not joining the fight with Cal and Boise State outright. That good performance at SECs, however, was worth 196.250. It will take more than that to take the second qualification spot. Kentucky ends up just a little too 9.800 to challenge the 49.2 rotations that the other contenders will expect to put forward. Still, the margin between them is not large, so a counting fall would certainly bump either Cal or Boise State behind Kentucky. It may not even need to be a counting fall. A beam rotation with a couple 9.6s thrown in may be enough to bring Kentucky in because Kentucky should score over 196. Anything in the 195s would constitute a disappointing meet.

For the most part, the goal for Kentucky will be to go steady, steady, steady through four events and hope that weak performances from the other teams make that a competitive strategy. There’s not one event on which Kentucky stands out or specifically needs a huge score, so it’s more about staying in the 49.1s across the board. Beam may be an exception to that because now that Waltz has returned the lineup, she creates a pretty high-scoring triumvirate with Dukes and Hyland at the end.

Beam is where Kentucky finishes, and it’s relatively realistic to hope for more than a 49.1 there to put a crown on this meet.

And the rest
West Virginia is a fairly tough #5 seed though has failed to break into the 196s with enough frequency to be seen as a true spoiler. They had one crazy home meet when everyone got a 9.9 on floor, but other than that this season has been a predominately 195.8 type affair. The power events are where West Virginia excels and should break 49, with the help of Zaakira Muhammad and standout freshman Kira Koshinski. It won’t be enough for a qualification score because 9.8s are much harder to come by on the other events, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see WVU finish in the top three on both vault and floor here.

Bowling Green made regionals, which is cause for bacchanalia for a team that traditionally hangs around 50th place and rarely ever makes a ripple on the national scene other than qualifying Alyssa Nocella to regionals every year. It was far from a sure thing for most of the season, but a huge score in the home finale followed by a solid mid-195 at the MAC Champs sealed a historic result. It will go no further, but be sure to watch that beam rotation if time and attention allow. Laura Mitchell remains a triumph, and Nocella and Ellingboe provide supporting scores that should make that beam rotation competitive even in this company.

Individuals
Based on scores and the season results, Cal should qualify as a team, but if not, things could get a little muddy because of the Toni-Ann situation. She’s currently not in the beam lineup, even though she’s Toni-Ann Williams, and therefore could not qualify as an all-arounder. That means if Cal doesn’t make it, she would be left with trying to win floor to qualify as an event specialist. All of this is complicated by the Test Event, which takes place the same weekend as NCAA nationals and which Toni-Ann is supposed to attend as Jamaica’s representative to try to earn a spot at the Olympics. What happens when she makes nationals? Like I said, muddy.

If Alabama and Cal do qualify, then we’ll have quite a race for the AA spots among a number of individuals capable of scoring in the 39.3 range. The highest-ranked of the group is Dukes for Kentucky, and I do think she’s the most likely to go through, but her teammates Stuart and (sometimes) Hyland are also capable of similar scores. We could have an interesting competition for the AA spots just within the Kentucky team, but then there’s also Shani Remme (though she did not vault at conference champs) and Sandra Collantes from Boise State, who are both known to venture into the 39.3s as well. It may be harder for Bowling Green’s AAers, Nocella and Feely, to reach the 39.3s, but they’ve both done it before. West Virginia has an occasional AAer in Goldberg, but vault isn’t really her thing, which usually keeps her total down a few tenths lower than the others.

Basically, the unseeded teams should be hoping that Alabama and Boise State qualify out of this regional (if they themselves don’t qualify, obviously), because that will take several tough challengers out of the individual race and leave it open for the individuals from Kentucky and Bowling Green to slug it out among themselves for the two spots.

As I say every time, it’s wildly challenging to qualify as an event specialist, but of note, Taylor Allex is competing here as a vault and floor specialist. She boasts the difficulty on both events to challenge for serious scores. It’s unlikely that she’ll beat the whole Alabama and Cal teams, but she has a better chance than most of the gymnasts heading to regionals without a team.

Georgia Regional Preview

A quick glance at Saturday’s schedule reveals that regionals have been planned even more horrifically than usual this year. There will be a point during the day at which five of the six competitions will be occurring simultaneously, mostly because they hate us and want us to miss everything. And by they, I mean the people. The people who do the things. Spread the regionals throughout the day, is all I ask. The silver lining to all of this is that Georgia’s regional begins an hour before all the others, and Georgia starts on beam. That means we can watch that entire emotional roller coaster unfold without distraction. Thank you, Georgia, for your time zone.

Competing teams (starting event)
[3] LSU (bye before bars)
[9] Georgia (beam)
[14] Oregon State (floor)
[22] Arizona (bye before floor)
[27] George Washington (bars)
[36] Michigan State (vault)

Competing individuals
NC State (Brittni Watkins – AA; Chelsea Knight – VT; Nicole Wild – BB)
Maryland (Kathy Tang – VT, FX; Abbie Epperson – UB; Macey Roberts – FX)
North Carolina (Morgan Lane – AA; Kaitlynn Hedelund – UB)
Towson (Tyra McKellar – AA; Mary Elle Arduino – BB)
William & Mary (Brittany Stover – AA)

The favorite – LSU

LSU should join Oklahoma and Florida at the same level of heavy, heavy, super favorites to advance from regionals, though the Tigers may feel a little more pressure in this one given the quality of the opposition and the scoring pedigree shown by Georgia and Oregon State, both historically and lately. This competition features the second-deepest collection of 1-2-3 seeds (behind the Michigan regional), so LSU will not be able to afford any mind-losing on beam. These other teams are too capable of taking advantage. Sans any mind-losing and fall-counting, however, LSU will slide through to nationals without forcing DD to punishment-sequin anyone.

The Tigers should have been right in the hunt for the SEC title this year but ended up a step behind Florida and Alabama entirely because of their performance on bars in the first rotation. In fact, if you take the scores from just vault, beam, and floor, LSU wins the competition. Lucky, lucky LSU, they’ll be starting on bars at regionals. You’re welcome. This LSU bars lineup should be quite strong, but as we saw at SECs, it has emerged as the team’s weak event and is still too reliant on Finnegan saving Earth through the medium of toe point for a 9.950. Wyrick hasn’t shown a great deal consistency since returning, Zamardi can often dismount herself down to 9.850, and Priessman has a couple built-in errors on the pak and a DLO that can look troublingly Shades of Shayla sometimes. All of them could score quite well, but they’re walking a fine line between greatness and getting stuck in the 9.800s, as happened at SECs. As we learned, that’s not going to cut it when trying to beat Florida.

The fight – Georgia v. Oregon State

I considered throwing Georgia up into the favorite category with LSU as I do think Georgia should be able to 197 its way through this one, especially at home, but Oregon State proved with its performance at Pac-12s to be among the most dangerous and compelling upset challengers in the country. The Beavs simply suffered the (bad) luck of the draw in getting placed with Home Georgia since the original, non-host-adjusted draw would have seen them placed with Road Denver, where they would have been favorites to qualify. This job is much more challenging. The Beavs will take some confidence that the 196.925 at Pac-12s beat the 196.850 Georgia put up at SECs. Not equivalent meets, no host advantage, etc, but certainly a complication to this regional. On the other hand, Oregon State has not hit 197 yet all year, and in spite of all of the Gymdogs’ problems, they have done so in three of the last four meets and really should at regionals.

The advantages and weakness between these two teams set up rather clearly. Georgia should win vault and floor, vault a pretty sizable margin. Vault is far and away the most compelling argument for Georgia as the favorite, with a lineup boasting three 10.0 SVs and legitimate 9.9s coming from multiple quarters, while Oregon State is often stuck with 9.775-9.825s through the whole rotation. In fact, Maddie Gardiner is the only Beav in the lineup to score over 9.850 this year (Dani Dessaints also did so in the first meet before promptly getting injured to make sure that OSU wouldn’t have any vaulters). Oregon State had its best landings of the season at Pac-12s and will need to bring them again to minimize a Georgia vault advantage that could be three tenths or more.

Floor is a similar, if less stark, story. Oregon State has become pretty solid with the floor landings lately but is still going the 9.850-double pike route. When Box, Jay, and Marino are hitting, Georgia could realistically pick up another two tenths there. It would be tough for Oregon State to overcome this margin, but not impossible. Which brings us to beam. Oregon State’s massive score on beam at Pac-12s was to some extent the result of end-of-the-day drunk judging, but Gardiner, McMillan, and sometimes Risa are able to merit big numbers regardless. Oregon State will expect to gain tenths even against a hit beam rotation from Georgia. Whether it’s enough to make up for vault and floor probably depends on the quality of Georgia’s hit. Even a Georgia beam in the 48.9 range could give OSU the opening it needs to make this meet a thing.

Of course, assuming a hit Georgia beam is a risky proposition. Georgia seems to have worked out beam, but the old maxim that problems from the beginning of the season tend to manifest again in the postseason exists for a reason. The pressure of an elimination meet changes things and reveals old habits and tensions. “My college gymnastics career is over if I fall right now.” That’s a true, scary thought.

On bars, both teams have developed two strong scores at the end of the lineup, Georgia with Jay and Rogers and Oregon State with Jacobsen and McMillan, who don’t consistently score as high as Georgia’s duo but can still get 9.9s. Georgia’s rotation probably should do better, especially because of valuable supporting players like Snead and Schick, but Rogers’ high-risk routine can occasionally bring that total down and make bars more competitive. Oregon State won’t want to have to rely solely on beam to get an edge in this meet, so it’s imperative that Jacobsen and McMillan do have stick-for-9.9 days to put bars in that category as well.

Oregon State begins on weaker events, so I wouldn’t expect a big early score, maybe something like 98.300 at halfway. If Georgia puts up a solid beam and a normal floor on the first two events, that should warrant a score closer to the 98.500 range, which will be tough for the Beavs to make up even with stronger events in the second half. Oregon State will have to play from behind, but the mission will be to keep it as close as possible, then finish with a Pac-12s-ish beam rotation that at least puts the pressure on Georgia.

And the rest
Arizona is a solid team that found its 196s later in the year, but in a regional that’s this competitive at the top, it would take a confluence of disasters for Arizona to have a chance to sneak up into those qualifying spots. The team is relatively similar to Oregon State, just a step behind, in that the vault scores have struggled to remain competitive this season while bars and beam are where the roster truly stands out with extension and style. Those two event scores may be relatively competitive, but Arizona will also count some 9.7s on vault and floor, which makes it very challenging to maintain a competitive pace. 

The emergence of George Washington has been one of the joys of this season, not simply making regionals as they did last year but spending most of the season in the top 25 and becoming a realistic threat for 196s. With none of the current lineup routines coming from seniors and the majority of important scores coming from sophomores, there’s every reason to expect George Washington’s ascent to continue next season and for seasons after. Making some real noise at a regional competition is still several steps away, but individual qualification is a realistic possibility. It will also be interesting to see how vaults like Winstanley’s are scored in the same meet as Gnat, Jay, Rogers, etc. How is hers evaluated directly against the name-brand vaults?

Michigan State was the very last qualifier to regionals, enduring a nail-biting day to stay ahead of NC State by the slimmest of margins. Qualifying was the victory, but MSU has produced some impressively 49 floor rotations over the last couple weeks, so check them out as a team that could/should finish in the top three on floor, especially with ending on that event. A relatively competitive team total that challenges the high 195s is not out of the question in spite of qualifying in 36th.

Individuals
If Georgia doesn’t make it, then Brandie Jay is of course a likely AA qualifier (Rogers would be as well, but it seems she’s off floor now that Reynolds is back), but if we assume that LSU and Georgia qualify to nationals as the two teams, things get a little interesting. Maddie Gardiner would be expected to take up the Official Chelsea Tang Individual Spot now that Tang has graduated, but Arizona doesn’t compete an AAer, opening up what looks like it’s going to be a guaranteed AA spot for one of the two lowest-seeded teams.

Last year, Cami Drouin-Allaire of GWU pulled off the big upset by qualifying to nationals as an individual, and this year it looks like she and Jillian Winstanley could be in an intra-team battle for an AA spot once again. The two have been swapping places as AA winners and scoring very equivalent totals all season, so it could go either way. Keeping an eye on the back-and-forth scores for those two will be an interesting side story at this regional.

I also wouldn’t discount Lisa Burt of Michigan State who has saved the meet for that team more times than can even be counted over her career. She’s very capable of 9.850ing her way to a strong total. The fourth option for that final spot is probably DeMoura for George Washington, but her scoring potential tends to be a touch lower than that of Drouin-Allaire and Winstanley, so if George Washington is having a good day, expect the CDA and Winstanley totals to be the more competitive ones.

But unless things get really crazy in this competition, it looks like there will be just six AAers (add in Brittany Holmes of MSU) who don’t qualify with a team and are fighting for those two spots, five of whom come from the lowest seeds, so it won’t take all that many mistakes for any of the six to sneak in.