Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – June 23, 2017

A. All the NCAAness

So much. Suddenly, so much has happened.

First item: Samantha Durante confirmed that she’s off to LSU for the upcoming season, which is a sort of hilarious F-U to Georgia for firing her mom. “Oh really? Because I went and found a better team.”

I was wondering what LSU would do with that Kaitlin Szafranski scholarship after she left for Arizona State (though do we ever really know what the scholarship situation is at any school?)

The Freshman Playlist has been updated to reflect this and a couple other late developments for the upcoming season, including Gabriela Bouza-Lazo signing with Boise State.

We’ve also learned that Ashley Hiller, who just left Florida, is joining Oklahoma for next season. So, it wasn’t about finding a place where she could get a scholarship or compete more, then. But you know, maybe she’ll Nicole Turner.

In coaching news, a bunch of assistant coaching positions were filled this week, with Elise Ray initiating her quest to form a New Michigan Empire by selecting Ralph Rosso as her new assistant. His qualifications include seeming nice for the 11 seconds I talked to him at nationals (really all that matters).

Sarah Brown also announced her new assistants at Penn State as Dallas Becerra, who was her assistant at EMU, and Rob Drass, who was her coach at Missouri. With Sarah Brown and Kupets, that makes two coaches this year whose former head coaches now work for them. (Technically.) (Suzie work for none y’all.)

Utah State (head coach), along with Illinois, Denver, and Arkansas (assistant coach) have posted their openings with the NCAA. Still no word from Michigan State or Alaska.

B. Child labor

I typically don’t post about fetus verbals because it’s my super-effective form of silent protest (you don’t get your verbal acknowledged until you’re a senior gymnast), but we did have some higher-profile junior verbals this week, with Emma Malabuyo saying she’s going to UCLA and Maile O’Keefe saying she’s going to Utah.

They’re both on the Olympic track and years away from college, so whatever, but just…this is what’s happening for the moment.

UCLA might be passing Alabama as Texas Dreams’ new Florida. If that sentence makes any sense. Which it doesn’t.

C. Larisa the tease

We also have a new video of Larisa Iordache teasing everyone by training some massive upgrades, including a double double tucked bars dismount, a 3.5 on floor, and a Shaposh + Hindorff combo on bars. The majority of these upgrades actually look pretty realistic, but I’d also say, you know, hold your horses. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 23, 2017


The Missing Bars Skill

We have a transition problem.

At this point, the formula for an internationally competitive D-score on bars is abundantly clear. It took a while—a little too long—for everyone to figure it out, but we’re all finally on the same page. Bars is all about alternating E and D flight elements for as many 0.2 CV combinations as possible.

Since those who connect same-bar releases to each other are a rare breed, alternating E and D flight elements means a cloud of E+D+E and D+E+D transition-element sandwiches in order to get the most out of the code.

0.4 CV in the bag. Thank you and goodnight.

The options for creating these combinations, however, are quite limited. That’s a result of a very small number of transition elements overall (and an even smaller number of CV-useful transition elements) with minimal D-valued flight options originating on the low bar. You have Shaposh-style skills, and…that’s it.

That renders the Pak an insanely useful skill to create these 0.4 transition-element sandwiches (see the above combo), but once you’ve used up your Pak, you’ve also used up most of the possible opportunities to rack up those huge CV totals and will be stuck with (shudder) a bunch of pirouette combos for 0.1 in an attempt to drive up the D-score. Continue reading The Missing Bars Skill

Things Are Happening – June 16, 2017

A. NCAA coaches

Several more pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place in the past week, most significantly that Nadalie Walsh from Utah State has been chosen out of the claw machine to take the Illinois job.

Utah State made its biggest splash this past season, spending most of the year ranked in the rarefied and unexpected 22-25 range until a disappointing regionals dropped the team to 32nd. In Walsh’s four years, Utah State’s final placements were 32, 30, 30, and 36—compared to 54, 47, 47, 54 in the four years immediately before she arrived. It’s an accomplishment that clearly didn’t go unnoticed.

At Pittsburgh, the new head coach will be Samantha Snider. You’ll remember her as Samantha Cortez from some of those inaugural Arkansas teams, when they were like, “We’re good already suckassss” and knocked UCLA out at regionals in 2006—or more recently as the one who talks to them before beam and shows really nice Dana-Duckworth-beam-coaching-chin. [Yes, I did write Stephanie originally. No, I don’t know why.]

In a little Penn State/Eastern Michigan trade, Josh Nilson—who took over as Penn State’s interim co-head after Jeff Thompson was thrown out the moon door—will now be taking the role of Eastern Michigan head coach, after Sarah Shi…Brown (I’m getting better!) left Eastern Michigan to take the Penn State job. SWAPSIES!

And before Penn State, John Nilson was Nadalie Walsh’s assistant at Utah State. It’s just a mangled little web, isn’t it?

So by the transitive property of gymnastics coaching, that means that Utah State now has to hire…Rachelle Thompson? That can’t be right…

Team Outgoing coach Reason Incoming coach
Penn State Jeff Thompson Everything Sarah Brown
Michigan State Kathie Klages Larry Nassar
NC State Mark Stevenson Retired Kim Landrus
Georgia Danna Durante Fired Courtney Kupets
EMU Sarah Brown To Penn State Josh Nilson
Illinois Kim Landrus To NC State Nadalie Walsh
Pittsburgh Debbie Yohman Retired Stephanie Snider
Ohio State Carey Fagan Promoted Meredith Paulicivic
Alaska Paul Stoklos Retired
Utah State Nadalie Walsh To Illinois

We’re still waiting on Michigan State to notice that they have a head coach vacancy.


In the latest addenda to the Aliya-Baby timeline, we’ve learned that Aliya has named her baby Alisa.

And if you originally read that as “Aliya has named her baby Aliya,” you’re not alone. OH HOW I WISH. Aliya 2. We’ll always have that second I thought that was your name. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 16, 2017

Things Are Happening – June 9, 2017

A. Ladanyi and Landi

The simple joy I get from people with similar last names being in coaching news during the same week, I can barely describe.

Item 1, Utah announced that it has lured Robert Ladanyi away from Denver to fill the assistant coach role vacated by Meredith Paulicivic when she went to Ohio State. This will be Ladanyi’s third team in four years—we know him most of all from his time in Rhonda’s Romanian Retinue at Florida, though his departure did finally help us all learn which one was Robert and which one was Adrian (kind of). A public service.  Robert is one of the star assistant coaches in NCAA gym, so his going to Utah is kind of a big deal.

Item 2, social media also informed us this week that Cecile and Laurent Landi are leaving the protective nest of WOGA to strike out into the wild blue yonder and make it on their own. Aside from Irina Alexeeva, who still seems to be in citizenship limbo, WOGA doesn’t have a crop of top, top elites pushing for major assignments right this second, so there’s perhaps not an urgent rush to see which member of Valeri’s stable of approved coaches becomes the new Captain WOGA.

Plus, I imagine there will be a group eager to follow Laurent wherever he goes. I mean a group of gymnasts. Not just you. That was already implied.

B. German Nationals

Elisabeth Seitz was the big winner at German Nationals last weekend, taking the AA, bars, and (surprisingly) beam titles. Seitz had the smallest D of anyone in the beam final but was by far the most precise. Meanwhile, Pauline Schaefer took floor, and Pauline Tratz won vault. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 9, 2017

Things Are Happening – June 2, 2017

A. NCAA news

The head-coaching picture continues to fill itself in as Utah assistant Meredith Paulicivic has been named the new head at Ohio State, replacing Carey Fagan.

Team Outgoing coach Reason Incoming coach
Penn State Jeff Thompson Everything Sarah Brown
Michigan State Kathie Klages Larry Nassar
NC State Mark Stevenson Retired Kim Landrus
Georgia Danna Durante Fired Courtney Kupets
EMU Sarah Brown Fancier job
Illinois Kim Landrus …different job?
Pittsburgh Debbie Yohman Retired
Ohio State Carey Fagan Promoted Meredith Paulicivic
Alaska Paul Stoklos Retired

So it’s four down and five to go, with a significant assistant position now open at Utah as well. Tick-tock, people. June’s transparent recruiting cattle calls (I mean “summer camps”…for the kids…and the community) aren’t going to snatch all the best children provide a fun, exciting, and educational summer environment all by themselves.

You guys. This year, Georgia literally changed the name of its camp from “Gymdog Camp” to “Courtney Kupets Camp.”

Milk. That. Name recognition.

It’s like Space Camp, but instead of learning about the planets, you look at Courtney Kupets. If those kids aren’t forced to make mini Courtney Kupetses out of popsicle sticks every day, refund please.

Speaking of Courtney Kupets Camp, when are we going? Also, in actual things, Courtney announced the completion of her royal court, adding assistant coaches Charlie Tamayo and Josh Overton to her staff to do, like, the gymnastics parts or whatever. You remember Charlie Tamayo from being super good and having the layout double Arabian named after him. More recently, he was an assistant coach at Navy for the men’s team. Josh Overton has been at Chow’s and was brought on because of…Chow’s is good at bars and winning?

Oh, also this is already happening.

I’ll get the teapot.

B. National team camp

This weekend is quite a bit sparser than the last few have been in terms of actual competitions, but there’s still a bit going on.

The US women are heading back to the ranch for…national team Pride weekend? I think that’s what it is. There’s still one more pre-comp national team pool party after this one (the big July camp that also has the American Classic and the final elite qualifier), so no one’s really expected to be that good yet. Martha would want them to be at exactly 63% at this camp. And then Aly would be at 66%, and it’s like, “UGH OFF THE TEAM.”

You know it’s still not a super important camp because McCusker, Hurd, and Paulson are not in attendance.

Though we are informed that “2016 Olympic team replacement athletes Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear are participating in the camp [so calm down you stupid goblins and don’t lose your shit on twitter, you’re fine].”

Without those words, but basically with those words.

Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 2, 2017

Things Are Happening – May 26, 2017

A. NCAA moves and shakes
We’ve had a few roster developments in NCAA this week, beginning with the news that 2012 French Olympian Anne Kuhm is leaving elite and will be joining NCAA for this coming season. In the original interview, she did not state which team she’s joining (YOU IMPENETRABLE SPHINX), but it’s an open secret that it’s Arizona State. Which ASU confirmed today, also disclosing that she’ll have two years of eligibility upon transferring from her university in France.

It’s a big fat get for Arizona State. (And pretty unexpected. France-to-Arizona State, that well-worn track.) Here’s a routine refresher for Kuhm, her sets from the 2016 Test Event:


We’ll have to wait and see what her routines look like now, but you know, GET IN THE ALL-AROUND.

Arizona State also announced today that Kaitlyn Szafranski is coming to join her sister, transferring from LSU where she never competed. (How very Oregon State of you.) The third addition to next year’s team is Maya Williams, Toni-Ann’s sister. You might remember Maya from being on the 2015 Jamaican worlds team with Toni-Ann. Everything’s coming up ASU, it seems.

In other state-of-Arizona developments, Skyler Sheppard has been removed from U of Arizona’s roster for 2018. Sheppard was competing VT, BB, and FX pretty regularly before a vault injury mid-season.

In coaching news, Paul Stoklos is retiring after 33 seasons at Alaska. They say they’re going to search for a new head coach, so let’s hope. Alaska has recently cut sports like skiing and track, and gymnastics was among those on the chopping block. It has survived so far, but I worried that the retirement of the coach was a sign that the whole program was being shuttered.

The Kupets staff is also starting to take shape, with Charlie Tamayo joining as an assistant.

B. NCAA postseason

So, this is where we currently are with the proposed changes to the NCAA postseason. It’s pretty much what we knew before, but with the addition of the play-in round to retain 36 teams making the postseason. I knew the coaches weren’t going to stand for limiting it to 32. It’s still not my ideal system, but it’s so much better, and it makes sense. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 26, 2017

Things Are Happening – May 19, 2017

A. NCAA roster moves
Weirdly, all was quiet on the NCAA coaching front this week. As in, not a single person even got fired. Where am I? Is this space?

We did have some news on rosters for next season, the biggest development being that Peng Peng Lee has officially been granted her sixth year. Typically, gymnasts get five years in which to complete their four years of eligibility, but a rare sixth year can be granted in extraordinary circumstances. Peng gets what Peng wants, and Miss Val gets what Miss Val wants.

To receive a sixth year as a result of injury, an athlete must show that she was sidelined for two whole years of her eligibility because of the injury and prove that she was not physically capable of competing gymnastics for the entirety of those two seasons. Peng’s ACL travails took her out for all of her first and second years at UCLA, which is why she was granted the sixth year.

Now, UCLA’s returning lineups for next season look like this, losing two beams, two floors, and a vault while keeping the big three on bars and the big four on beam intact.

Vault Bars Beam Floor
Cipra Meraz Gerber Ohashi
Kocian Honest Mossett Toronjo
Hall Savvidou Kocian Ross
Hano Kocian Ross Cipra
Ross Ross Lee Kocian
Preston Lee Ohashi Mossett

Your current mission, should you choose to accept it, is once again trying to figure out which 12 gymnasts UCLA has on scholarship for next year now that Peng is back. The age-old mystery. Nancy Drew and the Case of the 12 UCLA Scholarship Spots was my favorite book growing up. Theoretically, it’s Dennis, Glenn, Glenn, Hall, Hano, Kocian, Lee, Ohashi, Preston, Ross, Toronjo, Tratz?

The other no-one-saw-it-coming development is Lacy Dagen’s announcement that she’ll be joining Oregon State starting next season, following her release from Florida. This is Oregon State’s second “older sister transfers from Florida the year before the younger sister starts at Oregon State”—one of the most creative recruiting strategies of the last several decades. Because of injury, we didn’t see enough of Dagen at Florida to know how she’ll be able to contribute to Oregon State, but presumably her full on vault and DLO on floor—early-lineup/backup options on Florida’s roster if she had been healthy—will be weekly assets for OSU.

B. Osijek
Following last week’s Koper-xtravaganza, the challenge cup circuit moves to its second and final destination for this portion of the year (what a circuit!), that famous mid-tier European manufacturing center you totally and definitely would have heard of if not for gymnastics, Osijek.

First of all, they’re doing this weird thing where the men’s events aren’t going in order, so the first day of qualification featured men’s floor, horse, and pbars.

Just…immediately disqualified. Unacceptable.

Anyway, qualification is already complete, so here’s the basic rundown. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 19, 2017

Things Are Happening – May 12, 2017

A. NCAA coaching whack-a-mole

The big coaching news of the week was, of course, the announcement that Courtney Kupets is taking over as Georgia’s new head, while Suzanne Yoculan will take on the role of sitting in a little box on her shoulder whispering sweet nothings throughout the day.

Conversations with your 2009 self

My full thoughts. And by full thoughts, I mean gifs from The Devil Wears Prada. Obvi. That’s what thoughts are.

Since last week’s update, we also learned that Carey Fagan of Ohio State is being promoted away from the gymnasts, instead taking the role of Assistant AD in charge of student athlete well-being. Kasey Crawford was also officially named the (non-interim) head coach at LaCrosse, though she was already the coach this past season.

So that brings us to 8 head coach openings, three of which have been filled.

Team Outgoing coach Reason Incoming coach
Penn State Jeff Thompson Everything Sarah Brown
Michigan State Kathie Klages Larry Nassar
NC State Mark Stevenson Retired Kim Landrus
Georgia Danna Durante Fired Courtney Kupets
EMU Sarah Brown Fancier job
Illinois Kim Landrus …different job?
Pittsburgh Debbie Yohman Retired
Ohio State Carey Fagan Promoted

That also makes four of the ten Big Ten coaches so far. Watch your backs, Dan and Bev. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 12, 2017

Things Are Happening – May 4, 2017

A. Coaching Changes

We have a new position filled and a couple new positions opening since the last update.

First, Sarah Brown (I will stop instinctively typing Sarah Shire in about 13 years) has been hired to take over at Penn State. Phew. This is a time of optimism for Penn State: new direction, new coach, fresh ideas, fewer fake Adderall prescriptions, a little less entire-class-leaving-because-of-abuse, yada yada yada. It’s a real win-win. Sarah already cleared the first hurdle—be a human person—so it’s looking good for the future.

Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan is like, “Do you want to just take our house at this point? How about a foot? Do you need a foot?” That makes two separate head coaches and a star gymnast gone in under 12 months. Hopefully we’ll get an announcement soon about who EMU has hired to be the SEC coach of the year in 2020.

In other developments, Debbie Yohman is retiring at Pitt after 78 decades in charge. It is also my unfortunate duty to tell you that assistant Caleb Phillips (you may know him as “that hot one with the mustache”…or not…whatever) has left Washington.

So here’s the off-season coaching chart as we know it now.

Team Outgoing coach Reason Incoming coach
Penn State Jeff Thompson Everything Sarah Brown
Michigan State Kathie Klages Larry Nassar
NC State Mark Stevenson Retired Kim Landrus
Georgia Danna Durante Fired
Illinois Kim Landrus
Pittsburgh Debbie Yohman Retired
EMU Sarah Brown Fancier job

B. NCAA Postseason

The latest development regarding the upcoming rules meetings is this proposal for the postseason format.

I’m mostly good with this plan and would vote for it in a second. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 4, 2017

Spencer Fixes College Gymnastics


You’re welcome, college gymnastics.

Now that we’re nearly two weeks removed from the college gymnastics season and beginning to remember how to walk on dry land and breathe without an iron lung again, it’s time for my semi-bi-quadri-sorta-annual list of grievances about college gymnastics and what needs to be done to make them…not grievances.

As we know, the coaches are their own worst enemies when it comes to deciding how college gymnastics should be run since they tend to make decisions that are in their own short-term best interests (my team is more likely to make the final if there are six teams) rather than in the long-term best interests of the sport and the fan experience (Super Six is actual trash).

So, I’m taking the decisions out of their hands and just telling them what to do with these few, simple, humble notes on how to stop being the worst and make everything instantly perfect.


Obviously, the postseason format is a total tear-down. No salvaging this fixer-upper. Raze that garbage.

My proposed format adds a third round of postseason elimination meets (because of more exciting), so I would not be averse to shortening the regular season by one week since the gymnasts don’t need to be competing/traveling more than they already do.

1. Playoff Round – (Teams #9-#40, 8 quad-meet sessions at 4 host sites)

The first round of elimination meets would see the teams ranked #1-#8 receive byes (actual byes) straight through to the round of 16. This provides a much more significant and tangible incentive for regular-season success while also focusing our attention on the teams that actually have something riding on these massive early-round meets.

The remaining 32 teams (ranked #9-#40) will be divided into eight groups of four and will compete in winner-take-all quad meets. Each of the four sites will host two of these meets in a two-session day—mimicking the current format of the SEC and Pac-12 Championships—with a quad session in the afternoon and a quad session in the evening. The winner (and only the winner) of each quad session will advance to the round of 16, making up the remaining eight teams.

This round will take place over two weekends, with each of the four host sites having its own day (Saturday of weekend 1, Sunday of weekend 1, Saturday of weekend 2, Sunday of weekend 2). That way, all of the teams receive a week off, but it’s the not the same week off for each team and doesn’t break up the momentum of the entire sport as much as the current postseason format does. We could even allow teams to apply to compete on a specific weekend if the other conflicts with finals or something. (ah ha ha, school.) Continue reading Spencer Fixes College Gymnastics