Regionals in Review

Before we get to reviewing the action from Regionals, let’s take a look at our sessions for Nationals, which were announced officially today.

Afternoon Session:
[2] UCLA
[3] Oklahoma
[6] Nebraska
[7] Utah
[10] Stanford
[11] LSU

Evening Session:
[1] Florida
[4] Alabama
[5] Georgia
[8] Arkansas
[9] Oregon State
[12] Ohio State

This marks the third straight year that UCLA has found itself in the early session and the third straight year Florida and Alabama have been in the evening session. Some variety would be nice, but the time of the sessions is largely irrelevant. The only notable thing the draw would influence is the AA title, but I don’t think there’s much evidence to support the claim that the later session has a statistical AA advantage. It doesn’t matter. The teams in the early session will be sure to emphasize that they like this placement because it gives them more time to rest before Super Six, but I expect any team to be able to handle either session.

The afternoon session is a bit deeper in that it does not have three clear favorites, but I don’t think UCLA or Oklahoma should be that concerned by the draw. Both teams had some struggles at Regionals and still went over 197, and it’s unlikely that we will see teams fail to advance to Super Six while scoring a 197 in the Semifinals. I will do a series of Nationals previews over the next two weeks and will get into this in much more detail then.

For now, let’s talk about the weekend’s action from Regionals.

When there is so much going on at the same time, it is often difficult to digest exactly what’s happening and make evaluations based on it. Now that some time has passed, the situation we saw play out at Regionals becomes a bit clearer.

To start, no one was that amazing. We some some great individual rotations and a few teams excel on most events, but no one earned the title of Nationals Favorite based on the performances from Regionals, which makes the Nationals picture even more interesting. Nearly all the best teams scored in the low 197s, and nearly all of them are capable of so much more. Let’s take a moment to break down what we saw. I would normally add videos to illustrate the action, but we don’t have a ton of individual performances online yet, so enjoy some endless text!

Top Qualifier:
We’ve had a tumultuous season thus far that has seen many teams claim the mantle of title contender, whether realistic or not, but Florida has always been the odds-on favorite (with a peaking asterisk). Nothing changed after Regionals. The Gators were not phenomenal, especially on beam where we saw some seriously tentative gymnastics from the freshmen, but there were enough improvements from SECs for anyone to be optimistic about Florida’s chances. They proved they are still on an upward trajectory. Vault in particular was the best it has been all season in terms of containing landings. Kiersten Wang stepping in for Ellis was a completely different gymnast than we saw in January. At times this season vault was lagging behind, but that rotation at Regionals proved that they can compete with UCLA on this event (I hesitate to retain Alabama in that same category, and we’ll get to that soon).

We know Florida can win the National Championship, but they have to continue on this same path. The landings still need to improve (on vault King and Hunter can do better and they still scored 49.550, and there were two OOBs on floor), and I have some concerns about Rachel Spicer in that second position on beam. The performance from Regionals will not win Nationals in its own right, but no other team proved more capable.

Heir to the Throne:
The UCLA Bruins posted the second-highest score from Regionals, and that’s cause for the same kind of optimism that Florida fans should have because UCLA was not so awesome for large periods of that meet and still came out of it with a comfortable score. They performed one of their best floor rotations of the season, but every other event had problems. That probably should be a concern because we have yet to see amazing gymnastics from this team, but this is UCLA. More than any other team, UCLA doesn’t need precedent to pull out a great performance. Only one vaulter performed up to capability at Regionals, and they still scored a 49.450. If Frattone and Zamarripa hit well, that’s a 49.600 rotation. Also encouraging for UCLA is that the most crucial unexpectedly low scores came from Aisha Gerber,   a solid senior without a history of mental collapse, so I wouldn’t bet on that becoming a trend.

The true concern for the Bruins coming off Regionals is the bars. It’s not a concern solely because of De La Torre’s fall (though she needs to be going 9.850). It’s a concern because there is a lot of just OK gymnastics. Larson incurs way too many deductions for her talent level, and Gerber cannot have a January-type landing at this point in the season. As it stands, this team probably tops out at 49.200-49.250 on a good day. That’s not a National Championship kind of rotation. They have to stick every landing to squeeze as much as possible from bars, and I’m not sure that’s going to happen.


Also Contenders, But . . .
Oklahoma and Alabama have been right in the mix all season, but the Regionals performances for both of these teams give me a few more reasons to be concerned than I have for Florida or UCLA. Oklahoma managed well enough at Regionals, especially with a makeshift lineup after the injuries to Nowak and then Ward. Beam was excellent and they scored better on floor than I expected, which should be encouraging. Like UCLA, they had some lackluster performances on bars, but the biggest red flag was the weakness on vault because vault is the highest scoring event nationally. Even if UCLA has a bad bar rotation, or Florida has a wobbly beam, they are both going to drop only a couple tenths on the better performing teams, but Oklahoma could legitimately face a four or five tenth deficit just because of vault, which could be too great to overcome.

I’m very surprised by the weaknesses I saw from Alabama at Regionals, and even more surprised that they have become a trend. Of all the top teams, Alabama showed some of the weakest, least contained landings, which absolutely should not be happening. Alabama traditionally survives on the kind of solidity we haven’t seen for weeks. The way they landed on vault and floor reminded me of a team that is too injured to try to stick. Now, I don’t think that’s really the case for Alabama, but that’s what it looked like, which is a problem. For a bunch of weeks in a row now, they have not landed their vaults effectively, and there were multiple mistakes on tumbling passes at Regionals. Unless something changes, this is a third-fourth place team.

Look Who’s Still Here:
Georgia isn’t going anywhere, which is fascinating. On paper, they should not be as competitive as it appears they are. I made the comment in the Regionals preview that Noel Couch would not be getting 9.9s in the postseason, but she got two of them at Regionals, so up is down and I don’t know what to think. Could it happen at Nationals? Maybe, I guess.

Georgia had their best floor rotation of the season, and were a Shayla-ed beam routine away from being right with UCLA. The problem for the Gymdogs is that, of the top five scoring teams, they performed closest to their best gymnastics. On a day like we saw on Saturday, they will appear nationally competitive, but they don’t have the depth of high-scoring routines throughout the lineups to keep pace with a Florida or UCLA if those teams have a great day.

Note that Tanella did not compete at Regionals, and I didn’t even notice for a long time. Persinger is a better choice because she has gained consistency and has the NCAA equivalent of “international look,” which even though Martha invented it, is still a thing in NCAA, especially at Nationals. Jay also completely broke with his coaching precedent by adding Cheek into the vault lineup at Regionals. He doesn’t usually like to make changes that late in the season, so I was glad to see it in him. One of my complaints about Jay is that he has seemed far too set in his ways for being a new head coach, so his trying new things is excellent to see.

Falling . . .
Utah and Nebraska had the unfortunate status of being in the gymnastics overload final Regional, so it was a bit difficult to care about their performances out of fatigue. Scoring seemed significantly tighter at Utah than it was just a few weeks before. That’s good for the Utes because they need to get used to how they will be scored at Nationals, but it’s bad for them because it showed which previously 9.900 routines won’t actually be getting those scores. Corrie Lothrop needs to scrap her new vault yesterday because it’s not very good and is an unacceptably low score for the anchor position.

The big story for Nebraska was the injury to Schleppenbach, which prevented her from competing. Not much news from the Huskers about her prognosis, so we’ll keep her tentatively penciled in for Nationals. However, that development showed how reliant they are on every single top contributor hitting every routine. Jessie DeZiel is absolutely excellent on vault and floor, and there are some strong bar routines in that lineup, but Nebraksa needs Schleppenbach in the lineup otherwise I don’t see them advancing out of that Semifinal. Busacker has had so few routines this year that she is not a solution.

The Comeback:
Arkansas should be extremely proud of the way they came back from poor performances and scored well at home. Having Grable back and Lewis healthy was obviously a tremendous boost, but many people picked them to be upset, so overcoming those low expectations was impressive regardless of lineup. Now, the actual performance at Regionals should make the Razorbacks both pleased and concerned. They should be pleased because they performed extremely well, and they should be concerned because extremely well for them probably won’t be good enough to advance out of Semifinals. The bar rotation was the best I’ve seen from Arkansas this season, with a bunch of stuck landings, and they were still mired in the 9.8s. In most cases, they hit to the best of their abilities throughout the meet and were still not close to challenging an average UCLA because of a 49.250-49.300 ceiling on each event.

What Do We Do with You?
Stanford was a bit unphenomenal at Regionals, but they did well to hit the final four beam routines to save a recurrence of last year’s harrowing result. This team has the potential on every event, and there is an outside chance for them to advance to Super Six because I see them scoring pretty close to Utah or Nebraska if they actually put together a complete meet, though that has yet to occur this year. As we have seen most of the season, flashes of brilliant rotations were followed by awkward landings and unimpressive or tentative gymnastics. For instance, vault had been improving so much over the weeks, and then it was a disaster at Regionals all of the sudden.

The Backup Dancers:
Ohio State, Oregon State, and LSU are also teams. Ohio State did well to qualify out of Regionals, but they performed a lot of iffy gymnastics and were way too close to NC State for comfort and advanced because of hitting more beam routines than Penn State did. I wasn’t that convinced by any of the Buckeye gymnastics. It’s great that they advanced this far, but now they are being judged on national standards and they will not meet them.

Oregon State and LSU fought off valiant efforts from Michigan and Washington respectively, and I admit I was rooting for the upsets both because upsets is more fun and because neither of the higher seeded teams were very impressive at all. LSU should be extremely concerned about not scoring well on vault and floor because the bars and beam rotations are just average and have been all year. They rely on bumping up their scores with two great events, which is a risky game anyway, and did not work at Regionals. Likewise, Oregon State is a really nice bars team with a lot of unmemorable performances on the other events. Vault and beam in particular are not going to give them much chance at advancing to Super Six. I wholeheartedly commend Michigan and Washington for keeping it exciting, but that it was even as close as it was says more about the poor performances of OSU and LSU. Michigan and Washington had season-best showings but did not have the depth or talent level to take that trip to Nationals based on their own merits. It was about other teams underperforming.

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Regionals Live Blog – This Is the Show

The Regionals have finally arrived. With all the top teams competing nearly simultaneously in must-hit situations, this really is the most exciting day in NCAA gymnastics. In the words of Our Lady of Perpetual Valorie, “It makes for Fantastic. Sport.” As always I’ll be commenting on all the action in a live blog after the jump, trying desperately to keep up with everything that is going on. Since there will be moments when we have four Regionals happening at the same time, I will invariably miss things, so keep me up to date in the comments.

Do any of the top six seeds have a chance of going down? I don’t see it, but it wouldn’t be a Regional without an upset, so I may be rooting for it, especially as we get toward the end if the early Regionals have been breezes. It’s just better that way. Regionals can be a nervous breakdown of a day, so lots of nonsense can happen. Remember last year when Ashanee had that beam disaster and Shayla fell on her bars mount?


Regionals. This is what happens. Get ready.

The 2012 Balance Beam Situation Room, with all your Regionals needs:

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – Raleigh Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, NC State, Kent State, North Carolina

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Champaign Regional   VIDEO   SCORES  (Individual apparatus video)
Oklahoma, Stanford, Denver, Illinois, Kentucky, UIC

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Fayetteville Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
UCLA, Arkansas, Boise State, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maryland

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Seattle Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Alabama, LSU, Arizona, Washington, Iowa, Central Michigan

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Auburn Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Georgia, Oregon State, Auburn, Michigan, West Virginia, Michigan State

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Salt Lake City Regional   VIDEO   SCORES
Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa State, Arizona State, San Jose State


Not too far away from the beginning of action now. I’m pleased that we’ll just have one Regional to start with instead of the cavalcade we will see later in the day. That way we can get comfortable with a slower start, especially seeing as Ohio State and Penn State are both on byes to start the first Regional. So, we’ll really have only Florida on bars to focus on in that first rotation.

Just watched yesterday’s press conference from the Fayetteville Regional. Val mentioned that Peszek might be questionable because of a dislocated rib (true story?) at Pac-12s. Could make things interesting.

I expect the scores in Raleigh to go quite high, and Florida on bars in the first rotation will give us a good sense of how high. If Dickerson and Hunter go over 9.850, it will be a high scoring day. I expect to see a 49.400 from Florida, but anything 49.200+ is fine. To get off on the right foot, NC State needs to break 49 on vault in that first rotation.

Coverage beginning now in Raleigh. We’re yet to introduce the teams, so we have a while to wait. Ugh, pre-meet festivities are unbearable. It’s very difficult to cover a quad meet, so I’m interested to see how much of the non-host teams we see on these feeds. Hopefully they give us sufficient focus on the other top teams.

Temp tattoo numbers. Harrowing.

Underway in Raleigh, NC State starts with an OK Yfull with low body and step forward. We’re seeing some North Carolina on floor now, some low tumbling to start things off.

Dickerson on bars, misses one handstand but sticks the DLO nicely. This stream has been very inconsistent for me. and live scores have not yet updated. Let’s pull it together. Score is a 9.900, so note what I said before about high scoring.

Barr for NCST on vault, pretty nice yhalf with a little tucking and a step to the side.

King looks very nice on bars, just a larger hop back on the DLO, so won’t score as well as Dickerson. Kent State has a fall on beam, so they’re counting a score under 9.7 now.

The commentator mispronounces Caquatto. Seriously? Nice routine but probably shouldn’t go higher than 9.900. She can be a bit cleaner, but very solid.

North Carolina (Durkac?) attempts a triple on floor, but whirls out of it and out of bounds, so likely will be a drop for them.

NC State goes 49.125 on vault, so the judges were pleased with that performance, giving out two 9.850s. Florida leads as expected with a 49.300 on bars, Dickerson and Johnson go 9.900 to lead the rotation. It’s within the solid range for Florida but lower than their RQS. Kent State and NCar will be trailing after the first, a bunch of 9.650-9.675s for both teams.

North Carolina got away with an OOB on floor, but way to many low scores to even reach the high 48s, which would have been the goal. 48.625 is the total there. Still waiting on the final score from Kent State on beam, but it’s not looking great.

Raleigh Rotation 1: Florida 49.300, NC State 49.125, North Carolina 48.625, Kent State 48.350

The second rotation will feature Florida on beam, Ohio State on floor, and Penn State on bars. The commentators are really noting that they think the scores are low, which they aren’t, but they are lower than I expected them to be so far. Both PSU and OSU need to go over 49 on these rotations to keep pace with what NC State put up, even though NCST should go a bit lower on bars and beam later on.

Stageberg starting on beam for FL. She’s right on here, a minor wobble but very solid start. If Spicer hits, I expect them to be home free on this event. She’s the one who has fallen earlier in the season.

Welsh on bars for Penn State, a little sluggish in the swing, but nice stuck double front. Spicer wobbles on her loso, very tentative in this routine but hits her gainer full dismount. Similar to the beam routines we saw at SECs that went in the 9.7s.

Stumble out of a 2.5 from DeLuca on floor for Ohio State. North Carolina is performing some very 9.7 vaults. Over to Johnson on beam, she’s also looking a little tentative but not letting it show in her landings with a stuck dismount. Penn State goes over on a handstand, neither PSU or OSU really impressing so far, and as I say that, a fall for Ohio State from Jones on the floor dismount.

Ashanee is clean on beam, obviously a far cry from last year, with a stuck double back. That will score quite well. We’re only getting bits and pieces of penn State on bars in inset, but Musser looks strong. Ohio State recovers well on floor.

Kytra has to grab the beam, which means they’ll be counting Spicer’s 9.675. Uh oh. Pressure on Marissa now.  Good clean tumbling from Dean for Ohio State. I don’t expect them to have to count that fall, but Miller still has to go. King is completely in focus on beam, looking very strong, and a gorgeous stuck dismount. Should be the highest score yet for Florida.

Miller on floor, a little lunge out of the double arabian but it was fine, good loso out of final pass. Strong way to finish the rotation. It’s now time for our next two Regionals to begin, so once we get the scores here, I will switch over to Fayetteville, probably. Peszek is in the AA lineup, so no worries there.

Nearly underway at the Arkansas Regional . . . We’re looking at Maryland starting on floor now. Apparently we’ve had a mistake from De La Torre on bars. Oh UCLA. Let’s watch out for this. Disastrous start for the Bruins.

Checking out the scores in Raleigh, we see a bunch of 9.800s to start from OSU and PSU.

Just OK from Missouri on vault so far, some 9.7-level routines. We’re not seeing a ton of gymnastics on this feed. Lots of waiting. More low landings for Missouri on vault.

Fall alert: Penn State will be counting a fall on beam, so a huge opening for Ohio State and NC State here. This could really go either way between the two.

We’ve barely seen any of UCLA on bars. Larson is a little sloppy but it’s a hit, which is all they really need from the final three competitors to save the rotation. Don’t have any scoring updates from the Champaign Regional yet. Anyone?

Peszek hits well, flings out her DLO a little but sticks it anyway. Zamarripa is absolutely excellent except for a little hop together on the dismount. They just need Gerber to hit now to save it. Huge stumble back from Gerber on the dismount. That was a very weak rotation from UCLA, but they can probably overcome it.

In Raleigh, Ohio State and NC State are neck and neck at the halfway point, both with beam still to go. Penn State had a poor beam rotation, so they are well back as of right now, along with Kent State, who counted a fall on floor.

Scoreboard for the Arkansas Regional is terrible at updating. Very slow, but it looks like Maryland got a 48.850 on floor, which is very strong for them.

Over in Illinois, Oklahoma has a low score on bars that they will be hoping to drop, a 9.475 from Ward [Changed, though]. UCLA squeaks by bars with a 49.050, and they are lucky to escape by going over 49, but they need to be excellent, not just OK, on beam. Still, they have a lead before Arkansas and Boise State begin.

In the second rotation, Arkansas will have to erase those SEC memories. Like UCLA, Oklahoma escapes bars with a low 49s score, so they should be fine going forward. Illinois is right with them after a solid vault rotation, which has been a weakness for them this season. This could be a close one here.

Zumwalde starts floor for Arkansas, exactly what they needed, fine, clean, solid. Baer hits beam very cleanly, important for her coming back into the lineup, especially after Gerber struggled (but hit). This is a different Arkansas team on the floor so far.

Larson hits beam nicely with a slightly low dismount. Impressive for Lewis coming back on floor for Arkansas after her injury two weeks ago. Did she do two double tucks? I think so.

Over in Raleigh, Florida is hitting floor well to maintain the lead. NC State is struggling a little bit, so Ohio State should be feeling pretty good about their chances.

Boise State is looking strong on bars, and UCLA has been fine on beam, but the scores haven’t really been coming. So beam scoring looks a little tighter than I expected at this meet. Pisani hits floor exceptionally well as expected. It will be interesting to see how Grable does coming into the event.

Florida goes 49.275 on floor to extend their lead with on vault remaining.

Peszek is very clean through her routine, just a little hop back, so UCLA’s score should once again be fine but not great. They are not out of the woods at this meet. Arkansas will get some huge scores on floor after Grable’s hit routine. Could get close with UCLA and Boise State, but UCLA still has the benefit of vault coming up, so they should escape.

Now that we’ve seen two rotations in Fayetteville, I’ll switch back over to Raleigh to see how things are starting to wrap up there. Over in Raleigh, Florida is in great shape to go over 197, while NC State’s wobbly beam has taken them down a bit.

Spicer starts well on vault for Florida with a yfull with a little pike down. Good vault, though. Wang surprisingly comes in on vault for Florida, she has improved that vault A LOT from the beginning of the season.

Alaina Johnson vaults very cleanly as well, they have improved this quite a lot since SECs. Apparently there was a change from Oklahoma on bars, so they scored higher than expected, and they are also scoring extremely well on beam, so they should have no problems. These vault scores have been very high (though for very nice vaults) and Florida will get a humongous total.

Hunter hits vault well, so Florida will win this meet easily, total score is a 49.550 on vault for a 197.325 total. Ohio State will just have to hit through the rest of the meet to take the second position, it looks like. They will lead NC State by .550 going into the last event, so it’s still alive for NC State because OSU will be on beam, but it will be tough for them to get through.

Keeping up with Stanford, they had a fall from Ashley Morgan on floor that they did not have to count, and scored a 49.100 to go a tenth ahead of Illinois right now. Denver had a pretty poor bar rotation for 48.625. Doesn’t look like it will be a problem for Oklahoma and Stanford here.

So far on vault, Arkansas is scoring fine but not great numbers. I bunch of 9.800s, so they’ll need Pisani to bump up the rotation.

Last rotation coming up in Raleigh, it’s all up to Ohio State. A brief check back in with the Fayetteville Regional now, where it looks like Potvin-Green just hit a strong beam routine for Boise State. The remedial live scoring for that meet is helping no one. Arkansas finished vault with a 49.200, so it does look like the Razorbacks will have the highest two event score. Boise State is counting a couple low scores on beam, and Missouri got a 48.625 on bars, so Arkansas and UCLA should be feeling pretty good right now.

Back in Raleigh to close things out, Ohio State on beam, NC State on floor, Penn State on vault. First two routines from Ohio State are hits. Good first score from Penn State on vault, but a couple wonky landings after that. NC State is putting up a couple fine scores on floor, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough as of right now with Ohio State hitting cleanly on beam.

In Illinois, Stanford has two scores in the 9.7s so far on vault, so they are keeping things interesting. 9.725 from Pechanec and 9.700 from Hanset. Although, Illinois and Denver aren’t scoring high enough to take advantage.

Penn State finishes with a 195.650, which will not be enough this year. Ohio State has a few wobbles in the fifth routine, but it’s a hit which should ensure that the Buckeyes go to Nationals. Time to head back to Fayetteville. Finals: Ohio State 196.225, NC State 195.975. Close, but not enough.

Very schizophrenic coverage at the Arkansas Regional with flipping back and forth between routines in the middle of them. Zamarripa is very clean on floor, and Olivia Courtney hits very well. They are finding their stride after that poor start. These are very nice floor routines so far.

In Illinois, Stanford went under 49 on vault, but they still have a .250 lead on Illinois. Oklahoma is well out in front.

Pritchett hits floor for UCLA, while Missouri is struggling on beam and Maryland is getting a bunch of 9.7s on bars. UCLA looks in control now, and if Arkansas can hit beam they should be just fine. Peszek’s leaps were a little Peszek-y, but other than that it was an excellent routine with a minor bounce back out of the double pike dismount.

Updike from Issouri is clean on beam, and EHH is doing her 2010 routine very well, just a minor bounce back out of the double back, but otherwise an excellent hit rotation for UCLA. 49.475, so they can still go over 197 with even an average vault rotation.

Ah! It’s already almost time for our fourth and fifth Regionals. Too much! Soon the Seattle and Auburn regionals will begin, so I’ll check in with those early on if these two Regionals continue to be dominated by the top seeds. While I think the top seeds should go through comfortably, we never know. We haven’t seen enough surprises yet. I blame everybody.

Huge scores coming from Oklahoma on floor, a couple 9.900s already early in the rotation. They’ll be trying to catch Florida’s 197.325. Illinois trying to avoid counting a fall on beam, which would take them right out of it.

Fifth rotation getting underway in Arkansas, UCLA will try to solidify the qualification spot on the vault, while Boise State will try to get back in it on the floor and hope that something happens to Arkansas in the next two rotations. Arkansas is having a few handstand issues in these first two rotations, but good stuck landings. Scoreboard still isn’t working for this Regional, so it may be a while before we know what’s happening.

Illinois gets out of beam to keep within sight of Stanford, Peszek sticks one of her best yfulls of the year. Should score very well, if we were to get any scores, of course. 9.950 for Peszek in the third position, but Courtney does not stick as she usually doe. Grable hits bars to continue the good news for Arkansas.

Apparently not the best vault from Frattone. She hasn’t hit that well since her 10 on Senior Day. Another hit from Pisani on bars, very clean. They’ve worked these landings well. Zamarripa does not stick her vault, but just with a tiny hop and should obviously score very high.

Very nice on the tkatchev and jaeger from Howdeshell, a big hop on the DLO. Maryland is having a minor disaster on the beam, which will take them totally out of it.

The commentators inform us that UCLA finishes with a 197.225, which will easily be enough to advance. Arkansas will have a significant lead over the rest of the teams as well.

I think it’s time to check in with the Auburn Regional, which should be about underway. Four events at once, how am I supposed to handle this? So Persinger did come in on bars for Georgia after all, but came in for Tanella. Shayla hit for 9.850. It’s an Auburn miracle. Really erratic stream there for me, a lot of buffering, so I’m switching over to Georgia’s audio for that meet. 9.900 for Nuccio. Georgia scoring very well on bars. Ding sticks the DLO.

Big score from Michigan, 49.225 on vault. Pressure on Oregon State, who is starting on a bye. Georgia is just ahead with a  49.300. Michigan’s score has been bumped up to a 49.300, so they are level with Georgia.

In Illinois, Stanford gets a huge 49.400 on bars to erase the problems from Pac-12s. They will advance if they hit beam in the final rotation. Oklahoma finishes with an average vault rotation to score 197.025, which will help them qualify easily.

In Seattle, Alabama gets 9.900s from Sledge and Stack-Eaton, so they will be leading after the first rotation regardless of Priess’s number. Washington recorded a very strong 49.200 on vault. Alabama finishes bars with 49.350 with beam to come soon. In most cases, bars is the weakness for Alabama, so they seem to be through the toughest one with a great score.

I haven’t watched any of the Seattle Regional yet, so I’m going to check in there for a little bit for Alabama’s beam and LSU’s floor. I’ll also keep an eye on Georgia’s beam score and whether Arkansas and Stanford can finish out their qualification places with hits on beam. Arkansas has hit the first two beam routines.

Dickson starting floor for LSU, very confident on her tumbling to start, will not score nearly as low as it did at SECs. Jacob hits beam for Alabama, 9.825. Milliner next, very confident in her acro, looking solider than I saw her earlier in the season, just a couple minor steps on the dismount.

Williams next on beam, it’s interesting that beam has become her major contribution to the team instead of vault or floor. One wobble and a step on the dismount, but it’s fine. We’re only seeing the very end of these LSU routines, so it’s difficult to judge.

Demeo now, right on for her acro, great routine.

Stanford has had a fall from Pechanec on beam, so I’m going to head over there because they now need four hits in a row, otherwise this thing gets good. Hong hit in the third position. Shona Morgan up now, solid on series, hits the routine. Down to Spinner and Brown now.

Good series from Spinner and hits her loso. Really strong routine in a pressure situation. Brown is a good anchor for this team because she has a relatively low-risk routine, not to jinx her.

(I switched away from Fayetteville, did Arkansas close it out on beam as they should have?)

Brown has a minor wobble on the punch front, but she hits and Stanford will go to Nationals. Looking at the scores, they probably could have even counted that fall.

Alabama ended up hitting beam well for 49.225. LSU was just OK on floor for 49.050, so they will be behind Washington after one event, but I don’t expect that to last. Arizona had a disaster on bars to take them right out of it.

Shayla hit bars, so she had to miss somewhere just so we knew it was still her. 9.400 on the beam, but it doesn’t matter. 49.100 rotation for Georgia. Oregon State goes 49.075 on floor and Auburn goes 48.900 on bars. Lots of teams in this right now.

In between rotations right now in Seattle and Auburn, waiting on SLC to start. The first lull we’ve had in hours.

Watch out for Michigan on bars and Oregon State on vault, these could be some interesting rotations because they aren’t exactly strengths, which seems strange to say about Michigan on bars. They need Martinez back. Low score to start for Oregon State on vault.

In Seattle, Washington starts bars with two scores in the 9.7s, and LSU has a 9.800 and a 9.700.

Miele clips her heels on the bar for Michigan but continues the routine, won’t be a high score. 9.575, so they’ll need to drop it. Lots of scores in the 9.7s at the Auburn Regional (which Kevin Copp also just said, oh dear).

Over in Seattle, odd fall for Courville on vault, so LSU scores just a 49. Low scores on LSU’s best two events, which leaves an opening for Washington, but they will have to hit beam, a big ask for this team. Washington currently leads LSU by .225 at the halfway point.

In Auburn, Oregon State scores a 49.125 on vault. Just fine, but it is not unassailable. Really close between a bunch of team here. Great to see! Georgia 98.400, Michigan 98.350, Oregon State 98.200, Auburn not too far behind. Let’s settle in because this will be close, even West Virginia is not totally back of the pack. Both Auburn and WVU are less then half a point behind Oregon State. In the next rotation, Georgia goes to floor and Michigan goes to beam.

In Utah, no routine from Schleppenbach on bars, so Nebraska has a fall from Busacker (the problem with their lineup, no one else had competition experience), 49.125 on bars in the first rotation, below their average and no one goes 9.900.

In Seattle, Alabama getting ready to go on floor, Washington heading into that all-important beam rotation. Warmups going on now. Georgia also about to get going on the floor in Auburn. Interesting that Davis is coming in on floor for Shayla and Cheek is debuting on vault. I love these changes, but it’s very un-Jay.

Little bounce out of the double pike for Milliner, following a 9.800 from Jacob. Earls hits floor for Georgia. Washington is having some serious wobbles on beam, but it appears they are staying on so far. They’ll need to drop a 9.550.

Huge stumble for Alabama on floor from Priess I believe but she stayed on her feet. More hits for Georgia on floor. Earls goes 9.850 in the leadoff position. Michigan is having a few wobbles on beam but nothing disastrous.

Bounce back out of the mount for Sledge, too many minor errors for Alabama on floor. They should be scoring much better. Gutierrez up now, great DLO and kept it in bounds, very good form in the second pass. Washington has a fall on a mount, so LSU looks like they will probably be out of the woods in their Regional even though the first two rotations have been average.

Georgia getting a bunch of 9.850s on floor, outpacing Michigan’s beam, though Michigan is hitting which will put pressure on Oregon State. Davis goes 9.900 on floor for Georgia and Kevin Copp is positively giggly about something Julie Clark just did. I don’t even know what’s happening . . .

Big scores continuing for Georgia, so I expect them to take this Regional with just vault to come. Michigan will be trying to stay ahead of Oregon State, but the Beavers are capable of a big number. Michigan looks like they will be at 147.100 after three events. Just ahead of West Virginia’s 146.975.

Noel Couch goes 9.925 for a 49.400 rotation for Georgia. Alabama scores just 49.125 on floor, but they are certainly capable of a big vault score as we all know. LSU needs to go high 48s on bars to stay ahead of Washington.

Utah has started floor with some 9.850s, and Nebraska will be counting a 9.750 on beam but no falls yet, so they should get through this just fine as no one else is scoring competitively.

Alabama getting started on vault, Kayla Williams solid with a step back. A few form breaks for LSU on bars, but nothing problematic. Nice vault from Priess with a hop back, they need to fix these landings, though. Nicely done from Priess. Randi Lau has a little problem on the pak for LSU but stays on the bars. Washington will still feel in this if LSU continues to have some of these 9.7s on bars.

Sledge scores lower than Priess on vault, but I think hers was better. Nice from Gutierrez but she takes a step. We know she can stick, and they’ll need that in two weeks. Milliner also has a minor step to confirm Alabama’s advancing to Nationals. Final score is a 197.025.

Lindsey Cheek debuts on vault for Georgia with a minor step. Kat Ding finishes witha yfull with a step, so Georgia will advance easily with a solid score 197.100.

Utah scores 49.325 on floor, so they will be on pace to lead by a bunch early on.

Oregon State scoring well on bars to open up a lead over Michigan that they should be able to keep up as long as they hit beam. The main focus will now be on LSU and Washington who are nearly tied going into their final events. That could go either way since LSU is on beam and Washington is on floor, which could be their best event.

Michigan would need to gain .400 on the final rotation to catch Oregon State, so it would need to come down to a fall or fall equivalent.

Utah is getting some strong scores on vault, so they look to have complete control of this Regional.

All-important last rotation starting in Seattle. It could go either way. Hit routine for Washington to begin with just a minor stumble out of the second pass.

Shelby Prunty has a fall for LSU. They now need five straight hits to advance. Podlucky for Washington is very low on the double pike mount and has a huge stumble out of the second pass. They’ll need to drop this score.

Third floor routine from Washington opens with an OK double pike and is certainly a countable score for the Huskies. They’re showing us way too many irrelevant routines and not enough of LSU on beam. Now we’re seeing Hall, big wobble but she fights through it and stays on.

Looks like Washington hit the fourth routine. Courville hits her Arabian and the loso series well. Another hit routine for LSU. Fechter matches with a nice hit for Washington. I think LSU has a slight advantage right now, but it will come down to the last routine. Exactly what we could have hoped for! Jordan hits the final routine for LSU and that will probably do it, but we’ll have to wait for our final scores. LSU finished with a 196.075, which will indeed outpace Washington’s 195.825. A shame for the Huskies, they were very close.

After we get the result here, head over to Auburn where Oregon State might be throwing this thing away to Michigan in the final rotation! This should come down to the last routine as well. Michigan will not be counting a score below 9.800 on floor.

Oregon State needs probably 9.850s from Vivian and Mak, which they are certainly capable of, but they have to convert. Vivian sticks her landing, so Mak will be capable of taking this for OSU. The 9.875 from Vivian makes Mak’s job easier. She may just need a 9.825. Mak sticks the routine, which should be enough to just barely pass Michigan. Uhhhhhh . . . so close. Officially, Oregon State will defeat Michigan on the strength of Mak’s 9.925.

So after all that all of our top seeds are going through? Pending Utah and Nebraska, of course, which does not look close at all.

Our qualifiers so far are Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, Arkansas, Georgia, Oregon State, Alabama, and LSU, with Utah and Nebraska out to big leads in the final Regional, so we can assume that is our National picture.

After three events, Nebraska is on solid 196.500 pace and leading Arizona State by a point. After two events, Utah is on 197 pace and looks to win the event easily unless there is another mishap on the beam.

Nebraska finishes out the meet with a 9.950 from DeZiel on vault to score a 196.525. Utah looks like they will just have to hit beam to exceed that number, but the Schleppenbach-less Nebraska Huskers will advance to Nationals.

Confirmed now. Utah finishes with 196.825 to become our final qualifier to National Championships. I’ll be back tomorrow with a roundup and analysis of all the Regional action.

Regional Scoresheets

If you’re a dork like me, you may enjoy following each Regional with a scoresheet. Google Docs files containing a scoresheet for each of tomorrow’s meets are linked below for your printing or referencing enjoyment. I’ve included the most recent RQSs next to each competitor/team because I always like to have those as an easy reference for comparison to see if someone is over/under-performing.

Note: The lineups listed are just expectations and are subject to change (they certainly will change). In most cases, I just used the lineup from the most recent competition except for cases like Arkansas where were expect there to be some differences.

Raleigh Regional
Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, NC State, Kent State, North Carolina

Champaign Regional
Oklahoma, Stanford, Denver, Illinois, Kentucky, UIC

Fayetteville Regional
UCLA, Arkansas, Boise State, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maryland

Seattle Regional
Alabama, LSU, Arizona, Washington, Iowa, Central Michigan

Auburn Regional
Georgia, Oregon State, Auburn, Michigan, West Virginia, Michigan State

Salt Lake City Regional
Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa State, Arizona State, San Jose State

Auburn Regional Preview

Our sixth and final Regional, hosted by Auburn, is one I’ve been looking toward for a while now in the belief that Auburn would be the most dangerous #3 seed in the event. Now, I’m not so sure. We’ll see. The teams competing in this Regional will be [6] Georgia, [7] Oregon State, [18] Auburn, [21] Michigan, [27] West Virginia, and [32] Michigan State.

The Favorites:
I give the edge to Georgia, but the difference between the Gymdogs and Oregon State is not enough for one team to be the clear favorite. Like in the Utah Regional, it won’t take a fall to separate the two. It may just take one sloppy bar dismount (Shayla!) or one flat vault rotation (entire OSU team!) to decide this one.


Georgia had a fine but unimpressive SEC Championships to score 196.575. A lot of competitors who had been going 9.875 were suddenly going 9.800 due to both some tentative performances and the more contained scoring we saw at that event. I expect the scoring at Auburn to be a bit looser, so anticipate Georgia going much closer to 197.

However, an issue that came to light at SECs was the clear reliance on Noel Couch getting high scores. Noel has improved some of her details since her freshman year, but Georgia has been relying on her to go higher than 9.850 on multiple events this year to get those scores in the 197s. Her RQS on floor is 9.915. Do we see her going close to that at Nationals when compared to all the other floor routines in the country? I don’t. Now, Georgia does have a number of routines that can go 9.900+ at Nationals, Kat Ding on two events, Nuccio and Davis on bars, and Worley on beam. For Georgia to legitimately challenge, those can’t just be potential 9.900s, they have to be 9.900s every time because those scores aren’t going to come from anywhere else. So, watch those key routines at Regionals, because if they don’t get the necessary scores in two weeks time, Georgia could be facing another 7th-8th place finish.


Oregon State hasn’t been able to break that 197 mark with any consistency this year because they are  essentially a three-gymnast team. The scoring onus is entirely up to Mak, Vivian, and Stambaugh to bring in 9.9s. The quality of those three gymnasts is enough to keep OSU ranked fairly high, but nearly all the rest of the routines are going to be 9.8s. The Beavers are strongest on bars (where they should score exceptionally well), but at Pac-12s we saw what happens when one of the big three has an issue. Mak fell on bars, which brought the score down and all of the sudden made bars the worst rotation. There is no one to step up with a big score if one of the top three doesn’t convert.

If Mak, Vivian, and Stambaugh all go at least 9.875 on their main events (which is possible), Oregon State can get to that high-196s or low-197s score that will be unassailable by the lower seeds, but if something goes wrong and Auburn is hitting with home scores, this could get a little interesting.

The Contenders:
Now, that’s a big “if” given Auburn’s last place disaster at SECs. That performance is the primary reason for my new reservations about whether Auburn has any chance of advancing. At SECs, 9 out of 24 routines scored under 9.700, and only one routine (Guy on floor) managed a 9.900. The positive for Auburn is that they have not been amazing on the road all year (no scores reaching 196), but they have put up some significant scores at home, which could certainly happen again if they hit their routines. They got scored a little tightly on bars at SECs, and we know that won’t happen this Saturday. I still believe they will need some help, but it’s help I can imagine being provided. This Regional is all just a bit too similar to 2010 when Georgia and Oregon State went to Missouri, and Georgia was upset by the host #3 seed.

The rotation order is also a bit interesting because Auburn is directly following Georgia on every event, which could go either way. On the one hand, Auburn’s routines may pale in comparison, which could bring down the scores, but on the other hand, high scores from Georgia may serve to bump up the Auburn scores on a traditional score-building trajectory. In most Regionals this year, I think the former will take place and hurt the #3 seeds, but since Auburn is at home, I see the latter happening, which could also make things closer than they might otherwise be.

Let’s also not discount Michigan. I don’t give the Wolverines too much chance of advancing, but it sure would be great to see them do it what with the depleted squad this season. They’re basically running on 2.75 gymnasts this year, which means they’ve had to put up way too many 9.7 routines in competition just because they exist. A few events like vault remain competitive, and I could see Michigan going 49.250 there, but they are just far too likely to count a fall to have much say in the qualification spots. The beam and floor lineups in particular are 9.775 from top to bottom and don’t have any type of score building or elite routines to finish them off.

The Others:
In my mind, West Virginia is probably the strongest #5 seed in any of the Regionals. They have had way too many 194 scores this season to go much higher in the rankings, but based on potential they are consistent with many of the #4 seeds. Hope Sloanhoffer put up three 9.900s to win the AA at EAGLs, which should give the Mountaineers a solid chance at an individual qualifier to Nationals as well as a scoring leader at the end of the rotations (something Michigan could use right about now). And on a weird day, anything can happen, which is a more optimistic attitude than I have for most of our #5 seeds.

Michigan State also advanced to Regionals, but like most of the other #6 seeds, they stand little chance of advancing and would do well to hit 195, which should be the goal for the competition as I don’t see many hopes for individual qualifiers to Nationals. Staying competitive with West Virginia or Michigan would be a nice goal, but more likely than not I think Michigan State got placed with five teams that are  too accomplished, and they won’t place any higher than their seed.

Salt Lake City Regional Preview

Our 5/8/17 Regional will take place at the University of Utah at 8:00 ET / 5:00 PT and will feature [5] Nebraska, [8] Utah, [17] Minnesota, [24] Iowa State, [28] Arizona State, and [35] San Jose State

The Favorites:
Unlike the other Regionals previewed so far, this one really could go either way between the top two seeds. Just a few weeks ago, Nebraska defeated Utah in Salt Lake City in a high-scoring affair. It won’t take a fall for one of these two teams to fall behind the other; it will come down to the landings. Both Nebraska and Utah should advance easily, so there may not be much drama at this meet. Yet, it will be a matter of pride for Utah to avenge the home loss from a few weeks ago. Losing twice to Nebraska at home is not the tone the Utes want to set entering Nationals.


The Huskers are coming off a victory at Big Tens where they were never legitimately challenged and ended up beating Ohio State by nearly nine tenths. The team has found its core group of seven competitors, and while an injury to any one of them would be devastating, they look solid for the time being. The issue for Nebraska, as it has been for a while, is their status as a three-event team. DeZiel, Giblin, Wong, and Evenstad are all capable of going 9.900 on two or three events, but all of the sudden the wheels fall off the wagon and scatter into a gully once the team goes to beam, where falls and 9.700s are all too often the order of the day. If they can stay competitive on beam (even a 48.8-48.9 is OK), then I give the team at least a fair shot at winning again.


Utah had a strange little meet at Pac-12s. One of the stranger parts was that, for the first time since 2010, the Utes counted a fall on the beam. With Stanford counting a fall and UCLA under-performing, Utah had no business losing this met at home, but the falls from Lopez and Lofgren put them just behind the Bruins.  However, because it was such a rare error, I don’t expect it to repeat at Regionals. I do, however, expect to see similar scoring to what we saw at Pac-12s, where the judges were hyper-focused on landings without giving as much notice to the other qualities of the routines. If Utah sticks the way they did two weeks ago, expect a similar scoring situation (as in 13 scores of 9.900+ over 24 routines). The Utes will start on floor, so if they go 49.500 again, don’t expect the Huskers to catch up.

The Others:
I’m not making a contenders section because I don’t see much chance (even if falls are counted) that Nebraska and Utah will fail to advance. Though Minnesota has come on strong over the last month or so, it would probably take one of the top two teams counting multiple falls for the Gophers to contend. Minnesota surprised a bit on vault and floor at Big Tens, earning a whole bunch of scores in the 9.8s to go over 49 on both events. This team is enjoyable on floor, so if you haven’t seen them yet this year, be sure to keep an eye on that rotation. A parade of 9.7s on bars and beam erased any hope of a truly big score, but the third-place finish was respectable. However, it is those bars and beam rotations that will keep Minnesota from challenging for a spot at Nationals.

Following Minnesota we have Iowa State, a team that is similarly capable of a couple solid rotations but not four. At Big 12s, they rode Celine Paulus’s 9.950 on vault to a 196 to tie Missouri. However, rotations over 49 have been the exception for Iowa State this year, and the team probably does peak out around 196 on a great day, which they likely won’t have at Regionals (though maybe if the scoring does in fact go as high as Pac-12s did). As the #4 seed, they at least have the benefit of Olympic rotation order.

Arizona State features some quality routines on vault and floor from Beate Jones, but it is the rare other team member who can record a score over 9.800. The few times I’ve seen ASU this season they have severely struggled on the bars with handstand issues that keep every routine in the 9.7s. Floor is by far the best event, so they could go 49 there, but I don’t expect a lot of competitive routines throughout the meet. They needed more from former elite Morgan Steigerwalt this season, and she will certainly have to take a starring role next year. ASU also vaults only five people, so that says a lot about their depth right now.

San Jose State has done well to carve out a niche for themselves in that high-194s territory, but that’s about all we can expect from Regionals. The main focus for this team will be getting an individual spot at Nationals for AA star Thomasina Wallace, their best performer on every event. Wallace won the AA at the WAC Championships over Moriah Martin of Denver, and she at least has a very nice shot of making it out of this Regional.

Seattle Regional Preview

Our fourth Regional up for debate will be hosted by the University of Washington at 7:00 ET / 4:00 PT on Saturday and features [4] Alabama, [9] LSU, [16] Arizona, [23] Washington, [30] Iowa, and [36] Central Michigan.

The Favorite:

Not to sound too repetitive, but like the other top seeds previewed so far (we’ll have a bit more discussion for the final two Regionals), I don’t see Alabama having any trouble at all taking first place at this Regional. One of the biggest issues for Alabama toward the end of the season has been establishing the best beam and floor lineups, but while the team certainly struggled on beam at SECs, I do think the lineup that competed was the correct choice. Gutierrez and Sledge have the potential for fine routines, but they have not proven the reliability that some of the others have. Milliner is still a bit of a question, and I would like to see Jacob regain some of her form from last postseason, but this is the best of the available options. At any rate, I don’t expect Alabama to have a fall at Regionals, so they’re fine.

The biggest factor in determining Alabama’s success likely will not be a single event but will be their ability to stick landings across four events. Alabama should always be neck and neck with UCLA for the top score on vault, but they haven’t stuck well in weeks. Now, they recently got a 49.475 at home, but if you watch the vaults, there were way too many tenths given away on landings. Similarly, the first three bar workers are not standouts and will incur definite deductions on handstands (Demeo’s half turn is just asking for it, and I question the routine composition for that reason), so stuck landings are a must. I don’t see any of the first three going above a 9.800 without a stick.

The other major key for Alabama is Geralen Stack-Eaton. This team is very reliant on its seniors and will not be successful if both don’t have a great meet at the same time. At Nationals, Stack-Eaton should be in the running for the AA title because she can go 9.900 on every event, but the team cannot afford her to have any stinker routines like she did at SECs. Those routines (along with Priess on beam) were the difference between first and second. If Stack-Eaton isn’t getting 9.9s, then who is?

The Contender:
I don’t mean to completely discount Arizona and Washington as teams, but do we really see them contending for the second qualification spot? I don’t. Of course, that will probably ensure that it happens as I have a really horrible history with predictions, but given recent performances and the cushy nature of this Regional, I think LSU has to feel pretty secure that about finishing second here.

Of all of teams, LSU is the most improved this year. 2011 was a complete disaster where they often struggled to break 195. Last year, a 49 was a great rotation, and this year it is an expectation. The antics of vault judge #2 at SECs not withstanding (poor judge #2, I’ve harped on her so much, but still . . .), LSU can earn huge numbers on vault and compete with nearly every other team. They are under-ranked at #6 on this event. They should be more like 3rd-4th.

One concern for LSU, though, is consistency. They are often accepting one fall on bars and beam, and while they haven’t had to actually count a fall in a while, that’s not a sustainable trend. Early lineup falls and 9.750s are no longer acceptable if they want to do anything other than make up the numbers at Nationals. Without some of those scores at the beginning of bars and floor at SECs, they would have challenged Alabama for a surprise second place. They really are just a few 9.850s away from being a top team, and while they don’t have the gymnasts to get there this year, there is hope for many future top 10 seasons.

The Near Contenders:
Arizona and Washington are very similar teams, but Washington’s frequent falls primarily account for the difference in ranking. At Pac-12s, Washington hit one beam routine higher than a 9.600 (and that 9.600 was when Whitney got a 9.900 from one judge and a 9.350 from another – how are we OK with that?). Arizona has been much more consistent, and I expect the Wildcats to hit for a mid-195 like they do most weeks. Like many #3 seeds this year, Arizona has some standout performers in Cristello, Matusik, and Quirk, but there’s not really anyone else on the team who can deliver more than a 9.800 with any level of consistency.

Washington has strong routines thrown in here and there, not so much from a couple standout AAers but from a wider range of specialists who can bring in periodic 9.850-9.875s. If Arizona finishes third at this meet, it will be on the strength of those AAers, but if Washington finishes third it will be on the strength of a consistent team-wide 9.800 effort. The other focus for Arizona will be trying to qualify individuals to Nationals, as Cristello and Quirk could be our AA qualifiers from this region.

Iowa was hanging around the same ranking as Washington for much of the beginning of the season, so I was a bit surprised to see them slip. A lot of that has to do with teams like Arizona and Washington being capable of going over 196 on a really strong day, while Iowa probably peaks out in the high 195s, which they did achieve a couple times. Jessa Hansen is the standout AAer for Iowa in that she can get 9.800 on every event, but it will be difficult for her to take one of the AA spots. However, give Iowa a shot at finishing 3rd at this Regional. They have just as much of a shot as the two above.

The Other:
Central Michigan just edged out BYU for the final Regional qualification spot. Surely the goal for the season was to make Regionals, so mission accomplished, though this has been a weaker year than some we’ve seen recently. There’s an outside chance that Teubner could take an individual spot, but mostly it will be about trying to stay close and manage a 49 rotation, which they did not do last year at Regionals.

Fayetteville Regional Preview

Our third Regional will take place at the University of Arkansas at 5:00 ET / 2:00 PT on Saturday and will feature [3] UCLA, [10] Arkansas, [15] Boise State, [19] Missouri, [29] New Hampshire, and [34] Maryland.

The Favorite:

Like Florida and Oklahoma, the UCLA Bruins are the clear favorite to win this Regional, and I expect them to have little trouble advancing here. Aside from the general narrative that UCLA teams peak beginning at Regionals, this UCLA team is much more secure across the apparatuses than some of the recent teams, which is the primary consideration for a top team advancing to Nationals. A great performance isn’t really necessary, as we saw at Pac-12s. This team had disasters from Peszek on bars and Courtney on beam and did not succumb to having to count a low score and didn’t let it deflate the overall performance (which was adequate but lackluster both before and after the falls). At this point, UCLA is a near guarantee for a 49.450+ on vault, and so a parade of 9.850s on the other events is all they’ll need to secure a top two finish.

As is always the case with UCLA teams, even though it is April, I still have multiple questions about the lineups. One of the major questions regards Kaelie Baer and where she fits in. She’s been the leadoff on vault all season, but in my mind the best vault lineup would be Hopfner-Hibbs, Larson, Peszek, Courtney, Frattone, and Zamarripa. So, does Val make the change or keep Baer in that position? Also, Courtney was put into Baer’s spot on beam at Pac-12s but had a disaster, so does Baer get the spot back? To me, it’s a question of attitude. Baer is perhaps the safer choice but doesn’t have a huge scoring potential.

We’ve become so used to talking about beam when it comes to UCLA, but I actually have confidence in the primary five to hit and avoid counting a fall. In evaluating the prospects for Nationals, the most tenuous apparatus for the Bruins is bars. This year should have been an improvement on that event, but with Wong’s injury and Whitcomb’s injury/handstands/disappearance, we’ve seen little progress at all. No one has been great so far, and this group is too capable of slogging along for 9.825s, which is fine for now but won’t be in Duluth. This dismounts in particular need to come together because many were not even close to sticking at Pac-12s.

The Contenders:

Arkansas reached #1 for one week this season, but they have been wholly out of form ever since the injury to Katherine Grable. What was once a legitimate high-196s team now hasn’t broken 196.500 since February 3rd. I do expect to see Grable back on bars and beam for Saturday, which should help avoid some of the weak routines we’ve been seeing, but it may not be enough to make Arkansas secure in this second position.

The biggest problem rotation for the Razorbacks right now, and throughout the season really, is floor. Even ignoring from the profound catastrophe of a rotation at SECs, this team has struggled to find six gymnasts who can go on this apparatus since January. Because of this, the Cooks may feel pressure to get Grable back into the floor lineup for this weekend, but she can’t have had very many numbers at all, so it may not be possible. Arkansas will be starting on floor again at Regionals, so we will know right away whether they are truly able advance or whether Boise State has some hope.

Last year, many people gave Boise State a shot to advance over Arkansas at Regionals (though it ended up being Florida that they gave the biggest scare to). This year, the Broncos don’t have quite the same scoring potential across all the events (floor in particular has been an issue), so since the competition is taking place in Fayetteville, I think they will need some mistakes from Arkansas in order to advance. Now, the difference between the two teams is close enough that those mistakes don’t need to be falls. A few too many 9.7s from Arkansas in the first three positions should be enough to make this close. Fortunately, both teams will be on the competition floor for the final rotation, so let’s hope it stays close the whole way to give us an exciting ending.

If Arkansas goes 49.300 on floor to start, expect them to take it, but anything less than that will give Boise State a chance. The Broncos must get a few 9.900s from Glass and Potvin-Green, and they need everyone in that beam rotation to go at least 9.750. The 9.675-9.725s that we’ve been seeing too often are not acceptable at Regionals. Potvin-Green has been putting up humongous AA performances the last few weeks, and she will have have the unenviable duty of needing to match Pisani to keep Boise State close.

Let’s also not overlook Missouri, as the Tigers have been peaking in March and proving a capability to go over 196 consistently. I’m not sure I see them challenging if this is a clean competition because they don’t have the 9.9s that the top three teams do, but they do have enough 9.850s later in lineups to make up for some lower scores starting off. Missouri made Nationals in 2010 on the strength of Sarah Shire and some home scoring, but they don’t have that AA force (like Pisani or Potvin-Green) to lift the rest of the group this year. However, they should hang around enough to pester the other teams and give us something interesting to watch throughout the meet. We won’t be ignoring them the way we will some other #4 seeds.

The Others:
On a good day, New Hampshire can go into the mid-195s, and they have some competitive individual routines but no one who can deliver a big score on more than one event. Expect to see a bunch of 9.725-9.750 routines with a 9.800-9.850 or two anchoring the rotations. The season-high score for UNH is 195.800, so meeting that at a Regional would be a victory.

Maryland posted their best score by far at the conference championships by getting some huge numbers on floor, but I don’t expect that to continue or be enough to contend at Regionals. Like New Hampshire, a score in the mid-195s for Maryland would be a nice result and would show that they can compete with some of the higher-ranked teams. It can be harder for the lower-seeded teams to get high scores at Regionals because they are directly compared with some of the best teams in the country, so staying afloat is a positive outcome.

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama