SEC Championships Preview

While the Pac-12 Championships will be exciting for the battle between UCLA and Utah, tomorrow’s main event is really the SEC Championships. We have a great contest shaping up between Florida and Alabama, which I expect to be very close and will probably come down to a few tenths either way. Unfortunately, the draw has been revealed and Alabama ends on a bye, which takes some of the drama out of it, but try not to let that spoil things. Let’s just hope neither team has to count a fall.

Not to be totally overlooked, Georgia is also the “host” team, and it wouldn’t be inconceivable for them to challenge. However, in a realistic scenario, I don’t see them scoring higher than Florida or Alabama unless we do start counting falls. We could see both Alabama and Florida pushing the 49.500 territory on a few events, and Georgia just doesn’t have the scores throughout the lineup to be able to do that. They can very well go 197.300 this weekend, but I expect the winning total to be higher than that.
Another compelling story at the SEC Championships will be the likely fourth place battle between Arkansas and LSU. Arkansas’s performance will largely depend on whether Grable is available (and on how many events). Unlike some of the deeper teams, the Razorbacks don’t have 9.8s sitting in the wings to come in and replace Grable and Salsberg, so they have been counting a lot of falls and 9.7s the last few weeks. LSU won’t have to do that and will easily outscore a less than ideal Arkansas. In fact, if Georgia doesn’t hit exceptionally, they should watch their backs for LSU. The Tigers are peaking right on time.
In the Pac-12, even though Utah has an excellent chance of winning (and is probably the logical choice), UCLA is the better team if everyone hits to potential, but we don’t have that kind of clear difference between Alabama and Florida. If both teams hit to potential, it could still come down to a tenth, which is, of course, what will make tomorrow so much fun. I think I know which way I’m leaning, but let’s take a look at each event to help confirm the decision. (As with before, these are not official rankings and are instead based on my own opinions and perceptions.)
Vault:
1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Georgia
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky
This is the event with the clearest difference between the top few teams. While Alabama usually gets a .050 boost per vault at home (See: Diandra Milliner’s 10), they’re still capable of at least four solid 9.900s, and I would consider anything less than a 49.500 tomorrow to be an underperformance based on the way the scoring has gone this season.  
Florida is also obviously extremely adept on vault, and on paper they would appear to be able to hit right with Alabama (the lineup of Johnson, King, Dickerson, and Hunter is comparable to Sledge, Gutierrez, Stack-Eaton, and Milliner). However, Florida’s group hasn’t hit those 9.900s nearly as consistently, with far too many scores in the 9.8s coming from those late positions. Also, the leadoffs Spicer and Ellis are not as capable of sticking for an early big score as Clark/Williams/Priess are.
Vault is LSU’s best event, and they have a few 9.900 possibilities in that lineup, with Courville capable of 9.950. The consistency of 9.875 scores puts them just above Georgia in my opinion, since the Gym Dogs are too reliant on Hires and Ding, with everyone else likely to go around 9.825. Georgia has to get at least 9.850s from Couch and Earls if they are going to keep within a reasonable distance of the top two.
Uneven Bars:
1. Georgia
2. Florida
3. Alabama
4. Arkansas
5. LSU
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky

Florida is ranked #1 on bars, and they are certainly talented on the event, but this is a misleading ranking because 1) none of the teams are that great on bars this year, and 2) uneven bars at Florida has been the most overscored rotation in the country this year. Their scores will come down to Earth at SECs, and I expect Georgia to be able to catch them on the strength of Nuccio, Davis, and Ding, all of whom should go 9.900. Chelsea Davis has really found her form on this event, and Kat Ding’s prowess is well documented.
For another season, this is the event where I have the most question marks for Alabama. Stack-Eaton and Priess can score well (much like Georgia’s vault with Hires and Ding), but the likes of Demeo and Jacob are not cutting it for me at the beginning of the lineup. Ashley Sledge also needs to make sure the rest of her routine is worthy of the dismount. If Alabama can stay afloat with a 49.250 here, then they’ll probably be fine, but if we see some 9.775s early in the lineup, that could be a tough ask.
Arkansas doesn’t have the handstands to compete with the top teams on this event, but if Grable is back, I see them scoring acceptably. Auburn, too, has some solid 9.850-9.875s in that bars lineup, so I have them in sixth, but not by a great deal. They could certainly outscore LSU, but I give the edge there to LSU because of Sarie Morrison’s scoring ability.
Balance Beam:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Georgia
4. Arkansas
5. LSU
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky

I’m being kind of hypocritical in this ranking because I have been distrustful of Florida retaining the same beam lineup all season. (What if someone gets injured? No one else has competition preparation.) And yet, I’m giving them the #1 spot on beam because their lineup has been more stable than Alabama’s. For Alabama, I have questions revolving around the name of this blog. What’s the Milliner/Gutierrez situation. Is Kayla Williams in for good? They have big scoring potential, but I don’t have as much trust in the lineup.
Georgia has been fine on this event, and they have a consistent lineup, but Worley is the only one I really see putting up a high score. The rest of them will just be expected to be solid. For Arkansas, Grable is the centerpiece of the lineup, so without her it’s just Jamie Pisani and a whole bunch of 9.7s, which won’t cut it. LSU is similar and could outscore Arkansas, but it will be close. This event could decide their placement.
Floor Exercise:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Georgia
4. LSU
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky


Ah, what to do about floor? I went back and forth on this one. Florida has certainly had an inconsistent showing on floor this season with a few too many OOBs and missed landings sprinkled in, but they have five people in the lineup capable on scoring 9.900, and I’m not sure that Alabama does. Alabama has some great gymnastics at the end of the lineup, but there’s also the Lora Leigh Frost question (she’s not as impressive a 2nd as Stageberg), and the issue with Ashley Sledge doing two layouts as a middle pass. Judges are less likely to be impressed by Alabama than they are Florida.
Georgia has really improved on floor since the disastrous beginning of the season, but they’re too reliant on being able to tape Nuccio together to get a big score, and Mariel Box isn’t really quite at the level needed to score well in the postseason. 
I’m actually surprised I ended up putting Florida above Alabama on three events. So, I suppose that answers the question for me unless Alabama racks up a giant lead because of vault. I’m going with Florida to win. Georgia also looks primed for a #3 finish as expected. In fact, one of the most interesting stories may end up being the fight for 4th and 5th (if you’re like me and think that things like which team finishes 5th at SECs is interesting).
Florida starts on beam tomorrow, so we’ll know right away whether last year’s demons really have been exorcised or whether they were just on a low simmer. If Florida hits beam for something like 49.300 or above, they should cruise through the rest of the events, but if it’s a wobble factory or there’s a fall, look to Alabama to be the sturdier team. 
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Pac-12 Championships Preview

This year, the Pac-12 will be our guinea pig conference (along with the Big 10) for the eight-team, two-session championship format. I’m very much in favor of this format because it gets rid of those insufferable byes and allows us to pay less attention to, for instance, the first session because it will be going on at the same time as SECs. Not everyone loves this format. Jay Clark would prefer a two-day format similar to National Championships. That seems entirely unnecessary and exhausting.

In the Pac-12 this year, the winner will most likely be Utah or UCLA. Oregon State has an outside chance to repeat, but I think they will need some counting falls for that to happen. If everyone hits, then the winner will start with a U. Which U it will be is anyone’s guess right now, which will make for a fun duel coming down to the final rotation (with no byes!).

And yet, picking how the teams will stack up is a tough prospect, so let’s look at what we have, event by event. On event rankings, I’m not going by the actual rankings, just my own perceptions of quality and potential.

Vault:

1. UCLA
2. Utah
3. Stanford
4. Oregon State
5. Arizona
6. Washington
7. Arizona State
8. Cal


This is the easy one. UCLA has the big edge over the other teams in the conference and will need to ride an advantage on this event if they are to take the title. Tauny Frattone is coming off a 10 on senior day, but she can usually go 9.925-9.950 under normal circumstances with a stick, which she has been doing the last few weeks. Frattone is also in an advantageous position since UCLA directly follows Utah on vault. If the judges go big for a Robarts stick on the Omelianchik, they have to do the same for a Frattone stick. UCLA also sports Olivia Courtney, who has the amplitude and distance to score 9.9 for a non-stick, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who has been vaulting poorly for 9.9s for weeks now. If she actually finds her landing, the score will be huge.

In addition to the aforementioned Robarts, Utah also has clean vaults Kailah Delaney and Georgia Dabritz that can go 9.900. This will be enough to keep them ahead of any of the rest of the teams, but the earlier workers don’t quite have the dynamics to challenge UCLA. Peszek and Larson will very likely outscore Lothrop and McAllister. Utah will probably top out around 49.400 on a good day, while that would be a weak score for UCLA.

Down the list, there’s not so much impressive vaulting. I put Oregon State below Stanford because OSU just doesn’t have much amplitude on this event, and Ivana Hong is really starting to find her form on the FTY for Stanford, which could make the difference. It’s close between the two, though.

Uneven Bars:

1. Oregon State
2. UCLA
3. Utah
4. Stanford
5. Washington
6. Arizona
7. Oregon State
8. Cal


This is a much tougher event. One of the reasons Oregon State has stagnated in scoring is an inability to display their tremendous talent on bars. Stambaugh, Mak, and Vivian are joys to watch on this event and should each be going at least 9.875 every week, so perhaps I’m ranking Oregon State first based on potential. Still, none of the other teams have shown enough to warrant being ranked higher. UCLA has Zamarripa and Gerber with lovely performances (and De La Torre when she’s on, which is mostly never), but the rest of the lineup is mostly workmanlike 9.850 gymnastics.

Utah has Dabritz, but other than that it’s nothing that is going to warrant many forays into 9.9 land. Beers and Hansen scored well against Florida, but my skepticism meter is still extremely high about those lineup choices. I put Hailee Hansen in the same category as Becca Alexin, and I don’t have confidence in the consistency of either. With Stanford’s roster, they should be better than fourth in the conference on bars, but is anyone other than Pechanec delivering? Ashley Morgan is not the answer on bars.

A bit rotation here is a must for Oregon State to keep pace, while UCLA and Utah will be trying to get through the event. 49.300 would be a fine score for either.

Balance Beam:
1. UCLA
2. Utah
3. Oregon State
4. Stanford
5. Arizona
6. Washington
7. Arizona State
8. Cal

Beam is difficult because it’s the most fickle with its emotions. My feeling about UCLA v. Utah on this event is that UCLA has the much larger potential and is more pleasant to watch. Gerber, Larson, and Zamarripa are so precise and elegant, and Hopfner-Hibbs and Peszek are rock solid. If those five hit to potential, I fully expect UCLA to win the event by a sizable margin. However, it’s UCLA and beam, so . . .

Utah has Corrie Lothrop performing very well, but otherwise there are too many 9.7s in this lineup every week. (Meaning there are scores in the 9.7s. One is too many.) They do seem like they have an order that is working now, though. I wasn’t happy with Lopez in that leadoff position.

Frankly, I’m surprised that Oregon State has kept it together as well as they have on beam this season, but nearly everyone except Mak is a 9.800-type gymnast, so it’s not enough to contend without falls from the others.

Floor Exercise:
1. Utah
2. UCLA
3. Oregon State
4. Arizona
5. Stanford
6. Arizona State
7. Washington
8. Cal

For as much as I usually just put UCLA as default #1 on floor due to attention to performance quality, I have absolutely no confidence in that lineup this year. Is Monique De La Torre really top 6 on this event? Mattie Larson is out of the lineup due to inconsistency, Hopfner-Hibbs has to mount with a double tuck because of her ankle, and Zamarripa still has to water down. It’s just not happening. They have to be pristine to keep pace.

Utah has scored very well at home on floor, and I expect that to continue here, though they will not be able to contend with Alabama and Florida once we arrive at Nationals. What I’ve seen from Stanford this year on floor has been harrowing, so I put them below Arizona. Both of the Arizona schools have the potential to put up pretty strong numbers on this event to counteract some other sub-49 scores.

So, making these rankings has convinced me that I’m favoring UCLA to win the title. That may be misguided because Utah has a lot of things in their favor: home gym, home crowd, and Olympic order. Still, I think UCLA has more depth (the 3rd and 4th routines have higher scoring potential overall) and more nationally competitive routines throughout the lineup. It will be very close, certainly, but I see UCLA taking it with both teams going over 197.500.

As for the AA, I’d like to see it go to either Zamarripa or Mak, both of whom are certainly capable of it, but the safer and more realistic choices are probably Peszek and Lothrop, who can 9.875 the meet all the way to a 49.500-49.550.

The Weekend Agenda (March 24th)

Well, here we are again. Conference Championships, aka the most frustrating day in college gym. Because of TV deals, we don’t get live streaming of any crucial competitions. Those who get the Big 10 Network will be able to watch those championships live on TV, but the rest of the world is left to feast on the scraps of live scoring and audio feeds like the miserable peasants we are. Both the Pac-12s and SECs will not be broadcast on TV until the 29th.

I’ll be here popping in throughout the day on Saturday with all sorts of opinions, potentially even judgmental and unfounded ones. It’ll be a great day. A lot of the action is happening at the same time, so we’ll have to create a situation room with all the live scoring windows. The SEC always seems to suddenly forget how the internet works when championships come around, so we’ll have to keep on top of that scoring and make sure it’s working before the meet starts. Get Kevin Copp on it.

Championships Schedule:
Friday – 3/23/12
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – BYU @ [14] Boise State

Saturday – 3/24/12

2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – Big 10 Championships Session 1 – [21] Michigan, [23] Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State

2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – EAGL Championships – [20] NC State, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, George Washington Rutgers

3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – MAC Championships – Kent State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Ball State

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – SEC Championships – [1] Florida, [3] Alabama, [5] Georgia, [8] LSU, [10] Arkansas, [15] Auburn, [24] Kentucky

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 1 – [17] Arizona, [22] Washington, Arizona State, Cal

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Big 12 Championships – [2] Oklahoma, [19] Missouri, [25] Iowa State

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Big 10 Championships Session 2 – [6] Nebraska, [12] Penn State, [13] Ohio State, [16] Minnesota

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 2 – [4] UCLA, [7] Utah, [8] Oregon State, [11] Stanford

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – WAC Championships – [18] Denver, San Jose State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah, Utah State

Monday Rankings

National Rankings for March 19, 2012
1. Florida – 197.395
2. Oklahoma – 197.310
3. Alabama – 197.155
4. UCLA – 197.140
5. Georgia – 196.995
6. Nebraska – 196.960
7. Utah – 196.705
8. LSU  – 196.550
8. Oregon State – 196.550
10. Arkansas – 196.545
11. Stanford – 196.315
12. Penn State – 196.230
13. Ohio State – 196.115
14. Boise State – 195.990
15. Auburn – 195.965
16. Minnesota – 195.880
17. Arizona – 195.870
18. Denver – 195.865
19. Missouri – 195.825
20. NC State – 195.715
21. Michigan – 195.710
22. Washington – 195.595
23. Illinois – 195.545
24. Kentucky – 195.490
25. Iowa State – 195.275

Troester

  • A few minor changes to the rankings from last week. Alabama has moved ahead of UCLA for the #3 spot. The changes around the top of the rankings are only significant right now as teams are attempting to avoid falling into that Auburn Regional (#3 seed as host = dangerous, especially given some of the home scores Auburn has seen). I would say Auburn is less likely to fall than they are to gain this weekend, so it may actually be advantageous to end up at #4. Minnesota is a very attractive potential #3 seed for any of the top teams.
  • In fact, Alabama will have a very nice look at the #2 ranking after SECs. Alabama is still counting a low 196.325 as a road score, so they wouldn’t even have to do that well to pass up Oklahoma, even if Oklahoma scores well at home. Even UCLA has an outside shot at passing Oklahoma, but they would need a 197.650 at Pac-12s and help from the Sooners. Alabama also has a mathematical chance to take over #1, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I think we can assume that Florida will be the #1 Regional seed again this year.
  • Georgia also has a slim chance to move up. They would need to get into the lowish 197s to have a shot, and UCLA can prevent it completely with a 197.200 themselves. I do expect Georgia to score well at SECs because they have the advantage of what is essentially a home meet that counts as a road score. There is the opportunity for righteous indignation about that, but Florida and Alabama have had the same benefit in past years, Oklahoma had a road meet in Oklahoma City this year, and UCLA has had years of road meets at CSUF where they got home scoring, so it’s not exactly new or worth the energy.
  • Regardless of how all that plays out, our top 6 seeds for Regionals will be the current top 6 in some order. Likewise, Ohio State could potentially flip flop with Penn State, but they would still be going to the same Regional, so our group of 7-12 is essentially decided as well. The big issue now is placement. 
  • After the first few weeks of the season, I don’t think any of us would have expected to see LSU ranked ahead of Arkansas, but that can certainly change after SECs. With Grable in the lineup, Arkansas is the more talented team, but LSU is on a better peaking trajectory. Arkansas and Oregon State have really fallen off in recent weeks.

Thoughts on a Regular Season

The regular season is hereby complete, and we have depressingly few meet days remaining until another season has passed us by. While the events that are yet to unfold in the postseason will go a long way toward determining how this season will be remembered, it’s time to take a step back and analyze what we’ve seen so far.

Overall, I’m pleased. The level of gymnastics, especially among the top teams, has been noticeably stronger than it was last year. Certainly, the scores have been much higher than they were in 2011 (and we’ll get to that in a minute), but more importantly the routine quality and difficulty has been stronger across the board. Utah is a prime exemplar of this improvement. The additions of Delaney and Dabritz have given this team a refinement and scoring potential that they lacked a year ago. And yet, they made Super Six last year, which is no guarantee for them in 2012. We have enough parity at the top this year that I honestly think we won’t see a team making Super Six while counting a fall in Semifinals, which is always the ideal.

Everyone expected Florida, Alabama, and UCLA to have great seasons, so while the (primarily) strong gymnastics they have given us this season should not be overlooked, all three of these teams have largely met expectations without necessarily exceeding them. Instead, I give a lot of credit for the excitement we are soon to see (legitimate, high-quality fights for places in Finals!) to the strength of Oklahoma, Georgia, and Nebraska.

First, our #2 Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma was the preseason #4, which should indicate that their presence in the title race is no surprise. However, after the loss of Natasha Kelley, everyone (and by everyone, I usually mean just me, but in this case I really mean everyone) believed that this team would fall well behind. We said the same thing after Hollie Vise graduated. I give K.J. Kindler a lot of credit on that front. Over the last few years, her teams’ performances have been incredibly consistent regardless of the changing rosters. One gets the sense that she could take a group of Level 9s and have them competing for the NCAA title after a year with her.

In Georgia’s third year under Jay Clark, we have seen by far the most cohesive team of his tenure. While the 2010 team was probably more talented (with McCool, Taylor, etc.), this team seems both healthy and totally bought in to Jay as their head coach. Georgia was the preseason #9, the lowest preseason ranking ever for a Georgia team, but they have proved an ability far beyond that ranking, led by Kat Ding’s emergence as one of the country’s top all-arounders. Likewise, Nebraska was a bit of a surprise entrant in Super Six last year, and it seemed completely unlikely that it would happen again. Yet, this team has ridden it’s two and a half gymnasts all the way to #6. I mentioned at the beginning of the year that the lack of depth was unsustainable, but this team has sustained it.

Along with some delightful standout individual performances across the country, those teams are the reasons this season has been pleasant. And yet, it’s not all sunshine and candy-coated raindrops. In fact, I expected (perhaps naively) some stronger overall gymnastics, especially because of the immensely talented crop of new gymnasts, many of whom have not really materialized as stars. Now, I grant that it is difficult for many freshmen to adjust and become scoring leaders right away, but some excellent former elites haven’t had the impact I would have liked to see.

Mattie Larson has been a fine mid-lineup performer on three events for UCLA, but her most delightful event should be floor. We were all looking forward to seeing her raise the level of performance. Instead, her lack of consistency has her behind even Sydney Sawa on UCLA’s floor depth chart. Because of injuries, Ivana Hong and Samantha Shapiro have not performed the kind of gymnastics we would like to see from them, and Kayla Williams has also been very slow to make herself useful for Alabama. The previous accomplishments of these gymnasts gave us high expectations that have not even remotely been met.

The other major disappointing story this season has been gymnastics being overshadowed by scores. Every season we have a preponderance of 9.825-quality routines. The ability to produce this kind of consistent score is very valuable to every team, but rather than appreciate that kind of consistent performance, we can only marvel at why these 9.825 routines are suddenly receiving 9.900s. When the score is so out of sync with reality, the gymnastics becomes secondary. So many times this year we have seen the judges deem that there is no difference between an average routine and an exceptional one, which leaves us only to gape and wonder (and complain . . . oh, yes, the complaining . . .).

And yet, as I said before, I’m pleased. I’m pleased because I honestly think we will have a thoroughly exciting Championships weekend. Even if the scores are insane, it will make for fantastic sport, and that’s ultimately what we look for. And if the judges finally wake up and realize the difference between good and great, then even better.

2012 Pacific Rims – (It Used To Be a) Live Blog

Wow! That Pac Rims commercial had all my favorites: Aly Raisman, Shawn Johnson, AND Nastia Liukin. I can’t wait to see how they perform today!
It’s time for another NBC gymnastics experience. By all accounts, this competition was a bit of a mess last night, so I’m especially excited for the broadcast. Make a special note of how they handle the Gabby Douglas hype situation, whether they bother to show any other countries, and whether Tim claims that Russia barely sent a team because they were mad about Jordyn Wieber or because they don’t understand how “prestigious” this competition is. What are we going for today, “Most Important Biennial International Gymnastics Event Sometimes Held on American Soil”? Sounds good to me.
Here we go from 1:00 ET / 10:00 PT

“The Eyes of Martha Karolyi” will be the theme today.

It was nice of Al to pretend like the other countries sent viable teams.

Ohashi’s DTY is getting better. It’s a little less scary than it used to be in the landing. A little leg form at the end, but otherwise it’s fine.

Reports were right that Priessman is twisting SO MUCH onto the horse. Plus a stumble back.

“A fall is bad.” Emily Little has a fine but sluggish beam routine with a fall on a tuck full. She should consider doing NCAA.

“Some Japanese problems on the vault.” Nice that we’re seeing some highlights from the first session. Lee looked excellent on bars, then a bunch of mistakes from the rest of the crowd. Elfi has provided helpful clarification that PPL prefers Peng Peng instead of Christine. Good and good to know. Excellent beam routine from her as well. I really love watching her gymnastics. Her 1.5 to double arabian was great, as was Moors on the double double.

Our trio is effectively setting up Gabby’s vault disaster. Completely missed her hand and jammed her ankles on the landing – OUCH. They’re right that it could have been worse, but she was just completely off. Probably would have been better not trying to land this on her feet and just accepting the zero, but that’s a very difficult decision to make in mid-air.

Nice flexibility from Simpson on beam, but some mistakes. At least they didn’t pair Gabby’s disaster with Georgia’s on floor. Terrible dismount. This really is a mess of a competition so far.

Who exactly is calling Kyla Ross the X-Factor, Andrea? HA! Kyla didn’t look so bad on the Amanar except for the legs, but then she just continued running straight off the mat. It was almost like Anna Li at 20120 vault event finals. That was very poor in the landing, but at least it wasn’t dangerous. Jordyn is much stronger and performs what has become her usual Amanar.

Lauren Mitchell never looks that strong early in the season. This was a fine routine, except for her wonky tuck turn and a bad double tuck dismount. Everyone looks totally sloppy and off so far.

What would this competition look like if you were a non-fan who just happened to turn it on? You would be thinking, “Why are all these gymnasts so horrible at gymnastics?”

China is bad/unremarkable on vault.

Fine from Hundley on bars. One REALLY late pirouette (MLT will be displeased), but she improved at the end into the stuck dismount. Very strong on bars from Ohashi. Still some handstands that need to be worked on, but I expect this routine to get very good.

To any following: due to storms, I’ve lost my TV signal, so I can’t comment anymore. ARG. I may be back.

Well, this is a disaster on my end as well as theirs. Sorry. Maybe this is a sign that I should just stop with the elite. Yesterday it was the scores, today it’s the TV. I’ll see what I can see and post overall thoughts later.

And we’re alive again! That is, if anyone stuck around. We’re getting a look at our NZL juniors. There are some nice basics here, but of course almost no elite-level difficulty.

Back to the US for beam. Hundley was probably a bit stronger in training – a little less confident on some of her acro here. Kyla Ross has such excellent form on this event that it is easy to forgive some of those wobbles. I’d like to see her upgrade the double tuck dismount. She finishes it so easily that it’s a clear place to pick up some difficulty.

That really nice interview with Gabby Douglas (she’s more comfortable with interviews than people usually are when they’ve recently turned senior) precedes her major struggle on the beam, one that seems pretty clearly a result of that ankle issue from vault. Fortunately, it doesn’t really seem like a major or long-term injury, at least from what we can see here.

Ohashi was glorious. I approve of the downgrade on the dismount. The double pike works much better for her. She’s never looked more confident on her layout full. We can also see why Wieber got the high score that she did because she had very few errors. I still hate her handspring sandwich around the back full, but it was the best she has done it. (Still, should it actually get connection value? I say no, but my code exploitation resentment may be showing.)

Opinion is divided about Ohashi’s floor routine. I don’t hate it, but I don’t care for the music choice and I still think she has some maturing to do as a performer (which is expected for her age). Also, some of the moves are a little stock WOGA/Rebecca Bross. She has more potential as a mover/dancer and should not be subjected to that. She has the potential to be given a great floor routine down the line, but this isn’t it yet.

Lexie Priessman was pretty sloppy through her routine on several passes. I don’t know if I dislike this routine as much as I’m supposed to, but I definitely have some questions. Most of them regard that absolutely bizarre music change right before the last pass. What is happening? Priessman is having an OK but unremarkable competition. Nothing that will keep her on the forefront of 2013 conversations, especially given how many returners I think we will have from the 2011-2012 classes.

Great. Now I’m going to have Phantom stuck in my head all through the elite summer. Thanks, Kyla. This routine in unremarkable in terms of both choreography and tumbling. Tim is trying to pretend that this performance is what Kyla needs in order to peak for the summer, but I think she has set herself up as an attractive alternate but hasn’t made an Olympic case with any of her routines. 5.5 difficulty on floor doesn’t do it.

The only one who can really take a positive from this competition is Wieber, who can point to this to say that she really is the best AAer in the country and that the American Cup loss to Douglas was just a random thing instead of the rule. Douglas will not be pleased by the performance today, but it’s hardly the end of the world. After American Cup, she was the darling of the world, and now she will be the pariah. Obviously, the truth is somewhere in between. Her bars routine will keep her right toward the top of the Olympic competition, but she will still have to earn her spot this summer. Remember, she had a horrid Championships last year, and Martha still chose her for the World team, so a bad performance (especially one largely due to injury) will not somehow hurt her chances too drastically.

China ended up barely passing Canada for second because of quality on beam, so the US ended up winning by only 19 points instead of 20. I was so close! Australia finished fourth after a bars disaster.

Jordyn actually just used the words “it’s an honor to be nominated.” Haha, love it.

Oh NBC, how dare you give us an interview will adorable little New Zealand girls to erase my disaste with whatever nonsense you were just saying about Gabby Douglas having to find a way to get her confidence back. Am I the only one who thinks this weaker performance was not a big deal at all for Douglas? As long as her ankle is OK, we’ll forget about this in thirty seconds.

Final Friday – Florida, Utah, Alabama, Pac Rims

It’s our last Friday of regular season competition. Shed a fake tear.

Of note:
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [7] Utah @ [1] Florida
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [9] Arkansas @ [16] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Iowa State @ [6] Nebraska
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – West Virginia @ [10] LSU
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – North Carolina @ [4] Alabama
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – New Hampshire, Seattle Pacific @ [8] Oregon State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – Pac Rim Women’s Subdivision 2 (USA Session)


Lots of scores to follow, plus the live feed from Alabama. Full discussion after the jump from 7:00 ET / 4:00 PT.



As we wait to get started in Florida, a minor update from the Pac Rim Championships, where our dear Canadians dominated the early session, opening up a 6.5 point lead over Japan’s C team and a 8.5 point lead over Russia’s R team. USA, Australia, and China will compete in the later session.

Future UCLA gymnast Christine Peng Peng Lee (Which is she going by? Does anyone know?) leads the senior AA by a ton over her teammates Vaculik and Moors with a very nice score of 57.800. Elegance, originality, and performance quality. Root for her.

Looking at Utah against Florida, the first rotation will tell us a lot. I have doubts about several Utah UB workers (Hansen, Beers), and they either need to be out of the lineup or making themselves better as of this week. For Florida, vault should be a strength with their power, but they haven’t yet proven the ability to match Alabama and UCLA’s consistent 49.500s.

Over in Michigan, the Wolverines have gone over 49 on vault, but their problems usually start on the other events. Vault is the good one.

Well, one of my questions for the rotation has been answered with Beers going 9.850. I have questions, but still. She’s a better fit for the leadoff position. And now Hansen has gone 9.900. Shows what I know. We’ll wait to see what Dickerson gets. Bars scoring at Florida this season has been a little participation ribbon.

Florida has started with 9.775, 9.800 on vault. It’s about right for those two, but like I mentioned, a few other teams don’t have to wait until #3 to start scoring. And as expected, Dickerson, King, and Johnson arrive with stronger scores to push Florida up into what can be the 49.400s depending on Hunter.

Fall for Lopez from Utah. Pressure on Dabritz now, who has been the best yet least reliable worker for Utah this year. Once again, live scoring from Florida is a molasses mess.

Florida scores 49.325 on vault. Fine but not exceptional. Just one score hitting 9.900. They might even be behind Utah after the first rotation, which I never would have expected.

Well, Utah got the hit they wanted from Dabritz, but it was McAllister who had the mistake, recording 9.400. What could have been a 49.400 for Utah is, instead, a 48.900. More road struggles. Lopez and McAllister are certainly not the two athletes I would have expected to fall.

I am fascinated to see how Florida scores on bars. Do I hear 49.600? Utah needs a stick from Robarts on vault to gain some momentum back.

Interesting that Dabritz is going so early in Utah’s vault lineup now, but she scores 9.900, and Tory Wilson also scores well, which I wouldn’t have picked out in preseason. She did not stand out at all a few months ago.

Ashanee Dickerson has received 9.950 on bars. Remember this.


I’m just going to move on. It’s for the best. Kytra Hunter had a fall, which means Florida will be counting two scores in the 9.8 range. Utah is scoring consistently well on vault, but just a 9.825 from Robarts. They could have gone even higher. Lothrop is doing her Omelianchik as well now and scored a 9.825. I’d like to see her in vault finals at Championships if for no other reason than that she has a legitimate repertoire of vaults and won’t throw some lame layout as her second vault.

Ah, Florida scores 49.500 on bars. I was so close to predicting it! Dickerson and Johnson receive the same score, but Johnson’s toe point, rhythm, control, and line are so much stronger that it’s a frustrating result to see those qualities not be rewarded. There are events where Dickerson is as good as (if not better than) Johnson, but bars is not one of them.

After two events, Florida leads 98.825–98.225. Florida is on 197.600 pace.

Stageberg starts beam for Florida with a 9.775. The lineup will once again be the same as it has been all season.

Utah’s coverage used multiple exclamation points to describe Becky Tutka’s routine, so we can assume so hit well. Score is 9.850, which matches Spicer on beam, who recovered from her recent fall with a strong score.

A fall from Robarts (Utah’s third of the meet) will put them in an even bigger hole as Florida’s scores continue to skyrocket with a 9.925 from Johnson on beam. Florida’s vaulting lows (ish) seem to have been a momentary blip. I could certainly see them exceeding the 197.550 they need to move up in RQS.

You mean Florida only scored 49.475 on beam? Slackers. They won’t be able to reach 198 today because of bars, but 197.7-197.8 is doable. They need 197.700 to ensure they hold onto #1 regardless of what Oklahoma does.

Does anyone have scores for Arkansas? The live scoring isn’t working for me.

Utah doesn’t have to count Robarts’s fall and scores a respectable 49.175. A hit beam could get them into the higher 196s, but it’s nothing that will really help their RQS or momentum much. They’ll have to rely on Pac-12s to do that. Utah will have the benefit of home crowd and Olympic order then, so expect it.

After 3: Florida 148.300 Utah 147.400

Final rotation begins with a McAllister 9.825 on beam. Better leadoffs for Utah today. I like her in this position more than Lopez. Amy Ferguson caps off her home career with a 9.825 as well in the leadoff position for Florida.

After the scores finish off here, I’ll be keeping an eye on Alabama for the final home performances for Priess and Stack-Eaton, along with our last opportunity to hear “Gaoow, Guh Bama, Gaoow” this year.

Utah is hanging around the 9.800 area for the first three routines, scores dropping for each successive gymnast – bad sign. Florida is following their 9.825, 9.875, higher pattern so far.

Johnson scores 9.900 and Dickerson goes 9.925 – can we expect higher from King and Hunter? Quite possibly. Watch for another 49.500+ here.

Robarts has a fall for Utah, meaning they are in danger of going below 49 again unless Lothrop goes 9.850+. That’s two falls and a weaker than usual vault for Robarts. Lothrop gets a 9.900, so Utah finishes with 196.450.

King, Dickerson, and Johnson have all gone over 39.600 in the AA.

Missed the very start of Alabama, but Priess vaults a very nice Yfull with a little bit of low body but a stuck landing. North Carolina has a Chelsea Davis-alike named Emily Cornwell.

Sledge vaults a yfull with a little bit of a low chest and a step back. Won’t score as well as Priess.

Over in Florida, Hunter and King got their 9.950s, so Florida goes 49.600 here. See, I knew there would be a 49.600 somewhere. Total score for Florida is 197.900, which is their highest of the season and the second-highest score in the country overall.

Huge bounce back for Stack-Eaton. Not her best. Overall the Alabama vaults were just OK. Not their best landings by any means except Milliner, who stuck hers for 9.950 to help the team score 49.475. Great score, but quality-wise they won’t be so happy with it. It wasn’t a postseason-level performance.

Over in Nebraska, the Huskers had a great bar rotation, but beam looks like it will bring down the score a bit. 197 is still attainable.

Demeo hits bars, but not with the composure in handstand that I’d like to see. I still have some concerns about these first three on bars, especially when one of the final three doesn’t hit for a huge score like Stack-Eaton here.

***

Back now. Time to keep track of the big score Alabama is building going in to the final rotation, as well as the start of the evening subdivision at Pac Rims, featuring the USA. Alabama went 49.525 on beam, featuring a 9.950 from DeMeo.

Alabama just has to go 49.275 on this rotation to ensure that they tie UCLA in the rankings. Not quite so solid on the tumbling from Priess, but it should be a fine score.

PR: Ohashi opens the US vault with 14.850 on a DTY. Priessman hits her Amanar well, and Ross records a fine score, but it looks like Douglas has fallen on her Amanar. And she looked so solid at the American Cup.

Very insecure on the DLO from Sledge. That will hurt her score. Gutierrez looks like she will score well. Not her best from Stack-Eaton in terms of body position on the tumbling, but it was a fine routine overall.

In Arkansas news, they’ve recorded another very low score of 195.450, missing Grable again.

PR: Wieber scores the best of the group on the Amanar with a 15.700. They’ll drop Douglas’s score. Lauren Mitchell scores a 14.800 on beam, and Tan Sixin performs just a 5.5 floor routine for 13.900. Don’t expect the US to have much trouble winning this competition.

Stack-Eaton gets a 9.925, which is too high, and Alabama ends with a 197.625, which should allow them to pass UCLA for 3rd for the time being. Not sure yet which position would be more advantageous at this point. The #4 team might very well get the Arkansas Regional, which looked like a land mine early in the season, but with the injury situation the Razorbacks are facing, that might be a very attractive Regional indeed. But who knows, Arkansas could be in a battle for that ranking with LSU at SECs.

PR: The US will score a 60.700 on vault. It could have been higher. Remember last time when the US won by like 15 points? We could see a repeat . . . or more.

Amelia Hundley leads off bars for the US with a 14.000, which is fine for her. Interesting that she got the bars spot over Priessman (whose score will not count toward the team on this event). She is improving at a much faster rate.

Ohashi follows up with a 14.650, 8.650 on execution. This is a routine I expect to become very strong over the next few years. As she grows, I do expect her to lose some of her current skills, but I think the growth will help her on bars.

Ross exceeds 9.000 on execution for her 15.250 bar performance. Good execution score, but she’s going to need a higher difficulty score if she wants to earn a spot performing bars on the Olympic team. She has to prove that she is notably better than Wieber. This is a start, but she’s capable of more.

China is vaulting a bunch of Yfulls, except for a fall from Luo P on a DTY. Douglas scores 15.500 on bars for a 6.4 routine to lead the team on bars recovering from the vault mishap. I will be interested to see how that routine shapes up when they show it tomorrow morning. I’m impressed that she’s added such a competent Healy to her routine so quickly.

The US almost matches the vault score on bars with a 60.400. That’s a great sign for them. My money is on a 20-point margin this year. I made a Harlem Globetrotters reference during the American Cup, but maybe it’s more appropriate here.

From Blythe, it sounds like a major injury to Georgia Simpson (broken ankle?) is the culprit for the current wait on the floor. Emily Little scores a 14.150 following up after the injury, which is a strong score. She’s setting herself up as the clear #2 on this team.

Lauren Mitchell puts up a big floor difficulty of 6.3, which exceeds what Raisman competed at American Cup, and scores a 14.850 to lead Australia to a 56.250, the highest floor score of the competition so far despite the injury and scratch from Simpson.

The US in currently in the bye between bars and beam. I’m going to call it a day on the scoring, but we’ll pick things up here tomorrow at 1:00 ET / 10:00 PT for the actual NBC broadcast of the competition. Mmmm tape delay. Don’t we all just love it?

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama