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?

Florida, But . . .

Memories still fresh.

It must be difficult to know that everyone is sitting around waiting to see if you’ll screw up or not.

And yet, every single member of the Florida team is aware of the reputation. They know that we always have an asterisk next to their #1 ranking because the narrative that they can’t peak at the right time has become so entrenched with the very thought of the team. The team might as well be called “Florida But” because every time someone is asked who should win National Championships, the answer starts with “Florida, but . . .”

Like most trends in sports, the perception and the reality don’t always line up. There have certainly been years (recently too) where peaking has not been Florida’s problem, but that will hardly matter to the team. Sometimes, reputation is stronger than truth.

And so, Florida will enter into their final performances of 2012 once again as the #1 team and with more to prove than ever. Every year they have a team this talented and fail to win the title, the pressure, narrative, and perception all grow even larger. And the larger something gets, the harder it is to overcome. Florida has to prove that this team will rise above the narrative, not bow down to it. They have to show us they can hit for the title before anyone will start to believe it.

All signs seem to indicate that they can do it this year . . . but we said that last year, too. And the competition is even stronger this year. In 2011, Florida had a mandate. No one doubted they were the best team in the country. That’s not the case this year. Florida could solve the peaking problem, hit amazingly in Finals, and still lose the title.

And so the pressure grows.

The Weekend Agenda (March 16th-18th)

Top 25 Schedule (and other events)
Friday – 3/16/12
4:30 ET / 1:30 PT – Pac Rim Women’s Subdivision 1
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Michigan State @ [21] Michigan
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
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – BYU @ [14] Auburn
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – North Carolina @ [4] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [15] Boise State @ Southern Utah
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Air Force, Bridgeport @ [18] Arizona
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)

Saturday – 3/17/12
1:00 ET / 10:00 PT – NBC Pac Rim Broadcast (Women’s Event)
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – [2] Oklahoma @ [13] Ohio State
4:30 ET / 1:30 PT – Pac Rim Men’s Subdivision 1
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – State of Illinois Classic ([22] Illinois)
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Maryland @ [12] Penn State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – William & Mary @ [20] NC State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – [23] Kentucky @ Centenary
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [19] Minnesota, [25] Arizona State, Iowa @ [17] Denver
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – Pac Rim Men’s Subdivision 2 (USA Session)

Sunday – 3/18/12
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – Pac Rim Junior Event Finals
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [24] Washington @ Cal
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Pac Rim Senior Event Finals

We have some more elite action this weekend, and it will be fun to follow the scores on Friday so that we can devote our time on Saturday solely to the broadcast, asking the tough, important questions like, “Huh?” and “Really?” Pac Rims will provide a crucial look at how Kyla Ross fits into the Olympic question.

In NCAA this weekend, all of the lower-ranked teams will be trying to position themselves for the postseason, getting into the all important top 12 or top 18. However, the main focus will be on Utah and Florida. The biggest question for Utah is whether the home Utes can show up on the road, and the biggest question for Florida is whether the old, collapse-y Gators will show up at all. Caquatto will not be competing, and King is coming back from a pec aggravation (though will compete) so we’ll have to keep an eye on that bars lineup.

Oklahoma and Alabama will also be hoping to position themselves with a big score while showing what their postseason lineups are capable of. Oklahoma had to move things around a little last weekend to disastrous effect, and I still have some questions about Alabama’s beam and floor lineups. This is the week for the big guns. The time for accepting anything less than a 9.8 has passed.

Oregon State also has to prove that they are part of a Top 8, not a Next 4. They haven’t made the jump to consistent 197s with the rest of the best teams, and they are falling back along with multi-injured Arkansas.

Monday Rankings

National Rankings for March 12, 2012
1. Florida – 197.330
2. Oklahoma – 197.310
3. UCLA – 197.140
4. Alabama – 197.065
5. Georgia – 196.995
6. Nebraska – 196.960
7. Utah – 196.615
8. Oregon State – 196.550
9. Arkansas – 196.545
10. LSU – 196.440
11. Stanford – 196.315
12. Penn State – 196.120
13. Ohio State – 196.000
14. Auburn – 195.965
15. Boise State – 195.830
16. Missouri – 195.790
17. Denver – 195.755
18. Arizona – 195.750
19. Minnesota – 195.665
20. NC State – 195.665
21. Michigan – 195.475
22. Illinois – 195.425
23. Kentucky – 195.255
24. Washington – 195.175
25. Arizona State – 195.145


Oklahoma was not able to take the top spot over the weekend because of a poor performance at UCLA where we saw exactly what happens when Oklahoma fails to stick landings – a lot of 49.200 rotations. For a team that has been so excellent on the road, I was surprised at how much trouble they appeared to have adjusting to the UCLA floor. They’ll have another opportunity to become #1 this weekend, but Florida is also in action at home against Utah and scores are expected to be very high.

The other notable change at the top is the fall of Arkansas. They competed without Salsberg (out for the season) and Grable (should be back), and it was a disaster. They don’t have the depth to withstand losing either, but the return of Grable should help stabilize the heart rate.

Some number crunching after the jump:

  • Florida and Oklahoma are secure in the top two spots for now. Since Florida is at home, the team will need a 197.550 to increase their RQS. If Florida remains constant and does not achieve that 197.550, Oklahoma can tie them with a 197.300 at Ohio State. Florida would have to score 197.700 to guarantee retention of the top spot this week. 
  • UCLA and Georgia are idle this week, so Alabama and Nebraska will be itching to move up. Alabama would need to go 197.550 (it’s a theme this week) at home against North Carolina to tie UCLA at #3. Nebraska would need a 196.925 at home against Iowa State to tie Georgia.
  • Utah cannot catch Nebraska this week, and given that they are hosting Pac-12s, it will be very difficult for them to move up out of #7 at all. If they are to do it, though, they need to make up as much ground as possible this weekend with another mid-197 score.
  • Beyond that, we will see some shakeups but nothing that should drastically alter the Regional landscape.
If Regionals were decided today, here’s how things would shape up:
Regional 1: Florida, Penn State, Ohio State 
Regional 2: Oklahoma, Stanford, Auburn (host)
Regional 3: UCLA, LSU, Boise State 
Regional 4: Alabama, Arkansas (host), Missouri
Regional 5: Georgia, Oregon State, Denver 
Regional 6: Nebraska, Utah (host), Arizona 
Honestly, Penn State/Ohio State and Auburn/Stanford are the only qualification questions I would have in this arrangement. It seems pretty dry. That being said, crazy things always happen on Regional day. Outside of our top 18, I think the only major concerns would be NC State (as host) and Michigan.

Senior Sunday – Oklahoma @ UCLA Live Blog

2:30 ET / 11:30 PT – NC State @ Georgia
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Oklahoma @ UCLA

It’s Senior Day for the gymnasts from Georgia and UCLA, so a little nostalgic look at highlights for these seniors before we get to the day’s action. Along with Alabama, these teams are going to have the biggest shoes to fill next year.

Probably not even the best beam she’s done at UCLA, but she’ll always have that 10. Through all the UCLA beam troubles, she’s been the unifying force. EHH fixes things.
Our dynamic duo on bars for Georgia. That’s how you land. Never a moment’s doubt. They’re the last Suzanne gymnasts on this Georgia team, and to me, they are this Georgia team.

The most graceful gymnast UCLA has had in a number of years, carrying on her Tousek legacy. Imagine how many big scores she would have had if she hadn’t been leading off the last two seasons. 

Tauny Frattone. Coming alive. 
The best vault and floor she’s ever done have come in her senior season. No easy feat.
The walk-on with the bad legs who gets a 9.925 on floor.

Written off by everyone (ahem . . . me) and having an important season for the Bruins.

Comments on scores and routines after the jump when the action begins.

Georgia has its true lineups back today, with Ding and Nuccio back in on their events and Worley on bars and beam. This is very close to what we should expect in the postseason, if not the exact lineup.

We’ll start the actual meet a bit later than usual because of the senior presentations.

Since Georgia is at home (and they already have 3 high home scores), the Gymdogs don’t have much room to move up in RQS save for about a tenth if they were to record a season-high. They won’t be able to catch UCLA or probably Alabama, but they’ll want to try to stay ahead of Nebraska for now.

We’re underway now. 9.800 for Davis on vault. Fine score, but she can go higher with a stick. Shouldn’t matter as much with Ding in the lineup, though. Less pressure on the early vaulters than there was on Friday. Exact same can be said for Couch’s 9.800.

Persinger goes 9.825, followed by Kaylan Earls with a 9.750 (step forward). Jay will be disappointed by the landings from most of these early vaulters. At this point in the season, anything less than a stick starts to be a disappointment. The top vault teams have 4 people who can go 9.9 even when not producing their best work.

Kat Ding shows the rest of her team how to do it with a 9.925. It’s nice to see her start well. You never know how people are going to react on Senior Day/Night. Sometimes it can just be a river of tears the whole meet with no chance for a good performance. After 1 Rotation: Georgia 49.175, NC State 48.750. NC State had a bunch of 9.7s, but was led by Fincham’s 9.850

Tanella is able to stick her landing on bars pretty consistently now, which is making her a valuable contributor even though she’s having an off season in terms of making other lineups. 9.850.

We’re a little slow with the scores here for a moment at the Georgia meet. Sounds like Davis went career high (9.950) which is excellent for her. She’ll be the featured routine next year. So far I’ve seen Tanella at 9.850, Couch at 9.775, Davis at 9.950, Nuccio at 9.825, and Ding at 9.925.

Kat Ding goes 9.925. Everyone was hoping for a 10, but not quite there this time. Overall, Georgia went 49.325 on bars, and Georgia leads 98.500 to 97.550 after 2. Never got a score for the missing routine (Shayla?) but it didn’t count toward the team score. No surprise there. Sigh. It was a 9.775 from Shayla, so fine. . . no disaster there.

On beam, Couch recovers from Friday with a 9.825. Kat Ding had a major wobble on a full turn and goes 9.725, so they’ll need to drop it if they have an eye on something over 197. They’ll have to average 49.375 on the remaining events if they want to move up at all in RQS.

Earls steps up with a 9.900 on beam. Is that her first of the season? She’s been entrenched in the 9.8 range for a number of weeks now. Other than that they’ll be counting 9.825s with Shayla still to go.   Shayla goes 9.950 with an iffy landing. You feel they really wanted to give her a 10 today.

Georgia leads 147.825-146.475 after three events, so the Gymdogs need just a 49.175 to hit 197 today.

We’re beginning the final rotation of this meet now, with Earls scoring 9.850 to lead off floor. No Worley in this lineup (which is three weeks in a row now and will probably continue, I would think). get ready for some big scores in this rotation. Persinger at 9.900, so they should go well over 197 if these first two scores are any indication.

If not for the issue on beam, this would have been a career performance for Kat Ding. Really excellent 9.925 on floor. Thrilled for all these seniors ending the right way on floor. This is a major rotation, especially on an event that’s been such a problem for them this year – 49.550 for the rotation.

Final Score: Georgia 197.375, NC State 195.525
Georgia should be happy with this performance. I still don’t see them taking SECs (I can’t imagine they will be able to outscore both UF and Bama), but this is the kind of meet where you say “that’s the way I want them.” They shouldn’t change a thing. This is the lineup, this is the team.
A short break, and then we’ll have UCLA and Oklahoma

Oklahoma @ UCLA
Olivia Courtney has a concussion and will not compete. This team really can’t catch a break this year. There’s always an injury. UCLA is also reporting that EHH is warming up her 2010 floor routine. That was by far my favorite of hers.

Have I mentioned lately that I don’t care for mascots?

Olivia Courtney is there for the introductions, good sign. Honestly, I forgot Kozai and Ti Liu were on this team.

Rotation 1: UCLA on vault, Oklahoma on bars
Darren just told us that Sawa is doing an exhibition on floor today. Wasn’t the whole thing that she wouldn’t be able to do that because of red shirt issues?

Baer on vault – better than it has been, small step (9.825)

Ward – OU – just a little overbalancing on a handstand, but otherwise strong, stuck landing. (9.775)

MDLT – UCLA – very similar to Baer. A bit more dynamic, but not as much control on the landing. (9.800)

Brewer – OU – She does the one foot at a time toe on thing, which is distracting, but very clean. (9.850)

Larson – UCLA – Best distance so far, but the hop back as well. Not good landings from the last two for this part of the season. (9.900 – a touch too high)

Spears – OU – misses two handstands and a hop on the dismount, not her best, but fine.

Peszek – UCLA – pretends it’s a stick, but she’s actually low and takes a big step forward. (9.875)

Nowak – OU – totally flung out her double tuck dismount, but held onto it well.

Frattone – UCLA – perfect stick. Senior Day. Watch for the 10. She gets it. It’s the exact same vault as a 9.950 she got recently, but we’re fine with it. I’m really happy for her.

Olson – OU – very low on the DLO full with a lunge forward, but otherwise extremely strong. (9.800 – so nearly everything was on the dismount)

Zam – UCLA – hops back – she needs to be sticking this now, so that’s a weak performance. (9.900)

Ferguson – OU – looked strong but we didn’t see much of that.

Cindell does a fine exhibition on bars, but it probably shouldn’t go into the lineup.

After 1 Rotation: UCLA 49.500 Oklahoma 49.175
Frattone was really the only one who brought it in that rotation. Peszek made a bit of a rookie mistake in trying to hold onto a stick that wasn’t there and ended up incurring more deductions because of it. Everyone except for Frattone has work to do. Oklahoma had a few mistakes, an overbalanced handstand, a low landing, and enough to keep the score down.

OK, it looks like Val is crying and we don’t even get to hear it. Is Tauny giving an acceptance speech about her 10? Love it. Oh, she’s just telling people to buy season tickets. HA.

Rotation 2: Oklahoma on vault, UCLA on bars

Brewer – OU – a little lack of height and a hop back – (9.750)

MDLT – UCLA – fine routine but not her best – hop back on dismount and a missed handstand – (9.775)

Spears – OU – didn’t show it (9.800)

Larson – UCLA – one of the better routines she’s done. A leg separation on the bail and a shuffle on the landing. (9.850)

Ward – OU – off on direction and a big hop back – not the strongest. (9.800)

EHH – UCLA – not quite as clean as she usully is on the bars themselves, but just a little step on the landing. (9.825)

Olson – OU – didn’t show it either – pick it up cameras! (9.850)

Peszek – UCLA – one handstand I wasn’t happy with, and a big step on the landing, otherwise strong. (9.825)

Mooring – OU – Yhalf with a small step. Clean. (9.850)

Zamarripa – UCLA – Absolutely beautiful on the bars, but another step on the dismount (pretty big too). They haven’t stuck a dismount yet. Not acceptable. (9.875)

Stone – OU – Solid yfull with a step back. Should be their highest score yet. (9.900)

Gerber – UCLA – beautiful stick on her dbl arabian dismount – the best she’s done that skill – but a few form breaks on the bars. (9.950 – high)

Exhibition from Frattone – one of the better ones she’s done. Pretty clean from Craddock as well except for a late giant full.

After two rotations: UCLA 98.825, OU 98.375.
Oklahoma is certainly not having their best meet. The landings haven’t been there for nearly all the routines so far. UCLA stuck only one dismount of six during the bar rotation, which will not cut it. The handstands are getting a bit better, though.

Rotation 3: UCLA on beam, Oklahoma on floor

Gerber – UCLA – very clean as always, but a hop on the dismount which is uncharacteristic. (9.825)

Spears – OU – little hop back out of the mount, some of these dances elements aren’t quite there either, falls on the front double full. Not strong. (9.150)

Baer – UCLA – extremely clean on the beam, but a poor landing that should incur a significant deduction. (9.675)

Olson – OU – oh, K.J.’s choreography (love that she does something different, but I often have issues with it) – was she supposed to tuck her front full? Doubt it. That could be an issue – fine rudi dismount, but that second pass will cost her. (9.750)

Larson – UCLA – absolutely great routine with a stuck dismount – I’m pleasantly surprised with her consistency on this event in the second half of this season. (9.875)

Brewer – OU – apparently an OOB on the mount, we didn’t see it – but picked up the quality after that. Still, not a great day for Oklahoma so far. (9.700)

Zamarripa – UCLA – perfect on all the acro – takes an uncharacteristic fall while doing a 2.5 dismount – it was going to be a great score. Why are they having her do the 2.5? Seems like there’s no need. (9.400 with a fall – it was going to be that great.)

Nowak – OU – big lunge back out of double pike mount but no OOB, and very low on the front layout. This will be another lower score.

EHH – UCLA – a little wobble on the illusion turn, but otherwise strong routine. Hop on dismount. They’ll need another hit from Peszek now. Will be interesting to see if they let her do the standing full. (9.900)

Stone – OU – best floor routine of the rotation by far – should get them into the 9.8s for the first time. (9.850)

Peszek – UCLA – no standing full because they needed the hit – a bit of a hop on the dismount – necessary hit and will be a solid score, and they should still go over 49. (9.925)

Ferguson – OU – a little bit of legs on the middle pass – really strong dismount. They needed that routine – only minor deductions. (9.875)

After 3 Rotations: UCLA 148.025, Oklahoma 147.250
Oklahoma had a weak floor rotation from the first four gymnasts, and they couldn’t recover. Not UCLA’s best on beam either, but enough to retain a sizable lead. I’m still not happy with anyone’s landings.

Rotation 4: Oklahoma on beam, UCLA on floor
This is Oklahoma’s best event, so they can make up some ground here, but I do expect UCLA to get some big scores on floor. UCLA needs a 48.975 to go 197 at this meet. Oklahoma needs a 49.250 to reach 196.500.

Nowak – OU – didn’t know where the judges were for a second – very clean on series – a little wobble on the side aerial – gainer full dismount – best leadoff for OU today by far. (9.800)

Frattone – UCLA – clean – good leadoff – well done – good that they’ve dropped the shushunova. (9.850)

Mooring – OU – very nice hit routine – I agree with Allison about the sheep jump – (9.825)

MDLT – UCLA – I assume she is filling in for Courtney – or maybe Val is just in love with this choreography and wants people to see it as many times as possible – solid routine from her – better than it has been – I’d like just a little more control on the front landing elements. (9.850)

Brewer – OU – had a good routine going, but no chance on the double tuck dismount and falls – just a weird day for Oklahoma. (9.350)

Zamarripa – UCLA – love her layout stepout out of her second pass – she’s a bit more in control of this routine than she has been, but still dismounting with the rudi. (9.900)

Stone – OU – the only thing I don’t like about this routine is the two swingdowns – dismounts a little low with a step to the side. (9.850)

Pritchett – UCLA – fine half in half out mount, but not quite her best – low double pike to finish. (9.825)

Spears – OU – looked a little uncertain at the beginning but got more confident through the routine – big hop on dismount. (9.850)

Peszek – UCLA – this routine has grown on me a little – not sure why – good double pike to finish – I saw a few deductions, but this should be a high score. (9.950)

Ferguson – OU – tremendous dismount after a great routine – where would they be without her?

EHH – UCLA – LOVE that she’s doing the 2010 routine. It was excellent. Really great routine – for my money it was her best of the season – maybe that’s just the choreo. Now it’s with all the crying. She gets a 10 from one judge, but I don’t think you can give it to her with the double tuck mount.

Exhibition from Sawa on floor – ouch – botched her second pass and landed on her neck, but she’s fine. High fives Olivia Courtney mid-routine. Nice, but just a layout as her dismount. Hopefully they figured out a way for this not to be an issue with red-shirting.

Final Score – UCLA 197.525, Oklahoma 196.475

Nice to see the senior presentations.