#2 Alabama Preview

It wasn’t a smooth path to the title for Alabama in 2011.  They started the season disastrously, particularly on bars, but by April, it was the lack of notable weaknesses relative to the other teams that won them the national title.  While we can point to the balance beam for Florida and UCLA or to the floor for Oklahoma as the weakest piece, once Alabama established consistent lineups on bars and beam, they were able to deliver hit performances on each event without the specter of counting a fall looming over them.  Even after Kayla Hoffman fell on beam in Super Six, we knew the next two were going to hit because they were the solid Bama we’ve come to expect.
However, with their most dangerous competitors improving, Alabama cannot expect to deliver the same performance in 2012 as they did in 2011 and still win the title.  They will have to match the others’ improvement.  Unfortunately for them, of the top three teams, they face the biggest graduation blow in losing Kayla Hoffman.  Hoffman was a huge contributor on three events (while she competed beam as a senior, she was never really a beamer), and they will have to find a gymnast to replace that potential.  The most likely candidate is Ashley Priess, who missed last season with yet another injury and is expected to return to the all-around this year.  Even though Alabama has Priess training all events, that’s a risky little game given her injury history.  It may be advisable to have her focus on bars and beam, where the team is less deep and where she can have the biggest influence on the team score.  There is no question that she is capable of delivering excellent scores on vault and floor as well, but can her body hold up to training those events, and is the risk worth it?
The good news for Alabama is that they will not have to rely solely on Priess to try to regain what they had last year.  
Kayla Williams is their biggest new recruit, and the 2009 world champion on vault will be expected to contribute immediately.  The gym change to Cincinnati ended up being an excellent choice for Williams as Mary Lee went to town on some of her weaknesses.  Improvement in those areas will be of great help to her in NCAA.  But while her bar work has improved in the last two years, she was certainly not recruited to compete that event.  She was recruited because of vault and floor, but it will be important for Alabama not to take those events for granted.  The leaps still need work, and the Yurchenko 1.5 she competed in L10 was in the good-but-not-amazing category because she usually landed in a significant squat.  This is not a massive problem, but we hold higher expectations for a world champion.  She needs to be 10-capable on her championship event.  She wasn’t recruited to get a 9.850 on vault.  It will take time to make her into an excellent NCAA gymnast.  She probably won’t be the big star immediately, but she has more than enough potential to get there over time.

Joining Williams in the freshmen class are Kaitlyn Clark and Brooke Parker, both of whom were in that group of secondary elites from the early part of this quad along with Georgia Dabritz, Annette Miele, Morgan Steigerwalt, Rebecca Clark, and their teammate Kim Jacob.  Alabama will certainly be hoping to get equivalent performances from these two as they did from Jacob in her freshman year.  Clark had back surgery in the offseason, which has set her training back and limited her to bars and some beam, but they will hope to have her return to competing on her better events at some point this season.

Of potential concern to Alabama is that they have recruited a bunch of gymnasts with similar skill sets over the last two years, and that skill set doesn’t include particular strength on the bars.  This makes the return of Ashley Priess even more important to add stability at the end of that lineup and bring in those 9.9s.          

Other than Priess, Stack-Eaton, and Sledge (who has a wonderful double layout dismount but was buried at the beginning of the lineup last year to add stability), the team doesn’t have big bar routines, and Stack-Eaton can be touch and go sometimes, especially with that dismount.  Sarah Demeo and Kim Jacob were solid contributors in 2011, and I expect that to continue, but I’m not sold on them as scoring leaders on this event.  While Alabama can probably get by on this event in 2012 in the 49.250-49.300 area, the strengths of this team, particularly the freshmen and sophomores, appear over-stacked on vault and floor with less depth and scoring potential elsewhere, meaning they will be extra reliant on Stack-Eaton and Priess this year (and then what happens in the future or in the event of injury?)

That being said, Alabama is in the advantageous position of having their biggest weaknesses be potential weaknesses should injuries or problems arise.  Many of the teams ranked below them have weaknesses that are glaring and not conditional.

The upside of having a potentially lopsided team is that Alabama is very much set on vault and floor and (especially if they do get Priess back to strength on those events) will have six gymnasts performing in competition who should all go 9.850 with the possibility of going 9.900.  They won’t be worried about putting up leadoff scores that they will hope to drop as they can be confident counting scores from any number of gymnasts.  Even on beam (where they will still have to experiment to find a lineup that works), they should have enough gymnasts capable of competing and showing strong difficulty.  A commitment to difficulty (they have a couple double pike dismounts) will help them here as well.

As in the case of Florida, it would not be a surprise if Alabama repeated and won the title.  They have enough potential 9.9 routines to do it.  However, aside from the concerns about getting Priess back or the depth on bars, Alabama may also become the victim of simply being outclassed by other teams.  How many times have we seen them put together a very strong team that finished 2nd or 3rd because they just weren’t as amazing or as flashy as another team or because they had great 9.9 routines, but no one was standing up and wanting to give them a 9.950?  Looking at this group, there is just a feeling that Alabama’s best gymnastics would be less impressive than Florida or UCLA’s best gymnastics.  If Florida has another Florida postseason, and if UCLA has another beam hemorrhage or succumbs to injury, I fully expect Alabama to win the championship, but the quest for the title this year may not be entirely within their control.


#3 Florida Preview

Let’s just cut to the chase.  Florida was the best team in the NCAA last year, and it wasn’t close.  For all the discussion about Alabama and UCLA stepping up at the right time (which they did), Florida had no business losing the title.  That they didn’t even make Super Six is an even greater and more interesting disappointment.

Much has been made about Florida peaking at the wrong time and showing their best gymnastics in January and February instead of March and April.  Rhonda has clearly taken this criticism to heart.  She pushed the team’s training schedule back 4-6 weeks this year in order to put them in a better position come championships.  Whether this will work remains to be seen.  It will be fascinating to watch their January meets to see if they look like the January Florida we’ve become accustomed to or if they look more like early-season UCLA.

While poor performances in January may be alarming to the team (and it will be interesting to see how they might respond mentally to losses since they are used to starting the season with such strength), a bad result or two is likely the best thing that could happen to them.  The two major issues that knocked them out of championships in 2011 (struggles on the beam and an inability to produce top routines under pressure) both appear to stem from a lack of competition adversity during the season.

Because the beam problems didn’t truly start to manifest themselves in an alarming way until SEC Championships, the team had little time to experiment with lineups or correct these issues.  Mahlich suddenly felt new pressure to hit, which made her very tentative and induced the falls, and the rest of the team was relatively unfamiliar with performing in a must-hit situation.  Worse beam outings early in the season would have made this scenario less foreign and would have told Rhonda exactly who could be relied upon to hit when necessary.  In addition, after the beam disaster at championships, the gymnasts tried too hard to stick their landings on vault and bars and ended up with worse scores because of it. Familiarity with performing after a poor rotation may have given the gymnasts a calmer demeanor and more ability to produce the gymnastics they had prepared.

For all of the issues we saw at the end of last season, Florida can still make the argument that they are the most talented team in the country.  In particular, returners Alaina Johnson, Mackenzie Caquatto, Ashanee Dickerson, and Marissa King will be relied upon on 3-4 events each and are all capable of massive scores.  Johnson would have been the undisputed top all-arounder in the country last year had it not been for lower scores on the beam, but she is capable of 9.950s on 3 events.  Caquatto proved herself a reliable 9.9 gymnast across the board, even coming off a long elite season in 2010.  She’ll have to get healthy, stay healthy, and continue improving on her performance ability under pressure.  She’s come a long way over the years from being the girl who could never hit beam, but she needs to keep getting more confident and not allow those 9.7s to creep in when she’s nervous.  Dickerson is so powerful on vault and floor that a 9.9 has become an expectation.  She’s scored well on beam in the past, but it can still be a struggle with leg form and consistency.  That 8.450 at regionals will haunt her beam performance for a while.  King is the national vault champion and is capable of the above floor performance.  Enough said.

The four stars by themselves would be strong enough to go up in the 3 through 6 positions on most events and contend for a national title, but they will be joined by standout freshman Kytra Hunter, who will be expected to contribute in the all-around as well.  She’s amazingly powerful, and her tumbling is always insane.  If they can manage her dance elements, she can bring in huge scores.  Bars was a significant weakness for her as an elite, but she’s still a Kelli Hill gymnast.  With a simple routine that doesn’t show off missed handstands, she can be a solid early contributor.

New gymnasts Kiersten Wang and (potentially, so has been said) Rachel Spicer would be standouts on other teams.  They will be necessary at times during the season, especially if Rhonda experiments with her depth early on, but with the five gymnasts mentioned above it will be hard for them to make too many lineups come the postseason.

Florida has no reason to worry about vault or floor.  Johnson, Caquatto, King, Dickerson, and Hunter will all be 9.9 capable on both those events.  That’s a lineup right there, as long as they bring in a competent scorer in the first position, not a placeholder whose score they’d rather not count.  In 2011, some of their leadoff gymnasts were notably weaker than the rest of the lineup, which was fine when everyone hit but became a problem when the score had to count.  This team is better than a 9.775 leadoff.

King and Dickerson are both capable on bars and can perform routines early in the lineup or whenever necessary, but they will not be standouts.  While Johnson and Caquatto can carry the team, the graduation of Alicia Goodwin creates more uncertainty in this lineup, and Florida will need at least one more strong score to be competitive.  This is where freshmen can step in and make the lineup if they prove competitive.  
As for beam, the issue is less about the number of competitive, possibly excellent routines (they will have many) than it is about who can hit.  Expect a lot of experimentation with this lineup and a lot of opportunities for the depth to show (or not).  Even though we can expect the stars to perform here as well, those lineup spots are not guaranteed if they perform tentatively and give us those 9.7s we saw last postseason.

When it comes to the top 3 teams this year, there are no guarantees.  Any one of the three could take the national title, and it would not be a surprise.  It’s hard to argue with Florida’s lineups, and predicting some 49.500 rotations this season is not farfetched.  They have the capability to be even better than they were last year, but it will take fixing the cracks we saw exposed so publicly at the end of 2011.  Rhonda’s willingness to make changes to her preparation schedule is an encouraging sign because Florida cannot expect to do the same things as last year and win this time, especially not with the improvements around the country.  They’re ranked #3 for a reason.  There are significant questions about their ability to make those changes and fix those problems.  But if they do, it will take superhuman performances from UCLA or Alabama to beat them.

Intrasquad Roundup

Teams have finished up their December intrasquads and are breaking for the holidays.  Coaches have given their teams specific “we can’t officially make you train but here’s what you better do over break” instructions and will hope that their gymnasts return in recognizable condition to prepare for the first meet. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what some of the teams have been up to in the past week or so.

Georgia has posted a new episode of We Need to Talk about Kevin (Copp) containing highlights from the recent intrasquad.  Of note:

  • Chelsea Davis has been fully gymdogged out (it’s a real word…now) with the glitter and the ribbon and the temp tattoo.  We’ll just have to deal with it.  We didn’t see too much from her except the vault, which is her weakest event.  She lacks competitive amplitude.  I’m interested to see bars most of all.
  • Kat Ding is a gem.  She rates them at an 8.5.  I love the use of .5, like it’s a real scale, and her ability to resist the “I’d give us a TEN!” snap reaction.  She knows her teammates aren’t up to her level.  Still, it’s Georgia, so adjust for inflation.  How dare they show us that stuck beam dismount and make us want her to compete beam even though we know she’ll get like a 4 in competition.  
  • Jay is worried about the team’s fitness coming back from the break.  Apparently, he got his hand stuck in the cookie jar at 1:30.    

Our updates from UCLA have been sporadic.  They had the “Meet the Bruins” event, which wasn’t a real intrasquad (it was weirder and better), and now we have videos of only some of the gymnasts on only two events.  I’m not really surprised.  
They actually look well prepared on vault.  Hopfner-Hibbs and Peszek don’t have the same distance as the others, but they are both capable of sticking landings sometimes (as we see in this video), which should even out the scoring.  A presumed lineup of Hopfner-Hibbs, Peszek, Larson, Courtney, Frattone, and Zamarripa (with occasional routines from alternates Wong, De La Torre, McDonald, and Gerber) will be very difficult for any team to beat.  They have enough depth that they won’t miss Sydney Sawa’s competent vault.
Florida held an intrasquad on December 9th.  Kytra Hunter looks strong and Alaina Johnson looks on point.  Ashanee looks about as enthusiastic as usual.  Marissa King’s double layout is a dream.  Given that these are highlights, it’s difficult to draw real conclusions from the performance, but the Gators seem on track.  Although, those dangly little half-hearted streamers are a little too reminiscent of when Mary trashed the gym on Seventh Heaven.  Don’t pretend like you don’t get the reference.
Oklahoma has a highlight reel with a few full routines on each event.  The article is a breath of fresh air when K.J. doesn’t pretend like her other freshmen are going to make lineups.  This is unusual among NCAA coaches.

#4 Oklahoma Preview

A major loss.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma drew the short straw this year and were the team hit by a significant preseason injury when Natasha Kelley went down with yet another Achilles problem, sidelining her for the season. She has faced so many major injuries over the years that we have to wonder how much more gymnastics her body can take and whether she will be able to come back from this.  She was limited by the right knee even before this latest injury.  
In contrast to some of the other recent major injuries at top schools (UCLA losing Vanessa Zamarripa and Alabama losing Ashley Priess last year), Oklahoma doesn’t have as many major contributors with high scoring potential, so it will be harder for them to manage without their anchor on bars and beam.  Still, even though some have constructed this injury as completely devastating to Oklahoma’s chances, they do have other strong gymnasts who can keep them in the top group of 5 or so schools.  In fact, after the graduation of Hollie Vise, many expected Oklahoma to return to the second tier, but they kept pace in 2011 by getting refined, well-prepared routines from unexpected places.  Now, without another well-known elite, they’ll have to do the same in 2012.
Kelley had assumed much on the scoring leadership on her two strongest events (bars and beam), but now that responsibility falls squarely to Megan Ferguson.  Ferguson has displayed strong scoring potential throughout her collegiate career, but she became a star in 2011 by leading the team through the postseason (not posting a score below 9.850 at regionals or championships) and performing energetic, attention-grabbing routines.  Sometimes it’s easy to overlook Oklahoma because they don’t have the program history and don’t always perform the most difficult routines, but it’s impossible to ignore Megan Ferguson.

But as we’ve seen so many times, one star cannot make a team.  Ferguson doesn’t contribute on vault, and that piece could turn out to be a problem for Oklahoma, with three or four routines to replace from a lineup last year that wasn’t going to compete with UCLA, Alabama, or Florida anyway.  One of the major concerns on vault is the frequency of Yurchenko halfs we’ve seen from this team.  While the blind landing makes it difficult (and difficult to score well), it’s still considered a bit of a soft 10, and it doesn’t necessarily stack up against schools that are performing one or more Yurchenko 1.5s.  If you’ve just watched a Yurchenko 1.5 from Kytra Hunter, Georgia Dabritz, or Kayla Williams (or seen something from Zamarripa’s stable of phenomenal vaults), you’re not going to be that impressed by Madison Mooring’s Yurchenko half, even if it’s clean.  Oklahoma’s vaults could give them too many 9.825s in that lineup.

Interestingly enough, even though Kelley was the anchor, beam still looks to be Oklahoma’s strongest event in 2012.  They were far and away the best beam team in 2011, and that was just as much due to confident performances from Ferguson and the rest of the lineup (Nowak, Spears, Mooring, and Ratcliff) as it was to Kelley’s scoring.  Kayla Nowak in particular will be necessary as a solid early lineup gymnast on that event to give the team that base 9.800-9.850 (in addition to her anchor position on floor).   

Oklahoma is a bit lucky in that they did not lose any hugely influential seniors after last year, so they did not enter this season with too many holes that the freshmen were expected to fill aside from solidifying that vault lineup.  That means that if they can find the routines (likely a combination of gymnasts rather than a single star) to account for Kelley’s scores, they may be able to keep pace with the scoring potential from last year.  This will likely come from some lineup experimentation, meaning that the notable freshmen, Rebecca Clark and Erica Brewer, will be given a prime opportunity to prove their worth to the team.


We haven’t seen anything from Rebecca Clark in ages, but back in the day she was a junior with potential, making her way onto the junior squad for 2008 Pacific Rims.  She’s part of a group of new freshmen who are difficult to judge, having flown under the radar since competing as elites in 2009, but we see that her strength is in her clean form.  Coming from GAGE, this is not a surprise and can earn her high scores in NCAA if maintained and cultivated with positive routine composition that shows off this strength.  The team will need her healthy and contributing frequently.

It’s certainly going to be a challenge for Oklahoma in 2012.  The injury to Kelley has put them in the same position as teams like Michigan, who have to focus on replacing lost scores instead of gaining new, better ones.  Oklahoma does have significantly more depth than Michigan, which should help them have a much stronger result in 2012, but they will have to get ideal performances from all their remaining gymnasts. Even if that happens, without enough significant names of note, it will be extremely difficult for them to crack the top 3.  While things can always change, it seems that those top 3 teams are just too deep and talented.  One of the most interesting storylines for 2012, though, could be the fight for that 4th place, and Oklahoma is still right in that race.


#5 Utah Preview

Utah continues to be the most fan friendly program in collegiate gymnastics.  Given the numerous training videos and free live streams of their meets provided by the Marsdens and Utah Athletics, the general fan is usually more familiar with Utah gymnastics than with most of the other programs in the country.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing because it cultivates a dedicated and knowledgeable fan base, not just in Utah but all over the country.  It’s a curse because we know the deal.  We know that, on December 9th, Utah is going to look like the most prepared team in the country.  We’ve been here before. If we didn’t know anything, we would look at the routines from the Red Rocks Preview and say, “Wow, there are a lot of 9.750-9.800 routines.  If they can clean up and refine, they will be great this year.” Because we do know something, we understand that even though some landings and body positions will improve in the coming months, the overall gymnastics we see now is the same as we’ll see in April.

That being said, this level will still probably be good enough to place in the top 6.  The comparison between Utah and Romania is not a new one, but it is apt.  They’ve perfected the science of being fine. They will go to championships, they will be one of the most consistent teams, they will capitalize on others’ mistakes, and they will reach their highest achievable place.  Back in the day, that highest achievable place was a championship.  Then, it became more like top 3.  Now, it’s a 5th or 6th place finish.  Going better than that is probably beyond the talent level of this team.

The biggest reason Utah will get that far is that, unlike some of the teams ranked below them, they have numbers on each event.  While they won’t necessarily want all of these numbers competing, they have that sought after 10-12 routines on each event from which to choose.  An injury to any one of their gymnasts won’t put them out of contention.  The downside of that statement is that all of their gymnasts are replaceable.  They don’t have that star who is going to lead them on the score sheet.

Stephanie McAllister was their top all-arounder last season, but she is a 39.300 gymnast, not a 39.600 gymnast.  The consistency is there, but the crisp execution on four events isn’t.  Of the other returners, we can expect a bunch of 9.825s from Corrie Lothrop and Nansy Damianova on 3-4 events and from Cortni Beers on 2 events (though not if that wackadoo form on bars during RRP keeps up).

The return of Kyndal Robarts will be the biggest boost to this team, particularly on vault where she performs very well.  She is different from McAllister (who is solid but unamazing across the board) in that she has some really compelling qualities but some definite weaknesses that keep her from staking claim to the title of big scorer.  Looking at the floor routine in the above video, we see that the leaps in particular just aren’t happening right now.

A good sign for Utah is that they have a big class of 5 freshmen coming in.  I’m a firm believer that it always helps to have new blood in lineups because we don’t have memories and expectations of these gymnasts’ performance qualities.  They don’t have the same association with the previous year’s results. Of this group, Tory Wilson has been getting some attention for floor because of her double layout, but I don’t expect to see too much from her or Becky Tutka this year.  Kassandra Lopez was a notable L10 and competed at Nastia’s Pink Leotard Jamboree a couple times, and she will likely fit into that Lothrop/Damianova category.  Good, solid, professional, fine.

Georgia Dabritz is the biggest name of the incoming group because she competed a few times at Visa Championships.  She should compete often and score well on vault and bars.  Even though she had a less notable elite career than Lothrop, I see more potential in her as an NCAA gymnast.

Even though Dabritz is the most talented of the group, the new gymnast I’m most interested in is Kailah Delaney.  While things aren’t perfect (you will find yourself saying, “Legs!” on beam in the above video), I like her vault and her presence.  She has the potential to break out of the Utah mold a little bit if allowed the chance to compete regularly.  I’ll be rooting for her.

Because of this incoming group, expect Utah to be better than they were last year.  They have a couple new 9.9 routines from Robarts and Dabritz that they didn’t have access to in 2011 when they were a very 196.400 team all year long.  Expect this year’s team to be more 196.750, which I anticipate will be about the cutoff after semifinals.  And because they’re Utah, let’s bet on them to make it.


#6 Nebraska Preview

Of all the top teams, Nebraska gets the least notoriety.  They don’t often attract the big name or elite gymnasts, and (competing in the Big 12 until this year) they haven’t had the conference rivalries and built-in strength of schedule that give a team both identity and national attention.  With the rise of Oklahoma’s program, there was a budding opportunity for a strong, attention-getting rivalry between two of the best teams, but Nebraska’s move to the Big 10 limits that a little.  I still would like that rivalry to be cultivated, though, and seeing the two schools competing in a quad meet this year is a bit disappointing.  The presence of other teams (especially lower ranked ones) tends to mitigate the atmosphere and excitement of a rivalry.

Nebraska was able to beat both Florida and Utah in national semifinals last year by sticking landings and not giving away unnecessary tenths, even if they didn’t have the biggest difficulty or reputation.  This attitude and tenacity will have to continue in 2012 because there are significant questions about the depth of the team and how that depth will or will not be able to overcome some of their weaknesses, namely the beam.

As seen in the discussion of beam strength, Nebraska was the weakest of the top 10 last year when competing after a fall on the beam.  At championships, their highest score on beam was a 9.800.  In Super Six, they were competitive with third place Oklahoma on three events, but ended up .5 lower solely because of the beam.  With no standout performers and only 4 returners to the lineup, they will need to find bigger scores on this event from somewhere in this incoming freshman class.

There are five new freshmen this year, but the clear standout in the bunch is Jessie DeZiel.  Six months ago, she would have been considered just another one of the new L10s and wouldn’t have received much attention at all.  But after making the elite push to compete at Visa Championships in her home state, DeZiel found herself on the Pan Am team and performed very well.  In true gymnastics fan fashion, the narrative about DeZiel went from the condescension of “Aww, isn’t that sweet” when she made championships to the overreaction of “She’s the best gymnast on the Pan Am team” after she performed so well.  To be clear, she was not the best gymnast on a Pan Am team that included Shawn Johnson, Bridget Sloan, and Bridgette Caquatto (and she would be completely overlooked if she continued elite), but she did perform with exceptional poise and confidence in Guadalajara, which will serve her very well in NCAA.  Also, her Yurchenko double full is really quite excellent.  They will need her anchoring that event and replacing Erin Davis’s score.

In addition to DeZiel, Nebraska is bringing in Kailyn Hawkins, Amanda and Jennifer Lauer, and Desire’ (That’s an apostrophe, not a smudge) Stephens, all of whom are scholarship athletes and can be expected to contend for lineups.  Of this group, Hawkins has the biggest skill set.

Even though Nebraska is bringing in these five new freshman, the team is still smaller than most, having lost Erin Davis (she of the 10 on vault), Brittnee Habbib, Maria Scaffidi, and Maddie Steinauer — leaving them with 2 or 3 spots to fill on every event.  With 13 total gymnasts, including some non-competers, they will not have the 10-11 competitive routines on each event that many of the top schools will have to choose from, meaning they will have to put up a gymnast here and there whose goal is to manage instead of excel.

In fact, much like Michigan, the lack of depth became apparent during a recent scored intrasquad where some of the new freshmen did not show any gymnastics and the team showed only 6 floor routines. Nebraska might be safe enough for routine numbers if they were to keep the whole team healthy, but that never happens to anyone.  If they find themselves scraping the gym for routines, it will be down to veterans Lora Evenstad, Janelle Giblin, and Brittany Skinner (along with Jamie Schleppenbach’s vault) to carry the team into 9.9 territory with confidence and make up for some inexperienced scores in these lineups.

Because they have so many competing gymnasts to replace from last year’s team, it’s hard to envision Nebraska having a repeat 4th place performance.  The top schools are all trading up, increasing their scoring potential significantly from last year.  Nebraska will more likely be in the position of trying to tread water, focusing on replacing the scores they lost from last year instead of improving upon them.  They surprised in 2011 during a relatively weak year across the nation, but it will take an even bigger effort to do it again in 2012.

There Will Be Costumes

There are a lot of wonderful things to say about UCLA gymnastics.  The very best is that, no matter the situation, it’s always a show and they always commit to that show, a show complete with costumes, characters, motifs, and sometimes even a tragedy.

Yesterday, UCLA hosted the “Meets the Bruins” event.  It’s like an intrasquad, but with more greatness. Other schools show routines.  UCLA unveils performances.  Some people hate that about them.  These people are no fun, and I don’t want you hanging out with them anymore.

No show is complete without a grand entrance:

Come on, they carried her onto the floor.  How can you not love that? 
This routine is completely different than I expected Val to put together for Mattie, but it’s excellent.  It’s a great lesson that spins are choreography rather than something than can be (or should be) placed into a separate category.  We see so many routines that are more like “OK, I did my dance, now I’m going to do my spin.”
“Oops, I almost accidentally did my floor routine in high heels.”  #uclagymproblems

Can we convince Aisha to get her tumbling down this year so we actually get to see this routine in competition?  Fortunately, UCLA locked in Gerber II for 2013-14, so we get 4 more years of this.

UCLA is posting a whole slew of videos at the BruinGymnastics youtube page, complete with an identifying bars skills tutorial (“Gienger!”).  Don’t try to watch the videos with that UCLA all-access player. It’s useless nonsense.