Georgia Notes

Now that Georgia has made it official and told us all what we already know, it’s time for a few thoughts.

In some respects, Danna Durante is walking into unprecedented territory. Georgia, Utah, and Alabama are unmatched in terms of fan support and expectations, both for results and for the attitude of the program, and Utah and Alabama have not experienced coaching changes. Even Jay’s ascension at Georgia was originally part of a smooth transition where he was already part of the family. This is the first outside hire quite of this magnitude (you could compare it to Rhonda coming in at Florida, but they’ve never won championships, so it’s different), so it will be fascinating to watch how the fans react to Danna. Also, she should know that it’s very difficult for me to pronounce her name like Dana since it has a double n. For now, she’s Danna, rhymes with Hannah.

Durante’s every action in the first season will be scrutinized, and she will have even less benefit of the doubt than Jay did because she is a newcomer. From the beginning, it will be important for her to go out of her way to develop relationships with the boosters and make it clear that she has championship expectations for this team immediately. They will not accept any less.

In another interview, she said that it’s unrealistic for someone to win every year and that this team is capable of getting back to Super Six. The problem with that statement is that it’s true. For a team and a fan base with those championship expectations, she needs to sound a bit more enthusiastic about the prospects for the team, even if it’s a lie. If you’re expecting to finish fifth, you’re going to finish fifth at best. That wouldn’t be an immediate problem for her job security since it would be an improvement over Jay, but it would wear thin very quickly for this school. Georgia wants to be told that the team is going to win.

We’ve also heard news that she has removed Doug McAvinn from his position. This is perfectly natural and expected for an outside coach, but it will still sting Georgia fans and will hurt the team’s vaulting in the short run. Through the upheaval of the last few years, McAvinn was the constant, and the fans are very attached to him. Those who were willing to throw support behind Durante’s regime may have taken one small step back. Will she be able to find a vault coach with comparable skills right now? It’s doubtful. 

In all, I don’t expect much change in results from Jay’s tenure right away. It will take a few seasons for this new coaching staff to find its place and get the team together, but Durante is just as capable of being successful as any other new head coach (even though she’s had one year at Cal, she’s essentially a rookie, especially on this stage). It will be interesting to watch how the Georgia gymnastics community reacts to her over the course of the year and whether she can keep that attendance level, or even bring it back up.

Nastia Liukin and the Classic of Secrets

I have been a bit remiss in providing updates since the end of the NCAA season because not much has been happening besides rumors and a trickle of partial routine videos from USA Gymnastics. I’ve also been spending a fiar bit of time working on my word and language blog, The Dictionary Eyes. So feel free to check that out and tell your friends if you’re the type of person who has friends.

On to gymnastics, I was waiting to talk about UGA hiring Danna Durante until we got some kind of official confirmation, but they are taking forever with that. I would say I have a lot of thoughts, but I don’t. This is a very middle-of-the-road, shrug-of-the-shoulders choice. I have strong opinions about everything, and yet I have almost no opinion at all about this, which is telling. Georgia would have loved to get someone with a strong pedigree or big name, but why would a big name take this job? That was one of my main criticisms of the Jay Clark firing. Who else is going to be better?

We’ll have plenty of time to dissect Durante’s every word during the NCAA preseason, but for now let’s turn our attention to the elites and the upcoming Secret Classic.

Once Visa Championships and Olympic Trials start, we will be spending most of our time talking about potential teams and the likes of Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, and Aly Raisman. The Classic this year isn’t really about them. All the major Olympic contenders will be competing at least one event, but their Classic results will be mostly irrelevant. We’ve seen enough from them already this year to know that they are on track. A fall from one of them would probably send the internet into a tizzy, but it would do little to derail anyone’s momentum. No, this year’s Classic is all about veterans and comebacks.


To be more specific, it’s all about Nastia Liukin. She’ll be competing balance beam at this event with a doubtful question mark next to bars. A bars routine needs to come along very soon for this comeback to be relevant at all, but she could save that for Visa Championships and be fine. Technically, I believe she would need a two-event qualifying score at Classic to make Championships, but come on. All qualification rules magically disappear when names are involved. It should be of concern to the younger gymnasts that even the very concept of Nastia competing is the most interesting thing to happen in US gymnastics this year. Reputation, personality, and presence go a long way.

While a bar routine with something around a 7.0 D-Score would be her golden ticket to London, let’s not discount beam. She won’t be able to muster the huge difficulty in the 6.5-6.7 range that we’ll see from some others in London because she doesn’t have any E+ acro skills, but she will be capable of a  very clean routine with low-6s difficulty, which would be useful in Team Finals. Kyla Ross needs to watch out for Nastia because if Nastia proves more useful on bars and beam, we could be looking at a situation where Ross is not top three on any event come Trials (especially because I’m not sold on the landing of that Amanar), and that’s a very dangerous position for a five-member team. Nastia could shake up a lot of people’s chances if she proves usable on beam at Classic.


Speaking of bars workers, let’s take a moment to talk about Anna Li. As an NCAA fan, I will always root for Anna, but her potential route to the Olympic team will be more difficult than Nastia’s (if Nastia is healthy and fit, of course) because she does not have another usable event and does not have the experience or reputation. Even at Classic, it is crucial that Anna hit her bars routine. She cannot afford a fall because everyone doubts her consistency and she is not a Martha favorite. It’s very difficult to become a Martha favorite unless Martha feels like she raised you in a Miss Havisham/Estella kind of way. In this parallel, the ranch is Satis House, Pip is calories, and Bela is that rotten wedding cake on the table.

In the video above, Anna is performing an alleged hop 1.5. It’s the kind of difficulty she needs in order to have a competitive routine, but the judges will be free to give her total Chinese team E-scores because of the finishing position of some of those pirouettes. She must prove the ability to score in the mid-15s to put her name in as a bars specialist. 


Let’s also consider Rebecca Bross. She will be training only bars and beam this year, which puts her in direct competition for that specialist spot with all the other people with wicker legs who’ve dropped vault and floor. It appears as though she is going for a 6.4 D-score on bars, which may not be enough to stand out. Wieber will be going for a similar routine, and she’s a lock, so that hurts Bross’s argument. Her beam difficulty is a strong 6.5, but if she can’t land that nail-biter of a double arabian dismount, none of it matters. She absolutely must prove consistency at Classic and will probably need to hope for some comebacks not to pan out. She certainly can make the team, but she is in a precarious position where a number of people can pass her by.


Bridget Sloan will also be returning from the dead at this event. We’ve seen her on and off over the past few years, but she hasn’t been healthy since 2009, which gives us nearly as many question marks about her as we have about Nastia. It will be in Bridget’s best interest to focus on being a bars and floor specialist for this team with a prelims-usable vault if necessary. She’s always had glorious potential on bars with a few standout skills (like her excellent inbar stalder from 2008), but she has yet to get out of that low 6 D-score purgatory. Her bizarre low bar composition in 2010-2011 didn’t do much to help her seem stable on the event, so she needs total reconstruction to be useful there. I’d very much like to see her make a run, but I wonder whether her heart is really in it this time.


Don’t forget about Chellsie Memmel. My instinct is that her revival this year will be just one comeback too many, like the plot of Multiplicity, where if you clone something too many times it stops resembling the original. She may not have enough this year to be Original Recipe Chellsie. One of the reasons is that, for the first time in what feels like a decade, she will actually need to upgrade bars to be competitive. Getting her usual skills back will not give her a competitive D-score. In fact, I don’t see her contending for the team without upgrades on all of her potential events, so keep an eye on her composition during Classic. If she’s too far behind the potential team members, she won’t have time to get there before the team is selected.  

A few other notes:
-In the non-veteran category, pay attention to Sarah Finnegan. With some of the top competitors surely not competing all the events, she could sneak in with a very nice AA placement. Her standout event is beam, which is a risky specialty. I don’t see her making the team, but an alternate position is possible.
-Also keep an eye on another NCAA favorite, Casey Jo Magee. She’s not doing this out of any kind of realistic hope to make an Olympic team, but let’s all root for her to finally hit that delightful beam routine.
-Alicia Sacramone and Shawn Johnson are not competing here, news that is hardly news. Johnson appears like she will never be able to adequately recover from her injuries, and Chow has been muttering about her missing Championships, which is the reddest of flags. Sacramone needs every day she can get to try to get those routines back, so it’s no surprise she’s missing out. I’ll be impressed if she can get her old routines back by Championships/Trials, but old routines don’t help people make Olympic teams.

Jay Clark Resigns

Link

I must admit that I did not see this coming, and I think it’s a real shame. While there have been rumblings ever since the 2010 Regionals disaster about Jay not living up to Suzanne, no coach coming into this program would have been able to replicate that success.

While there were areas he needed to work on as a coach, the team was improving each year under his leadership. Even though this year’s group had a disappointing finish at Nationals, they were the most cohesive team with the most potential for success of the three during his tenure, even if the raw talent level was higher in 2010. It was clear that he was starting to find his footing in this position. The expectation that championships would immediately follow after Suzanne left was unrealistic. This is a rash move by Georgia and one that will backfire when a new coach comes in who is similarly unable to deliver championships right away.

Success in NCAA gymnastics is so dependent on trust and emotion and everyone buying in to the process. It is probably unique among sports in that way. In other sports we hear a lot about how the concept of team chemistry is overrated, but it is essential in NCAA women’s gymnastics. Not understanding that is an error. It takes time to build that kind of trust and chemistry and attitude for a program. Georgia was starting to get on its way toward rebuilding the program, and short of coaxing Suzanne out of retirement, they will be right back at 2010 again with a new coach.

There will be all kinds of speculation about who will replace Jay, but the pool of qualified candidates with the experience necessary who also want the job is extremely small.

15 Thoughts

Now that’s it has been a week since Championships, it’s time to reflect on the season and beyond with some notes. I just have a lot of feelings.

  • E mounts don’t amount to much. We heard a lot of talk this season about who was mounting with E passes and who wasn’t, but this did not translate into the scores at any point in the season. The message is clear: be clean and start from a 10, nobody cares if it’s an E pass.
  • Separation is the watchword. Scores are always going to go crazy at points in the season. That’s never going to change, and any substantive effort to homogenize judging across the country will probably do more harm than good. The most egregious scoring issues we saw at Championships didn’t involve fundamental overscoring but did involve a lack of sufficient separation between good and great. Encouraging judges to be more aware of that separation should be the goal.
  • Pros and cons of Four on the Floor. Once again this season we had a team in the title race (UCLA) not competing during the last rotation. This is not good. On the other hand, ESPN’s live broadcast had trouble keeping up with two teams competing in the final rotation, and if there were three competing at the same time, it would have been a catastrophe. No solution is free of problems, and I’m beginning to feel one isn’t really better than another.
  • The good trio. Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne continue to be the best commentary team in US gymnastics. Even when Bart concocts a bizarre pronunciation of Vanessa Zamarripa, this team makes you confident that they know what they are talking about. Kathy and Suzanne strike an excellent balance of being accessible to non-experts without being too simple for the rest of us. They show that you can name and explain skills and the subtleties of routine evaluation without becoming too technical for a lay audience. 
  • Vault finals: a problem. Something must be done because once again this year, vault finals were a boring disaster. We need to have a list of pre-qualified eligible gymnasts who have proven they can perform two vaults at 10.0, and then the top four from each Semifinal who also appear on the list will advance to finals. How about we have gymnasts show their two 10.0 vaults to a representative judge during podium training to get placed on the list? They wouldn’t have to worry about a good landing, just show they can do the vaults. 
  • Boo to neutral sites. Championships should be on a relevant campus. No good comes from a neutral site.
  • Combination beam dismounts. I used to enjoy the bhs+loso+full dismount, but it seems everyone did it this year, and I’m getting tired of it. While the gymnasts who perform it can usually stick because it’s just a full, it’s very difficult to get any kind of amplitude out of the layout stepout, so we don’t get to see any impressive flight. The gymnasts just sort of trickle off the beam. I’m ready for that trend to be over.
  • Let’s talk about split positions and legs. I need to see more attention paid to these qualities, and it probably has to start with the judging because otherwise there is no incentive to improve upon them. We’re seeing so many cheated splits and bent knees, and everyone just seems fine with it. Let’s make a pact not to be fine with it.
  • Now let’s talk about same-bar releases. I like them. I need them in my life. I don’t want to see routines without them because they are flat and lack excitement and dynamic flight. Are nice, high same-bar releases with pointed toes too much to ask? Am I reaching for the stars here? Not really.
  • What are we going to do about Georgia? This makes three straight years of not making Super Six, once again going out on a really feeble performance. The Gymdogs can’t say that they lost to a better team. They gave it away and finished behind Ohio State. They will be nowhere next year without Kat Ding. They need Chelsea Davis to become the new Kat Ding.
  • Alabama needs Ashley Priess. We got the news this week that Priess has decided to stay on at Alabama for another year. Without Priess and Stack-Eaton next year, the Tide would have seriously struggled to make it three titles in a row. Now, they’re back in the conversation. I still question her ability to stay healthy, but she proved me wrong this year. Is it tempting fate to try again? 
  • Florida is on the right track. Even though the Gators once again failed to win the title, the performance in the postseason proved that Rhonda’s plan worked beautifully. A few adjustments so that they are a little more comfortable (and relaxed) with landings going into Championships and they should be in prime position again next year. The additions of Sloan and B. Caquatto won’t hurt either.
  • New Bruins in 2013. While it was weak performances from the seniors that cost UCLA the title last weekend, those gymnasts provided a ton of routines and were crucial to UCLA’s success. We will see a different team with a different mood next year, with new pressure on the young gymnasts. Larson will not be allowed to be the non-factor she was this year, and Lee will need to contribute significantly right away. 
  • Stanford is real. Stanford employed what amounted to an extreme version of the Florida strategy and peaked in the postseason this year. While losing Brown and Pechanec will be a blow, they can still be a factor next year with Hong and a potentially healthy Shapiro leading the way. Judges respond to the cleanliness of their gymnastics, and with a bit more dynamics on vault and floor, they could be a factor again.
  • So there’s our season. Just eight months until the next one. Before that, I’ll be popping in to talk about elite from time to time as we approach the Olympics. That should be a silly ride.

Event Finals Live Blog

The last competition from Nationals gets underway soon. It will take forever, as it always does, so buckle in. We don’t have that many vault qualifiers this year, though, because some of the best vaulters didn’t make finals. When you’re watching people flop out lame Yurchenko layouts, remember that we won’t see Vanessa Zamarripa because the rules are stupid. If you can’t do two 10.0 vaults, you shouldn’t be eligible for Event Finals.

Alabama is the National Champion for the second year in a row. I really feel for Florida because they did everything right this year and didn’t mentally implode at Nationals. Alabama landed their skills, and in a year when it was all about landings, that won them the title. It will take a little more time to reflect on what we saw and make some determinations, so on to Event Finals.

Watch Live

I sort of love Event Finals because the judging is often insane, but no one has much of a vested interest in the result, so we can all just laugh about it and enjoy the gymnastics.

Introductions starting now. I’m rooting for some Georgia and Oklahoma victories and for EHH to redeem herself from yesterday and win an event. Did someone just fall from the ceiling? What was that? They’re having people drop from the ceiling and then carry the signs? That’s just weird.

Marching to our events now. I hope we see people really go for it and pull out their big skills. DTY? Peszek’s standing full? I assume the latter would be a definite.

Vault and Bars:
Courville – VT – Low chest on Yfull with a step forward, that won’t do it. 9.800 is high for that. Second vault is just the layout, but stuck.

Zamarripa – UB – not quite as precise as Super Six and then the step on landing. Not her best.

Cheek – VT – good stick on the Yfull with a minorly low chest. Tucked Yfull, good for her for not doing the layout, but big steps back.

Olson – UB – nice deltchev, minor step back on the DLO dismount. Good routine, but I doubt it will stand up.

Gutierrez – VT – stuck Yfull, best so far. Layout second vault  – Alabama usually does this, but I assume Milliner will do a full later on.

Courtney – UB – surprise qualifier here, excellent dismount. She’s improving so much on this event, but I agree with Suzanne that she doesn’t have the appropriate level of difficulty. 9.8875, current leader.

Delaney – VT – fine Yfull with nice distance, but a hop back. Layout  with a big step back. At least we don’t have a thousand vaulters doing these weak vaults.

Ding – UB – lovely first ahndstand, missed her giant full handstand, beautiful stuck DLO. That should be in first place and I hope it wins again this year. The commentators told us it was a 10, but it’s not according to the scores. Still, she will win, but it would have been nice to see her finally get a 10. Sure she missed that handstand on the giant full, but who cares at this point? I would have expected to see a career 10 from all of them.

King – VT – defending champ – step back on her Tsuk 1.5, could have been better, a little uncertain on that landing. Low landing on Tsuk full. Two iffy landings, so her difficulty may not help her here. She goes in behind Gutierrez, so no repeat.

Warmups for the second group now. Hopefully we see some difficulty from Milliner and Hunter because our winner should not have a layout second vault.

Giblin – VT – very nice stick with good body position, similar to Gutierrez but maybe a bit less distance.  Tucked Yfull as second vault, hop in place. She will end up below Gutierrez.

Caquatto – UB – misses a handstand on the low bar and takes an odd step on her dismount. She almost never does that.

Ding – VT – beautiful in the air on the Yfull but had to take steps on her salute. Should have been a stick. Tuck full as well – they’re being critical about people just tucking their legs to do a second vault, but I’d rather see that than the layouts. Current leader.

Shapiro – UB – her handstands have improved at Stanford because they deteriorated during elite, close on dismount but a good stick.

Dabritz – VT – big hop back on landing the Yfull, which is a shame because she really does have those two vaults. I guess she didn’t. Same vault. She can do the 1.5, but didn’t here.

Gerber – UB – Handstands weren’t awesome, but she was lovely. Step back on the dismount. Great career. UCLA will need PPL to be their new elegant Canadian.

Milliner – VT – Starts with the full, step back with a little piking. Will probably still go ahead of Ding if she pulls out a good 1.5. Pretty good with a step back. Neither were awesome, but she’ll go into first surely.

Johnson – UB – Major issue at the start. I’ve never seen her miss this routine. That’s a shame. Ding is our winner, Shapiro 2nd, Courtney 3rd. Of the UCLA gymnasts in this, who would have thought Courtney would finish highest?

Hunter – VT – She starts with the stuck 1.5, best vault so far in the competition. Huge bounce back out of the Yfull. That could give it to Milliner. Florida looks spent.

We’re not getting updates on the scores for Milliner or Hunter (or Johnson but she had an error). Ding will win bars as we wait and move to our second two events. Scoring? Could we, please? Milliner goes 9.825 to move ahead for now. Hunter is our winner with 9.8750. Nice consolation for Florida.

How about this for a vault solution? Gymnasts must show two different vaults during the season to be eligible for vault finals at Championships.


Beam and Floor:
Stone – BB – nice pass into the Korbut, two swing down skills, though. Hop forward on dismount. Suzanne mentions the crossed legs deduction on dismounts, which they never take anyway.

Ferguson – FX – good 3/1, complete. “This reminds me of a mime or something. It’s so fun-loving.” Oh Suzanne. Good punch out of double full. Nice routine, but I don’t think it will win.

Peszek – BB – wobble on standing full, which is a shame. She can do that much better. Punch front, that’s new and nice. They should consider adding that next year. She won’t win with these mistakes, but this is fun to see.

Hunter – FX – good high DLO, she’s performing very well and seems to be the only Gator who’s in this mentally today. 9.925 is very good but not unreachable.

Grable – BB – excellent loso series, but doesn’t have to difficulty to contend with this routine.

Updike – FX – huge bounce back out of a double pike mount and has to put her hands down. Huge height on her 2.5, but another fall on the punch layout.

Stack-Eaton – BB – good acro, has to hang on with her toes on the walkover, good sheep (as far as sheep jumps go), onodi is very nice, I’m glad she added it back. Sticks 1.5 dismount, and she will be the leader and be hard to beat.

Pisani – FX – let’s get this girl a title. Bounce out of her half in half out, but it was minor. A little low knees in the double pike, so I think this won’t be enough to pass Hunter.

Wong – BB – wobble on her two loso series, so she won’t be the leader. Good popa and a stuck double full dismount.

EHH – FX – Didn’t upgrade the mount, so she won’t have enough difficulty, but this is excellent. Beautiful hit routine. Can we give this to her? Performance-wise it was no contest, and that should count in EFs. She goes ahead of Hunter. Could we really see a win here? I’d love that.

Priess – BB – They have been right on on this event all weekend. That was a little wonky on the Rulfova, so I don’t think it should go ahead of Stack-Eaton. Good difficulty, and I’m glad they are throwing it in. Nice, but GSE was better.

Warmups now for the final routines of our season.

Ferguson – BB – this has been perfectly clean through most of the routine. Sheep is a little lacking, but good stick on the double full. Clean but may not go ahead of GSE.

Ding – FX – Good first pass with a straddle + punch, drills double pike middle pass, lovely landings on everything in this routine. Best she’s done? Probably. She goes ahead of EHH, which is not appropriate, but this day is all about Kat Ding, and it’s hard to argue with that. Kat Ding NCAA FX Champion?

Hong – BB – clean on her walkover + bhs loso elite series. Wobble on the side somi will take her out of it.

Dickerson – FX – perfectly stuck landings on all of her tumbling, but just something a little missing. I don’t think it will go into the lead.

Pisani – BB – misses her switch split in both position and wobbling, otherwise a clean, strong routine.

Jones – FX – Efficient tumbling, nice split positions, this is an overlooked routine that is pretty nice. I hadn’t seen it for a while. Kathy is making it clear she thinks EHH should be ahead of Ding.

Matusik – BB – Well done to her for making finals, just a few too many deductions in this routine. Gainer 1.5 dismount.

Zamarripa – FX – She’s getting a bit better as a performer, but this routine is not up to event final calibre.

EHH – BB – Just off on her side aerial + loso series, didn’t fall but had enough of a wobble that she will not win a title. Not her best routine.

GSE – FX – Good dbl Arabian as always, great double pike to end. This could challenge Ding.

Spinner – BB – Finishing up the competition for us on beam, she’s been consistently 9.9, but the lack of stick means she won’t do that today.

DeZiel – FX – Last on floor, good pike full but I’d like to see her land a little more legs together. Good clean routine, but I don’t think it will be the leader.

Titles:
Vault – Kytra Hunter
Bars – Kat Ding
Beam – Geralen Stack-Eaton
Floor – Kat Ding

The only result you can really argue with is floor. Ding? I don’t see it, but a fun competition with some nice beam upgrades that made that final the most interesting.

Super Six Live Blog

Watch Live – 4:00 ET
Rotation Order: Florida VT, Stanford Bye, Arkansas Bars, Utah Beam, Alabama Bye, UCLA Floor.
Super Six is always a blur. A few short routines and then it’s over. You remember senses more than actual routines. We can only hope it’s not a dud. We’ve been building to this for months. I want excitement, and I’m going to be sad when it’s over.
We spend all this time and watch all these meets, and the end of all our discussion is to arrive right back where we began. In December, I said that the teams with a realistic shot at the title were Florida, UCLA, and Alabama. Now, hours before Super Six, I’m saying that the teams with a realistic shot at the title are Florida, UCLA, and Alabama.
After the performance in Semifinals, I’ve re-promoted Alabama to the top flight of contenders. However, I was not completely wowed by them on some events. With the scoring as it was, they should have gone much higher than 49.400 on vault by getting some sticks in the middle of the lineup. If Georgia is getting a 49.6, Alabama needs to be getting a 52. 
Florida looked mostly excellent and controlled, and they will be considered the favorites today, but they are not completely free of concerns. They looked shaky on floor at SECs, had two OOBs at Regionals, and had two OOBs (from the same people) in Semifinals. It’s very difficult to correct trends for Super Six. Marissa King will be the one to watch. She has a history of broken brain in major competitions, and she was definitely off yesterday. They probably need to be dropping Wang-VT, Ellis-UB, Spicer-BB, and Ferguson/Stageberg-FX. They can’t afford to drop a King score today.
UCLA scored lower than the other two in Semifinals, but they shouldn’t be concerned about the scoring from yesterday because they were in the afternoon session and were kind of bad. They will need to hope for some happy scoring from the start today, though, as they need to be 49.400 on floor to be competitive. I don’t expect to see repeats of the Zamarripa and Peszek mistakes, but watch out for Mattie. She’s Mattie and she scored 9.775 on her two routines yesterday. No one was impressed.
As for the other teams, Utah will have to be very solid for 9.875s and hope for a sloppy competition. Arkansas and Stanford should be very proud of making it this far, but they will struggle to reach above their Semifinal scores, and it’s going to take at least a 197.500 to win this (though I do expect the scoring to be more contained than it was last night).
Competition begins at 4 ET. Here we go!


Almost time now. Getting the stream connected to my TV so I can watch luxuriously, testing ESPN3 to make sure we have no hiccups.

Judges have switched events from yesterday. Vault and Beam switch, Bars and Floor switch.

Will we have the ESPN trio commentating? Or are they just doing the delayed TV broadcast? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

Your event is about to begin. Please stand by. (Um, it’s 1:00 . . .) (Um, it’s 1:05 . . .)

Dear ESPN, this isn’t football, where you can just leave us dangling and no one will care or notice. We’re gymnastics fans. We’re feisty, hungry, and judgmental. Don’t tell us to stand by.

Here we go. Oh dears, everyone but Sam Peszek should not pursue a career on camera.

Really glad we’re getting Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne. Kathy doesn’t know if Alabama can get better from yesterday, but they better do it because some of those landings were not up to championship level.

Rotation 1:
They’re starting us all of the sudden! Very little introduction at all. Lothrop looks fine but a little tentative. Hop on dismount. Spicer’s vault is fine with a hop back.

Canizaro on bars, a few handstand issues and a hop back. McAllister on beam, nice three series. Kathy and Suzanne agree with me about the lack of separation yesterday. Hop back on dismount.

Waiting on Ashanee for vault. Spicer got a 9.850, which is a little high. Very minor hop in place (maybe?)

Olivia Courtney on floor – don’t like these UCLA leos much. Courtney looks very nice in her tumbling. She has peaked at the right time. Really nice routine.

Beers on beam, she lacks amplitude in her elements and had an off split position. Pisani on bars, stuck dismount – very nice.

King was ever so slightly low on her vault, so not her best, but still excellent. Hunter has a huge leap forward, so Florida will be a little lower than yesterday.

Howdeshell on bars, trying to recover from yesterday’s fall – good releases – let’s watch the dismount – just a minor step.

Peszek on floor – strong DLO – big lunge out of double pike, but better than yesterday.

Lopez on beam, Utah is scoring very well here – just a wobble on the series, and another on a leap – so this won’t be a great score.

EHH now on floor, just a minor hop out of double tuck, but I wish she had kept doing her 2010 routine because it was the best one. Bounces OOB so they won’t count this score. Not an acceptable mistake for UCLA, so they’ll be counting Pritchett’s 9.825. Probably a tenth in overall score given away there, and you can’t do that in Super Six.

Kathy’s eating a potato chip. After one rotation, UCLA let Florida get away from them a little bit. I thought UCLA needed a 49.400, but they went 49.350. Not a problem, but they needed a bit better. Florida’s 49.475 is less than yesterday on vault, but it’s fine. Utah goes 49.350 on beam, which is a huge improvement for them from yesterday, and Arkansas trails with 49.175 on bars.

Rotation 2:
Florida and Utah go away while Stanford and Alabama come back in. It’s an opportunity for Alabam to get some distance on UCLA after the first rotation. UCLA goes to vault, and they need probably a 49.500.

Beam for Arkansas to start – solid landings on her acro – a little bit of leg form, and totally came off the side of the beam for her dismount but landed it. 9.775 – scoring is high on beam.

Baer on vault – she has to stick to minimize those leg deductions. Hop in place – fine.

Shapiro on bars – just a step on the tuck full. Solidly clean routine with good form.

Kathy is in love with Sam Peszek. Great distance, needs a bit more amplitude, minor hop. Priess on floor, not quite controlled on her tumbling but clean enough.

Alabama is scoring very well on floor so far. On pace to outscore UCLA there. Tauny tried to stick and almost did it. Better than it has been. Arkansas is stepping it up a little bit on beam.

Zam now – Bart butchers her name “Zarripova?” – needs a stick. FINALLY sticks it when they needed. Should be a 9.950.

Why on Earth is Hong in on bars? Well they have certainly fixed her DLO. Note this, Valeri.

Pisani hitting beam well – maybe not quite the 9.950 from yesterday with a minor shuffle on the landing.

10 for Zamarripa and UCLA NEEDED it. Wow. A 10 in Super Six is big deal.

Gutierrez on floor, perhaps a bit sloppier on some of this tumbling than yesterday, but good stick on the double pike to finish, so we probably won’t see it in the score.

Arkansas is not doing poorly, but they aren’t getting the 9.9s to keep pace. Stack-Eaton on floor, they need a 9.9 from her. Very nice on her dbl Arabian. Hits excellently, so Alabama will outpace UCLA on floor. Vault will be very telling now.

Zamarripa’s 10 has kept UCLA in this, but Florida and Alabama both started extremely well. Stanford and Utah are on pace with 49.350 rotations and Arkansas is falling a bit behind.

Rotation 3:
Florida to bars, where they need a 49.400, and Utah goes to floor where they will have to keep up with the previous teams. UCLA and Arkansas going on break. Alabama to vault, where they will probably need to match Florida’s 49.475 and will certainly need to be better than yesterday. They must have sticks.

ESPN3 momentarily told us that our event had ended. Um, no. Florida needs a 49.400 to level UCLA and Alabama needs a 49.425, both attainable but they will have to be very clean. I expect to see all three of those teams within two tenths by the halfway point, and Stanford and Utah must stay within about the same margin to stay in it.

Suzanne and Val having a talk. Val is excited now. We’ll see if it keeps up.

UCLA has bumped up the scores on vault, and Alabama may benefit. Shuffle from Kayla Williams.

Hong on beam, wobble on the walkover, otherwise very elegant and clean, hop back on dismount.

Dickerson fell on bars, which I think she also did in warmups. I’m assuming on her Hindorff. Four pressure routines now, but they’ll be glad it’s bars instead of beam. She’s a little tight on some of her handstands, but nice hit.

Williams got a 9.900 on vault, which I think is a little high, so we can assume the scores have been bumped up. Watch out for Alabama if Florida has a mistake right now on bars. Geralen sticks and may get that same 10 that Zam did, except she’s earlier in the lineup. 9.975.

Good stuck tumbling from Damianova, just a little low body position. Step back from Gutierrez on vault, not her best. 9.900 is high for that step.

Macko on bars now – sticks dismount. They shouldn’t have to count a fall, but they are counting a few 9.850s, so not quite the highest possible score here for them.

Dabritz with a triple full dismount, well landed just with the usual crossed legs.

Stanford is staying right in this with some 9.900s on beam. Don’t forget about them yet. Same with Utah.

Alabama goes 9.625 on vault, so they are .2 ahead of UCLA and will probably be the favorites right now at the halfway point.

Ashley Morgan on beam to finish – she hasn’t always competed this event. They are changing these lineups around a lot for Super Six. Good hit routine. They’ll be right there near UCLA.

Big bounce back for McAllister on mount, the flag went up, but it didn’t look like she went OOB there, did it?

Robarts will be the last to go on floor for Utah. Good dbl Arabian mount. Slight bounce out of double pike, but good hit overall. Utah should go ahead of Stanford but be just behind UCLA.

HALFWAY SCORES:
1. Alabama – 99.075
2. Florida – 98.900
3. UCLA – 98.875
4. Utah – 98.675
4. Stanford – 98.675
6. Arkansas – 98.400

It’s less than two tenths of a lead for Alabama, so this could still obviously go any direction, but you just get the sense that this will be Alabama’s day, don’t you. They have benefitted from this rotation order.

Rotation 4:
UCLA comes back in for bars, and they need to match yesterday’s scoring. Alabama and Stanford are on break. Florida goes to beam in the unfamiliar position of trailing after vault and bars. How will the freshmen respond? Utah to vault – will they take advantage of the rising scores as well?

De La Torre getting ready on bars. I really think UCLA cant contend unless they get a 49.375 here, which is a stretch for this team regardless of how they did in Prelims. DE La Torre is very low on her DLO dismount. Not the start they needed because now they will have to count Larson.

Can’t see much of beam from this angle. Can they please show us some of these routines? Stageberg starts beam with a 9.900.

Courtney sticks her dismount on bars to right things. Looks like Spicer hits beam as well. Putting pressure on Alabama.

Canizaro on floor and steps OOB and then falls. Johnson on beam – very solid on her series. A little too deliberate in this routine for my liking but clean. Peszek on bars wile Dickerson goes on beam. Peszek hits well, Dickerson must hit here and she looks confident, just a step back on dismount.

Perfect routine from Zamarripa. I know people have problems with her bars, but really, find the deduction. It may just be not enough though given how well Florida is scoring on beam. Hunter hits a similar routine to Dickerson, just a step on the dismount.

Gerber looking very nice on bars. Just a small hop on the dismount, so it won’t be the 9.925 from yesterday, but will certainly be higher than MDLT.

Grable on floor – must hit for Arkansas. King finishes up a great beam routine for Florida, so they are still right in this, but it was not enough to make me think they will pass Alabama right now.

UCLA has improved by leaps and bounds on bars in the last month, and they got a 49.475 to stay just .025 behind Florida. That could go either way at the end. Alabama needs a 49.300 on bars to go level with Florida.

Arkansas finishing the rotation last with Pisani on floor. Arkansas isn’t in this, but she’s a joy to watch. A little bounce out of the mount and then a ridiculous fall punching out of her middle pass. That’s such a shame and so unexpected.

Rotation 5:
UCLA will be finishing the meet in this rotation on beam and needs to be the best they’ve ever been to have a shot at reaching Alabama. Alabama goes to bars, where they will need those big 9.9 routines from Stack-Eaton and Priess, and they will need the first three to squeeze every bit of 9.850 life out of their routines.

Suzanne just said Florida’s beam was the best they’ve ever had. What?

Gerber starting beam for UCLA but we don’t get to see it finish, so that we can watch Arkansas wait. Why? Nice from Lewis.

Alabama has a mistake from Demeo to start on bars. Interesting. Pressure on the rest of them now. Jacob hits? Is this getting interesting? Dear ESPN, less Arkansas, more UCLA and Alabama right now.

It appears Aisha Gerber had a mistake on beam. Florida, are you seeing this?

Hong on floor, beautiful movement as always, but the tumbling isn’t quite there yet.

Ugh, they think Mattie is Vanessa. How hard is it to recognize Mattie Larson? A little low on landing, but a good clean routine. 9.900, which is high but consistent with the rest of the competition.

Good vault from Pisani with just a minor slide back. Sledge on bars now, great gienger, and excellent DLO as always. They are recovering from DeMeo’s mistake.

Great hit from Zamarripa on beam. That was better than Mattie’s routine, so we’ll see what happen.

Priess on bars, must hit – nice but a step on landing. They won’t get those same 9.9s from yesterday, so Florida is in this.

EHH has a fall on beam – bad competition from her – so they are counting the 9.725 from Gerber and will be out of this. That’s a shame, so it’s down to Florida and Alabama now. EHH is crying now, such a shame. She knows they can’t come back from that.

First final score – Arkansas at 196.300.

Waiting for Peszek on beam, she needs about an 11 to help UCLA here. Good hit, and UCLA will get an excellent score, but not quite good enough. They really were a good EHH day away from winning a national title.

The other big news, Alabama was not able to move ahead of Florida so they are within .025 going into the final rotation. This will be a great fight. Can’t wait.

UCLA gets a 49.450 while counting a 9.725 on beam. Where would they have been otherwise? Florida will need a 49.375 on floor to tie UCLA. Alabama will need a 49.400 on beam to tie UCLA.  Even though it was not the best for the Bruins, 197.750 is not a Super Six score to be disappointed in.

Rotation 6:
UCLA and Arkansas are done. Florida is on floor and Alabama is on beam.

Jacob has started on beam, and it looks like Florida has started floor as well. So why are we seeing Utah?

Ferguson starts with 9.850 for Florida, Stageberg must stay in bounds. She did this time. Alabama’s first two are hitting beam very well. This is going to be such a fight right now. Edge to Alabama on the first scores.

Johnson a little wonky on the dbl arabian, but fine – Williams a little wobble on beam – and hits overall, as does Johnson very well.

Now it’s up to Dickerson and DeMeo – scores getting very big in this last rotation. Dickerson has huge step out of her dbl Arabian – it’s the opening Alabama needs, but that was the only real deduction in the routine.

Major bend at the knees for DeMeo, she matches Dickerson in giving something away, minor step on double pike.

Marissa King time now, impromptu dbl Arabian – love her. A little low in her double pike, but it was solid.

Stack-Eaton now – hit routine that should confirm that they move ahead of UCLA and put some pressure on Florida after the King routine.

Final routine for Florida now – Hunter – beautiful DLO – she needs a 9.925 and should probably get it.  Going into the final pass now – must nail it though. And she did. It will probably be a 9.950.

Alabama can pass Florida, though, with a big routine from Priess – this is going to be within a tenth for the top three teams. Priess sticks her dismount, and I think that will be enough.

Florida passes UCLA by .025 and I think Alabama will pass them. They did.

That was all the excitement we could have asked for. Devastating for Florida. Alabama wins the second straight title. Top three teams were all within a tenth of each other. I felt UCLA and Alabama had places where they gave it away, but Florida really didn’t (except for Ashanee on bars I suppose). Great job by all the top teams, but I have to admit I’m a little disappointed by this result. I thought Alabama was the beneficiary of a good rotation order in terms of building scores (going right after UCLA) and that Florida was the stronger team overall today. What more could they have done? Part of this is also that it would have been great to see a new Champion. Alabama did very well, so I don’t want to be too hard on them, but this was Florida’s year.

I haven’t mentioned Stanford because they weren’t really in this by the end, but a huge 197.500 is a great accomplishment for them as well. They never went away.

FINAL SCORES:
1. Alabama – 197.850
2. Florida – 197.775
3. UCLA – 197.750
4. Stanford – 197.500
5. Utah – 197.375
6. Arkansas – 196.300