Live Blog – Utah @ UCLA

Live Video

After the first two days of competition, Georgia leads the way with a 196.525.  They will be over the moon if they can pop up in the first Monday rankings as the #1 Georgia Gymdogs, and we probably won’t hear the end of it for a while.

However, both of the teams competing this afternoon have a legitimate chance to eclipse that total. Based on the lineup Utah is sending out and their recent training videos, I don’t expect to see many 9.9s, but this team is certainly capable of 9.850-ing their way into the mid/high 196s at this point in the season. Watch for Dabritz and Delaney’s scores relative to the rest of the team and how far along Robarts is in coming back.  They need her to be a scoring leader.

For UCLA, we have no idea, as always.  I’d like to see them send out as many top gymnasts as are ready to compete for this first meet (with meets against Cal and San Jose St to follow, there will be ample opportunity to experiment), but Val could just as easily decide to “explore depth” here, in which case the scoring expectations would be lower.  Their overall goal needs to be to hit all events (beam!) and make sure they start this season from a place of confidence instead of having to swim against the current of debilitating early performances as we have seen in most of the recent seasons.  Val won’t want to have to keep convincing the team that they are on the right track this year.  They should know it from their own performances.

Of note:

  • Allison Taylor will be providing the commentary.  I can barely fathom what to expect.  This will be her biggest contribution ever to a UCLA meet.  I almost miss her one routine (9.225) per year.  Maybe she’ll surprise us as a commentator.  Maybe…  
  • Tiffany Hyland is no longer on the UCLA roster.  I’m actually kind of sad.  Freshman walk-ons, you have some very big shoes to fill.  I never would have had a problem had the team not pretended she was part of the roster and a gymnast on the team, rather than a manager/helper/cheerleader.
(Live commentary after the jump)
That picture of Zam in her superhero outfit is terrifying.  Is her super power haunting nightmares?

There’s a rhythmic show before the meet.  The sound is terrible.  Please work on this, UCLA.  Anna Bessonova wept.  Leave it to the Asian girl to raise the level.  Thank you.

Lineup time: Ads over the Utah lineup announcement…hahaha.

OMG…this video…I can’t…This is the story of how we became ’80s drag queens…

So many options in this UCLA lineup (please stop talking over it…) who will compete?  Allison Taylor has overperformed so far.

1st rotation – UCLA on vault, Utah on bars

Kaelie Baer is competing on vault.  I’m floored.  Dear guy, please don’t say “exhibitionist,” say “performing an exhibition.”

I just lost the feed.  Are you kidding me? …… Phew, it’s back.  Don’t scare us like that, please.

Baer – UCLA – not too bad, fine distance, medium hop back (9.825)

Lofgren – Utah – tkatchev, straddle back, hitting handstands, flung DLO with step forward.  Nice before the dismount. They originally announced 9.875, which would have been way high, then announced 9.750, now it’s 9.550 on the scoreboard – no idea what’s happening.

Larson – UCLA – good start to her career, similar to Baer with hop back but more powerful, maybe a little pikey on replay. (9.875 – high)

Lopez – Utah – tkatchev, little leg sep on bail hs, better DLO with step forward. (9.750 – hers was better than Lofgren’s).

Courtney – UCLA – good power with slide back, not quite what she was doing at the end of last year. (9.900 – it was a good vault, but they are…enjoying being at home)

Dabritz – Utah – good hs, hit comaneci, ooh was way far away on her jaeger and fell, that’s a shame this would have been a good routine.  Good stuck tuck full dismount – she’ll be a high scorer for them soon enough. (9.350 – that’s a great score for having a fall)

Frattone – UCLA – stuck Omelianchik – really nice job – they are on and prepared at the first meet – wow. (9.950)

Lothrop – Utah – missed hs to start, piked jaeger, little sloppy on bail hs, nice clean DLO.  She gave away more than she should have. (9.800)

Peszek – UCLA – almost stuck but she stepped back, so she won’t get it.  Doesn’t quite have the distance, but good confidence and power. (9.925 – too high)

Beers – Utah – ooh – missed first handstand, leg sep on pak, this is a big struggle, DLO with hop forward – that was a very weak routine. (9.500)

Zamarripa – UCLA – great Zam vault – except maybe more piked than it used to be – with slide back – probably shouldn’t get more than 9.9, though. (9.900 – you could make the argument for 9.850, but this is expected at home)

McAllister – Utah – good high gienger, ugh- wieler kip, little flung on the tcuk full with step back, but she hit. (9.825)

McDonald Exo – UCLA – good height and distance, will need to work on landing to make the lineup – bigger step back.

Damianova Exo – Utah – good height on her jaeger but fell, bad handstand back up, bail hs with back issue, dbl front dismount with big leg sep and step back – not lineup ready yet.

Rotation 1 – UCLA – 49.550 Utah 48.425

UCLA was very good, but certainly not that good – it’s nice being at home isn’t it?  Shame about the fall from Dabritz for Utah, but she’ll get there.  Beers was the bigger concern in that lineup for me.  They don’t really have the showpiece routine on bars yet.

Rotation 2 – Utah on vault, UCLA on bars

Allison is talking about what it feels like to compete at Utah (with all her experience competing)…Oh Allison, you were doing so well…

I’m impatient!

Wilson (in for Lopez) – Utah – fine y full, step forward – unremarkable but good leadoff. (9.850 – at least they’re being equally charitable)

MDLT – UCLA – (hmmm, leading off) hop full to gienger – same as always, bail hs, stuck DLO – they are on fire. (9.850)

Lothrop – Utah – y full with biggish hop back, needs a bit more height, but is helping to get them back on track. (9.800)

Gerber – UCLA – lovely toes, good jaeger, pak with leg sep, dbl arabian dismount – new – with step forward – mistakes but she’s a joy to watch on this event. (9.900 – extremely high)

McAllister – Utah – y full, a little off line with step back – missing just a bit of the power. (9.775)

Larson – UCLA – nice shaposh, little missed hs, bail hs, DLO with hop forward – very good and can get better – this routine looks so easy for her…it is. (9.825 – fair score, but it was comparable to Aisha’s routine)

Dabritz – Utah – just the y full – I wish we had seen the 1.5 – good clean form with small hop.  Hopefully she will upgrade. (9.875)

Peszek – UCLA – nice high gienger, good bail, a little struggle back to high bar, DLO a little flung with hop back.

Delaney – Utah – really nice form on y full with tiny hop back – this vault would get a 9.9 in the UCLA rotation, let’s see… (9.900 – ok, good consistency, judges)

Zamarripa – UCLA – good shaposh, stalder + bail hs, over on hs but saved it, DLO – almost stuck with small step – this can get toward 10 territory in time but had the handstand mistake here. (9.825)

Robarts – Utah – great distance on Omelianchik but larger step forward. (9.875)

Courtney – UCLA – (why is she the anchor?) – another shaposh, bail hs, tuck full – very nice and stuck – a little bit of toes and legs, but it’s fine. (9.875)

Lopez Exo – Utah – average yfull with small hop

EHH Exo – UCLA – (let’s see about the dismount) – giant full to bail hs – good, this was really excellent and then just a dbl tuck dismount – if they can figure that dismount out finally, she can be great. (9.775)

Whitcomb Exo – UCLA – missed hs, good stalder and bail hs, just a dbl tuck dismount right now – they’ll need her to step that up and be in this lineup.

Rotation 2 – UCLA 49.275 Utah 49.300 (Overall UCLA 98.825, Utah 97.750)

Much better on vault from Utah than bars, but the landings can get better and will over time.  UCLA had little mistakes through the bars rotation with some legs and handstands and dismounts – this group has potential, but they are not as far along as they are on vault.  Still, they should be better on this event than they were last year.

Rotation 3 – UCLA on beam, Utah on floor

Uh oh, UCLA on beam…here we go.  If they can hit 5 of 6, this meet is automatically a victory.

Gerber – UCLA – (ugh, why is she still leading off?) – tuck turn – hit, excellent dance elements, nice on the side somi – that’s sometimes a problem for her, big wobble on walkover but saved it, dismount  series — stuck landing with full twist.  Would have been great if not for the walkover. (9.800)

Tutka – Utah – tuck full mount with bounce back, rudi + leap + front tuck – good energy, the leaps need some work – dbl tuck dismount – good body position but a bigger step back out of it. (9.800)

Courtney – UCLA – full turn – a little tentative, loso series – big wobble, bigger than Aisha’s, she looks nervous, front tuck – solid – issue on dbl tuck dismount- may have been a fall but it was off camera — oh, UCLA… (9.400 – not sure what the judges decided there, one went 9.6 and one went 9.2…these scores were later revised to 9.45 and 9.35.  How tidy.)

Damianova – Utah – layout + rudi, 1.5 on 2nd pass – music choice is a little predictable, but it works for her performance personality, dbl pike – a little low. (9.825)

Wong – UCLA – (white knuckle time) – wobble on both leaps, shouldn’t get connection, wobble on aerial walkover, back tuck – another big wobble – this is a nervy mess, switch side – hit, full turn – big wobble, 1.5 dismount with hop forward — that was kind of a disaster, but she stayed on the beam. (9.550)

Dabritz – Utah – good dbl arabian mount, nice attitude turn and front tuck, whip + dbl full, this has improved since some of the training videos, triple full dismount – a little legs but nice.  Their best routine so far. (9.900)

Larson – UCLA – let’s see how she handles her balance beam situation, good aerial walkover, loso series – good, switch + ring jump, full turn, good display of flexibility, dbl full dismount with near stuck.  Mattie didn’t splattie!  Nice work to start to change the narrative. (9.800)

Robarts – Utah – dbl arabian – low and step forward but she got it, dbl pike – bounce back, whip + dbl full dismount.  Not so clean on the landings, but she got through a hit routine, which is progress in her comeback. (9.750)

EHH – UCLA – hit mount, perfect on series (Allison pretends like she didn’t know what was coming), little balance check on leap, off on her illusion turn – well this is officially a disaster rotation for UCLA – some things never change – hits dbl full dismount.  They cannot afford falls from their best gymnast on the apparatus. (9.225)

Lothrop – Utah – tuck full – solid, 1.5 + layout, dbl pike – a little low.  Another efficient routine from her. (9.875 – a little high)

Peszek – UCLA – leaps and gainer loso, L turn – wouldn’t get credit in elite – and wobble, walkover to dismount series – hit.  They took out the standing full since they needed a hit – smart. (9.825)

McAllister – Utah – tuck full – a little low but fine, 2.5 + front tuck – little uncontrolled step out, dbl full + loso – nice.  In the Utah way, they stepped it up in this rotation when they needed to. (9.875)

Frattone Exo – UCLA – loso series – wobble, leaps – a little tentative, punch front – low and iffy, dbl full dismount – stuck.  Good routine, but she wouldn’t have hit had she been in the lineup.

Lofgren Exo – Utah – good dbl pike, split full was seriously lacking split, whip + dbl full, rudi + loso

Baer Exo – UCLA – good switch side, side somi – grabbed beam, her leaps are actually nice, dismount series with small hop.  Don’t see her in the lineup, really…

Rotation 3 Utah 49.275 UCLA 48.375 (Overall UCLA 147.200 Utah 147.025)

Well, UCLA completely UCLA-ed that rotation with 1 fall, 1 should-have-been-a fall, and 1 wobble-burger.  They can come back on floor and still win this, but beam remains a concern, but it shouldn’t really be this year.  They’ll hope to get Zam back here soon, so perhaps she can replace Wong, but they need people like EHH to be rocks.

Rotation 4 Utah on beam, UCLA on floor

Lothrop – Utah – switch side, side aerial and series are solid – another good, efficient routine from Lothrop – she’s the perfect little leadoff, 1.5 dismount with hop back. (9.800)

Gerber – UCLA – (how I love this routine, please hit) – dbl tuck – low and step forward, whip half + front full – big stumble but stayed up…oh dear, Allison needs to stop talking through this, dbl pike dismount with big step – not well executed on the tumbling, but we forgive her. (9.750)

Lopez – Utah – loso series with wobble, punch front – step, dbl full dismount with step – good start for Lopez in her career today. (9.800)

Frattone – UCLA – combo opeining, rudi then back into dbl pike- hit it, this is one of the better routines she’s had, rudi into wonky shushunova to end – hmm, how will the judges treat that? (9.875 – high)

McAllister – Utah – loso three series – hit, good confidence on leaps, stuck double full – consistent, hitting to win. (9.850)

Courtney – UCLA – Dbl arabian with huge step forward and OOB – she often overdoes that pass – 1.5 + layout, this routine doesn’t really do anything for me because she doesn’t sell it well enough, dbl tuck dismount with wobbly step back.  This routine needs work. (9.700)

Lofgren – Utah – leaps aren’t great to open – even Allison commented on it, completly off on loso – I don’t think either foot touched, off again on aerial – uh oh, gainer full dismount.  Utah didn’t count a fall in 2011, can they keep it up? (8.400)

Larson – UCLA – (marionette routine) – mount – good not great, totally messed up her second pass – only did a single tuck – not doing the whole routine and missing necessary skills – shades of Worlds 2010 – oh dear, Mattie, great turns and leaps, 2.5 dismount. (9.550)

Beers – Utah – aerial – hit, loso three series – solid and on, wobble on jumps, slightly off balance on full turn, side aerial – good, gainer full dismount with step.  They’re not imploding to the degree of UCLA. (9.750)

Peszek – UCLA – rubbing herself to start, DLO mount – nice, front full + front layout – almost lost where she was in the air on the stag jump out of that pass, usual Miss Val writhing on the ground choreo – I’m a sucker for it, dbl pike dismount with bounce back.  Big necessary hit for UCLA. (9.875)

Robarts – Utah – missed beginning, switch leap, side aerial, dbl full dismount – legs and hop, but they hit when they needed to. (9.800)

EHH – UCLA – they need a big score from her – working it as always – dbl tuck mount (hmm) bounce back and OOB, usual middle pass, not her usual quality of routine so far, very low landing on dbl pike dismount – she may just have lost the meet with that – it will be close.  Two pretty poor rotations from UCLA to finish. (9.675 – revised score to give her the OOB, which she was)

Kobayashi Exo – Utah – sheep, wobble on jumps, loso series – wobble, completely off on side aerial – that’s a shame.  Stuck gainer full dismount.

UCLA just ekes out the win.

MDLT Exo – UCLA – dbl pike – a little uncontrolled, whip half + front full, leaps are a little better perhaps, like the choreo on this one, 1.5 + layout with stumble.  Probably shouldn’t be in the lineup.

FINAL – UCLA 196.075 Utah 196.025

Well, after the first rotation I was going to say that UCLA and Florida had switched places, but UCLA showed they are truly themselves in January on those last two disheartening apparatuses.  The result probably would have been flipped had this meet been in Utah, but neither team deserved it more than the other.  Utah was poor on bars and average on beam, UCLA was poor on beam and average on floor.

Utah is just missing the potential for star performances on bars and beam, and UCLA had too many wobbly, tentative, not fully prepared routines on the final two apparatuses.  Both teams should be right there in the top 5 all season, but there’s a lot to be frustrated by as a fan of either team (but also a lot of time to fix it).

Sam Peszek wins the AA with a 39.450.  Good for her.  They need her in the AA hitting her routines for 9.875 all season long.

Anna Li is there.  We miss her.  Val pretended that Anna got to compete at Worlds.  I’m going to pretend that, too.

Scores adjusted: Judges realized that EHH was OOB, and raised Beers by .025, so it got even closer.

Live Blog – Florida @ NC State

Live Video

It begins.  Because of the influx of freshman talent across the top teams, I’m much more excited for this season than I was for last season.  After this weekend’s meets, I’ll probably be jaded and cynical about everyone again, but let’s just enjoy this moment while we can.

All eyes are on Rhonda this year after the disaster of last postseason, and she knows it.  There is more pressure on Florida than any other team, including defending champion Alabama.  The question coming from all corners is, regardless of talent level, can Rhonda actually coach a team to a championship?  She hasn’t proven it yet, and in 2011 with her most talented team ever, she didn’t get close.  On the positive side, she is willing to make significant changes to her coaching strategy, and tonight we will begin to see (and evaluate) how those changes are working.

I expect to see more lineup experimentation from Florida this season than we saw last year.  That’s necessitated by having such a deep, talented team and the need to explore all options so that many gymnasts are comfortable competing by championship season.  I hope Wang and Spicer get some opportunities tonight so we can begin to evaluate how useful they will be to the team.  It will also be interesting to see how much the team is relying on Hunter this early and how far along Caquatto is.

(Live commentary after the jump)

Coverage is beginning.  They throw out t-shirts after 9.7s.  These expectations…

If NC State can break 195, this meet is a victory.  It’s not about the result.

Is there anything worse in the world than shots of the crowd at any event?  I don’t want to have to look at this.  Don’t wave at the big screen; it’s not a camera.

Florida lineups: Spicer and Hunter look nervous.  For a second I thought Marissa King had a cast, but it was just wristbands.  Phew.  I’m a problem.

NC State lineups: They’ll be relying on Barr and Panza a lot this season.  This is a pretty big team…they’re almost rivaling UCLA…19 people on the roster this season.

Rotation 1: NC State on vault, Florida on bars

Touch warmup begins, NC State in red with black shoulders.  Wang and King on bars for FL, no Caquatto.  Florida in the dark leo with the silver UF.  Thank heavens it’s not Orangesicle Nightmare.

Marion – NCST – yhalf with huge leap forward and multiple steps, will score very low. (9.575)

Ellis – FL – jaeger – close, bail hs – ok, DLO with step back – fine opening for Florida. (9.750)

Fallanca – NCST – yfull, pretty nice for them, a little bent legs and step back, will score much higher. (9.750)

Wang – FL – clear hip, tkatchev, bail, near stick on the DLO, good start to her career, they should be pleased with that.  A little form everywhere but solid. (9.750)

Ouellette – NCST – yfull, big bend in legs and step back, pretty nice height, though. (9.700)

[buffering, ugh – missed Marissa King on bars, she got a 9.8]

Johnson – NCST – (in for Williams who injured herself in warmups) yfull, same issues as the previous two with legs but a bigger step back so should score a bit lower. (9.700)

Dickerson – FL – tkatchev – big, bail hs, missed hs, stuck DLO, I expect this will be the biggest score yet.  She has built-in deductions but hit to her capabilities. (9.800)

Ham – NCST – stuck landing but low chest, so shouldn’t be that huge on score – good improvement from earlier in the lineup, though. (9.875 – high)

Hunter – FL – they didn’t show it.  Don’t they know we’re more interested in Florida? (9.775)

Johnson – FL – lovely Ray, stalder nice, little leg sep on bail, DLO stuck – easily Florida’s best routine. (9.875 – fair)

Barr – NCST – yhalf, a little bend legs and step forward. (9.825)

Spicer Exo – FL – tkatchev – fine, giant full, bail hs – short, tuck full – step back.  This should be in the lineup soon. (9.650 – I think – seems low, but her bail hs was VERY short)

Rotation 1 – Florida: 49.000 NC State: 48.850

About what I expected from Florida.  They don’t look particularly sharp on handstands and dismounts, as they wouldn’t with their training schedule.  NC State is on track for a good showing for them.  I wanted to see them at a 48.750 average per rotation.

Rotation 2 – Florida on vault, NC State on bars

No Johnson or Caquatto on vault for Florida.  To answer the question, I wasn’t expecting Caquatto to be totally back from her ankle injury from the summer, but I haven’t heard of subsequent injuries.

Florida is showing tremendous height on vault in warmups.

Spicer – FL – high yfull, low chest and sideways step. (9.700)

Williams – NCST – giant full late, tkatchev, straddle back, tuck full with step back – poor handstands but a good leadoff. (9.675)

Wang – FL – y full, lacking distance, low chest, hop forward – a little tight from the first two freshmen, to be expected. (9.625)

Yanchocik – NCST – very late giant full, wonky gienger, toe shoot, a little under on her DLO – more sloppiness than the previous routine. (9.600)

Ellis – FL – yfull, good form but fairly sizable hop back. (9.850 – a little high)

Ouellette – NCST – giant full – tkatchev, straddle back, this is better from NCST, DLO step back.  Her form is a bit more precise and competitive. (9.750)

King – FL – tsuk full – MARRY ME – love it.  almost stuck – tried to pretend. (9.775 – whatever, judges)

Harabedian – NCST – leg sep on giant full, close tkatchev, bail hs, toe shoot, DLO larger step back. (9.650)

Dickerson – FL – good power on yfull, but major hop back – needs time to practice and control. (9.750)

Panza – NCST – high tkatchev, bail hs – a little hip form, DLO – step back.  Christine Still would call her an efficient little gymnast. (9.725)

Hunter – FL – lovely y1.5 in the air, largish hop forward, but should still break 9.8. (9.850)

We’ve finally had a Rhonda sighting.  She looks resolute but unimpressed in a cream top.

Fincham – NCST – oopsie, huge mistakes, I don’t even know what happened – catches tkatchev, sticks dbl arabian dismount – too bad about the beginning, she screwed up her toe on-off. (9.250)

Shisler (who?) – FL – EXO – very average yfull.

Kronenfeld – NCST – EXO – giant full to tkatchev, overcooked handstand and came off, bail, handstand issues, but a cleanish, close DLO.

Rotation 2 – Florida: 48.925 NC State: 48.400 (Overall Florida: 97.925 NC State 97.250)

For Florida on vault, the early freshmen looked very tight, and the rest need to work on landings.  Kytra was by far the highlight, and she will easily go 9.9+ later in the season with that very clean y1.5.  They’re leaving lots of room for improvement – good.

Rotation 3 – NC State on beam, Florida on floor

Ugh, simultaneous competition for the last two rotations.

Fincham – NCST – wobbly wolf, loso series – legs and step back, switch split + tuck full jump, punch front – a little low, full turn – nice, front full dismount.  Good start in that she stayed on. (9.525)

Ferguson – FL – missed beginning – big bounce back on mount, double pike middle pass, back 1.5 + layout.  deductions on first pass but solid. (9.775)

Ouellette – NCST – bhs bhs loso  – hit, poor splits on leaps, full turn, solid punch front, gainer full dismount.  They should be pleased. (9.700)

[GEORGIA update  — Ding goes 9.925 on vault – excellent.]

Spicer – FL – tuck full – little low chest but nice, front full + front layout, not wild about these leaps, dbl pike dismount – odd stumble back because she hit it, then lost concentration.  This music… (9.725)

Barr – NCST – bhs layout 2 ft – nicely done but a little pike-y on layout, standing front – wobble, front full dismount with hop up. (9.600)

Stageberg – FL – pike full in – stumble back and OOB, she just did Alicia’s thigh rub – oh, elite…, whip double full, nice dbl pike dismount.  A little posey, prancy for my liking. (9.625)

Ham – NCST – wolf full, saved series – she looked very off, off on her dance – uh oh, stuck front 1.5 dismount but low.  That’s a shame. (9.000)

King – FL – shakin’ it like she knows how,  back 2.5 – a little legs, front tuck to dbl back – a little low, very good on leaps – thank you, Marissa, excellent dbl pike dismount.  I’ll need the DLO to come back. It’s a shimmy of a routine, but I like it. (9.850)

Fallanca – NCST – loso three series, looks on so far, upsetting split position, but fine straddle quarter, back 1.5 dismount with large step forward. (9.750)

Dickerson – FL – please pretend like you mean it, Ashanee,  dbl arabian mount – very good, dbl tuck – a little low, I’d like to see her sell this a little more, good dbl pike dismount.  This is solid for January – she will go 9.9+ later. (9.875 – high)

Panza – NCST – hits three series, a little wobble on full turn, aerial – pretty good, sticks gainer full.  Unremarkable composition but a good routine. (9.825)

Hunter – FL – crazy excellent DLO, this is already the best floor she’s been given, which is saying nothing, 1.5 + lo + front pike – so easy looking for her, I hate this music, there’s not a ton of dance here, but it’s okay – dbl tuck dismount – too easy for her and it shows – uncontrolled step back. (9.900)

Jarred – NCST – EXO – nice illusion turn, this is a solid routine that could make the lineup later, she has a fine line.  dbl full dismount – I like this routine better than most in the lineup.

Wang – FL – EXO – dbl tuck, 1.5 + layout, I like the music selection and performance here, but this routine probably won’t contend for lineup until there’s more difficulty, she presents with good face, though, good dbl pike. (9.800)

Rotation 3 – Florida: 49.125 NC State: 48.425 (Overall: Florida 147.050 NC State 145.675)

This has gotten a bit disappointing for NC State, lots of uncertainty on the beam, which I suppose is to be expected. Florida scored their best rotation on the floor, and they should be excellent here during the season when Johnson gets in the lineup and they are a little more perfected.  Now on to the beam.  Eek.

Rotation 4 – Florida on beam, NC State on floor

(GEORGIA update – Kat Ding is amazing again – 9.975 on bars in the opening meet.  Possible home scoring, but she certainly has the potential to do it, so maybe not.  They’re scoring very well so far, 98.475 after 2 rotations.)

Stageberg – FL – aerial + bhs – solid, bhs + bhs + layout full dismount – good start.  She could be a nice nominee for leadoff for them this year. (9.800)

Marion – NCST – dbl pike – bounce back, layout + layout, dbl tuck – fall, it was never close.  Rough situation for NC State. (9.125)

Spicer – FL – bhs loso – right on, gainer loso, exactly what she was recruited for, solid and consistent. (9.750)

Jarred – NCST – back 2.5 with uncontrolled step forward, L and illusion turns, she has excellent turning, front handspring + rudi, splits aren’t as nice as turns, front double full dismount. (9.825)

Johnson – FL – (9.750)

Ham – NCST – dbl pike, front layout + front full, dbl tuck with step back. She seems confident with her tumbling but is often low. (9.775)

Dickerson – FL – bhs + loso – bent legs, punch front – a little low, but not bad, little wobble on pike jump, stuck double back dismount.  Rhonda is much more pleased than she was by this routine at regionals last year, we’ll say that. (9.825)

Ouellette – NCST – pike full mount – good difficulty for this team, rudi + loso, she’s a taller girl which helps her on elements like that, cat leap (why do they exist?), whip dbl full dismount – nice.  This is a solid floor for them. (9.750)

Hunter – FL – she’ll need to work on her NCAA expression, sizable wobble on loso, double back dismount. (9.775)

Barr – NCST – DLO with leg separation, better leaps, front full + front layout – little bounce out, dbl tuckdismount – good, confident. (9.850)

King – FL – right on for her acro and series, she can be the solid anchor for this team if she hits to capability.  It didn’t always happen at the end of last season. (9.825)

Panza – NCST – dbl pike – major bounce back, front full + front layout – good position, horrid leaps, rudi dismount – a little bit of leg form.  This was not as strong as Barr’s routine. (9.800)

Mahlich for Florida and Harabedian for NC State are exhibitioning.

FINAL SCORES: Florida: 196.025 NC State: 194.675

All-Around: 1) Hunter – 39.300, 2) Dickerson – 39.250, 3) King – 39.250, 4) Ouellette – 38.900

Well, there will probably be some who will criticize Florida’s performance because the score is lower than we usually see from a healthy Florida in January.  For me this is an average, but right on expectations, performance.  They did not look particularly impressive on any apparatus, largely because of details.  They will need to clean up the landings, which will happen over the course of the season, and get more numbers in with these routines.

It was nice to see some gymnastics from Spicer and Wang — they will not light the world on fire, but they can be solid when necessary.  Great for Hunter to win the AA in her first meet.  She will be a leader on VT and FX for them for sure.  When Caquatto gets back and when Johnson gets into the AA, I’m sure we will start to see the 197s from them.  They have left significant room to peak, which I suppose was the goal.

(GEORGIA update – Shayla hit beam for 9.875 and Kat Ding didn’t fall (It’s a January miracle!).  Tanella got a 9.850 – okay…  147.600 after 3 rotations.  They will be ecstatic if they outscore Florida, which they will if they hit floor.)

Georgia scores 196.525 in victory.  That’s about expected for a home meet in this part of the season.  Shayla hit her three events, and Kat Ding won her two best events.  Kaylan Earls scored well in debut.  Noel Couch won the AA.  They should be very pleased with this as a starting point.  

Meet Notes – January 6th-8th

Florida @ NC State – Friday 7:00 ET
This meet is really more like Florida vs. Expectations as NC State should not be in the same scoring stratum as the Gators in a sane world.  NC State currently sits in that frustrating purgatory where they should make Regionals but have no realistic hope of making Championships.  They bring the same composition and skill set as teams in the 13-18 range, but a lack of general amplitude and acceptable split position keeps them a step lower.  We’ll see a lot of tuck jumps and cat leaps as a way of avoiding those splits.

As for Florida, we got official confirmation this week that Rachel Spicer is joining the team, which should give them some depth and a consistent early-lineup worker on any event.  I have more hope for her making lineups than I do for Kiersten Wang, but time will tell.  The change in fall preparation schedule will likely have an effect on Florida’s January quality, but I do still expect them to perform well and score in the 196s.  Although, as explained in my Florida preview, a fall or two on beam in these early meets would not be the worst thing in the world.  All in all, we’ll probably see a healthy mix of solid 9.9s and tentative 9.7s, which is to be expected at this time of year.  Pay special attention to Kytra Hunter’s contribution here and over the first few weeks.  They will need her sturdiness to take some pressure off of Caquatto’s legs in the early season and to anchor vault and floor with 9.9+ in the later season.
Rotation to watch: Florida on beam.  They will need to experiment with this lineup over the course of months since no one should have a guaranteed spot after the performance last postseason.  Watch this rotation more for competition confidence than for scores.  A fall is fine right now as long as it is part of an aggressive routine.  Uncertainty is the biggest red flag.

Denver @ Georgia – Friday 7:30 ET
Here we have another meet where the result shouldn’t really be in doubt, although Denver is a better team than NC State, and Georgia is a worse team than Florida.  It wouldn’t be entirely inconceivable for Georgia to have a shambolic performance and lose, though I wouldn’t bet on it.  Georgia has the benefit of opening the season at home, so expect the scores to be . . . generous with a sarcastic smile.

Jay Clark held a live chat earlier today, which is a pretty boring read, so you don’t need to bother unless you really love Jay and/or diplomatic answers.  He did make one odd comment, though, saying that vault and beam would likely be the highest scoring events for Georgia this year.  Really?  Vault?  Where you have Kat Ding, Kaylan Earls, and . . . who else?  Bekah Bennetts and Rue McClanahan?  Bars should be a better event for them with Ding, Worley, Davis, and Nuccio who all should be capable of 9.9s, so bars being weaker than vault would be a concern going forward.

While we usually hear the most discussion each fall about how the freshmen are going to change the complexion of a team, the rhetoric for Georgia this year has been all about Shayla.  “This is Shayla’s year.”  They better hope so.  Because of her performance over the last two seasons, she has a lower threshold for a slow start.  One fall on beam and those pitchforks are going to be out.  She needs to be a scoring leader from the first meet.

Rotation to watch: Georgia on bars.  They will not be able to contend with the top three teams on vault and, especially, floor.  They just don’t have the quality and depth.  A great bars rotation is crucial to help erase that deficit.  Christa Tanella’s 9.7 won’t cut it here.

Cancun Classic (Arkansas, LSU, Iowa, Auburn, Arizona, San Jose State) – Friday 8:00 ET
I’m calling this meet the Spoiler Alert Classic as Arkansas and LSU are the most discussed spoilers to the top teams.  LSU had a miserable season by their standards in 2011, and they will be relying primarily on an excellent crop of freshmen to lift them up.  Relying on new gymnasts for the majority of late-lineup routines is a dangerous proposition, and I’m not sold on their ability to carry this team.  I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I don’t see them challenging consistently.  This meet will be a good first test of how many holes those freshmen can fill and where the team is still lacking.

Arkansas has a bit more experience and depth as a group, which is why I expect them to take this meet.  The big task for Arkansas in 2012 is avoiding being simply The Jamie Pisani Experience Starring Jamie Pisani.  Katherine Grable is the most likely heir to that throne, just as Pisani was the heir to the Casey Jo Magee throne, but the team will need to find more top routines from the likes of Borsellino, Howdeshell, and the freshmen.

Rotation to watch: Arkansas on beam.  If this team is going to make the transition to being a contender instead of a perennial challenger, they can’t have rotations that they are just trying to get through, as beam was in 2011.  We’re starting to expect more than just a bunch of 9.75s.  Do they exist?

(continued with Saturday and Sunday meets)

Oklahoma @ Kentucky, with Bowling Green and Wisconsin-Oshkosh – Saturday 6:00 ET
This is the least interesting meet in terms of potential result since a loss would be embarrassing for Oklahoma, but watching for the quality of Oklahoma’s performance will be much more interesting.  There are many doubts as to how this team can contend without Natasha Kelley, so even though I’m usually mistrustful of big scores in early meets, a huge result may benefit Oklahoma more so than other teams in terms of momentum, confidence, and overall perception.      

Oklahoma would like someone aside from Megan Ferguson to have a big meet right away in order to become another scoring rallying point.  They have several solid nominees for this Best Supporting Actress title like Taylor Spears, Kayla Nowak, or maybe Rebecca Clark, but there’s no clear winner yet.  At least one frontrunner will have to step up earlier rather than later.

Rotation to watch: Oklahoma on bars.  Who is making this lineup?  Are they just getting through the routines or do they look comfortable?  I have a feeling this lineup will all of the sudden look extremely sparse without Natasha Kelley.

Utah @ UCLA – Sunday 5:00 ET
This meet is the showpiece of the weekend and is realistically 50/50.  Utah should be the better-prepared team at this point in the season, but UCLA has more raw talent and is competing at home.  For that reason, I’m giving the slight edge to UCLA, but that prediction assumes they will be able to hit their routines in January.  I really should know better.

Utah released their meet notes, and the tentative lineup is notable for the 9 routines coming from freshmen.  It’s smart to see how they perform in this environment early in the season.  The vault lineup looks stronger than we have seen in a couple years (Delaney, Dabritz, and Robarts have real scoring potential), but bars jumps out as a concern.  There are too many form breaks in that six to score very well right now.

For UCLA, we should expect some characteristic early mistakes (six hit beam routines would be a January miracle), but the most important thing to watch will be the progression of Zamarripa and Larson.  Neither will be in top form right now, but both bring a level of precision and scoring potential that no one from Utah can match.  UCLA will hope they aren’t too far behind the rest of the team.  If we know anything about this team, it’s that they’ll keep us guessing about their real level until March and April, but it would be nice to see some of that potential realized a little earlier.  Perhaps we can rely on a now-healthy Sam Peszek to bring the goods in January.

Rotation to watch: UCLA on bars.  It would be easy to say beam, since they do need to gain serious consistency there, but bars should be the lineup with the most changes from last season.  If they are able to get Wong and Whitcomb into this lineup and performing well, they will be in great shape.  If they are relying too much on 9.8s from Hopfner-Hibbs and Courtney again, they may fall behind other top teams.     

Get. Ready.

As always, the start of the season has snuck up on us, and it’s now only four days away.  Here’s a look at what’s happening this weekend so you can plan accordingly:

  • Friday: The season begins, and I will be live blogging the broadcast of Florida @ NC State at 7 ET / 4 PT.  Special attention will be paid to Florida’s preparation schedule.  I don’t need to see a 197 this week.  I’ll also be following the scores of Denver @ Georgia and making completely unfounded comments about Shayla’s performance level.  
  • Saturday: Oklahoma has a quad meet away that they should win easily.  Note who is making lineups right now and how they are attempting to compensate for Natasha Kelley.
  • Sunday: I’ll be back to live blog Utah @ UCLA at 5 ET / 2 PT.  This should be the closest and most interesting meet of the weekend.  How are Mattie and Vanessa coming along?  Does Utah have enough star performances to contend?  Is Tiffany Hyland going to get all the water bottles in time?
Meets of note:

Friday – 1/6/12
6:30 ET / 3:30 PT – Washington @ Michigan State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Florida @ NC State
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – Denver @ Georgia
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Cancun Classic – (Arkansas, LSU, Iowa, Auburn, Arizona, San Jose St.)
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – UC Davis @ Arizona State
Saturday – 1/7/12
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – Oklahoma, Bowling Green, Wisconsin-Oshkosh @ Kentucky
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Ohio State @ Minnesota 
Sunday – 1/8/12
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – Penn State, Maryland @ West Virginia
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – Iowa State @ Missouri
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Utah @ UCLA