The Disappointment Has Arrived

A few thoughts about this weekend’s team performances.

I haven’t had an opportunity to see much of Arkansas or Oklahoma yet, so I don’t have a lot to say about those teams aside from Arkansas turning a few heads with that score in the first meet.  It will go a long way toward gaining national reputation if they can reside near the top of the rankings for a while.  We see from the scores that Katherine Grable did indeed perform well to support (outshine?) Jamie Pisani.  The Razorbacks actually appeared to have a very Oklahoma meet with a new gymnast stepping up on each apparatus to boost the scoring.  Keep an eye on them.  For the last few years the line has been, “If you have an off meet, Arkansas will beat you.”  They’re working hard to remove the conditional clause from that sentence in 2012.  

Georgia – 196.525
Georgia came out of the first weekend with the highest score in the country.  I not so concerned with the (mostly valid) complaints of overscoring at the meets hosted by Georgia and UCLA, especially at this point in the season.  I’m much more concerned with routine quality and potential.  So, Georgia’s score is a nice confidence booster for them but is not particularly relevant.

Nonetheless, Georgia has a lot to be proud of from this weekend, most importantly that they put together a complete meet, something they did only a handful of times all of last season.  They weren’t close to perfect, but they showed a lineup capable of hitting four solid rotations every single week with a number of standout routines on bars and a few on vault.  Kat Ding’s 9.975 on bars and “9.925” on vault were necessary in sparking the team’s scoring success, and she will clearly lead the group on those events.

That being said, it would be foolish to get too excited about Georgia’s potential right now because we also saw some glaring weaknesses exposed.  Floor and beam appeared sparse in terms of scoring potential, and going forward it will be crucial to get Chelsea Davis into the all-around to purge the lineup of some of these less pleasant routines.  In addition, Shayla Worley needs to be the scoring leader with 9.9s on both of those events.  She’s probably their most talented floor worker, and even though it’s hard to envision her staying healthy and consistent enough to post a 9.9 every week, the team needs it.  Noel Couch can’t be the floor anchor.  She just can’t.

Relying on Couch to get a 9.875 on floor and Christa Tanella to get a 9.850 on beam is not a viable long-term scoring strategy.  Davis and Worley have to take up the scoring responsibility on those events with their higher quality, more enjoyable gymnastics.  Couch and Tanella both perform like they are trying way too hard to make friends with every single person in the audience in a “look how much fun I’m having!” kind of way.  They have a calculated, spastic enthusiasm that comes across more like socially awkward desperation.  They need to transition to calm, presentable confidence now that they are upperclassmen.  Just settle down, close your mouth, and perform your routine.  And that Jaws routine certainly doesn’t help Couch seem like a more mature performer.  It’s too mime-y and childish for my taste.

In all, Georgia proved this week that they can be a top 6 team.  Remaining at the top of the conversation, though, is a new challenge that they will still have to prove they can meet.

UCLA – 196.075 
UCLA should be thanking their lucky stars (and a tremendous vault rotation) that they still came out of the first weekend with the third highest score in the country (with some excellent teams yet to compete).  In the previous post we heard Val’s thoughts on the matter, which were both delightful and true.  I especially appreciated her dismissal of the trite “we have a lot to work on…” nonsense answer.  This was a win that felt like a loss and should be treated like a loss.  

I made the comment in the preview regarding Florida that it is fine to have falls on beam in the early meets as long as those falls are part of aggressive routines.  None of UCLA’s mistakes were part of aggressive routines.  The floor tumbling looked imprecise and unprepared across the lineup, which is especially unfortunate if the team really was as prepared as Val says they were.  That floor rotation looked like a November intrasquad.

Of greater (and, unfortunately, expected) concern was the absolute trash heap of a beam rotation.  Olivia Courtney and Lichelle Wong performed so nervously and tentatively and probably deserved even lower scores than they received.  They looked like they would rather be anywhere else in the world besides competing beam.  I won’t spend too much time on the hit routines from Gerber, Larson, and Peszek because at least they hit, but even those were tentative, uncertain performances with a few silly mistakes.

However, the biggest issue of this meet for me was Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.  I usually love watching EHH’s gymnastics.  When she’s on, she sells it to the back row like UCLA gymnasts are supposed to, but those times have become fewer and farther between over the last year+.  Last season, she seriously underperformed especially at championships when they needed her to step up in the absence of Zamarripa.  I know it’s only one meet this year, but she had a silly fall on her go-to skill on beam and followed it up with one of her worst floor performances in a while (on a downgraded routine!)  I’m deeply concerned that she won’t get that 2010 quality back.            
UCLA can take some solace that they performed poorly and still scored well.  That vault rotation (while not 49.550 good) was still excellent and over time can become a legitimate 49.550 with some stuck landings.  Bars was just sort of fine with some smaller errors that can be worked on.  Although Whitcomb did look pretty far away from being lineup-ready, and they will need her in that top 6.  Presumably the team has already received a patented Val chat and hopefully will come out next week not competing like nervous, untalented wrecks.  They’re too good to allow this to happen again this year.  Stop it.      

Utah – 196.025
Utah fans feel that they should have won that meet against UCLA.  In truth, neither team should have won.  If I were in charge, they would both receive a loss.

The positive for Utah is that they responded well to adversity.  They recovered after a dire first rotation, and they hit after a disastrous beam routine from Lofgren.  Even though they scored higher on vault, the best rotation was probably floor.  The Marsdens have done a smart thing by having all these E mounts to show off a high skill set, but there are still too many low chest landings for my liking.  That’s the kind of thing that will keep them scoring lower than an Alabama or a Florida.  Vault scored well, but they don’t have the same amplitude as UCLA and would be well served by getting one or two Yurchenko 1.5s into the lineup.

Beam continued the trend we saw last season, where they can take a victory from being solid and not giving up a second fall, but they don’t have a standout routine.  The leadoff isn’t noticeably better than the anchor, and there is no one that jumps out as deserving a 9.9.  For all the commitment to difficulty on floor, there are still too many safer routines and dismounts (2 gainer fulls in the group of 6) for my taste.  This is a rotation that plays not to lose instead of playing to win.  That won’t cut it in the postseason.  The 5th and 6th gymnasts at least need to have a standout routine.

As for bars, UCLA’s beam rotation almost scored better than Utah’s bar rotation.  That’s how bad it was.  There were so many leg separations and so many missed handstands that I started to lose count when doing the live blog.  Even though she fell, I would give the award for best routine to Georgia Dabritz because she was the only one who hit handstands and performed with the potential for cleanliness.  This rotation should be a big red flag for Utah and needs to be addressed immediately.  Cortni Beers in particular was all over the place, just like at the Red Rocks Preview.  I’m not really sure why her incredibly sloppy routine is in the lineup right now.

For a team that has to make their way by being more consistent than their rivals, they did not show enough of that this week.  While some of the issues on bars and beam can be fixed, they may not have enough great routines.  Utah’s performance brings us back to the question, where are the 9.9s?

Florida – 196.025
Even though Florida scored equivalently to UCLA and Utah, I’m the most optimistic about their performance.  First, they were away at NC State in a meet that was scored relatively conservatively compared to other meets.  While there were some overscores (I thought Ashanee Dickerson got the benefit of the doubt), there were just as many underscores (Marissa King a few times) that it balanced out.

Florida’s pushed back training schedule was on display as we saw a lot of unpolished gymnastics and uncertain landings, but they hit the routines that they needed to hit and can actually use this as a confidence-building result rather than something they have to come back from or atone for.  Kiersten Wang and Rachel Spicer clearly are not up to form yet, but I also don’t expect them to be competing as many routines in the future as we saw from them this week.  This was, in many ways, a surprisingly experimental lineup from Rhonda, and that willingness to experiment should serve the team well going forward.  Even though the beam score was not great with everyone in the 9.750-9.825 range, they got six hit routines and have a starting point from which to evaluate the group.

Of the four teams discussed here, Florida’s lineup was also probably the farthest from ideal.  They had only two routines from Alaina Johnson and zero routines from Mackenzie Caquatto, and those six missing scores (all of which should be 9.850+ come the later season) would make a huge difference to Florida’s overall total and quality.  

While I take more encouragement from this performance than I do from some others, this meet was not without red flags.  Besides the continued wariness about beam (I still don’t really trust anyone in that lineup), my biggest concern is bars depth.  The great routines from Caquatto and Johnson are almost like a trick because they mask the averageness of the rest of the team.  When it comes to championships, two scores cannot carry a rotation.  You need three at least.  Rhonda needs to find that third bar routine.

It will be a few weeks before Florida has stiff SEC competition, and I’m interested to see how those bars and beam lineups handle the pressure of a tight meet, especially away.  Still, Florida can probably make the legitimate claim that they are on the right track after this meet.

Furious V

“I think I need more of a cooling off period before we talk about this.  It’s inexcusable, and I’m cool and calm right now.  It’s inexcusable to come out and compete so well, be so prepared, and then go up and compete tightly on beam.  I mean, I’m so SICK of saying that.  They could not be more prepared.  They couldn’t hit better in intrasquads.  It’s ridiculous, and I will stop now before I go into a full rant, but I mean, you know, we could sit here and say ‘ooh, the silver lining is we’ve got things to work on, and we’re really deep blah, blah, blah,’ but it was inexcusable.  It’s inexcusable to go up, to be so prepared, and to compete tightly when you’re this talented.  DONE.”

If anyone ever asks why you love one Valorie Kondos Field, a simple link to this interview will do.  Any time anyone asks me a question from now on, I’m ending my answer with “DONE.”

Val’s catchphrase last season was “training with purpose.”  She will really hope this year’s doesn’t become “inexcusable.”

I’ll put up full thoughts on the weekend’s meets soon, but Miss Val’s interviews were, as always, irresistible.

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.  

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama