Raleigh Regional Preview

Over the next few days, I’ll be taking several moments to preview the Regional Championships, providing analysis and predictions as to what we might see come Saturday, my favorite day in the NCAA calendar. The Raleigh Regional boasts top seed Florida and will be the first to start on Saturday (4 ET / 1 PT), so it seems a logical place to begin. Our competitors will be [1] Florida, [12] Ohio State, [13] Penn State, [20] NC State, [26] Kent State, and [31] North Carolina.

The Favorite:

The Florida Gators once again find themselves in the 1/12/13 Regional, highlighting how nonsensical the seeding process is. If the goal is to finish in the top two at each Regional, why does the top-ranked team in the nation get the most difficult #3 seed? But this issue has been well covered, so I’ll stop there.

Last year, Florida barely eked its way into Nationals after imploding on beam when Boise State just missed the necessary score in the last rotation, but I don’t expect to see a repeat of those nail-biting conditions this year. While the Gators of 2012 are a bit less polished, they are also much less likely to incur a fall than were the Gators of 2011, which makes all the difference for qualifying. Lack of polish never prevented a top team from advancing. That’s the job of falls. As we saw at SECs, Florida can be a little off and still go into the low 197s, which should certainly be enough to win the group. I’m going to give this one to Florida in a landslide.

However, there are still issues we need to keep an eye on as we evaluate the Gators’ chances heading to Nationals. At SECs, the tumbling was uncontrolled and inexact, and there needs to be much more sticking across all the events. As Suzanne rightly pointed out on the SEC broadcast, Florida’s delayed training schedule has put them behind some of the other teams in terms of focusing on sticking. This is not necessarily a problem, in fact it’s probably a good thing, but it could become a problem if they haven’t made any progress on this front by Regionals.

Another concern of mine, as I’ve mentioned before, is the lineups. Florida is a very deep team on paper, but they have a self-imposed shallowness because of sticking to the same lineups. Who would go in on beam if there is an injury? What’s the vault situation? There’s Spicer in the first position and a slightly injured Ellis up second (or Shisler if Ellis can’t go), so there will likely be little progress above 9.800 in those spots. Now, as we saw at SECs, the final four for Florida can still make it a big rotation, but there is little margin in that lineup. If one of the last four takes a big landing deduction, they won’t be able to keep pace. At Nationals, Florida needs to be top 3 on vault. But this does go to show that Florida’s problems are relatively minor at this point, and having to count a couple 9.775s will not be a problem for another three weeks.

More interesting than the expected Florida romp, though, will be the fight for the second spot.

The Contenders:
Unlike most of the other Regionals, where we see a likely second qualifier and a #3 seed that might challenge on a good day, the Raleigh Regional has three legitimate choices for the second spot for Nationals.

Throughout the season, Penn State had the edge over Ohio State in the rankings, but given the performance at Big Tens, the favorite for this position based on momentum is Ohio State. Penn State didn’t exactly struggle at Big Tens, but they had so very many 9.7 performances throughout the lineups that the degree to which they rely on Sharaya Musser to bump up the scores was really exposed. Madison Merriam will have to nearly match the scores from Musser for Penn State to contend. However, on a good day, they can go mid-196s, which may be enough.

Ohio State is in a rather different position. The Buckeyes do not have that one big scoring leader, which can hurt them in some of the anchor positions, but they have more people throughout the lineups who are capable of scoring 9.850s. The performance at Big Tens was also a turning point for Ohio State because it was the first time they put up a 196 on the road this season, which was one of the major questions marks surrounding their potential performance at Regionals. They had recorded big home scores before (and we all still question that 197.625 from the middle of the season), but proving the depth through the 4th and 3rd positions on the road was a major step.

We also can’t count out the hosts, NC State. Normally, I would say that they are just a step below the rest of the teams and wouldn’t have a clear shot at one of the top two spots, but the Wolf Pack has recorded a few high home scores this season, which gives everyone reason to pause and consider their chances. Now, if the meet is scored consistently, I don’t see NC State advancing because they don’t have the cleanliness of the teams ranked above them, but a little home boost could put them right in the hunt for the second position.

In tracking which of these teams will advance, watch the floor scores throughout the meet. If the judges are convinced by Ohio State’s tumbling and start giving them a few 9.875s, Penn State is going to have a very difficult time coming back from that because they will likely already have given away a few tenths on vault (I see bars and beam as pretty equivalent between the two). NC State is in the advantageous position of finishing on floor, where building scores and home benefit just might help the judges overlook some form issues on dance elements and allow them to journey over 9.850 as well. If NC State goes 49.200+ on floor, all bets are off.

The Others:
I think we can safely assume that lightning will not strike again for Kent State. Ohio State drastically underperformed at Regionals last year and still finished just a tenth behind Kent State, and OSU has gotten better while KSU has not. The lack of Lenny in particular will keep Kent State’s scoring potential lower than last year in this deeper meet. While I’d love to see another surprise this year, I don’t think it will come from this team again. If we do have a drastic shakeup at the top with some falls, expect NC State to grab the open position.

I have seen only bits of North Carolina this season (during the dual meet with Alabama), but what I saw was a lot of 9.650 gymnastics. Expect UNC to score in the low-mid 195s with a good meet, but that will not be enough to leapfrog the higher ranked teams. Making the Regionals was the victory for them.


SEC Championships Broadcast

Here we go. Bart, Kathy, and Suzanne were on hand as always to bring us the SEC Championships. I’m really impressed with how Suzanne has come along as a commentator. She always has insightful things to say, but she seems much more comfortable on camera now and less nervous than she used to. It’s definitely an acquired skill.

Reports are the everyone was just a little tight and wobbly across all the teams, so I’m interested to see how that played out in the competition itself. We had tennis run over into the original broadcast, so my DVR didn’t catch all of it. I may have to catch up with the end of the competition at some later point, but at least we know what happened.

Rotation 1:

We start with Florida on beam. Stageberg is a little tentative with a wobble on a switch split, but it was by no means a problematic routine. Alaina Johnson is much the same. There is no wow factor in this routine, but only minor deductions as well. These routines would all be getting a tenth higher at Pac-12s. Dickerson has a pretty significant wobble on her series, which accounts for her score. Not her most confident performance. Hunter would have been better on beam as an elite had she not needed to add in difficult dance elements that she was ill-prepared to complete, but she’s much better in NCAA. Good lift on her acro. Suzanne agrees with me. The switch side is not strong and emphasizes the weakness in dance elements. King anchors the rotation with an extremely solid performance. Based on the scores, this seemed like a weak rotation, but I was perfectly fine with the showing. It’s not nearly the disaster from last year.

Georgia has Chelsea Davis start on vault with just a little lack of distance and a minor hop in place. It’s a nice performance overall, especially since vault was her weakness as an elite. Perfect type of vault to have in the leadoff spot. Noel Couch follows with her usual stick. Has her air form improved a little bit this year? She still needs to get those legs together and get some more distance, though. Hires has a pretty significant bounce back for 9.800. The judges are very landing conscious. Kat Ding also has trouble controlling her landing and seemed almost taken by surprise that it wasn’t great.

Alabama on bars. This is the biggest question mark for them because of handstands at the beginning of the lineup. Kim Jacob continues this trend by missing a couple of handstands, but the DLO dismount is very nice. We see Stack-Eaton in split screen have a pretty solid bar routine with a step on the double arabian dismount, followed by Priess. I somewhat question adding the Markelov to this routine because she has trouble with the handstand right after it.  A little piking and a low landing on the dismount as well. Fine, but not her best routine.

We didn’t see any of the Arkansas meltdown on floor, but we do see Pisani being excellent. Certainly could have won this event.

Rotation 2:

Yokay for Auburn on vault is extremely low on her handspring pike front half, nice to see that vault, though. Auburn is saved on vault by Guy’s good amplitude on her yfull.

“Kathy, I don’t know what Sarah’s doing on beam!” – Suzanne. Ha. Suzanne definitely likes to establish her beam lineup early and stick with it, like we’ve seen from Florida this season, but I am much more of a proponent of mixing things up. I think it’s a good decision for them to get Kayla Williams into the lineup because she’s solid and sturdy. Geralen looked very nice until a major balance issue on her walkover. Unexpected. Another wobble on her onodi. A very nervy routine. Followed by a really unusual error from Priess on her Korbut. Very strange mistakes but not something I would worry about if I were an Alabama fan. Fluke-y.

Courville on floor has an excellent double arabian, good position on her dismount as well. Nice routine.  She’s followed by Hall. We’ve already been through it.

Rotation 3:

We start rotation three with the saga that is Shayla’s bar routine. She’s extremely close on her Ray, missed nearly every handstand after that and then does her piked DLO dismount with a step. Jay is so languid in the way he spotted her on her dismount. Chelsea Davis was going extremely well until a very low dismount. Love her tkatchev as always. Nuccio is excellent to follow. Ding has an uncharacteristic hop forward on her dismount.

Alaina Johnson on floor. I’d like to see her work on the cowboying of the mount, but everything else is nice until a major bounce back out of the double pike dismount. “Gives you a break from the honky-tonk.” – Suzanne. Dickerson has a little lack of control on both of her first two passes and a low landing on the last. Not her best. King is just a little short on her DLO and bounces back out of her second pass. A lot of struggles controlling the landings for Florida. Kytra also bounces out of her DLO, but the following passes are excellent. Florida can be much, much better than this on floor. They need to pull these landings together. Everyone had problems.

Rotation 4:

Moffatt on the beam for Georgia. She has very nice form, but I’d like to see her make a little correction on her switch side. Being as minute as she is, though, she does look a little rickety on some of her skills. Ding is very rushed in her routine and uncertain on a number of her skills. Calm down, Kat. Earls had a wobble and a big step on the dismount, so not quite the cleanliness Georgia would like. Persinger as well is quite tentative. She also doesn’t have a lot of amplitude in her skills, but she gets through it with no real issues. Shayla figured it out on beam, but she did look very nervous at the beginning and had to fix it. A few clear wobbly deductions there.

Now we get to see LSU’s vault rotation where judge #2 gave everybody a 10 (not really) (but almost). That judge really was just judging landings and not body position. Ashley Lee didn’t even really stick. Courville is excellent with a hop back.

Priess is very clean in her routine, which went 9.900. Suzanne wants her to up her difficulty, and it would be nice, though she won’t with her ankles. In scoring Priess and Hopfner-Hibbs this season, the judges have made it clear that they are OK with double tuck mounts. Alabama has not had the problems controlling the tumbling that Florida did. Geralen is very much in control of her routine as well – though  would like to see the legs together on the front layout in her middle pass. Kathy has enjoyed going “Woooo!” tonight.

We see some bits of clean gymnastics from Auburn on bars.

Rotation 5:

Florida on vault. Spicer is clean in the air but can’t control the landing for 9.825. Ellis’s vault was equivalent. Dickerson has a hop in place and some wonky legs on the block. Kathy and Suzanne are pretending she stuck it but she didn’t. Johnson’s vault was the strongest so far, just a little piking and a step back. It’s a 9.900 that can go 9.950 at times. King goes up with an excellent Tsuk 1.5, and the commentators are spot on that she is not usually adequately rewarded for it, but she is here. Kytra finishes with a nice 1.5 with a step, so the 9.975 is mostly inexplicable. She’ll get a 10 for this vault before too long, though.

Rotation 6:

Sledge on vault for Alabama, with more landing issues like many of the teams have been having. Another bounce back. We could attribute this to podium, but it’s not an isolated incident. Alabama has been having trouble sticking for a few weeks. Geralen does a poor vault with a very low landing and a lunge forward. That’s happened a few times this year, and this is the last time they can afford it. Gutierrez makes up for it with a nice stick. Milliner finishes with a huge lunge forward on her Y1.5. They can legitimately go 49.500 on this event, but they were nowhere close to that here.

Kat Ding looks strong enough on floor, but I do think she looked more nervous than usual all night, which translated into some rushed gymnastics. Shayla looks fine on floor but is very low on her dismount. There’s very little tumbling in this routine with two passes that aren’t that difficult, but this probably her best effort choreographically.

We see some clean gymnastics from Morrison on bars for 9.850, but that’s all I have before the DVR cut off. I may try to find the rest of this at some point, but I probably won’t.

Overall, SECs was an equivalent meet to Pac-12s in a lot of ways, and if they had been scored by the same panels of judges, we would have seen very similar scores. I certainly don’t see that much of a claim for low scoring here. I think it was mostly accurate, just Pac-12s was very high.

Every single team in the country needs to work on these landings. No one is in postseason form yet. But I do think SECs had more highs (and more strange lows like Alabama on beam), whereas Pac-12s had more general lackluster gymnastics without the same peaks and valleys. I want to see some significant improvements across the board for Regionals.

Pac-12 Championships – Definitely Not a Live Blog

So, I’m just now getting around to watching the broadcast of Pac-12 Championships. I’m going to record my thoughts as I watch as if it were a live blog. I will be paying special attention to deciding just how insane the scoring was, which I will then compare to SECs when I watch that (tomorrow?).

Not in HD. I feel like I’m watching it through a sandstorm.

Our hosts are Amanda Borden and Some Guy #12. We’re starting with a recap of session #1 with some random routines from the four teams.

Aubree Cristello was by far the best scoring gymnast from the early session, but there are a number of deductions in her routine, namely a large lunge back on the double arabian mount, but her amplitude sets her apart from most of the other second-tier teams. She got a 9.850, which was too high given the deductions on the mount and the piking on the second pass.

Good difficulty from Cal’s Crawford for 9.875. They haven’t had big scores this year, but the potential for good performances is there under Durante more than it has been in a long time. For the most part, the routine composition is there even if the hitting isn’t always.

Beate Jones vaults a yfull. Pikes down, steps back, and lacks some distance. Goes 9.850, as does Fechter from Washington for a bar routine riddled with little deductions. None of the routines they’re showing are bad, necessary, but they are all going 9.850, which is a good tenth too high for all the leg separations and body position faults were seeing. We haven’t seen any actually clean gymnastics from this group. At events like World Championships, we always see the scores rise in the later sessions, and it looks like the judges backed themselves into a corner with their afternoon scoring, which explains some of the evening scoring.

Rotation 1:

Utah starts on vault. The last few times I’ve seen Utah vault, the landings have not been there, with most of the gymnasts incurring a tenth just for a lunge back. McAllister can’t do that because she doesn’t have the distance and amplitude of the others. Delaney gives them a solid vault, though, just a little piking down and a hop back. If she can maintain her body position the whole time, she could be an anchor for them in the future. Lothrop vaults her Omelianchik with a leg separation, lack of amplitude, and a hop back, so 9.900 is too high. I love this vault in general, but I’m not sure if it’s the right fit for her.

UCLA on floor, Zam is focusing on cleanliness instead of difficulty in this routine. A big of leg form on the mount and a little piking down on the dismount, which is not the kind of cleanliness they were looking for. Even though Zam looks a little less self-conscious with her movements than in the past, this routine is just sort of there. Nothing about it stands out. Peszek’s routine is growing on me. It’s more dynamic than it was later in the season, but she had a big bounce back out of her DLO. EHH has fortunately gone back to her all-star 2010 routine for good, but incurs a humongous deduction on her double tuck mount with an OOB.

Stanford is on beam, where they put up a whole team of 9.900s, which gave us our first opportunity to wonder about the scores. Pechanec is lovely to watch on this event and is quite clean except for a check on the side aerial and an awkward foot placement on her loso into the dismount. Alyssa Brown was extremely clean and gets the same 9.900 as everyone else, which is called not differentiating between quality of routine.

For OSU on bars we see Mak fall on her Bhardwaj, which is a shame because I love that skill. Amanda described the fall as “almost unexpected.” Stambaugh has a very nice Jaeger and a hop back on the dismount for 9.925.

So in the first rotation, we have visual evidence of what we all assumed, that the scoring was anywhere from .050 to .100 too high on every routine. However, I really enjoy Stanford’s line on beam, and we know UCLA can be much better than that on floor, so there is something to take from the first rotation.

Rotation 2:

Utah on bars. Lopez has very nice handstands, but needs to be sticking that landing on the DLO. It seems like it’s close to a stick. Next is Hansen, hmmm, what to say? She’s cleaned up this routine, but it’s not a 9.900, especially because she didn’t stick. In particular, I’d like to see the legs cleaned up on the pak. Dabritz does well, but I’d like to see a little more amplitude on the jaeger, which I don’t recall being an issue for her usually. Lothrop does an efficient routine with a missed handstand and hop on the landing, but it went 9.925. When Utah gets to Nationals, most of these routines will be 9.850, so there’s work to be done. We’re seeing way fewer stuck landings overall than I expected based on the scores.

On beam, OSU has Stambaugh who has made the lineup now after early career inconsistency. I wish she worked a little more aggressively, though. OK, one of the judges on beam gave Melanie Jones a 10 even though she had a clear balance check and a step on the landing. We need to make some optometry appointments now. 9.850 was appropriate. Leslie Mak anchors with a very clean routine, very confident performance.

UCLA on vault gets a stick from EHH. She’s perfect for this leadoff position because even though there are clear deductions in the vault, she can stick to get a big score from judges that are overly landing conscious (which these judges were), which bumps up the rest of the rotation. Peszek has a big hop back on her yfull, but Courtney gets a very nice stick. Frattone has a big leap forward. She needs to  be sticking every week, though. Zamarripa has a hop back on her yfull. Has she stuck it since her 10 at Cal in week 2?

For Stanford on floor, Ashley Morgan is aggressive, but her second pass is just layouts, so it doesn’t stand out in the way it might. It’s interesting how angle changes everything because in the original Stanford video of this routine, she looked very low on the dismount, but it looked fine here.

Rotation 3: 

UCLA on bars, MDLT didn’t hit her handstands the way she needed to and didn’t hit her landing either. She peaked at Championships last year and needs to do it again. Olivia Courtney was exactly the same, not great on handstands or landing. We get to see what happened for Peszek in this routine. Ooh, she really did land on her neck after peeling off the bars. That was a little scary but she’s fine. Zamarripa had a leg separation on the bail handstand and a weird stumble on her DLO. She can (and should) be going at least 9.900. Gerber has a big step back on her dismount, way too many dismount issues for this point in the season. Nearly everyone incurred a tenth.

On vault, Stanford’s Ashley Morgan does a solid enough yhalf. Ivana Hong sticks very nicely, a little issue with body position, but I love to see Hong scoring well in her first year. That’s a stuck landing, not these little shuffles we’ve been seeing all over the place.

Beam is where Utah had to count a fall and still scored nearly a 49, so we’ll see about that – except we won’t because the broadcast omits the falls. Showing the highlights isn’t the same as telling the story of the meet. We’re seeing so much perfectly fine 9.850 gymnastics from all the teams but not a ton to be enthusiastic about, certainly not as enthusiastic as the judges were that night. Big wobble for Lothrop on her side aerial, so I’m not seeing this 9.900 at all. Robarts finishes with a very clean performance.

Rotation 4:

UCLA finishes on the beam, Gerber is excellent except for a shuffle on the dismount, which is a bit unusual for her. Courtney looks extremely uncomfortable, which accounts for these two falls. Will she be in the lineup for Regionals? Baer is more reliable. Zam is very clean and sticks the dismount, but had two or three minor balance issues, so I’m not seeing 9.950. I should stop pointing it out because it’s every routine. We see EHH’s 9.975 (also posted above). She’s done much better routines, but she doesn’t get 10s for those, only the OK ones. Peszek has two notable balance issues and a hop on the dismount. I know the hands-free routine is a nice gimmick, but it also makes her dismount less stickable.

OSU on vault, the distance and amplitude isn’t there. This event really sets them back more than the others. When top teams go 49.500, OSU is happy with a 49.200.

Utah ends on floor, where they had four routines over 9.900. We see a bit of Kyndal Robarts’s routine. They’re sticking the passes they needed to. A little stumble on the triple dismount from Dabritz, but otherwise it was clean. Not Lothrop’s cleanest routine with a little lack of control on the middle pass and a very minor stumble on the dismount. McAllister has two nice passes but is awkward on the punch front in the middle pass.

Stanford ended on bars, where they just needed to hit to take the title, but they counted a fall to finish last. Ashley Morgan does a fine routine, but she has NCAA stuck her landings at this meet and will get deducted for it. We see Pechanec miss her Shaposh, which accounts for her low score (in the routine Stanford posted, we didn’t see the fall, so there was some question as to the score).

* * * * * * * * *

So there we have it for Pac-12s. In another world, none of these teams would have broken 197, or perhaps would have hit it exactly. As I mentioned, a lot of 9.850-level performances. Way too many landings were not stuck across the board with too much flat gymnastics. None of these teams should be that pleased with their performances. It will be fascinating to see how this compares to SECs in terms of both quality and scores.

Regionals Draw and Final Rankings

This year, the NCAA decided to hold a selection show to announce the draw for Regionals. This would make sense if there were any kind of suspense involved in the draw (or any kind of draw at all instead of just a guy reading out what a committee decided), but since we already knew the placements of seeds 1-18, there was little reason for it to exist. Our 2012 Regionals are as follows:

NC State Regional
1. Florida
2. Ohio State
3. Penn State
4. NC State
5. Kent State
6. North Carolina

Illinois Regional
1. Oklahoma
2. Stanford
3. Denver
4. Illinois
5. Kentucky
6. Illinois-Chicago

Arkansas Regional
2. Arkansas
3. Boise State
4. Missouri
5. New Hampshire
6. Maryland

Washington Regional
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Arizona
4. Washington
5. Iowa
6. Central Michigan

Utah Regional
1. Nebraska
2. Utah
3. Minnesota
4. Iowa State
5. Arizona State
6. San Jose State

Auburn Regional
1. Georgia
2. Oregon State
3. Auburn
4. Michigan
5. West Virginia
6. Michigan State

So there’s that. Thoughts on these placements? Is it possible to be excited about any of them? In the two weeks we have to wait, I’ll be putting together previews of each individual Regional, and I’ll probably try to convince myself there’s a greater chance for an upset than there actually is so that it will be more exciting.

Final rankings after the jump.

Final National Rankings:
1. Florida – 197.445
2. Oklahoma – 197.360
3. UCLA – 197.270
4. Alabama – 197.245
5. Nebraska – 197.030
6. Georgia – 196.995
7. Oregon State – 196.760
8. Utah – 196.705
9. LSU – 196.570
10. Arkansas – 196.545
11. Stanford – 196.410
12. Ohio State – 196.245
13. Penn State – 196.230
14. Denver – 196.090
15. Boise State – 196.055
16. Arizona – 196.020
17. Minnesota – 195.985
18. Auburn – 195.965
19. Missouri – 195.925
20. NC State – 195.870
21. Michigan – 195.825
22. Illinois – 195.695
23. Washington – 195.595
24. Kentucky – 195.490
24. Iowa State – 195.490
26. Kent State – 195.400
27. West Virginia – 195.265
28. Arizona State – 195.145
29. New Hampshire – 195.120
30. Iowa – 195.065
31. North Carolina – 195.010
32. Illinois-Chicago – 194.940
32. Michigan State – 194.940
34. Maryland – 194.905
35. San Jose State – 194.790
36. Central Michigan – 194.770

Live Blog – Conference Championships

Our first day of nonstop postseason gymnastics has arrived. We’ll probably have set a land speed record for Yurchenko fulls by the end of the Pac-12 Championships tonight.

The pride of winning the conference championship will be on the minds of our competitors, but as fans we also know how important this day is in foreshadowing the postseason. If there are cracks, we’re going to see them today. Last year, this was the day we saw Florida start to crumble on the beam. If a team wants to win National Championships, performing well today is a must. The last time a team won Nationals without having placed in the Top 2 at the conference championships was 1989. Pay special attention to which gymnasts underperform today. Those who let the pressure get to them today will be on nail-biting watch come Regionals and Nationals.

Primary attention will be paid to our big four conferences, with Oklahoma the clear favorite to take the Big 12, Nebraska the clear favorite to take the Big 10, UCLA and Utah battling for the Pac-12, and Alabama, Florida, and (maybe) Georgia battling for the SEC. These teams will get all the focus today, and could legitimately sweep all of the individual titles, so let’s take a minute and root for Jamie Pisani to take some titles so that it’s not a complete rout for the big 7.

Remember that we will also have four judges starting today. This usually has little effect other than to regularize the scoring. We see fewer .075 and .025 scores because the outliers (usually the more charitable judges) will get thrown out.

As mentioned before, no streams today for Pac-12s or SECs, so it’s all about our meager live scoring. I’ll be around beginning at 3:30 ET / 12:30 PT for all kinds of jibber jabber. In the meantime, feel free to pay attention to the first session of the Big 10s, which begins at 2:00 ET / 11:00 PT.

Live Scores:
Big 10
Big 12
Pac 12 Session 1
Pac 12 Session 2

Getting ready for the major action to start soon. Taking a look at the first session at Big 10s, we have a close battle between Michigan and Illinois. Illinois leads 146.950-146.850 after three rotations. Michigan will be on bars and Illinois on beam for the final rotation. These scores will not hold up for the second session, but it will be a matter of pride to win the first group.

Of note on vault, Michigan’s Sachi Sugiyama scored a 9.950, Joanna Sampson scored 9.925, and Illinois’s Amber See scored 9.900. No one else has broken into the 9.9s on any event.

Adavtange Michigan so far in the final rotation, 9.800 and 9.825 versus two 9.725s from Illinois. Ending on beam, the odds are not in Illinois’s favor.

As we look toward SECs beginning, note that Shayla Worley will be in on floor for Georgia. Risky, but they need her hitting.

Ack, Michigan and Illinois have each had falls in the final rotation now. Anyone’s game in the final two routines.

Neither team has to count a fall after all, and Michigan JUST sneaks past Illinois 195.875-195.850 on the strength of Sugiyama’s 9.900 on bars. Can’t get closer than that. Let’s hope it’s a trend. Looks like Joannides of Illinois is our current AA leader with 39.400. Iowa finishes with 195.450 and Michigan State scores 194.675.

Oh, Michigan. I suppose winning the session is a victory, but what a tremendous letdown from last year. The good news: they’re not losing any seniors. Looking at the group they’ll have next year, they can at least be a Top 12 team again.

And now, we shift attention to SECs and Pac-12s Part 1, both of which will begin momentarily, and by momentarily I mean probably after a while because there’s no way these things start on time.

Our first rotation at SECs will see Georgia on vault, Alabama on bars, Florida on beam, and Arkansas on floor. We’re getting the big guns out right away. Georgia, Alabama, and Florida all start on events where they MUST stay afloat. Georgia is the worst of the three on vault, same with Alabama on bars, and then we all know what happened with Florida and the beam last year, so that holds some extra mental importance as well.

Over at Pac-12s, none of these teams will contend for the title, but Arizona in particular has some important positioning to do for Regionals. As of right now, they’d be with Oklahoma and Stanford. Not bad. Maybe they don’t want to move up after all. I’d rather be with the #2 seed as Stanford instead of Arkansas, that’s for sure. To me, Washington also has more potential than they’ve shown this season. I hope to see them going into the 196s.

Arizona starts on floor, so expect them to lead after the first rotation.

We’ve done introductions, just waiting on the warmups and the action now.

And GASP, it looks like the SEC has a legitimate scoreboard this year. Joys and miracles. Pac-12s has begun. Get ready. Just waiting on the scores right now, which may be lagging. “Pac-12s!” he says shaking his fist in their general direction. Boo!

Well, let’s leave Pac-12s for the moment then since SECs has begun. Big 9.850 for Davis to start for Georgia. Questions for Florida already with Stageberg’s leadoff 9.725 on beam. Demeo (ALA) and Zumwalde (ARK) start with solid 9.800s.

Georgia is starting off in true home meet form with a 9.875 now from Couch. Florida gets another socre below 9.800 from Spicer (9.750). Is it too early to say “Ruh Roh”?

Ack. Fall from Canizaro for Arkansas on floor. Razorbacks already having to fall into keep it together time. Over on vault, Earls and Persinger break UGA’s momentum with 9.800s. Fine, but not competitive with ALA and FL.

Johnson goes 9.800 for Florida to start to pick things up, and Sledge gets 9.850 on bars. No really major scores so far. Georgia needs Ding to go into the 9.9s to have a competitive vault now.

Poor Arkansas. Two falls on floor out of three routines. Can’t come back from that. Kolbas is not the answer to Grable in these lineups, so there was little chance without her.

Really important 9.900 from Stack-Eaton on bars for Alabama. This will be the kind of rotation they needed on the first event. Anything 49.250+ is fine and they can build on it. Florida is NOT excelling on beam, but they have not had a fall.

Ding goes 9.850 on vault – fine not great for her. 49.175 will not cut it against teams that can go 49.500, so that’s a little disappointing for Georgia.

Ashley Priess goes 9.875, so Alabama will have the lead after the first rotation with 49.275. They are right on pace, and look to be the only one right now. Florida will need a big routine from King to catch Georgia for current 2nd, probably impossible.

Oh no. More disaster for Arkansas on floor. I feel terrible for them. They are already counting two bad scores (9.125 and 8.900). They got an 8.300 from Lewis, so potentially an unfinished routine or multiple falls and loss of SV.

King gets another OK score (9.850), so Florida gets 49.050 on beam. For most teams that would not be a disaster, but in this competition it really cuts into scoring potential. How will they react? Certainly Alabama has come out of this first rotation with the momentum, and it’s not like 49.275 is even THAT great a score.

Still no help on the scores at Pac-12s. If they don’t get this figured out for the evening session, I’m leading a rebellion. Who’s with me?

Geralen Stack-Eaton and Jamie Pisani are the only gymnasts to hit 9.900 in the first rotation. I would not necessarily have predicted that. It will be interesting to see how tight the scoring really is. Georgia had a few 9.900s from individual judges that were dropped. Someone gave Noel Couch a 9.950, so it doesn’t sound like they’re being too picky.

After 1 Rotation: Alabama 49.275, Georgia 49.175, Florida 49.050, Arkansas 47.575
Arkansas needs to regroup on the bye. Any hope of a top 4 finish is over for them. They’ll probably need help to stay above Auburn. Alabama is going straight to beam for the second rotation, so they could amass a big lead before anyone else has really warmed into the meet. We’ll see LSU, Auburn, and Kentucky entering in the second rotation as well.

Finally scores from Pac-12s! Arizona leads after the first rotation with a 48.900 on floor. Washington also had a strong vault to keep pace. Arizona State counted a fall on bars (Seaman and Hangartner fell), so they will actually trail Cal after the first rotation. Highest score so far is a 9.850 for Cristello on floor.

Second rotation has begun at SECs. Auburn starts solidly on vault. Jacob gets a low 9.725 on beam to start for Alabama, just like how Florida started. LSU starts with a 9.675 on floor, and Kentucky has a disaster as a leadoff score on bars. What is happening in this society? I know we’ll hear about the podium after this meet, but that’s what podium training is for. Champions adjust.

Milliner follows Jacob with a 9.775. This was my concern with the Alabama beam lineup, but they did get through those routines. The rest of the lineup should improve (?)

Kayla Williams still in Alabama’s beam lineup after her 9.900 last week, goes 9.800 this week, still matching Florida’s scores performance for performance. LSU gets a good 9.850 from Jordan on floor to break the 9.6 trend.

Auburn ends solidly on vault (led by Guy’s 9.850) to get 48.900 and keep pace. Demeo’s 9.825 leads Alabama on beam so far. Highest score in this rotation so far is still a 9.850. Kentucky avoids counting a fall and scores 48.575, so they will hope to stay ahead of Arkansas as the rotations progress.

Low for Stack-Eaton (9.700), so Alabama is not avoiding the general troubles. Might Georgia be in this after all? Alabama needs a 9.875 from Priess to go 49 on beam.

Over at Pac-12s Session 1, Arizona will lead Washington 97.750-97.625 at the halfway point. Cristello is the class of the meet so far.

Priess gets only a 9.700 as well (9.800 from one judge, 9.550 from another. Let’s watch this.) So Alabama scores a disappointing 48.825 on beam. No high scores today, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, LSY totally recovers from two weak opening routines for a 49.150 on floor. Wouldn’t it be the most fun thing ever if they won? It won’t happen, but still. Hall’s 9.925 on floor is the highest score of the meet so far.

SECs after 2: Alabama 98.100, Georgia 49.175, LSU 49.150, Florida 49.050, Auburn 48.900, Kentucky 48.575, Arkansas 47.575
Since Alabama has gone twice, I say Georgia is our leader after two rotations. They can put up a big score on bars, so they should have some serious forward momentum right now. Who expected we would consider 9.850s momentum at this meet?

For rotation three, Arkansas on vault, Georgia on bars, Kentucky on beam, and Florida on floor.

Tanella starts Georgia with a 9.850. That’s a huge score at this meet. She’s gotten very good at sticking that landing. Ferguson starts Florida with 9.800, which is her usual. They can build on that.

9.775 for Couch. Scores range from 9.650 to 9.850. We’ve been seeing that a lot today. Judges don’t seem on the same page. I have a feeling there will be complaints. Stageberg scores 9.875 for Florida in the second position. I feel a big rotation coming on.

Ah! I forgot Big 12s were starting now too (It’s too much!). Oklahoma starts vault with two scores in the 9.7s. Trend. At SECs, Arkansas is getting some solid 9.8s on vault. Fine but nothing that will make up for floor.

Shayla totally Shaylas on bars. All that needs to be said. 9.500. 9.825 from Davis. She’s been consistently in the 9.9s lately, so they needed better. Still, they can rely on Nuccio and Ding. 9.850 for Nuccio. They’ll need a huge score from Ding to challenge Alabama’s number on bars, but we know she’s capable.

49.050 for Arkansas on vault. 9.775s for Dickerson and Johnson on floor. Neither is scoring that well so far today. Hunter and King must get into the 9.9s.

At B12s, Oklahoma picked it up for a 49.225 on vault. 9.875s from Ward and Olson.

9.900 for Ding. Georgia goes 49.200 on bars, which is fine for this meet so far. 98.375 through two.

9.850 for Marissa King. Florida will score adequately here, but Georgia will be the leader for now. Hunter gets a 9.900 (Florida’s first of the day), so the Gators will be ahead of Alabama but behind Georgia.

At Pac-12s, Arizona does well on bars for 49.025, so the lead will be safe after three events. Washington is having some problems on beam.

Remember how I predicted that the winner of SECs would go over 197.500? I’m smart.
After 3 Rotations:
1. Georgia – 98.375
2. Florida – 98.250
3. Alabama – 98.100
4. Kentucky – 97.300
5. Arkansas – 96.625
6. LSU – 49.150
7. Auburn – 48.900

LSU is coming up on their best event, vault. Don’t be surprised if they have the highest two-event score of the meet.

Fourth rotation: LSU on vault, Auburn on bars, Georgia on beam, Alabama on floor. Alabama should feel OK about this position since they have the potential to score so well on the final two events. Georgia must not give away the kinds of wobbles on beam that Alabama and Florida did. They cannot afford 9.7s.

Washington is having an enormous nasty on the beam. McCartin finally came in but scored 8.025 on beam, so they are counting two falls. Arizona State will move into second, but will still be a point behind Arizona, the clear leaders. Sweet Mike (that’s an expression, right?), Washington scores 47.375 on beam. Disaster.

Next rotation underway at SECs, and Lau starts LSU with a 9.825 on vault. Good start. They have a few who can go into the 9.9s. Couch starts Georgia’s beam with a 9.775. Will you believe that’s the highest beam leadoff score so far today?

Big start for Alabama on floor with Jacob’s 9.850. She’s been around 9.800 usually, so that’s an improvement for her, which is extremely rare today.

Watch out for LSU! 9.900 and 9.925 from the 2nd and 3rd on vault (Jordan and Mathis). Judge #2 gave them both 10s. This is the same judge who gave Couch a 9.950. Can we find out who judge #2 on vault is?

They are having trouble with the internet at the arena for SECs (not acceptable), so that may account for the lull we’re having with the score updating.

Judge #2 on vault has given a third ten, this time to Ashley Lee (9.925 final score). Judge #2! We need to have a talk! Not every vault deserves a 10. No other judges thought any of them were 10-worthy. Imagine if we were at a meet where you couldn’t drop one of the judge’s scores. Then where would we be?

LSU finishes with a 49.475 on vault (dropping a fall from Hall. Did judge #2 give it a 10?). They’re at 98.625 after two events. By far the highest two-event score. Auburn got a 48.825 on bars. Georgia has not impressed on beam, and Alabama is hitting its stride with a 9.900 from Priess on floor.

Worley leads UGA’s beam with a 9.850, so they score 49.050, somewhat dropping the momentum with their lowest rotation yet and falling behind Alabama, who score a 49.350 on floor with 9.900s from Stack-Eaton and Priess.

After 4 Rotations:
1. Alabama 147.450
2. Georgia 147.425
3. LSU 98.525
4. Florida 98.250
5. Auburn 97.725
6. Kentucky 97.300
7. Arkansas 96.625

Alabama is in the driver’s seat all of the sudden, as they should score better on vault than Georgia will on floor. Florida is off to vault now, and they can certainly reach Alabama’s three-event number even with an average rotation.

At Big 12s, Oklahoma had an enormous bars score of 49.475, led by Ferguson’s 9.925. Scores appear to be going pretty high across the board there, as both Missouri and Iowa State have had 49+ rotations as well.

The first session at Pac-12s is winding down, and Arizona will cruise to the lead at the halfway point, though no one will break 196 as Arizona finished with a 195.900. Second is Arizona State with 194.550. Cal scores 193.525, and we’re still waiting on Washington.

LSU’s vault score has been adjusted down to 49.375. (So judge #2 gave only two 10s instead of three).

Rotation 5 at SECs: Florida on vault, Arkansas on bars, Auburn on beam, Kentucky on floor. Eyes on Florida this rotation.

Spicer starts Florida with a 9.825. That’s big for her. She’s been in the 9.7s.

Pac-12 Session 1 Final Scores:
1. Arizona 195.900
2. Arizona State 194.550
3. Washington 194.125
4. Cal 193.525

Dickerson scores 9.900 on vault. Her first big score of the day. Arkansas has started with 9.700 from the first two bar workers. Marissa King scores 9.925 on vault (yay!), one of her first big scores of the season. This should be our highest vault rotation score yet.

Kytra Hunter must have stuck her vault as she gets a 9.975, our first huge score of the day. She got a 10 from Judge #2 (no surprise), but also Judge #3, so it’s OK. Florida scores 49.525, and all of the sudden they have a massive lead. Florida will really like their chances to take this thing on bars in the final rotation, where we will know exactly what score they need.

Oklahoma is continuing the big home scoring and knocking into more 9.9s on the beam.

Auburn is 9.750-ing all the way to an adequate score, and they should be able to slide in easily for 5th place here. Arkansas scores a 48.850 on bars, while Kentucky struggles to get out of 9.500 territory on floor.

If we look at Alabama, they are going to need at least a 49.500 on vault to have any hope of staving off Florida in the final rotation. It looks like Georgia will have to settle for third after all unless they manage something special on floor. LSU likely cannot match their current pace on bars and beam, but we’ll keep an eye on them as well.

After 5 Rotations:
1. Florida – 147.775
2. Alabama – 147.450
3. Georgia – 147.425
4. Auburn – 146.400
5. Arkansas – 145.475
6. Kentucky – 145.350
7. LSU – 98.525

On rotation 6, we’ll see Alabama on vault, LSU on bars, Arkansas on beam, and Georgia on floor. Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia will be finishing their competitions in this rotation. Arkansas will probably be glad when it’s over.

Oklahoma matched the bar score on beam with 49.475. They will easily win this event, and are on solid 197.500 pace, which would be their highest score of the season. Note that Iowa State and Missouri are also currently on pace to go over 196. This is what they mean when they talk about how you can’t compare scores between meets.

Alabama starts big on vault with Clark’s 9.875. That’s the kind of score they need to start with to have a chance at Florida. Earls scores 9.800 on floor for Georgia (as she has on every event today). LSU has a fall on bars in the second position.

Since Clark and Priess have gone 9.875, we can expect 9.900s from the rest of the lineup, unless they have landings like they did at the last home meet (where nearly everyone had a .100 slide back). Please note that judge #2 on vault has had the lowest scores for each of the first three Alabama vaulters. I wonder if someone had a little convo with her between rotations or if she got the hint and is now trying to overcompensate lower.

Ding gets a nice 9.875 on floor, but the 9.700 from beam erased her chance at the AA title. Similarly, two scores in the 9.7s now have erased Stack-Eaton’s chances.

Hmm, some disappointing scores for Stack-Eaton and Milliner on vault give Alabama a 49.325. That will not cut it, I’m afraid. Can Georgia move ahead of them? Doubtful but possible. Alabama had four routines at 9.900 today, but nothing that went higher. 196.775 is the final score for Alabama. They may not keep the #3 ranking if UCLA has a big meet.

LSU salvages the bars rotation with a 48.900. Should be our clear 4th place team.

Applause for Jamie Pisani’s 39.500 in the AA. She’s our current leader. Nuccio’s 9.700 on floor erases Georgia’s chance at passing Alabama. Couch would need a 10 for them to tie.

So, Florida will need a 49.025 on bars to take the SEC title, which they will surely do. Right? We don’t have another twist in store?

Noel Couch’s 9.800 means Georgia finishes with 196.575, two tenths behind Alabama. Important for Georgia that Shayla hit floor. Arkansas can finally say goodbye to this disaster of an evening with a 194.175. None of these teams are having a meet to remember.

After 6 Rotations:
1. Alabama – 196.775
2. Georgia – 196.475
3. Arkansas – 194. 175
4. Florida – 147.775
5. LSU – 147.425
6. Auburn – 146.400
7. Kentucky – 145.350

Note that LSU still has a shot to pass Georgia with a good beam rotation.

As for the AA, it looks like Hunter and Courville will be the major challengers to Pisani in this rotation.

Oklahoma finishes with a 197.475 to easily win the Big 12s and record their highest score of the season.

Nicole Ellis starts Florida with a 9.875. Just a matter of staying on the bars for them to win, but they also want to record a statement score, which will be difficult with the first two rotations.

Overall a weak meet for Dickerson with a 9.750 on bars. I wonder if she made a mistake or if they just really took deductions that we’ve haven’t seen taken this season.

Kytra Hunter continues her big day with a 9.875 on bars to easily pass Pisani in the AA with a 39.625, which should tie up the title for her (and should also tie up SEC FOTY pretty handily).

LSU has a fall from Lau on beam, so they have to hit now to have any hope of breaking 196.

After waiting around all day, Macko comes in with a strong 9.900 on bars to wrap up the title for Florida. Johnson’s routine will be a formality – except for the chance to win the bars title.

Auburn is having a disaster on floor, which should give some hope to Kentucky for a possible unexpected 5th place finish, after UK finished with 194.350.

Johnson’s 9.925 will indeed win her the bars title outright, as well as ensuring Florida wins the SEC title with a 197.150. I would NEVER have expected the winning score to be that low given the near-2004 level scoring we’ve been seeing for much of the season.

LSU manages a 49.000 on beam to record a very respectable 4th place finish with a score of 196.425, not far behind Georgia at all.

Auburn’s disaster continues on floor and sees them finish in an extremely disappointing last place. Applause to Kentucky for managing that 5th place finish. I had them in 7th for sure.

SEC Final Scores:
1. Florida – 197.150
2. Alabama – 196.775
3. Georgia – 196.475
4. LSU – 196.425
5. Kentucky – 194.350
6. Arkansas – 194.175
7. Auburn – 194.100

Individual winners: VT: Hunter, UB: Johnson, BB: Pisani, FX: Hall, AA: Hunter

I’m very interested to see what kind of reaction we get from the coaches about the scoring today. Starting relatively soon, we’ll have the second session of Big 10s, where I expect Nebraska to cruise, and then at 9:00 ET / 6:00 PT we’ll have the grand finale of the Pac-12s. (Futilely) Comparing scoring between SECs and Pac-12s will be an interesting side story this evening.

Alright, Big 10s Session 2 is already underway (they don’t give us a break!) and Nebraska has started well on bars with two scores of 9.875 already. As usual, Nebraska will have 5 AAers today, with Evenstad and Lauer doing two events each.

Musser leads Penn State to a 49.100 on vault. It will be an interesting battle between PSU and OSU today, especially because we expect them to be fighting it out for the second qualification spot in the Florida Regional.

Nebraska goes 49.425 on bars. Watch out, Oklahoma’s score. The Minnesota Gophers are in a surprising 2nd after the first rotation by scoring 49.150 on floor, and Ohio State trails the group after a disappointing beam rotation that put them behind the pack at 48.725.

Nebraska will be on beam in the next rotation, which should tell us everything we need to know about how they will be performing today. They’ve had some . . . adventures on the beam recently.

Nebraska starts with 9.775 and 9.625. Skinner is not having a great meet through the first two events. Minnesota continues its nice pace with the opening on vault, 9.850s. Definitely did not expect Minnesota to be in the fight for #2, but that’s what we’re seeing so far. I still think Nebraska will have a stranglehold on the meet, though.

Minnesota is doing its best to prove me wrong, though. 49.300 on vault led by Slechta’s 9.900 to extend the lead over Penn State. Nebraska must score a 49.050 on beam now to retain the lead, which is possible but not definite given these early scores.

This could end up being a fun AA race as well. Wong, DeZiel, Musser, and Russell are all within .100 of each other.

Nebraska has to count three scores under 9.800 for a low 48.850, meaning that Nebraska will trail Minnesota by nearly two tenths at the halfway point. Beam is probably the event that will keep Nebraska from challenging for a national title.

Minnesota has started on bars with two routines in the 9.7s, so Nebraska will have a real chance here. While they don’t have any depth on floor, the six have been much more consistent than they have been on beam this season.

So am I crazy? Apparently I had the wrong time for Pac-12s Session 2. Won’t start until 9:00 ET / 6:00 PT. Sorry for any confusion.

Minnesota had a weak bars rotation, and now the Gophers stand less than a tenth ahead of Ohio State. Penn State is not scoring so well on beam, but Nebraska has a very strong chance to retake the lead as long as they hit the final two floor routines.

Nebraska did hit those floor routines and ends the rotation with a strong of 9.900s that put the Huskers well into the lead again. They have an edge of over four tenths on Minnesota going into the last event. Penn State trails the group but can still beat Michigan with a 49.025 on floor.

Minnesota will have to withstand a fall on beam in the second position to stay ahead of Ohio State. Nebraska will record a big number on vault to easily win the meet. Emily Wong’s 39.600 looks like it will be enough to win the AA title over DeZiel and Musser.

Big 10 Final Scores:
1. Nebraska – 197.100
2. Ohio State – 196.225
3. Minnesota – 195.950
4. Michigan – 195.875
5. Illinois – 195.850
6. Penn State – 195.700
7. Iowa – 195.425
8. Michigan State – 194.675
Shortly, the Pac-12 Championships Session 2 will be getting underway (actually, this time), so I’ll be here for full commentary on that.

Good point in the comments that now Nebraska has moved ahead of Georgia in the rankings. So, Georgia will be in the Utah Regional, and Nebraska’s opponent will depend on Oregon State’s performance tonight.

Utah begin on vault, OSU on bars, Stanford on beam, and UCLA on floor. This rotation order doesn’t necessarily benefit one team over another, other than the fact that Utah should enjoy having the home crowd and home rotation order. I expect Utah to have the lead after the first rotation, but if UCLA can keep it close, they will be in a strong position. Oregon State is also starting on the strength, so watch out for them in the beginning.

Interesting that Lothrop is the vault anchor now instead of Robarts. I’m not sure I think Lothrop can score as well under ideal conditions. UCLA is bringing out the big guns on floor, with Zamarripa in the 2nd position and no De La Torre (no Larson either, but we knew that). Zam would normally be later, but her watered down routine this year probably warrants #2.

Oregon State starts with a 9.700 on bars. Let’s hope the scores are a little more with it than they were earlier today in the first rotation. 9.825 for Frattone on floor. Fine, regular. Big start for Stanford with a 9.900 for Wing on beam. Love Becky Wing, so I’m happy with that big leadoff number.

Not a great score from Dabritz for Utah (9.750), so they’ll need the end of the lineup to help drop that.

9.850 from Zamarripa, and the same from Tory Wilson on vault. I’m interested to see what the judges will do with EHH on floor and whether they will judge her harshly for opening with an easy pass.

Pretty big scores flying so far. We’ve already had a couple 9.900s early in the first rotation. Definitely a far cry from the 9.7s we were starting with at SECs. Stambaugh scores 9.925 on bars, the highest score of the meet so far. Utah is in shape to score something in the 49.3s on vault if Lothrop hits well.

Another 9.900 on beam for Stanford (Hong). These will be some big scores for everyone. 9.875 for Courtney on floor.

Oregon State will go 49.200 on bars as the anchor, Mak, had a fall. There goes her shot at the AA. Pritchett gets a 9.850, which seems about right. Her mount is nice, but she’s consistently low on the dismount. Stanford gets a third 9.900 on beam. I expected bars to be my favorite event for them this season, but it has been beam. Floor is the question, so we’ll know how this is going for them soon enough.

Peszek scores 9.900 for UCLA, but EHH goes OOB, so they will finish with 49.300 on floor, tying Utah’s vault score. Stanford will have the lead after the first rotation by quite some margin. Hmmm. Where did this come from? Stanford finished with 5 straight 9.900s for a 49.500 on beam.

After 1 Rotation:
1. Stanford – 49.500
2. UCLA – 49.300
2. Utah – 49.300
4. Oregon State – 49.200

We’ve already seen 10 scores in the 9.9s from the first rotation of this session. We saw 18 total during the SECs (with seven teams versus four).

Expect UCLA to take the lead after this next rotation since they will go to vault, while all the rest of the teams go to weaker events for them.

Lopez starts Utah on bars with a 9.850, Stambaugh goes 9.775 on beam. Another 9.900 from Hansen. I haven’t seen this routine since she started scoring well, so maybe the judges aren’t crazy. I’ll try to allow for that.

Baer starts UCLA with 9.825 as per usual. They will build from there. Harris falls on beam for OSU in the third position. They’ll be relying on Mak quite a bit in this rotation.

EHH in on vault for Larson (I wonder if this is yet another case of Mattie not warming up well) for 9.900. 9.900 for Beers on bars, followed by a 9.950 for Dabritz with a 10 from one judge. Why don’t we just give everyone 198s?

Courtney sticks vault for 9.950, with Frattone and Zamarripa still to go for UCLA. Frattone goes 9.900 with a step. Utah is throwing up the 9.9s all over the place on bars. These will be the highest rotations we’ve seen all day at any of the events.

Utah scores an insane 49.600 on bars, and we have now officially seen more 9.9s through the halfways point in the second session of Pac-12s than we saw at all of SECs.

UCLA goes 49.550 on vault after Zamarripa scores 9.950 as well. Nevermind about UCLA being in the lead after 2, though. I hadn’t counted on the scoring. The way things are going, OSU’s 49.275 on beam is low.

Waiting to hear about Stanford on vault. They’ve had a fall from Shapiro with two routines to go. Two more huge scores help Stanford go 49.425 on floor and retain the lead. I’m not predicting anything anymore.

24 scores of 9.900 or above out of 48 total routines so far. Remember this. You know how 8-10 years ago, every routine was a 9.925? This feels a lot like that.

After 2 Rotations:
1. Stanford – 98.925
2. Utah – 98.900
3. UCLA – 98.850
4. Oregon State – 98.475 (Oh no, OSU is only near 197 pace. How lowly.)

I’m watching some of the Stanford routines on youtube to get a sense of the scoring. All I can say is this: NO. I live for judging messes like this.

For as crazy as this scoring has been, at least it’s close. This could go to anyone really. Although it will be a problem for Utah, as they will have this scoring for Pac-12s and Regionals and then go in to Nationals where it will not be like this.

Important that UCLA has been able to remove EHH from the bars lineup since she can’t dismount. Looks like Olivia Courtney is doing the AA tonight.

De La Torre (bars) and Morgan (vault) open with 9.850s. De La Torre must have really missed her handstands to get a 9.850 tonight. That’s such a paltry little score.

Utah starts with a fall on beam from Lopez, but Beers will probably get an 11, so it doesn’t matter. If Stanford goes anywhere near 49.400 on vault, I’m walking.

Ohh, Lofgren has fallen. Utah counting a fall on beam for the first time in two years. Now this is anyone’s ball game. Looks like Stanford is going to win. I’m not kidding. Ivana Hong goes 9.950 on vault.

I can’t wait for Val’s press conference when she says, “What a great meet,” with that knowing look.

Stanford scores 49.450 on vault, so scores are just meaningless at this point. Peszek botched her bar routine for 8.750. Oh heavens, what happened there, dear?

Utah scores 48.950 on beam while counting a fall. UCLA avoids having to deal with Peszek’s disaster, but they don’t have anyone score a 9.900 on bars, which is devastating for this meet.

After 3 Rotations:
1. Stanford – 148.375
2. UCLA – 148.050
3. Utah – 147.850
4. Oregon State – 147.825

This could still go to anyone, especially because I expect Utah to score a 78.900 on floor. Fourth rotation coming up with OSU on vault, Stanford on bars, UCLA on beam, and Utah on floor. What fresh madness will befall us here?

Interesting that UCLA is throwing in Courtney on beam with so few routines this season, but it’s the right idea since she has much higher scoring potential than Baer.

Gerber opens beam for UCLA with a 9.900. She usually deserves that score, so I’m OK with the fact that she actually gets it tonight. Stanford starts with two 9.825s on the way to securing the unexpected title. Olivia Courtney follows with multiple falls. UCLA. Beam.

Stanford has had a fall from Shapiro on bars, so they must hit the final two routines. UCLA has had TWO scores in the 8.7s tonight. Oh boy. Larson goes 9.700 (Scores range from 9.55 to 9.85). They’ll have to rebuild for Regionals because they are going to finish unacceptably low in the standings tonight.

Oregon State is our first team to finish. 197.025 total score.

Is Stanford counting a fall on bars now? The scores have suddenly changed. What. Is. Happening? Is Utah going to win this meet? I don’t even know anymore.

Apparently, Stanford has now finished with a 196.825, BEHING Oregon State after choking on bars. Zamarripa is out current AA leader at 39.575.

9.975 from EHH on beam! Two judges went 10. Yay! The circus is in town! Yippee!

One routine left for UCLA and Utah. It’s coming right down to it! Peszek vs. McAllister.

McAllister goes 9.925, but Peszek’s 9.850 is enough to put UCLA over the top. I’m not going to delete that part a few paragraphs ago where I said that UCLA would have to rebuild after this meet because that emphasizes how CRAZY this meet has been. UCLA wins the Pac-12 Championships with 197.425. Utah scores 197.375. Oregon State 197.025. Stanford, who should have won easily, finish last in the session with 196.825.

Lothrop wins the AA with 49.625. So there’s that.

FOTY goes to Dabritz. Well deserved.
GOTY goes to Mak. Ohhh, I did not expect that, but I’m very happy for her. She’s a beautiful gymnast. Everyone loves Leslie Mak.
COTY goes to Miss Val. I thought they would give it to Greg since he’s new to the conference, but I’ll never argue with Miss Val getting any award. It’s her 4th COTY award, I believe.

Has anyone done the math about what this score means for RQS? Does UCLA move ahead of Alabama? I’m far too overcome with the vapors at this scoring to figure it out myself. I believe UCLA will move back up to #3, but that’s just an assumption. It would mean that UCLA will travel to Arkansas for the Regional, right?

I’m excited to watch the actual coverage of this competition to make real judgments about the scores. I’ll keep you posted. That’s all for now.

SEC Championships Preview

While the Pac-12 Championships will be exciting for the battle between UCLA and Utah, tomorrow’s main event is really the SEC Championships. We have a great contest shaping up between Florida and Alabama, which I expect to be very close and will probably come down to a few tenths either way. Unfortunately, the draw has been revealed and Alabama ends on a bye, which takes some of the drama out of it, but try not to let that spoil things. Let’s just hope neither team has to count a fall.

Not to be totally overlooked, Georgia is also the “host” team, and it wouldn’t be inconceivable for them to challenge. However, in a realistic scenario, I don’t see them scoring higher than Florida or Alabama unless we do start counting falls. We could see both Alabama and Florida pushing the 49.500 territory on a few events, and Georgia just doesn’t have the scores throughout the lineup to be able to do that. They can very well go 197.300 this weekend, but I expect the winning total to be higher than that.
Another compelling story at the SEC Championships will be the likely fourth place battle between Arkansas and LSU. Arkansas’s performance will largely depend on whether Grable is available (and on how many events). Unlike some of the deeper teams, the Razorbacks don’t have 9.8s sitting in the wings to come in and replace Grable and Salsberg, so they have been counting a lot of falls and 9.7s the last few weeks. LSU won’t have to do that and will easily outscore a less than ideal Arkansas. In fact, if Georgia doesn’t hit exceptionally, they should watch their backs for LSU. The Tigers are peaking right on time.
In the Pac-12, even though Utah has an excellent chance of winning (and is probably the logical choice), UCLA is the better team if everyone hits to potential, but we don’t have that kind of clear difference between Alabama and Florida. If both teams hit to potential, it could still come down to a tenth, which is, of course, what will make tomorrow so much fun. I think I know which way I’m leaning, but let’s take a look at each event to help confirm the decision. (As with before, these are not official rankings and are instead based on my own opinions and perceptions.)
1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Georgia
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky
This is the event with the clearest difference between the top few teams. While Alabama usually gets a .050 boost per vault at home (See: Diandra Milliner’s 10), they’re still capable of at least four solid 9.900s, and I would consider anything less than a 49.500 tomorrow to be an underperformance based on the way the scoring has gone this season.  
Florida is also obviously extremely adept on vault, and on paper they would appear to be able to hit right with Alabama (the lineup of Johnson, King, Dickerson, and Hunter is comparable to Sledge, Gutierrez, Stack-Eaton, and Milliner). However, Florida’s group hasn’t hit those 9.900s nearly as consistently, with far too many scores in the 9.8s coming from those late positions. Also, the leadoffs Spicer and Ellis are not as capable of sticking for an early big score as Clark/Williams/Priess are.
Vault is LSU’s best event, and they have a few 9.900 possibilities in that lineup, with Courville capable of 9.950. The consistency of 9.875 scores puts them just above Georgia in my opinion, since the Gym Dogs are too reliant on Hires and Ding, with everyone else likely to go around 9.825. Georgia has to get at least 9.850s from Couch and Earls if they are going to keep within a reasonable distance of the top two.
Uneven Bars:
1. Georgia
2. Florida
3. Alabama
4. Arkansas
5. LSU
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky

Florida is ranked #1 on bars, and they are certainly talented on the event, but this is a misleading ranking because 1) none of the teams are that great on bars this year, and 2) uneven bars at Florida has been the most overscored rotation in the country this year. Their scores will come down to Earth at SECs, and I expect Georgia to be able to catch them on the strength of Nuccio, Davis, and Ding, all of whom should go 9.900. Chelsea Davis has really found her form on this event, and Kat Ding’s prowess is well documented.
For another season, this is the event where I have the most question marks for Alabama. Stack-Eaton and Priess can score well (much like Georgia’s vault with Hires and Ding), but the likes of Demeo and Jacob are not cutting it for me at the beginning of the lineup. Ashley Sledge also needs to make sure the rest of her routine is worthy of the dismount. If Alabama can stay afloat with a 49.250 here, then they’ll probably be fine, but if we see some 9.775s early in the lineup, that could be a tough ask.
Arkansas doesn’t have the handstands to compete with the top teams on this event, but if Grable is back, I see them scoring acceptably. Auburn, too, has some solid 9.850-9.875s in that bars lineup, so I have them in sixth, but not by a great deal. They could certainly outscore LSU, but I give the edge there to LSU because of Sarie Morrison’s scoring ability.
Balance Beam:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Georgia
4. Arkansas
5. LSU
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky

I’m being kind of hypocritical in this ranking because I have been distrustful of Florida retaining the same beam lineup all season. (What if someone gets injured? No one else has competition preparation.) And yet, I’m giving them the #1 spot on beam because their lineup has been more stable than Alabama’s. For Alabama, I have questions revolving around the name of this blog. What’s the Milliner/Gutierrez situation. Is Kayla Williams in for good? They have big scoring potential, but I don’t have as much trust in the lineup.
Georgia has been fine on this event, and they have a consistent lineup, but Worley is the only one I really see putting up a high score. The rest of them will just be expected to be solid. For Arkansas, Grable is the centerpiece of the lineup, so without her it’s just Jamie Pisani and a whole bunch of 9.7s, which won’t cut it. LSU is similar and could outscore Arkansas, but it will be close. This event could decide their placement.
Floor Exercise:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Georgia
4. LSU
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Kentucky

Ah, what to do about floor? I went back and forth on this one. Florida has certainly had an inconsistent showing on floor this season with a few too many OOBs and missed landings sprinkled in, but they have five people in the lineup capable on scoring 9.900, and I’m not sure that Alabama does. Alabama has some great gymnastics at the end of the lineup, but there’s also the Lora Leigh Frost question (she’s not as impressive a 2nd as Stageberg), and the issue with Ashley Sledge doing two layouts as a middle pass. Judges are less likely to be impressed by Alabama than they are Florida.
Georgia has really improved on floor since the disastrous beginning of the season, but they’re too reliant on being able to tape Nuccio together to get a big score, and Mariel Box isn’t really quite at the level needed to score well in the postseason. 
I’m actually surprised I ended up putting Florida above Alabama on three events. So, I suppose that answers the question for me unless Alabama racks up a giant lead because of vault. I’m going with Florida to win. Georgia also looks primed for a #3 finish as expected. In fact, one of the most interesting stories may end up being the fight for 4th and 5th (if you’re like me and think that things like which team finishes 5th at SECs is interesting).
Florida starts on beam tomorrow, so we’ll know right away whether last year’s demons really have been exorcised or whether they were just on a low simmer. If Florida hits beam for something like 49.300 or above, they should cruise through the rest of the events, but if it’s a wobble factory or there’s a fall, look to Alabama to be the sturdier team. 

Pac-12 Championships Preview

This year, the Pac-12 will be our guinea pig conference (along with the Big 10) for the eight-team, two-session championship format. I’m very much in favor of this format because it gets rid of those insufferable byes and allows us to pay less attention to, for instance, the first session because it will be going on at the same time as SECs. Not everyone loves this format. Jay Clark would prefer a two-day format similar to National Championships. That seems entirely unnecessary and exhausting.

In the Pac-12 this year, the winner will most likely be Utah or UCLA. Oregon State has an outside chance to repeat, but I think they will need some counting falls for that to happen. If everyone hits, then the winner will start with a U. Which U it will be is anyone’s guess right now, which will make for a fun duel coming down to the final rotation (with no byes!).

And yet, picking how the teams will stack up is a tough prospect, so let’s look at what we have, event by event. On event rankings, I’m not going by the actual rankings, just my own perceptions of quality and potential.


2. Utah
3. Stanford
4. Oregon State
5. Arizona
6. Washington
7. Arizona State
8. Cal

This is the easy one. UCLA has the big edge over the other teams in the conference and will need to ride an advantage on this event if they are to take the title. Tauny Frattone is coming off a 10 on senior day, but she can usually go 9.925-9.950 under normal circumstances with a stick, which she has been doing the last few weeks. Frattone is also in an advantageous position since UCLA directly follows Utah on vault. If the judges go big for a Robarts stick on the Omelianchik, they have to do the same for a Frattone stick. UCLA also sports Olivia Courtney, who has the amplitude and distance to score 9.9 for a non-stick, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who has been vaulting poorly for 9.9s for weeks now. If she actually finds her landing, the score will be huge.

In addition to the aforementioned Robarts, Utah also has clean vaults Kailah Delaney and Georgia Dabritz that can go 9.900. This will be enough to keep them ahead of any of the rest of the teams, but the earlier workers don’t quite have the dynamics to challenge UCLA. Peszek and Larson will very likely outscore Lothrop and McAllister. Utah will probably top out around 49.400 on a good day, while that would be a weak score for UCLA.

Down the list, there’s not so much impressive vaulting. I put Oregon State below Stanford because OSU just doesn’t have much amplitude on this event, and Ivana Hong is really starting to find her form on the FTY for Stanford, which could make the difference. It’s close between the two, though.

Uneven Bars:

1. Oregon State
3. Utah
4. Stanford
5. Washington
6. Arizona
7. Oregon State
8. Cal

This is a much tougher event. One of the reasons Oregon State has stagnated in scoring is an inability to display their tremendous talent on bars. Stambaugh, Mak, and Vivian are joys to watch on this event and should each be going at least 9.875 every week, so perhaps I’m ranking Oregon State first based on potential. Still, none of the other teams have shown enough to warrant being ranked higher. UCLA has Zamarripa and Gerber with lovely performances (and De La Torre when she’s on, which is mostly never), but the rest of the lineup is mostly workmanlike 9.850 gymnastics.

Utah has Dabritz, but other than that it’s nothing that is going to warrant many forays into 9.9 land. Beers and Hansen scored well against Florida, but my skepticism meter is still extremely high about those lineup choices. I put Hailee Hansen in the same category as Becca Alexin, and I don’t have confidence in the consistency of either. With Stanford’s roster, they should be better than fourth in the conference on bars, but is anyone other than Pechanec delivering? Ashley Morgan is not the answer on bars.

A bit rotation here is a must for Oregon State to keep pace, while UCLA and Utah will be trying to get through the event. 49.300 would be a fine score for either.

Balance Beam:
2. Utah
3. Oregon State
4. Stanford
5. Arizona
6. Washington
7. Arizona State
8. Cal

Beam is difficult because it’s the most fickle with its emotions. My feeling about UCLA v. Utah on this event is that UCLA has the much larger potential and is more pleasant to watch. Gerber, Larson, and Zamarripa are so precise and elegant, and Hopfner-Hibbs and Peszek are rock solid. If those five hit to potential, I fully expect UCLA to win the event by a sizable margin. However, it’s UCLA and beam, so . . .

Utah has Corrie Lothrop performing very well, but otherwise there are too many 9.7s in this lineup every week. (Meaning there are scores in the 9.7s. One is too many.) They do seem like they have an order that is working now, though. I wasn’t happy with Lopez in that leadoff position.

Frankly, I’m surprised that Oregon State has kept it together as well as they have on beam this season, but nearly everyone except Mak is a 9.800-type gymnast, so it’s not enough to contend without falls from the others.

Floor Exercise:
1. Utah
3. Oregon State
4. Arizona
5. Stanford
6. Arizona State
7. Washington
8. Cal

For as much as I usually just put UCLA as default #1 on floor due to attention to performance quality, I have absolutely no confidence in that lineup this year. Is Monique De La Torre really top 6 on this event? Mattie Larson is out of the lineup due to inconsistency, Hopfner-Hibbs has to mount with a double tuck because of her ankle, and Zamarripa still has to water down. It’s just not happening. They have to be pristine to keep pace.

Utah has scored very well at home on floor, and I expect that to continue here, though they will not be able to contend with Alabama and Florida once we arrive at Nationals. What I’ve seen from Stanford this year on floor has been harrowing, so I put them below Arizona. Both of the Arizona schools have the potential to put up pretty strong numbers on this event to counteract some other sub-49 scores.

So, making these rankings has convinced me that I’m favoring UCLA to win the title. That may be misguided because Utah has a lot of things in their favor: home gym, home crowd, and Olympic order. Still, I think UCLA has more depth (the 3rd and 4th routines have higher scoring potential overall) and more nationally competitive routines throughout the lineup. It will be very close, certainly, but I see UCLA taking it with both teams going over 197.500.

As for the AA, I’d like to see it go to either Zamarripa or Mak, both of whom are certainly capable of it, but the safer and more realistic choices are probably Peszek and Lothrop, who can 9.875 the meet all the way to a 49.500-49.550.

The Weekend Agenda (March 24th)

Well, here we are again. Conference Championships, aka the most frustrating day in college gym. Because of TV deals, we don’t get live streaming of any crucial competitions. Those who get the Big 10 Network will be able to watch those championships live on TV, but the rest of the world is left to feast on the scraps of live scoring and audio feeds like the miserable peasants we are. Both the Pac-12s and SECs will not be broadcast on TV until the 29th.

I’ll be here popping in throughout the day on Saturday with all sorts of opinions, potentially even judgmental and unfounded ones. It’ll be a great day. A lot of the action is happening at the same time, so we’ll have to create a situation room with all the live scoring windows. The SEC always seems to suddenly forget how the internet works when championships come around, so we’ll have to keep on top of that scoring and make sure it’s working before the meet starts. Get Kevin Copp on it.

Championships Schedule:
Friday – 3/23/12
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – BYU @ [14] Boise State

Saturday – 3/24/12

2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – Big 10 Championships Session 1 – [21] Michigan, [23] Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State

2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – EAGL Championships – [20] NC State, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, George Washington Rutgers

3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – MAC Championships – Kent State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Ball State

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – SEC Championships – [1] Florida, [3] Alabama, [5] Georgia, [8] LSU, [10] Arkansas, [15] Auburn, [24] Kentucky

4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 1 – [17] Arizona, [22] Washington, Arizona State, Cal

5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Big 12 Championships – [2] Oklahoma, [19] Missouri, [25] Iowa State

7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Big 10 Championships Session 2 – [6] Nebraska, [12] Penn State, [13] Ohio State, [16] Minnesota

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 2 – [4] UCLA, [7] Utah, [8] Oregon State, [11] Stanford

8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – WAC Championships – [18] Denver, San Jose State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah, Utah State

Monday Rankings

National Rankings for March 19, 2012
1. Florida – 197.395
2. Oklahoma – 197.310
3. Alabama – 197.155
4. UCLA – 197.140
5. Georgia – 196.995
6. Nebraska – 196.960
7. Utah – 196.705
8. LSU  – 196.550
8. Oregon State – 196.550
10. Arkansas – 196.545
11. Stanford – 196.315
12. Penn State – 196.230
13. Ohio State – 196.115
14. Boise State – 195.990
15. Auburn – 195.965
16. Minnesota – 195.880
17. Arizona – 195.870
18. Denver – 195.865
19. Missouri – 195.825
20. NC State – 195.715
21. Michigan – 195.710
22. Washington – 195.595
23. Illinois – 195.545
24. Kentucky – 195.490
25. Iowa State – 195.275


  • A few minor changes to the rankings from last week. Alabama has moved ahead of UCLA for the #3 spot. The changes around the top of the rankings are only significant right now as teams are attempting to avoid falling into that Auburn Regional (#3 seed as host = dangerous, especially given some of the home scores Auburn has seen). I would say Auburn is less likely to fall than they are to gain this weekend, so it may actually be advantageous to end up at #4. Minnesota is a very attractive potential #3 seed for any of the top teams.
  • In fact, Alabama will have a very nice look at the #2 ranking after SECs. Alabama is still counting a low 196.325 as a road score, so they wouldn’t even have to do that well to pass up Oklahoma, even if Oklahoma scores well at home. Even UCLA has an outside shot at passing Oklahoma, but they would need a 197.650 at Pac-12s and help from the Sooners. Alabama also has a mathematical chance to take over #1, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I think we can assume that Florida will be the #1 Regional seed again this year.
  • Georgia also has a slim chance to move up. They would need to get into the lowish 197s to have a shot, and UCLA can prevent it completely with a 197.200 themselves. I do expect Georgia to score well at SECs because they have the advantage of what is essentially a home meet that counts as a road score. There is the opportunity for righteous indignation about that, but Florida and Alabama have had the same benefit in past years, Oklahoma had a road meet in Oklahoma City this year, and UCLA has had years of road meets at CSUF where they got home scoring, so it’s not exactly new or worth the energy.
  • Regardless of how all that plays out, our top 6 seeds for Regionals will be the current top 6 in some order. Likewise, Ohio State could potentially flip flop with Penn State, but they would still be going to the same Regional, so our group of 7-12 is essentially decided as well. The big issue now is placement. 
  • After the first few weeks of the season, I don’t think any of us would have expected to see LSU ranked ahead of Arkansas, but that can certainly change after SECs. With Grable in the lineup, Arkansas is the more talented team, but LSU is on a better peaking trajectory. Arkansas and Oregon State have really fallen off in recent weeks.

Thoughts on a Regular Season

The regular season is hereby complete, and we have depressingly few meet days remaining until another season has passed us by. While the events that are yet to unfold in the postseason will go a long way toward determining how this season will be remembered, it’s time to take a step back and analyze what we’ve seen so far.

Overall, I’m pleased. The level of gymnastics, especially among the top teams, has been noticeably stronger than it was last year. Certainly, the scores have been much higher than they were in 2011 (and we’ll get to that in a minute), but more importantly the routine quality and difficulty has been stronger across the board. Utah is a prime exemplar of this improvement. The additions of Delaney and Dabritz have given this team a refinement and scoring potential that they lacked a year ago. And yet, they made Super Six last year, which is no guarantee for them in 2012. We have enough parity at the top this year that I honestly think we won’t see a team making Super Six while counting a fall in Semifinals, which is always the ideal.

Everyone expected Florida, Alabama, and UCLA to have great seasons, so while the (primarily) strong gymnastics they have given us this season should not be overlooked, all three of these teams have largely met expectations without necessarily exceeding them. Instead, I give a lot of credit for the excitement we are soon to see (legitimate, high-quality fights for places in Finals!) to the strength of Oklahoma, Georgia, and Nebraska.

First, our #2 Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma was the preseason #4, which should indicate that their presence in the title race is no surprise. However, after the loss of Natasha Kelley, everyone (and by everyone, I usually mean just me, but in this case I really mean everyone) believed that this team would fall well behind. We said the same thing after Hollie Vise graduated. I give K.J. Kindler a lot of credit on that front. Over the last few years, her teams’ performances have been incredibly consistent regardless of the changing rosters. One gets the sense that she could take a group of Level 9s and have them competing for the NCAA title after a year with her.

In Georgia’s third year under Jay Clark, we have seen by far the most cohesive team of his tenure. While the 2010 team was probably more talented (with McCool, Taylor, etc.), this team seems both healthy and totally bought in to Jay as their head coach. Georgia was the preseason #9, the lowest preseason ranking ever for a Georgia team, but they have proved an ability far beyond that ranking, led by Kat Ding’s emergence as one of the country’s top all-arounders. Likewise, Nebraska was a bit of a surprise entrant in Super Six last year, and it seemed completely unlikely that it would happen again. Yet, this team has ridden it’s two and a half gymnasts all the way to #6. I mentioned at the beginning of the year that the lack of depth was unsustainable, but this team has sustained it.

Along with some delightful standout individual performances across the country, those teams are the reasons this season has been pleasant. And yet, it’s not all sunshine and candy-coated raindrops. In fact, I expected (perhaps naively) some stronger overall gymnastics, especially because of the immensely talented crop of new gymnasts, many of whom have not really materialized as stars. Now, I grant that it is difficult for many freshmen to adjust and become scoring leaders right away, but some excellent former elites haven’t had the impact I would have liked to see.

Mattie Larson has been a fine mid-lineup performer on three events for UCLA, but her most delightful event should be floor. We were all looking forward to seeing her raise the level of performance. Instead, her lack of consistency has her behind even Sydney Sawa on UCLA’s floor depth chart. Because of injuries, Ivana Hong and Samantha Shapiro have not performed the kind of gymnastics we would like to see from them, and Kayla Williams has also been very slow to make herself useful for Alabama. The previous accomplishments of these gymnasts gave us high expectations that have not even remotely been met.

The other major disappointing story this season has been gymnastics being overshadowed by scores. Every season we have a preponderance of 9.825-quality routines. The ability to produce this kind of consistent score is very valuable to every team, but rather than appreciate that kind of consistent performance, we can only marvel at why these 9.825 routines are suddenly receiving 9.900s. When the score is so out of sync with reality, the gymnastics becomes secondary. So many times this year we have seen the judges deem that there is no difference between an average routine and an exceptional one, which leaves us only to gape and wonder (and complain . . . oh, yes, the complaining . . .).

And yet, as I said before, I’m pleased. I’m pleased because I honestly think we will have a thoroughly exciting Championships weekend. Even if the scores are insane, it will make for fantastic sport, and that’s ultimately what we look for. And if the judges finally wake up and realize the difference between good and great, then even better.


Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama