First, a bit of news: Natasha Kelley has retired from gymnastics. This announcement was expected after her body broke down on her yet again with the Achilles tear during preseason. Even before this latest injury, she was running mostly on grit and knee braces. How many devastating injuries can a person really come back from?
As for this week’s schedule, the live streams are rather unkind to us on Friday (and then fast forward two weeks to when Florida @ Alabama and Georgia @ Utah are happening at the same time. Dear Schedule: Be better. Love, Everyone). Nonetheless, I will do an abbreviated follow along blog for the scores of earlier meets on Friday and another for the Alabama and Michigan meets on Saturday. Then on Sunday, I will be back with a real live blog of surprising #19 San Jose State @ UCLA.
Top 25 Schedule:
Friday – 1/20/12
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT –  Florida @ Kentucky
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Alaska-Anchorage, Bridgeport @  Maryland
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT –  Nebraska @ Iowa State
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT –  Denver @  Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT –  LSU @  Arkansas
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT –  Georgia @  Auburn
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Sacramento State @  Boise State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT –  Oregon State @  Arizona
Saturday – 1/21/12
4:00 ET / 1:00 PT – George Washington @  Ohio State
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT –  Illinois @ Iowa
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT –  NC State @ UIC
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT –  West Virginia @ Bowling Green
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT –  Alabama, Michigan State, Cornell @  Penn State
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT –  Michigan @  Minnesota
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT –  Oklahoma, Utah State, Centenary @ Texas Women’s
Sunday – 1/22/12
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT –  San Jose State @  UCLA
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Washington @  Stanford
This past weekend, we saw a number of high team scores awarded and a number of 10s awarded to individual routines by at least one of the two judges. These 10s all had varying degrees of believability, but my intention with this post is not to break down the scoring or continue harping on the routines because, regardless of your feelings on them, these individual scores do not warrant more than a few sentences either way. Well done on your good score, now go to class. Instead, I want to use these scores as a jumping off point to discuss attitudes toward scoring in general.
Too often in collegiate gymnastics we define a 10 as an absence of deductions. We see that a gymnast’s legs were together and that the landing was stuck, and because there were no overt faults, the routine becomes a 10. But really, a 10 should be defined by much more than that. A 10 routine should be something rare and tremendous. It should not be defined by what it lacks (finite deductions) and rather should be defined by what it brings, an unrivaled quality that makes the routine not just better than what anyone else is doing but better than what anyone else can do. Some of the best gymnasts should look at a 10 routine and say, “I can’t do it like that,” or “I didn’t even know it was possible to do it like that.”
A large part of the reason we don’t see this attitude taken toward 10s is a fear of subjectivity. The routine quality that I described above fundamentally cannot be measured and will never be agreed upon by two different judges, coaches, gymnasts, or fans viewing the same routine. That scares people. They are afraid of incurring criticism for inconsistency or favoritism and therefore revert to that which is objective because objective qualities can more easily be defended from that same inevitable criticism. We see this all the time when people discuss their favorite and, more often, least favorite gymnasts. They will point out flexed feet on a Tkatchev or crossed legs on twists as reasons for disliking a gymnast because those are objective qualities that can be supported visually, but in actuality, because gymnastics is such an aesthetic and artistic sport, our true reasons for liking and disliking gymnasts tend to be far less tangible and far more inexplicable. Often our opinions are more about a feeling or an attitude, one that cannot always be supported visually or verbally but is no less valid because of that.
I would argue that this fear of subjective measure is the single biggest contributor to the recent devolution of elite gymnastics. Panic over incurring controversy caused the FIG to change the elite code, and in so doing they attempted to make elite scoring more objective and, therefore, justifiable when the inevitable controversy does arrive. This change has had the most negative influence in the area of artistry scoring, something that cannot and should not be evaluated with objective guidelines. The Women’s Technical Committee has deemed that the awkward pointed-toe running to indirectly connect dance elements is objectively artistic. That very phrase is an oxymoron. Dictating that a person must move in a certain way is the opposite of artistry. Artistry cannot be written down; it cannot be prescribed. In the same way, the qualities of a 10 cannot be prescribed.
Every viewer will bring different values and biases to the evaluation of gymnastics. One person’s 9.9 is another person’s 10, and that’s fine. That’s good, as long as the people in question truly think the routine was deserving of a 10, rather than resigning themselves to a lack of deductions. It shows that the sport is vibrant when it is provoking that kind of disagreement. When everyone values the same things and is viewing routines in the same way, there is no need for discussion; there is no need for evaluation. When gymnastics fails to embrace its own fundamental subjectivity, it loses its defining quality and becomes just another sport where “getting it done” and “winning ugly” are valued characteristics. Aesthetic opinion is something to be valued and cultivated rather than eliminated and ignored. We must encourage judges to incorporate aesthetic opinion into their judging and trust their experience and expertise to know how to apply it correctly.
In gymnastics, success can’t just be about getting it done to the satisfaction of an established set of specifications. It has to be about doing more, flying higher than anyone expected, moving in a way that no one wants to stop watching. Evaluating one routine as better than another because of an unquantifiable quality is not a vice. It is to be encouraged. It is what makes this sport special. We don’t have a specific judging category for inducing wonder, but we should always have a way to reward it. And that’s what a 10 should be.
National Rankings – Week of January 16th
1. Nebraska – 197.375
2. Utah – 196.713
3. Arkansas – 196.550
4. Oregon State – 196.525
5. Alabama – 196.475
6. Georgia – 196.425
7. UCLA – 196.375
8. Florida – 196.100
9. Penn State – 195.950
10. Oklahoma – 195.925
11. Michigan – 195.500
12. Ohio State – 195.275
13. Arizona – 195.150
14. Stanford – 194.900
15. Illinois – 194.725
16. Denver – 194.463
17. Boise State – 194.400
18. NC State – 194.363
19. San Jose State – 194.300
20. Auburn – 194.288
21. West Virginia – 194.263
22. Missouri – 194.100
23. Maryland – 194.038
24. Minnesota – 193.938
25. LSU – 193.763
As always, full rankings at Troester
Not much can be gleaned from these rankings as they are the definition of a small sample size, with some teams having competed in only one meet. Nonetheless, that will not stop me from over-analyzing them.
I’m pleased to see a team like Nebraska come up with a big score in the first week, if for no other reason than it expands the conversation about the top teams, which is always a positive. Nebraska is to be commended for accomplishing this score of 197.375 with only seven gymnasts competing, a feat that is both impressive and unsustainable. Five gymnasts competed in the all-around, and they couldn’t even send up a sixth on floor. We always knew this team would be sparse, but they will need to get some gymnasts healthy and cultivate some depth to be able to sustain anywhere near that score. Right now there is no room for error.
Another team I haven’t talked about much is Oregon State, and they put up a respectable 196.525, a school record for a season opener. We knew they would be strong on bars, but they also hit beam with a largely unheralded lineup (except for Leslie Mak) and did not appear to be missing Ranzy on floor. Freshman Chelsea Tang also provided strong early-lineup consistency by scoring 9.8s on three events. Getting hit beam routines from those who have been uncertain in the past like Vivian and Stambaugh will be crucial to success this year.
Stanford also opened the season this weekend by disappointing on the live scores front (ahem…) and putting up a depleted team that recorded only seven scores at 9.8 or above. In particular, it appears they will need Shapiro and Hong most desperately in the beam lineup, since they are both capable of performing exceptionally. This is another team with little margin for error in lineups.
Next week, watch for whether Nebraska can sustain their big score from this week or whether they will fall back to the pack (Utah has a bye, so their big score will sustain them for the week). Also watch the results from Florida and Oklahoma closely to see when these teams start to round into form as everything is still a little unpolished and uncertain. I saw the vault rotation for Oklahoma this week and wasn’t impressed by the amplitude. There is work to be done to contend with the teams already breaking 49.5. UCLA and Alabama are in similar situations right now, with some hugely impressive rotations mixed with some glaring weaknesses. Both teams are capable of performing poorly and still breaking 196, but I expect to see 197s before too long. Alabama should be on an upward trajectory, and UCLA should take some confidence from the big beam score against Cal.
Stanford is about to get underway with a quad meet at home, and UCLA is visiting Cal today. We don’t have live video for either of these meets, but I’m going to update here with scores and thoughts.
UCLA needs to get the confidence going on beam (inexcusable!) as soon as possible to set themselves up for the rest of the season. I’d also like to see a more complete floor rotation out of this meet. This is a meet they should win handily, so normally I would expect to see a lot of lineup experimentation, but the coaches may want to keep things the same to build this group confidence up on those two events at least.
For Stanford, Shapiro is in the lineup on only bars and Ivana Hong is not in at all. We knew going into the season that this team would be very reliant on these two freshmen and was in a risky situation with their injury history. We will have to see how they cope without some of the star routines they were relying on.
Please look at Sacramento State’s floor lineup: we have Katie, Kaila, Kalliah, Cayla, and Kailey.
MDLT begins with a 9.700 on bars for UCLA. She’s capable of much higher and went 9.850 last week.
Gerber follows with 9.775. I thought her 9.9 last week was a smidge high because of the leg separation on the pak, but this is a touch lower than expectations.
Larson goes 9.725. This is not the start UCLA wanted after they were pretty solid on bars last week. So far, Cal is led by a 9.800 from Crystal Paz on vault. No updates on the scores yet for Stanford.
Peszek puts up 9.775 (9.850 from Judge 1 and 9.700 from Judge 2, interesting). Big pressure on the final 2 gymnasts to pick up the pace. This team is too good for a bunch of 9.7s on bars
Zamarripa delivers a 9.9 to take some of the pressure off. She went 9.825 last week with a big loss of form in handstand, so this is good improvement.
Cal finishes vault with a great rotation for them: 48.850. Olivia Courtney goes 9.800 to finish UCLA’s bars rotation at 48.975. That’s a big letdown from last week on this event – where they showed the same lineup. They’ll need to get some momentum on vault. (Still nothing on the Stanford scoreboard). If UCLA is to keep pace or improve on last week, they’ll have to rock vault and hit beam.
UCLA to vault now where Baer starts with a 9.875 followed by Larson’s 9.850. This is more like it from them. They’ll need to keep these scores up to balance out bars and stay well over 196 pace going into beam and floor.
Quite a luxury to have someone as talented as Courtney #3 in the lineup, she was 5th and 6th most of last season. She goes 9.925.
Frattone goes 9.825, which is low from her. She stuck for 9.950 last week but the danger of her Omelianchik is that, when she doesn’t stick, it’s usually a large step forward that takes a big chunk out of the score.
Hello, Sam Peszek just went 9.925 but with a 10 from one judge and a 9.850 from another. I question that 10 because her amplitude and distance is usually not enough to warrant that.
Did I mention 10s? Zamarripa just put up a 10 on vault. We know she’s capable of earning it, but it will be interesting to see some video to evaluate.
UCLA recovered in a big way from bars, exceeding their vault score from last week by putting up a 49.575 for a total of 98.550. They were able to drop Frattone’s 9.825. Cal goes 48.475 on bars for a total of 97.325. If they could keep up this pace into 194 territory, that would be a great score for them.
While we aren’t getting routine scores from the Stanford meet, we see they just went 48.850 on vault.
Aisha hits floor for 9.825. Her tumbling was uncertain last week with some awkward landings, so that’s an encouraging sign for her consistently making this lineup.
Cal will have to count a fall on beam after starting with two 9.150s (they were on such a good pace!), and Frattone has put up 9.800 on floor. Ouch, and a 9.250 for Cal third up on beam. Damage control time now.
Interesting, Hopfner-Hibbs is up 3rd in the floor lineup (I can’t remember the last time she was that early on floor) after anchoring the rotation last week with a weak performance. She goes 9.900, which is a huge recovery from the 9.675 against Utah.
Wong has been placed into the floor lineup (where she has scored 9.9 in the past) and she has a fall for 9.225. Not a great start to the season for her. Time to tighten up or this could go downhill very fast.
Peszek hits for 9.825. The anchor (which should be either Larson or Courtney) can handily erase Wong’s fall with a hit and make this a solid rotation, but they’re probably not going to be as far over 49 as they’d like even if they get a hit.
Disaster for Cal on beam, counting 3 falls to score 47.200 and a running total of 144.525. They were doing so well. Mattie Larson has another mistake for UCLA, which means they are counting a fall on floor and score 48.575 for a total of 147.125. At least we have Val’s press conference to look forward to. I have a feeling things are going to be inexcusable again. Oh Mattie and the floor…the saga continues.
Now UCLA is in a position where they must hit 5 of 6 on beam. Be worried.
Aisha Gerber hits for 9.850 — 1 down, 4 to go. (I’d still like to see her solidity in the middle of the lineup, though). (NOTE: This score just got revised to 9.900)
Frattone is in the beam lineup (didn’t Val say she was going to keep it the same?) and got a 9.700, which is not great, but she stayed on the beam, so…
HUGE hit for Lichelle Wong to get 9.925. After the problems last week and the fall on floor, that’s a tremendous accomplishment. 3 hits, 2 more to go…
Larson also recovers from her floor fall for 9.875. This is going very well for UCLA on beam so far, and with presumably EHH and Peszek to go, they should get at least one hit from that group. Disappointment on floor, but there’s an opportunity to recover here.
Hopfner-Hibbs goes 9.925, so UCLA will not be counting a fall, and if Peszek can erase Frattone’s score, this could be a huge score out of nowhere. If only they had hit floor… (Interesting that Courtney has not competed beam or floor. Hopefully the hamstring is not acting up again.)
Peszek hits as well for 9.925 capping a humungous beam rotation for UCLA of 49.550 to give them a total of 196.675, which is a great improvement over last week overall but could have been really tremendous if not for counting a fall on floor. A hit on floor would have put them well over 197. Still, maybe Val won’t be as upset as last week after hitting beam so well to end the meet.
Peszek wins the AA again with 39.450, and Cal finishes with 192.550 which is an improvement over last week.
As much as other gymnastics teams might wish they could create a rivalry like this, Georgia vs. Alabama remains one of a kind. Even though it’s early in the season, this year’s edition still provides us with some intriguing story lines. By all tangible measures, Alabama should be the favorite. They are coming off a national championship, competing at home, and fielding a deeper and more accomplished squad. Certainly, a loss would be a bigger blow to Alabama than it would be to Georgia.
Michigan hits vault extremely well for a 49.300, led by a 9.900 from Joanna Sampson. Ohio State went 48.525 on bars. Bars will be interesting for Michigan as they lost nearly the whole lineup from last year.
Now it’s Ohio State’s turn to impress on vault with a 49.125, led by Alyssa Marohn’s 9.875. Michigan got through bars pretty well with a 49.025, with everyone scoring between 9.750-9.850.
In the third rotation, Ohio State put up a 48.850 on floor to take the lead away from Michigan after a 47.750 on beam (falls from Zakharia and Sampson and a 9.450 from Miele in her debut). After three rotations, Ohio State has 146.500 and Michigan has 146.275.
In a final result, Michigan sneaks past Ohio State by a score of 195.500 to 195.175 after a solid floor rotation featuring Natalie Beilstein’s 9.925. Meanwhile, Florida leads off with a 49.200 on vault at home (Dickerson and Hunter lead scoring, Johnson is still not in the lineup).
Florida matches their vault score on bars with a 49.200, featuring a 9.900 from Johnson. Mahlich also got in the lineup and scored a 9.750 after exhibitioning last week.
The feed has started for Alabama/Georgia! Never mind, please ignore me, it’s the saddest, most upsetting dance contest in history. Your time would be better spend planning your own funeral or counting the skin cells on your hand.
Pre-meet festivities with about 1500 little ones.
Oh god, now it’s the “Bama Gymjammers” — It’s like they want me to hate them. Well…they’re really good at spelling…
(Florida just went 49.250 after they were able to drop a fall from Hunter)
Georgia lineups: Kat Ding’s game face…love. I don’t know half of these freshmen.
Alabama’s video is not half bad except for the music choice. Lineups: Announcing the GPA – I would HATE that if I were them, but love it because I’m not. Introducing Sarah Patterson who is in full Lucille 2 hair — “I know that she is a brownish area…with points.”
Rotation 1: Alabama on vault, Georgia on bars:
Ashley Priess would wear a sombrero because she has a passion for Spanish culture…
Dear Alabama, when I’m impatient, the last thing you want to show me is children dancing.
Clark – VT – nice yfull to start with small hop back – good debut (9.825)
Davis – UB – nice tkatchev as always, short on bail hs, near stick on tuck full dismount – solid start but not amazing. (9.725)
Williams – VT – good yfull – bad angle to judge a lot of issues, though – they’ll want her doing something more difficult because she will be expected to. (9.800)
Couch – UB – catches jaeger, bail hs, missing some hs, huge stumble back on double front dismount – major deduction. (9.550)
Sledge – VT – now that’s a yfull! huge with stuck landing, great start for her (9.975 – well, it wasn’t that good, but it was excellent)
Tanella – UB – little close on jaeger, bail hs, stuck her dbl tuck dismount – they should not be putting up a dbl tuck dismount in a competitive lineup. (9.875 – Judges, we need to talk…no.)
Gutierrez – VT – great distance on vault with a step back – continuing the good vault form from last season. (9.875)
Worley – UB – ray – nice, good bail hs, good DLO dismount — one wonky hs, but otherwise strong. (9.875)
Stack-Eaton – VT – stuck yfull – very nice again – they have worked on these landings clearly. (10.000 – No. It wasn’t that. I guess someone really wants to beat Georgia.)
Nuccio – UB – close on gienger – that’s a shame, nice bail, stuck dismount – nice. (9.875)
Milliner – VT – solid form on 1.5 but a low landing. (9.875)
Ding – UB – perfect tkatchev, great so far through to pak, great dismount – this should score very well – not quite 10, but good. (9.875) She looked like she wanted a 10 a little too badly on that.
Domier Exo – VT – handspring front pike – stuck.
Hires Exo – UB – piked jaeger a little close, goes over on her bail and has to come off the bars – solid DLO dismount.
Alabama goes 49.550, I guess they felt left out of the home overscoring conversation. These vaults were excellent, but I would not have given anyone a 10 so far. 10 needs to be above and beyond — neither Sledge nor Stack-Eaton were overly amazing, they were just very good. There will be a lot of discussion about these scores. I would need to see another replay to judge adequately, but neither stuck out to me as 10-worthy on first viewing. I’ll retract if I’m wrong. Georgia goes 49.225, which is a good score, but won’t compete with what Alabama’s getting right now.
Rotation 2: Georgia on vault, Alabama on bars:
Davis – VT – (didn’t show it, thanks) (9.725)
Sledge – UB – excellent gienger, a little form on bail hs, that beautiful DLO with a larger step back (9.800)
Couch – VT – good y full with slight shuffle – that’s the solidity they need from her. (9.800)
Alexin – UB – shaposh to pak – great toes – dbl tuck with step back. (9.800)
Persinger – VT – little pikey on yfull with large step back. (9.650)
Clark – UB – good shaposh, leg sep on bail hs, went over on hs and had to come off – that’s a shame for her in her first meet – DLO dismount with hop forward. (9.275)
Earls – VT – Omelianchik – great distance and form but a step forward – if they can get her sticking this will be 9.9+ (9.800)
DeMeo – UB – way far away on jaeger and fell – you could see that coming – now Bama is counting a fall – this just got interesting. Shades on 2011. A little low on dismount. (9.150)
Hires – VT – good yfull in most of the ways – a little lacking in distance, but by far their best vault so far. (9.900)
GSE – UB – good ray to open, pak – nice, dismount with small hop forward – good veteran performance after falls. (9.875)
Ding – VT – nice yfull with step back – very good but she can be better. (9.875)
Priess – UB – over on her toe full but stays on, tkatchev to pak is nice, hits DLO dismount. Just needs a few more repetitions it looks like. (9.875 – that’s an overscore)
Milliner Exo – UB – fingertipped her release but caught – over on handstand on her bail and came off the bars – I’m seeing a trend here. Fine dbl tuck dismount.
It’s like the beginning of 2011 all over again on bars for Alabama. I’m wondering whether I missed something on Priess’s bars or whether the judges just thought she covered well. At any rate, they had to count a fall. Alabama goes 48.625 on bars for a 98.175 total. Georgia takes the lead with a 49.100 on vault for a 98.325 total. This is going to be very exciting.
Rotation 3: Alabama on beam, Georgia on floor:
Jacob – BB – hitting well through her loso series, she is right on this beam so far, great hit to open the rotation. (9.825)
Earls – FX – hitting so far ( I accidentally wrote “sitting” at first, that’s different) – not a fan of the music – dbl tuck dismount. (9.775)
Milliner – BB – walkover – nice, small wobble on loso series, why a close up of her face during her skills, camera people? hits dismount – she looked a little tentative but hit. (9.700)
Davis – FX – good dbl pike mount, layout + rudi middle pass, way low on her dbl tuck dismount and lunges forward – did well not to fall on that. (9.600)
Sledge – BB – I’d like it if she could make this lineup this year, hits loso series, slight wobble on L-turn,= but pretty good on leg position, gainer full dismount with step – since it’s a gainer full, that needs to be stuck. (9.750)
Tanella – FX – hits dbl pike, she looks on so far with the tumbling, but I don’t dig anything about this floor routine for her – it highlights her spastic movement style, hits rudi dismount. (9.850)
DeMeo – BB – hits handspring mount, good walkover, big wobble on loso series but stays on, gainer full dismount with hop back. (9.725)
Nuccio – FX – dbl arabian mount with slight step back – she has the performance presence I like to see – ouchie, completely botches her dismount and has to take a fall. Such a shame. (9.100)
GSE – BB – hits series, good walkover + loso, only a minor wobble on spin, held on to the sheep jump well, hits dismount. Good not great routine. (9.850)
Worley – FX – good dbl pike mount – bounces back out of her rudi but stays in bounds, this routine has potential – I’m hoping it will grow on me – it’s not there yet, dbl full dismount – we still need to make that a 2.5 (9.775)
Priess – BB – confident sheep to open, walkover + korbut – nice, a little uncertain on L-turn but fine, she looks more prepared here than on bars – gainer full dismount (I’m seeing way too many of those today!) (9.850)
Couch – FX – puke full in – low chest but performed as usual, whip + dbl tuck is solid, this routine is such a gimmick which troubles me, dbl pike dismount is good – she hit the way they needed her to after some issues in this rotation once again. (9.825)
Gutierrez Exo – BB – off on her series, that’s too bad because I’d like to see her in this lineup – she has nice line and attention to presentation – although another gainer full.
Alabama takes the lead by .025 going into the last rotation, leading 147.175 to 147.150 after posting a 49.000 on the balance beam. Georgia put up a 48.825 on floor. The scores appeared pretty fair during that rotation – no routine from either team stood out as being particularly impressive. Alabama should be the favorites to win from this point, going to floor while Georgia has to go to beam.
Alabama started off so strong on vault, but has showed definite need for improvement on the next two events (much like UCLA, though not as dire). Bama fans have reason to be concerned that bars might turn into a two-gymnast rotation with no one else scoring big. Georgia continued to show that floor is going to be an issue for them this season. They’re just praying they get through six clean routines.
Rotation 4: Georgia to beam, Alabama to floor:
Couch – BB – (9.800)
Jacob – FX – very nice dbl pike mount, hits combo middle pass, posing with wrists, hit routine but a good leadoff for them because it doesn’t really stand out with tumbling or dance. (9.825)
Earls – BB – wobble on series but holds onto it, side aerial – good, a little low on dbl tuck dismount and takes a step forward. (9.750)
Sledge – FX – punch front trhough to dbl tuck – she knows how to sell her Bama choreography, just layouts as middle pass (we can upgrade that, right? She’s too powerful for that to be her middle pass), high dbl pike dismount – a little over and has to take a step forward (9.875)
Ding – BB – (nervous time!) hits loso series, major wobble on full turn, front tuck is nice, she’s performing the hell out of this, nice dismount. She hit a beam routine! (9.775)
Frost – FX – DLO – looked like it would be low but she got it around, front full + layout middle pass, dbl tuck dismount looked ust as low as the DLO but she couldn’t pull it around and put hands down. (9.350)
Tanella – BB – small wobble on series, hits onodi and sheep, gainer full dismount,
I have to give her some credit for hitting when they needed it all day, now if she would just calm down her movements. (9.800)
Gutierrez – FX – nice DLO to start, front full + layout, hits double pike – really composed tumbling overall from her. She looks farther along than most of the others. (9.900)
Persinger – BB – this event shows off her line the best, good loso series, hitting both tumbling and dance elements so far with good show of flexibility – a complete routine, in other words — nice dismount. Really nice routine. (9.800)
Milliner – FX – slightly short on dbl arabian but just a step back, layout + front full with bound forward, nice high dbl pike to finish (9.700)
Worley – BB – (they need a huge routine here) – full twisting bhs – nice, hits loso series, good onodi and hits gainer full dismount – big hit routine, but I hate that she downgraded that dismount. Still that makes two hit meets in a row for Shayla. (9.950 – it was good but that’s a little high)
Priess – FX – high dbl tuck mount, front full + layout with slight bound forward, hits dbl pike to likely give Bama the meet. A composed routine but she can step this up to be the anchor later in the season. (9.900)
So Alabama takes the meet by just .150! I’m surprised it was that close, but I suppose with Alabama and Georgia we always want the meet to be as close as possible. FINAL: Alabama 196.475 Georgia 196.325 (as announced, the live scoring says 196.375 to 196.275, we’ll see)
Both teams went out hard and appeared to use up their best gymnastics in the first rotation. Alabama’s vault was the only rotation of this meet that was super impressive, and while there was nice gymnastics all over the place, there is a lot to be worked on for both teams. Georgia has to figure out that floor situation, and Alabama needs to get that bar rotation intact and get a little bit more confident on the beam and upgrade a couple of the floor routines. Still, no reason for either team to be really disappointed in this meet. There is plenty of time.
Heads up: Nebraska went 197.375 with FOUR gymnasts going 39.475+ in the AA. I’m going to have to go through those scores soon.
After a sparsely populated first week of the season, everyone is in action this weekend to give us a much clearer view of how the teams stack up against one another. Friday, in particular, will be a busy day for us score vultures, so we need to have a little situation room action going on with all the scoring windows.
The star meet on Friday is clearly Georgia @ Alabama, and I will be here live blogging that one. While the rivalry doesn’t have quite the same oomph without Suzanne around (and I do wish it were later in the season), Alabama would absolutely die if they lost to Georgia at home as defending national champions. That should provide the necessary intrigue.
Meets of note:
Friday – 1/13/12
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – Ohio State @ Michigan
7:00 ET / 4:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @ Florida
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Kentucky @ Arkansas
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Denver @ Nebraska
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Auburn @ LSU
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – Georgia @ Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Utah State @ Utah
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – Washington @ Boise State
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – Oklahoma @ Oregon State
Saturday – 1/14/12
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Minnesota @ Illinois
Sunday – 1/15/12
1:00 ET / 10:00 PT – Kent State @ Western Michigan
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – Rutgers @ West Virginia
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – UCLA @ Cal
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – Stanford Quad Meet (w/ San Jose St., UC Davis, and Sacramento St.)
Kat Ding – UB – 9.975 – Georgia
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.