2000 Olympic Trials: Special Victims Unit

I decided to rewatch the 2000 Olympic Trials. I guess because I just haven’t been feeling jaded and flabbergasted enough lately and really needed to work harder to grab that golden ring. It’s a process. You’ve got to get your nose to the grindstone if you want to see results. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Trautwig.

This meet is insane, and this broadcast is traumatic. I have some horrible thoughts. Come. Join me. Let’s see who can last the longest before jumping straight into a volcano.

Chapter 1: Everything Is Completely Healthy Here

-Look how everyone is smiling in this opening montage! We’re all happy! Great time! Fun! I don’t need any therapy!

-Parkettes hair. Never forget what happened here. Kristen Maloney, look at yourself. Think about your actions.

-“We don’t need Paul Revere to climb to the Old North Church and yell out, ‘The Olympics are coming.'” Stop. Everything about that sentence is historically inaccurate. Please return to the third grade.

-Tim Daggett is a DUCKLING here. Apparently, sitting next to Al for 20 years is the equivalent of being president. WATCH OUT NASTIA. SAVE YOURSELF.

-Bela and Martha hanging over a super cool laptop.

-100% they’re reading Dawson’s Creek fanfic. There’s literally nothing else I can imagine them needing that computer for.

-Tim says the word “mutiny” with such ravenousness. He was totally rooting for pitchforks. So was I.

-“Elfi, a year ago, Jamie Dantzscher was a withered piece of useless garbage. How did she stop being garbage?”
-“Well Al, Bela Karolyi talked to her for 30 seconds, and then she was fixed.” YAY GYMNASTICS NARRATIVE.

-Jamie Dantzscher on bars. “Plays gymnastics on this event.” What does that mean? That’s not a sentiment.
-I would describe the Dantzscher family’s level of fervor for that routine as vaguely Spanish Inquisitiony.

-Next up is Shang Chunsong. I mean Morgan White.
-But first, let’s enjoy a video retrospective of her having a Level 50 nervous breakdown. YAY. It’s like in romantic comedies when they have a musical montage of an unbearable trash couple trying on oversize sunglasses by a pier, except instead of that, it’s a lifetime of emotional trauma. I know we all watch that replay and think, “This is normal. She’s doing fine. I don’t have any questions.”
-And then after Morgan White vaults, and you’re also going, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…”
Continue reading 2000 Olympic Trials: Special Victims Unit


Brenna, Brenna, Brenna

In this week’s edition of Things I Don’t Really Understand, Brenna Dowell has elected to defer the 2015-2016 season at Oklahoma to train elite again in the run-up to Rio. Because she hasn’t endured enough national team trauma already in her career and needed to give Martha yet another chance to name her to a team and then decide she shouldn’t compete? No Brenna, this year we’re going to put McKayla Maroney’s Youtube channel up on bars in prelims instead of you. Enjoy the training gym.

Sigh. The unending power of that Olympic dream. “Unfinished business.” This happens from time to time. Her Holiness (and by Her Holiness, I mean Kristina Vaculik, but you should know that by now), took a year off from Stanford to make Canada’s 2012 team, though that was a more likely prospect than this is. But, you know, go for it? Or whatever? Dreams? Reach for the stars? The more the merrier. I wish she didn’t have to take a year off from NCAA to do it, but it’s extremely difficult to do both at the same time. We saw Zam try to go straight through NCAA season-elite season-NCAA season, and it ended with an Achilles tear. And she was more in the “I want to have the elite experience and see how it goes, whatever I’m Zam, let’s smile and dance” camp. Brenna has had the elite experience. She’s not going back just to have the experience. She wants THE PRECIOUS. 

In the short term, this does kind of suck for Oklahoma. Oh, you were relying on Brenna’s scores on at least three events? Sorry bye now. It does give us something else to talk about this elite season, though. Team selection just got that little bit more interesting. 

Brenna is always going to be at least in the mix for a World Championship team given her Amanar and high D score on bars.

Those are valuable tools, but if that wasn’t enough to make the team last year (though she was returning from injury in the first half of the summer), it’s hard to see how that will be enough to make the team this year, with the addition of Douglas (most significantly because Douglas can fill a big spot on bars) along with Raisman, Key, and Dennis making selection even more challenging this time around. The possible opening for Brenna comes from the injury to Ashton Locklear and the “when exactly are you not injured?” career history of Madison Kocian, two bars specialists and some of her most direct competition. Presumably Dowell will try to D score everyone else into submission again this time, but boy, she cannot afford a single fall. She can’t give anyone a chance to doubt her consistency.

As for Oklahoma, this one will sting a little bit, even though it doesn’t stop the Sooners from being a title contender in 2016. They still have solid depth, but that’s going to be tested now. Finally getting a healthy season from Charity Jones becomes that much more important because she can be that strong score on vault and floor that they would have expected to get from Brenna. Bars also just got a little bit interesting for the Sooners. Now just three members of last year’s final lineup are returning: Wofford, Scaman, and Kmieciak. They’ll have Nicole Lehrmann coming in, and several other possible 9.850s who have been hanging around the backup ranks, but they’ll have to reinvent that lineup a bit and find some new big scores. They’ve done it before.

Elsewhere, in Opposite Of Brenna news, Lexie Priessman instannounced that she is, in fact, going to LSU in the fall. I didn’t know there was still a question about that, so…good?

The other big chatter going around the gymternet has been about some pretty dramatic changes to NCAA for next season, including but not limited to devaluing the Yfull to 9.950, stepping up bars release requirements, and getting rid of event finals. I’ve decided to wait until we hear official things and details before thinking about this and formulating extended and dramatic opinions (we have plenty of time still), but you can read about it here. These are all areas that have been crying out for fixing. 

Also, Elise Ray is now Associate Head Coach at Washington as David McCreary is leaving to go Yim it up in Arizona. Elise will make a top program very happy one day.

2010 US Nationals, NCAA Style

We sort of know what’s going to happen to former elites when they enter the NCAA ranks. Sort of. If you’re crazy good, you probably shouldn’t stop being crazy good all of a sudden. But there are all kinds of subcategories below crazy good that most people occupy, and when the NCAA CoP comes into play and limits what can be gained simply from mashing in the difficulty or absorbing errors, it can disrupt the previous balance of power.

The example I always use, because it’s still recent (except I just realized it kind of isn’t anymore) and pretty stark, is one Shayla Worley on bars. As an elite, Shayla was all about them bars. She was Duchess Tkatchev of Orlando. She made the 2007 team specifically to do bars in the team final (and floor, but mostly bars), and when we all agreed to pretend like the 2008 team selection came down to finding a bars worker to be the 6th member of the team, she seemed right in the hunt. 

In spite of her pedigree and accomplishments, however, Shayla’s bars never became a major NCAA routine, mostly because of the dismount. That double front was never going to cut it in NCAA, both in the scoring department and the staying-alive department, so instead, she had to learn a DLO that never really became comfortable for her. (Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs had to do the same thing at around the same time, and also developed a mostly troubling DLO that was the primary culprit keeping her from weekly 9.9s). Because of that, and in spite of her clear talent on bars, Shayla was usually stuck at 9.850 instead of becoming the big fat star her elite success seemed to foretell. 

On the other side of the argument, we now have Alex McMurtry. (Not an elite, but) she was known for having a bars routine that fell clearly below the level of her other events and her top JO contemporaries. I believe in my preview of the 2015 season, I may have invoked the word “Brestyan’s” when describing her bars work, which was probably overstating it a bit, but she was not expected to make an impact on bars for Florida.

(This commentary is a complete LOL now, by the way. No, she would never water down. How dare you suggest such a thing. Also note how Tim compared her gienger to Nastia’s. Nastia laughed way too hard. Then immediately ran to a closet and snapped 50 pencils.)

But in the 2015 NCAA season, McMurtry managed to pull off the very rare Reverse Shayla, turning her routine from a nope into something that won Super Six. (And bested Shayla Worley’s career high on bars in the process. Welcome to 2015 Super Six scoring, as we’ve over-discussed already.)

Florida definitely refined this routine quite a bit, but that’s easier to do when you take out the hard parts. It’s all about having a dismount. That’s the difference between McMurtry and Shayla. Getting back that exceptional tuck full makes the whole routine. In spite of having no previous reputation for success on bars, this routine becomes a winner because of one vital, excellent skill. (And exposes some of the holes in the CoP, but holes exist to be exploited.) Get to NCAA, and the balance of power changes. An 8.9 in JO ends up with a better career high than a Worlds TF competitor.

Which is to say, we don’t always know what will happen. Part of the joy of watching gymnasts move from elite/L10 into NCAA is in seeing how expectations shift, quality and stature evolve, and previous hierarchies are abolished. It happens all the time, and it can be fun to go back and compare how things stacked up in elite gymnastics compared to how they eventually played out in NCAA. (I should note at this time that I don’t know what fun is.) This is the kind of rambling that the post-NCAA, pre-major-elite-events season is for.

I was just checking the standings from 2010 US Nationals, GREAT WEEKEND PLANS, and it’s amusing to look back on those results knowing what we know now. Since I’ve already been talking about bars, I’ll keep things there. These are the final rankings on bars from 2010 US Nationals, with the gymnasts who competed NCAA (excluding Whitcomb and Lee, who didn’t really have NCAA careers) noted in bold.

1. Rebecca Bross
2. Cassie Whitcomb
3. Mattie Larson
4. Mackenzie Caquatto
5. Chelsea Davis
6. Morgan Smith
7. Vanessa Zamarripa
8. Sophia Lee
9. Samantha Shapiro
9. Bridgey Caquatto
11. Aly Raisman
12. Jaclyn McCartin
13. Kaitlyn Clark
14. Kytra Hunter
15. Georgia Dabritz
16. Rheagan Courville
17. Annette Miele
18. Lauren Beers
19. Brandie Jay
19. Briley Casanova

Not exactly how things stayed. Even in E score, we see Kaitlyn Clark and Rheagan Courville losing to Aly Raisman. Let’s break down a few of the most interesting points in these standings.

Dabritz finished 15th out of 20. Now, that does include a fall on day one, but on day two with a hit routine, her execution score still came in clearly behind that of her future NCAA peers Chelsea Davis and Bridgey Caquatto. Bars may have been the strongest event for Dabritz as an elite, but she wasn’t necessarily seen as a Sami Shapiro “she’s going to destroy the world on bars once she gets to NCAA” type of elite gymnast.

2010 Nationals:

And yet, watching this routine back 5 years later, it’s not at all surprising that she eventually became Georgia Dabritz in NCAA. The college gold is there with those handstands and very usable D elements. Clean up that bail, rid yourself of that problematic stalder shoot, and this is what you get, a #1-ranked bars routine: 

2015 NCAA:

Remember Kytra’s bars in 2010, when everyone was like, “OMG SHE HAS TO STOP COMPETING BARS IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE MY EYES!!!!!” What was the deal with that? I know she had that mess at 2010 Classic, but this is just a perfectly fine, not-really-a-bars-gymnast kind of elite routine.

2010 Nationals:

Thankfully, sane people prevailed. You don’t just throw away a Hill’s hindorff, even if the whole routine isn’t too elite competitive. Hindorff, bail, dismount. You’re NCAA good to go.

One of the keys to Kytra’s success as an AAer in NCAA gymnastics was the opportunity NCAA provided to let her pick and choose the types of elements she competed without forcing her to, you know, do a split the way she had to in elite. Beam was not really Hunter’s famous event either, at least not in the way vault and floor were, but once you get rid of any skill starting with “switch” in this routine, you’ve got yourself a thing. 

Kytra, like, invented including a switch 1/2 that you can’t do in your beam routine. She should sue for format rights or something. But let’s be honest, that switch 1/2 is basically a bag of diamonds compared to some of the ones we’re seeing this quad.

Kytra and Bridgey is an interesting comparison, because if you saw these two elite beam routines, which one would you guess would never see the light of day in NCAA?

Making a successful transition to top-level NCAA gymnastics isn’t necessary about having a great elite routine. But you need comfortable consistent mastery of about three medium-value, D-ish elements. That’s so much more valuable than being Princess Prettywobbles.

Another worthwhile comparison is that of Kytra versus Courville. Neither were bars queens as elites, hanging around the mid-low 13s, but in Kytra’s case, you see the tools. Those skills, as is, have the makings of the 9.850-9.900 NCAA routine. (In spite of apparently needing to drop the event immediately, burn her grips, and never touch a bar again.) With Courville, bars was a true struggle all the way through, with those handstands, leg separations, and close catches.

2010 Nationals:

You don’t watch this routine and assume the pieces for a 9.900 NCAA routine are there. Courville’s eventual bars success was not a matter of paring down the elite skills and finding a composition that shows off her best qualities. It was a function of serious skill improvement, not just tweaking, once she got to NCAA, which saw her eventually zoom up the rankings into being one of the nation’s very top scorers. 

Watch Courville’s routine, compared to Chelsea Davis’s at the same competition, and who do you think would end up being ranked better on bars in NCAA in 2015?

Not to say that Chelsea Davis wasn’t awesome on bars in NCAA as well, but just as a comparison of starting point and ending point. 

As mentioned, Shapiro is a different case than these other gymnasts (all to varying degrees) because she was destined from the moment she turned a day old to make everyone weep with beauty on bars as an NCAA gymnast. From very early on, she had all the tools to be magical. But I’m highlighting her work in this competition because, um, what the hell happened to her handstands that year? 

Did she have an issue that my brain has thrown into the memory garbage? Like an auto-immune handstand disease or something?

Thankfully, we still got this.

2015 Level 10 Nationals Results

Over the weekend, a medium-sized army of Level 10s gathered together in the void between the dimensions to contest their national championship. This is our annual opportunity to start to learn the names of the people who will be scattering 9.825s all over NCAA gymnastics in a matter of months. As always, the competition is broken down into 8 age groups (Junior A-D, Senior A-D), and my attention is primarily on Senior D and Senior C, since those are the gymnasts who will be joining college gymnastics this fall. For the rest, there will still be plenty of time to try to care about them later.

Full results for all the sessions can be found at USAG, and all the various commitments can be found at collegegymfans and here, but here’s a basic breakdown of the key competitors in the senior ranks. 


Top 10 AA
1. Alicia Boren – Florida 2015-2016
38.800 (VT – 1st; UB – 2nd; BB – 2nd; FX – 3rd)
Alicia Boren wins JO Nationals every year. And when I say that, I’m not exaggerating like I usually am. She actually wins her age group every single year. It’s a guarantee that she will be given the “new Kytra” moniker within a millisecond of arriving at Florida. She’s not Kytra, but she did manage to get third on floor even with an OOB and will be expected to contribute on at least three events, joining Peyton Ernst to try to replace those Kytra routines and add a few others to the pile.

2. Kirah Koshinski – West Virginia 2015-2016
38.475 (VT – 2nd; UB – 13th; BB – 15th; FX – 1st)
I love to see gymnasts going to not-top schools place well in JO. It doesn’t always translate to sudden stardom or a boost for those programs, but these vault and floor routines are the real deal. 

3. Emma McLean – Michigan 2015-2016
38.350 (VT – 4th; UB – 11th; BB – 12th; FX – 2nd)
Michigan had a very strong JO Nationals overall with a number of top finishes, and seeing McLean in third in particular is very encouraging. Karas has been the more heralded of the two newbies for next season, but Michigan is not an extremely deep team and will remain so next season, so McLean showing the ability to be solid across the board is important because they may need to rely on that. And that vault should be a thing.

4. Sarah Means – Boise State 2015-2016
38.175 (VT – 4th; UB – 19th; BB – 4th; FX – 8th)
Beam. After that beam showing at regionals, this 4th place is a chorus of angels.  

5. Sabrina Garcia – Penn State 2015-2016
38.050 (VT – 27th; UB – 3rd; BB – 4th; FX – 5th)

6. Jaclyn Sampson – Sacramento State 2015-2016
37.900 (VT – 25th; UB – 8th; BB – 3rd; FX – 21st)

7. Jenna Bresette – Alabama 2015-2016
37.875 (VT – 11th; UB – 3rd; BB – 36th; FX – 5th)
8. Amanda Huang – Alabama 2015-2016
37.625 (VT – 32nd; UB – 3rd; BB – 12th; FX – 33rd)
Even though Alabama is losing another crop of essential routines (4 from Clark, 2 from Williams, 1 from Frost), there is reason for optimism in the fairly large, yet relatively unheralded, class they are bringing in. These L10s boast some usable routines that can pad those lineups, at least in the spots that a please-be-healthy-now Kiana Winston doesn’t swoop in to take up. And by “pad those lineups,” I don’t mean it in a coach-like “she’ll be great depth for our team…and will never see the light of day” kind of way. They’ll actually pad the lineups and contribute.  

Bresette, a chief member of the “former GAGE gymnast” club, was felled by the dreaded beam here, otherwise she would have comfortably been top 5. Huang excels on bars, a lineup that was a little too 9.850 for Alabama at times this year.

8. Haylee Roe – Illinois 2015-2016
37.625 (VT – 15th; UB – 36th; BB – 9th; FX – 21st)

10. Ciara Gresham – ?
37.600 (VT – 10th; UB – 33rd; BB – 25th; FX – 8th)

Samantha Cerio – Auburn 2015-2016
UB – 1st; FX – 5th
Cerio is another who could have been top 5 in the AA with a hit beam routine. Auburn is losing some serious scores after last season, with Megan Walker’s bars routine pretty high on that list. Someone is going to have to pick that up if they want to double down on magical seasons.  

Angelina Giancroce – Alabama, now, apparently 2015-2016
BB – 4th; FX – 4th
Weren’t you going to Georgia? Another addition to the Alabama depth parade. How does Alabama always manage to have 16 new contributing freshmen every season? We always make fun of “we have a really young team this year…” but Alabama truly always does.

Shannon McNatt – Utah 2015-2016
VT – 4th; UB – 9th

Stephanie Brock – ?
VT – 7th; BB – 9th

Sarah Lippowitsch – Kent State 2015-2016
BB – 1st

Ashley Hiller – Florida 2015-2016
VT – 2nd
Amanda Cheney – Florida 2015-2016
BB – 4th
A few casual bonus JO standouts for a team that doesn’t need them. 2nd on vault in Senior D would be something to boast about…if you weren’t competing with Sloan, McMurtry, Baker, and Boren for vault spots.

Brooke Kelly – Missouri 2015-2016
BB – 4th

Sienna Crouse – Nebraska 2015-2016
UB – 6th

Mary Jacobsen – Oregon State 2015-2016
UB – 6th

Lauren Schmeiss – Sacramento State 2015-2016
VT – 7th

Madeleine Huber – Missouri 2015-2016
UB – 9th

Nicole O’Leary – New Hampshire 2015-2016
VT – 9th

MaryElle Arduino – Towson 2015-2016
BB – 9th

Sidney Dukes – Kentucky 2015-2016
FX – 10th

Gracie Cherrey – Georgia 2015-2016
Notable as a Georgia recruit who will be relied upon for real contribution next season, but a bars disaster took her out of the top 10 AA spots.


Top 10 AA
1. Macy Toronjo – UCLA 2015-2016
38.650 (VT – 4th; UB – 5th; BB – 3rd; FX – 1st)
It’s reasonable to assume that UCLA will take a hit next year without Sam Peszek. Ohashi is amazing, but she’s not the same type of gymnast. She doesn’t have that “there is literally a 0% chance you will miss this routine” Peszekness, and I worry about her fragility. That’s why Toronjo is going to be so important. She’s no Peszek, but she is your prototypical second-tier elite, with all the skills and 9.850+ potential, who can jump in and buoy those lineups, ensuring that they aren’t full of…ahem…ratty old 9.750s at nationals. Also, a DLO and a full in at JO Nationals? Yes you did.

2. Makenna Merrell – Utah 2015-2016
38.625 (VT – 2nd; UB – 4th; BB – 4th; FX – 2nd)
Even though Skinner has decided to pass on this year to see if she can do a vault with zero hands make the Olympics, Utah still has another bang-up class of L10s coming in who all placed well this weekend. It’s unrealistic to expect them to live up to the quality of the routines lost, but they will be able to combine with this past year’s freshmen (who should contribute more) to try at least to minimize the damage and ensure that team depth remains a thing. Note the cleaner line and toes that Merrell has on bars, at least from this angle. That’s my big pet peeve about Utah’s bars, so get this girl in the lineup.

3. Maddie Karr – Denver 2016-2017
38.400 (VT – 4th; UB – 10th; BB – 2nd; FX – 8th)

4. Olivia Karas – Michigan 2015-2016
38.275 (VT – 1st; UB – 16th; BB – 14th; FX – 11th)
Vaulllllltttttts. Michigan was hit by the bouncy vault monster for 49.1s too often last season, especially at the end. These freshmen can vault and need to do it all the time and a lot and everywhere. Karas has been one of the top JO gymnasts of the last year or so and won her age group last season at JOs. She will be expected to bestow some significant scores upon the team.

5. Jamie Stone – Ohio State 2015-2016
38.075 (VT – 10th; UB – 10th; BB – 14th; FX – 5th)

6. Madison Osman – Michigan 2016-2017
37.975 (VT – 6th; UB – 26th; BB – 17th; FX – 5th)

6. Shani Remme – Boise State 2015-2016
37.975 (VT – 14th; UB – 20th; BB – 13th; FX – 5th)

8. Sylvie Seilnacht – Cal 2015-2016
37.925 (VT – 18th; UB – 25th; BB – 12th; FX – 4th)

9. Erika Muhaw – Utah 2015-2016
37.875 (VT – 3rd; UB – 38th; BB – 20th; FX – 3rd)

10. Alexandra Hyland – Kentucky 2015-2016
37.825 (VT – 40th; UB – 5th; BB – 7th; FX – 11th)

Kaitlyn Szafranski – LSU 2015-2016
VT – 9th; UB – 1st
Szafranski had a disaster on both beam and floor but is one of the better gymnasts in this session and could have been among the top finishers with a hit meet. No one is talking very much about her because she’s in the same class as Priessman, Finnegan, and Kelley, but she could be important in helping make up for that parade of lost scores LSU has, especially considering Priessman’s injury history and the fact that Finnegan hasn’t competed since the early 60s. Don’t overlook this one. They’ll need this whole class, not just the names.  

Meredith LaRoche – Illinois State 2015-2016
VT – 10th; FX – 8th

Taylor Krippner – Auburn 2015-2016
BB – 1st

Morgan Porter – Missouri 2015-2016
UB – 2nd

Monica Riley – Washington 2015-2016
UB – 2nd

Olivia Aepli – Ohio State 2016-2017
UB – 5th
Ohio State had to go without an Aepli on bars this past season, and it was horrible. They desperately need Aepli Part 2 as soon as possible. 


Top 10 AA
1. Wynter Childers – Alabama 2016-2017
38.550 (VT – 1st; UB – 9th; BB – 1st; FX – 2nd)

2. Cassidy Keelen – Cal 2016-2017
38.375 (VT – 2nd; UB – 9th; BB – 4th; FX – 3rd)

3. Jade DeGouveia – Pitt 2016-2017
38.225 (VT – 8th; UB – 6th; BB – 9th; FX – 6th)

4. Stephanie Day – Auburn 2016-2017
38.175 (VT – 2nd; UB – 4th; BB – 30th; FX – 1st)

5. Karen Howell – Illinois 2016-2017
38.025 (VT – 21st; UB – 1st; BB – 3rd; FX – 18th)

6. Anna Glenn  – UCLA 2016-2017
38.000 (VT – 2nd; UB – 13th; BB – 24th; FX – 13th)

7. Shea Mahoney – Alabama 2016-2017
37.950 (VT – 2nd; UB – 26th; BB – 30th; FX – 3rd)

8. Katie Becker – Auburn 2016-2017
37.875 (VT – 10th; UB – 16th; BB – 9th; FX – 18th)

9. Lexi Funk – Michigan 2016-2017
37.800 (VT – 18th; UB – 5th; BB – 5th; FX – 28th)

10. Alexa Phillips – NC State 2016-2017
37.775 (VT – 2nd; UB – 32nd; BB – 34th; FX – 7th)

10. Ashlyn Kirby – LSU 2016-2017
37.775 (VT – 14th; UB – 17th; BB – 13th; FX – 16th)

We’re moving on to the 2016-2017 people now, so there’s still time before we have to know who they are and what they’re good at, but note that Alabama and Auburn cleaned up Senior B this year. Bringing in multiple top-finishing L10s in multiple upcoming seasons is a good sign that Auburn can continue to make life miserable for the traditional powers.

Rachel Dickson – Georgia 2016-2017
VT – 2nd; FX – 3rd

Jessica Yamzon – Arkansas 2016-2017
UB – 2nd; BB – 6th

Christina Berg – Auburn 2016-2017
UB – 3rd; FX – 10th

Also Maya Washington finished 6th on beam in this session, and she’s going to Washington. Which is the kind of thing I enjoy.


Top 10 AA
1. Kennedi Edney – LSU 2016-2017
38.600 (VT – 1st; UB – 1st; BB – 27th; FX – 1st)

2. Kynsee Roby – Nebraska
38.475 (VT – 11th; UB – 3rd; BB – 1st; FX – 3rd)

3. Kyla Bryant – ?
38.400 (VT – 4th; UB – 4th; BB – 3rd; FX – 4th)

4. Lynnzee Brown – Denver 2017-2018
38.125 (VT – 4th; UB – 4th; BB – 23rd; FX – 7th)

5. Mariah Peterson – Cal 2017-2018
38.050 (VT – 11th; UB – 10th; BB – 3rd; FX – 9th)

6. Reagan Campbell – LSU 2017-2018
38.000 (VT – 22nd; UB – 8th; BB – 2nd; FX – 17th)

7. Maggie O’Hara – Michigan 2017-2018
37.900 (VT – 26th; UB – 2nd; BB – 12th; FX – 17th)

8. Bridget Dean – LSU 2017-2018
37.650 (VT – 34th; UB – 19th; BB – 7th; FX – 9th)

9. Kimberly Tessen – ?
37.600 (VT – 7th; UB – 41st; BB – 6th; FX – 6th)

9. Melissa Reinstadtler – Utah 2016-2017
37.600 (VT – 9th; UB – 19th; BB – 18th; FX – 27th)

Good session for LSU here. Kennedi Edney is an interesting one, since her dad was such a high-profile UCLA athlete, but she committed to LSU very early even though she seemed bred to be a Bruin. The evolution of LSU in these next two post-Courville, Jordan, Hall years will be fascinating to watch because the talent is there without question. But will they be able to conjure the same results?

Autumn DeHarde – ?
BB – 3rd; UB – 2nd

Mollie Korth – ?
VT – 2nd; FX – 4th

Annie Johnson – ?
BB – 9th; FX – 9th

Lauren Bridgens – Penn State 2017-2018
VT – 3rd

Sophia Steinmeyer – Iowa State 2017-2018
VT – 4th

The Position Has Been Filled

All of those coaching vacancies we had just a few days ago are disappearing. Because they have to. This is such a vital period of the year for recruiting, and a team like Florida cannot afford to go even a month without a head coach in place. The longer they’re without a head coach to snatch those recruits up, the prettier UCLA, Oklahoma, and Alabama start to look. Someone absolutely had to be in place by JO Nationals.

So, as Florida announced yesterday, former Auburn associate head coach Jenny Rowland has been hired to take over the position of Rhonda 2. Jenny Rowland’s was one of the first names bandied about once Rhonda resigned because she is among the biggest rising-star associate/assistants in the country, is a Rhonda favorite, and seems to fit the profile of a replacement Rhonda pretty exactly, considering her age, competition history, coaching history, and areas of expertise. It’s a logical fit, and if she does decide to keep the same assistants, their strengths would complement each other very well. Rowland’s best recent claim to awesomeness is her role as Auburn’s beam coach. That beam lineup this past season was on it.

Florida is clearly not going for a sea change here. They’re hoping for Rhonda Part 2, which may provide a few more initial challenges of the “but that’s not how Rhonda used to do it!” variety for those expecting her to be an exact clone, but ultimately may result in less boat-rocking than some other choices would have. Still, she is new to the program, so some degree of uprooting is inevitable.  She will need to change certain things to fit her style and develop the program identity she wants. Everyone else will have to adjust. It won’t be the same situation as Alabama this year or Utah next year, with new leaders who are more than familiar with the current system and clearly and openly want to keep things the same.

I suppose the one knock against Jenny Rowland is that she hasn’t been a head coach before, but meh. Many of the most successful current coaches were not head coaches before they took over their positions, and she’s hardly new to the world of top-program college gymnastics and the expectations of that. Inevitable growing pains? Sure. Major stumbling block? I seriously doubt it.

Not to be completely overshadowed (that much), Tabitha Yim has also been announced as the new head coach at Arizona to follow Bill Ryden after he “chose to resign.” I’m slightly obsessed with Tabitha Yim, so I’m all about this decision. What’s the Arizona choreography going to be like now? There’s a little bit more reason to have “enough experience?” questions in Tabitha’s case because she hasn’t been around very long and hasn’t held a leadership coaching position at a program before (in my mind she has still been in that “recent former team member, #3 coach on the team” slot), but at the same time, she’s Tabitha Yim. Don’t bet against that. It’s an exciting choice that helps usher in the newest generation of coaches, and I’m eager to see what she does to try to change a program that has stagnated in that 15-20 ranking territory. It’s time to have higher hopes and Tabitha Yim-level expectations for Arizona. Hopefully, she does not bring with her Stanford’s general attitude of unnecessary secrecy around the program if she wants to build it into something more. 

-In other news, and rounding out the action from nationals, NastiaFan101 generously put up some of the Super Six routines included in the ESPN taped broadcast that were not shown in the live version, particularly some of those Utah bars routines, which should help illustrate that Florida wasn’t the only one getting some fancy bars scores in there.

These routines were all judged with the same lens. It’s a cray-cray lens, but it’s the same one.

Also this, just because.

-Polina Shchennikova, of “why are there that many h’s in the transliteration of your name” fame, has verbally committed to Michigan for the 2017 season. Go ahead on, Michigan. That’s a solid get. If she can be held intact over the next couple years, she has some lovely qualities for NCAA, especially on beam. For a while, she was thrown into the pile of potential bars hopes because she was a US junior with a D score that wasn’t 2.1, but beam is my favorite event for her.

-Minnesota also snatched a very strong 2018 recruit in Lexy Ramler, who has competed as a junior elite for the last couple years and is noteworthy for having a comaneci and bhardwaj on bars (it’s an adventure of a bhardwaj, but it’s a bhardwaj) and for being actual human size, which is always hilarious when she is placed next to those junior elites who are one inch tall. Minnesota has been on the struggle bus on bars for a while, so getting someone with a comaneci and an overall solid routine that can be shaped into an excellent NCAA one is a pretty huge deal.

-Next weekend is JO Nationals, so as always, it will be worth watching how all the future NCAAers look just a few months away from joining their teams. 

Championships Ended, Then Everything Broke


“I’ll take some time,” I thought. Let the events of the season and that thoroughly thrilling Super Six sink in for a while, and then at some point I’ll put together my final season thoughts and begin the way-too-early looking forward to next season. Surely there will be nothing major to talk about right away.

At that very moment, Rhonda Faehn swooped in going, “Mwahahahahahahahaha.”

This is a big deal. Two of the most prominent coaches in NCAA gymnastics (and the #1 and #2 finishers at last weekend’s championship) called it quits this week. Let’s start with Greg Marsden, because that was the not-so-surprising one. Marsden has been the head coach at Utah for 1150 years, won 10 national championships, singlehandedly invented women’s college gymnastics, and has been the sport’s most vocal and influential advocate for growth and improvement. (One of the silliest things about that “Sarah and Suzanne” doc last year was the implication that Sarah and Suzanne created women’s college gymnastics as a spectator sport. Everyone was like, “Um…Marsden?”)

College gymnastics without Greg Marsden will be strange and unfamiliar land, but his retirement doesn’t come as a shock because, over the last couple years, he had started scaling back some of his duties, with Megan taking on a lot more, and this year Tom Farden taking on more as well. A succession procedure had been put in place, and now Greg is stepping aside completely to allow Megan and Tom to be the new stars. Of all the recent major coaching changes, this should be the least disruptive to the team in the coming year. The only blip I would expect for Utah next season is the no-Dabritz blip. Otherwise, it really should be business as usual with the same group, style, and system.

But as one last tribute to Greg Marsden, the rest of college gymnastics really needs to pull itself together and finally adopt some of the good ideas he has been talking about for the last several centuries and that have never come to anything, like overhauling the postseason format and giving us a four-on-the-floor championship. Regardless of any live TV considerations, having four teams is just a better, more logical, and more fan-friendly format. The Marsden Cup. Get it done.

I also want to mention that I have tremendous respect for his decision to wait until the end of the season before making a public announcement about his retirement. He absolutely could have announced it before the year began and given himself a farewell tour with all the flowers and speeches and video tributes at every away meet. All of that would have been completely deserved, but I applaud his recognition that it’s always about the team rather than him. He doesn’t need to steal the limelight. Not a lot of coaches in his position would have made the same decision.

But now let’s get to the WTF stuff. Today, just as the Marsden-retirement embers were dying out, Rhonda Faehn announced that she is leaving Florida to snatch the job of Senior VP of the Women’s Program for USA Gymnastics. Cue the “Guuuu-waaaaaah?”

Yeah, so Rhonda is gone now. Which is bizarre. She got her three titles, and then adios! I don’t even know what to do with that. We’ll miss your white pants, Gator tank tops, general gymnastics nerdiness, and championships. And now she’s heading into the belly of the elite beast.  One last chance to pull out this one.

It’s going to get weird now, and this opens up a lot more questions than Marsden’s retirement does. It’s a much more dramatic scenario. Who’s going to take over? Is Adrian (and/or Robert) getting a promotion? Which means you’ll finally have to learn which one is which. Will they try to hook a successful head like Jeff Graba? Or will they strike out and pull a Georgia by trying to poach Cal’s rising-star coaches? Let the speculation begin. It may be a shallow thought, but to try to keep some of these young elite verbals, I do think they’ll need to go the “cool, young coach” route. You want someone who is potentially going to be there for a while (unless she leaves for USAG) to build something stable again, as well as someone who is going to be a believable, social media-savvy, emoji-using BFF-type to appeal to the ever-younger commits.   

And what will happen to all these verbal commitments for future classes? Rhonda herself has been the huge factor in the success Florida has experienced over the last several years in attracting so many elites to Florida. Wouldn’t you want to be coached by Rhonda? I’m very interested to see if these gymnasts still want to come to Florida if they’re not coming for Rhonda. Watch for a potential exodus. If one NT domino falls, the rest will follow. Which could be gold for some of the other top programs.

Regardless of who takes over or what happens to some of these future commits, Florida still has an incredibly talented and accomplished roster for 2016. They should be able to continue their prosperity under someone else (Bridget Sloan is still Bridget Sloan), but how much of the luster is gone now? Will there be some degree of hitting restart, reputation-wise?

Event Finals Live Blog

And this is also a competition. Welcome to our annual “Oh yeah, there’s more?” day. If you haven’t used up your supply of outrage yet, the event finals are usually good for some solid, concentrated WTF. Or, if you don’t feel outraged, you can just play the “Who’s going to cry the most?” game. The answer is everybody.

As for last night, I can’t complain about seeing another exciting finish. Four straight years of pretty close races. It’s the norm now, but it wasn’t always that way. So yay for that.

But didn’t you think it was going to end in another tie? After McMurtry went on bars, I was sure she was going to get 9.900 and we would have a tie again, and I would have been furious. One year, I could forgive. But not two. That would be just too adorable and too inconclusive. So I’m glad someone won outright. There has been a whole heap of angry about the McMurtry 9.950 on bars to clinch the meet for Florida, which is understandable. Especially when you start making comparisons to Ivana Hong also getting a 9.950. Or Sami Shapiro getting a 9.900. It’s basically the exact same thing that happened last year for Bridgey’s creative 9.950 at the end of the floor lineup. At the same time, the meet is not about one routine, and you can make just as many overscore arguments about Utah as about Florida, if not more. Especially because the bars scoring in Super Six was generally insane. Stanford should have been 60 points ahead of all the other teams in a just world with a sensible COP.

So, Florida makes it three in a row. Utah should be incredibly proud of that performance, though. No one had them finishing second this year. In the preseason, I had them fifth, and even before Super Six started, I was thinking they would finish 4th. That was a tremendous day and a big rebound for a program that hadn’t had a really great result in a while. It was difficult to see Oklahoma come up short, but they let themselves down on floor. With normal routines from Dowell and Jackson with no OOB, the Sooners would have been level with Florida and Utah. Can you imagine if it had been a three-way race at the end?

But now we turn to event finals. Here is the draw.



It’s so bizarre to see a normal amount of people in vault finals. It wouldn’t even be a problem this year if they still had to do two vaults. There were definitely some frustrating vault scores in semifinals, but it seemed the judges were making a concerted effort to keep the scores down to avoid a million 9.900s making EFs, and they succeeded. So I applaud that.

On vault, I would love to see the people who are capable of upgrading throw a little bit more (cough, Ebee, cough). Although she probably is the favorite if she sticks to her full. It’s easier to win with a full because it’s easier to land with a full, so it will be interesting to see what the people like Price and Scaman decide to do. Scaman stuck to the full in EF last year. Also if anyone wants to pull an Anna Li, I would have no problem with it because her 1.5 is still my favorite all-time EF moment.

Bars is going to be a good one, even though we’re missing some of the best. Let’s see if any of the judges have the guts not to give Dabritz a 10. I know my complaints about her routine are issues that are never deducted for in anyone’s routine during the regular season, but in event finals there should be a higher standard for things like toe point (which is why it’s frustrating that Hong and Shapiro didn’t qualify). That goes for Sloan’s tkatchev as well. I think I’m on the Brittany Rogers wagon for this one.

Beam. Ivana Hong. Her routine yesterday was perfection, and I need her to win this today. Also keep an eye on Peszek, especially if she throws the full as she usually does in these circumstances. It will be her last routine ever, so there’s nothing to save those glass feet for anymore.

There are a million people in the floor final, so it’s tough to make a call, but Kytra probably comes in as the favorite. Nina McGee is right there. And Kennedy Baker has a piked double arabian, so she’s automatically in the hunt.
The finals will begin at 3:00 ET/12:00 PT. The finals will conclude sometime in June.

Coverage starting – shot of Ivana Hong laughing about how the beam judges wouldn’t give her a 10. Never forget the injustice.
Introducing Dowell. “She competed in the 2013 World Championships.” Well…not so much.

Group 1:
Dowell – UB – nice hhs – small leg breaks on the shaposh – strong Church – excellent on all her cast handstands – legs together on bail – hop back on DLO 1/1 will cost her because the winners will stick, but all her handstands were perfect.

Lee – VT – Not one of her best fulls – comes in a little short this time with a small hop forward –

Bailey – UB – good half – nice jaeger and good legs – has to balance a handstand a little – solid bail – and excellent stick on her full out – one of the best she has done that full out – easy peasy stick.

Hambrick – VT – Also not one of her good ones – pretty large bounce back out of her full –

Aufiero – UB – a little tight on firs hs – strong tkatchev with good rhythm, but she is missing her handstands – clean legs on the bail – a little low-chested on the DLO with a small hop forward –

Are scores not a thing in this competition again?

Sloan – VT – Strong full – not a stick, just a small movement of the feet – but good height and good legs –

Kmieciak – UB – stronng tkatchev – holds onto her bail after coming in a little strong – and sticks her tuck full – one iffy hs, but strong.

Williams – VT – Does the 1.5 – solid – just a bit short and with a small step back –

Price – UB – good shaposh – great Church to her immediate bail – everything is huge and perfect except and small leg break in the bail – does hop forward on the DLO though –

Rogers – UB – goof hadnstands – strong stalder and Ricna – Kathy says Ricna was close – nice rhythm but is definitely short on final handstand – holds onto the stick on her DLO with the smallest lean – good but she did give a bit away.

Still gets a 9.950. Scores are a little loose for an event final so far today on bars. Sloan leads vault with 9.925.

Group 2:
Courville – UB – good height and distance on her jaeger – solid on the bail and the shoot – hitting handstands – low chest on tuck full but otherwise a very solid showing.

Price – VT – If she doesn’t do a yurchenko double pike, it’s basically a disappointment – just the full – i guess she gets the “you’ve been injured recently” excuse for not doing more difficulty – hop back.

Dabritz – UB – one last time…NO GRIPS YOU GUYS – strong on the comaneci and jaeger – excellent bail – basically sticks her dismount – steps, but stepping her legs together as she’s supposed to. 

Jackson – VT – hops pretty far forward out of her 1.5 – not the strong landings from the team competition –

Zamardi – UB – strong shaposh to pak – glad to see her in finals – one short hs in here – Khorkina is strong – a couple small steps on double arabian.

Scaman – VT – No one sticking today – her usual open form and excellent vault, but a small hop as well.

Does Bart forget this is live?

Sloan – UB – strong ray (but feet obviously) – keeps her legs together on the bail and good position – nice rhythm and counter rotation on her shoot – sticks the DLO – also excellent.

Jay – VT – also a large step forward on her 1.5. An accomplished group, but not a strong vault final. No sticks. Looks like Ebee will win, mostly because her height is so superior to everyone else’s.

Wyrick – UB -Taking a million hours to get Sloan’s score, just behind Dabritz – Wyrick is over on a handstand – first mistake of the day – same issue as at SECs -hits that tkachev – solid bail – good handstands now – sticks DLO –

Wofford – UB – Good, let’s show as many closeups of her spitting into her hands as possible. solid first hs – looked a little past on that giant full – jaeger is huge and excellent in form – just the smallest step on her tuck full dismount – good work –

So, our first two champions are Elizabeth Price on vault and Georgia Dabritz on bars. Sloan is second on both events.

Kathy is taking us through the yin and yang of balance beam. OK.

Group 3:
Rice – FX – If anyone is going to treat event finals with the attitude it requires – no DLO that she was training this week – bounces and slides on the double pike – 1/2 to front full with another little stumble – but she understands the rule that when you screw up your landings, you better dance 10 times harder – low on double tuck landing –

Capps – BB -strong loso series – strong full turn and comfrotable in aerial to scale – I would be fine with it if they nixed the “squatty rock” for next season – sticks her gainer full but doesn’t really bring those legs together until very late.

Peszek – FX – big DLO – small slide out of it – solid full to layout – another small slide on the double pike – strong routine – solid tumbling – just a few areas there – Sloan and Peszek moment afterward – because 2008 feels – 

Williams – BB -Very good straddle jump full – off on her punch front – looked like she would be able to control with a check, but then overcorrected and came off – good loso – nice full turn – step on the 1.5.

Sugiyama – FX – nails her piked full in – good switch side and wolf full – front full to layout with a bouncy slide out of it – how is she a senior? She’s three. – slides on the double pike –

Chiarelli – BB – strong loso series – confident and secure straddle 1/2 – wobble on the side aerial – step forward on double tuck dismount. A few breaks there but fine.

Caquatto – FX – front 2/1 to punch front is fine this time – rudi to split jump is solid, doesn’t travel like last time – the leaps are the strong point of the routine, over 180, sits down her double pike. She has certainly had a weird floor year.

McMurtry – BB –  good punch front – small check on her series – switch to swingdown – split is medium-ish quality – underrotated 2.5 with a large step to the side.

Gnat – FX – Excellent DLO to start – over on the 2.5 and had to pull around the front tuck – did get it around and complete but will get hit for that, and a step back – bounce on double pike –

Gardiner – BB – solid on her wolf turn – very nice split jump – pretty aerial – Bart is praising her Saadi-ness – hits her loso series well – small check on her side somi but does well to control – sticks gainer full –

Dabritz – FX – strong and secure landing on pike full in – hits her rudi+loso perfectly as well – split is a little not, but the tumbling is on today – steps back on the 3/1, though. 

Artz – BB – pike jump to a very powerful and precise straddle – GIRL! breaks her connection out of her aerial with too big a wobble there. Great kickover front to bhs – front 1.5 dismount is stuck. Almost great, but a big wobble.

Hunter – FX – Perfect DLO again today. No bouncing for Kytra at this championship – 1.5 to layout to front pike is good, better than yesterday, but a little bouncy step out of it – good switch side and popa – nails the double back – excellent. Glad she nailed that DLO for the last time we’ll see it.

Jordan – BB – wobble on opening side somi – secure and clean on the loso series –  switch looks good – another small check on aerial – short on 1.5 with a step. Didn’t end with her best. Sarah Finnegan, you have some shoes to fill.

Blanske – FX – Does the DLO – short on it, bounce forward – front layout to rudi to stag – travels a lot on the stag and only barely stays in bounds. Very strong double tuck.

Group 4:
Chiarelli – FX – Big tuck full and solid on the landing – 1.5 to layout – almost around on her popa, more than an opa this time, which she has improved throughout the year – slightly forward on her double pike, but good control on all landings –

Hunter – BB – wish they had brought back the front tuck mount for finals – small check on loso series this time – controls the switch side – almost wobbles just turning there – hop back on doubel tuck – solid – hit finish –

McGee – FX – did she stay in on her DLO landing? I think she did. She better have. Great height and everything – hits her leaps – front full to layout with a little slide – NAILS her double pike – great landing. Everyone is obsessed with her. Even Kennedy Baker had to come down from preparing for her routine to give props to that. Kytra’s skills were stronger, though.

Hong – BB – HER HAIR. IT’S MY LIFE.beautiful onodi to bhs – does have a little check on her loso landing that we’ll pretend never happened. Excellent splits and sheep obviously – sticks gainer pike.

Baker – FX – EXCELLENT piked double arabian, one of her more controlled landings of the season. Big bounce out of the double pike, does stay in, but large bounce – leaps looks strong – 1.5 to half to straddle is fine, but the middle pass will take her out of it.

Hong currently first on beam. As it should be.

Peszek – BB – FULL! Nailed it. Perfect. strong switch to straddle – excellent aerial to bhs – easy full turn – she laughs a little because she almost had a mistake on choreography there going down to the beam, but didn’t – bounces a little on the dismount. Girl needed a stick there, but great routine and great on the full to finish. – MORE SLOAN PESZEK FEELS. AND HONG PESZEK FEELS. 

Lee – FX – bounces a little again on the 3/1 – front layout to front full – had a pretty good one going but stumbles OOB on the dismount.

9.950 for Peszek puts her in first for the moment ahead of Hong.

Atkinson – BB – nice full turn – very solid loso series – clean aerial as well – holds onto her leap connection well – just the 1.5 dismount because of injury, hop forward. Solid.

Scaman – FX – just a little bit chest forward landing her DLO this time – she has one of my favorite floor losos in her middle pass – good straddles – nails the double back – strong routine, though not her best DLO landing.

Clark – BB – does well to avoid a check and connect her aerial into swingdown – a little tight on her full turn – small checks just moving along the beam here – good stick on the 1.5, though. Sharing a smile with KJ about it –

Dowell – FX – let’s see if she can get the control today – double front to stag jump – controls it this time but goes a little bit the other way, pauses before jump instead of truly connecting it – much better control on the middle pass than either of the first two days – very secure front layout front full. Strong.

Besties Sam Peszek and Jay Clark?

Kmieciak – BB – very smooth loso series – straddle 1/2 is OK, and full turn – step forward on double tuck. Solid routine, but not exceptional. UCLA and Sloan celebration.

Box – FX – Very strong double pike, control height and control this time – 1.5 to layout with a dance out of it – That’s why her hair’s so big. It’s full of 9.875s. – final skill of the NCAA season, and it’s a secure double tuck. Appropriate. And there we go. 9.8875 this time. (You put an extra 8 in there judges.)

Our other two champions are Sam Peszek on beam and Kytra Hunter on floor.

Vault: Elizabeth Price
Bars: Georgia Dabritz
Beam: Sam Peszek
Floor: Kytra Hunter

So that does it for the season. Thanks for following along, everyone! (I’m sure I’ll have plenty of season wrap-up thoughts soon.) 

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama