The day has arrived, when twelve become six and you become vaguely emotionally unhinged again.
By the magic of the draw (and by magic, I of course mean trash), the semifinals have been divided by conference and geography, with the eastern-ish teams from the SEC and Big Ten placed in the evening session and the western-ish teams from the Pac-12 and Big 12 placed in the afternoon session. It’s pretty racist.
We’re a little more than a week away from nationals now, so to begin preparing, here’s a preview of the race to qualify to Super Six from the first semifinal, the one that appears the more straightforward of the two but is certainly not open-and-shut.
April 14, 12:00 CT
Teams (starting event)
 Oklahoma (bye before floor)
 Utah (vault)
 UCLA (bye before bars)
 Oregon State (floor)
 Denver (beam)
 Washington (bars)
Jessica Yamzon, Arkansas, AA (rotating w/ Utah)
Alexis Mattern, Ohio State, AA (rotating w/ UCLA)
Shani Remme, Boise State, AA (rotating w/ Washington)
Angel Metcalf, Iowa, AA (rotating w/ Denver)
Katie Becker, Auburn, AA (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Haylee Young, Iowa State, AA (rotating w/ Oregon State)
Braie Speed, Arkansas, VT (rotating w/Oklahoma)
Samantha Cerio, Auburn, UB (rotating w/ Utah)
Clair Kaji, Iowa, BB (rotating w/ Utah)
As much as a sure thing to qualify to Super Six exists, Oklahoma is it. Oklahoma’s score from regionals was nearly a point better than any other team in this semifinal and was .625 better than any other team in the country. The margin for error the top teams usually have heading into regionals is what Oklahoma has in the semifinal. Counting a fall would be fine, and that’s pretty rare for nationals.
My primary areas to watch at regionals were vault, where Oklahoma responded with basically-almost sticks from Dowell, Jackson, and Nichols for 49.575, and the Maggie Nichols AA, which she did and scored 39.750. So, I’d say both of those were a check mark. A dose of floor landings was the only knock on Oklahoma’s regionals performance, which would serve them very well if replicated at nationals. I’ll get into the title race in more detail in a later preview, but it would be quite the ridiculous shock if Oklahoma were not to advance to Super Six somehow. Continue reading National Championship Preview Part 1: Western Semifinal
April 1, 5:00 ET/2:00 PT
Teams (starting event)
 Utah (bars)
 Denver (vault)
 Cal (bye before floor)
 Auburn (bye before bars)
 Arkansas (beam)
 Central Michigan (floor)
Mikailla Northern, Illinois-Chicago (AA)
Alexis Brawner, SEMO (AA)
Ashley Potts, Northern Illinois (AA)
Katherine Prentice, Northern Illinois (AA)
Kierstin Sokolowski, Lindenwood (VT, BB)
Schyler Jones, Texas Woman’s (VT)
Courtney Dowdell, Northern Illinois (UB, FX)
Jamyra Carter, Northern Illinois (UB)
Nichelle Christopherson, Arizona State (BB)
Gabrielle Cooke, Illinois State (FX)
The favorite – Utah
Utah should feel pretty comfortable heading into this regional. Reproducing the routines from Pac-12s would allow plenty of wiggle room for mistakes to crop up here and there and still not compromise qualification.
It is, nonetheless, a challenging group of teams. Denver had a streak of six-straight scores of 196.9+ snapped at Big 12s, and Cal was on track for a 196.8 at Pac-12s before counting a beam fall. It’s typically difficult to keep up those scores at regionals, but Utah should nonetheless anticipate seeing two challengers score toward the high 196s and would therefore need a 197 to feel truly safe. A 197 is not a difficult ask for Utah, but we have seen Utah fall to the mid-196s away against Georgia and Oregon State in the last couple months, meets that did not include counting falls. That’s the kind of performance that must be avoided because a mid-196 would make Utah vulnerable.
In terms of using regionals to judge national competitiveness, Utah is working from a start-value disadvantage on vault, one that was compounded by McNatt’s injury at Pac-12s (Merrell’s 1.5 wasn’t in the lineup, though I expect she’d come back in now). The likes of Lewis and Rowe must continue landing as well as they did at Pac-12s to try to mitigate that SV disadvantage. If they start hopping, those vaults get into the 9.825 zone very quickly and would give up multiple tenths to the teams with three, four, and five 10.0 starts. A best-level Utah would also reduce a tendency toward leg separations on bars, which is a major difference-maker between bars rotations among the strongest teams. Continue reading Arkansas Regional Preview
|Friday, March 10
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT –  West Virginia @  Florida||LINK||SEC+|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Towson @ NC State||LINK||ACC+|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ Kent State||LINK||FREE|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Temple @ William & Mary||LINK||FB|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Winona State @ UW-Eau Claire||LINK|
|7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-La Crosse @ Gustavus Adolphus||LINK|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT –  Kentucky @  Missouri||LINK||SEC+|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Pitt @  Auburn||LINK||SEC+|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT – San Jose State, Centenary @ Arkansas||LINK|
|8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Lindenwood @ Illinois State||FREE|
|8:30 ET/5:30 PT – New Hampshire @  LSU||LINK||SEC+|
|8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Iowa State @  Alabama||LINK||SEC+|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Denver @  Boise State||LINK||FREE|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Southern Utah @  Utah State||LINK||FREE|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona @ BYU||LINK||FREE|
|9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Sacramento State, Bridgeport @ Arizona State||LINK||FREE|
|10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Air Force @ UC Davis||LINK||FB|
Today is made for bopping around from meet to meet as they become interesting (or the opposite of that). West Virginia/Florida is the primary meet starting off the slate, but keep an eye on the scores coming from Ball State and Towson as well. Both teams are teetering on the edge of falling out of regionals contention but could save themselves with mid-195s today and remain in contention on the final weekend.
Here is our key group:
With those mid-195s, Towson and Ball State would move up to the 194.9 territory. It’s still out, but it’s at least within striking distance. Arizona State is in action later on and in a similar position, but what’s really hurting their chances is a low road score, which can’t be dropped until Pac-12s. To give themselves a chance at Pac-12s, though, they’ll need another good beating-Arizona-level 195 today. Continue reading Friday Live Blog – March 10, 2017
|Sunday, January 29
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT –  Kentucky @ Ball State||LINK||FREE|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Eastern Michigan @ Western Michigan||LINK||ESPN3|
|1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Utah State @ New Hampshire||LINK|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT –  Denver, Towson, Temple @  West Virginia||LINK||FREE|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Kent State, SEMO @ Northern Illinois||LINK||NIU|
|2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Iowa State @ TWU||LINK||FREE|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Penn State @  Illinois||LINK||FREE|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Maryland @  Iowa||Iowa|
|3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Air Force @ Centenary|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Arizona @ Stanford||LINK||P12|
|4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Sacramento State @ UC Davis||LINK||FREE|
|5:00 ET/2:00 PT –  Alabama v.  Auburn (@ Birmingham, AL)||LINK|
|7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @ Illinois State||FREE|
Another day! Another travesty. Probably. Continue reading Sunday Live Blog – January 29, 2017
|DENVER ROSTER 2017|
2016 – 15th
2015 – 15th
2014 – 18th
2013 – 20th
2012 – 23rd
2011 – 17th
2010 – 15th
It’s difficult to escape the feeling that 2016 was the year for Denver: entering regionals ranked an unexpected 11th, facing a kind draw, and ultimately needing just a 49.0 on beam to get to nationals. Those opportunities don’t come around constantly, and it’s a shame that Denver’s final 15th place finish is just sort of normal for them and doesn’t reflect the accomplishments of the season.
Denver lost 11 routines from last year’s regionals slate, including best-on-each-piece sets from Nina McGee, which is tragic. Although, there’s still reason to be optimistic that Denver can replace the majority of these routines and return to a similar level, floating in and out of the better half of the teens. Top JO recruit Maddie Karr, former elite Sam Ogden, and the return of some previously injured seniors should combine to provide enough routines to fill the gaps on the majority of events. Continue reading Denver 2017
Oh, mountain time zone, we haven’t forgotten about you. Yet. (Give it a week.)
In Denver, the motto of the season is “Oh thank god Maddie Karr is here.”
|Returning Routines – Denver|
Fielitz – 9.850
Chesnok – 9.830
Ross – 9.820
Addison – 9.785
Schou – 9.755
Ross – 9.880
Chesnok – 9.860
Kern – 9.830
Addison – 9.800
Ross – 9.860
Hammen – 9.835
Schou – 9.815
Fielitz – 9.725
Chesnok – 9.556
Addison – 9.870
Hammen – 9.855
Schou – 9.840
Now that Nina McGee is gone, there is no joy in the world and all the flowers have wilted and died, but if you were worried about who’s going to be Denver’s star and get all the 9.9s to fill out the paltry routine-scape you see above, it’s Maddie Karr. No pressure or anything.
Karr won JO Nationals this year with the highest score of any gymnast in any session (the only one to break 39), and then also this vault.
Get in the anchor spot.
Vault is Karr’s jam, but she will be an all-arounder who’s expected to record among the top scores on the team on each piece. At JOs this year, Karr didn’t show huge floor tumbling, but she does have a piked full-in resting in her pocket as well, which should help restock that lineup’s supply of power. Her amplitude on dance elements is also a plus, helping her reach 180 on that split full and actually get it all the way around too. Continue reading 2017 Freshman Preview: Denver and Boise State
Oklahoma won the national title six whole days ago, which is like a thousand years ago. Sorry, Oklahoma. We’re moving on. What have you done for us lately? Basically nothing? That’s what I thought.
The 2017 season is just around the corner, as long as that corner is really, really far away. We don’t know anything real about 2017 yet, but we do know which valuable gems and enthusiastic leaders in the training gym we won’t see next year, along with which bright new lights full of possibilities and undiagnosed shin problems will be joining the teams in their place.
Detailed looks at each team and roster will come much later, when the season approaches and I actually vaguely know who these JO gymnasts are, but let’s call this a preliminary glance at who’s coming and who’s going on each team now that the 2016 season is closed and locked away forever and the traditional eight-month moratorium has been placed on the terms “parity,” “yurchenko arabian,” “confident leadoff,” and “life lessons.” I’ve placed the top teams into various categories based on the current outlook and added the RQSs for the routines they will lose after 2016.
This is, of course, assuming that people do what they’re supposed to and don’t suddenly turn pro or run off to join a traveling circus or whatever.
Out: Jessica Savona, Randii Wyrick, Michelle Gauthier
In: Ruby Harrold, Kennedi Edney, Ashlyn Kirby
Savona – VT – 9.820 avg; UB – 9.840; FX – 9.902 avg
Wyrick – UB – 9.810; FX – 9.905
The Tigers certainly lose a few critical routines, the most important being Savona’s floor, though they already gained some experience with life after Savona’s vault and floor when she was out early this season (and life after Wyrick’s bars when she didn’t compete in the postseason). They survived, for the most part. Several of these openings should be filled by people already on the roster, and while I don’t think we can have any expectations for Priessman at this point because any week she’s healthy enough to compete is just a bonus, Kelley should do more next year. Add to that this freshman class, and I think there’s every reason to expect LSU 2017 to be stronger than LSU 2016.
Out: Lauren Beers, Carley Sims
In: Maddie Desch, Wynter Childers, Shea Mahoney
Beers – VT – 9.905; UB – 9.690; FX – 9.915
Sims – FX – 9.868
Alabama is in a similar position to LSU in terms of not losing that many routines, though Alabama’s losses carry a bit more significance, especially on floor with the team’s two strongest floories departing. They’ll need some of the upperclassmen like Brannan to step up and be a little more Beersy on those events and a little less middle-of-the-lineupy, but with increased contribution from a potential star like Ari Guerra who didn’t figure at all by the end of the season and the introduction of Maddie Desch and Wynter Childers, Alabama’s first-ever recruit who’s also a citizen of District 1, I’m not too worried about the look of Alabama’s future roster.
Continue reading Comings and Goings
Onward! Following the cue of the wildly circuitous Road to Rio we’ve been hearing about for the past year (I feel like there might be more efficient ways to get to Rio, like a plane or something), we move along the Road to Lovely Metropolitan Fort Worth from our first stop in Iowa to Minnesota. Wait, are we going the right direction? This feels wrong. Who’s navigating this trip? TRAUTWIG!!!???
Competing teams (starting event)
 Florida (bye before bars)
 Denver (beam)
 Minnesota (floor)
 Missouri (bye before floor)
 Ohio State (bars)
 BYU (vault)
Iowa State (Haylee Young – AA; Meagan Sievers – AA; Sydney Converse – VT, BB; Briana Ledesma – VT, FX; Hilary Green – UB; Alex Marasco – BB; Kelsey Paz – FX)
Air Force (Kara Witgen – AA; Jamie Lewis – AA)
UW-Whitewater (Mackenzie Smith – UB)
The favorite – Florida
Much like Oklahoma, the Florida Gators enter regionals as the heavy favorite and should win comfortably, pretty much running away with it after the first rotation, even though they’ll be on a bye. The win at SECs helps reinforce Florida’s status as a comfortable pick to win a fourth-straight title, though the sheer competitiveness of that meet, along with getting outscored by Oklahoma by multiple tenths that day, indicate that it’s far from a safe proposition. Florida was challenged by multiple other teams during a well-hit meet. Mostly well-hit.
That brings us to the Sloan problem. You’re the one who’s not supposed to be a problem! What is happening? For regionals, Florida does have the leeway to make a couple errors or count a fall and still advance, but it’s imperative that Sloan work out whatever is happening on beam and why. She has fallen on three of her last five beam routines, and while one of the other two hits was a 10.000, that’s not a very Sloan-like record at all. At nationals, the Gators don’t just need a hit from her. They need a 9.950. That’s how close and high-scoring this thing is going to be. We know Sloan can pull it together, as she mas many times before. As an elite, she had a bit of a Mikulaky reputation for falling on beam on the first day and then hitting on the second day, and even two seasons ago, Bridget was a beam disaster heading into the final Saturday and then got a 20 at Super Six. She needs to Sloan it out again. Our main focus in this meet will be lower down the standings, but Sloan’s beam routine in rotation three is a must-watch.
The fight – Denver v. Minnesota
This regional contest is among the more delectable because, aside from providing a potentially close race right down to the end, it guarantees a somewhat unexpected qualifier to nationals. While all three of the contenders here have advanced to nationals in the recent past (Minnesota in 2013, Missouri in 2010, Denver in 2007, 2008), none are what would be considered perennial qualifiers. Someone is going to be spoiling the old party. Also, the Jessica Lopez era was EIGHT years ago?
Denver and Minnesota have both hit tremendous highs this season marked by historically significant scores, but some of those scores have been a little…creative, particularly that weekend of meets during which these two teams squared off twice and split the series.
For instance, this Julia Ross bars routine got a 9.900, which I use to illustrate high scores and because it’s one of the key routines for Denver that isn’t Nina McGee’s floor. They have others.
More likely, claiming the second spot here will require a mid-high 196, which is why this placement is such a juicy opportunity, not just for Denver and Minnesota but for Missouri as well. That’s a fairly conceivable score for all three, and this is the most open chance to make nationals any of these schools has seen for a while or is likely to see for a while. There’s no UCLA, or Michigan, or Georgia, or Stanford, or any of the other dangerous, big-reputation 2-3 seeds that must be defeated to make nationals. The task presented to these teams is simply to beat their peers. Dangerously attainable. It’s a doubly important opportunity for Denver and Minnesota because this is the last year of McGee and Mable, so it will be much harder next season once they’ve dropped that vital scoring potential (though it should be noted that Denver’s freshman class for next year is legit, including Maddie Karr from TCT who won the Nastia last year and Sam Ogden from WOGA who was elite for a hot minute this quad).
For much of the season, Minnesota looked like an also-ran, hovering in the 195s and unable to break through for a massive score, but the recent 197s coupled with this being a home meet make the Gophers much more of a threat. But how much will home be a factor? Minnesota hasn’t scored all that well at home this year, with those recent big totals all coming on the road. The one instance this year when these schools did meet at a neutral venue (at Air Force), Minnesota won by a couple tenths without a home advantage.
Minnesota’s event rotation, beginning on floor and ending on beam, isn’t as devastatingly terrible as it usually seems because beam is such an important event for this team. It’s the one event where they are clearly stronger than Denver, and no pair of routines is more critical to Minnesota’s success than Mable and Nordquist on beam. Ending the day with those two routines is not a bad deal at all (even if starting on floor is a bit of a pain that may somewhat neutralize another important score). A Hanna Nordquist end-of-meet senior-year home beam routine with nationals on the line is like judge catnip, though it will fall in the fifth rotation instead of the sixth, when Minnesota ends on a bye.
Denver, meanwhile, will look to break out on floor in the third rotation with that parade of power culminating in Nina McGee’s near-automatic 9.950. McGee has scored under 9.925 on floor just twice this season, which is why the team would be disappointed with any rotation total under 49.300. Denver’s floor should be the highest-scoring event of the meet for any team not named Florida and must be greater than what Minnesota scores on floor in the first rotation if Denver is going to snatch a qualifying spot.
While both teams have one vault that usually scores quite well (guess who it comes from…), vault isn’t a big difference maker for either, staying relatively even and 9.800y for both teams. Bars will tell us more. It has been a comfortable score for Denver this year and has been somewhat terrifying for Minnesota, as per tradition. That’s not to say Minnesota can’t score well on bars. Holst and Mable can both bring in big numbers on one of Mable’s good days, but she also has bad days on bars that often send the rotation down below the 49 line. It has to be a Mable good day, in all the ways, but especially on bars to prevent Denver from having two big asset events over Minnesota.
By the halfway point in the meet, both teams will have gone on floor, so Denver will hope to have a lead of at least a tenth or so (as long as they get through that opening beam rotation) and a score around 98.500. That would be somewhat challenging for Minnesota to match unless its floor scores are soaring, so Minnesota will be hoping things stay closer to 98.350-98.400 after two events, a much more attackable score in the second half of the meet.
The spoiler – Missouri
Missouri has proven capable of 196.6 both at home and on the road this season and therefore cannot be eliminated from consideration if we expect the qualifying score to hover close to that range. Sure, both Denver and Minnesota are capable of scoring higher, so their performances will dictate whether Missouri is in contention or not, but if a few too many Gophers and Pioneers look a little 9.775, Missouri can jump right in. The major question is whether floor can be competitive in a group filled with teams eager to take advantage of 2016’s loose floor scoring to drive up the total. Missouri struggled on floor at SECs with several weak landings and, in fact, has not exceeded 49.150 on floor on the road all season. Staying 49.1s is unlikely to challenge without the help of falls from others. Floor is Missouri’s first event, which will tell us whether this is the road-season-high kind of day it will take to put the pressure on Denver and Minnesota. This performance will also be a useful case study (along with Kentucky’s) as to whether silly SEC scoring has driven Missouri’s stock up to an artificial level or whether the mid-196s are a true reflection of quality.
Shauna Miller is also one to keep an eye on. She had a nightmare at SECs, and while she’s not as critical to the team this year as she was in 2015 since Porter and Ward have taken up some of her duties, Missouri will struggle to put up a solid team score without a hit AA from Miller.
And the rest
Ohio State is more competitive than most of the #5 seeds nationally, but it’s difficult to envision a school has rested in the 195s all year suddenly advancing out of this region against teams that should be scoring much higher. Challenging Missouri for 4th is a realistic proposition, and hitting 196.000 is a very attainable goal and would constitute a solid day, but once we get past a couple excellent routines from Mattern, Harrison, and Hofland, the rest of the lineups don’t manage enough 9.8s to get a total into the mid 196s. BYU is in a similar position, though less likely to reach that 196.000 plateau. The Cougars have settled into this range of teams that usually make it to regionals, popping in as a #6 seed, but don’t look close to challenging for anything better or regaining the glory of yore.
The qualification fight between Denver and Minnesota features two of the strongest AAers in the country in Mable and McGee. It would be unacceptable for either to miss nationals. We have to unite as a family and make sure it doesn’t happen. In the most likely outcome, one will qualify with a team and (as long as there’s no fall involved) the other will make it as one of the two AA individuals from this regional. Their scoring potential is just too high compared to the others. If something weird and unfortunate does happen somewhere, they’ll both be in the hunt to make nationals as an event specialist on perhaps a couple apparatuses (as will Hanna Nordquist for beam if Minnesota doesn’t make it), but let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.
With one spot presumably taken by one of them, Missouri’s Morgan Porter looks the most likely to take the other spot. She’s currently ranked #20 in the AA and has scored at least 39.325 in her last five AA appearances. That seems the most believable setup for the two qualifying spots, though Shauna Miller is back in the AA and could put up a strong score if she’s suddenly having a much better day in the AA, and Ciara Gardner is another option for Minnesota if team qualification is not in the cards. Missouri would also consider Ward on vault and beam a possibility as an event specialist, but she’d have to beat Florida’s whole lineup, which seems unlikely.
If there are mistakes from that favored group of AAers, then we could see challenges come from Mattern and Harrison for Ohio State and Halliday for BYU, but they’re more likely to hang in the 49.1-49.2 range. They’ll need things not to go to plan for the higher-seeded teams to get in.
Friday, February 12
Here’s something fun: Oklahoma’s RQS is already 197.420, which means the Sooners could check out for the rest of the season until regionals and still be fine. For reference, last season it took a 197.270 to get a #1 seed at a regional and a 196.680 to get a #2 seed at a regional.
The majority of other teams won’t have an RQS until after this weekend (I’ll probably give a preliminary RQS outlook along with the rankings on Monday), and we’re still another two weekends away from it actually going into effect, but it’s funny to see which teams are already safe. For comparison, Michigan is currently at 196.880 and Alabama is at 196.705, both already fine but certainly expected to improve greatly over the next month to get that top seed at a regional.