Tag Archives: Georgia

Monday Live Blog – January 16, 2017

Monday, January 16 Scores Watch
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [16] NC State @ Georgia LINK SEC+

This national holiday Monday recommences our annual tradition of remembering, appreciating, and learning from the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr by heading down to Georgia and watching some women get sparkly wedgies while irrationally rolling our eyes about whether they deserve 9.825s. Because citizenship.


Rotation 1:
Broussard – VT – good full, pretty much identical to her usual vault – hop back this time. 9.775.

Brooker – UB – toe, toe shap , bail – floppy legs on the bail will get her – short final cast handstand – step back on DLO, pretty good hollow shape on that DLO (not too hollow but straight enough). 9.750.

Reynolds – VT – her best vault in a WHILE – good open on her yfull and a stick, a little piked and not the biggest, but very strong. 9.900.

“A lot of times the first routine starts off the lineup.”

P Phillips – UB – starts with a step up to high – very late on slear hip – some major legs on gienger – sticks tuck full dismount with knee-chest. 9.750.

Dickson – VT – bigger hop back on her full – little bit of piking, good distance and direction.

Tamburro – UB – half turn to jaeger with Raisman knees – an arched handstand in here, but the bail was fine – DLO 1/1 dismount – pikes the second salto with a hop back. 9.750.

Johnson – VT – best dynamics of the rotation so far, but a large bounce back. 9.775.

Sobhan – UB – very late half turn to to a piked jaeger, high but raggedy – overcasts a handstand similar to Tamburro but can’t save it – doesn’t come off but as good as – knee down on DLO dismount.

Marino – VT – still with the full, also a bounce back but smaller than Johnson’s bounce. 9.800.

A Fillard – UB – short first hs – good finish and clean giant 1/1 – excellent legs on Gienger – short handstands are the real villain here – whippy DLO with a small hoppy hop.

Snead – VT – gorgeous 1.5 with a hop forward – good legs, just comes in a touch short and has to slide back. Still gets 9.950.

Knight – UB – giant 1/2 to bail, legs togther throughout – godo amplitude on tkatchev – step back on DLO – early handstands were short but later handstands actually improved – tape on ankles emphasizes foot form, but the best routine of the rotation. 9.875.

Lol at cutting away right as Beth Roberts is about to exhibition vault.

After 1: Georgia 49.225, NC State 48.875
Snead got Georgia a solid vault number there with her 1.5 because the rest of the lineup (save Reynolds) was too bouncy to get a huge score.

NC State has some scoring potential in this lineup. Fillard’s Gienger is a highlight. Knight scored the best because she had the best handstands of the group and didn’t suffer those moments of floppy legs that the earlier ones did. Really, it was the handstands that took the scores down to 9.750 most of the time. Hit one more handstand apiece and that’s a lineup of 9.8s.

Rotation 2:
Tamburro – VT – good full, medium step back – more piking and not the distance of the Georgia vaulters, but solid.

Sanders – UB – toe – blind to piked jaeger – bail – most of these handstands are borderline – stalder to doulbe tuck with a hop back – fine, improving, but things to take. 9.775.

C Fillard – VT – better height on her full than Tamburro, slightly larger “back and to the left” step from Fillard – same lack of distance. 9.675.

Reynodls – UB – hop grip change to jaeger is hit – very good shape on her pak – 1/2 turn to step up to high – DAMN – totally peeled off on giants before her dismount – flew sideways in the fetal position but landed knees-first on the mat and seems fine.

A Fillard – VT – they’re improving on dynamics as the lineup goes but also bigger hops backward, that was a bounce but she is rewarded for distance and amplitude with a  9.750.

Johnson – UB – clear hip – to Gienger, some more ragged shape on that one – small leg floppy on bail but probably not evident from judges angle – the DLO is the highlight of the routine – but this time landing deep with a lunge forward.

A Phillips – VT – very similar to the rest of the lineup – more piking than the second Fillard but just lunges back with one foot. 9.775.

Dickson – UB – good first hs – toe on – Ray with great amplitude – a short handstand in there – and nother toward the end – DLO – solid – 9.850.

P Phillips – VT – great dynamics and best laid out position, shoulder-sized hop back

Schick – UB – good hs – great amplitude and shape on piked jaeger floats out DLO with a hop back – very clean routine, as she can often do. 9.925.

Knight – VT – best legs of the team so far on vault – also hops back, though – they’re all giving away a tenth on these landings, but a little smaller bounces than we saw last time they vaulted in the Florida meet.

Snead – UB – good first hs as well – tkatchev isn’t the biggest but not a deduction – OOOh arches her bail on the low but saves it – very short hs back up to high – opens DLO but lands short with a lunge forward. She got rattled by that arched bail and got uncharacteristically sloppy after that. 9.775 still. How?

After 2: Georgia 98.350, NC State 97.625

Georgia avoids counting the mistake from Reynolds and is able to take a few 9.775s to stay over the 49 mark on bars.

Rotation 3:
Vega – BB – pause before loso series but smooth and solid – walkover is controlled as well – arm swing to save side somi, not major – switch to split jump, 180 – full turn – side aerial to full with some mush. 9.850.

Tamburro – FX – double tuck, open and controlled – double turn, which we don’t see a lot on floor in NCAA because it’s such a deduction trap – 1.5 to front 1/2 to straddle, not high but landed well – good control on double pike dismount as well, solid. 9.750.

Sanders – BB – so this is new. No Dickson. bhs loso series, smooth – cat leap to switch side, short of 180 there – tentative on full turn but no check – secure back tuck to straddle jump – standing front tuck, deep landing but not as deep as we saw in training videos – front layout full with a hop. 9.775.

Well. A new Georgia beamer came into the lineup and…hit?

A Phillips – FX – double Arabian, short with a two-step stumble backward but stays on her feet – short of position on split full – 1.5 to layout – rudi with some raggedy and a step back.

Snead – BB – bhs loso bhs series is good – a little checky on a back – front tuck with a bigger check – 2/1, some legs but sticks. 9.775.

C Fillard – FX – full in, good controlled step back on landing, legs apart but well landed – 1.5 to front pike – double tuck, a bit of an awkward step on that one but a small one.

Broussard – BB – bhs loso series, knees but secure – switch to straddle 1/4 is nice – side aerial to split, strong position on split – sticks gainer full with a lean to hold the stick. 9.900.

Grantham – FX – similar full in to the others, leg form with controlling the landing well, hers a little more bouncy – solid positions on split elements – 1.5 to layout is stuck – short on double pike and falls.

Babalis – BB – wobble on aerial and doesn’t redo – switch and split – full turn – kickover front and another break – improvises a back tuck to layout stepout series to get her acro connection, slow in connection but she got something in there – another large wobble – double tuck dismount with a hop in place. 9.575.

Knight – FX – attitude turn – such an open position on her double pike, does bounce back – high 1.5 to layout, a billion tiny hops to keep herself in bounds, like on the other pieces, she has the most amplitude on the team but is struggling to control it – very good double turn to wolf jump combo, precise – leg-crossed rudi to finish.

Schick – BB – loso series with a small check – lovely aerial to sissone – front walkover – breaks connection and just sort of walks around for a second awkwardly – instead does switch to split to wolf – good extension on side aerial – round-off gainer full, stuck. Still gets 9.925 in spite of a balance check and a weird-broken connection check-wander.

P Phillips – FX – double arabian, good control on the landing, very solid – hitting 180 – 1.5 to layout, some legs in the 1.5 – slides back on rudi – but good routine. 9.875.

After 3: Georgia 147.575, NC State 146.500

“This crowd has been large, it has been…” You know you wanted Kevin to add “in charge.”

Rotation 4:
C Fillard – BB – switch to tuck jump 3/4, tight in those dance elements – bhs loso series is secure – deep kickover front into beat jump – gainer full, a bit short with a hop forward. 9.725.

Reynolds – FX – front 2/1, good direction – one to layout, walk/dance/slides out of it but fine – some of her choreography is crawling across the floor like a dog – solid rudi to finish, pretty good leg form, especially compared to some of those NC State crossed-leg passes we just saw.

P Phillips – BB – quite a big wobble on loso series – leg up – kickover front is much more secure – JESUS CHRIST WITH THIS GIRL’S FOOT SWEATING – Cat got the note too – switch leap straddle 1/4 with another larger break – gainer gull with slide. Paris “foot sweat problems” Phillips apparently.

Roberts – FX – double pike is better, secure, still chest but solid landing – front lay to front full with a bounce/dance – splits are fine – solid double tuck, probably her best competition set. 9.825.

Tamburro – BB – lovely aerial carthwheel to two feet – very secure and well executed – and then the bhs loso series is nowhere close – fall – barely got one foot onto the beam – standing loso is good – round-off 1.5. In enjoyed her full twist in the air after falling on her loso and her salute afterward.

Babalis – FX – double tuck with a bounce to start – front layout to front full and dances out of it – “this is more of a hip hop” – round off double pike, large lunge backward and a slide.

A Fillard – BB – very short switch split, wonder if there’s a back leg issue given that tape – extended three series to loso, small check – kickover front with an arm wave to save a wobble – sticks a legs-apart gainer layout.

Vega – FX – chest down on full in but the best control she has shown on that landing so far – 1.5 to layout – hitting splits well – excellent double pike to finish, chest up and controlled – her best floor for Georgia.

Grantham – BB – kickover front with a check – bhs loso series with a major wobble, bend at the hips, barely stays on but does – switch leap with another check – side aerial is good – switch side – ro 1.5 with a large stumble back – stayed on but will be as good as a fall.

Snead – FX – full in, brought back, chest down like Vega, does have a hop on it – rudi to bhs loso – SHE TUMBLES ON THE FLOOR LIKE SHE’S ON THE BEAM – Double pike.

Knight – BB – walkover, solid – bhs loso series with a check – switch to straddle 1/4, bend at the hips – attitude turn – good stag leap – working tight and not showing off her full quality this time though – side aerial gainer full dismount, stick but a bend over.

Marino – FX – DLO, stumble on landing but controls it – her straddles have not been as strong so far this year as they were last year, when they were excellent – 1.5 to layout, great body shape – secure double tuck, great final two passes after the stumble on the DLO. Yeah, her floor music is Tequila.

Final: Georgia 196.875, NC State 194.800




Friday Live Blog – January 13, 2017

Friday, January 13
Scores Watch
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – [21] West Virginia @ Pitt LINK ACCN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [15] Kentucky @ [3] Florida LINK SEC+
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Georgia @ [14] Auburn LINK SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UW-Whitewater @ UW-Stout LINK FREE
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – UW-Oshkosh, Towson @ Iowa State LINK ISU TV
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Hamline @ UW-La Crosse FREE
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ Winona State FREE
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [6] Missouri @ [12] Arkansas LINK SEC+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan State @ [24] Iowa LINK UI TV
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [1] LSU @ [4] Alabama LINK SECN
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [5] Utah @ [23] BYU LINK FREE
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [16] NC State, Bowling Green @ Utah State LINK FREE
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Stanford, Boise State, Yale @ UC Davis LINK
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [9] Oregon State @ Seattle Pacific LINK FREE
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – San Jose State @ [20] Sacramento State LINK

A big day! Well, you know, a relatively hearty day. A husky day. It’s LSU and Alabama. I mean, come on. The live-blogging plan is to begin with Georgia/Auburn and Kentucky/Florida, then on to LSU/Alabama and maybe a dash Missouri/Arkansas. Today, we also have some watch-worthy later teams including Utah and Oregon State, so the slate is packed. For you non-subscription viewers, your treat today is the free streams for both Utah and Oregon State.

Of course, Stanford and Boise State would be a watch-worthy later meet as well, if we could watch it. Still, that’s one of those meets where refreshing the live scores should be a sporting event unto itself. Lots of calories burned there. Continue reading Friday Live Blog – January 13, 2017

Friday Live Blog – January 6, 2017

Friday, January 6 Scores Watch
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [9] Georgia @ [2] LSU LINK SECN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [21] Kentucky @ Eastern Michigan LINK ESPN3
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @ Michigan State LINK BTN+
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Arizona State @ Iowa State LINK ISU TV
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [3] Alabama @ [1] Oklahoma LINK FSN
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [13] Oregon State @ [8] Auburn LINK SECN+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [24] Illinois, Ball State @ [19] Missouri LINK SECN+
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah State, TWU @ [18] Arizona LINK P12

And so it begins. The live blogging plan is to start with Georgia/LSU for the first hour, then switch major focus to Alabama/Oklahoma while also continuing Georgia/LSU and keeping a quarter of an eye on interesting routines from Oregon State/Auburn. Illinois/Missouri actually should be worthwhile too, but priorities priorities. Continue reading Friday Live Blog – January 6, 2017

Georgia 2017

Georgia conducted a public intrasquad sneak peek showcase gala preview last Friday, for which a number of videos are available here (with pertinent routines also linked through the post).

I’d characterize these scores, based on the videos I’ve seen, as normal-to-strict, which is what you want at a preseason intrasquad, for the judges to point out potential problem areas through their scores so that it’s not a surprise when your acro series doesn’t get credit in a real meet. The same routines would likely score a little better during the season, so the situation is not as dire and 195 as it might seem from these numbers, though they do highlight a few problem areas.

Ashlyn Broussard
  • Leadoff VT, weekly relatively non-terrifying BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.875, VT – 9.830
Lauren Johnson
  • Returned from injury to compete VT and a few UB routines in 2016
  • 2016 average: VT – 9.810, UB – 9.625
Morgan Reynolds
  • Returned from that weird E. coli thing compete FX in 2016
  • Competed BB in 2014-2015 and VT in 2014
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.819
  • 2015 average: FX – 9.850, BB – 9.746
Beth Roberts
  • Competed VT 8 times in 2015 for a 9.781 average
Rachel Schick
  • Weekly UB and occasional BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.855
  • 2016 average: BB – 9.604
Jasmine Arnold
  • Has not competed a routine in first two years
Vivi Babalis
  • Staple of BB and FX lineups for first two seasons
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.850, BB – 9.805
Gigi Marino
  • Top returning score on VT, FX from 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.905, VT – 9.880
Hayley Sanders
  • Competed one UB routine in 2015 for 9.700
Natalie Vaculik
  • Regular UB contributor, option on VT, heart attack on BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.850, BB – 9.810, VT – 9.755
Caroline Bradford
  • Did not compete in first year
Gracie Cherrey
  • Frequent UB contributor, early-season BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.795
  • 2016 average: BB – 9.269
Sydney Snead
  • Critical VT, UB, FX in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.880, UB – 9.870, FX – 9.850
Rachel Dickson
  • Michigan Elite
  • 2016 JO Nationals 3rd AA, UB champion
Jordyn Pedersen
  • Manjak’s
  • 2014 World Championship alternate
  • 2015 Canadian Nationals, 8th AA
Sabrina Vega
  • GAGE/Dynamic
  • 2011 World Championship team
  • 2011 Nationals, 5th AA

Recent History
2016 – 6th
2015 – 9th
2014 – 5th
2013 – 6th
2012 – 11th
2011 – 9th
2010 – 13th

While it’s still not likely to satisfy Georgia fans who have developed some expectations over the years, Danna Durante has stabilized the team’s results—Super Six three of the last four seasons—and restored a level of quality gymnastics (if not always a level of hitting routines, and we’ll get to beam in a minute).

Making Super Six in the final year of Brandie Jay, Mary Beth Box, and Brittany Rogers was a critical benchmark because it’s going to be quite a bit harder without them. On a couple events, the Gymdogs simply won’t be as good this year. That’s not to say we should throw the whole thing out and just quit. Georgia has plenty of serious routines, may actually end up becoming a top-4 SEC team again this year, and will remain among the compelling contenders to make Super Six, though it does not appear the most likely outcome. Continue reading Georgia 2017

Under the Lights: Suzanne Yoculan and Guests

Back in 2007, our beloved Suzanne Yoculan—or Suzie Yocks, as no one calls her but me—woke up one morning and said, “I can’t believe you think I like attention!” and invited cameras into the gym to profile her team’s preparation for the 2008 season in AFI’s #1 all-time best film ever, Under the Lights: Georgia Gymnastics. Directed by Suzanne’s hair, produced by Suzanne’s heels, it costars Suzanne Yoculan and Suzanne Yoculan.

Let’s begin.

The team opens proceedings by gathering around a giant G so that Katie Heenan can ominously threaten us that we’re about to go Under. The. Lights.

Is this like a waterboarding?

“Hey Katie, could you do another take, but this time make it 64% less Guantanamoy?”

Next, we meet Suzanne and some other nameless rabble who are here to tell us how awesome they are. They’re pretty awesome.

Suzanne’s like, “Pretty awesome???”

She gives us her best recruiting spiel about Georgia’s pedigree of champion awesomeness while surrounded by all her most comforting and supportive trophies, including what appears to be a glass foot because of the reasons.


For…Best Performance by Heels on a Competition Floor?

Meanwhile, Jay Clark goes, “We’re the best team, we’re always going to win the national championship, and I can’t imagine anything possibly changing that ever.” Me neither. Continue reading Under the Lights: Suzanne Yoculan and Guests

2017 Freshman Preview: Georgia

As we move ever closer to the NCAA season, I’ll be spending the next month-ish looking into the 2017 freshmen on both major and minor teams and proceeding to make wild and unfounded claims about what we should expect to see from them.

We’ll begin with Georgia’s trio of newbies, Rachel Dickson, Sabrina Vega, and Jordyn Pedersen.

Here are the routines and RQS/averages Georgia returns from the 2016 season.

Marino – 9.880
Snead – 9.880
Broussard – 9.830
Johnson – 9.810
Vaculik – 9.755
Snead – 9.870
Schick – 9.855
Vaculik – 9.850
Cherrey – 9.795
Johnson – 9.625
Broussard – 9.875
Vaculik – 9.810
Babalis – 9.805
Schick – 9.604
Cherrey – 9.269
Marino – 9.905
Snead – 9.850
Babalis – 9.850
Reynolds – 9.819

This year, Georgia finds itself with at least three legitimate openings on each event and must unearth at least one or two big new scores on each one. The freshmen have jobs to do. They won’t have the luxury of “oh well, it’s her first year, getting acclimated, blah blah blah.”

Rachel Dickson has the least name recognition of the three freshmen but may end up being the most important to the team….is a thing I love to say. I do it all the time. At the very least, she doesn’t suffer from the extreme level of Question Mark Syndrome that a name-brand like Sabrina Vega does. Continue reading 2017 Freshman Preview: Georgia

Comings and Goings

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.

Smooth sailing

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

National Championships Preview Part 1: Innocent Gymnasts versus the Beam Troll

Gather round, darling children, and learn about the NCAA national championship, a far-off magical land where all the most glorious gymnasts assemble in an arena made of gumdrops and frozen tears for a battle royale to see who can force the biggest fake smile after her teammate falls on beam. It’s always a really close contest. 

As is only traditional, let’s begin at the start. The first of the two semifinals will take place in the void between the dimensions on April 15th at 2:00 ET/11:00 PT and should be a doozy. 

Competing teams (starting event)
[2] Florida (bye before floor)
[3] LSU (bye before bars)
[6] Auburn (vault)
[9] Georgia (beam)
[16] Minnesota (floor)
[18] Stanford (bars)

Competing individuals
All-around – Nicole Artz, Michigan; Alison Northey, Washington; Morgan Porter, Missouri; Sidney Dukes, Kentucky; Alex Hyland, Kentucky; Danielle Ramirez, Southern Utah

Vault – Meaghan Sievers, Iowa State
Beam – Lexi Mills, Arizona
Floor – Talia Chiarelli, Michigan; Brianna Tsang, Penn State; Lindsay Offutt, Pittsburgh

An argument can be made for five of these six teams advancing without having to concoct very many insane circumstances at all (sorry, Minnesota, but it would take a splatfest from the others). The big five should all expect to score into the 197s and will be disappointed by anything less than that. Even though we see 197s fall all over the place during the regular season, it’s not a given that the challenging teams will reach that plateau in this meet as scores tend to tighten at nationals (tend being the operative word). The highest score that has ever failed to advance from a semifinal is 197.025, an ignominious mark shared by Utah 2014 and Michigan 2015. That’s not a particularly impressive score these days during the regular season, but 197 remains a thing at the national championship.

To some extent, we’re in the dark about how scoring will play out in the semifinals because we’re entering a whole new era. Starting this year, six judges will work each event beginning with the semifinals. Will that depress the scores? Possibly. That’s two more whole people who have to be slipped a roll of cash under the bathroom door, which is a lot of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

This was instituted in an attempt to prevent a heap of ties for event winners now that those titles will be decided on Friday as well, and in case you’re wondering, it’s terrible. Theoretically, having more judges and more oversight for scores at the most important meet is a great idea, but this is also going to result in a ton of really ugly-decimal scores that will be inconsistent with the round-number scores we’ve seen all season long. It’s the most unappealing thing I’ve ever heard. I just want to buy a crate of apples and stab them all about it.

So…to the teams!

Closer to nationals, I’ll do a Super Six preview, which is ludicrous to do before we know who has qualified to Super Six but when has this blog ever been unludicrous? I’ll save a more detailed discussion of Florida and LSU and how they match up against the other title contenders for that preview since they should both be in the mix. Of course, there’s still the semifinal to get through, and counting a fall could ruin the year for any team at this point, but these two are the clear favorites to emerge from this semifinal. If either doesn’t make it, it’s an upset. For the rest of the teams in this group, it isn’t.

Florida looked distinctly meh at regionals, and while that’s a near-annual tradition that shouldn’t necessarily indicate anything real, the score was a far-from-peak 196.725. I’m not expecting a 196.725 to make Super Six. By contrast, Florida also looked a little meh at regionals last year, but the score was still 197.475. Just a sliver of doubt begins to creep in, though I would be surprised by a repeat of those weak landings once we get to nationals. Another significant contributor to Florida’s low score was the Kennedy Baker ankle situation. She landed short on her double pike on floor and was pulled from vault as a precaution, and with normal hits from her on those events, Florida is close to—if not at—197 already, even with the same blah landings. Baker is essential to Florida’s title hopes, so the amount that ankle does/does not affect her will be a critical storyline on semifinal day.

LSU did not have the same issues as Florida at regionals, comfortably breaking 197 and sliding through to qualification without a question. Very reassuring. Except nothing is reassuring ever. Most doubts as to LSU’s ability to fulfill expectations this year are based on traumatic flashbacks to last season, when the Tigers were in an essentially identical position and seemed a sure qualifier to Super Six until three falls on beam happened. It didn’t come out of the blue last year. LSU had an iffy but manageable beam performance at regionals right before, which is why that 9.6 and 9.7 action from this year’s regionals did not help alleviate any of those flashbacks.

Still, this is prognostication about the likelihood of counting falls, which is a fool’s game, but that’s what it would take to knock Florida or LSU out of this. Based on the quality of the gymnastics we’ve seen this season, both of these teams should be in the hit-and-advance category. Elimination with a hit meet would be a massive shock.

Basically, I could copy-and-paste the “Auburn v. Michigan v. Stanford” section from the regional previews here and just replace the word Michigan with Georgia. It would be upsettingly accurate and appropriate, hearkening back to some of my frustrations with the repetitiveness of the current postseason assignments. We more or less just did this, and if everything goes to plan, it will be these three teams facing off against each other, only now it’s a fight for one spot instead of two. The comparison is particularly congruent because Michigan was thwarted by the beam at regionals, and Georgia is Georgia. Just swap one for the other.

As I said then, I still consider Stanford the challenger of the group rather than a likely qualifier because of those weaknesses on vault and floor. Everything worked out at regionals because bars and beam came through as they were supposed to and the other teams had errors, but at some point relying on just two events won’t be enough. Still, if Stanford’s first-place tie at regionals taught us anything, it’s that this is more than possible. Georgia misses beam, Auburn repeats its uninspiring regionals performance, and hello Stanford once again. 

Auburn had a slow start to the year, with some untimely injuries and lost magical routines that needed replacing, but ultimately showed far fewer low points than either Stanford or Georgia. That’s why Auburn ranks the best of the group on three of the four events, and maintaining that commitment to fewer lows is Auburn’s path to qualification here. If I were to name the most talented of these three teams on each event, I would give vault and floor to Georgia and bars and beam to Stanford. It’s close, but that’s what I would do. At the same time, Georgia and Stanford are also more prone to faltering on the other events and throwing in weak meets in general, which gives Auburn the opportunity to jump into the top three by virtue of being the steadiest and least horrifying.

I suppose Auburn is the safest choice, but if the others, particularly Georgia, come through with a real hit on the weak events, they have higher potential score and could leave Auburn behind.

Beam beam beam. That repetition of the same word three times is always appropriate, but beam is particularly critical for each of these three teams’ qualification hopes. We’re all well acquainted with Georgia’s crusade against the troll that lives under the beam and occasionally pops out to force Brittany Rogers to answer his questions three, but if Georgia conquers beam, I would argue that Georgia becomes the favorite to advance. If we total the teams’ RQSs on the other three events, Georgia has the edge over Auburn by a tenth. Still, Auburn is ranked higher, defeated Georgia in their dual meet, and scored higher at SECs. Because of beam. When the teams met in the regular season, Auburn won the meet by .050 and won beam by .050. BEAM.

They really do balance each other out elsewhere. Georgia has the edge on vault, Auburn boasts more reliable sticks on bars. Georgia has Jay, Box, and Marino on floor. Auburn has Atkinson, Demers, and Rott. Auburn has not been as dominant on beam this season as last season, but Milliet, Demers, and Atkinson? That should be a stellar group, and with everything else too close to call, beam remains Auburn’s chance to pick up some ground in spite of the uninspiring score from regionals.

Beam is just as critical for Stanford, but in a somewhat different way. It’s not critical in the please-don’t-fall kind of way (although not falling is always a good idea), but more in the you-probably-need-a-49.500 kind of way. I don’t know how realistic that score is for a beam lineup that misses Vaculik and Wing, but because the scores on vault and floor will be somewhere around 49.1-49.2 on a solid day, the beam number needs to be large. Those vaults have been getting the “none for Gretchen Wieners” treatment all season, which isn’t tenable in semifinals. A 49.1 is not a Super Six score, which means by default, bars and beam must be world-beating to catch a hit meet from any of the top four seeds here. Bars delivered at regionals. Now beam needs to as well.

Stanford competes on bars and beam in the first two rotations so will let us know fairly early if this meet is a thing. The combined bars and beam score from regionals was 98.750, and if Stanford isn’t at least equal to that here, I have a hard time envisioning qualification or a 197. Top three at the halfway point is essential. If Stanford isn’t top three after three rotations, that’s it. Ground won’t be gained on floor and vault. Stanford must lead from the front. It’s not ideal, but Stanford had the same rotation order last year and was able to get the big scores early and use them to hold off a surging Michigan by a slim margin at the end.

Starting on beam, Georgia will compete on what presumably will be its lowest and highest scoring events in the first half of the meet, so an acceptable halfway score probably means something around 98.600. If we say 49.200 on beam and 49.400 on floor, that’s a solid number and one that is fully attainable for these lineups. Since Auburn gets to finish on floor during the year of the insane final-rotation floor scores, Georgia will want a healthy lead heading to the end of the meet to buffer against a Rott, Demers, Atkinson festival of 9.9s that could change the game at the last minute.

The fourth rotation is the serious one to watch here. Georgia goes to vault, Auburn goes to beam, and Stanford goes to floor. This is the Gymdogs’ opportunity to pounce. They should win this rotation by a couple tenths given the events on which the others will be competing, so Georgia’s margin (or lack thereof) at this point will tell us who holds the power.

Poor Minnesota, I’ve left you out of this completely, but Minnesota’s victory for the season is advancing to this stage. Until about March, that seemed unrealistic, but Minnesota held to the plan exactly at regionals by staying close with Denver on three events and then being clearly better on beam to establish a margin. Well, not exactly to the plan since Mable fell on floor, but mostly to the plan. If Mable doesn’t fall on floor in the semifinals, she’s one of the legitimate contenders for the all-around title in her final attempt. Minnesota has gone through some…issues…since 2013 when the team last qualified in Mable’s freshman year, so it’s sort of fitting to return to nationals in her senior year. It’s been a long road, but…poetic-sounding things about how it has come back around.

If Minnesota were to have a path to qualification, it would be through weathering a disaster meet from all corners. Minnesota is rooting for insanity and chaos. Say, Georgia and Auburn both have a beam catastrophe and Minnesota outscores Stanford by enough on vault and floor. It could happen, but it’s quite dependent on the performance of the other teams, not the performance of Minnesota. I do expect a competitive beam score for Minnesota since Mable and Nordquist would be late-lineup beamers for any team in this competition, and a mid-196 would be quite a worthy result.

Stanford and Minnesota will certainly need to exceed their RQSs to have a chance to qualify out of this meet (and the same applies to Auburn since Georgia’s event-by-event RQSs are actually higher than Auburn’s), but the rotation-by-rotation RQSs do provide a sense of where teams are expected to score/rank at various points in the meet so we can tell who is exceeding those expectations as we go.

Rotation 1: Minnesota 49.270, Auburn 49.250, Stanford 49.230, Georgia 49.180, Florida BYE, LSU BYE
Minnesota begins on floor and would need this exact kind of number to have any hope, but the Stanford bars and Georgia beam RQSs underestimate their capabilities (posssssibly). I’d say Stanford will expect and need the lead after one event. Not-last after beam may be the victory for Georgia.

Rotation 2: Stanford 98.425, Minnesota 98.390, Florida 49.505, LSU 49.370, Auburn 49.250, Georgia 49.180
Even RQS, which isn’t a particularly pretty picture for Stanford, tells us that Stanford should have a lead after two events, but the score will need to be bigger than this for Stanford to hold on. Stanford needs a giant lead after the second rotation. For Florida and LSU, as long as they can get relatively close to their RQSs on each event, they’ll be fine and dandy.

Rotation 3: Florida 98.925, LSU 98.725; Georgia 98.565; Auburn 98.545; Stanford 98.425; Minnesota 98.390
And this is why Stanford would need a much higher score after two events. Stanford needs to be top three once everyone has done two events, and RQS has them 5th. Nope. I really hope the race between Georgia and Auburn is as close as this the whole way because it’s going to make for an excellent finish. The rotation order gives us a relatively neck-and-neck picture throughout, and neither should ever leave the other behind. 

Rotation 4: Georgia 147.980, Auburn 147.760, Minnesota 147.570, Stanford 147.475, Florida 98.925, LSU 98.725
After that all-important fourth rotation, event RQS has Georgia leading Auburn by two tenths, which is the margin what we should be looking for if we want those two to end in a tie. When Auburn is on floor and Georgia is on bars for the last event, I’d take Auburn gaining about two tenths. Variation from that two-tenth margin will tell us who has the advantage. Except for the fact that inevitable falls will render all this moot, but if it goes to plan, this is the guideline. If Minnesota really is this close heading to beam, they’ll be over the moon.

Rotation 5: Minnesota 196.755, Stanford 196.595, Florida 148.425, LSU 148.270, Georgia 147.980, Auburn 147.760
High 196s like this would be a great result for Minnesota and would put the Gophers in a ripe position to take advantage of other teams’ mistakes, but Stanford should do better than this pace, in spite of this being quite similar to the result from regionals. A mid-196 is not going to be good enough, or an acceptable result for Stanford, even if the others have a sloppy meet. RQS tells us that Florida and LSU should have pulled away from the pack by multiple tenths at this point, which is why they should advance without all that much trouble given a normal hit.

Rotation 6: Florida 197.855, LSU 197.715, Georgia 197.260, Auburn 197.205, Minnesota 196.755, Stanford 196.595
The event RQSs give this thing to Georgia by a half tenth, while the overall meet RQSs give it to Auburn by a tenth and a half, hence Auburn’s higher ranking. That’s why I’m so hopeful for a really close contest. Once Georgia figured out beam (ish, sort of, not really), it became clear that these two teams are exceptionally evenly matched. Which brings us back to the quality of the beam hit. RQS assumes a relatively weak beam hit for Georgia, so the first rotation will provide a framework for which team seems to be the favorite.

Georgia Regional Preview

A quick glance at Saturday’s schedule reveals that regionals have been planned even more horrifically than usual this year. There will be a point during the day at which five of the six competitions will be occurring simultaneously, mostly because they hate us and want us to miss everything. And by they, I mean the people. The people who do the things. Spread the regionals throughout the day, is all I ask. The silver lining to all of this is that Georgia’s regional begins an hour before all the others, and Georgia starts on beam. That means we can watch that entire emotional roller coaster unfold without distraction. Thank you, Georgia, for your time zone.

Competing teams (starting event)
[3] LSU (bye before bars)
[9] Georgia (beam)
[14] Oregon State (floor)
[22] Arizona (bye before floor)
[27] George Washington (bars)
[36] Michigan State (vault)

Competing individuals
NC State (Brittni Watkins – AA; Chelsea Knight – VT; Nicole Wild – BB)
Maryland (Kathy Tang – VT, FX; Abbie Epperson – UB; Macey Roberts – FX)
North Carolina (Morgan Lane – AA; Kaitlynn Hedelund – UB)
Towson (Tyra McKellar – AA; Mary Elle Arduino – BB)
William & Mary (Brittany Stover – AA)

The favorite – LSU

LSU should join Oklahoma and Florida at the same level of heavy, heavy, super favorites to advance from regionals, though the Tigers may feel a little more pressure in this one given the quality of the opposition and the scoring pedigree shown by Georgia and Oregon State, both historically and lately. This competition features the second-deepest collection of 1-2-3 seeds (behind the Michigan regional), so LSU will not be able to afford any mind-losing on beam. These other teams are too capable of taking advantage. Sans any mind-losing and fall-counting, however, LSU will slide through to nationals without forcing DD to punishment-sequin anyone.

The Tigers should have been right in the hunt for the SEC title this year but ended up a step behind Florida and Alabama entirely because of their performance on bars in the first rotation. In fact, if you take the scores from just vault, beam, and floor, LSU wins the competition. Lucky, lucky LSU, they’ll be starting on bars at regionals. You’re welcome. This LSU bars lineup should be quite strong, but as we saw at SECs, it has emerged as the team’s weak event and is still too reliant on Finnegan saving Earth through the medium of toe point for a 9.950. Wyrick hasn’t shown a great deal consistency since returning, Zamardi can often dismount herself down to 9.850, and Priessman has a couple built-in errors on the pak and a DLO that can look troublingly Shades of Shayla sometimes. All of them could score quite well, but they’re walking a fine line between greatness and getting stuck in the 9.800s, as happened at SECs. As we learned, that’s not going to cut it when trying to beat Florida.

The fight – Georgia v. Oregon State

I considered throwing Georgia up into the favorite category with LSU as I do think Georgia should be able to 197 its way through this one, especially at home, but Oregon State proved with its performance at Pac-12s to be among the most dangerous and compelling upset challengers in the country. The Beavs simply suffered the (bad) luck of the draw in getting placed with Home Georgia since the original, non-host-adjusted draw would have seen them placed with Road Denver, where they would have been favorites to qualify. This job is much more challenging. The Beavs will take some confidence that the 196.925 at Pac-12s beat the 196.850 Georgia put up at SECs. Not equivalent meets, no host advantage, etc, but certainly a complication to this regional. On the other hand, Oregon State has not hit 197 yet all year, and in spite of all of the Gymdogs’ problems, they have done so in three of the last four meets and really should at regionals.

The advantages and weakness between these two teams set up rather clearly. Georgia should win vault and floor, vault a pretty sizable margin. Vault is far and away the most compelling argument for Georgia as the favorite, with a lineup boasting three 10.0 SVs and legitimate 9.9s coming from multiple quarters, while Oregon State is often stuck with 9.775-9.825s through the whole rotation. In fact, Maddie Gardiner is the only Beav in the lineup to score over 9.850 this year (Dani Dessaints also did so in the first meet before promptly getting injured to make sure that OSU wouldn’t have any vaulters). Oregon State had its best landings of the season at Pac-12s and will need to bring them again to minimize a Georgia vault advantage that could be three tenths or more.

Floor is a similar, if less stark, story. Oregon State has become pretty solid with the floor landings lately but is still going the 9.850-double pike route. When Box, Jay, and Marino are hitting, Georgia could realistically pick up another two tenths there. It would be tough for Oregon State to overcome this margin, but not impossible. Which brings us to beam. Oregon State’s massive score on beam at Pac-12s was to some extent the result of end-of-the-day drunk judging, but Gardiner, McMillan, and sometimes Risa are able to merit big numbers regardless. Oregon State will expect to gain tenths even against a hit beam rotation from Georgia. Whether it’s enough to make up for vault and floor probably depends on the quality of Georgia’s hit. Even a Georgia beam in the 48.9 range could give OSU the opening it needs to make this meet a thing.

Of course, assuming a hit Georgia beam is a risky proposition. Georgia seems to have worked out beam, but the old maxim that problems from the beginning of the season tend to manifest again in the postseason exists for a reason. The pressure of an elimination meet changes things and reveals old habits and tensions. “My college gymnastics career is over if I fall right now.” That’s a true, scary thought.

On bars, both teams have developed two strong scores at the end of the lineup, Georgia with Jay and Rogers and Oregon State with Jacobsen and McMillan, who don’t consistently score as high as Georgia’s duo but can still get 9.9s. Georgia’s rotation probably should do better, especially because of valuable supporting players like Snead and Schick, but Rogers’ high-risk routine can occasionally bring that total down and make bars more competitive. Oregon State won’t want to have to rely solely on beam to get an edge in this meet, so it’s imperative that Jacobsen and McMillan do have stick-for-9.9 days to put bars in that category as well.

Oregon State begins on weaker events, so I wouldn’t expect a big early score, maybe something like 98.300 at halfway. If Georgia puts up a solid beam and a normal floor on the first two events, that should warrant a score closer to the 98.500 range, which will be tough for the Beavs to make up even with stronger events in the second half. Oregon State will have to play from behind, but the mission will be to keep it as close as possible, then finish with a Pac-12s-ish beam rotation that at least puts the pressure on Georgia.

And the rest
Arizona is a solid team that found its 196s later in the year, but in a regional that’s this competitive at the top, it would take a confluence of disasters for Arizona to have a chance to sneak up into those qualifying spots. The team is relatively similar to Oregon State, just a step behind, in that the vault scores have struggled to remain competitive this season while bars and beam are where the roster truly stands out with extension and style. Those two event scores may be relatively competitive, but Arizona will also count some 9.7s on vault and floor, which makes it very challenging to maintain a competitive pace. 

The emergence of George Washington has been one of the joys of this season, not simply making regionals as they did last year but spending most of the season in the top 25 and becoming a realistic threat for 196s. With none of the current lineup routines coming from seniors and the majority of important scores coming from sophomores, there’s every reason to expect George Washington’s ascent to continue next season and for seasons after. Making some real noise at a regional competition is still several steps away, but individual qualification is a realistic possibility. It will also be interesting to see how vaults like Winstanley’s are scored in the same meet as Gnat, Jay, Rogers, etc. How is hers evaluated directly against the name-brand vaults?

Michigan State was the very last qualifier to regionals, enduring a nail-biting day to stay ahead of NC State by the slimmest of margins. Qualifying was the victory, but MSU has produced some impressively 49 floor rotations over the last couple weeks, so check them out as a team that could/should finish in the top three on floor, especially with ending on that event. A relatively competitive team total that challenges the high 195s is not out of the question in spite of qualifying in 36th.

If Georgia doesn’t make it, then Brandie Jay is of course a likely AA qualifier (Rogers would be as well, but it seems she’s off floor now that Reynolds is back), but if we assume that LSU and Georgia qualify to nationals as the two teams, things get a little interesting. Maddie Gardiner would be expected to take up the Official Chelsea Tang Individual Spot now that Tang has graduated, but Arizona doesn’t compete an AAer, opening up what looks like it’s going to be a guaranteed AA spot for one of the two lowest-seeded teams.

Last year, Cami Drouin-Allaire of GWU pulled off the big upset by qualifying to nationals as an individual, and this year it looks like she and Jillian Winstanley could be in an intra-team battle for an AA spot once again. The two have been swapping places as AA winners and scoring very equivalent totals all season, so it could go either way. Keeping an eye on the back-and-forth scores for those two will be an interesting side story at this regional.

I also wouldn’t discount Lisa Burt of Michigan State who has saved the meet for that team more times than can even be counted over her career. She’s very capable of 9.850ing her way to a strong total. The fourth option for that final spot is probably DeMoura for George Washington, but her scoring potential tends to be a touch lower than that of Drouin-Allaire and Winstanley, so if George Washington is having a good day, expect the CDA and Winstanley totals to be the more competitive ones.

But unless things get really crazy in this competition, it looks like there will be just six AAers (add in Brittany Holmes of MSU) who don’t qualify with a team and are fighting for those two spots, five of whom come from the lowest seeds, so it won’t take all that many mistakes for any of the six to sneak in.

SEC Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Afternoon session 2:00 ET/11:00 PT
Evening session 6:00 ET/3:00 PT

It’s tomorrow! Everything starts very early, with Jesolo getting underway even before the first session of Big Tens. It’ll be a huge day of live blogging and gymnastics watching, so we’ll have to pace ourselves early. Don’t waste your energy before the big-girl sessions begin.

Finally. After years of watching poky live score spreadsheet templates that didn’t even update, followed by the recent generous bestowing of an internet stream, the SEC Championship will at last be broadcast live on actual televisions this year. Happy 1968, everyone!

In an attempt to make up for doing such a terrible job at this for so long, the SEC Network is whipping out all the bells and whistles this season, with a TV broadcast accompanied by each individual event streaming online, meaning we can make sure to watch all of Georgia’s beam routines from behind our fingers while still getting the competition done in a cool two hours. I’m on board. The SEC Network is also really talking up the hip new quad-meet scoring interface it will debut (to the point where it better physically shoot candy and cheeseburgers out of the TV to live up to this), so I’m eager to see what that looks like. The SEC Net has done a very good job of displaying the scores and running totals in an unobtrusive manner so far, so there’s reason for optimism.

NBC really needs to take notes on what the SEC Network does with live scoring heading into the Olympics. With an easy way to update live scores at the bottom of the screen, you don’t need to watch Gabby do her grips for 25 minutes while waiting for the score. You can move on to other routines, and then display the score and real-time rankings as they come in. You know, actual development and innovation, not just MEANINGLESS TRIANGLES.

Florida, LSU, Alabama, Auburn

While we all roll our eyes every time an SEC coach says that winning the SEC Championship is harder than winning the national championship (it objectively isn’t to anyone who thinks about it for literally one second), this is still a hell of a competition with a solid five teams realistically capable of a hearty 197. Given the scores we’ve seen this season, however, winning this title really should take a high 197, which probably precludes Auburn and Georgia unless it’s a splatfest and they slide on through. Once again, we’re looking at Florida, LSU, and Alabama.

Alabama won last season, taking advantage of a beam catastrophe from Florida and beam foreshadowing wobbles from LSU to dance to the top spot with a 197.5, and Alabama’s totals so far this year indicate the need for something similar. Alabama has peaked at 197.5s while LSU has gone into the 197.9s and Florida into the 198s. But, if we correct for some silly scoring and for Alabama’s epic depth exploration in every meet, there’s probably not actually a whole fall worth of difference between these teams. While it will be tough for Alabama to match an ideal meet from LSU or Florida based on what we’ve seen, I’m not willing to write off the Tide quite yet. But between Florida and LSU? Take your pick. It will be close. Let’s get into it.

Rotation 1: Florida vault, LSU bars, Alabama beam, Auburn floor  

Event RQS for rotation 1
Auburn 49.435
Florida 49.390
LSU 49.370
Alabama 49.300

You’ll notice something a bit unexpected in those RQSs in that they tell us Auburn should be leading after the first rotation. It could happen because of floor reasons, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Although for Auburn, it’s absolutely necessary if a title challenge is in play. While Atkinson’s is a definite 9.9+ routine (along with occasionally Rott, Demers, and Hlawek), the high floor RQSs across the conference and country reflect loose end-of-meet scoring rather than significant supremacy over the quality of other teams on other events. It will be tough to replicate in this context, and Auburn taking a first-rotation lead would also require a couple other teams under-performing early.

This first event is also critical for LSU to establish a high-scoring pace since bars is their weakest event (the RQS is lower on beam, but beam). Finnegan is obviously a star, and the return of Priessman ups the scoring potential, but a couple 9.800s with form breaks and lower amplitude at the beginning of the lineup put LSU’s bars behind those of Florida. If LSU can get Zamardi, Finnegan, Priessman, Wyrick, and Hambrick all in the lineup at the same time, however, that should minimize counting any low scores and bolster what could be a flat event, but those five have not actually been in the same lineup yet this season. Judging by a high 197 standard, LSU must go into the 49.4s on bars to avoid falling off the pace.

Vault is Florida’s lowest-scoring event, though it really shouldn’t be, not with those huge 1.5s from Baker and Boren and supreme fulls from McMurtry and Sloan. It all comes down to landing control. Caquatto and Fassbender can get 9.800ish, and if Baker and Boren are bounding forward out of those 1.5s, those scores can get down to 9.850 in a jiffy. With a good hit, however, Florida should verge on 49.5 and will look to be leading after the first. Scoring down into the 49.3s would constitute a door swinging open.

Alabama has exquisite beam workers in Aja Sims, Guerrero, McNeer, and Winston and with an ideal lineup in place, shouldn’t be ceding ground to any other team in the country based on beam. They’re too talented. That’s why it’s a little surprising that Alabama has hit the 49.3 mark on just three occasions this season, and not since mid-February. Inconsistency has been a burden, with Bailey and Beers struggling to find the security of past seasons, and then there’s the old lineup shuffling. Those four I mentioned at the top of the paragraph haven’t competed on beam together since February 12th, but they’ll absolutely need to be the core at the center of a high-scoring cake. Cakes have cores. What are you saying about? Settling for 49.3s won’t be good enough to get on winning pace, even on beam, and while this rotation order means that Alabama probably won’t be bursting out of the gates, the 9.9 sisters must show up on beam if this is to be an Alabama postseason.

Rotation 2: Auburn vault, Florida bars, LSU beam, Alabama floor

Event RQS through 2 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 2):
Florida 98.855 (49.465)
Alabama 98.715 (49.415)
Auburn 98.685 (49.250)
LSU 98.660 (49.290)

Rotation two is going to be a good one. This rotation is why I’ll be glad for the four-event stream because the scores might seriously fly on every piece. Interestingly, RQS tells us that LSU should be trailing the pack after two events, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Tigers since they’ll end on floor and vault and can make up a ton of ground there. If LSU is within a couple tenths of the lead after two pieces, DD will be shooting animal-print rainbows out of her eyes. Still, LSU shouldn’t actually be trailing after beam and would consider something close to that RQS of 49.290 a disappointing performance. With this lineup and those potential 9.9s throughout the order, we should expect 49.4s. 

It will still be tough for LSU to lead after two because Florida and Alabama both also compete on high-scoring events in the second rotation, but the Tigers just can’t let it get out of hand. Florida is the conference’s best bars team and probably the country’s best bars team (though Oklahoma would disagree), and the Gators will expect to have a solid lead after two events. Sloan and Caquatto should be scoring in the 9.9s each time, BDG often hits that mark as well, and McMurtry…well, we know what happens there. It’s a believable recipe for 49.500 and has looked the closest to postseason-ready among Florida’s events over the last month. If Florida is looking for areas of advantage over LSU, bars is the biggest one.

Alabama has about 68 realistic floor options that could score 9.850, but whom to choose? It won’t be good enough just to hang in the 9.850s during this rotation, not with this level of competition, which is why success or failure in this championship could hinge on who is able to go on floor. The amount Carley Sims has been able to progress since we saw her two weeks ago will be critical. She’s back, but in her floor performances so far she hasn’t looked full Carley Sims. She needs more time to return to her normal level, but if she’s there and is joined by a Winston/Beers/Jetter-type lineup, we can expect at least 49.4, which is the minimum Alabama needs here to challenge. If, however, the Tide is forced to opt for a more Aja Sims/Giancroce-type lineup (both of whom are perfectly solid for 9.850), then challenging the LSU floor machine and staying competitive becomes a serious task.

As we’ve moved toward the end of the season, Auburn has been squeezing every possible tenth out of the vault lineup and staying much more competitive than I would have thought given the available options. At the same time, the limits of lineup depth and difficulty (just one 10.0 start most of the time) put a ceiling on what Auburn will be able to do here, making a big early floor statement all the more critical.

Rotation 3: Alabama vault, Auburn bars, Florida beam, LSU floor

Event RQS through 3 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 3):
Florida 148.260 (49.405)
LSU 148.170 (49.510)
Alabama 148.030 (49.315)
Auburn 147.965 (49.280)

And now we arrive at the portion of the meet during which LSU should be making a move. If we’re truly to believe in the Tigers’ ability to win, they’ll need to jump into the lead after three events. The RQS tells us that LSU should be in second after three, but with Florida ending on floor (even though LSU will be on a strength at the same time, vault), no team can allow Florida to have a lead going to the last rotation. They’ll just Baker everyone into submission. 

One through six, I’d say LSU has the strongest and most even floor lineup in the country, able to warrant 9.9s from Ewing in the first spot right through Gnat in the final spot. There are a couple issues (Wyrick has some leg form and chest position here and there, Kelley can be inconsistent with those landings), but fewer issues than the other teams have. We should expect the 49.5 that RQS tells us LSU will get, which is why the Tigers have the opportunity to gain a couple tenths on a Gator beam rotation.

Florida does score very well on beam, but uncertainty has crept into the lineup recently, assisted by the yet-another-injury to Peyton Ernst that kept her out of last weekend’s meet. The work is not quite as pristine as what LSU and Alabama can boast, with a couple more moments of leg form, short splits, and Ericha Fassbender’s sheep jump. Under normal circumstances, there are still a couple 9.9s in this lineup as long as Bridget Sloan remembers that she’s Bridget Sloan, that’s a side aerial, and COME ON. It’s not exactly a feeble event and has often won meets for Florida, but this is the closest Florida comes to a rotation where the other teams can pounce.

Alabama has the difficulty on vault with three 1.5s from Beers, Brannan, and Guerrero, all of whom have scored well at times this season, but it hasn’t quite come together in the same meet yet, keeping Alabama at respectable but often modest totals. The 49.2s won’t get it done in an SEC Championship. All three of the 1.5s should go at least 9.850 (Guerrero’s is a bit shorter and less laid out than the others, so she’s more likely to stay in the 9.8s, while Beers can go 9.950 for a stick), but the factor bringing the scores down has often been the quality of the fulls. The vaults from Bailey, Bresette, and Armbrecht aren’t consistently competitive in an SEC vaulting context, so Alabama will need to have McNeer and Winston back on vault to put up a number that can keep relative pace with what Florida and LSU do here. 

Meanwhile, in DLOs-that-are-to-die-for news, may I introduce Auburn. It’s somewhat surprising to me that Auburn is down at 8th in the country on bars because a lot of this work is exceptional, particularly the dismounts. There are a few form issues in the beginning of the lineup that can keep the scores in the lower 9.8s, but once we get to Milliet and Atkinson, expect the number to go quite high. Keeping pace throughout the meet will be extremely challenging for Auburn, but this event should merit a respectable score. In the rankings, Auburn is already pretty well set for that normally-coveted 6/7/18 regional (unless that 18 seed ends up being Stanford, in which case this would become the nightmare regional), but a 196.975 in this meet would guarantee dropping no lower than 7th in the rankings.

Rotation 4: LSU vault, Alabama bars, Auburn beam, Florida floor

Event RQS through 4 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 4):
Florida 197.745 (49.485)
LSU 197.615 (49.445)
Alabama 197.400 (49.370)
Auburn 197.140 (49.175)

Note that these are the totals of the four event RQSs, not the teams’ overall ranking RQS.

Florida has the luxury of coming home on an event that hat scored as high as 49.675 this season. I’m hoping that the introduction of four judges for championship season and the context of an actual title on the line will keep floor scores a little saner than they’ve been this season, but even so, finishing on floor will give Florida the opportunity to make up any small deficit that may have arisen (or just seal the deal). This floor rotation has had some issues this year, spending most of the first few months of the season looking like half a team, but McMurtry joining the fold and Caquatto getting it together lately has beefed up the lineup into something more competitive, relying less on 9.825s from McLaughlin and Fassbender or that backup routine from Hiller. It’s still not the strongest floor in the country, but when Baker and Sloan are hitting, it’s quite difficult to beat. If the Gators are in the vicinity of first place going to the final event, bet on them.

But it really must be the vicinity of first because LSU on vault is LSU on vault. The Tigers may drop a little bit to Florida in this rotation, but not much. If they have managed a lead after floor, they’ll be feeling pretty darn pretty going to vault. While I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as one of the all-time amazing LSU vault lineups, they’ve been able to take advantage of the new rules and superior difficulty to snatch some massive scores. Gnat’s giant DTY has settled into a pattern of going 10.000 when she sticks and 9.950 when she doesn’t, which is such a valuable scoring guarantee. The rest of the lineup would have to put up total stinkers for the score not to be competitive. They don’t usually do that, with useful 1.5s from Ewing and Savona (Savona may still need a little more time to find her landing) and one of the country’s better fulls from Hambrick. The Tigers occasionally lose a little bit in the early part of the lineup when they have to use Macadaeg and Cannamela, whose fulls are fine (and have improved) but not as dynamic as the best vaults. That’s more something to watch compared to Oklahoma when we get to nationals though, because the same remark can be made about Florida and Alabama.

Alabama’s bars terrify me. That’s not to say the score can’t be good. It has been as high as 49.6 this year, and Kiana Winston’s routine is among the best in the country. It also helps that the judges have suddenly decided that Brannan’s bars work is worth 9.925 even though it’s the identical routine she was performing at the beginning of the lineup for 9.800-9.825 early in the season. But then there’s also Jetter’s double front. Yikes. Watch that space. If Alabama is going to win this title, it will take a season-best performance during which things happen that we haven’t seen yet. Bars is the event where Alabama may just pull something out and be suddenly more competitive than we’ve expected as long as Winston, Bailey, and Jetter are all having a good day.

Being the runt of the session, Auburn has to start on floor and end on beam. (Would you rather go in the evening session starting on floor or in the afternoon session starting on vault?) Beam has been an OK event for Auburn this year, retaining some of the glory of last year with Atkinson, Milliet, and Demers uniting for a trio of lovely, but it hasn’t been quite as crisp, consistent, or high-scoring. Megan Walker has absolutely not been replaced. We’ll also have to watch Atkinson in the AA battle. Sloan enters as the favorite because of Sloan, but I’d probably put Atkinson at second-favorite to win, aided by the fact that she anchors every event. If intra-lineup score building is happening, Atkinson could ride that to a major total. There are a number of other contending options, including Baker and Boren for Florida (though they won’t have the bars and beam scores to win if Sloan is nailing the meet), Rogers and Jay for Georgia (beam asterisk), Hambrick for LSU (maybe not the bigness across four events?), and whoever does AA for Alabama this time (I like Winston’s chances if she’s actually able to do four events). But to me Sloan and Atkinson look like the most convincing favorites.

Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky

Sort of like the Pac-12, we do have a vaguely realistic title challenger in the earlier session in Georgia, though I would say Stanford is more likely to win the Pac-12 than Georgia is to win the SEC. Yes? True? With me? Georgia is capable of very high scores, but do we see the 197.8-197.9 it may take to win this thing coming from Georgia? I’m thinking Georgia would be really happy with a 197.4ish score and challenging for 3rd place. That would reflect four strong events with real hits, not just we-avoided-a-fall hits. Those have been too hard to come by this season.

Georgia’s asset remains vault, a lineup that is solidly top-3 in the conference and should be the primary factor boosting Georgia ahead of the other schools in this session, toward a mark that would be challenging for the evening teams to match. The Gymdogs have the difficulty with three 1.5s, aided by mostly solid fulls from the rest of the group. That, and a floor rotation led by believable 9.9s from Marino, Jay, and Box, is what will lead Georgia into the 197s. Bars has been fine, not the disaster it might have been this season given the lineup exodus. Although, they do need to figure out what’s happening in that second spot, which is now occupied by Johnson who works bars like a vault specialist. They’ll want to drop that score every time, which puts pressure on the others not just to hit but to 9.850+ hit. All of this is a way of dancing around the beam issue. We’ve talked about it enough. The last few meets have been encouraging, but that’s not enough to declare the epidemic over, especially because even if there’s no fall, Georgia is still risking a couple 9.7s, which is pretty much as good as a fall when trying to contend for an SEC title.

In spite of all that’s happened this season, Georgia has a legitimate shot to move into the 6/7 spots if either Auburn or Michigan has a bad day on Saturday. Although since Utah (currently #5) and Michigan (currently #7) are also regionals hosts along with Georgia, we’re looking at some rearranging either way.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of all these contenders has been Arkansas, a team that over-performed expectations early in the season by spending a couple months in the top 10 and has frequently proven capable of snatching 196.7s. Also helping Arkansas is the “neutral site that isn’t a neutral site” thing, making this pretty much a home meet that counts as a road meet. That will allow them to drop a road 196.1 (very doable) and move back up the rankings, potentially as high as #10. As things stand right now, Arkansas would be paired with Oklahoma and Nebraska at regionals, a fate they’d rather avoid.

The Razorbacks have somewhat exceeded what I expected this season, in large part because of vault. I expected the new vault values to destroy a team like Arkansas that doesn’t have 1.5s, but they have shown that a six-yfull strategy is still tenable (disproving the perennial fear that changing the vault values would make teams like Arkansas less able to contend) as long as those fulls are, you know, landed well. Beam has also been considerably un-terrible this season, much better than last year, with every score going over 49 since the first-week disaster. That’s much better consistency than I expected from this group. I normally rail against the strategy of burying the best beam workers at the front of the lineup, as Arkansas has done, because it compromises scoring potential (and I think you can argue that it has because Arkansas gets stuck at 49.1 for hit rotations). It’s often a knee-jerk reaction to falls and in many cases isn’t even necessary. Teams have a couple meets with falls, throw Janie Beamington into the first spot, and later the team starts hitting, believing that they’re hitting because Janie Beamington is in the first spot. When really, the two may not be related. But at that point, because they believe it, the lineup doesn’t get changed to one that would score better in the postseason, and the team has handcuffed itself.

Anyway, Arkansas has done well putting the best beamers at the beginning.

And Missouri has done well not being the weakest team in the conference this season. Hooray! Ever since Missouri joined the SEC, they’ve been the caboose of the conference, but picking it up to 7th out of 8 this year is a big deal. That sounds sarcastic, but it actually is a big deal. It has been too long since Missouri got 196s at all, let alone five of them in the same season. Porter, Ward, Miller, Harris, are Schugel make up a competitive core of high-scoring gymnasts that Missouri didn’t have even back during the glory season of 2010 when it was Sarah Shire and Company, starring Sarah Shire as Sarah Shire. Like Arizona, Missouri has an outside shot of getting into the top-18 and snatching a seed if everything goes just right, but it’s not likely. 

It’s rather unlikely that Missouri or Kentucky will challenge the top 6, though it’s certainly possible if Arkansas is just OK. More likely, they will be fighting each other not to finish in the basement, which is a meaningless distinction but helpful for pride. That’s pretty much what Kentucky is playing for here since little will change in terms of rankings or regionals placement at this point. Which team is more 196ish and more likely to hope for a weird upset bid at a regional, that’s what we’ll need to watch. They’re both in it with a shot. Dukes, Hyland, and Stuart have reinvigorated a Kentucky program that looked like it was headed for a dip this year after the million injuries and routine losses of last season. Keep an eye on next year. Top 18 wouldn’t be surprising.