Congratulations to our week 5 champion, Maddie Gardiner’s beam, which used a campaign boost from Oregon State to cruise to victory over Britney Ward’s vault in second and Kiana Winston’s floor in third. The race for third was close, with Winston’s floor just edging Price’s bars and Nichols’ beam.
To the vote for week 6, a week replete with 10 after 10 after 10. After 10. After 10.
So, welcome to perfect score week! This week, the nominees are all the routines that received either 10.000 or 9.975 over the weekend, and it’s your job to rank them from most-deserving to least-deserving routine by way of your vote.
Heading into 2016 nationals, UCLA’s recent results had been pretty meh, displaying a clear downward trajectory from those championship-contending teams of the early 2010s. That made returning to Super Six last year an essential milestone. Finishing in 5th place was as well as that roster could have hoped to do, and 2016 marked the first time the Bruins had improved on the previous season’s result since that 2010 championship.
But really, it’s been all about the 2017 season for a while now. This is the year the famous freshmen swoop in to return UCLA to its title-winning ways. Or so it has been explained to us. Even with Simone Biles deciding to become some kind of massive celebrity now instead going to UCLA (forgiveness is a process), this Bruin 2017 team remains stacked with names and talent.
A national championship is a realistic goal, but UCLA is also the most mysterious of the title contenders because we haven’t seen actual college routines from the majority of the essential contributors. What level of gymnastics, difficulty, and health will the likes of Ross and Kocian show in NCAA? That, more than anything else, will determine whether UCLA is more of a 1st-place team or a 7th-place team in 2017.
Of all the major schools, UCLA’s slate of returning routines is the least representative and least relevant. Just throw it into the fire. The expectation should be that a solid half of UCLA’s routines in 2017 come from freshmen. Half may actually be a soft estimate. The freshmen, more so than the returners, will dictate whether the Bruins ultimately end up contending with Oklahoma and the top SEC sides, as they should based on talent.
The significant challenge for UCLA in 2017 will be managing that talent so that everyone is safely able to compete by April, no small task given the War and Peace medical files of several Bruins from whom the team will need three routines come the postseason.
And yes I am talking about Madison Kocian. I think we all had that moment this summer where we went, “Oh yeah. She’s, like, good at floor. Weird.” We forget about that sometimes because Kocian has competed floor twice in the last her entire lifetime. It’s a similar story on vault, where she wasn’t even supposed to compete at Trials in order to protect her fragile sparrow skeleton, but then she threw out a SURPRISE full because she could. (But could she?) The way I see it, Kocian is surely more than capable on the leg events, but any leg-events you can safely get from her are just a bonus. Bars and beam will be the true prize, especially this season coming right off the grueling schedule she has been maintaining.
As for bars, derrrrrrr.
The only question is what composition we’ll end up seeing as UCLA will have to balance minimizing deductions/strain with making sure the routine still says, “I’M MADISON KOCIAN.” Kocian never really contributed much beam to Team USA, but she happens to be a gem there are well. On beam, I’m not really concerned about whether we see the Arabian or much significant difficulty again. Just give us an extended side aerial and a wink (and don’t lose that back foot) and we all go home happy.
Now, KYLA ROSS. The clouds parted and the kingdom was bathed in sunlight the moment Kyla decided to go straight to UCLA, do not pass Trials, do not collect 200 knee injuries. The writing was on the wall with regard to the Olympic team, and while simply making it to Trials is a worthwhile accomplishment for most to pursue, Kyla had already played that game.
Like Kocian, Ross will help revitalize what was a cobbled-together orphanage of a bars lineup for the Bruins last year. It’s a miracle they got out of championships with 49s, but with these fancy new ladies, bars should transform from a get-through event into a strength. That’s not to say it’s all roses for Kyla on bars. It has been a journey this quad, what with her GIANT MONSTER HEIGHT (meaning 5’7″). I love that, listening to the gymnastics world, you would think that Kyla is two basketball players on top of each other, and she’s 5’7″.
Aw, remember the days?
In NCAA, the question of what bars skills LeBron Ross can do should be much less of a conundrum. She’ll do the skills if she can, and if not, she has 38 other skills she can do/learn in her sleep to choose from. In dismount land, I’m hoping the double layout comes back rather than the double front.
As for beam, get your 10HANDS ready. Ross’s methodical, patient style may have caused the judges at 2014 worlds to clutch their rosaries and pitchforks in horror, but her exceptional precision is what NCAA 10s are made of. She hits her positions and simply doesn’t wobble as much as humans do.
In training, Kyla has been vaulting an Omelianchik, and I’m all for this decision. I’m not just saying that because it’s my favorite vault, either. (Lie.) It’s a vital 10.0 start that should work for her.
As for floor, I’m most interested in seeing what that routine becomes from a performance standpoint. The knock on Kyla’s gymnastics has always been Stiff Kyla. Robo-Kyla. A criticism at times overstated, but never untrue. Throughout her elite career, Kyla was afflicted by varying levels of “this is the part where I do my choreography now” face, presenting alongside chronic “get ready I’m really going to do it now” arms. A troubling affliction.
I’m looking forward to meeting who UCLA Kyla becomes as a performer. On the composition front, Kyla had to gradually step down the floor difficulty during the course of this quad, though she kept the double arabian throughout and would still have that E pass in her pocket. But for Kyla, I don’t think it’s in any way essential that she have a big, fat E pass. Let’s be honest, she could just Kyla around for a while then do two beautiful rudis and get a 12.
On a lineup note with regard to both Kocian and Ross, it will be interesting to see how and where UCLA uses them. Neither will need to perform in the anchor spot in order to get high scores. They’re too talented and famous to need to anchor, and that could be a real score-building asset for the rest of the team. I’d love to see, for example, UCLA try Kyla suddenly leading off beam. Are judges really going to lowball Kyla in the first spot? They wouldn’t be worried about saving their scores for anyone else later in the lineup because…she’s Kyla Effing Ross. Who’s going to be better than that?
When UCLA last won a national championship, it was done with Anna Li in the first beam spot and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs in the second, the team’s top-two beamers at the time. Now, that move was made as a last resort because of FALL TERROR, not because of scoring strategy, but it sure did work and sure got Mizuki Sato some fancy scores in the anchor spot that she wouldn’t have received in the second spot.
TANGENT OVER! Felicia Hano now. While I’m optimistic about our chances to see leg events from Kocian and Ross, I expect their most prolific contributions to come on bars and beam. Taking charge of vault and floor may then fall to a gymnast like Hano.
The defining characteristic of Hano’s time as an elite was her preposterous ability to stick every DTY she ever performed. True life fact. More often than not, Hano’s vault D actually ended up being 5.9 because of that stupid extra tenth of stick bonus.
That vault training video from this fall features Hano continuing to do this DTY. It did not look competition-ready, at least at that point, but her ability on vault should allow us to assume that Hano can provide a 10.0 start value of some description this year. And yes, I have decided to ignore entirely the existence of that wildly misguided Tsuk 1/1 that caused her injury at Classic in 2015. We’re just going to pretend that never happened. Cool? Cool.
Double layout. UCLA 2017 will be a pretty floor team, with more and better options for 9.9s than the Bruins have had the last couple seasons, but across the board, these floor routines aren’t all that big. Hano, however, does have some pop and should be counted as a significant floor contributor, whether they decide to keep the DLO or go for a Syd Sawa-style “this double pike is way too easy for me” routine.
I’m less certain about bars and beam. Bars has never been the good event for Hano. She’ll still provide an option, and if Janay Honest and Sonya Meraz can make the bars lineup, Hano certainly can, but she’s not going to be a Kyla Ross on bars. No one’s expecting that. On beam, Hano can provide solid acrobatics across a well-hit routine, no question, but there’s quite a bit of competition for that lineup and her positions aren’t as pristine as some of the others. Will her routine prove a more prudent choice than, say, a Mikaela Gerber or Grace Glenn? There won’t be room for everyone.
Speaking of Grace Glenn, let’s admire that transition for a moment.
TWINS. Though the Glenns don’t have the name recognition or familiarity of the elites on this team, don’t overlook Team Glenn. We’ll start with Grace, whose basics on bars and beam are fabulous.
It’s just pretty gymnastics. I imagine Team Bruin having a very difficult time resisting the lure of that beam routine. On bars, the amplitude, handstands, and toe point are a yes from me. The dismount difficulty will be a question, though she has performed that double tuck with a full twist in competition in the past.
Grace’s floor work fits right into that category of not being big work, but she is very clean through her twisting elements, even if it’s not WOWFLOOR. She has been training a front double full so far this fall, which seems the ideal choice.
Both Grace and Anna Glenn present technically sound Yurchenko fulls, though we’ll have to see what the needs of the team are on that front as they aren’t among those who have shown us 10.0 starts.
As for Anna Glenn, it should be noted that she hasn’t competed since May of 2015 and has yet to appear in any of UCLA’s training uploads. But, like her sister, Anna does show excellent line on bars and sharp beam work with extended acrobatic elements. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think her splits are quite as strong, but their gymnastics is similar enough that we’re going to need some sort of an elaborate identifying sound-effect procedure for meets—something the McNairs are disappointingly still yet to accomplish—like a whale call when Grace performs and a rooster when Anna performs. I don’t know. I’m just spitballing here. I’ll let Miss Val decide what the final sound effects should be. But also, rooster.
Grace Kramer is an interesting one. A year ago at this time, she was signing an NLI with Arizona State. Yada, yada, yada, not that. Now, she’s walking on at UCLA, much to the delight of the Bruins’ prospective vault scores. Kramer’s event is, without question, vault. She boasts a Yurchenko 1.5 and, GET THIS, actually has competition experience with it.
Everyone in the known universe is fully aware that UCLA needs to be better on vault this year. The 10.0 vaults in 2016 came only from Pua Hall’s occasional Terrorchenko 1.5 and the Yurchenko Arabian (RIP, no one misses you) from Sadiqua Bynum. That isn’t good enough. Kramer’s 1.5 is a significant part of the revolution.
I’d imagine Kramer will also be somewhere in the mix on floor, though there are quite a few viable 9.850s on this roster that could shake out in many different lineup permutations. Kramer is another who goes the front double full route and shows respectable punch and solid landings in her tumbling overall. In fact, she should be at least in the conversation on all four events, though leg breaks (and just a double back bars dismount) will put her farther down the depth chart on bars and beam. Still, Kramer is far from your average random walk-on who just showed up.
Speaking of random walk-ons who just showed up…
The freshman class is rounded out by Giulianna Pino, Mercedez Sanchez and Maria Caire.
Pino has competed internationally for Ecaudor, with beam being by far her strongest piece. In fact, her beam work is lineup realistic. Pino has the mix of splits and acro and will be able to give the Bruins an option there, just one that they may not actually need.
Sanchez can also put together some vault and some beam. On vault, she works a perfectly normal Yfull, which can act as a useful backup should things go south with Project 10.0 Vault and Project Your Legs. She actually has some chops on beam as well, though in what I’ve seen of her beam, she also looks so terrified of her own life that she might faint.
I feel like I’ve been missing something in these previews. It’s nagging at me. Some fun underdog I’m ignoring, some minor outside medal contender that probably doesn’t have a shot but deserves at least a pity mention.
Oh that’s right. The US.
Previewing the US is an altogether different prospect than previewing the other teams because, in addressing the US medal prospects, it’s no longer about “potentially maybe could.” The US will win the team final, and Biles will win the all-around. Trying to create a scenario where either of those things doesn’t happen requires so many “what if” contortions and imagined mistakes that it’s not even worth going into. It’s still sports and anything can happen, but come on. It’s all about likelihood, and the likelihood of both these wins is offensively high.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t still things to talk about. Like, say, the qualification lineups. Buckle up.
Team Simone Biles – Reigning Simone Biles 2013-2015 Gabby Douglas – Probably hasn’t accomplished anything, at least that I can remember, who is she? Laurie Hernandez – Nicknamed “the human Shakira,” really needs to work on her shyness Madison Kocian – Like…bars?, her leg fell off in February but she’s fine Aly Raisman – Team great-grandmother, apparently turning 98, wheeled around the nursing home under a quilt because Nana gets cold