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2017 Freshman Preview: Utah

You didn’t expect me to resist the opportunity to use “stab a boob, take a selfie” one more time did you?

Returning Routines – Utah
VAULT
Lewis – 9.845
Rowe – 9.835
Muhaw – 9.800
Lee – 9.750
Merrell – 9.750
BARS
Rowe – 9.905
Schwab – 9.875
Lewis – 9.845
Lee – 9.792
BEAM
Stover – 9.900
Rowe – 9.880
Lee – 9.825
Merrell – 9.592
FLOOR
Schwab – 9.910
Lewis – 9.900
Merrell – 9.850
Rowe – 9.848
Stover – 9.575
Lee – 9.392

Utah’s granary of routines has been mightily depleted after last season’s graduations and the retirement of Samantha Partyka, but there’s also good news for the Utes: all three of this year’s freshmen are legitimate all-arounders from whom we should expect a significant and plentiful harvest. I don’t have trouble coming up with 6+ viable routines on each event.

The most prominent member of Utah’s accomplished freshman trio is, of course, Photoshop Olympian, Twitter cautionary tale, and interpretive vault pioneer, MyKayla Skinner.

Much has been made of the idea that Skinner won’t be as successful in NCAA because of the built-in form deductions in her gymnastics, but I’m not so sure about that. We’ve seen plenty of people thrive in NCAA with less-than-Pavlovian splits, and frankly her form isn’t all that different from many of the JO gymnasts I’ve been watching these last few weeks. Plus, “tweets dumb things” isn’t a deduction in the code of points, so that doesn’t really have anything to do with what scores she should get.

The composition in NCAA will allow Skinner to get rid of her worst skills, with the added bonus of being able to rely on the old “blind them with difficulty” strategy. Of course, all routines starting from 10.0 are supposed to be evaluated equally…and once you stop laughing we can continue with the rest of the preview.

Blinded By Difficulty absolutely needs to be the approach for Skinner. Her success has always been based on her ability to chuck extremely difficult skills, and downgrading significantly—the way many elites do in NCAA—would only expose problems rather than get her higher scores. As we learned from that “Bali, Mali, Chile, Malawi…it’s a simple do the dance (?)” commercial, Skinner’s DTY is cleaner than her Yurchenko timer. That’s insane, but it’s also true. She needs to retain the big skills, and if she does, I see no reason why she won’t get some of the highest scores in the country, particularly on vault and floor.

So I say vault that DTY.

I’d opt for the DTY over the Yurchenko 1/2-on vaults, purely so that we avoid any and all “DID SHE USE BOTH HANDS?” issues and never have to talk about Skinner being the first gymnast to do an Ono on the vaulting table ever again. It would just be a public service. But we’ll see. Continue reading 2017 Freshman Preview: Utah