Tag Archives: Nebraska

Nebraska Regional Preview

Next stop, Nebraska. Or, as it should more accurately be known, the Air Force Regional of Nebraska, starring Air Force.

Let’s just get through that nonsense so we can talk about the actual competition. Because of a geographical quirk, Air Force is the only (non-DIII) team in the North Central region that did not qualify a full team to regionals. That means Air Force was the only team eligible to receive individual spots here and qualified the whole competition roster, including a gymnast for beam who didn’t even make her own team’s postseason beam lineup but had an RQS from earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, gymnasts like Lindsay Lemke (Michigan State, 9.845 RQS on UB), Jordyn Penny (Ball State, 9.840 RQS on UB), India McPeak (Bowling Green, 9.825 RQS on BB), Kayla Rose (Bowling Green, 9.850 RQS on FX), Kaitlyn Menzione (Ball State, 9.850 RQS on FX), Katey Oswalt (Lindenwood, 9.825 RQS on FX), Erin Alderman (TWU, 9.845 RQS on FX), and Anna Martucci (Northern Illinois, 9.845 RQS on FX) didn’t qualify to regionals only because their schools are located close to other schools and for no reason related to gymnastics at all. Almost like this system should be fixed…

The NC region is always sparse, but typically either Iowa State doesn’t qualify and sends a bunch of individuals as well, or the DIII sides qualify people to mix things up. But this year, Iowa State is going as a team and DIII nationals conflicts with regionals (what is WRONG with everyone?), so the DIII schools can’t send anyone.

Anyway, rant over. To the competition.

April 1, 2017 – 5:00 ET/2:00 PT

Teams (starting event)
[2] LSU (bars)
[11] Boise State (vault)
[14] Nebraska (bye before floor)
[25] Arizona (bye before bars)
[29] Iowa State (beam)
[36] Minnesota (floor)

Individuals
Mariana Murphy, Air Force (AA)
Kara Witgen, Air Force (AA)
Anna Salamone, Air Force (VT, UB)
Riley Hill, Air Force (VT, BB)
Jamie Lewis, Air Force (VT, UB, FX)
Darby Germain, Air Force (UB, FX)
Brittney Reed, Air Force (UB, BB, FX)
Rita Koenigbauer, Air Force (BB)
Chelsea Grimison, Air Force (BB)
Casey Bell, Air Force (FX)

The favorite – LSU
LSU occupies an identical position as Oklahoma when it comes to regionals, placed in what should be a very competitive meet but so much stronger than the other teams that it’s going to be a cakewalk, barring a multiple-fall disaster. All things mirroring the regular season, LSU will expect to be about a point clear of the peloton.

Like Oklahoma’s vaulting, LSU’s bars is a strong lineup that nonetheless looks like it could give away valuable tenths in the title hunt, at least in its current state. It has also been LSU’s lowest event score the last four meets in a row, so stepping up the precision on the difficult landings (Zamardi, Harrold) and the form (Harrold, Priessman) will be a critical development looking toward nationals on an event that doesn’t have to be the biggest score but still needs to be over 49.4.

Floor should be right there with the other very top teams, but LSU is spoiled for choice and still has some decisions to make about that lineup. Do you go with the big routine from Edney or play the execution card with Finnegan? (Or go with Priessman if she’s OK again, but it’s unlikely to be worth the risk.) It’s one of those decisions where they’ll probably be fine either way, but it will be revealing about how risk-averse/risk-embracing they’re feeling. Continue reading Nebraska Regional Preview

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Saturday Live Blog – March 11, 2017

Saturday, March 11
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Brown, Cortland, Rhode Island @ Springfield FREE
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Ursinus @ West Chester
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ Central Michigan LINK FREE
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Big Ten Qualifier: [13] Nebraska, [24] Ohio State, Michigan State, Maryland @ [19] Illinois LINK BTN
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big Ten Qualifier: [11] Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Rutgers @ [16] Iowa LINK BTN
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [5] Utah @ [7] Georgia LINK SEC+
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – SEMO @ Western Michigan LINK
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Illinois-Chicago @ [9] Oregon State LINK FREE
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Hamline @ UW-Whitewater LINK FREE
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Bowling Green @ [25] Eastern Michigan LINK EMU
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Seattle Pacific @ [14] Washington LINK FREE

Yesterday’s action did not provide too much new clarity for the postseason picture, but I don’t expect today to follow in its footsteps. In particular, the scores from Minnesota, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State will tell us a ton about the race for the top 36. Those teams currently sit in spots 35-39 in the in-progress rankings and, barring anything untoward, are the most likely contenders for the final two regionals spots.

Here’s the setup as we have it now for the remaining spots.

Team Current RQS Max Monday RQS
 #32 Maryland  195.410  195.525
 #33 BYU  195.370  195.615
 #34 North Carolina  195.210  195.525
 #35 Minnesota  195.160  195.745
 #36 Central Michigan  195.085  195.370
 #37 Western Michigan  195.035  195.290
 #38 Penn State  195.020  195.610
 #39 Michigan State  194.915  195.230
 #40 UC Davis  194.885  194.885
 #41 Ball State  194.870  194.870
 #42 Arizona State  194.740  194.740
 #43 Towson  194.640  194.965
 #44 NC State  194.600  195.085

Davis and Ball State are already done for the weekend and likely didn’t do enough to help themselves. Minnesota and Penn State have the biggest upsides and really should move to a safer position with anything resembling a hit today. If they both get good scores and North Carolina gets something useful at UCLA tomorrow, it will make life very difficult for the Michigan teams. But if one of those things doesn’t happen… Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – March 11, 2017

Saturday Live Blog – February 25, 2017

Saturday, February 25
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Brown, Cornell, Penn @ Yale Ivy $
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [21] Arkansas @ Michigan State LINK BTN+
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Lindenwood @ Centenary LINK FREE
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Arizona @ [6] UCLA LINK P12
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Pitt @ Penn State LINK FREE
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [5] Utah @ Arizona State LINK P12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [19] Cal, [24] Utah State, SEMO @ [15] Nebraska LINK FREE
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [16] George Washington, Kent State @ NC State LINK ACC

The Pac-12 moves to the forefront today, and Alabama’s inability to reach 197 yesterday has presented the opportunity for both Utah and UCLA to move  ahead.

In-progress RQS rankings are as follows:
screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-11-28-30-am

UCLA needs 196.650 to move ahead of Alabama.
Utah needs 197.150 to move ahead of Alabama.
UCLA needs 197.400 to guarantee passing Utah. Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – February 25, 2017

Saturday Live Blog – February 11, 2017

Saturday, February 11
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Bridgeport, Ithaca, Brockport @ Cornell Ivy $
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Springfield @ West Chester
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – [7] Michigan @ Michigan State LINK BTN+
2:30 ET/11:30 PT – New Hampshire @ Bowling Green LINK FB
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [19] Nebraska @ Minnesota LINK BTN
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [18] Ohio State @ Penn State LINK FREE
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Stanford @ [5] UCLA LINK P12
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [4] Utah @ [11] Oregon State LINK P12
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [21] Illinois, UIC @ [22] Iowa LINK? BTN+
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Arizona State @ [17] Washington LINK P12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Maryland, Yale, Penn @ Rutgers LINK
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – BYU, Centenary @ TWU LINK FREE
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [8] Boise State @ [12] Denver LINK DU $
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – UC Davis, Seattle Pacific @ Air Force FREE

It’s Pac-12 day! The other top teams did not keep their 9.9s to themselves like proper children last night (but we’re so sickkkkk, we have pollliioooo), so there’s a lot of crazy 197 work to do for the others to keep pace today. When you’re giving out 18 scores of 9.950-10.000 in a single day, the standard of evaluation just isn’t strict enough. Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – February 11, 2017

Saturday Live Blog – January 28, 2017

Saturday, January 28
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Penn @ West Chester
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Springfield @ Brockport FREE
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [12] Nebraska @ [10] Michigan LINK FREE
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut, Rhode Island @ Yale Ivy
4:30 ET/1:30 PT – [4] Utah @ [19] Washington LINK P12
4:30 ET/1:30 PT – [8] UCLA @ [17] Oregon State LINK P12
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – [20] Ohio State @ Minnesota LINK BTN+
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – UW-La Crosse, Winona State @ Lindenwood LINK FREE
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – UW-Eau Claire @ UW-Whitewater LINK FREE
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan State, Cornell, Ursinus @ Rutgers LINK FacePlace
7:45 ET/4:45 PT – Metroplex Challenge ([18] George Washington, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, San Jose State) FLOG
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona State @ [15] Cal LINK P12

Another day, another barrage of meets. Get your streams ready. I’ll be trying my best to get through Nebraska/Michigan, Utah/Washington, and UCLA/Oregon State all at the same time. So it’ll be fun. If that’s what fun is.

First, a few thoughts on some of the major scores from yesterday. In a good reminder of how critical angle of viewing is when evaluating scores, the first time I saw Alex McMurtry’s DTY yesterday was in the reverse-angle slow motion replay, which is the least flattering angle for that vault where it definitely doesn’t look like a stick. I would have been a total pill about it if that vault had received a 10 last night. In watching the vault again, however, the real-time forward angle absolutely does make it look like a stick. Given the loose tone of the scoring through the rest of that meet, I’m actually pretty shocked she didn’t get a 10. I think 9.950 is the right score, but that was better than any of the 10 or 9.975 vaults we’ve seen so far this season. Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – January 28, 2017

Nebraska 2017

#12 NEBRASKA ROSTER 2017
Seniors
Jennie Laeng
  • Injured on UB at nationals in 2016
  • Competes most weeks on each event
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.865, VT – 9.855, FX – 9.815, BB – 9.565
Ashley Lambert
  • Perpetually injured
  • Theoretically contributes each event when healthy
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.838, UB – 9.825, BB – 9.742, VT – 9.712
Juniors
Danielle Breen
  • Added the AA in 2016, all four postseason lineups
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.875, FX – 9.855, UB – 9.835
  • 2016 average: VT – 9.836
Abbie Epperson
  • Transfer from Maryland
  • Competed regularly on UB, BB, FX in 2016
  • Performed weekly VT in 2015
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.840, FX – 9.795, BB – 9.785
Grace Williams
  • Competed near-weekly AA in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.895, UB – 9.875, FX – 9.830, VT – 9.760
Sophomores
Sienna Crouse
  • Frequent VT, FX and end-of-season UB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.840, VT – 9.760
  • 2016 average: UB – 9.788
Catelyn Orel
  • Will miss 2017 season with injury
  • Occasional routines on all four in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.790, FX – 9.725
Megan Schweihofer
  • Weekly VT, BB in 2016
  • Backup FX
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.840, VT – 9.805
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.790
Freshmen
Kelli Chung
(redshirt)
  • Gym-Max
  • Did not compete in first season
Alexa Clark
  • CGI
  • 2016 Colorado state AA champion
Sierra Hassel
  • Triad IA
  • 2016 Iowa state AA 2nd
Taylor Houchin
  • Gold Medal MO
  • 2016 JO National AA champion
Megan Kuo
(redshirt)
  • Gym-Max
  • Did not compete in first season
Laura Oh
  • Midwest
  • 2015 Region 4 AA 12th
Kami Shows
(redshirt)
  • SCEGA
  • Did not compete in first season

Recent History
2016 – 8th
2015 – 8th
2014 – 6th
2013 – 14th
2012 – 8th
2011 – 4th
2010 – 7th

Nebraska typically outperforms its preseason ranking. Just something to keep in mind. The Huskers prowl around the lower half of the nationals contenders but only miss nationals in years when they have an extra, extra-talented roster or are hosting the competition. Otherwise, it has been a pretty safe bet, and 8th place is becoming a bit of a trend.

This year should be more of the same in terms of expectations, though there are some potential stumbling blocks to mimicking last year’s result. The Huskers have already suffered a couple injuries that will make filling out lineups more challenging, and they’ll have to find a way to replace four critical, lineup-best routines from Hollie Blanske (putting pressure on freshman Taylor Houchin to be the new star). Because Nebraska is Nebraska and because a few AA stars are capable of carrying this team, I’d still take the Huskers to make nationals, though they will look a likely nominee for the challenging pack to pick off. Continue reading Nebraska 2017

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

LSU
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.

ALABAMA
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 2: Deja Vu in Spoilertown

Every year. Every year it’s the same. One semifinal looks like it’s going to be close and exciting and weird and controversial, and the other looks like a straightforward stroll through the local meadow in a world made only of springtime. Except, it never really works out that way. Take last year’s second semifinal, when Oklahoma, LSU, and Alabama squared off against Auburn, Nebraska, and Oregon State. “Ah ha ha,” we said. “Bring me another glass of port. Oklahoma, LSU, and Alabama will surely advance.”

Nope. The infamous freshman-lost-her-mind heard ’round the world saw Auburn qualify instead of LSU. Nebraska managed to produce a similar complication the year before, against many of the same teams we see gathered this year. Almost all of them. I know. The straightforward semifinal tends to have a way of getting our attention, so how confident do we feel that Oklahoma, Alabama, and Utah will emerge from this session? What tricks do the Bruins have planned for us? Whom will they exhume to perform a surprise routine this time?

Competing teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (bye before floor)
[4] Alabama (bye before bars)
[5] Utah (vault)
[8] UCLA (bars)
[10] Cal (beam)
[12] Nebraska (floor)

Competing individuals
All-around – Maddie Gardiner, Oregon State; Nina McGee, Denver; Amanda Wellick, Arkansas; Brianna Brown, Michigan; Mollie Drenth, Iowa; Lisa Burt, Michigan State

Vault – Taylor Allex, Arizona State
Beam – Risa Perez, Oregon State; Shani Remme, Boise State
Floor – Lizzy Leduc, Illinois; Rachel Slocum, Eastern Michigan

Though three clear favorites have established themselves in this group, it’s not quite as meadow-like as some of the “easy” semifinals have been in past years. Alabama and Utah did not perform overwhelmingly at regionals, and UCLA absolutely possesses the talent to advance on a good day. Something I hadn’t realized until now: Since the advent of Super Six, UCLA has never gone three straight seasons without qualifying. Having missed out on Super Six the last two years, the Bruins are in line to make an unfortunate piece of history if they don’t secure the upset this time around. #saveuskyla

Let’s get to it.

OKLAHOMA
The Sooners have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the teams in recent weeks, not showing the same variations in performance, blips, and inconsistencies of the other top contenders. Oklahoma’s regionals score was the highest in the country by a pretty solid margin and the performance was by far the cleanest.

Oklahoma must be the title favorite at this point but far from a prohibitive one. Several areas have emerged, from security of vault landings to floor difficulty, that may be cause for concern in a Super Six context when needing to defeat the likes of Florida, but for now, Oklahoma is the safest pick. If the Sooners were to lose it at the semifinal stage, it would be the biggest upset of any of the teams. Oklahoma hasn’t had a single fall in a competition routine since February 7th and hasn’t seen two actual falls in the same rotation all season long. That’s a rather remarkable feat, so while we can question some of the details, Oklahoma would have to count a fall to fail to emerge from this semifinal. And that would be a first.

I’ll go into detail in the Super Six preview, but a critical area I’ll be watching in the semifinal is how those early-lineup floor routines are evaluated, especially with the Sooners starting on that event. At regionals, Brown and Capps pretty much nailed their routines and got 9.850s (and Jones performed somewhat near her normal for a 9.800), but Oklahoma is going to need higher scores for those routines to reach a national-championship-winning total. The last four winners (counting Florida and Oklahoma in 2014 as two different winners) have all scored over 49.6 on floor in Super Six. Given the evaluation of floor this season, I imagine that will be the standard once again.
Continue reading National Championships Preview Part 2: Deja Vu in Spoilertown

Iowa Regional Preview

Thus, the insanity begins. Last year, we were subjected to the relative letdown of all twelve #1 and #2 seeds advancing to nationals, but this season has been marked by uprooting of the traditional order of things, with teams like Cal and Denver breaking into the top 12 and shoving out some more established powers. The heavy parity among most of the teams ranked 10-18 should be cause for hope that we’ll see some real upsets this year, but even if we don’t and all the #1 and #2 seeds go through, that would still mean that less-traditional qualifiers like Cal and Denver are heading to nationals. 

Before we go to therapy for our anticipation problems by dissecting the regional championships one by one, the news of the day is the announcement of the six finalists for the AAI Award, a.k.a. the Best Senior Award: Caitlin Atkinson, Ivana Hong, Lindsay Mable, Nina McGee, Haley Scaman, and Bridget Sloan. Snubs include Brandie Jay, Brittany Rogers, Danusia Francis, Lauren Beers, among others. I wonder who’s going to win…

Anyway, to the regionals! Let’s begin with the top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners and their visit to the land of that butter statue of Shawn Johnson, the great state of Iowa.
  
Competing teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (bye before bars)
[12] Nebraska (beam)
[13] Arkansas (floor)
[19] Iowa (bye before floor)
[30] Kent State (bars)
[35] Central Michigan (vault)

Competing individuals
Western Michigan (Anna Corbett – AA; Kelsey Hood – AA; Jessie Peszek – UB, BB; Rachel Underwood – BB, FX; Jessi Buis – VT; Jessica Juncaj – UB) 
Ball State (Denaisha Christian – VT, FX; Sarah Ebeyer – VT, FX; Jordyn Penny – UB; Baylee Bell – BB)
Centenary (Ashley White – AA)

The favorite — Oklahoma

The Sooners should sail through this competition for all of the reasons, of particular note being that their season average is greater than the season high of any other team in the meet and that they’ve spent the month of March looking even more postseasony than usual. It would be a massive disaster if Oklahoma were not to qualify out of this session, so I’ll spend more time addressing the Sooners later once we head toward nationals and start evaluating the title chances of the various top contenders.

If things go to plan and Oklahoma is up by, you know, seven tenths halfway through the meet, everyone’s attention will probably be directed at the exciting qualification fight for the second spot in this session, but there are still a few areas to look out for in Oklahoma’s performance with eyes toward nationals. As with pretty much all the teams, refining landings will be a major focus of the next month. Vault is the only event on which Oklahoma doesn’t own the world, currently sitting in 3rd place behind LSU and Florida, often a result of the lineup peaking around 9.875 when Scaman and Jackson have larger steps on their 1.5s at the end. They need some more consistently controlled landings on those 1.5s to keep pace with the Gnats and the Bakers. (Should Oklahoma mimic what Florida does with McMurtry and throw a sticker like Kmieciak or Capps in the anchor spot after the 1.5s to ensure they get 9.9s instead of potentially being kept down earlier in the lineup?) I’m also interested to see how the routines are being evaluated as a whole since we’ll get both Oklahoma and Florida as away teams at (hopefully) non-cuckoo-scoring venues at the same time for comparison. 

The fight — Nebraska v. Arkansas

This year, the #3 seeds are ending on a bye, which isn’t great for the excitement of the competition but does mean that we should know exactly what Nebraska needs to do on bars heading into the final rotation since Arkansas will already be done. We have reason to hope it’ll be close because there’s very little to separate these teams right now, as it should be when the #12 and #13 face off. It would be hard to consider either team advancing much of an upset. In fact, while Nebraska’s overall RQS is a touch higher than Arkansas’s, their four event RQSs total exactly identically.

The performances at conference championships pretty clearly illustrate the identities of each of these rosters at this point in the season (now that Nebraska has enough people to compete): Nebraska scored eight 9.9s to Arkansas’s one, while Nebraska also had three scores under 9.7 to Arkansas’s none, with the caveat that Nebraska’s conference championship also took place at home. Nebraska has more big-score potential from Blanske, Laeng, Breen now, and Williams sometimes but also still has to throw in the occasional backup auto-drop, while Arkansas has been 9.850ing along in pretty much every meet. After enduring a disaster in Cancun (“we’ve all been there, amiright?” said the worst person in the world), Arkansas has become one of NCAA’s most reliable teams.

This would seem to indicate that the meet is in Nebraska’s hands. If the Huskers hit to a relatively postseasonish level, they can take a couple tenths and run away and hide with them (recent form backs this up, with Nebraska’s lowest score in the last three being 196.900—a meet that included counting an OOB on floor—and Arkansas’s highest being 196.775). That’s why it’s imperative for Arkansas to nail its “big” routine on each event. Arkansas doesn’t have a lot of huge gymnastics, going the yfull-double pike route this season, so the showcase routine—be it Wellick on vault and floor, Zaziski on bars, or Nelson on beam—must be a big number to take away Nebraska’s chance of using more 9.9s to rack up a multi-tenth edge.

If we employ RQS as our constant and reliable guide—because without numbers we’re no better than the animals—Arkansas theoretically has the edge on vault and floor.

That’s mostly a reflection of consistency. Arkansas has shown better landing control on vault and has suffered fewer instances of having to put up only five on vault and floor. Or as the kids call it, Nebraskaing. They’ve both had some, Nebraska during Laeng’s absence and the Ashley Lambert injury saga and Arkansas after the injury to MacMoyle, but no one can out-“putting up five on vault and floor” Nebraska. The bigger routines from Blanske at the end of those Nebraska lineups, however, may negate any Arkansas consistency advantage, especially if she sticks that 1.5 the way she did at Big Tens.

Bars and beam, on the other hand, are supposed to go Nebraska’s way. Nebraska’s beam RQS is higher than its vault RQS, you guys. WHAT IS THIS WORLD? I don’t even know what to think. So I won’t. Bars has seen some lineup upheaval for the Huskers this year, but it was the event that nearly single-handedly saved their score at Big Tens as they Oklahomaed all over that score sheet.

Nebraska’s final event is bars, while Arkansas finishes on beam, which should be advantage Nebraska. Arkansas has been solid on beam this year and has found a lineup that works, but it’s not going to be a hugely huge score, especially if Sydnie Dillard keeps getting Aisha Gerber-level inexplicably low 9.7s in the first spot. That means the closer Nebraska keeps it early, the more the advantage shifts to the Huskers. All of these #2 seeds like Nebraska are starting on beam, so we’re going to have a pretty good sense of where the Upset Meter stands after the first rotation of each regional.

The spoiler — Iowa

“There’s nothing more dangerous than an unseeded host team capable of scoring 196.500” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

We can’t count out Iowa here. Quietly, this has been a pretty monumental season for the Hawkeyes. Escaping from the usual purgatory of the lower end of the top 30, Iowa used some mid-season 196s to jump squarely into the teens and enter regionals as the strongest of the unseeded schools. Competing at home, and with a competitive scoring precedent already set this season, Iowa could do some damage as long as Nebraska and Arkansas have a case of the 9.825s and stay in the 196s. On vault and floor early in the meet, watch the scores for Drenth and Glover. If Glover is hitting 9.900 on floor and Drenth is hitting 9.9 for her “arabian,” as she did at Big Tens, that’s your sign that this might be an out-of-the-ordinary scoring day and that Iowa needs to be watched. Still, unless it’s a day of true crazy home craziness, it’s hard to imagine Iowa beating hit meets from both Nebraska and Arkansas, who are much more likely to go into the higher end of the 196s. Iowa needs a couple meltdowns. But, they can be minor meltdowns as long as Iowa stays on 49 pace. If the first two events are sub-49, it will take more than a minor mistake from the others for Iowa to get into this meet.

And the rest
Kent State and Central Michigan round out the regional, and for them it’s more a fight with each other than a fight to make it to nationals. Central Michigan impressed last year, but after graduating basically the entire roster + seven people, CMU did well just to hang on for a spot at regionals this season. Kent State recovered from missing out in 2015 with some crucial late 195s to hop into the top 36. It will be a battle of Kent State’s floor versus CMU’s bars and beam. Kent State ranks very competitively on floor but relies heavily on that being a 49+ score because the other events are weaker, which may be Central Michigan’s opening.

Individuals
The top two AAers not on a qualifying team will advance to nationals from each regional competition, along with any event champions who are not on a qualifying team. Every year, a couple individual event gymnasts do advance to nationals, but it’s very difficult, especially in a regional like this when making nationals for a single event requires beating Oklahoma’s entire lineup. No easy task. Sorry, bars specialists. Wofford’s in the house.

In the all-around, Nebraska has several competitive AAers because, as usual, there are only about three and a quarter healthy gymnasts on this team. Blanske, Williams, Laeng and Breen are all back in the AA with 39.400 potential, and any two of them could advance to nationals if Nebraska doesn’t make it. Of course, if Nebraska doesn’t make it, that probably means at least a couple of them didn’t do so much with the great in this meet, but that’s why there are four. Two probably still will.

If Nebraska does qualify and Arkansas does not, then Wellick becomes the clear pick to advance as an individual. She’s the only AAer for Arkansas, so for the other spot, money probably goes on Mollie Drenth, who is capable of 39.3s/39.4s and could also quite realistically knock out some of the Nebraska gymnasts if that’s the scenario. Angel Metcalf of Iowa is also in the hunt, though Drenth probably has higher scoring potential. CMU will put up Bolender, Teet, and Janowicz in the all-around, but they’re lower down the scoring chart and would need mistakes from Nebraskans/Iowans to get in.

Big Ten Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Morning session 12:00 ET/9:00 PT
Afternoon session 5:00 ET/2:00 PT
Championship Central

AFTERNOON SESSION
Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State

Dating from time immemorial (so, 2012 when Nebraska joined the Big Ten), the quest for conference supremacy has been a fight between the Wolverines and the Huskers, attempting to answer the age-old question of which is better, a weird tiny skunk-bear or an ear of corn. The big two. This year, I don’t see much reason to change the world order.

That would have been an easier proclamation to make before the underwater hallucination circus that was that Big Five meet at Penn State, suddenly won by Minnesota and a bucket of cracky judging, but other than ensuring that we don’t ignore Minnesota’s 197 potential in the postseason, that meet shouldn’t really change the statuses of Michigan as favorite, Nebraska as next-best-favorite, Minnesota as also-almost-next-best-favorite, and Iowa as hey-you’re-a-team-this-year.  

In spite of losing to Nebraska earlier in the season, Michigan’s scoring potential remains the highest among the teams in this competition, and there’s a solid argument to be made that Michigan is the strongest team in the conference on all four apparatuses. At least, that’s what the rankings tell us. Really, Michigan is the top team on all four apparatuses***, and *** means AHHHBEAM. As it always does.

Three of Michigan’s last four beam scores have been under 49, each including at least two falls, and the team has not hit 6-for-6 on beam since February 14th. So that’s not ideal. Of significant concern, the falls are coming from everyone at various times, most recently their two best beamers in Artz and Chiarelli. At this point in the season, with nine or ten realistic Super Six contenders, we’re looking for any reason to doubt a team, and a month of beam falls is a reason to doubt a team. The Wolverines have still managed scores in the high 196s and low 197s with these beam mistakes, but it should take more than a 197.0 to win a major conference title in the current scoring climate, so it’s quite hard to see Michigan winning while also counting a fall. Beam is up in the fourth rotation for them, so we won’t truly know where the competition stands until then.

The positive we can draw from the high 196s-low 197s with beam falls is that if Michigan does hit five beam routines, we’ll see a mid-197, which really should be enough to sweep up the title. Michigan has a vault difficulty edge, featuring the highest score in the country in Karas, and three floor workers in Artz, Chiarelli, and Karas who should all be going 9.900+. It will be tough for the other teams in the country to match both of those assets.

Coming off two straight 197s, however, Nebraska looks the most likely team to do it, having regained the potential to challenge a hit meet from Michigan by restoring a modicum of depth in the last couple weeks. This long-awaited return to the 197 club has been marked by a sudden and somewhat unexpected influx of floor 9.9s, particularly from gymnasts who had not been floor stars in previous seasons like Breen and Laeng. The Huskers are still forced to use some backup routines they would rather not be, particularly on bars, which means a higher potential for 9.700-9.750s. Danger-zone scores. The situation on bars has been exacerbated by Jennie Laeng’s elbow injury. She’s by far their best bars worker, but in spite of returning on the other three events, she has remained out on bars, which depresses the scoring potential.

Very uncharacteristically, vault has been the weak event for the Huskers this season. Normally, Nebraska is able to rely on fantastic blocks to stick a bunch of fulls and overcome possible deficiencies on other events, but vault has lagged behind the others this season, often barely breaking 49 and putting the Huskers all the way down at 18th nationally. Nebraska begins the championship on floor and vault, so we’ll know a lot about how competitive they’ll be rather early on. If Nebraska isn’t at a good 98.600 after two rotations, I have a hard time envisioning them beating a hit meet from Michigan. But with a 98.600+, we’ve got a thing. That should be at least where Michigan is after two events (vault and bars), and with Michigan finishing on floor and Nebraska on beam, Nebraska would need a lead heading toward the end of the meet.

Minnesota, huh? This is an intensely important season for the Gophers since it’s the last stand of Lindsay Mable, Hanna Nordquist, and Maddie Hanley. Next year, we’re going to have some questions. Those questions all begin with “who.” Mable, and Nordquist’s beam, can lead Minnesota to a competitive score, and as we saw last weekend, the Gophers are capable of beating the top teams in the conference.


(This isn’t from last week. Just deal with it.)

Expecting a repeat of that victorious 197.4, particularly that 49.675 on beam, however, is unrealistic in a normal meet. More likely, Minnesota is going to be in the solid-196 hoping-to-take-advantage-of-mistakes category. Minnesota is a pretty beam team, an entertaining floor team, and can score solidly on most other events on the right day, but they probably lack the vault difficulty and bars consistency to make another huge 197 run under sober circumstances. A real bars hit for over 49.2-49.3 in the first rotation would be a signal that something’s going on.

Also keep an eye on Lindsay Mable for the conference AA title. Could be a good one between her and Karas and Artz (if everything’s OK after last week’s bizarreness).

Because of the qualification rules, we’ve ended up with a scenario where the next two strongest contenders, Iowa and Illinois, have been relegated to the morning session, while Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan State will compete in the afternoon. So a few notes on those three first.

Penn State did score 197 at the Big Five meet (at home), shattering their previous season best by nearly a point and making some marked improvements, including but not limited to hitting five beam routines in the same week. Amazing how much better the score looks when that happens. Highlights like Nicole Medvitz’s form and Kiera Brown’s bars and sudden 2016 beam resurgence (that makes Georgia want to go, “OK, just kidding…”) may lead PSU to a relatively competitive score, but challenging the top teams is highly unlikely. With regionals qualification already assured, there’s less on the line here other than setting up for a regionals-upset push by showing another hit beam and a dangerous total.

It’s a very similar story for Ohio State, just with fewer likely 9.9s, which makes that last-ditch push for a high 196 less realistic.

Michigan State also pulled out a relatively magical performance at the Big Five meet to beat the odds and get into this session, though this meet for the Spartans is not about challenging for a title or moving toward a regionals upset bid. It’s about getting to regionals. In that respect MSU’s performance is more important than that of any of these other teams. Michigan State currently sits in the dreaded 36th spot, vulnerable to being knocked out of regionals depending on how things play out on Saturday. Maryland (competing in the first session) is one of the teams looking to move ahead, so after Maryland’s performance earlier in the day, we’ll have a better sense of what Michigan State needs to score in order to advance. As of this moment, it would take a 196.250 to clinch qualification, which is a lot to expect. The Spartans finish on floor, by far their highest-scoring event, which could be a benefit if this season’s tendency toward late-meet floor extravagance in the scores continues into championships.

MORNING SESSION
Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers

I wouldn’t totally disregard the teams in this session since Iowa and Illinois have both mustered competitive scores this year, though competitive means mid-196s (more impressive for Iowa because that’s not the expectation, while Illinois has under-performed this season). That score will not be high enough to challenge for a title, so unless one of these teams surges early with a couple 49.2+ rotations, our eyes may primarily be on Maryland’s fight to qualify.

Maryland will not determine its own destiny and will have to wait for the likes of Bowling Green, Michigan State, and Central Michigan to compete later on to see how everything shakes out, but Maryland’s final score will be the first to come in among the bubble teams and will dictate what the other teams need to score later on, giving us a more accurate estimate of the type of performance the others need. The higher it is, the harder it gets for everyone else.

Regardless of the result, this will be Rutgers’ last meet of the season, so there’s not much to say in terms of previewing the performance at championships, other than that Groden and Shank impressed at the Big Five meet. Both sophomores, that’s an encouraging base for the next couple seasons.

I’m a little surprised to see Iowa relegated to the first session as I would place the Hawkeyes as the #4 favorite to win, and a close #4 not all that far behind Minnesota. Iowa put in a tied-for-season-high showing at the Big Five, but since that was the circus meet, it wasn’t nearly good enough to make a splash. There were some OOB and landing problems on floor, and Iowa had the misfortune of starting on beam before things got really fancy later in the day. Those issues combined to shove them down the rankings. Iowa will probably have to put up too many 9.7s early in the lineups, especially on vault, to be in serious contention for a 197, but a performance well into the 196s (along with winning this session) should be the expectation.

The Hawkeyes are currently ranked 18th so will also be fighting to keep that coveted final seeded spot at regionals (allowing them to head into a regional with two other tough teams instead of possibly three). They will, however, be at the mercy of Stanford (in 19th but with a much higher maximum score). Stanford will pass Iowa with a mid 196, which really should happen given any kind of a hit meet, meaning Iowa’s most realistic path to a seeding will be to leapfrog Washington, currently in 17th. That will take a 196.575, so that’s the score to watch for Iowa.

The injury to Giana O’Connor at the Big Five meet was the cherry on top of the disappointment sundae that has been Illinois’s 2016 season, a season that began with such a promising and talented roster. Things weren’t looking too good even when O’Connor and Horth were competing, but if the team’s two best AAers are both out, Illinois’s scoring expectations probably drop down into the high-195s, low-196s zone, which isn’t competitive enough in this group. There would still be 9.9s remaining on the team from Buchanan, Kato, and Leduc on a good day, but some 9.6s would also have to jump into lineups to fill out those spots, which is untenable.