Tag Archives: Utah

Saturday Live Blog – January 7, 2017

Saturday, January 7
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – New Hampshire, Bridgeport, William & Mary @ Rutgers LINK
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Southern Connecticut @ Towson LINK FREE
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-Oshkosh
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Bowling Green, BYU, Temple @ [23] Penn State LINK FREE
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – Ohio State @ Pitt LINK ACCN
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [7] Michigan @ [6] Utah LINK P12
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [17] Arkansas @ [4] UCLA LINK P12
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [25] George Washington v. Yale (@ Boston, MA)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [14] Denver @ [16] Minnesota LINK BTN+
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Winona State @ Air Force FREE

Today’s live blogging will be focused on the simultaneous Pac-12 meets hosted by Utah and UCLA (thanks, Pac-12 Network), but I’ll include some notes on action I’m seeing earlier in the day.

-Brianna Comport of Bridgeport started with a 9.850 on beam and a 9.825 on floor.

-Tyra McKellar of Towson has the biggest piked Jaeger you’ll see. Tons of other breaks in the routine, still somehow got 9.750 I think due to Jaeger respect because…that Jaeger. Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – January 7, 2017

Utah 2017

Following last night’s Red Rocks Preview, we understand a lot more about what Utah is planning to say for itself in 2017, so this seems an ideal time to preview lineups and expectations.

UTAH ROSTER 2017
Seniors
Baely Rowe
  • Contributed top UB, BB routines in 2015, 2016
  • Will provide lineup-ready VT and FX as needed
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.905, BB – 9.880, VT – 9.835
  • 2016 avg: FX – 9.848
Juniors
Tiffani Lewis
  • Competed VT, UB, FX every week in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.900, UB – 9.845, VT – 9.845
Maddy Stover
  • BB anchor and team-high score in 2016
  • Occasional backup FX in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.900, FX – 9.575
Sophomores
Kari Lee
(redshirt)
  • Torn Achilles in January 2016
  • Weekly VT, BB, FX in 2015
  • 2015 RQS: VT – 9.910, BB – 9.900, FX – 9.890
Shannon McNatt
  • Did not show a competition routine in 2016
Makenna Merrell
  • Frequent FX contributor in 2016
  • Provided occasional VT, BB routines
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.850, BB – 9.550
  • 2016 avg: VT – 9.750
Erika Muhaw
  • Competed one VT in 2016 for 9.800
Macey Roberts
  • Transfer from Maryland
  • Contributed VT, FX for Terps in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.840, VT – 9.770
Sabrina Schwab
  • Among top UB, FX routines in freshman season
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.910, UB – 9.875
Freshmen
Missy Reinstadtler
  • North Stars
  • Preseason stress fracture, foot
  • 2016 JO Nationals UB champion, 7th AA
  • 2016 Nastia Cup 2nd AA
Mykayla Skinner
  • Desert Lights
  • 2016 Olympic Trials 4th AA
  • 2014 World Championship team
Kim Tessen
  • All-American
  • 2016 JO Nationals UB champion, 2nd AA

Recent History
2016 – 9th
2015 – 2nd
2014 – 7th
2013 – 9th
2012 – 5th
2011 – 5th
2010 – 6th

This slate of recent results seems fine enough, but aside from 2015’s dramatic second-place finish in the Marsden curtain call, Utah has missed Super Six three of the last four years. That’s a first for the program and one that is far from satisfying. Those 9th-place results in 2016 and 2013 are equal for Utah’s weakest finish in the NCAA era, and while that can be attributed to improvements from other teams as much as anything else, that’s cold comfort for a team like Utah. Utah doesn’t finish 9th.

The Utes have the roster in 2017 to restore how everyone felt a year ago after that 2nd place when THE GOLDEN AGE IS BACK AGAIN HURRAH. At least, Utah should expect to return to Super Six this year. That’s not saying it will be simple. Most top teams are adding routines of the same caliber (it’s the year after the Olympics), but among the teams in that turbid mixture called Borderline Super Six, Utah seems the most likely bet. Continue reading Utah 2017

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

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

Utah Regional Preview

Welcome to Pac-12s Part Deux: Megan’s Revenge, the thrilling summer blockbuster in which Utah will try to beat UCLA for the first time in 2016 following two consecutive losses in what feels like their fifteenth meeting of the season.

Repetitive matchups are one of the problems I have with creating a bracket for the postseason, in addition to the fact that it’s not a true knockout event and doesn’t have enough rounds for a bracket to be all that necessary. (It should be a true knockout event, but it isn’t. The meets are best 2 out of 6, or 3 out of 6, which isn’t the same thing and is fundamentally less dramatic. You don’t get a bracket until you institute a format that lends itself to a bracket. You don’t get dessert until you eat your vegetables.) You might as well just list all the teams at the beginning of the season in two columns, put a box in the middle for the winner, and say, “It’s a bracket!” It’s not a bracket.  

This will be the third meeting of the season between Utah and UCLA (and their third each against Washington, though at least they were in different sessions at Pac-12s). If they both do qualify, the semifinals will be their 4th meeting and the third consecutive meet day in which they’ve faced off. We get it. By contrast, Utah and Auburn would have been an interesting comparison, and they probably won’t meet at all.

Competing teams (starting event)
[5] Utah (bye before bars)
[8] UCLA (beam)
[17] Washington (floor)
[23] Southern Utah (bye before floor)
[29] Illinois (bars)
[32] Utah State (vault)

Competing individuals 
Sacramento State (Kalliah McCartney – AA; Lauren Rice – AA; Cassie Benning – UB, FX; Julia Konner – VT)
UC Davis (Alexis Brown – UB, BB; Stephanie Stamates – BB, FX; Katy Nogaki – VT)
Seattle Pacific (Maria Hundley – AA)
Alaska (M’rcy Matsunami – AA)

The favorites – Utah and UCLA

Unlike in the regionals previewed so far, this one features two teams that really should go through barring disaster. Disasters are always possible, and always the most fun, but if Utah and UCLA hit five-for-six on each event, they’ll advance. The other teams are hoping for a mistake.

The clash between Utah and UCLA should still be quite interesting and telling about both teams’ potential to do some damage in the postseason. UCLA’s position is bolstered by the two wins over Utah this year, while Utah’s position is bolstered by finishing only .325 behind UCLA at Pac-12s in spite of counting a fall. And by being at home this time. The Bruins would counter that they also had some mistakes at Pac-12s that brought down their score, like Cipra’s floor fall and Preston’s not-in-the-face vault. And we could go on. It should be a close-fought affair. With the home advantage and the stronger scoring pedigree over the whole season (a higher RQS on three of four events), Utah should come in as the favorite between the two, though far from a prohibitive one.

Neither team has a ton of difficulty on vault and both may struggle to compete with the three-1.5 lineups of the SEC once we get to nationals, but Utah’s landings were significantly stronger than UCLA’s at Pac-12s with a couple vaulters showing season-best sticks. Even without a difficulty edge, Utah’s vault beat UCLA’s by nearly three tenths because of landings (and direction, and knees), which would be a massive boon if that were repeated at regionals.

UCLA’s edge comes on beam, with a lineup that is quite smooth in rhythm, precise in split elements, and varied in skill selection and difficulty. Utah, meanwhile, showed the signs of the Stover-ectomy in counting a beam fall at Pac-12s. It’s clear the team needs her back as soon as possible not just to prevent using a fall but to provide a much-needed 9.9.

Interestingly, UCLA beat Utah on bars at Pac-12s, even though bars is supposed to be a weakness for UCLA that compromises postseason hopes while it has been a strength for Utah. If UCLA is able to continue minimizing the bars deficit compared to a team like Utah, perhaps aided by a mysterious secret-weapon appearance of Peng or Ohashi, that would eliminate one major obstacle to postseason success. I’m not convinced yet, but it will be worth watching.  

As for the rotation order, UCLA begins on its two best events, which I don’t love. It means the Bruins must get a bunch of big scores early and absolutely need a lead at the halfway point, and a pretty significant one, to have a shot at winning this thing. They’ll want a solid 98.800 after beam and floor, which is doable. The Utes will gain ground in the second half of the meet, particularly when they turn to floor as UCLA is turning to vault. As long as Utah is anywhere over 98.500 after bars and beam, even if still trailing, I would consider that on track to put up a competitive total/win. 

The challengers – Washington, Southern Utah, Illinois
All three of these teams have proven capable of a mid-196 this year, each peaking in the 196.5-196.6 territory. The problem for them is that both Utah and UCLA would consider a 196.6 quite a poor showing. Even when counting a fall at Pac-12s, Utah went 196.9, and UCLA’s last fall-counting score was 196.8. Both favorites will have some buffer. But which of these challenging schools is the most likely to put pressure on Utah and UCLA? It could go any which way.

If we judge by RQS, Washington is 3rd on vault, Southern Utah is 3rd on floor, Illinois is 3rd on beam, and Utah State is 3rd on bars. So that helps zero. Thank you, RQS.  

Somewhat in keeping with the theme of this regional, vault has been a nightmare for all of the challenging teams, and we’re going to see a rash of 48s. If Washington can in fact be the best of the group on vault, that bodes well since bars and beam really should be their most competitive pieces. With hits. Beam was an absolute catastrophe at Pac-12s, taking Washington out of the competition in the very first rotation, but the style in that lineup has not gone unnoticed. It’s only fitting when an accomplished butterfly charmer is coaching the event. There’s a universe in which Washington stays very competitive on bars and beam. I’m not sure if this is that universe, but I know it exists.

Southern Utah has been a floor force this year and will look to put up a score well over 49 there that can be ridden into the mid-196s with hits on the other pieces. Having to start on floor is unfortunate because we don’t know how much the floor scores will soar early before UCLA and Utah head there, but SUU has regularly scored 9.875-9.900s in a variety of contexts this season. Southern Utah should be leading the pack of challenging teams after one apparatus and will then look to hold on with consistency to remain in front of the peloton. Bars can be another strong SUU score, with a couple likely 9.850+s including a routine from Memory Shettles, whose name is Memory Shettles. She was an AA star two seasons ago but missed last year with injury and is just back on bars this season, though we’re seeing the shades of that success once again in her bars work. 

It’s sort of shocking to see Illinois sitting all the way down at a #5 seed. Illinois is a perennial nationals contender, but it just wasn’t happening this season, even before the storm of injuries to Horth and O’Connor. That’s eight essential routines lost that most schools would be unable to replace, and Illinois is one of those schools, having to throw out a yurchenko layout on vault and a number of 9.725s on the other events. There are still highlights. Sunny Kato is a joy and 3/4 on bars and beam, Erin Buchanan continues leading the floor lineup, and Lizzy Leduc has moments where she shows that elite training even if the consistency of execution isn’t there yet. We’ll see some good scores pop up for Illinois, and a total that could verge on 196 with a hit, but with all the injuries, the lineups just aren’t deep enough to fulfill the potential this roster seemed to be bursting with before the season began.

And the rest
Sorry, Utah State. You’re alone in this one. As mentioned, Utah State has been competitive on bars this season and should put up a 49 score there, but the 196s have been harder to come by than for the other challenging teams. Utah State is the least likely of the group to emerge as the top challenger, but this does mark the third-consecutive season that Utah State has advanced to regionals, following a long winter of hanging down in the bottom half of the 40s and not challenging for regionals places at all. Utah State had an absolute nightmare on bars and beam two years ago and counted a major mistake on bars again last year, so with bars such an important event for the team score this year, slaying that postseason demon is imperative to remaining in the vaguely competitive zone. Really, Utah State’s main goal will be a qualifier in the individual race, which is possible.  

Individuals
If we assume that Utah and UCLA do qualify as teams, then the biggest favorite to advance to nationals as an all-arounder is Allison Northey. She’s ranked in the top 15 and has proven her ability to hit that exalted 39.500 plateau. The other major player to keep an eye on is Danielle Ramirez from Southern Utah. She’s more than capable of going 9.850 across the board, and potentially higher on bars when she hits. There have also been some falls, but earlier in the season. If gymnastics betting were a thing, those are the two I would go for, but it’s not as straightforward as all that. There are some complications. Bailey McIntire of Utah State is a big one.

McIntire has gone 39.400 twice this season, including at the conference championship, and her ability to brush the 9.9 plateau on bars and floor is what makes those events USU’s most competitive scores. It’s always fun to have someone from a #6 seed to watch out for, and McIntire is a legitimate contender here.

Under normal circumstances, Illinois would have been expected to snatch both the AA spots with O’Connor and Horth, but now, individual qualification to nationals appears much less likely. It would be amazing to see Leduc sneak in there, and while she does have a few competitive scores and can stay close on one of her consistent days, vault may take her scoring potential down too low to challenge hits from Northey and Ramirez. Buchanan is probably the team’s top AAer now. She should be very competitive on floor and vault, but bars and beam can get a little 9.7y. They’re both in it, yet others have proven more 9.850ish across the events. The same is probably true for Goings, Washington’s second AA option. She’ll get a solid number, but Northey is more likely to score higher.

Pac-12 Championship Preview

Saturday 3/19
Afternoon session 4:00 ET/1:00 PT
Evening session 9:00 ET/6:00 PT

The Pac-12 should take pride this season in winning the award for the weirdest conference championship scenario. Stanford is the #6 seed and competing in the “who even are you?” afternoon relegation session in spite of being quite a realistic title contender and possible winner, which if nothing else, will serve to make sure we all pay more attention to the afternoon session instead of getting distracted by the simultaneous Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC action. Fun fact: there will be at least 30 minutes during which all four of those championships are going on at the same time. Well, we’ve had a good life.

Stanford’s last meet featured a relative crushing of Georgia and UCLA, so if that’s any indication, Stanford is currently in the midst of pulling a Stanford once again this year. But, let’s begin with the ones who were good all season long and qualified for the coveted evening session.  

EVENING SESSION
Utah, UCLA, Cal, Oregon State

Once again, Utah has earned the top seed in the conference on the back of resolutely having the fewest meltdowns. Hooray! Seven straight weeks of 197s coupled with breaking the 197.5 barrier in the last two outings has given the Utes a fairly comfortable ranking lead over the remaining Pac-12 teams, meaning they’ll be favorites heading in. Given what UCLA and Stanford can do, however, there shouldn’t more than a few tenths in this either way with hit meets all around (ahahahahahaha), so we have at least some reason to hope for excitement. UCLA is capable of busting out a massive day, and after Stanford goes, we’ll have the benefit of a legitimate pace standard through which to gauge Utah and UCLA’s performances. So, let’s break this thing down.

Rotation 1: UCLA vault, Cal bars, Utah beam, Oregon State floor

Event RQS for rotation 1:
Utah 49.290
UCLA 49.165
Oregon State 49.165
Cal 49.110

Of course UCLA is the team that drew its arch-nemesis, Olympic order, meaning the Bruins already have a four-tenth deficit, and the competition is two days away. It actually is probably beneficial to the Bruins as they make their money on beam and floor and would rather end there than begin there, hoping to squeeze out some home-meet level scoring as Cipra and Bynum on floor will be the last routines of the competition, at the end of a long day, once the judges are already halfway through the whiskey bottle. I know. That’s not right of me to say. They’ll obviously have finished the whiskey by that point and be on to the cooking sherry and rubbing alcohol.

As for vault, UCLA has lacked the required landing control and difficulty (having to rely on Bynum’s arabian and Pua’s roller coaster 1.5), often bouncing back on fulls and hoping to get a 9.825 out of them. The sticking shoes showed up just once a couple weeks ago to earn UCLA a 49.375, but more often the score has been about 49.1. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the Bruins will hope to go over 49.2 to keep pace early. None of the teams are starting on particularly strong events, so don’t expect anyone to run away with this thing at the beginning.

Utah’s beam will be among the key rotations to keep every eye on because of Stover Watch 2016. She may be able to compete beam at Pac-12s after all, and if she’s back in form, that bolsters Utah’s scoring potential by a solid tenth, maybe more, and seriously reduces the Fall Terror Index. It was rising considerably depending on who was going to have to come into the lineup. Utah has had its share of falls this season, but this isn’t among the most terrifying beam lineups in the conference. Lopez is currently doing the best beam work of her career, and if Utah can get at least 9.875s from her, Rowe, and Stover (?), along with two other hits, breaking into 49.300+ range seems doable, at least depending on how some of those early-lineup short splits are being evaluated. If the Utes emerge from beam in the first rotation with a true lead, that significantly fuels their chances because they’ll be heading off to higher-scoring, lower-risk events from here. If it’s 49.1 or lower, ring all the bells because it’s feeding time for the vultures. 

Oregon State hasn’t been as competitive as usual with the top of the Pac-12 this season, so while the Beavs remain a team to watch that could snatch this title at the last second (as has happened before), that scenario seems less likely this year. They’ve topped out in the high 196s, which is not going to be strong enough to win this championship. It would take a season high by a considerable margin, which would need to start on floor in the first rotation. Since floor is the highest-scoring event, Oregon State would need to nail that double pike parade with supreme control and use Perez powers to greatly exceed that paltry 49.1 RQS, which would guard against the inevitably dropped tenths coming on vault.

In contrast to Oregon State, Cal has recorded one score this season that could be good enough to win this title, but realistically it still looks like there’s another step between Cal and winning a conference title. The fact that it’s even a conversation this year, however, is a victory. Cal possesses great line on bars and has received some big numbers in a couple meets this season, but the performances I’ve seen have also included some flexed feet and missed handstands, so I’m eager to see how this rotation is evaluated. Bars was Cal’s highest-scoring event in that recent 197.5 result with a 49.475, and while there’s no need/reason to expect that again, the bars total needs to be at least in the same state as that 49.475. A 49.100 would severely compromise the team’s chance to hit 197. Exceeding RQS is key, but don’t necessarily expect Cal to be busting out with a lead in first half of the meet, starting on bars and beam. They’ll plan on making up ground on floor later on and pushing up through the standings from the back. 

Rotation 2: Oregon State vault, UCLA bars, Cal beam, Utah floor

Event RQS through 2 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 2):
Utah 98.755 (49.465)
UCLA 98.350 (49.185)
Cal 98.230 (49.120)
Oregon State 98.150 (48.985)

This is Utah’s rotation. RQS tells us that Utah should have a four-tenth lead at the halfway point, mostly because, in rotation 2, all the other teams go a weakness while Utah goes to the highest-scoring apparatus. Utah does not have big floor routines this year, but we’ve seen Schwab, Hughes, and Partyka (earlier in the season) earn some massive scores for going through cleanly and minimizing those landing deductions. It will be fascinating to watch how the judges respond to that and if they’re willing to give out 9.950s for double pike routines in the second rotation of a meet. The general scoring landscape and precedent leads me to think that they will, but we’ll see how this total compares to Utah’s home floor scoring (Utah has peaked at 49.425 for road floor, while the last three home floor scores have been 49.625, 49.575, and 49.525).

Meanwhile, UCLA will go to bars, so stop, drop, and roll. It has been a sloppy road this year. Without Peng and with Ohashi only able to show a couple routines so far, the lineup has been populated by too many just trying to squeak out a 9.825. Ohashi has returned to beam and floor so far post-sternum, but the bars lineup really does need her to elevate the scoring potential, along with one of Sophina’s good dismounts and some of that special magic that got Janay Honest a 9.950 last week. The goal for the Bruins here will be to minimize the deficit, because there will be a deficit versus Utah on floor. They’ll like their chances to gain ground later in the meet, so it’s about getting as close as possible. Getting closer than the RQS predicts would do.

Likewise, Cal will be looking to minimize damage in rotation 2 as beam has been the struggle event this season. It’s not nearly as worrisome as last year when it cost Cal the chance to upset Utah at regionals, but it’s still the event on which Cal is most likely to get stuck counting scores in the 9.7s. We are seeing shades of truly fine performances from the likes of Howe, and that RQS is over 49, but Cal will be relying more on bars and floor to bump up the score.

If you’re pointing to an event that has contributed the most to Oregon State’s falling a bit lower in the Pac-12 hierarchy, it’s vault. Vault is not traditionally Oregon State’s event, and this year the lower SV have exacerbated the issue with all those fulls struggling around the 9.750 territory. Sticking shoes will be absolutely critical because even though a huge score on vault is no longer the must it used to be, you still can’t win a big title with a sub-49 vault.

Rotation 3: Utah vault, Oregon State bars, UCLA beam, Cal floor

Event RQS through 3 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 3):
Utah 148.000 (49.245)
UCLA 147.590 (49.240)
Cal 147.485 (49.230)
Oregon State 147.410 (49.260)

And now the inverse of rotation 2. The RQSs in this rotation are very closely packed, which would suit Utah quite nicely. Utah would love every team to score around the same total in the 3rd and maintain the pace set in the previous rotation. The issue for Utah is the potential for other teams to put up big performances, since Utah’s peak vault score is 49.275, while OSU and Cal have gone into the 49.4s on bars and floor respectively, and UCLA can and has hit 49.5 on beam.

UCLA beam is not quite the force we expected it to be when presuming a healthy Peng (how silly of us), but Francis, Ohashi, and sometimes DeJesus can still deliver the numbers and Gerber has been a worthwhile leadoff this year. The Bruins are far better on beam than that 49.240 RQS suggests and will have to deliver on that potential (multiple tenths over the RQS) to expect a conference-winning total. Utah’s vault would not be able to match the scores coming from a nailed UCLA beam. While Utah is probably the best-vaulting team in the conference, that’s a bit like being the best listener at a school for the deaf. It hasn’t been a banner year for Pac-12 vaulting, and like the others, Utah has a lot of fulls getting stuck at 9.825. I like the lineup decision to put Delaney after Hughes because I still maintain it has the potential to bump Delaney up to a 9.950 for a stuck landing on the back of Hughes’ 1.5 and 10.0 SV, but Delaney has to stick. She hasn’t been sticking as much this season, so it’s basically impossible for her to do much better than the 9.875s she’s been scoring. Graduations and SV changes have conspired to sap Utah of all its vault 9.9s.

Oregon State’s bars have been an interesting animal this season, just in case you haven’t checked in for a while. Earlier in the year, bars looked like a struggle event with some serious dismount crazies bringing down the scores, but lately it has returned to being OSU’s strong apparatus the way it always should be. McMillan and Jacobsen are quite precise for possible 9.9s at the back of that lineup (I would say the most likely 9.9s the Beavs have across all the events), which must be taken advantage of if this is to be a serious score. Beyond trying to contend for the title, a strong score is essential if they’re to move out of #3-seed territory. It will take a 196.675 in this meet for the Beavs to have even a remote shot at a #2 seed, and that score would be built on bars 9.9s.

Cal is also fighting for a #2 seed but currently sits in 11th and therefore is working from a position of strength. The Bears can guarantee that #2 seed with a 196.475, which is quite doable as long as floor cooperates for something over 49. This is the event where Cal most takes advantage of Toni-Ann Business and the realistic 9.950 she can bring to send the score in a stratospheric direction. Add to that a double arabian from Robinson, a couple other deduction-minimal double pike routines, and an overall commitment to non-lame dance combinations (that doesn’t show up in the scores but I appreciate), and this should be Cal’s best-scoring event of the night.

Rotation 4: Cal vault, Utah bars, Oregon State beam, UCLA floor

Event RQS through 4 rotations (Event RQS for rotation 4):
Utah 197.395 (49.395)
UCLA 197.020 (49.430)
Cal 196.670 (49.185)
Oregon State 196.555 (49.145)

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

None of the teams should be particularly distressed by where they finish the meet and all will feel, to varying degrees, like they can pick up ground on the final apparatus should that be necessary. Perhaps with the exception of Oregon State because of beam reasons, but BeaverBeam hasn’t been particularly terrifying the last few weeks. With Gardiner and McMillan, who both have creative and crisp routines, Risa Perez who has Risa Perez things going on, and the Colussi-Pelaii, we should have fairly high expectations for Oregon State here. More than some unmemorable 49.1.

Now, let’s talk about Cal’s vault because I suddenly have a lot of feelings about it starting now. Cal is the #2 vaulting team in the conference and among all the teams in the country, probably deserves the most credit for quickly and effectively adapting to the new SVs and using them to their advantage. They have a Tsuk full and a handspring-handspring pike (and a 1.5 occasionally for Williams), but on the negative side, they’ve also committed some serious counterfeit yurchenko arabian fraud in a couple instances. Seilnacht’s vault scores have been weirdly high, leading me to believe that she has been getting credit for an arabian, even though it’s definitely a yhalf. With four judges, in a championship scenario, are they finally going to crack down on some of these counterfeit arabians? Could be influential. And we all agree that vault needs to go down to a 9.950 next season, right?

Similarly to Utah, we’ll have to keep an eye on how UCLA’s floor is being evaluated compared to regular-season meets, but the Bruins do have the advantage of ending on floor in a way that might resemble a regular-season dual meet. We’ve seen DeJesus, Francis, Cipra, and Bynum all go into the 9.9s this season, which they’ll hope to use to zoom out of reach of Utah, in spite of Utah boasting quite competitive bars scores. The Utes have shown superior finishing positions in full turns this season to minimize some of the handstand deductions that smack the other teams, and when that is paired with stuck dismounts, the scores can go quite high, which is why that RQS verges on 49.4. Bars, however, is not as high scoring as floor this season overall, so UCLA will look to gain ground here and really should be the strongest team at the meet in both the 3rd and 4th rotations. We’ll just have to see if that’s enough to make up for the 1st and 2nd rotations. Or if Stanford has rendered the whole thing moot.

TRANSITION SENTENCE.

AFTERNOON SESSION
Washington, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State

Since this is the Stanford session, it seems only appropriate that I use this section to nerd out a little bit. 

Because we have a title contender in the early session, a lot of focus will be placed (by me and maybe other people, but mostly me) on score building and whether the scores are being kept down in the first session so that they can rise in the second session. Scores being held down in earlier sessions and rising in later sessions seems to be the conventional wisdom in gymnastics, as we hear this theory every year in both elite and NCAA, though it’s very hard to make a compelling, evidence-based argument that it’s actually happening. At conference championships, the scores do indeed tend to be lower in the first session, but the teams are also weaker, so it’s impossible to attribute that to score suppression with any authority since the quality of the teams is the most significant influence there. A better indicator would be the national semifinals, where the scoring capabilities of the teams should be relatively equal between the early semifinal and the later semifinal. Let’s take a look!

This is the average score of the three teams advancing to Super Six (to weed out teams counting falls that might skew the numbers down artificially) from each semifinal session at nationals over the last six seasons. 

2015:
Semifinal #1: 197.375
Semifinal #2: 197.192

2014:
Semifinal #1: 197.300
Semifinal #2: 197.467

2013:
Semifinal #1: 197.417
Semifinal #2: 197.250

2012:
Semifinal #1: 197.242
Semifinal #2: 197.492

2011:
Semifinal #1: 196.658
Semifinal #2: 196.700

2010:
Semifinal #1: 196.683
Semifinal #2: 196.642

Overall:
Semifinal #1: 197.113
Semifinal #2: 197.124

It’s admittedly a very small sample size, but it’s enough to demonstrate that arguments of score suppression in earlier sessions don’t really have a recent factual basis. All of which is to say, there’s not necessarily a reason to think that Stanford will be held down in session 1 or is a less compelling contender because of this placement. At least heading in. We’ll see how we feel after Price gets a random 9.825 on bars.

With any kind of hit meet, Stanford should win this session in a landslide (potentially by close to a point) and will just have to wait and see what the evening teams produce and whether the total can be bested. Rest assured that Jim has already prepared all his golf analogies about Stanford setting the mark in the clubhouse.

Stanford competes in Olympic order, so the good parts will be bookended by the bad parts. Stanford’s most realistic path to a competitive pace will be to go over 49.2 on vault and floor and over 49.4 on bars and beam, which is about what happened during the season-high performance at UCLA two weeks ago. On vault and floor, that pretty much means everyone needs to make sure to go 9.825 and then Ebee gets a 10, fixing everything. It’s doable. But, as it is and always has been, through rain and shine and graduation, Stanford’s really events are bars and beam, and that’s where the winning would need to happen. I mentioned in the season previews that I was worried about Stanford on bars because there are exactly six usable bars workers on this team. Well, those six have managed to endure through the whole season, and with Price, Hong, and N McNair all able to warrant 9.9+ scores (even though it’s tougher for McNair in that first spot), bars remains a strong event that shouldn’t have to endure 9.7s of the type that have brought low vault and floor. 

Beam is pretty much the same as bars, though with several more lineup options. I also do have to credit Stanford’s smart rotation order on beam this year, putting Price and Hong in the 3rd and 4th spots. I like. Because they’re Price and Hong, they’re able to get the big totals anywhere in the lineup, pushing up the scores for Daum and Chuang in the last two spots and allowing them to get 9.9s they wouldn’t be scoring otherwise. Those 9.9s going to Daum and Chuang are a big part of why Stanford remains 49.5 capable on beam this year in spite of bleeding quite a bit of beam talent from last year’s roster that hasn’t really been replaced. 

I didn’t forget you, others! The Washington Huskies are having their best season in quite some time and are hosting the meet, which usually spells a massive performance in a championship meet. That doesn’t mean challenging for a victory, but I would not be surprised by another strong mid-196, which would be particularly valuable since Washington is another team in a seed fight, currently sitting at 17th with Stanford and Iowa lurking just behind. Since both Stanford and Iowa have higher maximums, Washington could get bumped down into the 19-36 pit-of-peasants territory regardless of performance, but a strong 196 would make it much tougher, particularly on Iowa. Iowa will have already competed by this point, so we’ll know exactly what Washington needs to do when the session begins.

Arizona is also mathematically capable of moving into that top 18, but it’s looking pretty unlikely and would require a whole heap of meltdowns from Stanford, Washington, and several others. Arizona is usually pecking around that 3rd-seed section, so Tabitha’s first season in charge has been relatively in line with what we expect from Arizona, if not breaking any molds. Although it should be noted that attendance is WAY up at this season, increasing 69% over last year, which is probably the most encouraging change we’ve seen from the new regime. It took a little while for the team to find its way, particularly adjusting to staying competitive on vault, but we’re seeing consistent 196s now. A mid-196 is a pounce score, the kind of score it takes to pounce on a better team’s mistakes at regionals, so let’s see if Arizona can turn those 196.2s into 196.6s this weekend.

And there’s Arizona State.

What a hitter.

Saturday Live Blog – Georgia @ Utah; Big Five

Saturday, March 12
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Cornell @ West Chester
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Big Five Meet #1: Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Rutgers @ Penn State – SCORES – TV: Big Ten Network
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Bridgeport @ Pennsylvania
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Big Five Meet #2: Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland @ Ohio State – SCORESBTN2Go (login)
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ Bowling Green – SCORES
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Temple, S. Connecticut, Rhode Island @ Brown
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Georgia @ Utah – SCORES – TV: Pac-12 Network
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – LSU, Oregon State, New Hampshire @ Texas Woman’s – SCORESFlog($)
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ NC State – SCORESStream
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Denver, Seattle Pacific @ Washington – SCORESStream

Getting started early today with the first of two Big Five qualifying meets. The one that’s on TV. The other one isn’t. Earlier, I said BTN was dumb. Turns out, I’m dumb. I thought BTN was showing an old meet between Nebraska and Penn State after this instead of the second Big Five meet, but they’re actually showing a men’s meet between Nebraska and Penn State. Which is also tape delayed. So not better. And in my defense…

Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – Georgia @ Utah; Big Five

Saturday Live Blog – Utah @ Cal; Arizona State @ UCLA

Saturday, February 27

3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Southern Utah @ BYU – SCORESStream

4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Utah @ Cal – SCORESPac-12

4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Arizona State @ UCLA – SCORESPac-12 (Arizona/LA)
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Eastern Michigan, Pittsburgh @ Ohio State – SCORESStream($)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Winona State, Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline @ Minnesota – SCORESBTN($)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – UW-La Crosse @ UW-Whitewater – Stream
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Washington @ Arizona – SCORESStream
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Sacramento State, Bridgeport, Northern Illinois @ Nebraska – SCORES
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Centenary @ Texas Woman’s – SCORESStream
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Iowa, SEMO, Illinois-Chicago @ Denver – SCORES
Pac-12 day! Scoring should be interesting. SEC scoring went on a bender last night, particularly in the Florida meet, highlighted by that time one judge gave McMurtry a 9.950 for a Yfull that she didn’t stick.
Handy reference guide:
Now, SEC scoring has the biggest reputation, but it’s not like scoring at these Pac-12 venues has been the epitome of temperance and modesty, this season or historically, so keep an eye on what happens comparatively. We all recall the flood of 9.950s UCLA has received on home floor this year.

Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – Utah @ Cal; Arizona State @ UCLA

Saturday Live Blog – Oklahoma @ Georgia; Utah @ Stanford

Saturday, February 20

4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Oklahoma @ Georgia – SCORESSECN
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Alabama, Denver, Cornell @ Penn State – SCORES Stream(free)
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Utah @ Stanford – SCORESPac-12
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Cal @ Oregon State – SCORESPac-12 Oregon
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Towson @ Iowa – SCORESStream($)
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Pennsylvania, Temple, Ursinus @ Rutgers – SCORES
10:15 ET/7:15 PT – Winter Cuppity Cup Cup Cup – SCORES/STREAM
Joyful times to be had by all! Until we get to Georgia on beam. Then…we’ll see. The main focus of the day will be everything, but mostly Oklahoma and Georgia because I’m fascinated to see those two up against each other. I don’t think it’s going to be the cakewalk for Oklahoma it might seem based on most previous scores, so that’s obviously the kiss of death. Enjoy reading that sentence after Oklahoma wins by three points.

First eye goes on that meet. Second eye on Utah and Stanford because that’s now an urgent scoring assignment for Stanford. Remaining eyes on Iowa’s scores and the “who’s fourth-best in this conference” showdown between OSU and Cal. Oh, and Alabama! Too much!

Also, why you should be a fan of Kaytianna McMillan.


“That was a good sentence. We have like maybe two.”

And then tonight, the elite boys get their Winter Cup on, which is always a treat. It’s like gymnastics, but where everyone falls on everything. It’s really fun. You’ll like it a lot.

Continue reading Saturday Live Blog – Oklahoma @ Georgia; Utah @ Stanford