May 17, 2015

2015 Level 10 Nationals Results

Over the weekend, a medium-sized army of Level 10s gathered together in the void between the dimensions to contest their national championship. This is our annual opportunity to start to learn the names of the people who will be scattering 9.825s all over NCAA gymnastics in a matter of months. As always, the competition is broken down into 8 age groups (Junior A-D, Senior A-D), and my attention is primarily on Senior D and Senior C, since those are the gymnasts who will be joining college gymnastics this fall. For the rest, there will still be plenty of time to try to care about them later.

Full results for all the sessions can be found at USAG, and all the various commitments can be found at collegegymfans and here, but here's a basic breakdown of the key competitors in the senior ranks. 


Top 10 AA
1. Alicia Boren – Florida 2015-2016
38.800 (VT - 1st; UB - 2nd; BB - 2nd; FX - 3rd)
Alicia Boren wins JO Nationals every year. And when I say that, I'm not exaggerating like I usually am. She actually wins her age group every single year. It's a guarantee that she will be given the "new Kytra" moniker within a millisecond of arriving at Florida. She's not Kytra, but she did manage to get third on floor even with an OOB and will be expected to contribute on at least three events, joining Peyton Ernst to try to replace those Kytra routines and add a few others to the pile.

2. Kirah Koshinski – West Virginia 2015-2016
38.475 (VT - 2nd; UB - 13th; BB - 15th; FX - 1st)
I love to see gymnasts going to not-top schools place well in JO. It doesn't always translate to sudden stardom or a boost for those programs, but these vault and floor routines are the real deal. 

3. Emma McLean – Michigan 2015-2016
38.350 (VT - 4th; UB - 11th; BB - 12th; FX - 2nd)
Michigan had a very strong JO Nationals overall with a number of top finishes, and seeing McLean in third in particular is very encouraging. Karas has been the more heralded of the two newbies for next season, but Michigan is not an extremely deep team and will remain so next season, so McLean showing the ability to be solid across the board is important because they may need to rely on that. And that vault should be a thing.

4. Sarah Means – Boise State 2015-2016
38.175 (VT - 4th; UB - 19th; BB - 4th; FX - 8th)
Beam. After that beam showing at regionals, this 4th place is a chorus of angels.  

5. Sabrina Garcia – Penn State 2015-2016
38.050 (VT - 27th; UB - 3rd; BB - 4th; FX - 5th)

6. Jaclyn Sampson – Sacramento State 2015-2016
37.900 (VT - 25th; UB - 8th; BB - 3rd; FX - 21st)

7. Jenna Bresette – Alabama 2015-2016
37.875 (VT - 11th; UB - 3rd; BB - 36th; FX - 5th)
8. Amanda Huang – Alabama 2015-2016
37.625 (VT - 32nd; UB - 3rd; BB - 12th; FX - 33rd)
Even though Alabama is losing another crop of essential routines (4 from Clark, 2 from Williams, 1 from Frost), there is reason for optimism in the fairly large, yet relatively unheralded, class they are bringing in. These L10s boast some usable routines that can pad those lineups, at least in the spots that a please-be-healthy-now Kiana Winston doesn't swoop in to take up. And by "pad those lineups," I don't mean it in a coach-like "she'll be great depth for our team...and will never see the light of day" kind of way. They'll actually pad the lineups and contribute.  

Bresette, a chief member of the "former GAGE gymnast" club, was felled by the dreaded beam here, otherwise she would have comfortably been top 5. Huang excels on bars, a lineup that was a little too 9.850 for Alabama at times this year.

8. Haylee Roe – Illinois 2015-2016
37.625 (VT - 15th; UB - 36th; BB - 9th; FX - 21st)

10. Ciara Gresham – ?
37.600 (VT - 10th; UB - 33rd; BB - 25th; FX - 8th)

Samantha Cerio – Auburn 2015-2016
UB - 1st; FX - 5th
Cerio is another who could have been top 5 in the AA with a hit beam routine. Auburn is losing some serious scores after last season, with Megan Walker's bars routine pretty high on that list. Someone is going to have to pick that up if they want to double down on magical seasons.  

Angelina Giancroce – Alabama, now, apparently 2015-2016
BB - 4th; FX - 4th
Weren't you going to Georgia? Another addition to the Alabama depth parade. How does Alabama always manage to have 16 new contributing freshmen every season? We always make fun of "we have a really young team this year..." but Alabama truly always does.

Shannon McNatt – Utah 2015-2016
VT - 4th; UB - 9th

Stephanie Brock – ?
VT - 7th; BB - 9th

Sarah Lippowitsch – Kent State 2015-2016
BB - 1st

Ashley Hiller – Florida 2015-2016
VT - 2nd
Amanda Cheney – Florida 2015-2016
BB - 4th
A few casual bonus JO standouts for a team that doesn't need them. 2nd on vault in Senior D would be something to boast about...if you weren't competing with Sloan, McMurtry, Baker, and Boren for vault spots.

Brooke Kelly – Missouri 2015-2016
BB - 4th

Sienna Crouse – Nebraska 2015-2016
UB - 6th

Mary Jacobsen – Oregon State 2015-2016
UB - 6th

Lauren Schmeiss – Sacramento State 2015-2016
VT - 7th

Madeleine Huber – Missouri 2015-2016
UB - 9th

Nicole O'Leary – New Hampshire 2015-2016
VT - 9th

MaryElle Arduino – Towson 2015-2016
BB - 9th

Sidney Dukes – Kentucky 2015-2016
FX - 10th

Gracie Cherrey – Georgia 2015-2016
Notable as a Georgia recruit who will be relied upon for real contribution next season, but a bars disaster took her out of the top 10 AA spots.


Top 10 AA
1. Macy Toronjo – UCLA 2015-2016
38.650 (VT - 4th; UB - 5th; BB - 3rd; FX - 1st)
It's reasonable to assume that UCLA will take a hit next year without Sam Peszek. Ohashi is amazing, but she's not the same type of gymnast. She doesn't have that "there is literally a 0% chance you will miss this routine" Peszekness, and I worry about her fragility. That's why Toronjo is going to be so important. She's no Peszek, but she is your prototypical second-tier elite, with all the skills and 9.850+ potential, who can jump in and buoy those lineups, ensuring that they aren't full of...ahem...ratty old 9.750s at nationals. Also, a DLO and a full in at JO Nationals? Yes you did.

2. Makenna Merrell – Utah 2015-2016
38.625 (VT - 2nd; UB - 4th; BB - 4th; FX - 2nd)
Even though Skinner has decided to pass on this year to see if she can do a vault with zero hands make the Olympics, Utah still has another bang-up class of L10s coming in who all placed well this weekend. It's unrealistic to expect them to live up to the quality of the routines lost, but they will be able to combine with this past year's freshmen (who should contribute more) to try at least to minimize the damage and ensure that team depth remains a thing. Note the cleaner line and toes that Merrell has on bars, at least from this angle. That's my big pet peeve about Utah's bars, so get this girl in the lineup.

May 10, 2015

The Position Has Been Filled

All of those coaching vacancies we had just a few days ago are disappearing. Because they have to. This is such a vital period of the year for recruiting, and a team like Florida cannot afford to go even a month without a head coach in place. The longer they're without a head coach to snatch those recruits up, the prettier UCLA, Oklahoma, and Alabama start to look. Someone absolutely had to be in place by JO Nationals.

So, as Florida announced yesterday, former Auburn associate head coach Jenny Rowland has been hired to take over the position of Rhonda 2. Jenny Rowland's was one of the first names bandied about once Rhonda resigned because she is among the biggest rising-star associate/assistants in the country, is a Rhonda favorite, and seems to fit the profile of a replacement Rhonda pretty exactly, considering her age, competition history, coaching history, and areas of expertise. It's a logical fit, and if she does decide to keep the same assistants, their strengths would complement each other very well. Rowland's best recent claim to awesomeness is her role as Auburn's beam coach. That beam lineup this past season was on it.

Florida is clearly not going for a sea change here. They're hoping for Rhonda Part 2, which may provide a few more initial challenges of the "but that's not how Rhonda used to do it!" variety for those expecting her to be an exact clone, but ultimately may result in less boat-rocking than some other choices would have. Still, she is new to the program, so some degree of uprooting is inevitable.  She will need to change certain things to fit her style and develop the program identity she wants. Everyone else will have to adjust. It won't be the same situation as Alabama this year or Utah next year, with new leaders who are more than familiar with the current system and clearly and openly want to keep things the same.

I suppose the one knock against Jenny Rowland is that she hasn't been a head coach before, but meh. Many of the most successful current coaches were not head coaches before they took over their positions, and she's hardly new to the world of top-program college gymnastics and the expectations of that. Inevitable growing pains? Sure. Major stumbling block? I seriously doubt it.

Not to be completely overshadowed (that much), Tabitha Yim has also been announced as the new head coach at Arizona to follow Bill Ryden after he "chose to resign." I'm slightly obsessed with Tabitha Yim, so I'm all about this decision. What's the Arizona choreography going to be like now? There's a little bit more reason to have "enough experience?" questions in Tabitha's case because she hasn't been around very long and hasn't held a leadership coaching position at a program before (in my mind she has still been in that "recent former team member, #3 coach on the team" slot), but at the same time, she's Tabitha Yim. Don't bet against that. It's an exciting choice that helps usher in the newest generation of coaches, and I'm eager to see what she does to try to change a program that has stagnated in that 15-20 ranking territory. It's time to have higher hopes and Tabitha Yim-level expectations for Arizona. Hopefully, she does not bring with her Stanford's general attitude of unnecessary secrecy around the program if she wants to build it into something more. 

April 24, 2015

Championships Ended, Then Everything Broke

"I'll take some time," I thought. Let the events of the season and that thoroughly thrilling Super Six sink in for a while, and then at some point I'll put together my final season thoughts and begin the way-too-early looking forward to next season. Surely there will be nothing major to talk about right away.

At that very moment, Rhonda Faehn swooped in going, "Mwahahahahahahahaha."

This is a big deal. Two of the most prominent coaches in NCAA gymnastics (and the #1 and #2 finishers at last weekend's championship) called it quits this week. Let's start with Greg Marsden, because that was the not-so-surprising one. Marsden has been the head coach at Utah for 1150 years, won 10 national championships, singlehandedly invented women's college gymnastics, and has been the sport's most vocal and influential advocate for growth and improvement. (One of the silliest things about that "Sarah and Suzanne" doc last year was the implication that Sarah and Suzanne created women's college gymnastics as a spectator sport. Everyone was like, "Um...Marsden?")

College gymnastics without Greg Marsden will be strange and unfamiliar land, but his retirement doesn't come as a shock because, over the last couple years, he had started scaling back some of his duties, with Megan taking on a lot more, and this year Tom Farden taking on more as well. A succession procedure had been put in place, and now Greg is stepping aside completely to allow Megan and Tom to be the new stars. Of all the recent major coaching changes, this should be the least disruptive to the team in the coming year. The only blip I would expect for Utah next season is the no-Dabritz blip. Otherwise, it really should be business as usual with the same group, style, and system.

But as one last tribute to Greg Marsden, the rest of college gymnastics really needs to pull itself together and finally adopt some of the good ideas he has been talking about for the last several centuries and that have never come to anything, like overhauling the postseason format and giving us a four-on-the-floor championship. Regardless of any live TV considerations, having four teams is just a better, more logical, and more fan-friendly format. The Marsden Cup. Get it done.

April 19, 2015

Event Finals Live Blog

And this is also a competition. Welcome to our annual "Oh yeah, there's more?" day. If you haven't used up your supply of outrage yet, the event finals are usually good for some solid, concentrated WTF. Or, if you don't feel outraged, you can just play the "Who's going to cry the most?" game. The answer is everybody.

As for last night, I can't complain about seeing another exciting finish. Four straight years of pretty close races. It's the norm now, but it wasn't always that way. So yay for that.

But didn't you think it was going to end in another tie? After McMurtry went on bars, I was sure she was going to get 9.900 and we would have a tie again, and I would have been furious. One year, I could forgive. But not two. That would be just too adorable and too inconclusive. So I'm glad someone won outright. There has been a whole heap of angry about the McMurtry 9.950 on bars to clinch the meet for Florida, which is understandable. Especially when you start making comparisons to Ivana Hong also getting a 9.950. Or Sami Shapiro getting a 9.900. It's basically the exact same thing that happened last year for Bridgey's creative 9.950 at the end of the floor lineup. At the same time, the meet is not about one routine, and you can make just as many overscore arguments about Utah as about Florida, if not more. Especially because the bars scoring in Super Six was generally insane. Stanford should have been 60 points ahead of all the other teams in a just world with a sensible COP.

So, Florida makes it three in a row. Utah should be incredibly proud of that performance, though. No one had them finishing second this year. In the preseason, I had them fifth, and even before Super Six started, I was thinking they would finish 4th. That was a tremendous day and a big rebound for a program that hadn't had a really great result in a while. It was difficult to see Oklahoma come up short, but they let themselves down on floor. With normal routines from Dowell and Jackson with no OOB, the Sooners would have been level with Florida and Utah. Can you imagine if it had been a three-way race at the end?

But now we turn to event finals. Here is the draw.



It's so bizarre to see a normal amount of people in vault finals. It wouldn't even be a problem this year if they still had to do two vaults. There were definitely some frustrating vault scores in semifinals, but it seemed the judges were making a concerted effort to keep the scores down to avoid a million 9.900s making EFs, and they succeeded. So I applaud that.

On vault, I would love to see the people who are capable of upgrading throw a little bit more (cough, Ebee, cough). Although she probably is the favorite if she sticks to her full. It's easier to win with a full because it's easier to land with a full, so it will be interesting to see what the people like Price and Scaman decide to do. Scaman stuck to the full in EF last year. Also if anyone wants to pull an Anna Li, I would have no problem with it because her 1.5 is still my favorite all-time EF moment.

Bars is going to be a good one, even though we're missing some of the best. Let's see if any of the judges have the guts not to give Dabritz a 10. I know my complaints about her routine are issues that are never deducted for in anyone's routine during the regular season, but in event finals there should be a higher standard for things like toe point (which is why it's frustrating that Hong and Shapiro didn't qualify). That goes for Sloan's tkatchev as well. I think I'm on the Brittany Rogers wagon for this one.

Beam. Ivana Hong. Her routine yesterday was perfection, and I need her to win this today. Also keep an eye on Peszek, especially if she throws the full as she usually does in these circumstances. It will be her last routine ever, so there's nothing to save those glass feet for anymore.

There are a million people in the floor final, so it's tough to make a call, but Kytra probably comes in as the favorite. Nina McGee is right there. And Kennedy Baker has a piked double arabian, so she's automatically in the hunt.

April 18, 2015

Super Six Live Blog

And now we're here. Championship day. It's about time. The meet will begin at 7:00 ET/4:00 PT.



We have a rotation order:
Is it weird that I'm really confused by this formatting? Am I just that tired?

The lowest seeds, Auburn and Stanford, end on byes, which should provide for maximum drama. Oklahoma ends on beam once again. In theory, that's a good rotation order for them, but after yesterday...

Conversely, Florida begins on beam, which will be the most telling performance of the first rotation. It certainly told us a lot two years ago. They'll need to be much better than the 49.275 from yesterday. So will everyone. On everything. But mostly beam. It was an epically poor day for beam work. If you haven't checked in on DD's post-meet comments yesterday, they're a hoot. She's not exactly pleased with her team.

The results from yesterday were great news for Oklahoma in spite of the bizarre beamtastrophe (the beam mistakes for Oklahoma were much more interesting to me than the beam mistakes for LSU, because the LSU mistakes had been building for weeks. They hadn't looked comfortable on beam all postseason, but Oklahoma had). Oklahoma would have blown away the competition with a hit meet, which should be reason for confidence. If they can hit today. Super Six weirdness is never out of the picture.

On the other hand, Utah put together about as solid a meet as we can expect from them to score 197.475. There were a couple missed routines, but mostly, we saw what Utah is going to give us. It's a relatively similar case for Alabama, though Alabama had two strong events, one OK event, and a weak event for that 197.100 yesterday. They can, and certainly should, improve on that score and performance, but it was still three-tenths lower than Oklahoma counting a fall. At the same time, this is pretty much exactly the position Alabama was in when they won their last two titles. Alabama is in it, but they'll need today to be a lot like yesterday for Oklahoma and Florida.

Florida is sticking around. The scoring potential is there in these routines to win this outright, but I haven't yet been wholly inspired with confidence by their postseason performances. They will need to step it up. Watch those first two scores on each event. Florida's early scores haven't been that high this postseason, which has put them at a disadvantage to Oklahoma.

April 17, 2015

National Semifinals Live Blog

Have you had your nervous breakdown yet today? Don't worry. It's coming. The semifinals will take place at 2:00 ET and 8:00 ET. 

Live stream - Semifinal 1
Live scores - Semifinal 1

Live stream - Semifinal 2
Live scores - Semifinal 2

Here's a quick comparison of the regional championship scores for the teams in each semifinal, with the top three on each event highlighted.

April 16, 2015

One Day More

The national championship starts tomorrow. Already. So disrespectful.

If you haven't checked out my semifinal ramblings yet, here they are:
Semifinal #1
Semifinal #2

And the rotation order.

Before we get to what's happening tomorrow, there's also the matter of the regular NLI signing period (as opposed to the early period in November), which began yesterday. Mostly, this period is used to confirm what we already know, like Lizzy LeDuc's switch to Illinois. The most significant announcement in terms of name recognition came from UCLA, as they confirmed the coup of seizing Kyla Ross from Stanford (deferring until after the Olympics, obviously), along with the signing of Katelyn Ohashi and Madison Preston for next season. Preston is a Cincinnati refugee who won the vault title in her division at JOs last year. Looking at the gaps that will reappear on vault next year without Peszek and Williams, and since Pua Hall's vault is apparently MIA, anyone with a yfull as big as hers is a thing.

In other news, Georgia Dabritz won the AAI Award. It was a tough field this year, but Dabritz was probably always the favorite, having competed more regularly than some of the other competitors (like Peszek), being the biggest star on her team (unlike Hunter), and having the academic recognition to go along with it. She had narrative in her favor.

Now, let's get to what we need for tomorrow.
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Semifinal #1 (Live Video)
Florida, Utah, Michigan, UCLA, Georgia, Stanford

8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Semifinal #2 (Live Video)
Oklahoma, LSU. Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska, Oregon State

These semifinals will be used to determine the six teams advancing to Super Six on Saturday (three teams from each), along with the national all-around champion and the competitors advancing to Sunday's event finals. On each event, there will be a minimum of eight and a maximum of one trillion qualifiers because the top four people advance from each semifinal, and ties are not broken. That means when 24 people tie for 4th place on vault with a 9.900, they all go to event finals. It is hellish.

I don't do any previewing or prognostication for event finals because the qualification is always nonsense. You might as well just pick four people out of a hat. The best people never qualify to event finals since it only takes a little step on landing to drop out of the top four. Example: Lloimincia Hall has never competed in the floor final. Which means she probably needs to make it this year.

I also refrained from doing a preview of the all-around because I learned my lesson last year when I basically said, "And then there are other people like Kim Jacob who DEFINITELY can't win." So go me. In my defense, it was a screwed-up day for the AAers and all the favorites had mistakes. This year, Bridget Sloan has to be pegged as the favorite now that she's back to doing floor, but it's not prohibitive since nothing is in the AA. If the winner isn't Sloan, then we have to look to Courville, who is always the second-best SEC AAer, Dabritz now that she has joined the illustrious company of sudden senior beamers, Sam Peszek, Kytra Hunter, and Lindsay Mable as the likeliest contenders to get 39.7s. If the winning score falls down to the low 39.6s again, then about two dozen more people are suddenly in it.