But before we get to tonight's main event, a few thoughts, one of which is a complaint! Yay!
Last night, Arkansas didn't have a working scoring page for the meet against Oklahoma (and I already expressed my scowl at that technological regression), which meant that we were forced to rely on twitter updates for the scores. This reinforced a very strange team twitter phenomenon I've noticed over the past couple seasons. Many teams tweet the scores as the meet progresses, but only the good scores while ignoring the falls and pretending they don't exist.
Aside from being unhelpful to fans who are left wondering how many people have competed so far, who was in the lineup, and how the rotation is going overall, it also comes across like the team is ashamed of the fall. As if, unless you get a good score, your routine is not to be acknowledged as part of the team's performance. I'm not expecting any kind of criticism on the team's twitter account, but just a statement of fact. "Unfortunately, Mykaylie had a fall on her jaeger. 9.150." That's not hard to say. I don't understand the reasoning behind ignoring the falls and not acknowledging that they occurred. It's just a fall. It happens. Identify and move on. It becomes more of a thing if you overtly decide not to mention it.
I'm going to spare you any further rant on the tyranny of positivity at the expense of reality and instead move on to talking about today's Big Ten quad meets. In one of the more unexpected results of the season, Michigan finished third out of four teams in its home quad. Michigan was going relatively strong and 197y for three events but had a collapse on the beam with a 48.075 after two multi-fall performances from Gies and Sheppard, which resulted in counting a 8.625 (or, as many team twitter accounts would say, nothing). The low 196 won't hurt the Wolverines' ranking, but it does raise more questions about beam - Casanova was also out of the lineup, which hurt - and puts them in a little more danger of being passed by Nebraska after the Big Ten Championships next weekend. For most of the other major players in the Big Ten, the day produced a solid result. Nebraska won its meet by breaking 197 for the second time this year, Illinois posted an impressive 196.875, Minnesota won the Michigan meet with 196.700 (and broke 49 on both bars and beam!), and Penn State also hit the mid 196s. Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State are all bunched together very close in the rankings now.
But enough of that racket, let's focus on Georgia and Utah. It's going to be a raucous meet, and one where the very first rotation will be essential for both teams because it's strength vs. strength with Utah on vault and Georgia on bars. Both need a lead after 1. Utah was right in the tri-meet last weekend going to vault, but recorded a second-straight vault score in the 49.3s (which is fine but not the 49.5 we have come to expect). The Utes will need to get back to those 49.5s because Georgia is the top team in the nation on bars by a fair margin, coming off two straight 49.6s at home and having scored 49.400 or greater in every meet January 12th. Get ready.
Looks like both teams are planning to stick with the lineups they showed last week, with Utah using Delaney and Tutka on beam and sitting Hughes and Dabritz, and Georgia using Reynolds on beam and sitting Persinger. In Utah's tentative early-week lineup, Delaney is also in on floor instead of Lofgren.
Coverage is beginning. Jim tells us this meet features the best gymnasts in the nation "on vault, bars, and floor exercise." Yep, that about sums it up. Hailee Hansen is crying the most in the early race - but we'll see who pulls ahead by the end, and now there's a parade of senior citizens walking behind Amanda Borden.
Rotation 1 - Utah on vault, Georgia on bars
Tutka - VT - Good stick on the yfull - some leg separation on the block and chest hunched a little, but very nice landing. This will be a good indicator of the scoring trend early. 9.850. Appropriate enough.
Jay - UB - Nice first hs, shaposh with a small leg break, clean bail handstand, nice Khorkina, legs together throughout the end, and a stick on the tuck full. A few areas, but great start. 9.875.
Lofgren - VT - yfull - another strong vault, but she didn't stick the way Tutka did - bounce back - also a leg separation on her block. 9.825.
Hires - UB - Great legs together in this routine, nice clean piked jaeger, hits her bail handstand, step back on the DLO - looked like she was going to stick, but a very strong routine. Maybe a small leg break on the bail, but otherwise they were pasted together. 9.850.
Damianova - VT -She also has a bounce back on her yfull like Lofgren. They're going to need these sticks to win this meet. She has a bit stronger body form than Lofgren, so while the landing was the same, expect a higher score. 9.875.
Brown - UB - Excellent tkatchev as usual, catches her pak, and the half turn on the low bar was OK - not too far past vertical - lands very squatty on her tuck full and takes a hop. Great routine going until the dismount, but that will break her score a little. 9.800.
Delaney - VT - Strong yfull - a small hop on the landing - maybe didn't open up out of it the way we usually see her do, but great power and leg form as we usually see. 9.950.
Cheek - UB -Strong tkatchev - did she catch a little close? Very pretty bail handstand, all of her cast handstands look good - great DLO in the air, but a step back. They're not sticking the way they have at home, which will hurt. 9.850.
Wilson - VT - Yfull - pretty much the usual vault we see from her, big block - but she did hop back, a bit bigger hop than Delaney had. 9.950. These 9.950s are high for me for non-stuck vaults. Those were notable hops.
Rogers - UB - Her stalders are excellent, great Ricna and pristine bail handstand - also has a step on the dismount, one small step back on the tuck full landing. 9.900.
Dabritz - VT - She shows the full this time as well - Utah does tend to downgrade to safety as the season goes on. She hops in place, rather than back in the way that Delaney and Wilson did. 9.950.
Davis - UB - Excellent tkatchev as always, great handstand, nailed and clean on the bail - all her handstands are hit - low landing on the DLO and a step forward. So few sticks for Georgia, that really hurts them. 9.850.
After 1: Utah 49.575, Georgia 49.325
Solid vaulting for Utah from the back three. A 49.575 is too high a score for a rotation with just one stick (if the final three had stuck, would you have given all of them 10s? I doubt it), but the last three vaulters in that lineup are excellent in the air. They're going to have to watch those landings, though, because come the postseason, it will be easy for the judges to hold them down if they're not getting those sticks. Those last three vaults could have been brought down .050 realistically, maybe more. Away from home, you can never expect a 9.950 for a non-stick. I said this rotation was going to be important, and advantage Utah early on.
For Georgia, the story was the lack of sticks. That's one of their lowest bars scores of the season, and it happened because they all gave away on the landings. It's easy to make the argument that they gave away .250 in that rotation on the landings alone, and that's the difference in the meet so far. They stuck so well at home, but not tonight. Georgia really is great on the bars themselves, though. Those bail handstands are solid, nailed with no question, legs together, and the releases all have excellent amplitude.
Rotation 2 - Utah on bars, Georgia on vault
Reynolds - VT - This has been a revolving door position in the lineup, but it appears to be hers. Yfull - a little piked in the air and a pretty large hop back, so that will probably be the lowest score we've seen on vault so far. 9.825. So, same as Lofgren. That makes sense.
Hughes - UB - Good first hs, hits her tkatchev, clean bail, finishes with the tuck full and she gets a stick - chest down but a stick - and Georgia wasn't doing that. 9.875. We're really judging landings tonight.
Davis - VT - Great form with legs pasted together on her yfull as always - she also has a hop back though - not a lot of sticks so far tonight. Besides the landing it looked good. 9.875.
Wilson - UB - Small break on the gienger and again on the shootover - one handstand early on looked short - and a hop on the dismount. Solid, but she's one in particular who needs to stick that dismount. Count 1 on the "Jim Watson - Tory Wilson's smile comment" count. 9.800.
Hires - VT - Strong yfull - she came in a little short on that vault as she does sometimes - some piking - and a hop. 9.900.
Hansen - UB - "Four years has come down to this performance" - so no pressure then? Hits her jaeger, short on her handstand before the pak, but this is a hit otherwise - nice final handstand - and a stick on the tuck full. 9.850.
Rogers - VT - Big 1.5, came in just a bit short on that vault and hopped back - but only the smallest bit of knee bending in the air - nice form overall. Just the landing. 9.925.
Lothrop - UB - Nice compact jaeger, clean legs on the bail handstand and hits the position - a couple of these handstands are borderline - whips her DLO with a hop back. 9.875. The crowd was booing this score? That's high for that routine.
Cheek - VT - Let's see if she can get it this week. The scores have been setting her up and have been as high for Georgia as for Utah. Oh, girl! She fought for that stick so hard, and bent way down to the ground to get it. She would have been better taking a small step back than bending and swimming like that, which made the vault look worse than it was. 9.875.
Damianova - UB -She casts with legs together, which we don't always see in NCAA - leg break on the shaposh, she goes over on a handstand and covers it well to do an extra half swing, but there were some handstand problems on her improvised giant 1/2. Sticks her double back. 9.850. That's a testament to her ability to cover going over on a handstand, but she did still go over on a handstand.
Jay - VT - Does the 1.5, great form in the air - just the small hop in place in the same way that Dabritz did on her vault, so we could see 9.950 again. She got a 10 from one judge last week for a stick. She tends to have some legs on her block, but that can be hard to see from the judges' perspective. 9.950.
Dabritz - UB - Strong jaeger - and a clean bail. I have a question about a short handstand before the bail, but the bail is strong. She sticks the tuck full, so let's see what the judges will do. 9.925 is fair for that. One handstand looked short, and then there are issues like toes that don't often get deducted but are notable if you decide to take them into account.
After 1: Utah 98.950, Georgia 98.850
A solid vault rotation from Georgia, but they have been better many times this year. They got the same benefit that Utah did in the scoring, and we didn't see enough sticks for a 49.5. The same note about postseason meets goes for Georgia's vaulting as for Utah's.
Utah scored a bit higher than Georgia did on bars, but this rotation was a missed opportunity for Utah after gaining a lead in the first. Hughes led them off well and Dabritz had a nice routine, but Damianova had to improvise an extra skill, Lofgren and Hansen had a couple handstand issues, so that was just enough to see their lead dissipate by more than half. We're seeing a solid meet so far, but nothing overwhelming. Lots of missed sticks and some form breaks. There's work to do for both of these teams to be championships-ready.
Rotation 3 - Utah on beam, Georgia on floor
Rowe - BB - OK full turn to start - switch to straddle 1/4 is fine, hits her loso series, switch side. Is she singing or counting? Front toss. She still looks a little tight, but she's not giving away wobbles. Small step on the 1.5, one of her better routines this year. 9.850.
Reynolds - FX - Rudi to loso looks good to open the routine, a little hunched on her double pike with a slide back - switch side and popa look hit - 1.5 to layout with some steppy dance forward. Not her best of the season, but a strong opening hit. 9.850.
Hughes - BB - She's in instead of Tutka, who was in the tentative lineup. I like this decision. She's more likely to 9.850. A little bend correction on her loso series but solid. switch looked short of 180, but hits her side aerial - short of position on her popa as well with a little bend, so a few things to take here, but but sticks her 1.5. 9.875.
Hires - FX - Nice height on her double pike and a very secure landing, also the switch side and popa dance combo - 1.5 to layout has nice form, and controlled enough. James Bond + Shimmy = SEC floor routines. Hits her double tuck as well - some low chest in the landings, but well controlled. 9.900.
Wilson - BB - Nails her two layouts series, switch is short of 180, but the straddle 1/4 was strong. She has wobbled on that skilled sometimes. They just need to get rid of her regular split elements because they are the weakest part of the routine. Sticks 1.5. "That smile lights everyone up." That's 2. 9.925. Utah home scoring.
Box - FX - She pops right up on the double pike, solid enough landing. another with the switch side to popa. We need to have a conversation with these teams about their hair and ribbons, but it's a losing battle. Nice double tuck. 1.5 to layout - pulled it around well enough. Another hit. Georgia looking more secure on floor so far this week. 9.875.
Lofgren - BB - Side somi - a little step correction, hits her aerial to bhs, split and stag are nice, sticks her gainer dismount. One of her stronger routines of the year. One correction in the side somi, but well done. 9.900.
Rogers - FX - I don't mind this routine choreographically - it's all little arm- and writhing-heavy, but I like it. I have to say I don't love all these routines, but I prefer Cassidy as a Georgia choreographer. Nice double arabian to start - hop forward but well done - very strong 1.5 to layout. Hips going back a little on that double pike, but if she can get floor together, that's a big boost for this team. 9.875.
Delaney - BB - very strong opening loso series, good straddle jump, wobble on tuck jump full, standing loso is hit, sticks her gainer full. Nice routine from her, one of her better of the year so far. 9.925.
Earls - FX - Rudi to bhs loso mount, not a lot of amplitude but hit well, a little hunched over on her double pike landing but avoided sliding back. Comes in short on her double back and bounces up and awkwardly. That will be a lower score for them. 9.800.
Lothrop - BB - uses her arms to pull it back without a wobble on her opening split skill - hits her loso series - switch side is secure, holds onto the full turn, not giving away wobbles here. Did Hailee Hansen have a stroke in the background? Small hop on the 1.5 dismount. 9.875.
Jay - FX - She has had a few breaks in this routien so far this year, but they need a hit now. Tuck full mount is stronger this week - she didn't land as short as she has sometimes - 1.5 to layout looks good. And a strong double pike as well. That's the floor routine they have needed from her.
After 3: Utah 148.450, Georgia 148.300
Having a lead bodes well for Utah going to floor while Georgia is on beam. But it's still encouraging for Georgia to be close enough going to the end. There was home scoring in that beam rotation, but Utah won't care so much about that. They'll care more that they just hit six straight beam routines without any major breaks on any skills. As we've seen other teams continue to falter on beam, that's a good accomplishment. Also a major accomplishment is Georgia's hitting floor as well as they did. Earls had a break on one pass, but no OOBs, and no major errors. Two simultaneous encouraging rotations there on events that have been weaknesses.
Rotation 4 - Utah on floor, Georgia on beam
Attendance is 15,224. That's crazy.
Box - BB - wobble on the opening tuck jump full, strong loso series, switch to straddle 3/4, pretty full turn, small check on her aerial, hop forward on 1.5 dismount. OK, but a could wobbles on skills and the hop on the dismount will bring her score down. 9.800.
Lofgren - FX - So she is in on floor after all, secure opening double pike, split full to popa, whip to double pull - pretty big pike on that twist and bounced slightly, rudi to loso is strong. Clean opening overall. 9.875.
Reynolds - BB - front toss is OK, no real wobble - another smallest check on her loso series - she's pulling these skills back well - full turn - side somi is secure - chest a little forward so it's good she didn't wobble there - double full with a hop in place. 9.875.
Del Priore - FX - Low on her tuck full mount - some bending there - it's very hit or miss, 1/5 to layout is strong, though. A little hunched on the double back - a couple trouble landings there, but a hit overall. 9.825.
Rogers - BB - nice switch + split 1/4 opening combo - check on her loso series which she probably shouldn't have had to take, hits her bhs 3/4 very well tonight, dismount bhs 1/1 to full twist with a small hop. Well done. 9.900.
Wilson - FX - Just the DLO this time, not the full, and bounces back and slides into the corner - no OOB but a significant slide - layout to layout full is fine, finishes with a very short double tuck with a stumble forward - almost fell but saved a fall. One of her weaker routines, they'll want to drop that. 9.725.
Brown - BB - tight full turn with a small check on it, wobble on her loso series, she looks tight so far in this performance - just small checks on every skill, and a wobble on the switch 1/2, hop forward on the 1.5 dismount. She's been looser usually, but that was a tight showing. 9.450. They took for every wobble there. I'm with the judge who gave that a 9.550, more than the 9.350.
Tutka - FX - Strong tuck full mount - layout full to split to front tuck with a hop, just a little bouncy on that one - popa and wolf full are well done - bounces on her double back with a slide. Good routine, but a couple places for deductions there. 9.925. With that bounce and slide on the dismount?
Cheek - BB - Strong loso series, great leg form throughout, switch side is excellent - great height and hit position - pristine side aerial - nice switch leap to straddle 1/4 - sticks her gainer full. Best routine for either team on beam so far. Well done. 9.925. Excellent score, but getting the same score as Wilson and Delaney? Hers was stronger.
Dabritz - FX - Sticks her pike full in, very nice, strong 1.5 to loso as well, split half to wolf full looks fine, basically sticks her triple full - with kinds of a sheepish step back because she thought she was going to stick. Well, let's see what they do. It was better than her 10 last week, but not quite her best of the year. 9.950.
Earls - BB - very strong two layouts series, good switch to straddle 1/4 as well, swings her arms and wobbles on her side aerial to side position, big lunge back on the double back dismount, but they got through four events without a major error counting and will have a strong score. 9.800.
Damianova - FX - Just the smallest bounce on her double back - not quite the control we usually see there - 1.5 to layout is nice, and sticks her double pike - chest a little hunched. Strong routine overall. 10.000. Senior night 10, but good for her. She's done that exact routine probably 15 times in her career for 9.900 and 9.925 scores, but it's senior night.
Final score: Utah 198.025, Georgia 197.600
A really positive meet for both teams. Georgia had a rough finish to the meet last week, and I was concerned that would happen again on beam, but while Brown had a low score, they were able to drop it and pull through for a very strong road score that will help their RQS cause and give them a very good shot to enter Regionals as a #1 seed. There are some areas they still need to improve, and they got some help from the high scores overall in this meet to get that 197.600, but those were four clean, hit rotations. More sticks are needed though, basically on every event. More sticks.
Utah put together four events, and that has been the goal. They'll need to do it again in a week to have a chance at the Pac-12s title. There's still work to do. They had errors in each rotation, some small and some larger, but they're going to have to put together a few more sticks on vault and get rid of some of the bouncing on floor because those will need to be their highest scoring events in the postseason. The beam progress was important, but this is still a team that needs its vault and floor landings to be at its best. They can't rely on beam.
It will be fun if these teams end up meeting again at Nationals and are fighting for a third spot to advance out of one of the semifinals, which may very well happen.