Barely. I barely know where to begin about yesterday. That was a completely thrilling, high-quality competition, as simultaneously exciting and well-executed as college gymnastics is supposed to be. Best Super Six ever? It has a good argument. That makes two of the last three seasons with incredibly close finishes, which never used to happen, especially when Georgia and UCLA were in their years of winning by a million points. Something I rail against, the margins between the scores being so small all the time without significant separation between good and great routines, is actually what leads to these finishes. So at least something good comes out of it.
As for the tie, I'm still in several minds about it. On the one hand, finishing with two winners is all a little cute. It's a little "hooray for everyone." Almost deflating after the exciting back and forth. I wouldn't have been mad at them for breaking the tie. It's sport. It's supposed to be ruthless. At the same time, I'm so glad that Oklahoma won its first national championship that I'm basically OK with the tie. Oklahoma had an amazing competition last night - and consistently performs such clean, beautiful, confident, and creative gymnastics - so if the tie had been broken (which would have given Florida the win), it would have felt like the Sooners had been cheated out of a maiden title.
And now after that we're supposed to focus on event finals? It's going to be tough, especially because we'll be paying more attention to all the people who didn't advance to finals since there are so many major routines not competing today. If you have 16 people in beam finals, but none of them are Danusia Francis, does it make a sound? Can we at least try to make Katherine Grable's floor go viral? The event begins at 2:00 CT. Here's the order:
In vault finals, I'm rooting for anyone who goes for the more difficult vault that they downgraded away from this season. I'm looking at you Ashleigh Gnat and Georgia Dabritz. I need to see your 1.5s. Let's see if we can get a Brandie Jay DTY again, too. I went back and watched it again from Super Six - it happened during Savona's floor - and she completed it so early that it was easy to mistake for a full. Big steps back, which accounted for the low score, but that's the kind of crazy upgrade I want to see in EFs. However, the win will probably go to the stuckiest full, and there are several strong nominees. Also Grable's ro 1/2 on pike half. That should win too. Maybe we'll have some more ties.
The Stanfords didn't get a great draw on bars, but I'm hoping for them to make a splash in what looks to be a Florida fest. Who would have picked only one Georgia gymnast making bars finals? More Gym Dogs made beam finals than bars finals. Gymnastics. Beam is usually the most interesting and least predictable of the finals, because it's beam, and that should be true again. No frontrunner there, maybe Kim Jacob? It's her best event, she's competing late in the order, and her routine has solid difficulty.
Floor will be a strange final, another with so many top contenders not qualifying. I'm looking at Scaman, Sampson, and Grable as our most likely nominees. Wong? Milliner? There are a few solid choices, and floor always is the most controversial of the event finals when everyone is hitting all the passes. Recall that time Kat Ding won randomly, and the gymternet would have exploded if we all didn't love Kat Ding so much?
The broadcast is beginning on this, the day of constant dancing. Bart and Kathy are recapping last night's crazy pants. Hadn't seen the Kim Jacob mount fall yet. That's crazy. Both of those Alabama falls were very random.
We're looking at Rhonda and KJ now. Oh, see this is why I can't be too harsh about the tie. Look at them all smiley. Do I have a heart now? Ugh. That sounds irritating.
Sloan - VT - Excellent stick on the yfull like she does every time. It will be hard for her to win from the first spot, but a solid start. Already more sticks than last year's final. 9.9167
Morgan - UB - Great piked jaeger and shoots to the low bar. I saw one short handstand in there and a hop forward on the double front. 9.8375
Grable - VT - Yes you did! Another stick - two in two vaults. Great power on her ro 1/2 on pike 1/2, great chest position on landing, and legs pretty well together as well. 9.9750. Amazing. That will be tough to beat.
Courville - UB -Hits a solid jaeger, clean form on her bail as well - stick on the tuck full. We'll probably see people later beat this, but that's a solid foundation to beat.
Cheek - VT - Third stick in a row! Great vault - great leg form - just a little chest forward, which will bring her score down. 9.9167
Shapiro - UB - The toe point and the handstands - so excellent - "Sami's toe point just makes me salivate" - excellent pak salto - perhaps rushed her final handstand a little - just does hang onto the stick for long enough. Great routine. 9.9250
Dabritz - VT - She does the 1.5 like I asked for. Thank you Gerogia. Hops forward so she won't contend. No one will be able to win without a stick now after Grable's score, but she gets points for doing the more difficult vault. 9.8667
Vaculik UB -nice hop hecht to the high bar - her gienger!! (appropriate number of exclamation points?) Another with her excellent handstands and toe point - also hangs onto her dismount. 9.9000.
Sugiyama - VT - Another very strong 1.5, small step forward. Great to see her in finals. She often gets overshadowed in that Michigan vault lineup, but she's excellent. 9.8667
M Caquatto - UB - Very clean shaposh to a pristine bail, great form throughout but does hop back on the dismount. 9.8875
Courtney - VT - Very nice yfull - and a small step back. She vaulted amazingly in event finals last year - her best of the year. This wasn't quite that, but strong. 9.8750
Peszek - UB - great first handstand and finishes her full turn right on top. She arches her handstand after the gienger again today - which she did in semifinals - but this time she goes over. Surprising. She's had some mistakes at this event that we never see from her.
That's the end of the first subdvision for vault and bars. So happy for Grable. That score will be nearly impossible to beat, but we'll see what happens in the second group. Shapiro is our current leader on bars, but her 9.9250 is more attainable by some of the people in the second group.
"The scores between 9.950 and 10 should be reserved for the truly exceptional." - Kathy. Correct.
Chatter about the possible 5-up-5-count format. If we count all the scores, we need to retain 6 routines. We shouldn't limit the amount of gymnastics. Kathy rightly points out that counting all the scores makes all routines have the same urgency, which reduces the ebb and flow of the action. I agree with that sentiment. I like the varying stakes in the routines when a score can be dropped.
Jay - VT - Come on, if you can do an accidental DTY, you can do an on-purpose one right? Ha. OK 1.5 but one of her weaker of the season, short with a step back.
Sloan - UB - Excellent Ray, hitting her handstands, and sticks her DLO. I'll be interested to see how they evaluate things like her flexed feet on the tkatchev that don't get deducted during the season. That comes into account more for event finals. 9.9375
Scaman - VT - Sticks her full again - probably even better than the vault from Super Six, a more solid stick - opens out of it and nails the landing. 9.9667. In just behind Grable.
Johnson - UB - Everything looks as it usually does except for a leg break on the bail handstand, sticks her DLO but lands squatty and has the leg separation on the DLO, so probably not as high as the others.
Mable - VT - Great yfull as most of them are showing. Nice straight body position throughout this vault - small hop on the landing, and she doesn't open out of it the way a couple of vaulters will.
Spears - UB -Clean jaeger,perfectly solid on the bail, hits her final handstand and was going well until a big lunge back on the double arabian, which will take her out of it.
Courville - VT - She sticks it this time. This will be interesting to compare with Grable and Scaman - she'll get the points for distance - we see the leg separation on the block and a little forward in the chest. I'd have her in third right now. Let's see. Oooh, 9.9750. Same score as Grable. Will she be co-champion again.
Sampson - UB - Has to press up her first handstand, but the tkatchev is solid and bail is hit, one short handstand at the end - does the DLO 1/1 dismount, and a step forward. Love the difficulty, but she had errors.
Gnat - VT - Love that she returned to the 1.5, but a big step on the landing. I'd love to see her go back and try to DTY at some point because she finishes that 1.5 so early and so easily.
Jacob - UB - Solid Ray, just short on a couple of these handstands, and the most surprising part is that she didn't stick the DLO for the first time in a thousand years. Small step back.
Kanewa - VT - And she sticks as well - very solid vault - doesn't have the Courville distance or the amplitude to get the big, big score, but well done.
Cheek - UB - Great first hs, excellent tkatchev, great legs throughout - nails her bail - short on the final handstand - and a step back on the DLO. She had a shot at it, but too many errors there to pass Sloan.
Sloan is the bars champion. Strong routine with no mistakes. I thought Shapiro's routine was the strongest of the group because of her better precision through the toes on all her skills, but it was close. Rheagan Courville and Katherine Grable tie for the vault title, which is the second year in a row that Courville has tied for the vault win. I would have had them 1) Grable, 2) Scaman, 3) Courville. But I'm so, so pleased at what high quality vaults we saw in finals. Last year, we had a million vaulters and only 1 or 2 sticks, but the large majority stuck this year, which is very refreshing. Well done.
Now get ready for this epic miniseries of a beam final.
Capps - BB - Trying to raise the level in the first routine - strong loso series, comfortable full turn, solid walkover, switch to straddle 1/4, sticks her gainer full. Solid start and should set a good foundation score here. Probably won't contend for the win, but a good hit.
Beers - FX - Hits her DLO - she can do it with the chest more forward, though - front layout to front full - and a nice stick on the double back. It's a strong hit routine but not necessarily a special routine, which is what it should take in a floor final. The performance and the creativity have to go with the tumbling.
Gardiner - BB - takes a wobble on her stag jump, which is a shame because she works beautifully. Nice to see her make finals without a team. Very solid walkover and loso series - hits her side somi, and a very strong double full dismount. Just the early wobble will hurt her.
Jay - FX - Lands pretty low on her full out this time - chest in the knees - but it's stuck, front full to front layout, and she is also pretty low on her double pike final pass. A few landing errors there, so that score won't be too high.
Box - BB - small wobble on her tuck jump full turn, hits her bhs loso - she's pulling it together after that early wobble - secure walkover and otherwise great landings. Sticks her 1.5. Nice after the start.
Albright - FX - Is Bart the only person who calls it the "World Olympic Gymnastics Academy" instead of "WOGA"? Solid front double full, and then a 1.5 to front full - does well to keep that in bounds - completes it right to the edge - nice straddles that are fully to 180 - excellent rudi to finish. Solid. Not quite as strong as her Super Six performance but could challenge Beers' score right now. 9.9125.
Blanske - BB - Solid three series and secure landing - bent knees there - hits her front tuck and a nice switch side to follow - sticks her double full as she has all weekend.
Wong - FX - That triple full. Great. Small small bounce? Solid on the front full to layout - like Grable, she's one who takes regular choreography and makes it stronger because of how she carries herself. No major issues on any skills there. 9.900.
Johnsn - BB - Pretty walkover to bhs - great switch split to split - good elevation and split position - finishes with her side aerial to a stuck layout full. I would think that can move into first for the moment, pretty and solid. No wobbles like the others. Nope 9.8500. OK.
Kanewa - FX - Perfect stick on her pike full in - no question there - nailed that landing. Just had to pull around her middle pass a bit. Maybe she used up all her energy reacting to sticking vault. Secure final double pike as well - she was not going to budge on those passes. 9.9500.
Ewing - BB - Great two-footed layout. She hasn't wobbled on that all weekend. Strong switch side as well. LSU is coming together on beam - next year should be great. This is very secure, and a stuck 1.5 dismount. Great routine. Nailed that one. Nice to see her bring that to finals. 9.8875. Three-way ties.
Jacob - FX - Another solid pike full in - controlled step back - same on the double pike - just very secure on these passes, same with the 1.5 to full dismount. She is so efficient in her movements and keeps those legs together throughout everything.
Nordquist - BB - Uh oh, huge wobble on her switch side and she comes off the beam. But now how is Kathy going to obsess over her full turn? She didn't make a single sound about it this time. Disappointing. She pulls it together well after the fall - strong side aerial to loso, followed by a side aerial to a stuck layout full dismount. Very secure after the fall.
Schleppenbach - BB - Hits her walkover to bhs, she has very stretchy/lungey beam choreo which is different than we normally see - nice splits and a stuck loso to layout full. Kathy is not happy with Nebraska's form on beam. She mentions it every time.
After the first group, we have a million-way tie for the lead on beam, but it's under 9.900, so I can't imagine that holding up for the second flight. We have a number of people who should get 9.9s in the second group. Kanewa is leading on floor over Jacob by a small margin. Kanewa got the bonus for really sticking those first and third passes. No question that she nailed them.
Cheek - BB - pretty full turn - excellent loso as well - that perfect switch side (just perfect - not possible to be better) - clean side aerial and good use of extended wrists after that. Sticks her gainer full. That should be in first. Great routine. I'll even forgive her dismounting with a gainer full. 9.900.
Scaman - FX - Great DLO - better than yesterday in the control - and of course she gets bonus points from me for doing a combo pass ending in a floaty layout stepout - switch side and popa look strong - solid double tuck. Let's see - to me her routine is stronger than Kanewa's, but I have thought that other times this season when the scores didn't reflect it. 9.9500. She ties Kanewa - straight 9.950s from all judges for both.
Wong - BB - Perfect two loso series, goes for the popa but bends at the waist to hang onto it. That's a shame, so no event championships for Wong. A couple more small wobbles coming after the big one - very strong double full dismount.
Savona - FX - 1.5 through to double back is strong - she does tend to bounce ever so slightly on her landings, which the judges can interpret as lack of control - but not on the full in middle pass - great landing - just that little bounce on the double pike as well, but identical to her hits earlier in the competition.
Vaculik - BB - Great switch to back tuck - and strong on the rulfova as always - great toe point through her bhs loso series - holds her leg out on the full turn well - this is an excellent routine - was going to be great until the big hop on the double full dismount. Otherwise she could have challenged Cheek.
Tutka - FX - Nails her full in mount, and a solid layout to rudi to split to front tuck middle pass - energetic and solid on the landings, just bends in the knees on the double tuck landing - pretty much the routine we've seen from her all year for 9.900-9.925 - then just the issue on the last pass, so I don't see it challenging the top.
DeZiel - BB - Starts with a walkover - then goes into the layout stepout series, some pauses here but no breaks - secure front toss - one step back on the 1.5 dismount. Solid throughout, but regular. They've been keeping scores pretty low, so that will probably stay in the 9.8s with the others in that gaggle.
Damianova - FX - The usual double tuck mount, not as precise on the landing as we've come to expect from her, a slide back there. 1.5 to front tuck and a little lunge out of that as well, we usually see her tumbling much more secure than this. Short on the double pike with a lunge forward.
DeMeo - BB - If she nails this routine, she has the difficulty to get the judges' respect for a big score. Front handspring mount is strong as always, clean walkover, right on with her two-footed layout. One wobble after her switch split, which is the only major thing going to the dismount - very short on the double pike dismount with a lunge.
Milliner - FX - Did she just open with a pike full in just because instead of her double arabian? Go ahead on you. Front layout to front full, dismounts with the double arabian now. Big points for difficulty there, just a somewhat short landing on her double arabian with a step back. Love that she threw extra difficulty on her last routine. Love that.
Jacob - BB - No trouble on the mount now, switch to popa is very strong, excellent series with two layouts as well. If she nails this, I have to assume she'll move into first, but then she misses her barani this time. Just can't save it and comes off the beam. Going into this season, that barani was just so, so solid but a few misses this year. She probably would have won with a hit.
Sampson - FX - These last two can challenge the Oklahoma 9.950s. Perfect DLO - amazing control on the landing as well - just great. Front full to layout is nailed as well. She is bringing it through these first two passes. Great dance elements, and a stuck double pike as well. That could come close to the OUs. Better than her winning routine from last year? Right with it? She ties the others, but with a 10 from 1 judge.
Caquatto - BB - Kathy thinks Macko is "precious." Ha. Strong loso series and hits her walkover well with an ever-so-slight pause before connecting to the swingdown. Tight full turn, was going very well, and then takes a step on the gainer full dismount. Just some small errors - not sticking the gainer full is a big one.
Grable - FX - Is she going to join the tie? Beat it? Awesome double arabian half out - just excellent every time - great dance elements - 1.5 to front full to stepout - just the last pass to come - solid double pike as well. Let's see how the judges compare it to the other excellent 9.950s. Do we say she was perfect on the double pike? The replay shows it just a little low in the knees, but I'm deciding to ignore it.
Spears - BB - Cheek is still the current leader, but Spears can challenge. Great onodi to swingdown - she didn't get to 180 there on her split leap, but she is nailing all the landings, and sticks her gainer full. Let's see if she can pass Cheek. Just a 9.900 for Cheek, which is not insurmountable.
Grable moves into first place to win floor in her final routine. I'm not mad about it. Great for her, two event titles, and an awesome floor routine with original difficulty and excellent execution. Spears moves ahead of Cheek to win beam on the final routine. I think I would have gone for Cheek over Spears, but both strong routines with little between them.
VAULT - Grable and Courville
BARS - Sloan
BEAM - Spears
FLOOR - Grable
So that's our NCAA gymnastics season. Weird. Kind of wistful, isn't it?
We're into the land of a million trophies. Enjoy the ceremony, and thanks for a great season people. At some point soon I'll come up with some general impressions and summations of the season. I probably still have some thoughts somewhere that I haven't expressed.