And just like that, the regionals are over. We leave 24 more teams in the dust and turn our attention to the big 12 that have managed to advance to compete for the national championship. Today, the rotation order and individual competitor placement was released.
Afternoon Session (starting event): Georgia (vault), Illinois (bye), Michigan (bars), Oklahoma (beam), LSU (bye), Stanford (floor)
Evening Session (starting event): Florida (vault), Alabama (bye), Utah (bars), UCLA (beam), Penn State (bye), Nebraska (floor)
Off the top, it doesn't look like a particularly bad rotation order for anyone. Beam and floor tend to be the most significant starting/ending events, but in the first session, I like Stanford starting on floor and ending on beam, and I always like Oklahoma starting on beam. They'll embrace that position. Is ending on beam trouble for LSU? We'll find out. Georgia got a gift in that rotation order after the regionals near-nightmare. They're like the France of this competition. (World Cup qualifications reference? Anyone?) In the second session, I think Nebraska and Penn State probably would have preferred not to start on floor and end on beam, since beam can be a worry for both. That's a harder rotation for Nebraska, but they got through the same rotation well at regionals, even though beam was just endured.
We have nice battles for the final qualifying spots in each semifinal. If we call Oklahoma and LSU the favorites in the first, then Stanford, Georgia, and Michigan will clashing for the final spot, and the same is the case in the second with Utah, UCLA, and Nebraska if we think of Florida and Alabama as the favorites. If things go as they've gone this season, the second semifinal could end up being a more straightforward affair for Florida, Alabama, and Utah, but I'm not quite ready to bet on that yet. P.S. you guys, is Stanford going to make Super Six?
Of those respective challenging trios, Georgia and UCLA will be ending the meets on the floor while the others will be on byes. Teams always like to finish competing, and score building will be a topic of discussion there. In the unnecessary fact department, Utah has started on bars and finished on vault twice so far this year and twice scored a 197.300.
I'll be doing the whole breakdown in the coming weeks, but I appreciate that this year we have two semifinals with relatively equivalent levels of competitiveness. Last year, one was essentially a slam dunk while the other was a game of thrones.
In case you were curious, if NQS were still in effect this season, the semifinals would be as follows:
Afternoon: LSU, Florida, Utah, Nebraska, Georgia, Penn State
Evening: Oklahoma, Alabama, Stanford, Michigan, UCLA, Illinois
Better or worse? Not really sure. Maybe more fun, though. Because all the top teams qualified this year, predetermining the semifinals has worked out just fine, but I still don't like it. Just wait for the year when we have true upsets and completely unbalanced semifinals.
Our individual AA qualifiers are
Moriah Martin (Denver), Lindsay Mable (Minnesota), Chelsea Tang (Oregon State), Madeline Gardiner (Oregon State), Kalliah McCartney (Sac State), Alicia Asturias (Cal), Alexis Gunzelman (Rutgers), Caitlin Brown (Iowa State), Katherine Grable (Arkansas), Marie Case (Kent State), Hope Sloanhoffer (West Virginia), and Amanda Wellick (Arkansas)
The event qualifiers are
Dallas Crawford - bars (Cal), Audrey Harrison - beam (Kentucky), Kaytianna McMillian - beam (Oregon State), Hanna Nordquist - beam (Minnesota), Emily Heinz - beam (Central Michigan), Kelsey Morris - bars (Boise State), Halle Moraw - beam (Central Michigan), Taylor Noonan - beam (Central Michigan), Ciera Perkins - floor (Boise State)
The major AAers in that crop are Grable and Mable (rhyming!) Both have been placed with teams that knocked them out of regionals (Utah and Illinois, respectively). Mable has the added possible - though often overstated - struggle of going in the first semifinal, but Grable has been placed in the second. The scoring advantage of being in the second session over the first is a question mark for me. We've seen plenty of people win the AA from the first session, but we've also seen plenty of two-session NCAA meets where the scores do rise noticeably (like Pac 12s this year). Grable will have the challenge of competing without her team, but she can build on Utah's scores and has enough name recognition that the judges won't overlook her. It's harder than it would have been with her team, but she's not out of the AA title race.
And if you think that's too many individual beam workers, blame Georgia and Florida not getting any 9.9s on beam. Which brings me to a point: some of these teams performed distinctly barfily at regionals and should be thanking their lucky stars that they got through. UCLA needed the wobbly beam rotation of Arkansas to forgive them for counting a fall, Florida ended up being a Kytra beam routine away from a shocking upset of all upsets (huge hit for her, especially after bars), and Georgia basically has the seeding system to thank for its second chance after mistakes in two rotations. We've seen many teams perform better than Georgia did on Saturday and miss out on Nationals (and they're called Oregon State).
Interesting note: If Georgia had been the #1 team in the country, they wouldn't be going to Nationals right now because their 196.375 would not have advanced from that regional, being below OSU and PSU's scores. They were the beneficiaries of the seeding system that rewards being in the middle of the top 10 more than being a top team. As it stood, the Gym Dogs didn't even really come that close to being knocked out. This is good because Nationals will be a better competition with them in it, but it's definitely a strange way to put together a system and robbed us of some more competitive action on regionals day.
In conclusion, get excited for semifinals because they will be close. I could make an argument for the large majority of these teams going through.