May 21, 2014

2014 NCAA Team Scoring: It's Comfy at the Top

For the last few seasons, I've been particularly interested in the trend of rising scores in NCAA, which is a relevant issue considering that the average team score for the top 36 teams in the country increased four tenths from 2012 to 2013 (from 195.406 in 2012 to 195.802 in 2013). That's almost a fall worth of increase per team per meet, which is fairly insane. Were teams really a fall better in 2013 than in 2012? No. The evaluation of routines is clearly getting more lenient across the board. Now that the 2014 season is over, it's time to revisit the topic following a year in which scores appeared to increase another notch with all the 10s and 198s we saw. Here are the average scores for the NCAA top 36 from 1999-2014:

And here's the same information, but limited to just the span from 2006-2014 to zero in on recent trends.

The results are somewhat interesting for 2014 because while the scores did increase over last season, just as anyone who watched this year would have guessed, the overall increase is not particularly large. Now, those of us who have been following the scores closely would certainly argue that the mega-scoring we saw this season is only part of a trend that began in earnest last season, which is reinforced by the numbers, with 2014 seeing another jump over 2013 and coming in as the second-highest scoring season in NCAA history behind 2004.

But, the increase is perhaps surprising in its smallness. In fact, the increase from 195.802 in 2013 to 195.861 in 2014 comes out to only .059, or just a little bit more than one step per meet per team, which is notable but not exceptionally significant in the grand scheme of meet scoring. It's certainly not the full four tenths leap we saw the previous year. So, why is that? We saw more 198s in 2014 than in 2013, and way more 197s, and the general perception is that scores skyrocketed this season and showed a clear departure even over the high scores of the previous season. What's the deal? Well, the deal becomes somewhat more clear if we break down the top 36 into manageable chunks. Here are the average scores for only the top 12 teams from 1999-2014:

May 12, 2014

2014 Level 10 Nationals Results

Our Level 10s and future NCAA 9.875ers have concluded competition at their national championships, so it's time to examine at who they are, what they've done, and where they're going. If you're not a JO follower (translation: if you're not a parent of a JO gymnast, basically), the competition is broken down into 8 divisions (Junior A-D, Senior A-D) divided by age. For our NCAA purposes, the junior divisions aren't immediately relevant because, even though some of them have already done fetus-verbals to college programs, they're still a long way off and a lot can change.

Full results can be found here, (and associated college verbals and signings can, as always, be found at collegegymfans) but I'm paying attention to only the senior divisions right now with particular emphasis on Senior C and Senior D, the gymnasts we will see entering NCAA programs in just a couple months. Here's what happened: 


Top 10 AA
1. Taylor Harrison - Ohio State 2014-2015
38.475 (VT - 2nd, UB - 2nd, BB - 2nd, FX - 10th)
Ohio State has been stuck in the 195s for a few seasons now, and with Shaffer, Miller, Aepli, and DeLuca all leaving, they are desperate for this kind of winning-senior-D-level gymnastics to remain somewhere in the vicinity of the top teams. They are in dire need of AAers, so seeing an incoming gymnast win with 9.6s and 9.7s in Level 10 in encouraging.

2. Danielle Breen - Nebraska 2014-2015
38.400 (VT - 3rd, UB - 4th, BB - 5th, FX - 5th)
Nebraska is one of the big winners at JO Nationals this year, with several new recruits emerging or confirming their statuses as potential impact gymnasts. Breen is less well-known, but finishing in the top 5 on every event helps. Don't expect a post-Wong, post-Super Six slump for Nebraska in 2015. This is a goo-ood class that should continue bolstering the team's depth.  

3. Kaitlynn Hedelund - North Carolina 2014-2015
38.200 (VT - 12th, UB - 10th, BB - 7th, FX - 10th)
This is Hedelund's second straight year placing in the top 3 in her division, cracking the top 10 on beam both times. UNC also has Lindsey Lemke, a Geddert's girl who placed well in the past, coming in next season, so at least there is some prior success coming in this year for a team that has been off the radar lately. Let's see if it translates.

4. Maddy Stover - Utah 2014-2015
38.175 (VT - 18th, UB - 16th, BB - 1st, FX - 15th)
5. Tiffani Lewis  - Utah 2014-2015
38.125 (VT - 7th, UB - 10th, BB - 7th, FX - 20th)

Nebraska wasn't the only team that had a good weekend. Utah should be toasting these results, with their incoming class recording solid AA placements. Look at those beam rankings. Utah still needs serious restocking on beam after consecutive years of the cracks emerging at the worst time, and they have the opportunity to wholly refresh that lineup for 2015. The interesting thing about Utah next year is that they're losing four major contributors, but they're not losing AAers (Damianova - 3 events, Lofgren - 2 events, Del Priore - 1 event, Hansen - 1 event), so the effect may not be felt as deeply as one would think.  

6. Zoey Schaefer - Washington 2014-2015
38.100 (VT - 29th, UB - 2nd, BB - 15th, FX - 1st)

7. Jordyn Penny - Ball State 2014-2015
38.000 (VT - 18th, UB - 4th, BB - 18th, FX - 12th)

8. Sydney Waltz - Kentucky 2014-2015
37.950 (VT - 18th, UB - 10th, BB - 14th, FX - 20th)

9. Kamerin Moore - Nebraska 2014-2015
37.875 (VT - 7th, UB - 1st, BB - 32nd, FX - 3rd)
Another of the much-anticipated Nebraska gymnasts, but she's more well known because of her tenure as a junior elite and status as a Geddert's gymnast. Moore would have placed right at the top with a hit beam routine, and it's reasonable to expect big things from her. 

10. Alexis Mattern - Ohio State 2014-2015
37.850 (VT - 4th, UB - 37th, BB - 7th, FX - 20th)

Myia Hambrick - LSU 2014-2015
VT - 7th, UB - 10th, BB - 2nd
I expected a higher placement from Hambrick, but a floor error took her out of the top AA rankings. However, she is very strong on floor (she's an LSU gymnast after all) and always seems to do well on beam - 2 years in a row placing 2nd there at nationals, which is the far more important quality for the Tigers right now.

Taylor Allex - errrr, Utah 2012-2013? (Is she planning to go to another program?)
VT - 1st, FX - 5th

Lauren Li - Penn State 2014-2015
VT - 7th, FX - 2nd

Lia Breeden - New Hampshire 2014-2015
BB - 5th, FX - 3rd

Amber Heltemes - Southern Utah 2014-2015
UB - 4th, FX - 5th

Lauren Rice - Sacramento State 2014-2015
BB - 4th

Nichole Guerrero - Alabama 2014-2015
VT - 4th

Corinne Rechenmacher - Kentucky 2014-2015
UB - 4th

Becca Schugel - Missouri 2014-2015
UB - 4th

Kiersten Sokolowski - Lindenwood 2014-2015
VT - 4th

Mary Jacobsen - Oregon State 2015-2016
UB - 4th

Gigi Marino - Georgia 2014-2015
FX - 5th

Alexis Brown - UC Davis 2014-2015
FX - 5th

Jill Van Mierlo - BYU 2014-2015
VT - 7th

Lianne Josbacher - Boise State 2014-2015
BB - 10th

Anya Olson - Brown 2014-2015
UB - 10th

Also, JaNay Honest competed in this session. I mention that just because at last word, she was set to walk on at UCLA, and she scored a solid 9.625 on vault for her yfull. Given the scoring gap UCLA has seen on vault lately (and losing Courtney doesn't help), they're in the market for vaulters.


Top 10 AA
1. Grace Williams - Nebraska 2014-2015
38.725 (VT - 7th, UB - 1st, BB - 3rd, FX - 2nd)
More from Nebraska? Given her years of strong placements in JO, Williams has a chance to be the best of the bunch for Nebraska's incoming team. Note that Williams and Moore both won their division on bars, and that may be where the Huskers need the most infusion of scoring next year. They don't have the Wongs and Giblins anymore.

2. Erin Macadaeg - LSU 2014-2015
38.700 (VT - 4th, UB - 17th, BB - 1st, FX - 1st)
We met Macadaeg and her clean gymnastics at P&G Championships last year, and it's serving her well in JO. As mentioned with Hambrick, that beam placement is her most important virtue, especially considering how hard it will be for even excellent gymnasts to make those vault and floor lineups next year.

3. Kari Lee - Utah 2014-2015
38.475 (VT - 1st, UB - 2nd, BB - 5th, FX - 15th)
For a while we though Lee was going to Arizona, but she switched to Utah, which is a big get for the Utes. She has shown an important mixture of security and power on most of the events boasts an impressive yfull on vault. That vault lineup is going to be a thing.

May 5, 2014


Another week, another batch of developments. I'll keep these weekly updates going in the off-season as long as there are things to say. Otherwise, I'll start delving into numbers. Comparing 2014 NCAA scoring to previous years seems like it will need to happen at some point.
  • First and foremost, it was confirmed today that Rene Lyst will be packing up her meet wardrobe and marching those heels over to Arizona State to take over as head coach following John Spini's retirement. Rene at Arizona State–it makes sense. It seemed like only a matter of time before she extracted herself from that "awkward alert!" co-coaching situation with Mark at Arkansas, but it will be fascinating to see how things play out for her as an independent head coach for the first time. Arkansas has been a very successful team since its inception, but Mark Cook often receives the majority of the credit for that. This is a chance for Rene to establish her own coaching identity in a program that has been screaming for a major shakeup for years. They need to start working beam with the same attitude that Rene uses to shop for clothes, if that makes any sense. 
  • Last week, ESPNU profiled the Alabama/Georgia gymnastics rivalry in "Sarah & Suzanne: Into Darkness." 
  • For those unfamiliar with the history of that time Sarah was pissed that Georgia used the wrong bars, it was a helpful, basic overview of the evolutions of the Alabama and Georgia programs into actual things with actual fans, unearthing the eyeroll-inducing "sweet" Sarah vs. "nasty" Suzanne narrative from back in the day. Maybe that's why I've always liked Suzanne so much. Even during the interviews in this . . . (are we calling it a documentary? That seems like a stretch . . . featurette?) she still looks like she's holding a shiv just out of shot. I respect that. 
  • It didn't tell us anything new or juicy (it was never going to), but it was a perfectly reasonable commercial for the programs and the borderline-terrifying grand dames that built them. Plus, we got to see Kupets again and also how amazing Ashley Miles looks. You know Ashley Miles just wanted to be part of this so that she could be like, "Check this out. Am I a model? Probably." Also, could all those the goobers from the Athens Bee and the Tuscaloosa Aw, Shucks Times or whatever have been any bigger stereotypes of themselves? It was awesome.
  • But really, the clothes. The primary motif and thematic journey of "Sarah and Suzanne" concerns the leotard and fashion choices. Who told any of you that any of this was a good idea? You might try to explain it away by saying that it was a different era, but no. This wasn't just some Kerri Strugg's mom (a.k.a. the state bird of the year 1996) action. No one EVER wore clothes like this. 
    • Tone it down, Betty Crocker. 
    • There were all kinds of strange moments in "Sarah & Suzanne," like when we were treated to a discussion of the perils of Georgia's difficulty while seeing them fall on a layout stepout on beam and a giant on bars. THE DIFFICULTY! Or how much Georgia footage there was of Shayla Worley, Sarah Persinger, and Noel Couch, none of whom ever competed under Suzanne. But for a full guided tour through the trauma, check out Spanny Tampson's breakdown. I mean that in the sense that she broke down the action from the featurette, not like she had a mental breakdown while watching this thing. But you never know. Al Trautwig did make an appearance, and it's always hard to keep going emotionally after that. The biggest problem with Al is that in the last 20 years, he has never gotten past the fact that gymnastics is hard. Yeah, it's hard. Now let's progress from there.