January 12, 2015

Week 1 Rankings and Notes

The first full weekend of NCAA gymnastics competition is now in the books, and the season's first rankings are out. Oklahoma currently leads the way by a pretty healthy margin after Friday's 197.625, coming up just short of their season-opening mark from last season of 197.700. We also saw the 10 club welcome its first member of the year, with Bridget Sloan earning the first vault 10 of her career with a stuck yurchenko full. Then, on her very next routine, she injured her foot (no broken bones, MRI to come — Sloan Watch 2015) and crutches ensued. Because gymnastics.

Of note, last year at this time, the #10 score in the country was 196.200. This year it's 195.025. We certainly saw some big scores given to major schools this weekend in meets no one would describe as tightly scored, but let's keep an eye on the separation between the top teams and everyone else as the weeks pass. 

For now, here's how the teams stack up. Note that UCLA, Oregon State, Washington, and Kentucky are not included in these rankings because they don't begin competition until tonight. And let me use this opportunity to once again say BOO to Monday meets. 


1. Oklahoma - 197.625
Week 1 leaders: AA - None; VT - Scaman 9.950; UB - Wofford 9.925; BB - Capps 9.925; FX - Scaman 9.950

Oklahoma takes the #1 spot because, of the teams with 197 potential, they were the only one to put together a meet of four very strong rotations. Like pretty much all the teams, they had mistakes we wouldn't expect to become trends as the season progresses (Rebecca Clark just doesn't fall on bars), but their nine 9.9s indicate that the Sooners are picking up where they left off last season, but with some added pop. Ali Jackson is certainly in the conversation for best freshman debut, scoring 9.925 on both her events.

2. LSU - 197.125
Week 1 leaders: AA - Jordan 39.550 ; VT - Courville 9.900; UB - Courville 9.975; BB - Jordan 9.925; FX - Jordan 9.925

LSU could very well have matched Oklahoma's score if not for a floor rotation starring a bunch of extremely January landings. Four of the six floor routines contained what I would consider major errors, but that was the only real issue with LSU's first meet. By far the most encouraging part of the performance came on bars. The Tigers scored a 49.600 for that rotation, largely because it looked the farthest along of any of the teams competing this weekend, particularly in the handstand and sticking department, which they have clearly focused on earlier than many of the other teams do. Handstands and sticking are often scrappy in January, but that looked like a March bars performance. 

3. Florida 196.925
Week 1 leaders: AA - Hunter 39.475; VT - Sloan 10.000; UB - Sloan, Caquatto 9.950; BB - Boyce 9.925; FX - Caquatto 9.925

This probably qualifies as one of the more disappointing third-best scores in the country ever. Florida managed a 196.925, the best opening mark in school history (?!), yet no one was leaving that meet happy. Everything went swimmingly for two rotations. They were hitting routines, and the scores were gigantic (this was the softest-scored meet I saw over the weekend), but then things turned yucky on floor. Shisler tore her Achilles in the warmup, the first few routines were sloppy, and then Sloan came up short on her double pike dismount and had to be pulled from the meet. They finished with a significant struggle on beam including two falls and a major wobble (though BDG did come through with a lovely routine), and what looked for a while like a 198 meet ended up in the 196s. The score is fine. Obviously, the worry is the Sloan injury. It changes everything.

As for Sloan's 10, it's hard to argue with it now because she's all broken. She can have the 10 as not much of a consolation. It's also tough to debate this one because given the angle of the stream. We didn't have a good enough view of the landing position to make a serious case. Her vaults are usually close to 10s, but as with many 10s, this one was inevitable for a stick because the judges had already backed themselves into a corner with inflated scores for the three previous vaults. When very uncontrolled landings can get 9.800-9.850, a Sloan stick is a 10 by comparison. 

4. Utah - 196.900
Week 1 leaders: AA - Wilson 39.450; VT - Dabrtiz 9.925; UB - Dabritz 9.900; BB - Rowe 9.900; FX - Wilson 9.900

It was a comfortable performance from Utah to start the season. All the rotations scored over 49 and no falls were counted. That usually qualifies as a victory in an opening meet. The Utes had just one major error, the fall from Lothrop on bars, which is not a worry. She has about one of those every season, and this was it. The beam lineup was my primary focus for this meet, and while there were a couple wonky moments and some of the usual issues with splits, Lee and Stover got into the lineup and no one really looked like falling, so it's a step forward. If they can settle and refine over the next month, this should be a good rotation. But do watch out for some of those early 9.7s that really shouldn't be happening. They can't be in a position of waiting for Dabritz to get a 9.950 to make the rotation look reasonable.  

5. Michigan - 196.600
Week 1 leaders: AA - Artz 39.450; VT - Chiarelli 9.900; UB - Brown 9.850; BB - Artz 9.900; FX - Artz 9.900

Michigan gets the shiny star of the week. It was not an amazing or groundbreaking performance, mid-196s rarely are, but it was among the solider performances of the weekend for a team that probably had the best excuse for a disaster considering how many of these routines had never seen the light of competition before. The Wolverines put up their best score on vault as a result of relatively controlled landings, which was pretty revolutionary since one of the themes of the weekend was bouncing 11,000 feet out of yurchenko fulls. Brianna Brown showed four hit events and a bars routine with 9.9 potential, Talia Chiarelli had her best meet altogether, and Nicole Artz was stellar on beam and floor.  

Depth is still a concern. There's no buffer on many of these events, especially for the next few weeks while Austin Sheppard remains out. That was revealed when Casanova had to be pulled from beam and poor Brooke Parker was shoved into the lineup and fell 60 times. There's no margin for a major player having a mistake or not being able to go. Still, 49.100 on beam is a win.

6. Alabama - 196.225
Week 1 leaders: AA - Bailey 39.375; VT - Clark 9.950; UB - Beers, A Sims 9.875; BB - A Sims 9.900; FX - Frost 9.925

A low 196 at home is not going to be considered a victory for Alabama, regardless of the experience of the lineup, though given the other performances over the weekend, it still affords them a fairly acceptable ranking of #6. They had enough 9.875s to be safe. If not for the fall from Jetter and the disaster from Kiana Winston on bars in her debut routine, Alabama probably would have been up with Utah and Florida in this week's rankings. But, following a sound performance in the first rotation, Alabama was uncharacteristically tentative on the remaining events, especially on beam. It's a shame about Winston having such trouble in her first routine and falling on an opening nothing element. In the meets when Clark is out on bars, they're going to need Winston to step into the void. She can be a 9.9.

7. Georgia - 195.600
Week 1 leaders: AA - None; VT - Jay 9.925; UB - Davis, Brown 9.875; BB - Babalis, Box 9.850; FX - Brown 9.850

And now we drop into the 195s. It was a rough meet for Georgia all around, and this 195.600 is the Gym Dogs' weakest team score since the very first meet under Danna Durante in January 2013, when a similar bout of sluggish performances culminating in floor falls saw them fall to Oklahoma. Those making their debuts looked very tight, though we did see an appealing beam performance from Vivi Babalis, but the primary culprits for the 195 were weak landings on vault and floor. So, so many of the gymnasts were seriously spent by the time their floor dismounts came around, and as a group they looked unprepared to hit those routines at the end of a two-hour meet. Another theme of the weekend across all of NCAA was huffing-and-puffing final passes landed with chests basically touching the ground.

8. Nebraska 195.300
Week 1 leaders: AA - Lambert 39.175; VT - Lambert 9.875; UB - Laeng 9.825; BB - Williams 9.800; FX - Lambert 9.825

Like Georgia, Nebraska had a fairly sour start to the season with a 195.300, which is far below what we would expect from this team, especially because they don't have the excuse of counting a fall that Alabama and Georgia do. No counting falls, just had a lot of 9.6s and 9.7s and very few scores better than that. Ashley Lambert and Hollie Blanske on vault were the only gymnasts who managed to break the 9.850 barrier, with most of the normal competitors (including the freshmen Grace Williams and Kamerin Moore) stuck in lackluster zone. The biggest issue at this meet, however, was the lack of Jessie DeZiel. She was out with a minor toe injury but isn't expected to miss much time at all, and once she's back, Nebraska should be able to pull a Stanford and look much more competitive the second time out.

9. Illinois - 195.175
Week 1 leaders: AA - O'Connor 39.200; VT - O'Connor 9.850; UB - Lyons 9.850; BB - O'Connor 9.800; FX - O'Connor, Horth, Buchanan 9.775

The Illini also managed to sneak over the 195 marker, which normally would not be an accomplishment, but since so few teams have done it so far, a meet of 48.7s is enough to get Illinois into the top 10. For a team that is always pecking around those #11-12 spots, they won't be satisfied with this score, even though I can't remember the last time Illinois was this high, even at the beginning of the year. They did hit a 49 on bars, which certainly can be their best event (as they showed at Regionals last year with an exceptional rotation), and they scored that even with a disaster routine from Sunny Kato, who should be their bars star.  

10. Cal - 195.025
Week 1 leaders: AA - Owens 39.050; VT - Leong 9.875; UB - Ho 9.825; BB - Gallarzo 9.825; FX - Williams 9.900

Cal sticks around in the top 10 after a high 194 at Sacramento State over the weekend. Cal is the only team in the top 10 that has competed twice so far, since Stanford is still trying to recover from that opening disaster (though this weekend's low 196 was a good start—full lineups help!). Toni-Ann Williams continues to be the standout competitor so far, but Cal did have four falls in this meet and recorded 16 of 24 scores under 9.800, which accounts for the 194. They can do better. Beam remains a worry.

11. Minnesota - 194.950

12. Arkansas - 194.900

13. Stanford - 194.863

14. Bowling Green  194.775

15. Penn State - 194.675

15. Ohio State - 194.675

17. Denver - 194.500

18. Arizona - 194.375

19. George Washington - 194.325

20. Arizona State - 194.200

21. Auburn - 194.150

22. Michigan State - 194.075

23. Utah State - 193.975

24. Eastern Michigan 193.925

24. Southern Utah 193.925


  1. Are you blogging for UCLA @ Oregon? -Jacob

  2. when is stanford? why can't they all just compete on the same goddamn day and make it less confusing? and sloan better not be out fir the season.
    i look forward to your blog. major highlight of ncaa season, for reals. thanks.

    1. The neutrals will suffer, but OU, Bama, LSU and Utah's campaigns got a shot in the arm if Florida is down their main star. Don't get me wrong, UF has the depth to still pull it out, but if it comes down to nationals to a few fractions of a point..... (and let's be honest, of course it will), we'd always be left wondering about Sloan if Florida lost.

  3. Thanks for the commentary, as always. Have you seen this? (cross-posted at collegegymnasticsboard):

    Very interesting recap here: http://www.collegegymfans.com/index.php/news-sp-743792805/features/articles/item/4992-week-1-recap-the-season-takes-shape.html

    I was very interested to see that the officials and coaches are as interested in resolving regional scoring variability as many of us are...

    "Scoring Variability
    During the preseason, the Judges and Coaches have worked to establish standards in judging to help reduce the variability in "toughness" of scoring. They've published videos of routines and provided ranges of typical scores. This has resulted in some meets seeing tighter scoring than what certains fans are used to seeing. In a few other cases, we actually saw a slight loosening. However, there is a risk that this effort to establish consistency in judging may have actually resulted in a wider range of variation. Or, this variation has become more noticeable to fans (and teams) used to more lenient scoring. These fans may be left wondering why the same routines are scoring lower. For a perfect example of how variation can impact scores, just check out the videos of two meets held at CMU. At the first meet, the tighter scoring (on vault in particular) was compared by CMU Head Coach Jerry Reighard as something akin to what he's used to seeing at Regionals. The next week, with a different panel, the scoring was noticeably looser on several events (and the execution improved). This is, of course, entirely out of control of the coaches or the athletes. We'll likely have to wait several weeks as this variation has time to to normalize. In another example, at Oregon State, many fans were upset with what they perceived as overly strict scoring, especially on the floor. However, the two judges on the event were highly rated Brevet/National judges who are "regulars" to judging meets in Corvallis and top meets nationwide. You can safely assume that the targeted standard for judging strictness was applied to judging the meet. We'll see if this standard holds or if some other level of evaluation strictness evolves.

    Mind the Gap!

    This past spring, the committes that control the evaluation standards for execution in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics program made a change in the way "stuck" landings are evaluated. Changes in the way executation is evaluated are adopted from the JO Program by the NCAA, even though the high level code requirements are different. (We highlighted these changes in a prior article). In past codes, a gymnast that lands with her feet more than shoulder width apart would face a deduction. This is still true. The gymnast will also face an automatic deduction (up to 0.1) if she lands with her feet staggered, one in front of the other. However, the standards now also include a new execution standard for when a landing is made with the feet apart, but less than shoulder width apart. The gymnast now must slide her heels together, without lifting her feet or sliding the balls of her feet, and join the feet together in a controlled extension. Otherwise, a deduction of up to 0.1 points is taken, as long the dismount was otherwise "stuck". So, don't be surprised if you see "stuck" landings being deducted. This new change is not yet being evenly enforced by the judges, nor is it being executed in the prescribed fashion by many gymnasts. Gymnasts have it long ingrained in their minds to hold their feet in place, and not slide any portion of their foot."

    PS Congrats on the #2 ranking in fantasy gymnastics!