Another weekend done. Before getting to the rankings, a few new topics have emerged.
Keep it simple
Just go clean. As long as you're starting out of a 10, performing relatively simple skills while showing proper amplitude and form has been the way to go for big scores. For evidence of that, we need look no further than Arkansas's 49.600 on Saturday, which is the highest floor score in the country this season by over a tenth and featured zero passes more difficult than a double pike. Sure, the scoring was crazy high to the point of being silly at times in that meet, but those judges were all about those double pikes (and did not care so much about the chest position, amiright?) We also had Kara Lovan with her rudi mount and general wondrousness continuing to get 9.9s, and Alex McMurtry on bars. She was certainly not a bars worker before Florida but showed up with a bare bones routine until the dismount, and got 9.925 for it. Because she kept it simple. And because she was positioned well in the lineup. And because Florida.
We had two more 10s this weekend on vault, coming from Florida's Alex McMurtry and Nebraska's Ashley Lambert. McMurtry's vault was tremendous, and the more I watch it (four times now, which is normal, right?) the more I'm happy with it getting a 10. It's certainly the strongest vault we've seen this year. If I'm ranking the 10s so far, it's McMurtry, then Sloan, then Lambert. How about you?
The beam, you guys
Alabama had three falls. Oklahoma counted a 9.425. What is the world coming to? Plus, Michigan nailed it for 49.225. Up is down. Down is up.
We're still seeing a somewhat erratic standard, but there was a noticeable increase in the scores this weekend, which can be accounted for both by improvement in areas like floor landings as teams work their way into the season as much as an increased frequency of crazy, drunken judges. (What even was the Arkansas vault rotation?) But there were some tightly scored meets as well. I was pleased overall with the judging at Oklahoma/Minnesota. The scores were restrained enough to be realistic and accurate for those routines, yet the judges also showed a willingness to give it up for great performances like Dowell on bars. If all the meets were judged at about that standard, we would be in good shape.
Now, to the rankings.
Week 2 Rankings – (GymInfo)
1. Oklahoma – 197.063
Week 2: 196.500
Week 2 leaders: AA - None; VT - Scaman, Capps 9.900; UB - Dowell 9.950; BB - Capps 9.875; FX - Scaman, Lovan 9.900
The Sooners looked on their way to another comfortable low-mid 197 this week until beam, and it was pretty bizarre to see them struggle there. Haley Sorensen and her beautiful flexibility came into the lineup, but what looked like a break on her series dropped her SV, and Oklahoma ended up counting her 9.425 after Clark fell. Odd, but not a worry. Just that random time Oklahoma wasn't awesome on beam. We'll see if they settle on a lineup soon or keep running through all 45 options that they have. I love "exploring depth," so hopefully we see a few more people.
I was quite impressed by the other three events, though. In the majority of the floor routines, the performance was engaging and the tumbling was clean and comfortable especially for this point in the season (Kanewa still needs time to work back into her passes, but otherwise). They also incurred very few handstand deductions on bars while throwing in a good amount of sticks. Before that beam rotation, I was ready to call this the best performance of the year so far, regardless of score, and it still was for three events.
1. Florida – 197.063
Week 2: 197.200
Week 2 leaders: AA - Hunter 39.500; VT - McMurtry 10.000; UB - Dancose-Giambattisto 9.950; BB - Hunter 9.900; FX - Hunter 9.875
The Gators jump into a tie with Oklahoma this week by virtue of not counting a fall this time. Progress! They still had mistakes (including weird ones like Caquatto falling on floor), but it was a mostly comfortable meet. The floor and vault landings and beam dismounts are still pretty January, but it is January, so that makes sense.
197.200 is a perfectly fine score—the best of the weekend—but not one that reflects how good this team can be, nor one they will want to keep as a home score. Baker and McMurtry came into Sloan's spots on a few events, as expected, and posted solid scores that should improve as the year goes on, but that were still not at the same level as Sloan would have been (9.8s vs. 9.9s). Interestingly, Florida had just one score of 9.9+ on vault and beam and none on floor. Now, Hunter didn't get a 9.9 on vault or floor this time (which happens never), so the number of 9.9s will go up, but it's also going to be down to McMurtry and Baker to continue growing into their routines to act as sufficient replacement 9.9s until Sloan comes back. Then, Florida can expect to do much better than 197.200 for a hit meet.
3. LSU – 196.863
Week 2: 196.600
Week 2 leaders: AA - Jordan 39.525; VT - Everyone 9.850; UB - Courville 9.900; BB - Jordan 9.900; FX - Hall 9.950
I had one eye on LSU's meet while several other meets were going on, but a lot of what I saw the Tigers put up this week was much tighter than they showed in their home debut. That tightness was most evident in a disappointing beam rotation where they were teetering all over the building, but they also forgot to pack their bars sticks when they left for Kentucky. There's no problem with a 196.600 at this point in the year, at a meet that was also among the more realistically scored, but it wasn't a meet to remember. On the happy side, the 196.600 was mostly a result of improved floor landings over last week, with Hall and Gnat pulling their routines together for scores that better reflect the quality of their performances. Now Courville just needs to follow suit. What are these 9.7s, Rheagan?
A lot was made at LSU's meet about everyone getting a 9.850 on vault, but that doesn't bother me so much in theory. If that's the score they're earning, then that's the score they should get. There were a lot of 9.850-quality vaults in that meet and few sticks in that LSU rotation. The bigger problem comes when the judges give HUGE scores to inferior vaults and then leave themselves no room to reward the great ones. In this meet, they left themselves plenty of room to reward better vaults, just no one took advantage of it or earned it. Courville could have gone 9.900, though.
4. Utah – 196.788
Week 2: 196.675
Week 2 leaders: AA - Dabritz 39.600; VT - Dabritz, Lee 9.875; UB - Dabritz 9.925; BB - Dabritz 9.850; FX - Dabritz 9.950
The Utes continue to be solid and hang around the top 5, which is pretty much what I expect from them all season, and I'm excited to see this team go against UCLA next weekend to get a full glimpse of where they are as a group. Dabritz is nailing it as usual, sticking 1.5s for scores that are causing Utah-based outrage from their scandalous un-10-ness (deduction for distance, feet apart on stick?), but most importantly, Dabritz competed beam over the weekend for the highest score on the team. Down really is up on beam this year.
I have been rattling on about this for four seasons, but it still stands (though it's maybe less necessary this year than it was in years before). Dabritz in the beam lineup and hitting is an essential piece for Utah because it gives them another real option who can score 9.850 or more even in a discerning postseason environment. Hopefully we'll see Stover come into form soon and emerge like a phoenix out of the 9.7s to help fill out this lineup of high potential scores, but they have real choices now.
At the same time, the comment from last week still stands. At Friday's meet, the only 9.9s for Utah were earned by Dabritz, and it can't be all about that Dabritz, 'bout that Dabritz. She can't rule the kingdom by herself. Let's step it up, others.
4. Michigan – 196.788
Week 2: 196.975
Week 2 leaders: AA - Sugiyama 39.450; VT - Sugiyama 9.925; UB - Williams 9.925; BB - Brown 9.875; FX - Artz 9.950
Look at you, Michigan! Tied for 4th and #1 in the country on beam! I feel so proud. And surprised. Mostly surprised. And this is without Lauren Marinez, who could have been the best beamer on the team. They've done it with 9.850 rather than huge scores (and it helps that everyone else has been performing like the beam is make of snakes), but 49.225 on beam is a beautiful thing for Michigan. Let's keep it going.
I've also been worried about the depth of scores for Michigan, which is primarily what made Saturday's performance an encouraging result. The Wolverines recorded just three scores under 9.8, two of which could be dropped, and they showed they're much healthier in the 1 and 2 spots than they appeared to be on paper to start the season. Casanova has emerged as more than a one-eventer, Williams is a believable three-eventer now, and Parker is doing some of the best gymnastics in her college career to beef up those early lineups. Artz and Sugiyama are doing well, as expected, and Brown is gaining her sea legs as a significant AAer in pressure spots, but most of all, it is the solidity and competitiveness of those early-lineup workers that is helping Michigan exceed expectations so far this season.
6. Nebraska – 196.213
Week 2: 197.125
Week 2 leaders: AA - Blanske 39.500; VT - Lambert 10.000; UB - Blanske, Lambert 9.850; BB - Williams 9.925; FX - Blanske 9.925
Now this is the Nebraska we expect to see. Insane vaults and 197s. None of this 9.6s garbage from last week. They scored a low 197 this weekend primarily as a result of that 49.750 on vault, which is the highest vault score in team history. In January. But, that's what happens when you have amazing blocks and stuck landings. Nebraska is always going to be in the running for preposterous vault scores when they stick because they are not susceptible to the same amplitude deductions that many teams are, which the judges seem to be cracking down on (occasionally) this season. It's all about the landings for Nebraska.
It also helped that DeZiel came back in the all-around this weekend and the freshmen contributed a couple 9.9s and many 9.8s, which is much closer to the performance I would expect from this very talented new class.
7. Alabama – 196.200
Week 2: 196.175
Week 2 leaders: AA - None; VT - Williams, Clark 9.925; UB - Beers 9.875; BB - Sims 9.900; FX - Brannan 9.925
Well, that was weird, wasn't it? Alabama nailed vault on Friday with the level of bam-bam vaulting an Alabama team should be showing, exhibited improved landings and endurance on floor over last week, and then went to beam and had an epic and memorable catastrophe except for Aja Sims, who was glorious. I was curious about that beam result because I couldn't remember the last time Alabama had such a poor showing. Turns out, it was the worst beam score for the Tide since February 20th, 2009, away against Florida. While last week wasn't as bad, but they'll looked iffy on beam then too. I still don't think this should be a thing, but after two weeks of issues, it's certainly an area to watch next weekend.
Alabama was also somewhat sloppy on bars. I'm still on "Who's getting the 9.9s?" watch for that rotation, especially while Clark is out of the lineup. Jetter has struggled with landing her double front dismount in both meets now, which hurts because she's the next most likely option for 9.9s.
8. UCLA – 196.000
Week 2: 196.000
Week 2 leaders: AA - Peszek 39.550; VT - Peszek 9.950; UB - Lee 9.900; BB - Lee 9.875; FX - Peszek 9.875
We have just the one meet to go on for UCLA since they will be competing in their second meet later on today (which will count as part of week 3), but in the first meet, the Bruins showed themselves off very well on vault with much-improved depth and impressive landings. That has not been the case in recent years and is evidence that maybe the post-Zam vault hangover is abating. They didn't even use Pua, and I thought she would be essential this year—and still can be. Things got wonky once the Bruins moved to the second half of the meet as a lack of endurance was exposed in the final passes on floor, and a general UCLAishness was exposed on beam.
Of course, the star of the meet was Peng Peng Lee, who was brilliant on three events and could have received 9.9 on all of them. I'm very interested to see how she scores at home today if she's able to put up the same performances.
9. Oregon State – 195.713
Week 2 Meet A: 194.450
Week 2 Meet A leaders: AA - Gardiner 39.250; VT - Aufiero 9.850; UB - Gardiner, Tang 9.825; BB - Tang 9.875; FX - Gardiner 9.800
Week 2 Meet B: 195.975
Week 2 Meet B leaders: AA - Gardiner 39.275; VT - Gardiner 9.875; UB - Aufiero 9.825; BB - Gardiner, Perez 9.900; FX - Gardiner, Turner 9.825
The Beavers are coming off a not-terrible performance in the first meet for mid 195s at a tightly scored competition. It's a score they'll soon forget, but they managed to survive with enough 9.8s and this week, stepped things up with a few new 9.9s on beam and more competitive scores all around. The score on Sunday would have been a clear 196 if not for bars problems from a few uncharacteristic people (Chelsea Tang had two falls in that meet, which...is that even a thing?)
If Oregon State is going to make the postseason for the first time in three years, it will be about Gardiner and Tang in the all-around getting the 9.850s on every event, and perhaps adding some beam 9.9s. But along with them, Risa Perez is already emerging as a force on beam and floor, and they'll need Aufiero to get 9.9s on bars and McMillan to rise to her potential (she was one of the top JO gymnastics but has been in the middle of the pack for OSU so far, dealing with frequent injuries).
10. Georgia – 195.700
Week 2: 195.800
Week 2 leaders: AA - Persinger 38.500; VT - Jay 9.950; UB - Davis 9.900; BB - Box 9.850; FX - Box 9.875
Georgia will compete again later today, but this ranking includes the meet from earlier this weekend, which was another 195 showing. Still, with scoring the way it is so far this year, that's good enough to keep the Gym Dogs just afloat in the top 10. They experienced different problems this weekend than last weekend (is that a good thing or a bad thing?), with floor looking safer than it did in the first meet but that old nemesis the beam fall creeping in. When Sarah Persinger falls on beam, they should just cancel the rest of the rotation. In happier news, however, she did compete the all-around. Get it. Also in happy news, Vivi Babalis is emerging as a solid 9.8 on beam and floor through two meets, which is so, so welcome. She and Box are like, "It's not that hard, you guys."
Weirdly, this was another meet of meh bars for Georgia. That shouldn't be happening for a team with this talent, though being without Brittany Rogers hurt severely on that department.
11. Illinois – 195.675
12. Arkansas – 195.613
13. Penn State – 195.350
14. Kentucky – 195.288
15. Denver – 195.263
16. Stanford – 195.225
17. Cal – 194.975
18. Washington – 194.938
19. Auburn – 194.900
20. Michigan State – 194.850
20. Ohio State – 194.850
22. Arizona – 194.813
23. Southern Utah – 194.713
23. Iowa State – 194.713
25. George Washington – 194.675
25. New Hampshire – 194.675