Before we get to today's good old-fashioned Georgia/Utah showdown, some early action has already gone down today with the first of two Big Ten Pre-Championships. The biggest story of that meet was Nebraska continuing to be stressful. It's never easy with Nebraska, is it? The Huskers had a great beam rotation this time (which we know they're always capable of, though isn't a given), but a good score was already a lost cause after an opening bars rotation with two sub-8 scores. No coming back from that, especially with a bunch of 9.7s on floor as well. Those floor 9.7s are nothing new for Nebraska (it seems like they're always getting 9.7s on floor right up until championships and it's not a problem come nationals), but this total score will preclude them from finishing the season ranked any higher than 9th. [Actually, there is still a chance to move ahead of Auburn next week, depending.]
In spite of Nebraska's issues, Illinois was only barely able to win the meet with an OK performance (196.050 to Nebraska's 196.000) that also featured too many 9.7s, scores that cannot happen if they're going to win one of those tight regionals tussles for the second spot like they usually do.
Third place came down right to the final routine, with Ohio State and Michigan State going neck-and-neck for most of the meet. A final Lisa Burt 9.775 on bars meant the two teams finished tied for third. With the top three teams advancing to the evening session of Big Tens, they had to go to the sixth-score tiebreaker, with Ohio State coming out ahead of Michigan State.
As for Georgia and Utah, the two teams come in with different needs. So far, Utah has put together a very solid regular season full of consistent meets, barring that one beam hiccup that seems to have been just a blip (we'll see), so the biggest question for Utah right now is what level of contender this team truly is. Given the season the Utes have had so far, Super Six is an expectation. They need to make it back this year, but would making Super Six alone be considered a victory? Or can this team do more? That's the main issue I'll have in mind watching Utah today, and at conference championships. How does this team compare to what we're seeing right now from Florida, Oklahoma, and LSU, all of whom had moments of greatness and moments of iffiness yesterday?
In the rankings, the Utes have a golden opportunity today to make the argument that they're right with that top group. Given LSU's bars struggles and lowish score yesterday, Utah needs just a 197.400 today to pass LSU in the rankings, which is quite realistic. They could possibly jump ahead of Florida as well, but would require a 198.025, which is also doable but a much bigger challenge. Another factor for Utah is that, like Oklahoma, they have gone undefeated so far this season but have not yet faced a road meet with a large crowd and challenging atmosphere until this weekend, so this is a necessary test to pass heading toward championships.
For Georgia, we know it's all about finally getting that 197, which means this meet takes on much more importance. As for the rankings, because Nebraska had a weak score today, the Gym Dogs can move up one spot into 9th if they get that 197 today, but this meet is more about proving that they're not an also-ran, we-don't-have-to-worry-about-them team come championships. Georgia needs to take advantage of senior day with a fully hit meet for a big score.
Helpfully, Brandie Jay is slated to return for Georgia on vault and bars, though not yet on floor.
The meet begins at 4:00 ET/1:00 PT on SECN+.
Our lineup angel Elizabeth Grimsley has reported the full lineups for the meet as usual.
Vault: Vaculik, Marino, Broussard, Davis, Rogers, Jay
Bars: Jay, Vaculik, Persinger, Brown, Davis, Rogers
Beam: Vaculik, Reynolds, Babalis, Rogers, Broussard, Box
Floor: Persinger, Reynolds, Brown, Marino, Babalis, Box
Vault: Lothrop, Partyka, Lee, Wilson, Dabritz, Delaney
Bars: Hughes, Rowe, Wilson, Lopez, Lothrop, Dabritz
Beam: Wilson, Dabritz, Stover, Lee, Rowe, Lothrop
Floor: Lewis, Lee, Wilson, Lothrop, Dabritz, Tutka
A few changes this week for Utah, with Hughes coming in for Lewis on bars and Lewis coming in for Rowe on floor. No Brown on beam for Georgia (a late change, with Reynolds coming in). Brown's routine has the higher scoring potential, but she's had so many fall this year. Reynolds can't get the same number, but is probably the more reliable hit.
Broadcast begins with the usual pre-meet chatter. Apparently, Georgia Dabritz is good at gymnastics.
Chelsea Davis is a senior. Remember Bela going "AND THEN LIIIIIIITTLE CHELSEA DAVIS" at 2008 trials? No, you don't, because it was 1,000 millennia ago.
Vaculik - VT - some crazy legs on the block and some piking - hop back -
Hughes - UB - Hitting early hs well - solid tkatchev - clean into the bail - precise work overall - weaker tuck full dismount with a lunge and then another step to salute.
Marino - VT - Still going for the 1.5 - way short and couldn't get it around this time. Sits it.
Rowe - UB - Cat just called her singing a "coping mechanism" - Yessssss.good full turn - better swing out of her tkatchev - clean on bail - borderline final hs but probably OK - pikes her DLO a little in the air but sticks.
Broussard - VT - Good height and power as always, but a large bounce back. "She looks happy with that landing" no she doesn't, and she shouldn't. Needs more control there.
Wilson - UB - Better legs on the gienger - a small break on the overshoot but generally better - the giant full looked a little out of control but her finished it in handstand - stuck dismount on tuck full -strong landing.
Davis - VT - A bit better control on the landing, but still a hop back - the rest was great as always.
Lopez - UB -late on her giant full - but a solid tkatchev - some bits of foot issues in the bail but a good hs - DLO dismount - college sticks it but that was a step forward.
Rogers - VT - She also came in a little short on her 1.5 but not as bad as Marino - does have to hop back - medium sized - with both feet. Fine but not her strongest.
Lothrop - UB - Hits her jaeger - more hit hs - good contained form in the bail throughout - hops forward on the DLO. A couple sticks so far but too many have given away their biggest deductions on landings.
Jay - VT - Best of the 1.5s so far, but a small step forward and then another little slide to salute - good to have her back in the lineup.
Dabritz - UB - Strong comaneci - hits the jaeger as well - excellent bail - SHE DOESN'T WEAR GRIPS - holds onto the stick on the tuck full as well - could have taken a step but didn't let herself. About her usual routine - (I still would love to see more pointed toes on her releases, but it's not a deduction that gets taken for NCAA - if you're giving Sloan a 10 for the feet on her tkatchev, then you have to use the same standards for Dabritz) - 9.975. She is getting to the point where any time she sticks that dismount, she's a likely 10, which is very unusual for bars. We see that on vault but not bars as much.
After 1: Utah 49.500, Georgia 49.175
How was that suddenly a 49.500? Oh, the power of Dabritz. She can make an OK rotation seem suddenly amazing. It was a good bars rotation for Utah. The handstands were very precise in every routine, which allowed them to start from a high place. A few of those score still seemed enthusiastic early in the rotation, but that's what a stick does for you. They can still improve those landings in several of the routines, but they did what they needed to do and more in that rotation.
Oh Georgia, the landings weren't strong enough to get a good score there. No sticks, bigger hops from Vaculik and Broussard, a somewhat short landing from Rogers, and smaller hops from Davis and Jay. And then the fall from Marino. This team still has the potential to be great on vault. We've seen Jay and Rogers be the 9.950 sisters so many times before, but they're running out of time to get themselves to that point. This still looks like an early-season vault rotation.
Lothrop - VT - OK full - pikes a little at the end and a fairly big hop back - similar to Broussard and Vaculik.
Jay - UB - clear hit - slightly close catch on the Ray but fine - solid on the bail - near-stick on the DLO with just a little bounce in place to absorb -
Partyka - VT - Very strong full - good distance and a stick - slightly low chest coming in but very minor - there you go - Just a 9.850. That was a good vault. Missing the height of her teammates, though.
Vaculik - UB - toe on - good half turn - excellent jaeger - short on the following hs, but bail looked good - final hs is solid - sticks the tuck full - one of her best of the year. She gets the wonky legs at the end of that dismount, but sticks it clearly.
Lee - VT - Another strong full - good form, height, and direction, - pretty small hop back, basically in place.
Persinger - UB - Another high and strong jaeger - good following hs to bail - just a little late on that full and then gets little height for her double tuck - lands with a big squat and step
Wilson - VT - Her usual huge amplitude, but hops back pretty significantly this time - not one of her better landings -
Brown - UB - Usual great tkatchev - perfect legs together on the pak - still hate that half turn on low bar, but she's hitting very well - sticks the tuck full - There you go! That's the bars routine she can do.
Dabritz - VT - GEORGIA! Fell on her 1.5. WHAT IS THIS LIFE? Way short. Way.
Davis - UB - Get this. good first hs - Excellent taktchev - controlling the hs well - solid bail - hops back on tuck full dismount. Pretty much her usual routine, strong throughout, but I was hoping for the 10 for her. Still a 9.925. Everyone wanted that 10 for her.
Delaney - VT - Huge full as always with the amazing height and distance, but she too hops back - not a big hop but still a hop.
Rogers - UB - great stalders obviously, perhaps a little close on Ricna? - hs and bail look very good - very good rhythm and height on the shoot to high bar - final hs looked borderline but OK - basically sticks the DLO - looks like she held onto it long enough before leaning back to salute.
After 2: Utah 98.875, Georgia 98.750
Georgia narrows the gap with a season-best bars rotation, but still going into these next two events, though would have preferred a lead. Though, that was a strong bars showing. Brown nailed her routine, Rogers was almost at her best, and Davis did a strong routine, just not a perfect routine. This is potential starting to be realized in that bars rotation.
On vault, Dabritz fell and I'm still not really over that. I wonder if that's going to make them go back to the full out of fear of another fall. It's a score they can't afford to lose once things matter. Still a fine showing. None of Delaney, Wilson, or Lee stuck, but in the theme of the weekend, their excellent dynamics earned them solid scores regardless. Still need to work those landings, though. Can't show up to Nationals with a case of the hopsies again this year.
Georgia goes to beam. Get out your prayer beads or whatever. You know your commentator knows nothing about gymnastics when he refers to gymnasts as "players."
Brandie Jay is trying to Sam Mikulak the crowd to help them on beam.
Vaculik - BB - She's one of those with PETRIFIED FACE on beam - good switch to split 1/4 - solid on the loso series as well - holds the aerial well, just a bit of tightness - nice full turn - side aerial to full with a small slide. Very nice opening routine.
Lewis - FX - Comes off the floor - Megan called her back - now begins - a very good split full to start - just a slide back on the double pike - layout to front full - another slide out of it and a bit arched on that layout - stumbles back out of the double tuck - just stays in bounds, but a number of steps there. They'll want to drop this score.
Reynolds - BB - check on kickover front - holds the loso landing well - switch side is hit - this song is just shouting Jesus at me I think - side somi is hit - stuck double full - exactly what she was in this lineup to do - solid, regular, hit routine in the 9.8 family. 9.800.
Lee - FX - Nice on the 3/1 - she always seems like she's coming in just under the full rotation but lands comfortably in the end, just a little staggered - front full middle pass with small slide - "artsy performance so far" - translation: "this is violin music" - again a bit of a slide on the double tuck. Quite good passes, just needs a bit more control on each.
Babalis - BB - long pause before series - very small check on loso series, and another on the aerial - nothing real, just a little tight - switch and pike jump are hit - I miss the switch 1/2 though, it was a different look - good kickover front to beat jump - front full dismount with a hop.
Wilson - FX - Good DLO this time with a controlled landing - they've selected the right leaps for her as well - front layout to front full was OK - Whhhhhoooa - totally botched her round off and just did a bhs as her final pass. Want to see that again.
Rogers - BB - pause after switch into the straddle jump, and then short on the straddle position, and a check after it - weirdly large amount of trouble on that leap series - very strong loso series to recover from it - nice bhs 3/4, looked like she was getting a little crooked so gets rid of the one-armed hold which is fine - good bhs full to stuck full dismount - Great after that troublesome leap series at the start.
Obviously struggling to come up with Wilson's score. Still a 9.650 in spite of not doing her final pass.
Lothrop - FX - Stumbles back on her full in and goes OOB with a few steps - what is it with Utah today? - 1.5 to layout middle pass is clean and solid - switch side and popa were good, not big dance elements but she gets them around - almost sticks the double pike and then steps -
Broussard - BB - very strong loso series with the one-arm bhs - nice switch to straddle 1/4 - smallest twitch - lovely side aerial - steps back on gainer full. Wish she had stuck that because it was lovely until then. One of her good ones.
Dabritz - FX - Comes in short on her piked full in with a large lunge - solid on her rudi to loso but not the lift she usually gets on that pass - not comfortable on this floor is the Utah problem so far. THE GUY COMMENTATOR ASKED IF THEY GET A BONUS FOR DOING THE U IN THEIR ROUTINES - whaaaaaat? - good triple full - controlled step - just needed a stronger first pass. Still not past that commentator asking if there's bonus for showing a U in your routine.
Box - BB - GIRL! Tuck jump full - big wobble and can't save it - they didn't need this score but could have used it - swims a little landing her loso series - good straddle 3/4, and aerial to beat jump as well - 1.5 with a hop. Utah has opened the door on floor and Georgia could have taken advantage with one of Box's 9.9s.
Tutka - FX -Good on the full in - she stepped with but the control her teammates couldn't manage - layout to rudi to split to tuck middle pass is nice - bounces through her connected leaps - very solid double tuck - strong rotation saver -
After 3: Georgia 147.950, Utah 147.925
Georgia takes the lead and is right in this after a very weak floor rotation for Utah. Lots of unexpected problems there. Lewis, Lothrop, and Dabritz all threw in a poor landing there, and then Wilson had that botched round off on her final pass. With those mistakes, it's basically a miracle that they escaped with a 49 somehow. Georgia was good, almost great in that beam rotation, but just a few issues took them out of a big score, and then of course Box's fall. Rogers had a great routine other than her opening dance elements, and Broussard would have had a humongous score without the two steps on her gainer full dismount. Still enough to take the lead and give it to their floor team.
Wilson - BB - solid on her two loso series - just the mushy legs - switch and straddle 1/4 were a bit better this time - am I imagining things? - benefit of angle? - split jump was still a little short - small hop on 1.5. Comfortable, fine start.
Persinger - FX - front tuck through to double back - lands short with a bounce and a stumble - good switch ring as always - double pike was much better, nice control - hits a clean rudi as well to end, just as shame about that first pass -
Dabritz - BB - full turn - hits loso series well - switch 1/2 is fine-ish, and a solid landing - strong side aerial - this is going very well for her, good switch, OK straddle 1/4 - lands low on her 2/1 dismount with a bigger hop back, but one of her better routines on the beam itself.
Reynolds - FX - holds onto the stick on the double pike - looked like she was coming in low and did have a low chest but held that stick - nice straddles - a little piked on the rudi but nice lift into the loso afterward - 1.5 to front layout with a slide forward. Good work. Gymnastics commentators have a really loose definition of what counts as a breakdancing move.
Stover - BB - very strong aerial to split jump - small check on loso series - more fluid work than we've seen from Utah beam rotations of recent years - nice switch - sticks the gainer full - another very strong routine.
Brown - FX - Good high double pike, looks like she held onto the landing as well with enough control - same on the double tuck - high and solid - split jump was OK, popa was strong - hits 1.5 to layout as well - gives away a minimum in that routine - probably most composed and contained floor routine for her this year -
Lee - BB - lovely two loso series - beautiful - switch to straddle 1/4 is fine - small check on side aerial to correct her feet which landed a little off line - sticks 2/1 dismount - another beautiful beam routine.
This thing is coming down to it!
Marino - FX - She has added back the DLO now and it's so much better than the double back - good secure landing - hits her split full and popa - similar to Lothrop not big leaps but around - layout to front full is very secure - strong double pike. They've needed this routine from her. It's what she was brought her to contribute, and now it looks like she is.
Rowe - BB - fluid full turn - switch is good - straddle 1/4 is about there, and secure - hits the loso series as well - Utah is not giving away wobbles in these routines - just minor checks, like on Rowe's kickover front - sticsk 1.5 very well - there was like a clapping fight in the background during Rowe's moonwalk. One Utah lady was REALLY severe about how she wanted everyone else to know she was clapping for this. The rest of the crowd was not.
Babalis - FX - She's till starting with the front tuck - slides back on the landing - the leaps are strong - half to front full is good, also a little slide, though - good enough landing on the double pike (slide?) - solid chest position - another solid hit. This is such an important meet performance for Georgia.
Lothrop - BB - Check on the switch side 1/2 - solid on the loso series - short of 180 on her switch side - good switch and straddle 1/4 - sticks the 1.5. A good beam rotation for Utah and some very nice dismount sticks from the last few. 9.850 is not enough, so Georgia will win the meet.
Box - FX - Strong and high on the double pike as always - 1.5 to layout - lost her legs a little on that layout this time - does well on the switch side and popa - pulls her double tuck around as well. Good hit, vital meet.
FINAL: Georgia 197.450, Utah 197.275
Georgia so badly needed that 197 and so badly needed that win. Certainly their most complete performance of the season. Shouldn't cover up the weakness because there's still a lot that needs improving. The vault landings were the biggest issue this week, but there were also those singular issues on beam, and even though they got the big 49.500 on floor at home today, I do wonder how competitive that rotation will be at championships. Control and chest positions are so important for them. Love to see that DLO from Marino. It helps, and it's much better on her than the double back was.
Utah looked solid enough on both bars and beam. No real issues there, which is unusual for Utah that those would be the strong events, but they were today. Vault did not have the landings, but they really gave the meet away completely with that poor floor rotation. What were some of those landings? Just makes that little bit of doubt creep in.
Utah's 197.275 is not enough to see them climb ahead of LSU in the rankings. Georgia's score is strong enough, however, to see them jump ahead of Nebraska in the rankings for the week.
In other news, the second Big Ten meet is underway and there are already problems. Minnesota is counting a beam fall from Lindsay Mable. So cancel everything. Michigan went 49.125 on bars in the first rotation with no one scoring over 9.850, which is a bit unusual. Penn State is way out in front for now with a biiiiiig 49.375 on vault. Time to put Chanen Raygoza into my fantasy gym bars lineup? 9.900 today.