In this week's edition of Things I Don't Really Understand, Brenna Dowell has elected to defer the 2015-2016 season at Oklahoma to train elite again in the run-up to Rio. Because she hasn't endured enough national team trauma already in her career and needed to give Martha yet another chance to name her to a team and then decide she shouldn't compete? No Brenna, this year we're going to put McKayla Maroney's Youtube channel up on bars in prelims instead of you. Enjoy the training gym.
Sigh. The unending power of that Olympic dream. "Unfinished business." This happens from time to time. Her Holiness (and by Her Holiness, I mean Kristina Vaculik, but you should know that by now), took a year off from Stanford to make Canada's 2012 team, though that was a more likely prospect than this is. But, you know, go for it? Or whatever? Dreams? Reach for the stars? The more the merrier. I wish she didn't have to take a year off from NCAA to do it, but it's extremely difficult to do both at the same time. We saw Zam try to go straight through NCAA season-elite season-NCAA season, and it ended with an Achilles tear. And she was more in the "I want to have the elite experience and see how it goes, whatever I'm Zam, let's smile and dance" camp. Brenna has had the elite experience. She's not going back just to have the experience. She wants THE PRECIOUS.
In the short term, this does kind of suck for Oklahoma. Oh, you were relying on Brenna's scores on at least three events? Sorry bye now. It does give us something else to talk about this elite season, though. Team selection just got that little bit more interesting.
Brenna is always going to be at least in the mix for a World Championship team given her Amanar and high D score on bars.
Those are valuable tools, but if that wasn't enough to make the team last year (though she was returning from injury in the first half of the summer), it's hard to see how that will be enough to make the team this year, with the addition of Douglas (most significantly because Douglas can fill a big spot on bars) along with Raisman, Key, and Dennis making selection even more challenging this time around. The possible opening for Brenna comes from the injury to Ashton Locklear and the "when exactly are you not injured?" career history of Madison Kocian, two bars specialists and some of her most direct competition. Presumably Dowell will try to D score everyone else into submission again this time, but boy, she cannot afford a single fall. She can't give anyone a chance to doubt her consistency.
As for Oklahoma, this one will sting a little bit, even though it doesn't stop the Sooners from being a title contender in 2016. They still have solid depth, but that's going to be tested now. Finally getting a healthy season from Charity Jones becomes that much more important because she can be that strong score on vault and floor that they would have expected to get from Brenna. Bars also just got a little bit interesting for the Sooners. Now just three members of last year's final lineup are returning: Wofford, Scaman, and Kmieciak. They'll have Nicole Lehrmann coming in, and several other possible 9.850s who have been hanging around the backup ranks, but they'll have to reinvent that lineup a bit and find some new big scores. They've done it before.
Elsewhere, in Opposite Of Brenna news, Lexie Priessman instannounced that she is, in fact, going to LSU in the fall. I didn't know there was still a question about that, so...good?
The other big chatter going around the gymternet has been about some pretty dramatic changes to NCAA for next season, including but not limited to devaluing the Yfull to 9.950, stepping up bars release requirements, and getting rid of event finals. I've decided to wait until we hear official things and details before thinking about this and formulating extended and dramatic opinions (we have plenty of time still), but you can read about it here. These are all areas that have been crying out for fixing.
Also, Elise Ray is now Associate Head Coach at Washington as David McCreary is leaving to go Yim it up in Arizona. Elise will make a top program very happy one day.