October 31, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Medal Stand

Obviously, we're starting with uneven bars. Let's just get that sarcastic leprechaun's fever dream out of the way right now. Here's how it went down.

This morning, Nellie Kim met with all the women's judges to tell them of her plans for a passage of one-legged, no-look acro elements from side position in releve requirement for beam, because TEH ARTISTRY, at which point the judges robbed a Xanax truck at gunpoint, downed all of it, then hosed themselves into the uneven bars final going, "8.7 EXECUTION PROBABLY. EVERYONE TASTES LIKE WINNERS [coma]." 

Everyone tastes like winners, indeed. Except for Gabby Douglas, apparently, since the judges looked at her cleanest-routine-of-the-final and went "Not quite. BOOP."

But notwithstanding Gabby and Sophie Scheder, who sadly got the rickets in the middle of her dismount and temporarily forgot what walking is, the judges thought it would be funny (not ha-ha funny, more like sylvia-plath funny), if they just gave everyone and everything, all the flora and fauna, the exact same score. Because who the hell cares? Not us! Great. Fun. So once Fan Yilin got a 15.366, they said "Bingo, there's the one" and conferenced for several short life cycles of a sea turtle about how to get Komova's score down to 15.366. And with that never-say-die attitude they're so famous for, they did it! Because of...sure. And...reasons. Komova thought that was some hilarious bullshit. Throughout the whole tie process, from getting her shut-up-nonsense-steroid-conspiracy of a score to being forced to hop up on that sister-wives medal stand with everyone else, she was basically this.

And once they got Komova in the tie, why not get Kocian and Spiridonova into the mix too? I CAN THINK OF NO REASON. This is such a fun game of Electronic Talking Fuck It! You stepped? That's fine. You missed some handstands in there? That's fine. 15.366! It's a party! Four golds! We're doing our jobs and there's no problem with this! We definitely won't run out of medals and won't have to invite tomorrow's winners onto the podium to give them a scrap of notebook paper with "Redeemable for one Mother's Day present" on it.   

October 30, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everything I've Ever Loved

Well, there we have it. The annual Kohei has Koheied for another Kohei, and Kohei managed to Kohei through all six Koheis and Kohei the gold Kohei by Kohei points. In case that was unclear, Kohei "I, like, invented Simone" Uchimura did this thing where he pops out of a golden lamp, does all the perfects, and then laughs at all those pathetic sloths with leprosy that can barely even get a 90. Kohei persisted in being so much more un-terrible than everyone else that he physically died from lack of competition in the middle of his rings routine and still sent everyone else to the sadness corner by winning his 84th world championship and becoming sultan of hair and everything.

After this competition, if Kohei doesn't fill a bathtub with gold medals and then take a picture of himself in it wearing only a captain's hat while holding a cigar and a snifter of brandy with a parrot on his shoulder, then he and I have officially nothing in common.

[Spot reserved for Kohei Bathtub Pirate. Oh, I can wait......]

Hm. You want to play underwater charades? One word, five syllables? Talk to the hand because my finger is busy? Hi mom, but give me a minute? Hit me blisters, one more time? I just can't crack your code.

-But memo to the world championship: you need to pick yourself up off of the snooze pile and pull your shit together. For a competition that started out with such promise of life-enforcing ridiculousness (remember when Romania got possessed by all those poltergeists on bars and got 11s? REMEMBER????), it has turned into a stale rehashing of three-year-old storylines these last few days. This isn't Gossip Girl, you know. We have standards.

-The event finals really better bring out the big drama to make up for all this predictable Kohei/Simone will-they-won't-they nonsense. At least give us a murder mystery, or a fake pregnancy, or an uneven bars mount, or an amnesiac quintuplet who bursts open the doors of the balance beam final and goes, "I'M THE REAL SANNE WEVERS! THAT'S AN IMPOSTOR!" Is that too much to ask? I don't think so. But let's get into the men's AA.

October 29, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everyone Else's Spirit

Was I the only one who didn't know that Simone Biles is a space scientist? I feel like her PhD in Astronomical Beatdowns should play a bigger part in profile pieces about her. Just a note heading to the Olympics. Today, Dr. Biles went out to conduct some field research into how much bacon grease a preposterous alien space queen can rub on her feet before a meet and still beat all y'all serfs by an obscene margin. The study is ongoing, but the results we obtained today are very encouraging and indicate that the original hypothesis of 20 handfuls might be quite low.

Should any other gymnasts even bother having dreams anymore? That's not for me to say, but absolutely not.

You see this?

And this?

You're welcome. Have fun handing me my scepter.

-But the major conundrum confounding the space-science world lately has been just how many times Simone could fall and still win a world championship. Right now, it's looking like the answer is two instead of the previously prevailing theory of SHUT UP A BILLION QUEEEEEEN [faint], proposed by Nichols, Me, et al. Simone didn't fall today (there are still a lot of experiments to do be done in this field; we're just scratching the surface of what we can learn), but her mistakes across three events probably combined to equal a fall, and she still won by a full point, then hugged a thousand pandas, ran into a nest of hipster beards and cured all of them, and eradicated the world of all LinkedIn requests. She's basically a Marvel hero.

-Really, the only event Simone hit well today was bars. On vault, she danced out of her Amanar in stork stand (don't give Nellie any ideas, girl!), and on floor she forgot that she still has event finals coming up and tried to split leap directly into the Cadbury factory on the second pass. Excusable. Though on beam, I do have to give Simone credit for attempting the very challenging punch front+Nastia combination for 0.2 CV, but the judges didn't view them as separate skills and got all pissy and deductiony about it for some reason.

-I mean, yes, take for bending the back leg, but otherwise I feel like she achieved what the code is looking for from a Free-Standing Nastia in Resting Bitchface position (D value) and shouldn't be penalized so drastically.

October 28, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Good China

With the US women, Simone the Conqueror, and Kohei Maximus all coming into this competition as ACME-anvil-sized favorites for three of the four major titles, the men's team final was under a lot of pressure to achieve that elusive goal of being a slightly compelling sporting event, instead of a "Kim Jong Un challenges you to badminton"-style foregone conclusion. Tough task. But boy, it delivered like a raven bringing news of the pox. 

We'll all remember where we were when Kohei Uchimura totally trolled the entire world and only pretended to throw away the gold medal on high bar but then popped out from behind a bush and was like, "HA HA, I'M THE BEST!"

Coming into 2015, China had won the last 1207 consecutive team titles, dating back to the days when the pbars were elephant tusks and the vault was just a pile of scorched witch carcasses. And in spite of Japan being, you know, clearly several times better than China these last couple years (WHAT HOW DARE YOU), China learned in 2014 that they could pretty much just mobility-scooter their way down the vault runway, ask the high bar for a bedtime story, and then hand Bruno Grandi a drawing of a family holding hands and go, "CHAMPIONSHIP PLEASE." So why would anything different happen this time? Perhaps that's what lulled China into a false sense of security. 

-China was so hooked on championships to start the meet that Xiao Ruoteng suggested everyone jump up for a rousing game of The Pommel Horse Is Lava Now. The rules are as follows: the pommel horse is lava. That's pretty much it. Sounds fun, right? Nope. Terrible. Two falls later, and coupled with some floor routines suffering from a little bit of "this body ain't big enough for the both of us" legs, China basically needed Japan to join a hippie commune never to be heard from again mid-vault to have any chance at title #1208.

October 27, 2015

Worlds 2015 - You Guys, I Think We Broke the Tear Ducts of Ellie Downie

I must begin this time with some pretty big news. You might want to sit down for this. I don't really know how to say it but...the US women won the team gold medal. I know. Totally blindsided. That's life, isn't it? You never see it coming. The beautiful thing about sports is that on any given day, anything can happen.

Man, Japan and China's race for the men's team gold medal tomorrow has some big shoes to fill. How can it possibly be as exciting as USA vs. [scene missing]?

-But really, the US margin of victory over China was only 5.174 this year. Pitiful. Have some self-respect, ladies. Imagine if Simone had fallen five times on floor. You would have...still won.

-OK, here's how it played out. The US team entered the arena, unzipped their warmup jackets, and were immediately awarded the gold medal. WE DID IT! And then Gabby did such an excellent job putting on her grips that she got another gold medal, then the organizers were so impressed by the "ode to a weeping willow's vagina" leotard (thanks to Spanny, that's all I can see now) that they created a special Georgia O'Keefe tribute gold medal expressly for the United States, and then Simone smiled and six more gold medals popped out.

-We get spoiled by the US team. They're just doing the backstroke in their money bin, lighting cigarettes with those podium bouquets, while the other countries are going, "Might we have a brass farthing to buy a sack of crumbs, please?" And they're like, "NO! Stop getting poor all over the rug. AH HA HA MY WINNINGS." 

-But when a victory is this inevitable, it is hard to appreciate the performance as much as it probably deserves. The Americans can only meet expectations. They can never exceed them, regardless of how well they perform, because the expectations are hitting every routine and winning everything. And it happened again. The US went 12-for-12 for the 4th consecutive team final, and we just go "Yawn, toss another bag of diamonds in the diamond room." Yeah, you nailed every routine when the pressure was on yet again with only a couple minor wobbles across four events. So what? I almost did laundry tonight. Who's the real hero?

October 26, 2015

Worlds 2015 - You Guys, I Think We Broke the Actually Everyone

The last two days brought the opportunity for the MAGs to strap themselves into their manitards, chalk up the Pbars using pointillism, and turn to the women to say, "You thought you had a nightmare day this week? That's adorable. We've been getting 6s in execution before you were even born, thank you." But tomorrow, the women will have a chance for a splat-rebuttal as we arrive at the main event, the Great American Cakewalk. I mean, the team final. It's going to be close........anyone could win............

The lineups for the women's team final bring the news that Maggie Nichols will be competing the all-around. Oh. Hmm. What a groundbreaking idea. I wish someone had thought of that before. I suppose the opportunity to be the big AA star/hero for the team is Martha's attempt at an apology alpaca. It will have to do for now.

Also note that Brenna Dowell has officially been erased from all of history. After her bars-tastrophe, Martha went back in time and killed a butterfly to ensure that Brenna was never born. Not only will Brenna compete no events in the team final, but she's not even listed among the alternate team members on the start list anymore. Burnnnnnn. Taking someone off the roster is the gymnastics equivalent of pouring a drink in her weave. There has to be some kind of injury, right? They wouldn't just expunge someone from the record as punishment for missing a routine......would they? Cut to Mattie Larson going, "Hello." But, they also have not taken the opportunity to sub Skinner in to do the one-armed wonder, voluntarily competing with just five members.

Italy has made a substitution, replacing the hastily sewn-together form of Vanessa Ferrari with young Enus Mariani, who will be competing bars and beam in the TF after getting relegated to alternate status for qualification. Sadly, Ferrari is also out for the AA, meaning our global shoulder cut-out levels have reached an unprecedented low with serious environmental consequences. An inconvenient truth.  

But, before we get into all that tomorrow action, there's a whole day of men's qualification action to break down.

DAY 2:
-The main event today featured the US men finally getting the opportunity to enter the fray, just a few short eons after arriving in Glasgow.

-.......They've been better? It wasn't a particularly glorious day for the US, one that got less glorious and more "why are you on the ground just now, honey?" as the competition went on. It was the kind of day that propagates a lot of words like "grit" and "fight" and "heart," which are sports code for "I like you as people even though that wasn't too nice to watch." Today, the Americans were really gritty and full of heart. But, they qualified in 5th, which is perfectly fine, and they'll still be in the hunt for that bronze medal come the team final, as long as someone gets the Sasha Artemev pills out of the first-aid kit and the Jake Dalton costume out of my constant clutches.

-It would have taken an unprecedented catastrophe for the US not to qualify to the team final, and this wasn't a catastrophe, or even a fiasco. It was somewhere in between an oopsie and a snafu. You could even go as far as debacle if you wanted, but I don't see the need. They'll be OK.     

October 25, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Judges

One more day of qualification action still to come, when the US men will be taking us to pretty-boy rehab to try to teach us that we don't need Sam Mikulak to have a good time. I'm not convinced yet.

DAY 1:
-The men opened qualification today, and I must begin with a confession. I did not watch Great Britain's session, even though USAGym is lovely and made it available to us. I freely admit that I bit that hand that feeds me. I don't feel good about it, but I needs my sleeps. Spending two whole days watching people pirouette themselves right off the uneven bars like a cow in a tornado takes a lot out of a person. As the NCAA coaches have taught me, time spent not watching gymnastics is just as significant as time spent watching gymnastics. You've got to take care of your body.

-But, that doesn't mean I don't still want to marry all of them simultaneously and keep them for myself on a secret polyandrous pleasure island. (Or, I mean, something legal...) I absolutely do. Trust me. Really, all relationships go through these rough patches, but we can get through it if we're strong enough. I believe in us. The question is, do you Louis?

October 24, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Aly Raisman

Can I break some news to you? There are guys in this competition. I know. Weird, right? Here are the scoresheets for tomorrow's (tonight's) opening day of Koheichella 2015.

The women's qualification finished today, and I'm still slightly unclear about whether it was a fever dream or real life. Aly Raisman is inconsistent now, or something, and I don't really understand what to do with that. At least no one tried to perform a Dirty Romania on us, so that's always a positive.

DAY 2:
-Welp, the US went today. As expected, the Pink Eagles are leading by roughly a googol. That said, it didn't go super awesomely awesome. They had three falls, which according to the Martha Rules, is six falls too many. When a third of the team is having a near emotional breakdown in the post-meet interview, you know it wasn't an ideal day.

-The biggest news was that Carmen Sandiego stole Aly Raisman and replaced her with some nervous, erratic hot pink replica. Aly threw herself out of bounds on her opening floor pass, won the gold medal in the triple jump on her vault landing, and then 2010-2011ed her bars routine. Fortunately, in true "Here's my beam-ah! NEXT BEAM-AH!" fashion, she came back and was solid enough to be useful on beam, although she did not get D panel credit for...really anything. The judges were just like, "No skills here..."  The US filed a petition on the D score, which Nellie Kim threw immediately into the round circular filing system in the corner of the room. Raisman won't advance to any event finals or the all-around, though she will advance to an awesome narrative for next Trials season, so that's something. I'M FULL OF REDEMPTION.

-Aren't you really impressed that I got through two whole paragraphs before turning into a barrel of slime about the Maggie Nichols AA qualification situation? Because I am. I'll just say this: Maggie would have needed a 12.985 on bars to take the second US AA final spot. And after that, I'm just going to stare straight ahead and blink a whole lot. Once Martha is done yelling at the team, she needs to buy Maggie an apology alpaca or something. Whatever they use for currency in Karolyiopolis. Because Maggie got hosed by the system here. Fight the power!

October 23, 2015

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Romania

Before we get to the nonsense, the scoresheets for day 2 of WAG action.

And now, brace yourselves, because Romania.

DAY 1:
-Obviously, Romania's performance is the big talking point because it was the worst thing ever to happen in the history of time. It was like the black death, but with more poor hip circles. I think we all felt it would be a mess going in (I may have used the words "garbage fire"), but I still firmly believed that Iordache would be able to pull them through to the TF anyway. I was wrong. Romania currently sits in 8th after the first day, and will drop pretty deep into the test event field when it's all over since there are legitimately six more teams with a chance to pass them yet to perform. Something needs to be done. We can't let Romania go the way of Ukraine. Nadia needs to throw some Nadia money at the problem, like now.

-It started out not completely disastrous, just sort of meh. Floor was OK, no major errors, just uninspiring (and I thought a little harshly scored). Vault was perfectly fine. And then bars was even worse than last year. Somehow. Jurca hit, and then the covered wagon fell into the gully, and everyone drowned while getting dysentery and losing all the cattle and children. It was very "How many times, Alyssa?" How many times, Romania? Even beam was wobbly and emotionally scarring, featuring yet another fall from Iordache. The rest of the world is too good right now for Romania to have one event be that weak. This will continue to happen, though the Romanians will still be a favorite to get out of the test event. They just need to cut up some old mats and wrap them around Ponor, resurrect Izbasa, commission Interpol to find Ana Porgras, and hurl Nadia into a time machine. It'll be fine.

October 22, 2015

Worlds 2015 – It's Almost Here

We're swiftly approaching the beginning of the World Championship and our customary annual journey into forgetting what sleep is. First things first, I embedded my usual scoresheets for the first day's subdivisions here for reference, just in case you've reached my level of nerdiness. It takes most people a lifetime. 

Day 1 lineup news and notes:
-The big news of the day is that Romania looked at Russia and said, "Anything you can garbage fire, we can garbage fire better." Anamaria Ocolisan contracted 20 polios (or something) during training and will not be competing. Apparently, Andreea Munteanu is also down with a severe case of the Romanias and can't be the replacement for some reason, so Romania will be putting up an old tire in the sixth position instead. The team is now Larisa Iordache and a random collection of limbs. She's still enough to carry them into TF.

October 18, 2015

Worlds 2015 – A Mess to Be Made

It's time to get ready for the inevitable beautiful disaster that will be the women's competition at 2015 Worlds. I mean, the glorious display of the best two and a half uninjured gymnasts the world has to offer. It should still be great, though, with multiple close qualification fights for Rio team spots and for the AA final. There's reason to be excited in spite of the US/Simone inevitability and the general international bones-made-of-glass situation. But when Seda Tutkhalyan pulls out with restless leg syndrome, don't come crying to me.

Because of brilliance, USAGym is providing live qualification streams of the top countries. Remember way back in 2011 when Gabby's qualification bars routine was lost to the sands of time? This is better. For the rest of qualification, we'll just be forced to follow the scores and then compulsively record them in a series of manila folders. Since the FIG's live scoring is always terrible and has maybe a quarter of the information we would want, I assume we'll once again be left to rely on that janky Swiss Timing java applet that barely exists or opens, and your computer is always like
What even is that thing?

But in preparation for definitely not knowing what that thing is, here are a few notes on the storylines I'll be paying attention to in each qualification subdivision.

(Also remember that the clocks change in the UK on Sunday the 25th. It doesn't affect women's qualifying, but it will affect the other competitions if you're making plans and doing time-zone conversion.)

Subdivision 1 (Romania, Spain, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Panama, Cyprus) - 4:15am ET/1:15am PT, October 23 
-Even without Ponor, it should be a pretty straightforward day for Romania in qualification. The team will advance to TF/Rio comfortably (as we learned in 2014, Romania is still top 8 even with a bars-tastrophe), Iordache will obviously make the AA final and should make BB and FX finals, with Bulimar potentially sneaking into some events as well.

-In a less interesting version of that we'll see with the US team, the most competitive part of Romania's qualification day (aside from the odyssey that is watching that bars rotation) will be who gets the second AA spot. In an ideally hit scenario, it will be Bulimar, but she hasn't been competing big difficulty and has also never not been injured in the whole history of earth. If she hits, she's fine, but she doesn't have enough of a buffer over Jurca and Ocolisan to afford an off day or another one of those patented 12s on bars. 

-Spain will be fighting to finish in the top 16 and advance to the April test event. It's certainly not a given, but it is attainable and some encouraging signs have emerged recently. The team finished 15th last year and, more importantly, scored 214 at a friendly meet a few weeks ago without Roxana Popa. But, you know, Florida-home-meet-level-side-eye on that. Spain followed that 214 with a 211 at Novara. 211 was the cutoff for the top 16 last year, though with a few teams in this ranking area stepping up their rosters, it may get a tad harder this time. For Spain, so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow (the one that's carrying Roxana Popa's legs). Popa competed bars at Novara and got what would be a very helpful score for the team, but the farther away she is from top form, the iffier things become. (If Spain had competed without Popa in 2014, the team would have finished 24th instead of 15th). She's kind of the whole deal. But as long as Spain can get out of 211 land, I'd say that constitutes a useful and acceptable result.

-Chuso. Methuselah is back at it, and because she is a time-traveling gypsy who has come back to show us all the wonders that future robo-humans will be able to attain, she has just casually decided to upgrade to a Produnova. Like you do when you're 40. She's not like a regular mom, she's a cool mom. She may need that Prod since making the vault final is not quite the same guarantee these days with Hong, Biles, Paseka, Skinner (maybe...), Steingruber, the death-wish sisters, Moreno, Phan, etc. I'd still always take Chusovitina in a fight (and to make the vault final, but definitely in a fight).

October 8, 2015

2015 US World Championship Team

You might have heard, but some big, earth-rattling news came out today: Norah Flatley has announced for UCLA.

I can't think of anything else that happened.

I guess there was the other tiny matter of the US World Championship team. We'll have to muster the energy to distract ourselves from National Norah Flatley Day to think about that for a moment. In what would certainly have been a surprise earlier in the summer and would have been a pretty big surprise after nationals as well, the team is Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Douglas, Kocian, Dowell, and Skinner, with the alternate to be named as late as humanly possible. It comes as less of a surprise now after the withdrawal of Ross, the apparent natural-disaster implosion of Key, and the Spoiler Alert Roster from the end of September that told us this was the way things were leaning, though I'm still scheduling time for a sad-nap about Alyssa Baumann.

Unlike normal, it isn't immediately clear which gymnast will be the alternate in this group, but it looks likely to be Dowell or Skinner, with Skinner making the most sense to me. I won't entertain the blasphemy that it might be Nichols. I won't. Skinner is usable on vault and floor, but she wasn't top three on those events at nationals, which kept her out of all the highest-scoring team permutations as she came in behind Raisman's Junkanar on vault and variously behind Douglas and Nichols on floor. We can hope Raisman's Junkanar has become slightly less junky in the intervening months. Floor will be the closest battle on this team through training, and I'm sure that third TF spot won't be decided until after qualifications.

At the same time, Dowell also didn't make a mark on the highest-scoring team permutations at nationals either because, even on her one bars hit during the summer competition season, she scored the same as Biles and wasn't in the top 5 on the day. The main lesson, once again, is that camp matters and Nationals...not so much. Honestly, this is as US team that probably won't need its alternate even if an injury occurs. There will be strong, likely backups already in the 6. 

It's a huge accomplishment for Dowell even to make the seven, a prospect I thought was iffy when she announced she was deferring (which I still question because even with making this team, the Olympics remain a very tough ask), but it ended up being a perfect confluence of events for her with Locklear not able to get her difficulty back and Kyla pulling out. Suddenly, a bars door was open and she walked right through it.

As for Bailie Key, has anyone ever gone from pre-summer lock to not-even-the-alternate so quickly without an injury? I do have to say, it was always work to try to shoehorn her into teams with a "maybe she can do bars?" argument. What became apparent at Nationals is that she isn't necessary to the team on any event, and if consistency has become a problem, that seals it. If she's going to have any hope for 2016 at all (dreams that were pretty much just decapitated), she needs an Amanar and they need to go back to the drawing board with that beam routine. To me, it's a tear down. Start from scratch. She was a beam star as a junior, and she should be a top three beamer for this team right now. The fact that she isn't close to that is a problem.

Beam. I'm hoping this roster indicates that Gabby Douglas is doing another one of her late-season beam renaissances because otherwise this team is looking a little light on beam. Maybe not light, but questionable compared to its potential score. Baumann seemed to have a chance at a beam spot because she's capable of gaining a solid five tenths over the scores Douglas, Nichols, and Kocian were getting at nationals. To see her not among the seven tells me that a third high-14s beam score must have emerged during the camps to make any Baumann benefit negligible. Or Martha just really likes MyKayla Skinner's company. 

If Skinner is indeed the alternate, the conversation about who goes on which events in qualification gets very interesting. Especially for Aly "I'm coming back because of unfinished business in the AA" Raisman. Watch that space in the coming weeks. It'll be fun. Also, the US competes in qualification at a totally reasonable time for us this year. Mid-late morning (depending on where you are)! On a Saturday! What is this exciting witchcraft? 

October 7, 2015

2016 Preliminary NCAA Schedule

It's getting to be that time of year again. Rosters are set, official training is well underway, and no one has had enough time to become a disappointment yet. It's the sweetest time of year.

Still, there's plenty to get through between now and the start of the NCAA season, with a little thing called the World Championship hogging our attention for the next three weeks or so, but once elite has exhausted its time in the sun, I'll get into the usual dissection of freshman classes and team lineups, parsing all the various roster changes, injury retirements, and scandalous dismissals that have taken place since we left the United Factory of 10s last April. But for now, enough teams have finally gotten around to holding themselves upright long enough to release a season schedule that it makes sense to put together the annual composite list.

It's still a work in progress, with a couple dozen of the usual slowpoke teams still lagging behind, but this is now a mostly complete look at the upcoming 2016 season. All the first-tier teams have released their schedules except Illinois and Penn State. As usual, this schedule will reside at the tab above, where I'll keep updating it as we get closer to the season and more teams release their slates/learn what time zones are/figure out that their schedules are wrong. (Dear Boise State, if you think you're going to Utah on January 15th for a meet, you might want to tell Utah that...)

Meets between teams that qualified to the championship last year are in bold for quick reference. This season isn't all that bad in terms of simultaneous big meets (at least not as bad as last year). The one really bad day (or good day, if you're an excited person who enjoys things) will be February 26, when LSU/Florida, Georgia/Alabama, and Michigan/Oklahoma overlap to some degree, but it's not all that dire because not that many people get to watch Oklahoma meets anyway and the SEC meets are somewhat spaced out. Oklahoma/Georgia and Utah/Stanford on February 20th is another squint-worthy overlap, but it's usually worse.

In terms of strength of schedule, the SEC always wins because of the built-in requirements of having to go against many of the best teams, but UCLA is also trying to shoot the moon with difficult opponents this year, having scheduled non-conference meets with Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Georgia all this season (Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma at home). Season-ticketers will get their money's worth this time.

Other noteworthy quirks in the schedule include NC State competing an exclusively road schedule (save for one not-really-home home meet on senior night) because of renovations to the competition facility, and we also see the return of the Flimsy Excuse for a Trip to Cancun Championship on the first weekend in January, which still no one has offered to take me to. I'm waiting.

WEEK 0 – December 28-January 3

Saturday, January 2
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Cancun Classic (Michigan, Arkansas, Iowa)

Sunday, January 3
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Temple, UW-Eau Claire @ Central Michigan

WEEK 1 – January 4-10

Friday, January 8
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ Kentucky
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Central Michigan, UW-Whitewater, Winona State @ UW-Eau Claire
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UW-La Crosse @ UW-Stout
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Lindenwood @ SEMO
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Florida @ Texas Woman’s
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – BYU @ Utah
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan State @ Arizona
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Illinois @ Missouri
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Centenary @ Utah State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Nebraska, Bowling Green @ Arizona State

Saturday, January 9
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Towson, Temple @ Kent State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – UW-Oshkosh @ Gustavus Adolphus
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Georgia @ Michigan
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – NC State @ Penn State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Oklahoma @ LSU
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Northern Illinois @ Iowa
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – New Hampshire, George Washington, Rutgers (Boston, MA)
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Iowa State @ Minnesota
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Southern Utah, West Virginia @ Denver
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Illinois State, Seattle Pacific @ Air Force
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Ohio State @ Washington
TBA – Rhode Island @ Springfield

Sunday, January 10
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Temple @ Kent State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – UW-Whitewater @ Hamline
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Missouri @ Lindenwood
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Alabama @ UCLA
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Nor Cal Classic (Stanford, Cal, UC Davis. Sacramento State @ San Jose State
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Auburn @ Oregon State