Gymnastics

The Top 12 Teams of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Gym Season

Before we get to the thoughts, perhaps my favorite line from a fluff piece ever (played as the opening before the semifinals): “It does not matter how great of an athlete you are, you cannot play gymnastics. And that’s where the brawn comes in.”

1. UCLA
The concern coming into Nationals was their vaulting. Obviously, you can give away a little elsewhere if you have bars and beam like that. I told my sister on Saturday just before the meet started I thought only two teams had a chance to win if Oklahoma had a hit meet: UCLA and LSU, but they’d have to be perfect. I didn’t expect to actually see it. UCLA got two perfect 10s from Peng in the only two events she competes–and they needed every bit of it.

Peng also had my favorite post-meet quote: “I’m so excited and I have no tears in my eyes because I think they’re partying on the inside.”

2. Oklahoma
Like I mentioned before, it was going to take perfection to beat them. OU was a little off at the beginning on beam–and I mean just slightly, but it didn’t seem like it was going to make the difference. Yet, it did by a mere 0.0375. I do wonder if the rotation order got them a bit by having to start on an apparatus that is a noted strength for them when scores tend to be tight early in a meet. However, it’s OU. The separation between their best and fourth best events isn’t as dramatic as it for other teams. This was just a great, and really closely contested meet.

3. Florida
The last rotation was so much fun (and a bit stressful) with the four main contenders competing at the same time. Florida put up a valiant effort on floor–the event that gave them the most difficulty this season–in that final rotation, but had lost a little too much on beam to make up the difference.

4. LSU
LSU had a very similar meet to Florida. Went lights out their last event, vault, like Florida did on floor, but had lost too much ground from their beam rotation. And when I say lost too much ground, I’m only referring to two tenths!

5. Utah
Not a bad effort in Super Six, but noticeably off the pace of the top four with a performance a little below their normal effort on floor and vault.

6. Nebraska
Happy to see them make the final after being so, so close last year. After the first two rotations during the first National semifinal, it was clear Nebraska held its own destiny in getting to the Super Six final. Every year it seems, they start a little slowly but by the end they’re right there. They were out of it from the start with a rough bars rotation in the final, but a great year.

Continue reading “The Top 12 Teams of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Gym Season”

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Gymnastics

2018 Pre-Postseason NCAA Women’s Gym Super Six Prediction (and other thoughts)

Not much has changed in the way of favorites as the NCAA women’s gymnastics season enters the postseason. Here’s how the top teams are shaping up for the last postseason before the new format goes into effect. (To read my thoughts from before the season started, click here.)

1. Oklahoma (Preseason #1)
When you set the regular season scoring record and your “off” meets net a high 197, you are the undisputed title favorite.

2. LSU (Preseason #3)
LSU is certainly a strong possibility too, but they’ve had more moments this season of little breaks throughout the meet that add up than OU. However, with the way this sports year has gone this far—the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl for the first time and a #16 seed knocking off a #1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament for the first time—I can’t shake the possibility of it finally being time for LSU to win a National Championship.

3. UCLA (Preseason #6)
Vault will be key. UCLA tends to give up some ground to the top two on vault. If UCLA can keep vault (and to a lesser extent, floor) close, their bars and beam can make up a little gap.

4. Utah (Preseason #5)
If you don’t consider LSU as a dark horse pick for the title, Utah is a good choice. In fact, I’ve had this gut feeling all season that if it all comes together at the right time, and they get a little leniency with the beam connections, they’ll be right in it as well.

5. Florida (Preseason #2)
Maybe a year away. I mentioned their big freshman class coming in and, while very talented, that inexperience has shown consistently throughout the season. Kennedy Baker suffering a torn Achilles didn’t help either.😪

6. ???
Usually Super Six is a given for Alabama (Preseason #4)—and it certainly can still happen. However, this team hasn’t shown the maximum score potential this year the top five have, and is very vulnerable to getting knocked out by a number of teams if those other teams have a solid day on the right day. I get the feeling this Super Six spot may come down to the draw and which teams are in which semifinal. Not to mention if there are any surprises from Regionals.

Further Down the Ranking:
Do you remember that Arizona State finished 41st last season? The turnaround of the last couple of seasons took a MAJOR leap forward this year, recording their most wins since 2006. As the season heads to conference championship weekend, Arizona State currently holds a position as a seeded team for Regionals in 17th.

The way Georgia‘s season started, it looked like it could be a disaster. Already with a thin roster, they could’ve let the first meet injury to Gigi Marino, which in addition to the preseason injury list left them hardly able to put up enough gymnasts on each event for a full score, tank their season. But adversity does one of two things to a team: it either tears them apart or it galvanizes them. It did the latter for UGA, which going into conference championship weekend is a respectable 18th.

Also, shout out to George Washington (#19), particularly their senior class of Brooke Bray, Camille Drouin-Allaire, Sara Mermelstein, Elizabeth Pfelier, Madeline Seibold, Jillian Winstanley, and Alexandra Zois.  They made this a team you had to keep an eye on for the last four years.

Gymnastics, Music

Good Mood Music: In the Mood

Another genre of music I enjoy: big band or swing.

The genre was at its peak in the 1940s, although it had a resurgence in the late 1990s into the early 2000s. Big band music is typified by four sections of instruments: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section that consists of a guitar, piano, double bass and drums.

One of the most recognizable pieces of big band music is “In the Mood.” The most popular version of this song was done by Glenn Miller and Orchestra in 1939, but it was actually a cover of the original done by Edgar Hayes and Orchestra the year prior.

The Glenn Miller version got a big boost when it was featured in the movie Sun Valley Serenade in 1941, a movie I profiled a musical scene from last year.

I first heard the song as a part of Kim Zmeskal’s floor routine in the early 1990s. (Side note: I just happened to publish this blog entry on her birthday.)

It’s actually one of two big band songs that make up her music. The other is “Sing, Sing, Sing,” originally done by Louis Prima and the New Orleans Gang. The two songs, as well as many others, are commonly heard together because of a compilation medley done by Larry Elgart in the early 1980s called Hooked On Swing.

Gymnastics

2018 Women’s NCAA Gym Preseason Thoughts

The 2018 season starts Friday! Thus, it’s time for some preseason musings. Doing this a little bit differently this year. I’m going to give a quick thought about each of the top 10 in the preseason coaches’ poll.

dqxazkfv4aa6huc1. Oklahoma
No surprise here. Like I said with Florida a few years ago, you’re the champ until someone dethrones you, especially after multiple consecutive titles.

2. Florida
Speaking of Florida, if there were a team to break the credo stated above it would be to put Florida #1 in this year’s preseason poll. While Oklahoma lost a few key routines from last season and reloaded nicely, Florida lost no competition routines from last season and brought in a powerhouse freshman class.

3. LSU
I really thought last year was one of the best shots they had to win the title. This year, the challenge is to replace the all but automatic high scores on 3 events from Ashleigh Gnat and the consistent contribution from McKenna Kelley, who went down with an Achilles tear in preseason training.

4. Alabama
Surprisingly enough, the poll is a little more bullish on Alabama than I am coming into this season. The team was an enigma last year, not its typical consistent self. If the injury issues are settled and they can find a couple more 10.0 start value vaults, Bama won’t have a problem challenging again.

5. Utah
Utah has a really nice group of gymnasts, but it’s not a big secret that the X-factor for them is Mykayla Skinner. I don’t believe it’s unfair to think that how she fares will dictate if their season is competitive at Nationals good or contending for the title good.

6. UCLA
With all the star power present, it could be surprising to see UCLA ranked this far down, but I see the reasoning. UCLA is kind of Alabama West (or, if you prefer, Alabama is kind of UCLA South). Both have some recurring issues with injuries and lack the number of 10.0 start value vaults they have when compared to other teams they are expected to compete with for the title.

7. Michigan
Heartbreaking is the only way to describe the last two seasons for Michigan. The biggest question here is: who’s going to step up and produce the consistently high scores they came to depend on Nicole Artz and Talia Chiarelli for?

8. Denver
The little team that could. Denver set a lot of individual meet records last year and set the school record for highest final ranking (9th). Now to see if last season was a flash-in-the-pan performance. Likely not, but the competition to get Nationals is going to be fiercer than ever this season.

9. Nebraska
Not really flashy, but seemingly always knocking on the door at the end of the season.

10. Kentucky
Much like Florida, Kentucky didn’t lose any of its competition routines from last season. This team is Nationals-worthy, but got caught up in a very competitive regional and narrowly missed out in 2017.

Notes on a couple others:
The most notable team missing from the top 10? Georgia (#16). A disaster of a Nationals last year was the latest development in a frustrating few seasons for Georgia  — a development that lead to a cleaning of the coaching house and the return of a couple of familiar faces. You can only hope the 12th place showing in 2017 was the storied program’s rock bottom moment, and they’ll be moving up from here. They will have to contend with the fact every single member of its 4-member freshman class is carrying a significant injury into the season. However, 3 of the 4 are expected to return at some point during the season.

Stanford (#18) should make a big jump up from last year. A class of 7 freshman — led by Kyla Bryant, Rachael Flam and Lauren Navarro — is expected to help immensely in keeping Stanford away from ranking in the mid-30s like it did for most of 2017. Stanford, like Georgia, is also in for a culture change from a familiar face to the program. Tabitha Yim, a former Stanford gymnast, took over as head coach late in the summer after a stint as head coach at Arizona.

Gymnastics

Results for the Caribbean Gymnasts Who Competed at Montreal Worlds

Like at the Rio Olympics, Manrique Larduet (Cuba) achieved the best results of the Caribbean gymnasts at the Montreal Worlds. He led the men’s all-around after the qualification rounds, but ended up 5th in the final after too many bounces and steps on landings. He also fell just short of the podium in his individual event finals with results of 7th on floor and 4th on parallel bars.

Manrique’s teammate Randy Leru had medal potential in the high bar final, but unfortunately sat his dismount after an otherwise fantastic routine. He finished the final in 7th. But not getting a medal in Montreal didn’t seem to dampen either of their spirits any…

Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic was also expected to contend for a final, specifically the vault final. However, he was a casualty of the injury-laden third subdivision and withdrew after missing his first vault. He opted against doing his second which was scheduled to be a new vault he submitted to the FIG to be named after him, if successfully completed.

Continue reading “Results for the Caribbean Gymnasts Who Competed at Montreal Worlds”

Gymnastics

2017 Montreal Worlds Qualification Notebook

Which gym deity, or deities, did we not provide proper offerings to before Worlds? I’m not sure of the last time I was so emotionally effected by the qualification rounds.

DAY 1

The first day will be remembered for an almost apocalyptic third subdivision that saw Japan’s Kohei Uchimura‘s all around win streak come to an end via injury (later found to be a partial tear of the anterior ligament in his ankle).

It was one of at least 7 significant injuries within that sub alone, including the scariest moment when Andrei Groza of Romania had to be stretchered off the podium after a high bar fall. Thankfully, it appeared to be a precautionary move as he was released from the hospital with no injuries after a night of observation. And you can see what happened to Ruben Lopez of Spain following his high bar mishap…

But good things happened too, like… Continue reading “2017 Montreal Worlds Qualification Notebook”

Gymnastics

16 Caribbean Gymnasts Scheduled to Compete at Montreal Worlds

Updated Below 

16 Caribbean gymnasts are expected to compete at the 2017 World Championships to be held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada per the nominative registration list. (Note: nominative registrations can change.)

Team Jamaica makes up half of the gymnasts from the island nations (3 women and 5 men). One quarter of the gymnasts competed in last year’s Rio Olympics: Manrique Larduet, Randy Leru, Marcia Vidiaux, and Toni-Ann Williams.

One of the biggest storylines of Worlds will be to see how Manrique fares in his first major competition since Rio, where he was severely hampered by an ankle injury sustained shortly before the meet. Speaking of comebacks from injury, Worlds is also scheduled to be the first meet for Toni-Ann since she tore her Achilles during the NCAA season.

However, the biggest story of the group might be the return of Yesenia Ferrera.

Yesenia is back following a couple years filled with injury and a reported impasse with the Cuban gymnastics federation. The disagreement between the two parties left her exempt from competition even after healing from her knee injury. Prior to her apparent suspension from the team, Yesenia was the lead female gymnast for the squad.

The most notable absence is Yamilet Peña of the Dominican Republic, whose university studies reportedly conflict with the time period of Worlds.

The World Championships begin on October 2 and conclude on October 8.

FULL CARIBBEAN GYMNAST ROSTER

Cuba:
Yesenia Ferrera
Manrique Larduet
Randy Leru
Marcia Vidiaux

Dominican Republic:
Audrys Nin Reyes

Jamaica:
Reiss Beckford
Caleb Faulk
Stephen Lewis
Mackenzie Robinson
Nicholas Tai
Daniel Williams
Maya Williams
Toni-Ann Williams

Puerto Rico:
Bianca Leon
Paula Mejias

Trinidad and Tobago:
Joseph Fox