2017 J.O. Nationals Highlights

The 2017 edition of J.O. (Level 10) Nationals for the women was held May 6-7 in Indianapolis.

This year, the age breakdown was those born February 17, 2001 and later competed as juniors; those born before that date competed as seniors. The gymnasts were split up into 12 age groups: 6 junior groups and 6 senior groups arranged A-F for each division, with A denoting the youngest gymnasts and F denoting the oldest.

Each division competes only with itself so you end up with 12 National Champions for each of the 5 individual events: AA = All-Around, VT = Vault, UB = Uneven Bars, BB = Balance Beam, FX = Floor Exercise.

The competing gymnasts also earn points towards team titles for their respective regions in each of the 12 divisions. The regions are:

Region 1 – Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah
Region 2 – Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington
Region 3 – Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming
Region 4 – Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Region 5 – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio
Region 6 – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont
Region 7 – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Region 8 – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

The team winners from this year were:

Junior A: Region 1
Senior A: Region 1
Junior B: Region 3
Senior B: Region 1
Junior C: Region 5
Senior C: Region 7
Junior D: Region 1
Senior D: Region 1
Junior E: Region 3
Senior E: Region 3
Junior F: Region 5
Senior F: Region 4

For this year’s J.O. Nationals recap, I’ll start with 5 gymnasts I’m looking forward to seeing in collegiate competition starting in January 2018.

The first incoming freshman I’m looking forward to seeing is Lauren Navarro (Senior D; 2nd – AA, T-4th – VT, T-15th – UB, 1st – BB, T-2nd – FX). Not as heralded during her time as her time as an elite as others, she’ll be a nice addition to Stanford’s roster.
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Final Thoughts: The Top 17 Teams of the 2017 Women’s NCAA Gym Season 

Preseason Prediction
Pre-Postseason Update

After 3.5 months, the teams that started as the top 6 in the rankings ended as the Super Six for 2017. But more than a half dozen teams deserve recognition for the freshly completed season. So here are some final thoughts on the teams that finished at the head of the field in women’s NCAA gymnastics this year.

1st – Oklahoma: It was a wire-to-wire season victory. The Sooners are basically a team of anchor performers. There’s no weakness in their lineup. As a result, the team won the championship in record fashion (198.3875 final score during the Super Six final).

2nd – LSU: Like OU, LSU was solid the whole season from the first meet with virtually no busted meets. They were the only team that realistically had a shot to dethrone OU, but wasn’t as sharp in the final as they were in their record-setting semifinal performance. (Having to compete two times in less than 24 hours during Nationals could’ve been a factor.)

3rd – Florida: It went under the radar somewhat, but it was a great season. Plus they don’t have any competition routines to replace for next season (Claire Boyce, who medically retired earlier in the season, was the only senior on the squad), so they have a good chance of improving their finish next season.

4th – UCLA: 4th was probably the ceiling for UCLA this year with the vault issues and run-ins with the inconsistency bug the team faced this year. They definitely have the bars and beam to challenge OU, the task now is to bring the other two events up to the same level.

5th – Utah: Did really well to manage their rash of injuries and display a respectable season-long performance that included a PAC-12 title.

6th – Alabama: In the last 25 years, the team has missed Super Six twice: 1997 and 2007. It was a distinct possibility that the pattern could continue in 2017. However, the team did make Super Six with one of its best meets of the season in semis. That’s the good news. The bad? The inconsistency that marked the team’s season caught up to them in finals.
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Some of My Favorite NCAA Leos of the 2017 Season 

I didn’t get around to a favorite leo post last year, so I’m bringing it back for 2017.

This is my favorite leo of the year. It was one Auburn debuted early in the season.

Our routine of the week goes to @emma_engler who crushed this bar set to get a 9.9! #WarEagle

A post shared by Auburn University Gymnastics (@auburngymnastics) on

Note: I posted this before Nationals, so I didn’t get to see the debuts that happened there. I had to come back and add this one from Alabama to the list. It ties with Auburn’s leo above for my fave of 2017.

If you described the leo below to someone without them seeing it, they’d probably say the top and sleeves sound too busy. But it works. To be honest this leo, worn by Michigan, would’ve made a really good LSU leo for Mardi Gras.

Screenshot from Meet

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Gymnastics, Olympics

The Most Decorated US Olympic Women Gymnasts

In my (quite possibly, but not intentionally biased) opinion, the already ridiculously tough goal of winning Olympic medals is a little harder in gymnastics than in other some sports.

Because of the extreme pounding the sport in general — let alone the medal-worthy routines — can entail, a large percentage of gymnasts are lucky to get through a single Olympic cycle instead of the multiple chances you’re more likely to see in sports like swimming and track. In addition, the presence of multiple relays in those sports increases the number of potential medal chances whereas gymnastics only has one team competition.

In light of the typically short career lifespan and comparatively fewer opportunities to medal, it makes the accomplishment of the 5 gymnasts that made Team USA’s current list of the 29 Most Decorated Female Olympians of All Time that much more incredible.
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Checking In On My 2017 NCAA Gym Preseason Predictions 

(Alternate Title: I didn’t know there’d be this many major injuries.)

For my preseason Super Six I chose (in alpha order): Alabama, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA and Utah. So far so good. These 6 teams are the top 6 in rankings right now (week of March 6).

Oklahoma (#1) is humming along the way everyone expected. The only questions each week for them seem to be: “Which event is Maggie going to score a 10 on?” and “Are they going to hit 198?”

LSU (#2) has found consistency at a high-level, riding a streak of nearly 20 consecutive 197+ meets. If they can have a meet like the one they had against George Washington and Iowa (without the very few mistakes), they could very well challenge for the title — especially with a vault rotation like that one.

The lineup at Florida (#3) came together a little faster than I expected. Their freshman class has stepped up to the challenge, as has transfer Rachel Slocum. Truly, their only speed bump has been a mid-season bout with illness. Although Claire Boyce was forced to retire mid-season because of hip issues, and it’d be nice if Kennedy Baker’s ankle is healthy enough for a postseason run.

UCLA (#4) is doing its normal thing — starting out kinda slow and building the closer we get to conference championship time. Felicia Hano, Angi Cipra and Madison Preston are chief among the team’s gymnasts that have missed meets because of injury. But they’re back or close to back. The only slightly concerning for them is a little vault inconsistency, and maybe not as much floor depth as they initially thought.

Utah (#5) has had more than its fair share of injuries. Sabrina Schwab tore her ACL, then a couple weeks later Kim Tessen tore her achilles — both major contributors. The Utes are hanging in there, however.

Alabama (#6) is an enigma. On paper they look like they can challenge, but really have only put a couple of meets together fully. They also are a step behind their competition in vault difficulty. A myriad of injuries appear to be effecting the team, most notably the ankle issues that have kept Mackenzie Brannan out and Keely McNeer’s recent broken hand from a car accident.

Most of the teams I also had potentially making Nationals before the season like Georgia (#7), Oregon State (#9) and Michigan (#11) are sitting in a good spot as the regular season winds down as well.
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The First Black U.S. Elite Gymnasts

(Featured Photo: Dianne Durham in 2012; photo credit – Northwest Indiana Times)

When it comes to Black gymnasts, most casual gymnastics fans know the names Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas. Some may recognize the name Dominique Dawes, possibly even Betty Okino and Jair Lynch as well.

But even a good number of hard-core gymnastics fans may not know the ones that paved the way for the gymnasts named above and all the other Black U.S. gymnasts thru the years. Gymnasts like Ron Galimore, Luci Collins, Charles Lakes, Dianne Durham, and Wendy Hilliard.

The first Black man to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team was Ron Galimore in 1980. Unfortunately he, like the rest of the 1980 U.S. Olympians, were unable to compete because of the government boycott of the Moscow Games. An especially bitter pill for Ron who was considered a medal threat on vault.

Ron found a high level of success nationally over the duration of his career winning 4 vault event national titles and 3 floor event national titles. He also has the distinction of scoring the first 10.0 in NCAA gymnastics history on vault during NCAA Nationals competition while attending LSU (he later completed college at Iowa State).

Today, Ron is still very involved with gymnastics as the chief operating officer of USA Gymnastics. He was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2016. Fun fact: Ron is the son of FAMU football legend Willie Galimore (Willie also played in the NFL for 7 seasons).

The first Black woman to make an Olympic team was Luci Collins. Unfortunately, she too suffered the same fate as Ron. Her Olympic moment would never come to pass as a consequence of the 1980 Olympic boycott. Luci intended to stick around and attempt to make the Olympics in 1984, but that desire was dashed by injury in 1982.

An interesting aside is Luci, who is Creole, fought colorism for her place in history. When it came to press recognition for potentially being the first Black U.S. Olympian, “there was a lot of attention on Ron but not a mention of me as African-American,” she later recounted. “I was devastated by the non-coverage because of the way it affected the little community (Inglewood, California) that strongly supported me…There was a large amount of disappointment over that in my local community, and it was hurtful. I definitely identified as African-American, but there were times I felt I wasn’t a good enough representation.”
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2017 NCAA Women’s Gym Season Predictions 

It’s a New Year! That means it’s for NCAA gymnastics. The season starts Friday, so it’s time for predictions. Last year I was logical in making my decision. This year, I’m going to put my gut feeling to the test.

My predicted Super Six for 2017 (in no particular order):

There’s too much talent on Oklahoma to believe they’re not the favorite after its first non-shared national title last season.

Following last season, Florida lost an all but automatic 39.5+ all-arounder with the graduation of Bridget Sloan. The team also endured some other surprising departures. The Gators reloaded, but it might take a little bit to fit the new pieces in place.
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