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.

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Gymnastics

There’s A New Gym Coach at UGA…and It Feels Familiar

Last month, the University of Georgia gymnastics team had a…let’s call it a lackluster performance at Nationals, placing 12th or last of the teams that were competing.

Just days after, then-head coach Danna Durante released 3 gymnasts from the team. Odd because these 3 gymnasts included 2 walk-ons who didn’t compete at all this season and 1 who was out most of the year because of illness/injury.

Notice I said “then-head coach.” In the midst of observers trying to sort out the confusion from the dismissals, Danna and the whole coaching staff was let go, or “not retained” as the release was worded, leading basically everyone engaged with NCAA gym to go: “WTH UGA?”

Jump forward to today, a couple days after the biggest NCAA gym recruitment weekend aka J.O. Nationals, Georgia has hired a new head coach. “New” being the operative word. Who? Courtney Kupets Carter, a former gymnast for the team who is at the very least on the Mount Rushmore of UGA gymnasts all-time.

I remarked to someone last week when I first heard the rumor that I thought it’d be unlikely. After all, she’s only been coaching club gym for a short period of time. No high level club gym or NCAA coaching experience on the resume. It’s hard, and in my opinion a bit unfair, to ask someone to take on the highest level of job responsibility in most professions, not just coaching, without some apprenticeship. Even she remarked in the press conference, “It’s more than anything I [have] ever done…”

Furthermore, she’s no lower than the #3 SEC Network analyst for gymnastics behind the venerable Kathy Johnson-Clarke and Bart Conner. As Bomani Jones is apt tell you, TV is what you can call a “good a** job” — you don’t just give one up. Why take on the pressure cooker that is the UGA gymnastics head coaching position at this point in time?
Continue reading “There’s A New Gym Coach at UGA…and It Feels Familiar”

Gymnastics

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.
Continue reading “2017 J.O. Nationals Highlights”

Gymnastics

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.
Continue reading “Final Thoughts: The Top 17 Teams of the 2017 Women’s NCAA Gym Season “

Gymnastics

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.

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

Continue reading “Some of My Favorite NCAA Leos of the 2017 Season “

Gymnastics

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.
Continue reading “Checking In On My 2017 NCAA Gym Preseason Predictions “

Gymnastics

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):
Oklahoma
Florida
Alabama
LSU
UCLA
Utah

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.
Continue reading “2017 NCAA Women’s Gym Season Predictions “