I don’t even know where to start. I went away on a mini-vacation, my first non-gym trip in two years, for FOUR DAYS and came back to the raging dumpster fire that was week six in NCAA. In lieu of my usual live blog, here’s an effort to discuss everything that happened.
Upsets, Upsets, UPSETS!
Me before leaving on vacation: Kentucky vs Alabama? Oregon State vs Utah? Cal vs Arizona? What a nice easy week!
Me getting back: wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut
So yeah. Kentucky upset Alabama, Oregon State upset Utah, and Arizona upset Cal in my always favorite Grey’s Anatomy Calzona Classic. This was Alabama’s second big loss to a much weaker team this season, though this time it wasn’t so much about them having a bad meet as it was about Kentucky having its BEST MEET EVER.
As always, underclassmen Mollie Korth, Sidney Dukes, and Alex Hyland stole the show, leading the team to a decisive victory after killing it across the board. It’s true that the top programs in the country are often the beneficiaries of a little extra lovin’ from the judges, and it’s also true that it can be super difficult for programs to break into that level…but Kentucky has done it. Both beam judges handed out 10s, one to Dukes and the other to Hyland for their gorgeous sets, and Korth pulled in three 9.925s, helping her to a massive all-around score that put her in Maggie Nichols territory. Just insane.
Bama, meanwhile, had no major problems and Nickie Guerrero also got a 10 from one beam judge, but they just weren’t a dynamic team in the way Kentucky was that night. It happens.
So I follow Utah Gymnastics on Facebook and the majority of their fans who post comments are die-hard Utah fans who claim every other team in the world is awful and undeserving of big scores while Utah deserves a 10 for every routine just for giving it an old college try. Naturally, when I saw the Red Rocks had lost their meet by just 0.025 with Kaytianna McMillan bringing in exactly the floor score needed to put the Beavers over the edge, the first place I looked for reactions was Utah Gymnastics on Facebook.
Of course, everyone was screaming about how over-scored the Beavers were, which is hilarious coming from the same people who want 10s for vaults with hops…but here’s the thing. Oregon State had a good meet and subsequently got a solid mid-196 score, its third-best of the season. It wasn’t a blowout win or the judges being on crack. It was a good meet for them and they got scores that fit the routines.
Utah also got scores that fit their routines, though, and that’s why Utah fans are really upset. MyKayla Skinner still got a 39.5 all-around because she had a fantastic night as she always does, but the judges also actually deducted her for tiny things the judges in Salt Lake City might ignore (as most home judges for top ten programs tend to do, not just Utah). This meant that the non-Skinner gymnasts who are used to getting 9.9s for routines with steps and missed handstands and other problems instead got 9.8s. This is why Utah fans are so upset. Utah got treated like non-top ten commoners instead of like top-ten royalty, which happens about once a season. They still had a good meet. But they just happened to get judged on a standard lower than what they have come to expect, and the fans literally can’t handle it though I’m sure the girls on the team are going to be just fine.
The Cal upset was one we could see coming, though. Arizona has been getting better and better while Cal is still trying to find its footing without Toni-Ann Williams. It’s not easy to make three major lineup changes halfway through the season, and they just didn’t have what they needed to come back from counting a fall in the first rotation, making mistakes on later events that continued to hurt their team score…though Desiree Palomares was brilliant on beam and floor and it sucks that you have to be one of the bigger names to get recognized by the PAC 12 for their weekly accolades because she absolutely should’ve been specialist of the week.
Side rant, but too often the PAC 12 and SEC and Big Ten and whatever are just like…who had the highest score this week? Bam, they win our little weekly recognition thing. Why not like…put things into perspective and context instead of just hunting for 10s and title wins? Palomares got 9.9s on both of her events in a meet where most of her teammates struggled to reach the 9.8s and helped her team SO MUCH. To me, this is a MUCH bigger deal than contributing the biggest score when your team is already winning a meet by four points, but I DIGRESS.
UCLA LOL WTF
After a couple of low 197s on the road over the past couple of weeks, UCLA went home and somehow managed to post the highest team score of the season at 198.125. Hhhhokay.
The huge score — and four-point win over an Ebee Price-less Stanford — came with two 10s, two 9.975s, a “perfect 9.95” for Madison Preston’s FTY, and a happy birthday 9.925 for Stella Savvidou on floor. It was…a little crazy. Katelyn Ohashi, a 9.975 recipient on beam, had two major landing mistakes within her routine and a judge still gave her a 10 which makes me want that judge as a best friend and life coach.
But it was also a great meet for the Bruins, easily their best all season. They’re gonna have to drop this score anyway once the RQS ranking system hits, so who cares? Let them enjoy it. It was actually great to see them get through a meet not only unscathed, but with a full lineup of routines that could make them national title contenders. Score inflation aside, they looked phenomenal.
The best thing about their crazy high score was that it catapulted them ahead of Utah in the rankings, swapping them between fourth and fifth place. When they meet up in Salt Lake this Saturday night, the Bruins are going to want to hold onto their higher spot, but it’ll be tough with Utah coming in foaming at the mouth after both a low-scoring week six meet and the rankings shuffle. They’re out for blood right now, and won’t make it easy for UCLA to hold the lead.
Regionals Will Be Epic This Year
The way regionals are set up — seeding the top 12 teams in the nation into the six regional locations in a way that almost guarantees them the 12 team spots at nationals — almost never allows for surprises. Maybe one team a year will magically upset a top 12 team, but for the most part, at the end of each season we know who to expect at championships. There’s typically a pretty solid divide between the top 12 and everyone else, making regionals almost boring to watch because you pretty much know the ending.
This year, though? Check out the teams ranked 7th through 20th. LOOK AT ALL THE BACK AND FORTH!!!! The top six have been pretty much untouchable all season, living in their own little bubble, but the next 14 teams going down the list have been bouncing around. This season won’t see an auto-top 12 nationals. No siree. Instead, pretty much every single team in the top half of the teams that make regionals will absolutely have a shot at getting in.
In this group, the biggest jumps this week were Southern Utah up seven spots after a fantastic meet at home against Utah State, while George Washington dropped six spots after its worst meet of the season, during which the Colonials only put up five gymnasts on vault, forcing them to count a couple of mistakes there; the team also counted uncharacteristically low scores on bars in its quad meet at Missouri. Washington and Nebraska also improved by three spots each, while Cal dropped three spots.
Basically no one is safe. A team ranked around 11th or 12th this week could barely be in the top 20th next. Going forward, every tenth will count for these teams, which has to be dreadfully terrifying for them but — sorry not sorry — incredibly entertaining for us.
Other Little Things
Okay, so a lot happened. I can’t even remember or get into all of it. So here is where I just tell you the things that were most exciting to ME.
- Washington and Southern Utah posted two of the highest team scores in week six!
- Alicia Boren became the first gymnast to outscore Maggie Nichols in any week this season! Her 39.725 all-around was half a tenth higher than Maggie’s 39.675.
- North Carolina had the biggest rankings jump of the week after winning the Towson quad meet with a 195.525. The Tar Heels went from 45th in week five to 35th in week six, putting them just 0.009 behind in-state EAGL mega-rival NC State and making them yet another team in contention for the 36 regional slots!
- Speaking of regional slots, Stanford dropped seven spots in the ranking and is currently 36th, raising the question…might they miss regionals ENTIRELY?! Which would be the most dramatic fall from grace I’ve ever seen in the history of NCAA if it happens. Though I think and hope things won’t be THAT drastic.
- D2 team Texas Woman’s got a 195.625 to upset DI team BYU! AMAZING. You can read about more amazing D2 and D3 news in Sarah Keegan’s recap.
- Sydney McGlone had the most terrifying-looking fall EVER in vault warm-ups but seriously, watch her fall technique, it’s top-notch, kudos to her for putting her arms right over her head. She went on to have a fab FTY and helped her team to its second-highest score of the season.
- Everyone loves complaining about 10s, and I know I carried on about UCLA being a big offender this week, but Peng Peng Lee’s bars were truly worthy. I bow to them.
- Maggie Nichols still tops the all-around, bars, beam, and floor rankings, but both Ashleigh Gnat and Rachel Slocum have forged ahead on vault, pushing Maggie to 3rd there.
- Sam Ogden of Denver found a place in the top ten on bars which is awesome. She’s super under-rated in general, but especially there, where her WOGA training really stands out.
- North Carolina’s Morgan Lane is currently ranked SECOND!!! on beam. Aside from Elizabeth Price of Stanford, she’s the only gymnast individually ranked in the top 10 on any event from a program ranked in the 30s or lower, and 87% of top ten individuals are from teams also ranked in the top ten.
- The must-watch meet of the week goes to Denver vs Boise State. Actually, I don’t think you can rewatch it, so if you missed it, too bad for your life. But this meet was SUPERB. Boise started out ahead by a tenth, held the lead by just 0.025 going into the second rotation, the teams were TIED going into the final rotation, and then Boise really fought for a superb finish on beam, but Denver — putting up only five on floor — pulled off a 0.05 win thanks to back-to-back 9.95s to save a mediocre rotation. IT WAS SO GOOD.
So that’s about everything I can remember. Anyway, week six was a hot mess and super ridiculous but also so much fun and I’m mad I didn’t get to live blog my screaming to all of you. DAMN YOU, ARCTIC CIRCLE OF NORWAY!!!
Article by Lauren Hopkins