It’s fun to watch rankings change every week, but they only tell us so much about the status of a team. Which teams are on the rise and which are barely hanging on? Which ones have a competitive ranking by the grace of their RQS drop scores and which will pose a real threat in postseason? I’ll dig into the real dynamics of NCAA gymnastics in this biweekly column that’s part power ranking, part high school yearbook awards—all serious analysis.
Just kidding, almost zero serious analysis.
One of the unifying narratives of the 2021 season is odd conference dynamics. The Pac-12 has almost universally failed to compete at the top level with the possible, nascent exception of Cal. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has never been more relevant, the Big 12 is in the general universe of expectations but lacking something in terms of decisiveness and consistency and the SEC’s stop-and-start schedule has made it difficult to conceptualize its progress in the traditional sense but perhaps given it a competitive advantage in terms of increased recovery time.
Another unifying narrative is generous scoring, and with it, scoring discourse. At this point I actually prefer the scoring to the discourse. Everyone can have their 10s and we can all shut the hell up about it, OK?
Illinois State quietly got two of its best five scores in program history within a single week. Senior transfer Isabelle Fox seems to have singlehandedly solved the depth issues that have stalked this team for years, while veterans like Angelica Labat and Cammie Topp, who have always had a high ceiling, have found consistency. Everything’s going right for the Redbirds, and they have a serious shot to win the MIC championship this weekend.
Great Except for That One Event
It’s not BAD by any means, but Utah bars is becoming a serious drag on the team’s scores. Utah is easily the country’s most consistent top team, but the Utes’ lower ceiling compared to their ranking peers has been a problem for some time and finally came to a head this week as they lost the No. 1 seed for Pac-12 championship at the last possible moment. The strangest thing is that Utah has six excellent bar routines; it’s just handstands and landings adding up week after week.
Why Is This Happening
Southern Utah’s lineups have been BAFFLING for the last month. We’ve heard murmurs of some minor injuries—and COVID is always a possibility—but with the team’s three best gymnasts all a moving target, I’ve struggled to keep up. Your guess is as good as mine as to why Shylen Murakami missed one week, Hannah Nipp missed two and Karley McClain briefly became a beam specialist before all three returned to lineups, but with one less event than their usual set. Hello??
You’re Beautiful but Please Hit
It’s impossible to know exactly where an athlete is mentally from the outside, but from everything we’ve seen at meets and heard from coaches it seems that Nia Dennis is quite badly in her head at this point. She hasn’t produced her best floor routine since she went viral, her landings have been off and now even bars isn’t working how it should. With her career potentially ending at regionals, I really hope she can find her zone soon so that she can go out in a way she’s proud of.
Won Twitter For The Week
Iowa social media does not miss.
On the Struggle Bus
We all know that Michigan State has been the team hit hardest by COVID in 2021, but George Washington is a compelling second place. The Colonials had to withdraw from both of their meets last weekend, meaning that they’ll finish their season at the EAGL championship this week with just five scores. This team ought to have contended for regionals, but there was just no time to improve. Perhaps the saddest part is that Kendall Whitman’s three-E pass floor routine almost certainly won’t make regionals either, since she’ll have to count a 9.675.
Was That Just a Fluke
How is Washington good now? Why is Washington good now? Is Washington actually going to make regionals? Floor has kicked into high gear over the last few weeks and vault difficulty has increased drastically, but the Huskies are still fundamentally very shaky on both bars and beam yet are managing to pull pretty respectable scores.
Next Week, I Swear
There aren’t a lot of “next weeks” left in this season, but N.C. State stands out as a team with something major still to accomplish. The Wolfpack scored a phenomenal 196.900 last weekend, but unfortunately all four of its best scores are at home. With a point and a half between its highest and lowest NQS scores, a first road 196-plus at conference championships this weekend is key.
Glad You’re Having Fun
Just what we needed, right?
I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This, But…
Actually I know exactly who needs to hear this, and it’s that one lady in the Facebook group (yes, that group) insisting that UCLA’s slightly worse results this year are because the team’s focus on activism is making conservative teammates uncomfortable and thus they can’t perform as well. What the hell, lady? Can you share the drugs you’re on with the rest of us?
Fall of the Week
Sandra Jessen had one of the more painful-looking beam encounters I’ve ever seen.
Article by Rebecca Scally
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