During the NCAA offseason, there’s a lot we miss about college gymnastics, from the sparkly leotards to the fierce rivalries. But the thing we miss most is every NCAA gymnastics fan’s favorite hobby: arguing about scoring. In fact, we were so sad about it that we decided to get our discourse fix in the form of a brand new series. What are we going to argue about? Every gymnastics fan’s pet peeve: ties where the routines are not equally good.
In each edition of The Tie Break, we’ll choose a tie from NCAA gymnastics history and debate until we decided how the routines truly should have been ordered. This week, we’ll be tackling the 2022 SEC Championship bars podium, in which seven gymnasts tied for second place with a 9.950.
Our weekly contributors, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Grimsley and USAG editor Rebecca Scally, will be joined by managing editor Emily Minehart and MIC/WIAC editor Tavia Smith to discuss the routines.
Rebecca: OK, little disclaimer before we get started! Obviously we know that YouTube judging and in-person judging are not the same, and we also know that everyone making college gymnastics lineups is actually very good. To separate ties we have to start nitpicking pretty hard, so what we say is absolutely not an insult to either the judges or the athletes.
That said, since first place at this meet wasn’t a tie, we’re going to be assigning places from No. 2 to No. 8. Anyone have a nomination for No. 2?
Emily M: I do! Trinity Thomas. Her extension and patience are exemplary.
Elizabeth: You know what, I agree — shocker, I know. She was just my clear No. 1 of the tied group after watching all the other routines. The deductions I saw I was, like, really nitpicking her form just to be able to say something. The others were easier to identify small flaws.
Tavia: I went with Makarri Doggette, only because she was the only athlete that I didn’t question the last handstand.
Elizabeth: She was my No. 3 behind Thomas!
Emily M: Mine as well! I only had her behind because she was a touch late on her low bar handstand out on the blind half. Just barely!
Elizabeth: OK, same. Low bar half pirouette and also the ambiguous “overall impression” — Doggette’s routine just didn’t do it for me as much as Thomas’…
Rebecca: Can everyone accept Thomas No. 2, Doggette No. 3?
Elizabeth: I’m into it.
Tavia: I can second that motion!
No. 2: Trinity Thomas (Florida)
No. 3: Makarri Doggette (Alabama)
Rebecca: Sweet. Instead of asking No. 4 next, I’m going to be mean and ask for your No. 8.
I’m a bad person — nobody’s shocked.
Tavia: I put Blanco in No. 8. Please don’t hate me.
Elizabeth: Speaking of Blanco, I actually had her No. 4. Hear me out.
Emily M: Oh interesting! I had Blanco at No. 8. The shoulder angle on her Pak was a bit rough and really stole her momentum.
Rebecca: Oh wow, interesting.
Elizabeth: WHAT. No way. You’re canceled!
Rebecca: Mine was Brusch. I just don’t get that routine.
Emily M: That’s fair. She had some real form issues in the Maloney that the others getting that score didn’t.
Elizabeth: I had Gobourne for least best. The flexed feet on the Tkatchev, the missed low bar pirouette, the incredibly (relative to the others) messy legs on the dismount… It was sort of a no-brainer for me. It was still great, but that dismount really sticks with you despite the nailed landing.
Tavia: I can see Brusch from a dynamics standpoint, but the largest technical issue I saw was the leg separation on the Maloney. I had Gobourne in No. 8 for the same reasons, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth: Brusch and Adams were tied for No. 6 for me. I realize that’s ridiculous because we’re breaking ties here, but they each had things that canceled each other out? Does that make sense? Like I literally couldn’t choose who I wanted ahead of the other.
Rebecca: I put Gobourne second-last, so that’s almost unanimous. I’m going to do slander and say my No. 6 was Skaggs. I know Twitter will hate me, but I absolutely just hate that she doesn’t get deducted for her leg separation. It’s really egregious to me.
Elizabeth: OK, but what is a leg separation really? Obviously she separates on the double layout — that’s obvious. But the others… Is she bowlegged or are her legs actually apart? I think it’s the former, and I don’t necessarily call that separated. I went into the video thinking I’d kill her on the legs, but it ended up being only really the dismount where I found a real issue.
Emily M: I also only took note on the dismount in this particular set. But still, I had her at No. 4.
Tavia: You raise valid questions. I thought there was a baby separation on the Pak as well but nothing out of hand.
Rebecca: Yeah, this is a complicated thing that I think we’ve been thinking about since Rebecca Bross and never really resolved, but even if this is a better one, the dismount really bothers me.
Elizabeth: She’s certainly improved so much since first coming to college. I had her at No. 5.
Tavia: I also had Skaggs as my No. 5
Rebecca: OK, I’m outnumbered. Who does everyone have above Skaggs and below Doggette/Thomas?
Elizabeth: I had Blanco at No. 4.
Rebecca: Me too, I can see the Pak catch thing on rewatch, but I don’t think it’s at the level that the NCAA would usually deduct.
Tavia: Don’t yell at me. I had Aria Brusch
Elizabeth: Maybe the overall great technique Blanco has made me bias and resulted in me putting her higher?
Rebecca: Yeah, I don’t really see any good toe point at any point in the Brusch routine and to me that’s the sort of thing that SHOULD separate you from the best, even if it doesn’t always in reality.
Tavia: I mainly moved Blanco down because of the Pak salto catch, general handstands throughout the routine and the slide on the dismount.
Emily M: Blanco’s toes really do stand out and above. Just spectacular.
Tavia: I love Blanco, but that was not her best routine in my opinion.
Elizabeth: For Blanco’s routine I noted a small leg separation on the Pak, a slightly missed handstand on the low bar pirouette and a small slide on the dismount. As for Brusch, legs on the backswing of the Shaposh, maybe a odd bent knee on the first handstand, but she had the best dismount landing until Thomas.
Elizabeth: Adams’ really “blew it” for me with the clear miss on her toe-on full and the feet-apart dismount landing.
Tavia: YES! It was such a good routine, and that blind full made me sad.
Emily M: Agreed on the dismount landing! I just wrote down a question mark.
Rebecca: I keep forgetting about that one, which…is because it’s kind of forgettable.
Elizabeth: I’d still have her ahead of Gobourne because the transitions were so great and I can’t deal with Gobourne’s dismount legs, but I guess I can settle.
Emily M: I would be fine with her ahead of Gobourne, largely for the Tkatchev feet.
Tavia: I put Adams behind Skaggs and before Gobourne.
Rebecca: I’m going to suggest we promote Skaggs, demote Gobourne and try to order these remaining three since they’re the sticking point.
Emily M: Into it.
Tavia: That’s fine by me!
No. 4: Megan Skaggs (Florida)
No. 8: Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
Rebecca: My order is Blanco, Adams, Brusch, of course.
Elizabeth: My vote is Blanco for Reasons, but I’m open to compelling arguments.
Emily M: In a normal instance I would say Blanco far and away, but I agree with Tavia that this was just not her usual routine.
Rebecca: I do want to inject a little bit of realism in this moment and say none of these remaining three are 9.950 routines. Sorry.
Elizabeth: Blanco is the only one who didn’t stick or basically stick her dismount, which is kind of interesting to think about.
Emily M: That’s a good point.
Elizabeth: I suppose I’m OK with Brusch ahead of Blanco. The reasoning you guys have given is very valid. And Brusch’s routine was another I was almost pleasantly surprised seeing when I actually got to watching it. Blanco’s had the opposite effect.
Emily M: I do see the points about Blanco’s overall execution (vibes I guess) is the best of this group, which isn’t for nothing. That leaves an impression on judges, and flow is a real deduction.
Rebecca: True. Someone with worse “baseline” technique should have to do more to equal an average routine by someone with great technique — that’s only fair. Plus, toe point is also a “real” deduction even if judges don’t always behave like it.
Elizabeth: Thomas, Doggette, Skaggs, Brusch, Blanco, Adams, Gobourne?
Emily M: I’m good with that order.
Tavia: I’m fine with that as well!
Elizabeth: I think I would have fought harder for Blanco ahead if I didn’t note three separate areas to Brusch’s two.
Rebecca: I don’t love it, but I can live with it.
No. 5: Aria Brusch
No. 6: Luisa Blanco
No. 7: Shania Adams
Emily M: It really just wasn’t Blanco’s cleanest set.
Rebecca: It’s an interesting question how much technique should balance out overt errors. But yeah, on the day Blanco could have done more. It’s more about what is and isn’t taken in the NCAA.
Emily M: It pops out of the code in such opaque ways. “Artistry,” however judges choose to interpret that.
Rebecca: The toe point in some of these routines definitely SHOULD be deductible, but it’s close enough that we’re trained to just kind of shrug. That’s not necessarily fair to people who do more.
Elizabeth: All I’m saying is you can’t deduct someone for using a technique you personally don’t like as much because there’s no real deduction that goes along with it. But we all know that Blanco’s gymnastics is pleasing to watch. Larger issue of course.
Rebecca: Yeah, my point is that there’s a difference between “no real deduction” and “deduction that judges consistently don’t care about,” and it shouldn’t be a matter of feelings that good toe point gets scores — the actual judges should be doing that.
Elizabeth: But that’s the beauty in this little exercise! We can take off for things to break ties that the judges don’t see or don’t deduct!
Emily M: The beauty of YouTube!
Tavia: And diagonal angles!
READ THIS NEXT: Data Deep Dive: SEC Scoring
Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Emily Minehart, Rebecca Scally and Tavia Smith
Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year!