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 addressing the 2019 national championship on floor, in which four gymnasts tied for 9.950 and shared the title.
Our weekly contributors, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Grimsley and USAG editor Rebecca Scally, will be joined by SEC editor Claire Billman and data editor Emma Hammerstrom.
Rebecca: So I don’t know about you guys, but I thought it was challenging to order these routines.
Emma: I absolutely agree. I had a lot of trouble!
Elizabeth: I still don’t know if I have an order I’m happy with.
Rebecca: I think only one of the four didn’t meaningfully overpower her first pass, and she’s my No. 1.
Emma: We might have the same person in mind.
Emma: I agree.
Elizabeth: Yeah I think despite her routine, really after that first pass, being “easy,” she was essentially perfect, while I saw actual mistakes from the others.
Rebecca: I still don’t think it was a PERFECT landing on the Dowell. There was some foot shuffle on the back foot. But it’s a lot better than what the others did on their first passes, and there weren’t issues anywhere else in the routine that I wanted deductions for.
Claire: Second the slight lack of control on the Dowell, Rebecca. There’s also the bent elbow on the front handspring.
Elizabeth: I thought I would have to use the lack of difficulty in her second and third passes against her!
Rebecca: Do we need to have the difficulty conversation now? I guess we do.
Elizabeth: I think the difficulty conversation is definitely a factor when it comes to the others. Interested to hear your thoughts. Although it seems we have a clear No. 1.
Rebecca: Obviously Ross doesn’t have an E pass and all of the other three do. I personally didn’t take that into account in my ranking at all. Whip double tuck is still bonus-ful even if it’s not as flashy, and I prefer just to look at the actual deductions in the code.
Claire: We have a clear No. 1 execution-wise; I’m sure we’ll differ on artistry and performance, haha.
Emma: Difficulty doesn’t play as much of a role in my personal ranking of routines, especially since this preceded the wave of two-pass routines without the E pass. Being able to sell the routine is higher on my priority list.
Elizabeth: For me, I didn’t necessarily take difficulty into account either because there were other mistakes. Ross had landing issues, albeit small, on her first and final passes. Rebecca’s favorite small-front-foot-movement.
Rebecca: Yeah, I’d want to deduct for artistry if any of these routines were a total travesty, but none of them are. Dowell No. 1 is the right call.
No. 1: Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
Elizabeth: Speaking of selling the routine… This is where I get wishy-washy because Brown’s was my least “favorite” choreography-wise, but I had her ranked No. 2 in terms of execution/errors.
Rebecca: Boren is my No. 4, dance or no dance. She had two substantial landing issues and her leaps were a little sketch too. I thought it was tight between Brown and Ross.
Elizabeth: Brown’s routine just didn’t draw me in. And Boren’s did by a MILE — I wanted to rank her No. 1! — but that last pass really ruined it.
Emma: Brown’s was my least favorite choreography as well, but I did have her lower than second.
Claire: I did an objective and subjective ranking. Objective: Dowell, Ross, Brown, Boren. Subjective: Boren, Ross, Brown, Dowell.
Rebecca: Ooh, your objective is the same as mine. Ross would be No. 1 of my subjective — her 2019 choreography is one of my all-time favorites.
Elizabeth: I personally had Ross third because of the first and last pass landings. To me Brown’s landings were all solid except for the first.
Emma: Boren wins everything and more in artistry for her routine. I had to watch it a couple times because I totally forgot to look for deductions! It completely drew me in.
Elizabeth: I missed Boren’s entire leap pass the first time!
Emma: I had Ross second as well though.
Claire: Whether or not it’s your personal style, Boren’s choreography and performance is the most complete
Rebecca: Can we agree on Boren No. 4 and get that settled?
No. 4: Alicia Boren (Florida)
Rebecca: I think the argument for Ross is her two landing issues were smaller than Brown’s one and her leaps were better.
Emma: I agree. The slide on Brown’s first pass was very hard to ignore.
Elizabeth: Looks like we’re split on Ross vs. Brown. I could be persuaded to change my ranking based on vibe, though. But my reasoning right now is two foot slides to one. The slide on Brown’s last pass to me was a foot turn out, which is allowed, vs. an actual slide like Ross’s. Rebecca: Ross is also the only one of these four who competed in the first subdivision, just for context. I felt at the time that they were setting Katelyn Ohashi for a 10, but Ohashi had a rough routine so that didn’t happen.
Elizabeth: I was going to bring up a similar qualifier for Boren (before it ended up mattering): She was the only one competing without a team.
Claire: All technical issues equal, Kyla is a fairly introverted performer, but the routine fits that and she sells it well. Brown’s is fairly…generic?
Emma: Brown’s just didn’t really draw me in. Ross’ choreography is relatively tame, especially compared to the other routines in that lineup, but she does it well and it fits her.
Rebecca: I didn’t honestly mind the Lynnzee Brown dance, and you know I’m not a Denver stan or anything. She’s got technique and movement quality, even if the choreography isn’t the greatest.
Elizabeth: I fully agree with all of you on that — but that’s not why I had Brown ranked higher. You’ll need another way to convince me!
Claire: The camera angle on Brown’s switch half was weird, but I wasn’t sure she hit 180.
Emma: I agree Claire. I wish we had a better view! It seemed questionable to me.
Rebecca: Ross’s leaps being more emphatic than Brown’s is definitely a real thing.
Emma: I agree, that was the big separator for me past artistry.
Claire: I didn’t “deduct” for it, but when it comes down to two routines that are so, so close, that did sway me.
Elizabeth: I’d like to bring up Ross’s second pass. How do we feel about the semi-uncontrolled “dance out of the landing?”
Rebecca: Totally fine. Planning something like that into a routine is fair game to me.
Emma: Same here. Dowell does it too.
Elizabeth: Not technically a deduction, but also not as clean of a look. I don’t mind when it’s clean, but to me Ross’s looked slightly panicked? Maybe I’m just hunting for issues.
Claire: Boren as well on her second pass choreographs a little “stutter step” out of her front lay.
Elizabeth: OK, so it seems like we’re going around in circles. Do we care more about presence or do we care more about landings and leaps? I think that’s what our two sides have come down on.
Rebecca: The latter, absolutely.
Elizabeth: I agree, which is why I put Brown ahead of Ross.
Claire: See, that’s ultimately why I put Ross ahead of Brown!
Rebecca: We’ve just said that Ross has better leaps, and I do think the landings are comparable between the two. Two little things vs one bigger one… eh.
Elizabeth: It’s still one bad landing to two for me. And Ross ahead in presence.
Claire: Brown had a significant slide after that gorgeous opening double layout.
Elizabeth: Ross also had a clear slide on her first pass. As well as a slide on her last pass.
Emma: Brown’s felt more uncontrolled to me, at least in my opinion.
Claire: Brown had a visible slide on her final double pike.
Elizabeth: To me that was a foot turn out not a slide.
Elizabeth: I guess I’m taking total deductions over severity when the severity really isn’t all that different? I’m ignoring leaps completely at this point because both, to me, were “perfect.”
Rebecca: OK, why don’t we say all the deductions are the same: one bad landing for Brown vs. two for Ross, one sketchy leap for Brown takes us to two things vs. two things — break the tie with performance quality?
Emma: In that case, definitely Ross.
Elizabeth: I didn’t see the sketchy leap (I’m not going to judge based off a camera angle), but if the three of you did, I’ll obviously fold. But I agree if it comes down to performance quality, it’s Ross over Brown.
Emma: It was definitely questionable since the angle was so terrible, but I think two other people also noticing it makes me feel better about taking the deduction.
Rebecca: I honestly think there’s a case that the toes stayed down on Ross’s final pass, too, even though her heel raised, but I don’t want us to have to actually get out the microscope.
Claire: I literally wrote, “heel rise, but maintains toe contact,” if that helps at all!
Rebecca: I watched it a couple times and the camera was moving on the slow-mo, so I wasn’t sure. It’s a tough call. I really get where Elizabeth is coming from, too.
Claire: Obviously, the point of this exercise is to break ties, but those two routines are very close!
Elizabeth: I just watched Ross’s last pass again, and her heel bounces twice. I think that’s why I called it out so loudly. One — fine. Twice? Mistake. Although from the second angle, the first pass seems more OK! Just a weird back heel bounce…
Rebecca: Yeah, I get that. I’m rewatching too and honestly all these deductions are magnified in my memory, we’ve been thinking about them so much that I’m imagining yard-long bounces now.
Rebecca: I am pretty confident that the Brown switch half didn’t make split, though.
Elizabeth: Let me check that one out again.
Emma: Side note, I love being able to dissect routines like this because they’re so close.
Rebecca: It’s agonizing!
Emma: But fun!
Claire: That’s the perfect description: agonizing, but fun!
Rebecca: If I’m a judge, I would probably just let these two tie. We’re only thinking this hard because the premise of the article forces us to.
Claire: Same. I would feel ethically sound calling this a tie if you weren’t forcing us to pick.
Elizabeth: Ugh, I just don’t know about that leap guys! I don’t feel comfortable saying it didn’t because of the angle alone. To me it looks like any other fine split. Ahh!
Claire: It’s fine, but Ross’s were unquestionably more than fine. To me, that’s the difference.
Elizabeth: But I will say, after rewatching Brown’s routine and listening to the slower music tempo, it really doesn’t do it for me. That may be what pushes me over the edge to Ross.
Emma: Same here. Ross had less to ponder about.
Elizabeth: I honestly want to call them 2a and 2b.
Rebecca: We can give Ross second place and Brown like, 2.5th place or something.
No. 2: Kyla Ross (UCLA)
Claire: Third plus the Miss Congeniality prize?
Emma: And a complimentary gift card.
Elizabeth: What was the margin Oklahoma lost the national championship by that one year that sparked the hashtag?
No. 2.0375: Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
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Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Rebecca Scally, Claire Billman, Emma Hammerstrom
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