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The Tie Break: 2017 NCAA Nationals Bars

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 take a look at the six-way tie for the 2017 NCAA national bar title.

Our weekly contributors, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Grimsley and USAG editor Rebecca Scally, will be joined by EAGL editor Alyssa VanAuker and assistant project manager Tara Graeve.

The Contenders 

The Debate

Rebecca: What did you think of these routines, team?

Elizabeth: This was tough! Unlike our previous bars tie break discussion, there were SMALL errors that differentiated everyone. My top choice was clear, Nos. 2 and 3 next then a clear break between No. 4 and Nos. 5/6.

Tara: It was definitely tough! I had a pretty clear No. 6. No. 1 was harder but still pretty clear. Separating the rest was hard!

Alyssa: I agree with Elizabeth. There were some clear distinctions for me in ranking, but the differences were small details.

Rebecca: I’m very interested to see what everyone else thought. I saw a lot of borderline handstands that were probably good enough to go deductionless but weren’t satisfying.

Tara:  Same, that was one of the things I noted!

Elizabeth: Should I come right out and say it? Finnegan was by far the best in my opinion.

Rebecca: Interesting. I have Finnegan No. 2, but it was very close.

Tara: It was a toss-up between her and Lehrmann for me. I decided on Lehrmann at No. 1, but it was close.

Rebecca: I could be sold on her as the winner.

Elizabeth: And speaking of handstands, when watching Nichols’ routine, I thought it was just the angle that made all of hers look just a tad short. But then I watched Lehrmann from the same angle and hers were clearly vertical.

Rebecca: Nichols was my No. 6. She was not at her swaggiest in my opinion.

Rebecca: Yeah, Lehrmann is my winner too. I thought Finnegan didn’t make her post-Ray handstand and that was the difference for me. Lehrmann had one dodgy handstand too but I thought hers was closer.

Alyssa: I had Lehrmann winning too. She had the least obvious deductions for me.

Elizabeth: As for Finnegan vs. Lehrmann, I thought they were close (Lehrmann was my No. 2), but the slight pike down before the shootover — where Finnegan somehow doesn’t do it — was the differentiator for me.

Tara: Agree on Finnegan.

Rebecca: . I noted that that that handstand was probably slightly short, but still may have been within the deduction-less range.

Rebecca: Elizabeth, can you live with Lehrmann first and Finnegan second or do you want to break it down further? Your call.

Elizabeth: I’m OK putting Lehrmann first! It was so close to me. 

No. 1: Nicole Lehrmann (Oklahoma)

No. 2: Sarah Finnegan (LSU)

Elizabeth: I had Nichols at No. 4, that step really did her in since it was the only CLEAR mistake anyone really made, but Bailey and McMurtry were just not as overall clean to me.

Rebecca: Those feet on the Pak for Nichols too. Her feet were mostly “close enough” on…everything she ever did…but on that skill they really stand out to me.

Tara: Nichols was the clear No. 6 for me. She had the clearest error on the landing, whereas most of the others stuck. I also saw more deductions overall. The toe point, like Rebecca:  said, and her leg separations.

Alyssa: I had Nichols and Bailey very close for the bottom too with Nichols ahead.

Elizabeth: It could have been my stream quality, but, like, did McMurtry bend her knees ever-so-slightly on all her handstands and Ray? Again, could have been my stream quality because she obviously normally has perfect form…

Tara: Bailey was my fifth also.

Rebecca: What I wrote for McMurtry was, “First handstand over, feet under the bar, soft back.” Didn’t love that.

Elizabeth: I also noted the small waver on the first handstand McMurtry did.

Tara: McMurtry had a lot of super aggressive handstands that didn’t go over, but were pretty close.

Elizabeth: McMurtry’s landing, while stuck, wasn’t a “perfect” stick, with a bit of a knee wobble.

Rebecca: By the way, am I noticing that we’re unanimous on Kyla Ross No. 3?

Tara: Yep, Ross was 3 for me.

Alyssa: I am good with Ross as No. 3

Elizabeth: Ross was my bronze, too. She only really had that one initial handstand with everything else perfect.

Rebecca: I think the angle didn’t do Ross any favors but it just wasn’t her ABSOLUTE tightest routine. The Maloney looked a little soft to me. It’s still a great routine and absolutely 9.95-worthy.

Elizabeth: I agree.

No. 3: Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Alyssa: McMurtry’s dismount was so high where it outweighed the knee wobble for me

Tara: Yeah, it was the initial handstand, and I noticed a little leg separation on her Maloney.

Elizabeth: Unfortunately you can’t make up for small deductions with height haha

Rebecca: I also saw that McMurtry wobble but decided not to call it a deduction since her feet stayed down. If it comes down to that, I get it. For Bailey I had feet on her Jaeger, and I thought her blind was a little late.

Elizabeth: Oh for sure. I know it’s not a “real” deduction, but with all of these routines so close, I felt like I needed to note it.

Tara: Ditto on Bailey’s feet. I saw some issues on the blind also, and again some feet on her dismount. For me that outweighed McMurtry’s landing.

Elizabeth: Bailey was hard because the video cuts in at the end of her first handstand, which I thought could have been a little short. I also noted her Jaeger feet and her shootover shape. Her dismount form and landing were superb, though.

Rebecca: Can I just say that this was a truly fabulous set of dismounts? Technical masterclass from top to bottom.

Tara: So true!

Elizabeth: And none for Maggie Nichols.

Rebecca: Yeah, that step is really so memorable.

Elizabeth: It was honestly pretty impressive that that was the only “major” deduction in any of these sets.

Tara: That’s what made this so hard!

Rebecca: Okay, Nichols handstands. Elizabeth:  said she thought they were fine until she watched Lehrmann and saw that those were fine-er. Anyone else have an opinion?

Tara: I didn’t really have an issue with most of them. The last one looked short though.

Elizabeth: I honestly felt like she was sort of short on all of them when watching Lehrmann’s from the same angle.

Rebecca: I have the same feeling as Elizabeth.

Tara: The camera angles with handstands play a huge role. And I think a lot of these handstands are technically within the acceptable range, but we’re nitpicking here.

Elizabeth: For Nichols I also noted Ray feet at the end and Pak feet at the end. She was No. 4 for me, but I could be convinced to put her No. 6.

Alyssa: I wish we had the judges angle to really tell the handstands, but I agree with the assessment of Nichols’ handstands.

Tara: The dismount is what got me. I couldn’t look at the rest of the potential deductions plus the step and find something worse in one of the others.

Elizabeth: That’s why this exercise is fun, though! What good would overanalyzing things be if we just saw what the judges saw?!

Alyssa: I had Bailey below Nichols, but I can see Nichols being No. 6 as well.

Rebecca: Wait until I put you on a floor week and you have to analyze switch rings coming directly toward you!

Tara: Elizabeth mentioned it above, but Bailey’s cutting in late was tricky as well.

Rebecca: Yeah, I really really looked for a better video of that Bailey routine and if it exists, it escaped me.

Elizabeth: I literally had Bailey and McMurtry tied in an exercise whose purpose is breaking ties, so that’s where I’m at with this whole thing.

Rebecca: I did that last time, so I can’t judge. For me Bailey comes out ahead because she just had a few LESS little things.

Elizabeth: I think I’m biased toward her style of bars (in a negative way), but I’m good with putting Bailey at No. 4 since her dismount is glorious. 

Tara: I saw less on McMurtry, but I could be convinced otherwise.

Rebecca: I have Bailey-McMurtry-Nichols. I think I’m making progress at manipulating you all to agree with me.

Alyssa: I would have McMurtry ahead of Bailey.

Elizabeth: I think for me it comes down to did Nichols miss every handstand? If so, she’s No. 6 because that plus a step makes it clear. If not, then it becomes trickier. (edited) 

Rebecca: All the little foot/knee stuff under the bar for McMurtry really left an impression on me, I guess, She was pretty close to her own peak on bars but her best is maybe not quite as good as the other two.

Rebecca: Why don’t we all go and rewatch Nichols once more and make a final call on those handstands? If we feel sure, we can move onto figuring out Bailey vs. McMurtry with conviction.

Elizabeth: Sounds good.

Rebecca: The one following the van Leeuwen is definitely, definitely not there.

Tara: Yeah, that’s the one I specifically noticed the first time. You could argue the first was slightly short also. Agree that it’s probably within the deductionless range, but it’s definitely not perfect.

Elizabeth: My gut says they’re all just shy. Not deduction-worthy in the current code, but not perfectly vertical either.

Alyssa: I would agree with that assessment.

Elizabeth: Honestly, even if we all just have doubt, whereas everyone else was clear handstand, that says something.

Tara: We’re trying to separate these routines here, we can make those calls.

Rebecca: OK, Nichols No. 6 it is.

No. 6: Maggie Nichols

Elizabeth: Let me go through what I noted for Bailey and McMurtry to see if I can some up with who I’d put ahead of the other since I technically had them “tied.” Bailey: Loose feet on the straddle Jaeger, maybe a missed first handstand but hard to say with the cut in on her routine, a little piked in her shootover, perfect form in her dismount and extremely solid landing.

Rebecca: For Bailey, on rewatch I don’t think the blind was as late as I initially thought. She has a tighter handstand line and less little random knee stuff. Definitely the feet on the Jaeger, I agree the dismount is perfect for our purposes.

Elizabeth: McMurtry: Small waver on the first handstand—does she have knees on her release?—perfect in-air form on her dismount but maybe a small waver on the landing in her knees despite no foot movement.

Rebecca: For McMurtry, those bent knees on the cast handstands are really sticking out to me right now.

Elizabeth: I couldn’t tell if it was my video, but you confirming my suspicions helps! I think I’d put Bailey over McMurtry when it’s all said and done.

Rebecca: For clarity this is what we’re talking about.

Tara: It looks even worse in a screenshot!

Alyssa: It does look worse in the screenshot.

Rebecca: I think you and I are in the same place. Alyssa and Tara?

Tara: I just rewatched both. I can live with that.

Alyssa: I don’t see the bent legs for McMurtry the way that you described, but I could live with that as well.

Tara: I didn’t notice it the first time, but after you pointed it out I definitely see it.

Rebecca: So we’re agreed! Nice work, team.

No. 4: Katie Bailey (Alabama)

No. 5: Alex McMurtry (Florida)

READ THIS NEXT: The Tie Break: 2021 Big Tens Floor

Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Rebecca Scally, Tara Graeve, Alyssa VanAuker

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