The Tie Break Graphic

The Tie Break: 2022 Michigan Vault at Rutgers

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 break down Michigan’s record-setting vault rotation at Rutgers this year, during which meet the Wolverines scored three perfect 10.000s and a 9.975. Prepare yourself, because we’re working with even more limited video footage than usual today: Hilariously, not all of these vaults were ever broadcast at all, so we’re forced to lean on fan footage as well as the memory of a contributor who luckily attended this meet in person.

Our weekly contributor, USAG editor Rebecca Scally, will be joined by Big 12 editor Savanna Whitten, assistant project manager Mary Emma Burton and intern Ian LeWarn. Editor-in-chief Elizabeth Grimsley took the week off, but don’t worry, she’ll be back soon!

The Contenders 

Reyna Guggino (10.000) (First clip)

Abby Heiskell (10.000)

Naomi Morrison (9.975)

Natalie Wojcik (10.000) (Second clip)

The Debate

Rebecca: As a little introduction before we begin, Elizabeth is taking a week off this week, so we have three guests! And one of them, Ian, was physically at the meet. I’m really looking forward to that perspective since the best available footage of a couple of these vaults is, frankly, crappy.

Ian: Happy to be here!

Rebecca: We’re also going to rank Naomi Morrison’s 9.975 vault despite it not technically being a “tie” because I know some people felt a 10 was arguable there too.

Mary Emma: Yeah, I really wish we could have had the same angle for all of them.

Savanna: Same. I had to screenshot and compare them side by side to have an idea of how to rank them.

Rebecca: First things first, I want to talk about landings and put everything else aside. Which vault’s landing do you find the most satisfactory?

Mary Emma: Wojcik’s.

Savanna: Agreed. Hers was my top choice landing-wise.

Rebecca: For me it’s Guggino, but I see the case for Wojcik too.

Ian: Probably Wojick and then Guggino.

Mary Emma: I agree. 

Savanna: Guggino was a very close second.

Rebecca: I can live with being outnumbered here. I like to see just an instant more control before the pull-heels-together-and-salute, and I felt that Guggino got there, but Wojcik’s was obviously deduction-less too. Which landing did you like the least?

Mary Emma: Heiskell’s.

Savanna: Is it bad of me to say Heiskell?

Ian: Heiskell’s did hurt a little bit for me too.

Mary Emma: It was a textbook example of a college “stick.” 

Savanna: I just feel like she still had more momentum and could’ve taken a step and managed to control it so she didn’t.

Rebecca: Oh, me too. It’s funny because from the angle that faces her, I didn’t think it looked bad at all. From the side angle, i.e. the one that the judges see, it was pretty obviously not controlled.

Ian: It’s definitely borderline, but does borderline warrant a 10?

Rebecca: Where does Morrison’s landing fit in? What did you notice on the landing there?

Savanna: I definitely preferred her landing to Heiskell’s.

Ian: From where I was sitting, it looked like a small hop. I remember being a little grumbly when she went 9.975, but it could’ve just been a foot adjustment.

Mary Emma: Maybe the slightest shuffle but not as obvious as Heiskell’s.

Rebecca: It’s a hard one because her feet are behind that judge’s head, so I’m inclined to take Ian’s word for it.

Savanna: It looked like a stutter step to me. Like when ballerinas are going up and down in place on their toes? That’s what I felt like I saw.

Rebecca: She’s definitely pushing the limits of what you can write off as “pulling the heels together.” And yes, I know sometimes the mat bounces you and all you can do is keep your toes down, but we’re nitpicking here.

Next up is amplitude. I think we’ll agree Guggino had the least (though relative to her height, I’ve never been bothered by it like some people are), but did any of the others stand out to you in either direction?

Savanna: I thought Wojcik had the most height from the angles I saw.

Mary Emma: Heiskell got the most height, but she doesn’t get as much distance as Wojcik did.

Ian: Wojick stood out to me, but it might’ve just been because she came right after Guggino.

Rebecca: Let me rewatch the compilation videos to compare Wojcik and Heiskell.

I think I agree with Mary Emma. Either way I think this one’s a wash, I honestly didn’t consider amplitude in my ranking at all because I didn’t think anybody was either exceptional or objectionable. Time for the really fun one: form/technique—what did you see?

Ian: Heiskell has the most sound form overall in the air for me. This is why I was kind of saying Heiskell’s landing hurt. She had the best form but the worst landing of the four.

Mary Emma: Wojcik and Heiskell both have exceptional form. It’s definitely glaringly different comparing them both to Guggino.

Rebecca: Wojcik was interesting to me because in most of her vaults, I think she splits her legs on the table, and none of the videos we have give me a way to assess that.

Savanna: Form wise, Wojcik was at the top. The toe point was perfect, and I actually didn’t see a leg separation for once.

Rebecca: Morrison had a little leg separation throughout and was super flat on the table. She also rotates the whole thing SO slowly, which isn’t a problem but gives it a very different vibe to the other three.

Mary Emma: Agreed.

Ian: I had the same observation. It feels like all of Morrison’s twisting happens right at the end.

Savanna: I did notice leg separation with Morrison after I slowed down the video speed. I’d agree with Heiskell’s form being up there as well. Watching her vault in person in the past, you can see the technique is there.

Rebecca: Any thoughts on Guggino in the air? I overall don’t really know what to do with her. I don’t know if you guys have the same thought.

Savanna: This feels mean, but it’s almost like she blended in. Like “oh hey, you get a 10, but we’re not entirely sure why.” Which is sad because I love her gymnastics!

Rebecca: Right, which is funny because she’s by far the most surprising 10 of the night. Remember when she was an Eastern Michigan commit?

Mary Emma: She’s so little that she has to use a different technique to get it all the way around.

Ian: I do think part of the reason Heiskell got a 10 is because they went 10 for Guggino with a lower level of form despite the landing discrepancies.

Mary Emma: It’s not bad, just different, and it looks a bit weaker compared to the others. I don’t know if that makes sense though.

Ian: No I get that. She’s the lead off for a reason. 

Rebecca: I think Guggino was absolutely at the top of her game for that vault—the stars aligned for her. For Heiskell, it was just any old vault because she’s such a superior technician. Not just superior to Guggino but to pretty much everyone in the NCAA.

Ian: That’s true, Heiskell has some of the best leg form in the game.

Savanna: And to think she just randomly busted out a one and a half one day.

Rebecca: Heiskell is someone I picked out in level 10, and I really worried for a few years that she was never going to live up to her potential in college. So glad to have been wrong on that one.

I think we’re digressing because we don’t want to make a decision here. What I’m hearing is Wojcik No. 1. Agreed? 

Mary Emma: Yes

Ian: Yup.

Savanna: Yes.

No. 1: Natalie Wojcik (Michigan)

Rebecca: OK. Heiskell is near the top for form, near the top for amplitude, but she had the worst landing. I think this is the crux of the issue, and if we decide, the rest will fall into place.

Where did you rank her?

Savanna: I originally had her fourth, but I could be persuaded to move her after this.

Ian: I had her third behind Guggino, but I am more than willing to be swayed either way.

Rebecca: I had No. 3 as well but I also don’t have any conviction about it.

Mary Emma: I hate to say this, but I put her last. For me, the lack of control on the landing was much more glaringly obvious than anything else from anybody. But I could be swayed.

Savanna: That’s the main reason I had her fourth.

Rebecca: OK, we’re tied, so let’s put that to the side for the second. I had Guggino second. Anyone want to fight me on that?

Ian: I’m good with that.

Mary Emma: I’m good with that too.

Savanna: I don’t want to fight anyone today.

Rebecca: Oh no Savanna, have you used up all your fighting spirit on your students? 

Savanna: Always! I’m currently missing a sweatshirt that I’m not sure I’ll ever get back.

No. 2: Reyna Guggino (Michigan)

Rebecca: So it’s between Morrison and Heiskell. What I like to do when we’re a little bit stuck is give everyone a moment to rewatch, so let’s do that.

Savanna: Am I crazy or was there a teeny tiny leg separation on Morrison coming off the vault?

Ian: There really isn’t a good angle of Morrison at all, is there?

Rebecca: No sir. Video issues are inherent to this series, a few weeks back we had to figure out if Lynnzee Brown hit split on a switch ring leap that was traveling directly toward the camera.

Fun, right? We’re having fun?

Mary Emma: But to be fair, sometimes the judges have to look from a bad angle too.

Rebecca: Right, and with no rewatch abilities.

Savanna: And they actually get paid to do that.

Mary Emma: It’s really hard for me to tell if Morrison’s foot shuffled or not, so I’m kind of giving her the benefit of the doubt. 

Rebecca: Ian, when you watched this meet for the first time, you liked Heiskell more, right? Because you didn’t think Morrison stuck?

Ian: I mean, I didn’t think either of them stuck, but I think I was just more impressed by Heiskell overall, all things considered. Both had landing issues, but Heiskell’s form sold it for me. Though I am eternally jealous of the person in the background of this video who is filming Morrison from a better angle.

Savanna: See, I had it reversed because Heiskell’s landing was too obvious for me to ignore, while Morrison’s sold it slightly more.

Mary Emma: I agree with Savanna.

Rebecca: Sometimes what we have to do to break ties is look at deductions that aren’t real NCAA deductions. I totally think Morrison’s leg form was good enough to be in the 10.000 universe and her landing might have been, but I also agree that the form is visibly worse than Heiskell’s.

Ian: I do think the head-on and side angles are telling different stories for Heiskell as Rebecca mentioned before.

Rebecca: How stuck did you think it was when you saw it for the first time? Did you question the 10.000?

Ian: Going right after Wojick, yeah. Going after perfection makes the little mistakes stand out more, but I felt similarly going from Heiskell to Morrison. Pretending Sierra Brooks’ vault didn’t happen.

Rebecca: Oh yeah. Sorry to Sierra Brooks who is obviously a star, but in the context, that was so freaking funny. OK, I’m siding with Ian basically on the basis that I don’t know if Morrison stuck, but he probably does.

Ian: Michigan fans, if she stuck and I didn’t see it, this is my formal apology.

Mary Emma: I’m kind of inclined to believe Ian about Morrison since he was there and probably got a different angle.

Rebecca: If so, will you rank Heiskell ahead?

Mary Emma: I’m good with that.

Rebecca: Savanna, will that keep you up at night?

Savanna: I won’t argue with it. I have other things to keep me up at night.

Rebecca: Dark but understandable.

No. 3: Abby Heiskell (Michigan)

No. 4: Naomi Morrison (Michigan)

READ THIS NEXT: The Tie Break: 2017 NCAA Nationals Bars

Article by Rebecca Scally, Mary Emma Burton, Ian LeWarn, Savanna Whitten

Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year! [wpedon id=”13158″]

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.