The Tie Break Graphic

The Tie Break: 2023 SECs Floor

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 tackle the floor runner-up position at the 2023 SEC championship, where four gymnasts tied for second with a 9.950. (Of course, Trinity Thomas won the title with a 10.000.)

This week editor-in-chief Elizabeth Grimsley couldn’t make it, so GEC editor Rebecca Scally was joined by photographer Tara Graeve and SEC editor Claire Billman.

The Contenders 

Haleigh Bryant (LSU)

Kayla DiCello (Florida)

Aleah Finnegan (LSU)

Lilly Hudson (Alabama)

The Debate

Rebecca: What did we think of these routines in general? Was it tough to decide an order?

Tara: At first glance, it was tough! But once I went into nitpicking mode it was slightly easier.

Claire: I felt there was a clear line between the top two and bottom two, but deciding between the two routines in their respective categories was tough.

Tara: I definitely had to watch the routines over again some.

Rebecca: Claire, you live blogged this meet, right? Any memories of what your real-time impressions were?

Claire: I remember being completely blown away by Bryant’s routine. I thought she had the best floor of the competition. Watching on YouTube, I can see a couple things to justify that 9.950, but in person, from my admittedly poor vantage point, it was an electric performance. She certainly had the cleanest, most controlled tumbling.

Tara: Definitely! It came down to which errors I thought were “worse.”

Rebecca: Right. There are a couple of very well-established built-in deductions that we’ll see every time these routines are performed.

Tara: Bryant’s ring positions make me cringe every time. But the rest of the routine is SO GOOD.

Rebecca: Since Bryant came up, let’s stick with her. What are those little things you saw? Tara’s right about the rings.

Claire: As Tara said, the ring position was off, and she was a bit off-kilter on the switch half.

Tara: My main thing was the ring position. She technically has leg separation on the double front, but it’s within the acceptable range and controlled so well.

Rebecca: Yeah, form on a double front is not typically something I’d begrudge, but we have to consider it next to the Finnegan double Arabian, which doesn’t have the leg separation.

Tara: Exactly.

Claire: That’s almost verbatim what I said in my notes. Next to Hudson’s double tuck form? It’s fine. Compared to Finnegan’s Arabian? It sticks out.

Rebecca: Our top two are the LSU pair, right?

Claire: Yep.

Tara: Yep.

Rebecca: I don’t think it’s that subtle, but good to establish these things!

Tara: Finnegan’s form on basically everything is top-notch.

Rebecca: Yeah, I thought overall Bryant’s landings were more effortless, but Finnegan worked to keep the deductions down and ended up in pretty much the same place.

Tara: I loved the control of Finnegan’s double Arabian to stag. She really showed she had the landing before connecting it! It was almost too slow though.

Claire: There was a slight break between Finnegan’s double Arabian and the stag though.

Rebecca: Definitely.

Claire: And then she danced out of the back two and a half to front tuck so quickly, I couldn’t tell if it was a true lack of control or the choreography. Which is probably by design. 

Tara: Yeah, that was weird. It also felt like the second salto didn’t truly rise. The two and a half was really high, and then the tuck was kind of just there.

Rebecca: I think it’s harder to look like you have the elevation on a tuck versus a layout. To me, it was high enough to be OK.

Tara: Agreed.

Claire: It didn’t look muscled or flat, so I think it was fine. Overall, her technique and style are superb. 

Rebecca: If we’re being picky, I thought Bryant worked out of the lunge on the second pass fast enough to be in the “ehh was that actually controlled?” zone.

Claire: There was a micro-crossover step on her final pass.

Rebecca: I had it as a little foot shift that I wasn’t sure what to do with. In real life, if you get that close to a true stick and you’re good, but it was something.

Tara: I still thought her landings had the most control of the bunch, even with the nitpicks.

Rebecca: Definitely. I don’t think the difference is that big, though, which is why I had Finnegan No. 1. The leaps and the double front form gap more than make up the landing difference to me.

Claire: Agreed.

Tara: I also had Finnegan No. 1 for the same reasons.

No. 1: Aleah Finnegan (LSU)

No. 2: Haleigh Bryant (LSU)

Rebecca: OK, cool! Let’s talk about DiCello and Hudson. What did you see on landings here?

Claire: DiCello didn’t get the front double full all the way around and had to do some funky steps out. Hudson somewhat fell out of the landing on hers, but she definitely completed the twists.

Tara: Hudson had some kind of issue on almost every landing. Her first and third passes had pretty large steps, and she had a foot adjustment on the middle pass. I also noted DiCello’s double full.

Rebecca: Yeah, these two were kind of all over the place. DiCello also has some pretty distinct twisting form. Again, nothing new here—Twitter has been talking about that forever.

Tara: I can see why NCAA judges wouldn’t take those deductions, but they’re definitely there. Ditto on the twisting form as well.

Claire: I can’t see why they wouldn’t take those deductions…

Rebecca: 9.950 is definitely an optimistic read on both of these two.

Tara: For sure.

Claire: I also couldn’t tell if DiCello over-rotated her wolf turns. She seemed to fall out of it, which—like Finnegan’s back two and a half to front tuck—may have been the choreography, but it gives the impression that they lacked control. Agree that DiCello’s leaps were stronger. 

Rebecca: I had DiCello on top, but I don’t feel all that strongly about it.

Tara: I did as well. But it could go either way. I just thought her landings were a tad cleaner, even with twisting the front double full into the ground.

Claire: Hudson’s twisting form is certainly cleaner, but she had issues on most of her landings. 

Tara: Hudson also cheated the rotation on her leap pass, whereas I thought DiCello’s leaps were a little better.

Rebecca: Awesome! I had really hoped that this one would be a bit simpler after an absolute slog last time around.

No. 3: Kayla DiCello (Florida)

No. 4: Lilly Hudson (Alabama)

READ THIS NEXT: The Tie Break: 2023 Big 12s Floor

Article by Rebecca Scally, Tara Graeve and Claire Billman

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