It’s getting serious now. Come Monday, 48 teams will have an NQS. Here’s what I’m watching, anticipating, and worrying about at this point in the season where things are really starting to matter.
Question: Is Nebraska back?
I’ve been delaying going there because I’ve seen the momentum of a great few meets fizzle out multiple times over recent years for the Huskers. But after fighting back to regionals last year, I’m starting to believe that at least a glimmer of Nebraska’s former glory has returned.
It’s the more impressive because so many gymnasts driving the turnaround are upperclassmen who were on the team for the 2021 and 2022 struggle seasons. That said, the contributions of sophomore Csenge Bácskay can’t be understated. It’s hard to tell what changed in Lincoln to produce such a turnaround, but it’s great for the dynamics of the conference. Plus it’s nostalgic for those of us who loved the Huskers before the downturn.
If Cornell has really fixed bars, what does that mean for the rest of the GEC? A short-handed Cornell upset Penn in Philadelphia this week on the power of its best bars rotation since 2019. It definitely put me in mind of those immaculate pre-pandemic Cornell seasons under the leadership of all-time greats like Lyanda Dudley and Kaitlin Green. The Big Red hasn’t challenged at the top of the conference or the Ivy League much since then, but I’d be very excited if those days turned out to be on the way back.
Can Stanford communicate its personnel decisions in any way at all, please? I understand that it was at least communicated, albeit in a very vague fashion, that Anna Roberts would be out for some period of time. Nothing at all was communicated about Sienna Robinson being out of lineups for a full month prior to this week or Sydney Razeghi’s total absence, and the more weeks Stanford is unable to put up six gymnasts on every event, the more important those absences feel. Would appreciate an update!
Comment: Auburn isn’t going away
Auburn took a lot of heat for the admittedly very unpleasant end to its 2023 season, and expectations for this year and the post-Sunisa Lee era weren’t the highest. (I maintain that some of it is that a lot of current fans don’t remember the glory days of pre-Suni Auburn, but that’s neither here nor there.) News like Olivia Greaves’ preseason injury further tempered projections for the Tigers’ 2024.
Auburn is, as many projected, second-to-last in the SEC, but it is at this point substantially underhyped for its No. 14 ranking. Less than a tenth behind Arkansas, widely (and correctly) considered a breakout star of the season and a mere tenth and a half behind Missouri and Michigan, the Tigers continue to fly under the radar. Hosting Alabama this weekend will, as ever, be a test and will certainly bring more eyes to this team, which could be a blessing or a curse.
An apparent injury to freshman Julianne Huff looked like an obstacle, but it proved to be minor, while the return of Olivia Greaves on bars is great news and could get better if her other events are coming along too. It’s looking like a nice, steady progression that I think will hold against score growth by other teams in the same part of the rankings.
Michigan State joined Oklahoma and only Oklahoma as a team that has a 198-plus score this year that I consider real. Argue with the wall.
If you haven’t watched Bridgeport in a few years, it’s time to fix that. The difficulty, skill variety, and risk-taking in the Purple Knights’ routines make them so enthralling.
Concern: Let’s circle back…
Most teams I don’t think are in a good place right now are teams I’ve already expressed concern about. I struggled to think of who to write about this week without repeating myself, so let’s lean in and revisit some existing issues that have not been resolved yet.
Iowa: Stopping that worse-score-every-week skid by improving exactly a quarter of a tenth this week doesn’t mean that the heat is off of the Hawkeyes or that they have the raw materials to replace Adeline Kenlin, who is now confirmed out for the season.
Michigan: This team is just so, so old. The Wolverines are getting 20 weekly routines from seniors or fifth years. TWENTY. I wondered if this would be the year that Michigan would finally be forced to prioritize and showcase underclassman talent, but apparently not.
Washington: Scores are building now for the Huskies, but there’s still something that feels unfinished about this team, which hasn’t had a meet without a sub-49 rotation yet. Incremental moves might be enough to keep Washington on pace with the national rankings, but I’d love if the process of settling freshmen in could speed up a bit.
North Carolina: Getting Lali Dekanoidze back after only a week away is great news for the Tar Heels; we had no idea how badly she was injured when we saw her go down. The bad news is that the team didn’t perform a whole lot better with her. I still don’t see a route to turn things around.
UCLA: I projected depth to be a challenge for UCLA in the absence of Jordan Chiles and Ana Padurariu, and while Katelyn Rosen has done about as much as the Bruins could have hoped for, the question of how to replace Emma Malabuyo’s routines in upcoming weeks is looking like a real head-scratcher.
You want more concerns after all of those? Settle down.
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Article by Rebecca Scally