Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gym Countdown: #19 Minnesota

2008-09 Season Recap

It was a whirlwind season for this team last year with some incredible highs and some rock bottom lows. Let's start with the highs. On senior night the Golden Gophers scored a season high 196.75 against Iowa which gave the team its highest score in five years. Senior Carmelina Carabajal took the Big Ten all around title and while Minn. finished 4th they still had a strong showing at the conference championship.
On the down side the Gophers posted several low scores on the season including a 191.475(?!) against Iowa St. Perhaps worse than that was their poor showing regionals where they landed in fifth. While I don't think people were expecting them to challenge for the top two spots over Florida or UCLA, this team definitely had a shot at third and therefore a higher ranking than they attained at the end of the season.

2010 Season Outlook

So what can we expect from the Gophers this season? Well on the downside losing Carabajal doesn't help. That's four consistently strong scores and a conference all around champion that this team is going to have to replace. On the other hand this extremely young team shoulg find a strong leader in their sole senior Alexis Russell. If she can step up and top last season's already strong scores the Gophers may make even more noise than they did last year. From what I can tell of their incoming class, their recruits look pretty good and should be able to contribute right away.
I expect Minnesota to have continued strength on bars and beam. The place they really need to work is vault. If they could improve their average score on that event alone by half a point they would have a true shot at making nationals. That having been said I don't see this team making it to NCAAs this year. With all their youth they should have an opportunity in the near future if they keep improving

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gym Countdown #20: West Virginia

Because I think utterly blind prognostications and predictions are fun, I thought I would countdown my top 20 teams for the 2009-10 season ala the New York Times' quad countdown for college football. Unlike the Times I will only do one a week rather than every day as I don't have time to compile statistics for every single team every single day between now and the start of the season.

So let's get the ball rolling with number 20: West Virginia

2008-09 Recap
The Mountaineers opened with losses to UGA, Michigan State, and Iowa. They had strong showings in their next few meets but were then blown out by Oklahoma and Missouri in a quad meet where WVU finished third, in front of only Brown. They then managed to take 2 of their final three of the regular season, losing only to Penn St. a team that would be nationals bound.

Unfortunately West Virginia did not have their strongest showing in the post season. They lost the EAGL championship to the Wolfpack of NC State and in a tough outing at regionals WVU landed in fourth behind UGA, Penn St, and Nebraska to end their season.

2010 Season Outlook
I toiled a great deal over this last (or first depending on how you look at it) spot. A lot of teams could easily fit in here so really it was just a gut feeling that made the final decision. While I don't know if I will be expecting West Virginia to make a run at nationals, I do expect them to keep pace with what they have been doing and hopefully improve. Their biggest hurdle will be replacing all-arounder Mehgan Morris who may be the best gymnast in the program's history. The Mountaineers will be looking for leadership from junior all-arounder Amy Bieski. The team also has some solid freshman recruits coming in to round out the line-up.

Last year's average score for WVU was 194.934 and their top score of the year came in their loss to Penn St with a 195.925. This team will be looking to improve on both of those figures in 2010. The Mountaineers should have continued strength on the vault where Sr. Chelsi Tabor leads them with consistent scores of 9.9 or higher. Like many college squads West Virginia's nemesis is the beam. Last year they never broke 49 as a team and tended to hang out at 48.5 or lower. They'll need to make a big move on this event if they want to make a break towards nationals.

Will

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Rules: Sacrilige or Salvation?

There has been so much controversy over the new NCAA Gymnastics rules I thought it would be helpful to make a list of pros and cons.

We'll start with the pros.

1)Possibly more parity - Looking at the results from last year's nationals different teams would have made it to finals with the 6 up 6 count rule even with only four teams making it (namely Penn St). We also would have had a different champion, Alabama.

2)Easier to follow - A common complaint about college gymnastics has been its ability to apparently baffle the uninitiated thus negatively effecting the sport's popularity. The new rules simplify and streamline the post season meets making them easier for laymen to follow.

3)Possible Live TV Coverage - With 6 teams competing the networks would have to clear out several hours of air time to give complete live coverage. With less teams in the mix there is a more realistic possibility.

4)Overwhelming Coaches' Consensus - 60-3 was the final tally voting in favor of these changes. One has to assume that these people closest to the sport have a pretty good idea that change is necessary for the continued success and growth of college gymnastics.

5)More Excitement - When every routine counts there is bound to be more suspense, more drama, and generally more excitement throughout the meet which is what makes sports fun to watch in the first place

And now for the cons...

1)Possibility of safer/less difficult routines - I think most people agree that they enjoy seeing the tough skills performed. Teams may use simpler routines to put up consistent scores rather than risking the tougher/more entertaining skills.

2)Confusing disparity between regular season and post season scoring - While the post season scoring may be easier to follow, it could also be confusing to suddenly change the rules on gym fans after the regular season.

3)No guarantee on TV - While they may have changed the number of teams to make nationals more TV friendly, the reality is that most TV networks are not falling over themselves to air a live gymnastics broadcast on Saturday night.

4)Maybe the wrong changes
- While recognizing that change is necessary perhaps the coaches are too close to the sport to see what could really make the difference in its popularity. Ignoring other possibilities such as counting win/loss record (like every other sport out there)or even just upping the marketing on school and conference levels seem to have fallen by the wayside for the moment.

Will

UGA's starting lineup.

Based on a combination of the gymnasts' performances last year, gut feeling, expectations for the newcomers, and how much I like the gymnast. It's not scientific of really all that fair, but it's who I think will be where:

Vault:

Marcia Newby
Kat Ding
Cassidy McComb
Gina Nuccio
Amber Trani
Christa Tanella


Bars:

Grace Taylor
Courtney McCool
Kat Ding
Gina Nuccio
Shayla Worley
Christa Tanella

Beam:

Hilary Mauro
Grace Taylor
Courtney McCool
Katie Breazeal
Shayla Worley
Christa Tanella

Floor:

Grace Taylor
Courtney McCool
Noel Couch
Cassidy McComb
Hilary Mauro
Gina Nuccio

Chris

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My idea for floor music.

The theme song to Six Feet Under - listen to it.



It would take a gymnast who could actually dance to pull it off, but I think it would be great.

-Chris

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My favorite gymnasts...

... in no particular order.

Nastia Liukin
Catalina Ponor
Courtney McCool
Courtney Kupets
Kate Richardson
Svetlana Khorkina
Yang Bo
Cheng Fei
Li Li
Anna Pavlova

-Chris