Someone was asking recently what my favorite event in college gymnastics is. My answer? All of them! They really all offer very different views and skills and each one highlights different gymnasts in my mind. So I thought I would go through each apparatus in order of a home meet rotation and talk about my favorite routines from last year as well as the ones I look forward to seeing this year.
Last Year's Favorites
Obviously a discussion of last season's best vaulters has to begin and end with the NCAA Vault champ Ashleigh Clare Kearney. So much power and so much height. I'll miss seeing her on all events (as I am sure LSU will) but especially here and floor.
As I mentioned in the previous blog post, Denver is going to have a huge hole to fill with Jessica Lopez out of the line up and perhaps no where more so than here. She made event finals on this event at NCAA's and it looks like she will continue to be a strong vaulter back at the elite level. As with all great vaulters Lopez's ability to get height and distance off the horse distinguished her from the rest of the pack but the stuck landings on top of that were what made her special.
Kristina Baskett of Utah was another vaulter that I consistently enjoyed seeing especially because she regularly stuck a harder 1 1/2 vault with great velocity and height.
Below I have put the video of the vault that sticks most in my mind from the 2008-09 season. It may not be the hardest or even the best vault that happened last year but in my mind it was a defining moment.
Most Anticipated 2009-10 Vaults
Let me start this section by saying I hope Greg Marsden moves Daria Bijak back in the vault line-up for Utah. There was a lot of discussion last year over why Bijak was not scoring higher on her vault and while I think she occasionally had form problems in the air, I think if she stuck that very difficult vault she generally deserved a higher score than she received. I think leading off the Utes vault line-up was probably the main culprit in the lower scores for Bijak. That having been said I look forward to seeing her on this event again. She does a unique and difficult vault and she is a joy to watch on all the other events as well.
UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa was a pleasant surprise to me on this apparatus last year scoring a couple of perfect 10's in the regular season. This season she won't catch me (or anyone else for that matter) off guard when she puts up huge scores on this event.
Now that ACK is gone, when I think of power vaulters in the SEC Alabama's Morgan Dennis is the first name that comes to mind. I thought it was really a shame that she didn't make event finals on this event last year and I expect her to rectify that situation in 2010. The power and distance she gets on this event is really like no one else.
Did I miss your favorites? Who would you add?