We are over halfway through the college gymnastics season ... how did THAT happen? We have competed in 7 meets with only 4 remaining in the regular season. Then come the SEC Championships (every team in the SEC competes, so that's an automatic berth), then the NCAA Regional Championships (top 36 teams in the nation compete and we are currently ranked #3 in the nation, so that's ALMOST automatic), and after that it gets dicey. There are six regional competitions, and the top two teams from each of those advance to the NCAA National Championships, which this year are being held in Georgia, right up the road from where the Gym Dogs compete regularly. It gets dicey because you don't know which regional you will be assigned to until two weeks prior, and that's when you also learn against whom you will be competing. The seeding could mean that we wind up in a regional assignment with two teams to whom we've already lost this year, and I'm afraid that will get into our girls' heads. The 12 teams who survive the Regional Championships compete in two sessions on Friday, April 20th. The top three teams from each of THOSE sessions go on to the Finals (also called the Super Six) on Saturday, and the national champion is crowned from that session. On Sunday the individual event finals are held, with the top eight scores from each event in Friday's competition (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise) and all ties competing for individual awards. It's a weekend jam-packed with gymnastics competition, and it feels like a gymnastics overdose to even the most devoted (obsessed?) fan like me.
Yesterday's meet was against an SEC opponent, but one from which we didn't expect too much competition. Oddly enough, sometimes when our opponent isn't expected to put up very big scores, we don't either. It's almost as if we think it would be vulgar to outscore them by too much. Or something. This was not the case yesterday, however. We scored our second-highest team score of the season, just .025 off our season high. We had several gymnasts put up career-high scores, and I'm not JUST talking about freshmen. We had three girls compete for the first time this year, one of them a junior who had NEVER competed before yesterday. She turned in decent scores on vault and beam yesterday, and I was happy for her. I will officially stop referring to her as a wasted scholarship and become one of her biggest fans. That sentiment may be based on her balance beam dismount alone, which I loved.
Our senior who has been dying to get into the all-around this year (competing on all four events in a meet) did so for the second consecutive week and matched last week's score, which was good enough to tie her for the top spot in the country. We keep waiting and waiting for her to get a perfect 10 on uneven bars, and I am afraid she may be trying too hard for it. Yesterday she took a couple of steps back on her dismount, which is almost unheard of for her. She is the reigning national champion on uneven bars, and I fully expect her to be right in the mix when the end of this season rolls around.
One of our gymnasts who was billed from the beginning of her freshman year as a future "superstar" has instead become more of a head case. She has a tendency to either dazzle or fizzle, with not much in between. In Alabama she scored a 9.95 on beam, with one judge giving her a 10. Yesterday she scored an 8.7 with two falls. It's the same routine, for crying out loud. See what I mean? On a positive note, she finally landed her bars dismount without crumpling to the ground. They have changed her floor routine drastically, giving her only two tumbling passes because she has a chronic left ankle injury, but she still has issues with it. And I fully believe they are mental. For those of you who are asking, no I DON'T think I could do better myself. I'm just sayin'...
I did experience a pang of guilt during yesterday's competition. The senior doing all-around, the bars champion I referred to earlier, absolutely NAILED her floor routine. She is a joy to watch, and she finally put a complete floor routine together. By the time they flashed her score, a gymnast from the other team was on balance beam (visitors always end up on beam). One judge gave her a 9.95 (may be a little high), and the other a 9.85 for a total score of 9.9. The fans didn't much appreciate the 9.85, so we booed vehemently. And the balance beam girl fell off. Now she's supposed to have better concentration than that, and at the SEC Championships there will be music blaring, fans cheering, and a lot of general chaos, so she'd better get used to it. Still, I felt kind of bad that we may have contributed to her fall. Then two MORE of their girls fell off, and we weren't in any way responsible for those, so it wouldn't have made any difference anyway.
If you're interested enough to watch the highlights from yesterday's meet, you can find them here. And I apologize for the commercial you may be forced to watch beforehand. In case you're wondering about the colors of our team's leotards when everyone KNOWS our team colors are red and black, do not adjust your set. This meet was the annual Pink Out Meet to raise awareness (and money) for breast cancer research. The leos were designed last year by the same girl who is our national bars champion. Is there NOTHING the girl can't do?