The NCAA conferences have been doing some major realigning over the last few days. Nebraska is leaving the Big 12 to join the Big 10 and Utah is finally joining the Pac 10. For gymnastics, this is definitely a boost for both the Big 10 and the Pac 10. While these changes are mostly the result of football, they will impact gymnastics.
The Pac 10 now has 15/29 NCAA Titles in gymnastics and 1/2 of the Super Six. This may end some of the SEC gloating. Utah will be aided by competing in a conference meet against tough opponents, and the rest of the Pac 10 will benefit from the strengthening of the field.
In other news, Steve Shepherd announced that he is resigning as head coach of Penn State after 18 years at the helm. It is about time. Penn State has really struggled over the last decade and has never been able to carry momentum from one season to the next or recruit consistently. This past season, the team had two AA stars in Brandi Personnett and Sharaya Musser and a veteran in Alex Brockway, but they failed to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships yet again. The girls have never been quite fond of Steve, as he is not the sternest of coaches.
For a number of years, Steve has been obsessed with upgrading the team's difficulty on all events. While difficulty does help with the conservative scoring in the Big 10, the team has often put less consistent girls in the lineup year after year after year. Penn State also has ritual where the girls, not the coaches, give their teammates their last pointers prior to competing. While it is oh so heartwarming, one has to wonder if a real motivator like a Suzanne Yoculan would make a difference by getting the athlete into the proper mindset immediately before their routine.
Another Penn State has is that their stadium (Rec Hall) is underwhelming at best and their crowd is quite paltry given the 42,000 students who attend main campus. It would be rather simple to get a real crowd at gymnastics meets. Aside from getting good recruits and results, the organizers could easily tie the meets into THON and make them a fundraiser by charing $1 or $2 for admission. Penn State students are FTK (For The Kids!) and obsessively so. Tying the meets into one of the larger frat THON teams (they raise the most money) would bring out students in droves. Adding a few contests or giveaways to create an atmosphere would also help. Currently, only family members, the university's gymnastics club team, 1-2 local gyms and select gays attend the meets. Crowds draw recruits, who bring results, which bring bigger crowds and better recruits.
Jess Bastardi is the acting head coach. Something went down years ago that will prevent Jess from being the head coach, but she has been the true leader of the team for many years. The female bodybuilder is an imposing beam coach who has been known to spot some rather powerful tumblers on floor exercise. The girls either love Jess obsessively or they don't at all.
Vanessa Zamarippa won the compulsory portion of the latest elite qualifier at Bieger's "World Class" Gymnastics Academy. Va Zam managed to avoid catching the Jana and scored a 9.700 VT, 9.675 UB, 8.175 BB, and 9.250 FX. Her optional scores were enough for her to finish third overall and earned her a trip to this summer's National Championships.
Casey Jo Magee recently attempted to qualify for Nationals at the Arizona State Elite Qualifier. She is only competing on three events due to difficulty adjusting to the FIG bar setting. She has yet to reach the qualifying score.