Monday, April 11, 2011
NCAA Preview: The Gym Dogs
Of the twelve teams qualified to the NCAA Championships, the Gym Dogs remain the most intriguing. Two years ago, they won their fifth title in a row. A year ago, a rift between Jay Clark and the seniors resulted in adverse team chemistry and the out-of-shape team never developed the consistency or collective heart to challenge for a title (though they had the talent.)
This year, the Gym Dogs are no longer loaded with talent. Jay Clark's first year as head coach brought in two of the most sought after recruits in the nation (Tanella and Worley) despite the changing of the guard. His presence did not impact recruiting immediately. Neither recruit has panned out as a true star as of yet. This year's freshman class brought in solid level 10s, yet the replacement of top All-American talent has been non existent.
Jay Clark continually mentions that UGA knows they can be contenders if they hit. That is half true and likely for PR. Deep down, Jay is experienced enough to know where his team's weaknesses lie. It is not necessarily his fault that Worley and Tanella aren't performing, but he did bring in another wasted body to get Tanella. Since Tanella is not at the level of Tiffany Tolnay, it winds up being almost two wasted scholarships and a loss of up to seven or eight 9.9 scores.
Looking ahead to the NCAA prelims, I've taken a look at the team's last four meets to analyze the direction of the team and their potential chances for NCAAs. It is tremendously helpful that the team will begin competing on Uneven Bars. This is one of the team's two strong events and has potential to be the strongest. If they can hit bars, hit beam and hang on through two events, they may be able to make the Super Six on a wink and prayer. Making the Super Six would be amazing for this team that is scrapping at the bottom of the barrel. The 2011 Gym Dogs don't have quite the power of the inconsistent 2005 team, which makes a surprise win next to impossible.
Joining the Gym Dogs in the afternoon session are UCLA, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan and Illinois. The biggest advantage UGA has it that Michigan has to start on beam, which is often a deathly draw at an NCAA Championships. Given the pressure of the session and Bev's bitchiness, it is quite possible that beam could be an utter meltdown of Utah Super Six proportions (pick a year, really.) Arkansas is the other threat to keep them out of the Super Six. Last year, the team melted down on beam. Georgia will need to be on its A-Game, as the Razor Backs are a power team and begin on vault. That could be deadly for Jay.
Breaking Down The Gym Dogs
Christa Tanella, as disappointing and pathetic as she can be, has become a steady gymnast on bars. She is not as good as former training mate Nikki Childs, but she is becoming a steady leadoff on bars. A year ago, Christa barely got in condition in March to get through full bar routines in the gym or in competition. This year has been better for her on bars (certainly not beam.) Her last four routines have earned her a 9.800 at UCLA, 9.850 at home vs. Michigan, 9.850 at the SEC Championships and a 9.825 at Regionals. The team needs her to start off well and stick that dismount. If she can get between a 9.8 and 9.85, her job for the entire weekend will be done with one routine. This routine is critical.
Noel Couch is in the bar lineup. She didn't compete last year and would never have competed other than on the injury depleted 2003 squad. To be honest, Noel is horrendous on bars. There is bad technique and a lack of body line and finesse that needs to be addressed with Ki-hara, Pilates, Ballet and intensive beatings from Armine. It is a sad day when someone is in the bar lineup at Georgia who is PRAYING to go 9.8 (or in any UGA event lineup.) Noel's last four outings have been 9.775 at UCLA, 9.525 vs. Michigan, 9.775 at SECs and a 9.825 at Regionals. The really need her to go 9.75-9.8 incase Shayla falls, which is very possible.
Cassidy McComb has improved on bars, but there are still handstand and body line issues. It is important to note that she has been the X Factor for the team her entire college career. She was a star as a freshmen, pushed to be ready for NCAAs as a sophomore and then an utter out-of-shape disaster as a junior. This year, she is a star once again. Her last four outings have earned her a 9.900 at UCLA, a 9.800 vs. Michigan, a 9.800 at SECs and a 9.900 at Regionals. Cassidy's job is to go 9.800-9.850, as it is very unlikely that four judges will be able to overlook her shortcomings and go 9.900 in good conscience.
Gina Nuccio has been a rock. Her last four outings have been 9.875 at UCLA, 9.900 vs. Michigan, 9.900 at SECs and a 9.925 at Regionals. They need her to go 9.850-9.900. She used to be in the top half of the lineup, but the team is now weaker and her score absolutely has to count. Gina's mental toughness should deliver.
Shayla Worley is fifth up and should probably not be. In elite, Shayla was a good bar worker because she could do a tkatchev in several variations. Unfortunately, Shayla has a social life, a boyfriend and is popular, all of which has hurt her gymnastics. She is much thinner than the fat Shayla of 2010, but she needs to get focused and stop being a girl whose Olympic dream ended on an illusion turn. Shayla didn't compete bars at UCLA due to kidney stones, so the hot mess' last three outings have been a 9.850 vs. Michigan, 9.225 at SECs and a 9.300 at Regionals. They can't afford to pull her for being a hot mess because she has scoring potential and their alternate does not. Shayla needs to go 9.8-9.85 or else it is time to injury retire her and start fresh.
Kat Ding is so consistent at executing her routine that she could very well win bars at NCAAs and likely would've won last year due to her consistent excellence. Her routine isn't the most difficult, but she is so pretty and generally consistent. Her last four outings have been 9.925 at UCLA, 9.925 vs. Michigan, 9.925 at SECs and a 9.950 at Regionals. If she isn't an All-American on bars, it will be a sad day. The team needs her to deliver a 9.9-9.950 in order to make up group for some of the lame 9.8s and keep them in contention for the Super Six.
As a team, they need to capitalize on a strength and go at least 49.300 on their opening event. They cannot afford to blow it or even have just an average effort, as they don't have the routines to make up ground on other events.
Noel Couch is steady on beam. It isn't pretty by any means, but she can stay on. Last 4: 9.850, 9.800, 9.775, 9.725. They need her to stay the hell on and go 9.75-9.800.
Christa Tanella is at risk for losing her spot in the lineup to Laura Moffatt. I actually would replace Cheek with Moffatt, but Tanella has not been executing like she did last season. Her last four outings have been: 9.375, 9.100, 9.725 and a 9.750. She likely won't do the side somi, but she needs to keep it together and not be labored. They need her to stay on and go 9.75-9.8. It is sad that she isn't going 9.8-9.875 like last season.
Lindsey Cheek showed potential early on, but has been injured lately and even missed SECs. Her last three outings have been 9.800, 9.225 and a 9.225. I don't have much confidence that she will hit and would actually get rid of her if Moffatt is really hitting in the intrasquads.
Hilary Mauro has not had a great history on beam in the post season, but she is holding it together and praying that her achilles stay in tact for one more week. Her body is beyond done. There are built in deductions in this routine. Aside from a 9.900 at SECs, her last three outings have all gone 9.825. They need another 9.825 from her.
Shayla Worley is capable of being an All-American on beam and should be a 9.950 every week, but she has two problem areas. Her series technique has gone to shit and she can't do a proper round off+punch+double full. Shayla is missing her round off and turning off the beam, often missing her foot. She got hurt doing the double full dismount last year and has either fallen or stumbled on the dismount numerous times this season. One can only imagine how she might kill herself on a double back. Her last four outings have been: 9.9, 9.275, 9.850, 9.725. They need a 9.85-9.9 from her. It is unlikely that she will nail the interior of the routine and stick, so they can't expect a huge 9.950. The World Champion Shayla who had a top eight score in prelims at Worlds needs to show up.
Cassidy McComb needs to stay on and go 9.8-9.850. (Last 4: 9.825, 9.750, 9.825, 9.775.)
The team needs to go 49.1-49.250. This is actually one of their better events. Sad.
Shayla is likely replacing Tanella who is usually in the 9.6-9.7 range. Shayla went 9.850 at Regionals and they need another 9.8-9.850. Sell it honey and dance out of those landings like Khorkina.
Mariel Box is a sad example of the diminished talent at UGA. She does a whip through to double tuck and a weak double full. Her landings are hurt by her chronic compartment syndrome and they are putting her up on floor with help from Katie Heenan praying the rosary. Last 4: 9.525, 9.750, 9.6, 9.8. Target score: 9.7-9.8 It may need to count.
Noel Couch has power, but is hurt by disgusting form, an utter lack of finesse, horrendous dance, no aesthetic beauty and low landings with her chest down. No judge at NCAAs worth a grain of salt will give her above a 9.850 unless they are in the tank for Georgia. (Which event is Carole Ide judging?) Last 4: 9.725, 9.900, 9.800, 9.800. Just hope for a 9.800.
Gina Nuccio can't train floor much and it shows. She needs a 9.8-9.850. The girl has power, but the lack of training hurts her landings. (Last 4: 9.750, 9.850, 9.825, 9.800)
Cassidy McComb is a star who has gone 9.900 on all four of her last outings. She doesn't do the full-in anymore, but her difficulty is balanced throughout her tumbling and dance. She has the scary-as-fuck Gym Cats technique on her 2 1/2+punch front, but can now land it due to her reduced body fat. They need a 9.900 from her. Period.
Hilary Mauro has two strained achilles and also can't train. Her bad wrists prevent her from doing back handsprings and require her to wear wrist guards. She didn't do floor at UCLA. (Last 3: 9.825, 9.775, 9.850.) They need a 9.825-9.875 from her.
Georgia needs to PRAY when it comes time for floor. 49.2-49.3 will keep them in the running if teams are hitting.
Vault is become a better event.
Cat Hires leads off and has gone 9.8, 9.850, 9.8, 9.850. They need her to do her thing.
Lindsey Cheek has been injured and is capable of 9.9s, but she has gone 9.825, 9.825, 9.850 in her last three and they need her to do the same once again.
Noel Couch is the one most capable of sticking. They need her to stick and hope the judges overlook the bent arms on the horse and inferior body line. This is Noel's best event. If one squints, they can tell she is from the same gym at Pisani and Borsellino. Jay would die to have either on his team. (Last 4: 9.8, 9.925, 9.9, 9.875) Target: 9.85-9.9.
Hilary Mauro's midgety mess of a vault is the test of conscience for the judges. How do you judge someone so tiny who doesn't get much block due to their lack of size. Do you go by objective amplitude or relative amplitude? Her body shape sucks, so she goes with the more difficult Yurchenko 1 1/2. She has a tendency to either be dead center and stick or hop off to the side. One doesn't know which to expect. She could go 9.650 or the judges could be on crack and say 9.9. Pray for a 9.8-9.850 effort. I certainly would feel guilty going any higher. (Last 4: 9.825, 9.950-senior night, 9.800, 9.750)
Kat Ding is a gem on vault and is regaining her consistency and sticking after being out with her stress reaction. They need her to plant one and go 9.85-9.900. (Last 4: 9.825, 9.875, 9.875, 9.900) Kat is the best gymnast on the team and it is time to prove it.
Cassidy McComb is thin enough to do her Yurchenko 1 1/2 again and she is starting to find her landing. They need to go 9.85-9.900. (Last 4: 9.9, 9.975, 9.875, 9.850)
If it is close, the Gym Dogs may need to stick as many as 4-5 vaults to go 49.35-49.4. It is hard to know exactly what they will need. A 196.7 or 196.8 could be enough or it could leave them 4th or 5th in their session. It all depends on what Michigan does on beam and how competitive Arkansas is. UCLA had an awesome Regionals. Unless disaster strikes, UCLA and Oklahoma will make it. Val worked her magic right at the end and the judges are almost always on her side.