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

Uneven Bars

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.

Balance Beam

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.

Floor Exercise

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.


  1. I don't follow gymnastics except once every 4 years at the Olympics, so I have a few questions.

    How come the real Olympic level gymnastics are using new point system that are like, 14 points is not so good and 17 points is really good -- while these college level gymnastics is using a 10 point scale?

    Also, compared to the vids Aunt Joyce puts up of the elite level gymnastics, these ladies look really plump and slow. Are these ladies washed up Olympians or girls who just do gymnastics on the side while in college? If so, figure skaters should do that too.

  2. Do you know who the Gymdogs' alternates are on each event?

  3. There's nothing in your article I'd disagree with. It only goes to underline what a hole UGA has got itself into; not least because what strength it still has - McComb, Ding, Nuccio - is among its upperclassmen.

    Minus Kaylan Earles, the freshman class is blah at best. The sophomore class is a train wreck. An injury-ravaged Chelsea Davis and the so-so Persinger are not going to transform things.

    Does anyone really wonder why Sloan chose Florida?

  4. WHo is shaylas boyfriend n how do u kno shes popular n all that

  5. Anon- collegiate gymnast use a modified level 10 code and that's judged from a ten point system. Teams are made up of gymnasts who are ex-elites or former level 10's. Generally Olympians tend to do really well in college and are usually a hot draw for the program.

    I think that the reason there are no collegiate level figure skating programs is that most ex skaters can make a decent amount cash doing shows, and skaters usually start doing shows at a pretty young age, which robs them of their ncaa eligiblity. it's very expensive sport to fund. Usually colleges want to fund cheaper sports to keep their title 9 compliance, sports like bowling or whatever.

  6. To anon, Shayla's boyfriend is some second rate pitcher on the baseball team. Blake I think is his name? And she's always been "popular"

  7. Suzanne said on GGMB that you lie about a lot of your UGA information, and that you are unequivocally wrong about a lot. Why do you spread lies and pretend they are true? Please stop.

  8. It is amazing that all that personal stretching by Blake has not improved Shaylas flexibilty.

  9. This is a BLOG and AJ can write whatever he wants. Don't read if you feel that information is wrong. Furthermore, if you believe 100% of what you read on GGMB, then you have issues..

  10. What was the "rift" between Jay and the seniors last year?

  11. There is no evidence to suggest that there was a rift between Jay Clark and the seniors last year. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary, especially considering how positive, active and effective Courtney McCool has been in coaching this year. I'd like to know how you find your insider information about the Gym Dogs. Sure, last year was a hard and disappointing year for the Gym Dogs, but to say that the reason for that was "a rift between Jay and the seniors?" That is just dead wrong and completely inappropriate.
    I will say that I completely agree with you about Shayla, though. She's got to step it up!

  12. Yes, this is a blog, and AJ can write whatever he wants. But if AJ is going to spread lies about a team of hard-working college athletes, then AJ should be ready for people to call him out on his bullshit.

  13. OK, then be specific as to what were the lies? What has he said, or is he saying now, that is not true and BS like you say? You're quoting GGMB like it's the Bible and gospel to be 100% truth, so I'm curious as to what more specific knowledge or info you have since GGMB is also full of BS…

  14. I usually think AJ is pretty accurate with his assessments but I also did not see any evidence of a "rift" between him and his seniors. AJ kept talking about Jay being angry about Grace Taylor's engagement but I never saw/heard any concrete evidence to support that.

    Also AJ once said that Cassidy McComb couldn't stand Suzanne. I know that the dynamic is different when someone is no longer your coach but I also know that Cassidy and Suzanne are friends. Suzanne is close to a lot of her old gymnasts (even from waaay back). Cassidy had a homesick/college adjustment period as a freshman but I think that had very little to do with Suzanne. She clearly got over it pretty quick given that she was SEC FOTY and all.

    And anon@157pm that is unacceptable and you a clearly a nasty perv.

  15. I am quoting Suzanne Yoculan, the former coach of UGA, who posts openly on GGMB and the College Board. She has outright called Aunt Joyce a liar, and so did Valerie Kondos.

    I will believe them over Auntie J any day. I like facts, though. Maybe you don't?

  16. lol, why u so mad? Are you some gymnast's mom?

  17. You like "facts" yet you read this blog, GGMB and the College Board?? HA HA HA HA.... Too funny...

  18. AJ never said Cassidy couldn't stand Suzanne.

    Jay did ban engagements last year, which upset Grace Taylor.

    Courtney Priess called Jay, not Suzanne to say the thing about not getting her sister.

  19. Janelle was interested in Georgia and Oklahoma. Funny that that is no longer on the record now that VKF and SY are chummy again.

  20. Anon @948am, are you SURE AJ never said anything about Cassidy not liking Suzanne during her freshman year? I could have sworn that he once said that she was miserable and couldn't stand Suzanne and wanted to transfer or something. And I never saw any evidence to support that. Am I crazy? Did I dream that? I really could have sworn that AJ said something to that effect once.

  21. Is it true Aunt Joyce is an unemployed tosser just writing a little diary to get attention? Why doesn't he have a job? I do not understand. I watched fluff piece on "AJ" on NBC about figure skating, and his life looked so sad. Living at home in his parent's house in his childhood bedroom. This is the life he has chosen for himself?

  22. All the dillholes posting here need to shut it. This is a snarky, gossipy gymnastics and skating blog. Don't read it if that's not what you're interested in, and especially don't act shocked when that's what it is.

  23. ..and I would add to Anon 9:28 p.m...This is a snarky,gossipy, gymnastics and skating blog..that I read several times a day to make me laugh..Thanks!

  24. For sure, I love this blog, even if I don't always agree (which doesn't happen too often) and skating really isn't my thing.

    Ugh, so I just watched the Georgia beam video from NCAA training that you posted. They overall have the ugliest set of bh layouts ever. I don't think I've ever seen a WHOLE team have the same wonky around the side bent legs. Yuck.