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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Pac-12 gymnastics showdown: #3 Cal hosts #4 Utah


Earlier than Gabby Perea even mounted the beam on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion, Cal gymnastics had sealed their highest rating in program historical past because of Mya Lauzon incomes her first good 10 of the season.

One other week, one other milestone for the Golden Bears. Cal has spent the season breaking program information, and after defeating UCLA on the street, the group is inside attain of claiming the Pac-12 gymnastics common season title.

So who’s standing of their method? Utah.

Although the celebrities seem to have aligned for Cal this season, Utah stays the facility of the Pac-12. Utah has gained the final three Pac-12 Championships and tied or outright gained the final 4 Pac-12 common season titles.

With Cal and Utah dealing with off because the common season winds down, the Pac-12 common season title is at stake, because the winner of Saturday’s meet will stay undefeated within the convention and safe a minimum of a share of the common season title. (The winner can then declare the title outright with a win of their ultimate Pac-12 twin the next week.)

The assembly couldn’t come at a extra thrilling time; each Cal and Utah are coming off their first 198s of the season. The Bears and the Crimson Rocks have been on the cusp of the 198 mark a number of instances already, however each groups crossed it for the primary time all yr in Week 8.

So how did we get up to now? Let’s have a look again on the season to this point.

Cal

Main as much as Cal’s historic day, the Bears had slowed down after a sizzling begin. They appeared so good many had been questioning in the event that they might be those to take down a seemingly-unbeatable Oklahoma squad.

After developing simply wanting a 198 for 4 consecutive weeks, with the group scoring both a 197.875 or 197.950, the Bears scored a 197.125 in Week 6 versus Arizona and a 197.400 on the Metroplex Problem in Week 7.

So how did they bounce again in opposition to UCLA? As a substitute of attempting to simulate the strain of competitors, Cal targeted on their approach and execution. They instilled the idea that when abilities and routines are accomplished proper, it’ll come collectively.

“We’ve been going again to fundamentals and foundational work,” Cal head coach Justin Howell stated. “This week in coaching, we didn’t do any lineups. We didn’t do any strain units, none of that. We actually educated all week lengthy and really particular intentional issues. We all know once they do the gymnastics proper that the landings come, the scores will come, that stuff shall be there. Over the past couple of weeks, we received a bit bit tight on among the occasions. We had been attempting too laborious to be good. So we type of stated, ‘throw all that out the window proper now. Let’s give attention to the how we do it and never what it means.’”

eMjae Frazier echoed the message from Coach Howell after the meet. Regardless of breaking this system all-around document that she set, this time with a 39.825, Frazier believes her group has far more to provide.

“There’s the little particulars that we’re nonetheless engaged on that may come, and so they’re so, so shut that I feel my group can get much more. We’re prepared,” Frazier stated.

Past their coaching, Cal reevaluated their performances.

Knowledge isn’t usually a phrase utilized in gymnastics in comparison with different sports activities that make use of total analytics departments. In gymnastics, scores are the first numerical measure as an alternative of only a piece of knowledge that coaches use to foretell whether or not to go for it on fourth down or to implement a pitch depend and stop damage to a pitcher.

For Cal, scores aren’t a part of this “information.” As a substitute, information signifies taking a better take a look at how the various factors like lineup orders, strain, and the setting issue into general group efficiency.

“The information isn’t essentially the rating; you possibly can’t management these issues,” Howell stated. “And week-after-week, you possibly can have the identical performances and fully completely different scores. The information is the place is that this individual within the lineup and the way are they scoring … It’s actually concerning the abilities and the setting and the power and the issues that we’re seeing from every athlete. That’s the information that we’re taking in week-after-week.”

One transfer backed by this information was placing Andi Li later within the bars lineup. Li, who has primarily been the group’s leadoff on bars, was moved again since her type and handstands make her a contender for a prime rating. The choice paid off, with Li incomes a season-high 9.925 in opposition to UCLA within the third spot.

Any such resolution making additionally components into routine building. Cal encourages individuality in gymnasts’ routines. That is obvious on beam. Whereas there are solely so many combos of acro and leap sequence that NCAA gymnasts can usually carry out persistently to fulfill necessities and earn sturdy scores, Cal finds different methods so as to add aptitude to routines.

For Li, within the leadoff place, she mounts beam with a handstand earlier than rolling right into a chin stand pose that exhibits her flexibility and style. Later within the rotation, Lauzon performs a tick-tock after her mount, utilizing her energy and stability to decrease herself nearer to the beam earlier than kicking again over.

Howell gave credit score to his co-head coach and spouse, Liz Crandall-Howell, for these particulars that maintain their routines from showing obligatory.

“Liz is sensible at choreography. Liz can also be a Brevet-level choose,” Justin stated. “She’s actually sensible with routine building … She’s actually good at bringing out every individual’s distinctive qualities. We’re very lucky now we have a group of unimaginable inventive capacity, and Liz is basically, actually good at designing routines that brings that out. A part of our model of gymnastics is basically good type and actually good artistry. We’re messaging that and dealing that each single day.”

Their model, their strategy, and their dedication is paying off to this point this season. They’ll put all of it to the take a look at this weekend in opposition to the three-time reigning Pac-12 champions.

Utah

Utah’s efficiency this season has been spectacular in its personal proper. Positive, the Crimson Rocks have been a constant contender on the nationwide stage for years, however they’ve maintained their spot within the prime 4 this season regardless of a number of adjustments.

Past the head teaching change, Utah misplaced a bunch of routines with gymnasts like Abby Brenner, Jillian Hoffman, Sage Thompson, Cristal Isa, and Kara Eaker leaving, transferring, or graduating from this system.

Even so, Utah has carried out at a degree and earned scores that would appear to point little has modified.

A part of Utah’s success has been the profitable integration of newcomers, together with Ella Zirbes, Camie Winger, Ashley Glynn, and Elizabeth Gantner. Regardless that these gymnasts have had their share of ups and downs, Utah nonetheless manages to place up sturdy scores as a complete.

Zirbes specifically needed to shake by some freshman woes. She fell early within the season on bars however improved her consistency during the last couple weeks. She appears to be placing all of it collectively on the good time, profitable Pac-12 Freshman of the Week this week after scoring profession highs on her three occasions: vault (9.925), bars (9.925), and ground (9.950) in opposition to Stanford final weekend.

After all, it doesn’t damage for Zirbes’ scoring potential that she has probably the most gorgeous toe factors within the NCAA. An exclamation level on her each talent and motion, Zirbes’ exact type right down to her toes has helped her scores escalate rapidly.

Utah Head Coach Carly Dockendorf additionally credited the Crimson Rocks’ upperclassmen for serving to the newcomers transition swiftly to the group.

“A part of the freshmen integrating so seamlessly has been due to the upperclassmen,” Dockendorf stated. “Their help that they’ve given to them, their steering, actually making them really feel snug on this group, valued on this group. I feel that’s why we’ve seen a whole lot of success from our new athletes.”

Look no additional than Abby Paulson, who referred to as this fifth yr her “bonus lap.” From the assured tone as she speaks to reporters, it’s straightforward to see the composure and confidence on this group. Add in her clear routines — which earned her Pac-12 Specialist of the Week this week — and it’s not laborious to attach the dots on why freshmen look as much as her.

On Paulson’s half, she enjoys attending to group up with the freshmen.

“Actually, I used to be tremendous excited for these freshmen to return in,” Paulson stated. “I wasn’t presupposed to be with them. They’re all the very best, essentially the most enjoyable, assured, aggressive gymnasts.”

Mix Paulson with upperclassmen teammates like reigning NCAA particular person all-around champion Maile O’Keefe, 2022 NCAA vault champion Jaedyn Rucker, Olympians Amelie Morgan and Grace McCallum, and there’s nonetheless loads of expertise in every lineup.

This mixture of upperclassmen and newcomers has saved Utah buzzing at their commonplace inserting, which so occurs to be within the prime 5 nationally. No huge deal.

Will or not it’s sufficient for them to knock down an ascending rival in Cal? Solely Saturday will inform.

What to anticipate on this meet

Don’t be shocked to see scores decrease than what each groups hit in Week 8. Cal is often identified for having tighter judging at their house meets, which might be a pleasant change of tempo.

The Bears and Crimson Rocks match up fairly evenly on beam and ground, the ultimate two occasions. Utah is thought for beam, rating No. 2 within the nation behind solely Oklahoma, however Cal fields a powerful beam lineup as properly (No. 3 within the nation). The Bears rolled to a 49.725 on beam in opposition to UCLA, the second-highest rating in program historical past. Whereas Utah has scored larger on the occasion extra persistently, its peak to this point has been a 49.550.

If each squads carry out as much as their degree on these occasions, the scoring might be tight. The occasions to observe for separation are vault and bars within the first two rotations. The Crimson Rocks have loads of 10.0 begin values however may be inconsistent relating to discovering their landings. The identical is true for Cal; the Bears have the facility however don’t all the time maximize their potential scores.

On bars, Cal has the benefit and is extra constant on the equipment (they rank third to Utah’s seventh). This might be the first occasion the Crimson Rocks miss Morgan, who’s taking a couple of weeks off NCAA to spice up her elite resume again house in England forward of the 2024 Paris Olympic Video games. Nonetheless, Makenna Smith has been wonderful (9.872 common), and as beforehand talked about, Zirbes is trending up. Utah might want to keep away from errors on bars however shouldn’t be counted out on the occasion.

Barring any main errors, count on this meet to return right down to the final rotation, probably even the final routine.

No. 4 Utah will face No. 3 Cal on Saturday, March 2 at 5 p.m. ET in Haas Pavilion. The meet shall be broadcast on Pac-12 Insider. Comply with reside scores right here.

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