Posts Tagged ‘Katie Heenan’

Should the NCAA adopt the new code of points?

April 28, 2008

Utah's Kristina BaskettA little less than four years ago, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) eliminated 10 as the ideal score.

In its place, they  instituted a system where gymnasts received points partially for the difficulty of their skills and partially for the way routines were executed.

Should NCAA women’s gymnastics do the same thing?

Some like the new system, which is changing in 2009 to make things easier for the athletes for the first time in several quadrenniums. Others hate it. Even so, the FIG has made it clear that we aren’t going back to the ideal 10 anytime soon.

The NCAA has been the last holdout of the old system, the place where elites go to get an education and, if they’re good enough, the perfect score that’s eluded them their entire elite careers.

The thing that struck me about this year’s NCAA Championships, won this weekend by the Georgia Gym Dogs for the fourth year in a row, was how darn close all the scores were. How many 9.875s were recorded? How many 9.9s? How many gymnasts can you pack the third place rung on the victory podium with? (Answer: Four. Tiffany Tolnay (UGA), Katie Heenan (UGA), Kristina Baskett (Utah) and Melanie Sinclair (Florida) tied for third in the all-around.)

At the Pac-10 Championships March 29, no fewer than nine people tied for third on vault. Five recorded a third-place score of 9.9 on uneven bars.

Some call for more difficulty in the NCAA, especially on vault, where it seems that almost every gymnast is throwing a Yurchenko full. Happily, on balance beam and floor exercise there’s a lot more variety — not to mention personality — than there is in the elite ranks. I’d fear that bumping up the difficulty needed to get great scores could result in more injuries, costing universities more money and making administrators think about cutting gymnastics programs.

At the same time, it can look a bit ridiculous when everybody gets a 9.875. After the NCAA all-around competition, reader TCO buzzed in with a comment:

The scores are crazy close. We need a different system. I don’t mind if we keep the 10 or get rid of it. But if we keep it, we ought to significantly increase the difficulty requirment. The problem is that people look at a ten like “par” on the golf course. We need to compensate the gymnasts that throw harder tricks. This will also spread the scores.

Men’s collegiate gymnastics follows the same structure as the new code of points. But for many, men’s collegiate gymnastics is an elite training ground, not a place to graze in retirement from heavy competition.

What do you think?

The oh-so-close NCAA all-around

April 25, 2008

Tasha Schwikert1. Tasha Schwikert 39.600

2. Ashley Postell 39.550

3. Katie Heenan 39.525

3. Tiffany Tolnay 39.525

3. Kristina Baskett 39.525

3. Melanie Sinclair 39.525

Congratulations to Schwikert, who earns her second NCAA all-around title (she was the 2005 champion as well.) For Postell, this has to be a disappointment. In four years at Utah, she’s been third, second, second and second again.

In the team competition, the Utes will likely record the same history.

Georgia had a 197.625 in the evening session. This title is theirs to lose. Unofficially, Utah and Stanford also advance to tomorrow’s Super Six.

With torn Achilles, Kupets done for season

March 2, 2008

For the Georgia Gym Dogs, Saturday’s meet against Arkansas was the best of times, and the worst of times — at exactly the same time.


Tiffany Tolnay, Gym Dog in the shadows

January 31, 2008

Courtney Kupets is the darling of the Georgia Gym Dogs -- and deservedly so.At the 2006 NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Corvallis, Ore., Courtney Kupets won almost everything in sight.

She was literally everywhere, competing on every event for three consecutive days, hitting solidly and more often than not winning with whatever high score she put up.

The most impressive of those performances seemed to come during event finals on the third and final day of competition. On the balance beam, Kupets gave a performance that, had it been done during the all-around finals at the Athens Olympics, might have put her in the top three.

Back handspring to two layout stepouts. Perfect. Punch front. Floated. Switch leap, gainer layout. Not a wobble within a mile of the arena. Two back handsprings to a stuck double back. She’s going to get a 10, I thought.

Kupets didn’t quite get the 10, but she did win the title. Which she also did in the all-around and on bars, tying Utah’s Kristina Baskett.

Georgia's Tiffany Tolnay.Another Georgia freshman was in that group on balance beam in event finals — Texan Tiffany Tolnay, who, coached by Kim Zmeskal an Zmeskal’s husband Chris Burdette, had won the Level 10 National all-around title three years in a row.

Tolnay’s beam routine in Oregon in 2006 looked as impressive as Kupets’; in fact, she used many of the same skills: the flight series, the punch front, the dismount. No wobbles from her, either.

Like Kupets, Tolnay has extremely clean lines and both seem to have the same measured, athletic way of moving that seems both fluid and staccato at the same time.

It seemed the only reason Tolnay, who was fourth in the beam final in 2006 didn’t get a comparable score to Kupets was because she went up first. Since then, she’s continued to put up high numbers for the Gym Dogs, finishing fourth  in the all-around at the 2007 NCAA Championships, just as she did in 2006.

But she’s remained somewhat in the shadows, perhaps becuase if you’re an excellent gymnast and you’re a Gym Dog, you’re in very good company. Kupets is one of the best ever to compete in the NCAA. In addition, South Carolinian Grace Taylor’s charm and clean gymnastics got a huge response during her freshman year. Katie Heenan and Kelsey Ericksen were the rocks, the upperclassmen leaders. Courtney McCool gave the Gym Dogs another Olympian, and more to intimidate with.

By comparison, Tolnay, decidedly second to Kupets but whose performances have often equaled or bettered her more famous teammates, has always seemed in the distance. I wonder why.

Tiffany Tolnay, 2008 Georgia Sneak Peek, Balance Beam:

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Utah — tonight!

January 11, 2008

Utah's Ashley Postell

For all the talk in gymnastics about competing against yourself and just doing your best, it’s refreshing to see an article like Lya Wodraska’s in this morning’s Salt Lake Tribune shooting all of that to hell.

College gymnastics is about scores, not settling scores. It’s about getting to nationals, not getting the best of your opponent, about concentrating on the best you can do, not what your opponent is doing.

Then there are meets between the University of Utah and the University of Georgia, where conventional wisdom is ignored, emotions run high and success is judged by showing up one another, great score be damned.

“If you gave me an option of getting a 197 and losing or a 194 and winning, I’d take the win in a heartbeat,” Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said. “I’m not about vanilla and fluff, I want the win.”

And so do the Utes, who are willing to agree with their biggest rival in philosophy, if only for a night.

“I get her point and I couldn’t agree more,” said Utah coach Greg Marsden, who sported an “I hate the SEC” T-shirt at practice Thursday.

Despite pre-season rankings, the Gym Dogs and the Utes are more or less 1-2 in the nation in a lot of people’s minds, making both teams’ season-opener one of the more interesting meets of the season.

Advantage on this one probably goes to Utah, who are a) at home and b) not as injury-plauged as Georgia, who will be competing without sophomore Grace Taylor, senior Megan Dowlen and junior Tiffany Tolnay. Taylor and Dowlen have sprained ankles and Tolnay is sick, according to a UGA press release.

The Georgia Gym Dogs are hungrily eyeing the Utah Utes.Never count Georgia out, however. The Gym Dogs certainly have the depth to get it done. Junior Courtney Kupets is training some of the hardest stuff in the NCAA, and she’ll be backed up by a more or less healthy Katie Heenan and sophomore Olympian Courtney McCool.

Utah, meanwhile, will compete big guns Ashley Postell and Kristina Baskett and likely also expects huge performances from Annie DeLuzio and Katie Kivisto.