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NCAA Event Finals: A Small Army Take Home Titles; Katherine Grable Takes Two Event Titles

It was the weekend of the tie. Two teams tied for the NCAA national title, and as a result of ties, a small army took home titles during the event finals.

First up, it was the vault and uneven bars finals. Rhegan Courville was the defending co-champion in a sea of never ending Yurchenko fulls. The glorious Katherine Grable of Arkansas was a shining light of uniqueness. She pulled out a fabulous Podkepaeva vault that was so beautiful and high that it should be re-named "the Grable."

Like I said before, it was pretty much a sea of Yurchenko fulls. There was the occasional Yurchenko one-and-half from folks like Utah's Georgia Dabritz and Brandie Jay of Georgia. Rheagan Courville managed to tie with Katherine for first place. Rheagan had one of many Yurchenko fulls, but she had quite a lot of distance, with some considerable height. She did land with her chest a little low. Or I really should say, she landed with her butt sticking out.

Oklahoma's Haley Scaman took third, but I think she should have placed higher, personally. She did an absolutely beautiful Yurchenko full and if anyone could make vault an artistic event, it's her. She just has so much style and flair in the air. I wish the judges would award her with the 10 that she deserves. But she was awarded with a 9.9667.

Bars was interesting. After weeks of doing the same thing to stay consistent, everyone was pulling out all their tricks in their bag.  First up was Shona Morgan of LSU to set the tone for the final. She had a nice routine, with a beautiful piked jaeger, but she hopped forward on her double front. Samantha Shapiro of Stanford, a former elite with the toe-point of a gymnastics goddess. Her routine was just beautiful, she still has those beautiful lines she had in elite. 9.9250 and she took the lead. Mackenzie Caquatto went up, she had a nice routine. Pretty lines, hit handstands, consistent, but she still could not throw in a same bar release for the sake of finals, but whatever.

Then there was Sam Peszek...  Oh poor Sam Peszek... After a season of hit routines after being sidelined because of injuries last year. She overcorrected after muscling up to a handstand and just fell... ugh, so heartbreaking.

Taking the bars title was Bridget Sloan who had a nice Ray, but she flexes her feet on her Tkatchev, which drives me insane. She did hit her handstands and she had nice amplitude and hight on her flight elements, so the title was definitely deserved with a 9.937.

Taking third was Kristina Vaculik of Stanford who had a hit routine, nice lines, nice release skills. Overall, a hit routine.

The beam finals were definitely interesting, and here's where the gymnastics army began to recruit it's members.

Chayse Capps of Oklahoma set the tone with her super artistic routine, maybe not an event winner. But I just love watching her on beam at least just for her low beam work.

It began with the fabulous Maddie Gardiner of Oregon State, whom as Bart Conner pointed out, was trained in her elite career by Elvira Saadi, a former Soviet gymnast who was known for her dance. She also trains Victoria Moors. Maddie is very Moors-esque on beam. It really shows in her wolf spin  to split mount. She had a beautiful layout step out and forward walkover series. She stuck her Gainer full dismount. I hate those things, but whatever. She took first for the time being with a 9.8837. Then, Sidney Ewing tied with Maddie for the first place title. Beautiful tumbling including a textbook two-foot layout. Mary Beth Box of Georgia and Jamie Schleppenbach of Nebraska tied Maddie and Sidney, creating their own Olympic sized team.

 Georgia's Lindsey Cheek decided she was going to have none of this four-way-fricking tie. She got up and sassed the judges with her moves and scored a 9.9. However, it was Taylor Spears of Oklahoma who took home the title and showed everyone why Oklahoma is the best beam school, (or they just recruit the best beam workers). She showed beautiful extension in her leaps and elegance and flexibility with her Onodi to Korbut flip combination and she won with a 9.95.

The whole army didn't just stop with beam,  The floor final had a small Olympic sized team of top finishers. Joanna Sampson was the defending champion from 2013, but she had some steep competition even without Liomencia Hall, Georgia Dabritz or Bridget Sloan in the final. Lauren Beers of Alabama was the first competitor up on floor; she set the tone with a solid 9.9. Emily Wong of Nebraska threw a triple twist that makes Aliya Mustafina jealous.

The girls of Oklahoma showed the world that they are just as glorious on floor as they are on beam. The standout performers, Haley Scaman and Maileana Kanewa. Both of these girls had spectacular tumbling. Haley opened her routine with a stuck double layout that was perfect and beautiful and Mailie, who is nicknamed the "flying Haiwaiian" opened with a stuck piked full in and dismounted with a perfect double pike. Both earned a 9.95. Tying them was Joanna Sampson of Michigan, the defending floor champion. Joanna secured a place for Michigan in Regionals and secured Michigan's place to go to Nationals. Her floor routine is one of the seven wonders of the gymnastics world.
 She has as much difficulty as many elites on this event, and she does it with far better form. Her double layout is not only high, with super amplitude, she keeps her body stick straight, with her legs glued together.

Katherine Grable was the one to break the four way first place tie and got the floor title all to herself with a 9.9625. Her routine was amazing, the choreography, the tumbling. Katherine was spot on.  Not only did she have difficult tumbling, she had unique skills. I've gone on and on about her double arabian half out many times before. But it's a skill that not many athletes do. I've never seen one in elite and it's just super rare to see that kind of difficulty in NCAA. She is just fantastic.

To wrap up:
Katherine Grable rules all,  she walks on the event final podium and wins. The judges got waaay overzealous with the ties. Really, a four way tie? A three way for second place on floor? I'm not saying all these athletes weren't deserving, but when you practically have a whole Olympic team rounding out the podium.

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