Friday, April 18, 2014

My Favorite NCAA Floor Routines (from the last 5 years!)

Courtney Kupets (University of Geogria-2009)
I started following collegiate gymnastics back in 2009 and I remember absolutely LOVING this routine. Considering that I had only watched elite gymnastics until that point, I had never seen a routine with so much energy and sass. I had only watched elite gymnastics and I had never seen a routine that had so much energy and sass. I really liked how involved the audience was and I just wanted to be apart of it! Courtney looked like she was having a blast every time she stepped onto the floor and the energy that she created was so captivating! This will probably always remain one of my favorite college routines.

Reema Zakharia (University of Michigan- 2011) 
Being the huge Michigan fan that I am, it would be impossible for me to talk about my favorite floor routines without mentioning Reema. She has always been one of the best performers in the country (at least in my opinion!) and I'm definitely going to miss the spunk and creativity she brings to her routines. Watching her perform live will always be one of my favorite memories because she's one of those girls who creates SO much energy. I can't help but smile when she takes to the floor! This is Reema's floor routine from her freshman year, although I've really enjoyed all her routines. (Fun Fact: She does all her own choreography including some of her teammates!)


Elyse Hopfner Hibbs (UCLA-2012) 
Words can not describe how much I love this routine. I admit that I pretty much love everything that Val choreographs but this routine in particular is stunning! The use of eye contact is incredible and the performance quality is off the charts! Typical UCLA. I credit not only Val for coming up with the choreography, but also Elyse for the way she performed it. You could give this routine to any other athlete in the country and they most likely wouldn't be able to do it anywhere near as good as this.


Lloimincia Hall (LSU-2013) 
Bet you didn't see this one coming! Obviously we all know how fabulous Lloimincia is, as her routines have been talked about A LOT. Some people like it, some people hate it. Regardless Lloimincia always brings the fun on floor! It's something about the energy and personality she brings to this event that makes every performance of hers truly memorable. I literally smile like crazy whenever I watch her and I will drop whatever I'm doing to watch her perform. She just commands your attention. You can tell that she lives every single moment of her routine and she puts so much of herself into it. The passion behind her movements is incredible and I know her routines will be something I remember for a long long time.


Emily Wong (Nebraska-2014)
Emily has always been a bundle of joy on this event. Her smile is infectious and I feel like the choreography matches her personality perfectly- relaxed and fun! The second half of this routine was recycled from last year because Emily loved it so much (and so do we!). The crowd really gets into her routine and you can tell that Emily loves every second as well! It's so much fun to watch and clap along with!

Bridget Sloan (Florida-2013) 
I remember liking this routine from the moment I saw it. I think it's partially because Bridget is a gorgeous dancer and partially because the music and choreography is so dramatic. It's a pretty intense routine and Bridget nailed it every single time. When you combine flawless tumbling, with music that's easy for the crowd to clap along with; you've got yourself an A+ routine! I had a hard time deciding which routine I liked better, this routine or her one from this year. Both are equally as captivating!


Vanessa Zamarripa (UCLA-2013) 
The special thing about this routine is that it's not something you would expect to see in college gymnastics. I mean how many college athletes can pull off a catchy and fun floor routine to elevator music?! The more and more I watched this routine, the more I loved it! Vanessa is so calm and cool. Her dancing and tumbling look effortless and relaxed. I like how this performance is so unique compared to the routines we see from every other college gymnast.

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Things You Don't Know About...Ari Agrapides

  1. I have a twin sister named Alexis.
  2. My dad owns a diner.
  3. My cousin, Demetri Martin is a famous comedian and actor.
  4. I was born a premature baby at 3lbs- 1oz.
  5. I love the movie stick it!
  6. My favorite color is lime green.
  7. I started homeschooling when I was in the 5th grade.
  8. My dad named a dish after me at his diner named "Chicken Ariana"
  9. When I was three I ran into a TV and broke my nose!
  10. I love the store Abercrombie.

10 Things You Don't Know About:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NCAA Championships Prelims- Session 1 Preview

It's the most exciting part of the college gymnastics season and it's finally upon us- the 2014 NCAA National Championships! Now that Regionals is over and we know which teams have qualified, it's time to start thinking about who could realistically make the Super Six. We start with the first session which will include Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Stanford and Illinois. Remember only the top three teams will advance. 

Oklahoma is in great shape to advance to the Super Six again this year. They've looked great all season long and average a 197.513!  The Sooners are pretty consistent across the board and are capable of scoring 49.500 or higher on every event. They will start on beam during prelims, which could be a big advantage. They will be able to get that event out of the way early and bring up the energy and finish strong on floor, vault, and bars. Baring any serious slip ups, Oklahoma should have no problem finishing in the top three and propelling themselves to the Super Six. They just need to be calm and cool like they usually are. 

The leaders: Taylor Spears who is capable of scoring 9.9+ on every event as well as Hayley Scaman who has scored three 10's this season (twice on floor, once on vault) 

LSU is in the same boat. They've had a phenominal season- averaging a 197.496 and have huge scoring potential thanks to the depth in their lineups. LSU's strongest events are vault and floor where they've scored nothing below a 49.400 all season. The Tigers will begin their prelim competition on a bye before heading to floor and vault. They will then go on another bye before ending the competition on bars and beam, where they are also capable of high scores.

The leader: Rheagan Courville placed 2nd AA at last years NCAA's and also took home the vault title. She has been ranked in the top 3 AA all season long.

Georgia is a strong candidate for the Super six, but not a lock. They have been good this season- they average a 197.029, but they have to be solid in order to fend off their other competitors...mainly Michigan who recently beat them for the Regional title. Georgia starts prelims on vault and will compete in the traditional "Olympic order" (vault, bars, beam and floor) which could be an advantage for them. At Regionals, Georgia had to make some lineup changes due to a minor injury from Brittany Rogers who only competed on bars. If Brittany is back strong for Nationals the Gym Dawgs can look to potentially post a high team total and make the Super Six!

The leader: Lindsay Cheek competes on vault, bars, and beam where she typically brings in scores of 9.9+ every week.

Stanford had a really impressive showing at Regionals last weekend where they posted a 197.275 which was their highest score all season and proved to be contenders this year. Stanford will start their quest on the floor and will end on a bye after beam. If Stanford wants to sneak into one of those three spots- they have to be better then they have been for most of this season. They only average a 196.400, which is significantly lower than the rest of their competitors. 

Michigan is coming into this meet looking for redemption. They haven't made the Super Six since 2011 and missed qualifying last year by just over 3 tenths. Michigan averages a 196.791 and is capable of scoring in the mid 197's if they hit. Michigan will have the same rotation order as last year, starting on bars and ending on a bye after vault. Similar to Regionals, the Wolverines will be looking to pick up some extra tenths wherever they can to make up for the lose of Austin Sheppard, who typically scores in the 9.95-9.975 range on vault and the 9.850-9.9 range on bars. They will also face the same challenge they've had all season long in the second roatation- the balance beam. When they hit, they have no problem scoring 49.300+, however they really have to minimize all those small bobbles and 
bring in some big scores. After the second roatation, we should have a good idea if Michigan is in it to win it!

The leader: Joanna Sampson is the reigning National Champion on floor! She will be looking to contribute scores over 9.9 on every event and hopefully snag that all around title as well. (She was 3rd last year!) 

Illinois has returned to Nationals for the second consecutive year which is a big accomplishment for them. Although they are a good team, I don't think qualifying to the Super Six is a very realistic goal for them at this point in time. They only average a 196.204, and don't have very much depth in their lineups. The Illini will start prelims on a bye before heading to bars, which is a good event for them to start on! 

The leader: Amber See, who is capable of scoring 9.9 or higher on vault, beam, and floor! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Nicole Artz- The Astonishing Freshman

It's been a stellar season for eighteen year old Nicole Artz, who graduated high school a year early to join the Michigan Wolverines this season. Despite her age, Nicole (Nico for short) has become some what of a superstar for the University of Michigan with her dependability and maturity leading the way- something that's rare for someone with so little experience. Nicole, who is the 2012 JO National Floor Champion, made her collegiate debut by taking home the balance beam title and 2nd on floor (behind the reigning national floor champion Joanna Sampson) in the first meet of the season. She went on to take home several more titles throughout the season, including two uneven bar titles; an event she wasn't even expected to be competing on this season! Nicole's strongest event is floor, where she opens with a sky-high piked full in and almost always scores over 9.9, but she's also rock solid on beam, which is a place where Michigan could use some high scores.

Halfway through the season Nicole began competing as an all around gymnast. She has scored 9.9 or higher on three of the four events this season, with floor being the highest (9.950). Most recently she won the all around title at the Regional Championships with a score of 39.325. Nicole was also named Big 10 Freshman of the Year, after winning the Big 10 Freshman of the Week title four times this season. Nicole's consistency week in and week out has played a big part in gaining the role of "all around gymnast" this year. It's impressive to note that she's hit 42 out of 43 routines this season- not to shabby for someone who is only a freshman!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Catching up with Olympic Champion Catalina Ponor

Catalina Ponor is gymnastics royalty. With five Olympic medals and a plethora of World and European titles, Catalina is easily one of the greatest Romanian gymnasts of all time. She first emerged onto the scene in 2003, winning three silver medals at the World Championships. The following year she upgraded those silvers for gold by winning the team, beam, and floor titles at the European Championships and the Olympic Games! Throughout the next two years she claimed many more World titles before retiring at the end of 2007. Ponor surprised many when she decided to make a comeback in 2011. She went on to win two more Olympic medals at the London games (bronze with the Romanian team and silver on floor) and two more European titles (team and beam). We caught up with Catalina to reflect back on her gymnastics career and find out what she has been up to today.

How did you get started in gymnastics?
I remember I was with my grandma, holding her hand on the street, and we passed the gym. I didn't know what was inside there, but I was pushing my grandma to go inside! I was calling that building "school" because at four years old- I didn't know what gymnastics was. So I convinced my grandma,we went inside the gym, and I fell in love when I saw all those events. It was like a fantastic world for me.

Who were your gymnastics idols growing up?
In the beginning I had many idols. My first idol was Nadia Comaneci because everybody knew about her. My mom was showing me Nadia's competitions and I wanted to be like her. After that I started to like [Lavinia] Milosovici's style; very focused, concentrated and powerful. And the elegance of Khorkina! With all these girls being my idols, I tried to mix it and make a new gymnast named Ponor. I don't know if that worked- but at least I tried!

You trained with the legendary Octavian Bellu and his wife Mariana Bitang, what were they like? 
They were exactly like they should be- strict in the gym and good people outside of the gym.

As a young gymnast, did you ever anticipate that you'd have the success you had?
When I started gymnastics I didn't know what kind of career I would have, but I was always dreaming to be a champion. I worked hard in the gym to archive that- to see myself in a big competition in first place.

You won a gold medal on every event you competed in Athens, how did your country react to your success? 
What happened in Athens was fantastic! It was more than a dream, something that you can not describe in words. Romania was reacting exactly how I was expecting- they were happy for me and cheering! The most impressive thing to see was the Romanian people in the arena crying and jumping along with us! So thanks Romania for your support!

You retired in 2007 and made a comeback in 2011, can you talk about that decision? 
When I retired in 2007 it was because I had problems with my back. I had two hernias which I still have to this day. Unfortunately I couldn't go to Beijing, but I really wanted to make a second Olympics and I was so sad because of that. I said to myself that I will never come back in the gym again! So I went two years only stepping in the gym to see my coaches. Eventually I decided to start coaching in the USA and one day I received an email from Mariana Bitang saying that they came back to coaching in gymnastics, so I was happy for them, but at the same time I wanted to come back and I also didn't! So I went back home and one day I woke up and told my mom I will start practicing again- and of course my mom started laughing!

How was 2004 different from 2012 in terms of preparation and expectations? 
Well in 2004 I was well prepared. I knew that I had been training for thirteen years for that moment and I was sure that I would do a good job there. I wasn't afraid of anything! People didn't know me too much and  I didn't have any pressure on me. In 2012, I was mature and I knew that if I came back, people would expect me to have the same results or at least to be as good as I was. So it was very hard for me to fight with my body, to fight with myself, to fight with 99% of the people around the world that couldn't trust in my thoughts that I could make a comeback after four years at home doing nothing, and to fight with the new generation and the new code of points.

So did you have high expectations for yourself in London? 
In London I didn't regret anything and said that I leave this sport with my chin up and proud of myself. Maybe I had more expectations on beam, but competitions are competitions and you never know what can happen and if it will be a bad day. I had many health problems in that time too, so I just wanted to finish the competition healthy.

During the beam finals in London, were you aware of the inquiry happening for Aly Raisman's score? 
On the results it said my name in 3rd and everyone was coming up to me saying congratulations. Soon after they made the appeal, that's when I knew it was gonna change. I did make a big mistake that you normally don't see. So I'm not gonna blame the judges, the coach, or the gymnast. That day I didn't eat anything and I was very light on the event and sometimes you cannot control your moves because of that. To be honest I was very mad at myself, because again, without that mistake, I could have got a medal very easy.

What has been the highlight of your career? 
Athens! It is and always will be the most beautiful moment from my career. Its something that not only I won't forget, but I don't think the gymnastics fans will either.

What is one thing that not many people know about you?
If they don't know, that means I don't want to say it! I'm kidding, I don't know, maybe the fact that I'm a different person outside the gym; a happy and kind person.

So are you officially retired or can we expect another comeback soon?
[Laughs] I've been asked this question many times and I can finally understand it because you never know when my craziness can come back and go in the gym! For now, I'm happy will all my projects and soon a new project will arrive, but I can't say more then that. For a comeback in gymnastics, I don't know! Maybe yes, maybe no. Never say never! The most important thing is to be healthy, even if I miss it a lot.

What have you been up to today?
I'm a co-designer for leotards for a french company called Decathon. I can say that we already see results! Of course we are just starting out, but soon we will start growing!

And lastly, what's one piece of advice you would give an aspiring young gymnast?
Never give up if you want to achieve your goals!

Thank you Catalina, we wish you all the best in your future endeavors. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Q&A with Ireland's India McPeak

India McPeak is an up-and-coming elite gymnast who competes for both Ireland and Northern Ireland. While artistic gymnastics may not be a very popular sport in her country, India is certainly helping to put them on the radar. In 2013 she represented Ireland in several major international competitions such as the European Championships, the World Championships, and the Cottbus Cup. We caught up with India to discuss her college plans, future upgrades, and more! 

You committed to Western Michigan a few years ago and now it seems you are changing your commitment?
When the new coach took over at WMU, she decided not to honor the scholarship commit.  At the time, I was devastated but this definitely motivated me to work hard and not give up on my dream of competing in college gymnastics.

I know you are in the process of finding another school. Have you gone on any other visits besides for the University of Michigan?
No, nothing's scheduled yet - my initial decision was to defer for a year, so I am in contact with some schools for 2015 entry also.

Speaking of Michigan, how was your official visit? 
I had a great time in Michigan! The team, coaches, and support staff were all so welcoming and friendly. They have a fantastic gymnastics program and amazing facilities. It was awesome to seem them win their meet against UCLA and Utah!

What makes you want to do college gymnastics?
In the UK, college gymnastics doesn't exist and I'm definitely not ready to give up the sport I love! Competing in FIG is mostly individual, so to be apart of an NCAA team would be amazing! I love the team atmosphere and energy. Being at the meet last week (Michigan vs. UCLA/Utah) made me want this even more.

When can fans expect your commitment announcement? 
I have fans?! haha. As soon as I have something to tell, the Twitter World will know immediately!

Will you still do elite once you begin college?
Yes, I hope to but obviously college commitments will always come first.

Can you explain how you compete for both Ireland and Northern Ireland?
Being Northern Irish I am entitled to dual nationality i.e. I can have British and Irish passports. This enables me to compete for both countries - for Commonwealth Games I will be competing for Northern Ireland and for World Championships I will be competing for Ireland.

What have been some of your proudest accomplishments so far?
In 2010, I fractured a vertebrae (yes, in gymnastics!) and I had to take over 2 months completely out of training. Returning to competition within 6 months and being stronger than ever was something I thought I would never achieve! Any time I compete for my countries is always a proud moment. The most memorable being when Northern Ireland placed 3rd as a team at the Northern European Championships and competing for Ireland at my first World Championships last year.

Do you have any cool memories from Worlds that you can share?
Hmm... in the training halls one day, Brandon Wynn saw my teammate Emma Lunn and I, and he shouted across the gym to us and literally everyone turned around to see who he was talking to! (We've been friends since Cottbus World Cup last year) I felt so cool! Then on the first day of training I saw Martha Karolyi watching me on about pressure! And then just before marching out to compete, I (quite literally) bumped into Kyla Ross in the toilets. She's so lovely though!

Did you say anything to Kyla?
Well I apologized for bumping into her, then it was just hair talk and the troubles of getting your bun to stay in! #gymnastprobs

What is gymnastics like in your country? Is it a popular sport?
Gymnastics would not be the most popular of sports here as most kids do school sports, and gymnastics is not one of them. It is however growing throughout the country with the standard of clubs and coaching getting better and better. Hopefully we will see Ireland moving up the world rankings in years to come.

Are you working on any upgrades for this season?
Vault: Adding a full twist on my laid-out tsuk
Bars: Aiming to have a jaeger in for Commonwealths
Beam: Ready to compete 2.5 twist dismount
Floor: Triple twist (no pun intended lol) and front 2/1 twist

And some random questions just for fun. If you weren't a gymnast, what sport would you do?
Diving would be cool!

If you were stranded on an island and could only take one thing with you what would it be?
My iPhone.. but then I'd need a charger, and electricity, and a 3G network, and unlimited data. So that wouldn't work... hmm... probably The Hunger Games trilogy!

If you could have the career of any gymnast who would it be and why?
Shawn Johnson - I've always admired her power and skill, and I love how even after retiring from gymnastics she is still promoting health and fitness

What is your dream skill?
Double double on floor and laid-out full twist on beam!

What are some of your future goals?
I would love to make all around or apparatus finals at the Commonwealth Games in July. But my long term goal - Rio 2016!

Check out some of India's impressive upgrades on beam! 

Be sure to follow India on Twitter! (Here)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

10 Things You Don''t Know About...Ragan Smith

1. I have a dog (a markie) named Rio! 
2. My mom was a gymnast and an all-american at Auburn University. 
3. I was a model when I was five, six, and seven! 
4. I have two younger brothers, Jackson and Hudson, who are on travel baseball teams in Coppell, Texas. 
5. Pink is my favorite color.
6. Spaghetti is my favorite food! 
7. My dad works for AT&T. 
8. I have a cousin named Sophie who is a level 7 gymnast, and her mother (my aunt) was a gymnast too! 
9. I love IVIVVA clothes!
10. My name (Ragan) is my mothers maiden name without the "s" on the end.  (Ragans) 

10 Thing's You Don't Know About:
Victoria Moors
Sarah Finnegan
Laurie Hernandez
Ari Agrapides