Los Angeles • Many of those involved in collegiate gymnastics were relieved the 2013 NCAA Championships marked the first time participants in the individual finals were required to perform just one vault, because 24 gymnasts qualified.
Having the gymnasts perform two would have made for a much longer afternoon.
Utah coach Greg Marsden is among those who wish the individual finalists were selected by another system or more requirements were used to create more separation between the gymnasts, making for a smaller field.
As it stands now, the top four gymnasts from each preliminary session on each event qualify for Sunday's meet. Altogether, 19 gymnasts scored 9.9 in the preliminary rounds on vault, leading to the large field in Sunday's vault finals.
One idea that has been discussed among the coaches is using lines on the mats to help the judges determine how straight the vaults are and the distance, while another proposal is to award the gymnasts for doing more difficult vaults by "giving them back" tenths of a point for steps and other minor miscues on challenging vaults.
"Nobody wants to devalue vaults, but something needs to happen to reward gymnasts for doing more difficult vaults," Marsden said. "Unfortunately, it's hard for coaches to agree on anything. I keep telling people this is like basketball when coaches didn't want the shot clock and like volleyball when coaches didn't want rally scoring. As [Utah athletic director] Chris Hill once said, sometimes the adults have to do what is best for the children. We have to think in the bigger picture."
Florida is just the third team to win the NCAA title starting its competition on the balance beam in the 21-year history of the Super Six format. The other two teams were Utah in 1995 and Georgia in 2005. â¦ Florida's 49.725 on the floor Saturday was the third highest score on any event in the NCAA Championships, behind a 49.775 set by Alabama on the vault in 1996 and a 49.75 set by Georgia on the bars in 1993. â¦ Florida is just the fifth team to win the NCAA gymnastics title, joining Alabama, UCLA, Georgia and Utah. That is the fewest number of different teams to win a title among the 13 sports since the NCAA began sponsoring championship teams in the 1981-82 season.
Looking to next year, expect Florida, UCLA and Alabama to be among the early favorites for the title because they all return key gymnasts.
UCLA in particular looks strong because although the Bruins lose standout Vanessa Zamarripa, they return Peng-Peng Lee, Sam Peszek and Mattie Larson.
"They are three of the best gymnasts in the world," UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field said. "We'll miss Vanessa, obviously, but not only will we be gaining athleticism, we'll be gaining some real strong personalities on the floor."
Birmingham, Ala., will host the 2014 NCAA Championships on April 18-20. The city has hosted five SEC championships in the past but never the NCAAs. Alabama, which is located less than an hour away in Tuscaloosa, will serve as the host team.