Not a day goes by where I don't have at least one student ask me, "Miss Sarah, do we have bars today?" or "Sarah, can we do bars today?" and not a "non-bar" day goes by where I don't hear the groans when I regretfully say, "No, not today!". Bars is a popular event, and it seems like the vast majority of my recreational students and several of my team students just LOVE bars, and would likely be elated to spend their entire class on bars. But alas, there is more to gymnastics than just bars!
Last week, I picked my five favorite vaults in college gymnastics, and this week, I picked my five favorite bar routines. Finding five bar routines that really stood out to me was more difficult than I had planned. As impressive and beautiful as they can be, college bar routines can easily become formulaic and predictable, and sometimes I get bored with the cookie cutter skills and connections. I admire ingenuity and innovation. So, after scouring the internet for bar scores and videos, I finally found my five favorites!
1. Austin Sheppard (Michigan)
There's a lot of great things going on with this routine. She does a piked tkatchev (the skill at 0:16), which is a huge skill because it's usually performed in a straddle position. Performing it in a piked position is extraordinarily difficult. Her second release element is a straddle back to handstand (0:20), which is unique in that most NCAA bar routines will feature a shoot over as their high to low transition, not a straddle back. Finally, she ends her routine with a double front dismount (0:31) which is an incredibly difficult and risky dismount due to the blind landing. A backwards flipping dismount enables the gymnast to see the floor. A forwards flipping dismount does not, making the landing much more difficult.
2. Alicia Asturias (California-Berkeley)
Alicia is on my fantasy gymnastics team, and this is just one of the reasons why. She starts off her routine immediately with one of the most difficult bar elements performed in the NCAA and that is the Bhardwaj (0:08). A Bhardwaj is a full-twisting pak salto, so, in layman's terms, the gymnast lets go of the high bar, does a back flip with a full twist, and catches the low bar again. I believe Alicia is one of just two college gymnasts that perform this skill!
3. Kristina Vaculik (Stanford)
Kristina is beautiful on bars. But what I love the most is her clear hip hecht to high bar (0:11); a rare skill that almost nobody performs. Her other skills are clean, powerful, and dynamic. She has a really aggressive style that I like, but doesn't sacrifice her form to achieve it.
4. Brandie Jay (Georgia)
This routine is full of difficulty. Brandie starts off with a Maloney, (which is the "toe-on" variation of the Shaposhnikova) (0:18), and she connects it to an immediate shoot over to handstand! That's two release elements in a row. But she doesn't stop there. On the high bar, she does a Khorkina release (0:31) and finishes with a full twisting double back dismount. I really enjoy gymnasts who deviate from the "typical" major releases and who perform different ones instead, like Brandie and her Khorkina.
5. Georgia Dabritz (Utah)
They call her "No-Grips Dabritz", and she is currently the best college gymnast on uneven bars in the country. And yes, she doesn't use grips. She hails from Newburyport, Massachusetts and she is one of my favorites. She performs a Comaneci salto (0:05), which is a difficult and rare uneven bar release. But I suppose the Comaneci isn't enough for her because she also performs a Jaeger release (0:13) , just because she can. She then does her shoot over to handstand to immediate toe-catch (0:17), and finishes with a full twisting double back (0:27). Not only does Georgia have clean and technically precise gymnastics, but she takes risks on all 4 events, and that's why I love her.
Next week I'll be showcasing my 5 favorite NCAA beam queens so make sure you check back! Meanwhile, our compulsory gymnasts will be competing this weekend at sectionals, where they will compete for the chance to qualify for the state championships! Go Spectrum!
Peace, love, and gymnastics,
Spectrum Gymnastics Academy
26 Buttrick Rd
About the Author
Coach Sarah is a former Rhode Island College gymnast, NCGA National qualifier, All-American, current gymnastics coach and judge, and contributor for the gymnastics news source, The Gymternet. Find out what's going on at Spectrum and learn more about the incredible sport of gymnastics!