What a week of incredible gymnastics it was! Oklahoma posted a second score over 198, a 198.050 at UCLA. The Bruins were right behind with a 197.950 and third was Utah with a 197.700. Seven gymnasts posted perfect 10.0s. Utah’s MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Oklahoma’s Brenna Dowell on vault, UCLA’s Peng-Peng Lee and Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols and Anastasia Webb on beam, and UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi and Felicia Hano on floor.
What a meet it was between UCLA and Oklahoma in Pauley Pavilion. The best thing went beyond gymnastics, and it was the fact that the two teams joined forces to honour the victims of sexual abuse, and united under the banner ‘Together We Rise’. Congratulations to Valorie Kondos Field and K.J. Kindler for such an inspiring event.
The meet itself was unreal, with six perfect 10.0s, three for each team, and huge scores for both teams. In the end, Oklahoma edged UCLA 198.050-197.950, but the day was a celebration of beautiful gymnastics and strong united women, and scores mattered little. UCLA started on vault, where Pua Hall stuck her Yurchenko one-and-a-half for a9.950, and Nia Dennis stuck her FTY for a 9.925. On bars, scores a bit tight, but Kyla Ross posted a big 9.925 and Peng-Peng Lee a 9.900. In the second half of the meet things got a bit insane. On beam, Brielle Nguyen posted a 9.900, Katelyn Ohashi a 9.925 and Peng-Peng Lee her second perfect 10.0 in a row on beam. Things got completely unreal on floor, where Felicia Hano and Katelyn Ohashi posted two perfect 10.0s and Pauline Tratz a 9.925. Oklahoma started on bars, where Maggie Nichols and Nicole Lehrmann won the event with two 9.950s and Brenna Dowell followed with a 9.900. The Sooners were money on vault, where Nicole Lehrmann scored a 9.900, Maggie Nichols a 9.975 and Brenna Dowell a very well deserved perfect 10.0. Floor was a bit weak for Oklahoma. There, Maggie Nichols posted another 9.975 and Brenna Dowell a 9.900, but the Sooners also had to count a 9.700. Beam, however, was insanely good for Oklahoma. Freshman Anastasia Webb posted the first perfect 10.0 of her career and Maggie Nichols was finally awarded an overdue perfect 10.0 this season. Sophomore Bre Showers scored a career-high 9.975 and Stefani Catour, in the lead-off spot, a 9.950. Maggie Nichols won the all around with a huge 39.900. Overall, what a meet, what two fantastic teams, what strong women and what big hearts. This meet is probably the highlight of the whole season!
Michigan had a very strong meet at home, winning 196.875-195.050 against Maryland. On vault, Olivia Karas and Paige Zaziski scored two big 9.900s, while on bars Zaziski scored another 9.900 and Brianna Brown a 9.875. Beam was huge for the Wolverines, with three 9.850s, a 9.875 by freshman Lauren Farley, and the third 9.900 of the night for Paige Zaziski. On floor, Emma McLean posted a 9.925, and Brianna Brown and Lexi Funk two 9.900s, but Michigan had to count two scores in the 9.6s, and unfortunately Olivia Karas reinjured her ankle. I heard that it is an Achilles tear, if this is true, her season sadly ends here. It was a great meet for Maryland Alecia Farina, who posted two 9.875s on bars and floor. Brianna Brown won the all around with a 39.425.
George Washington posted its best score of the season so far, a 196.525 in a quad meet, ahead of Kent State (195.325), William and Mary (193.225) and UW-Oshkosh (190.975). GW impressed especially on vault and floor. On vault, it counted two 9.900s with Camille Drouin-Allaire and Jillian Winstanley, and two 9.850s. On floor, all five counting scores were 9.8s or better. The rotation was won by Camille’s 9.925. Kent State’s Rachel Stypinski had an outstanding meet, winning bars with a 9.950, beam with a 9.925 and the all around with a 39.550.
California got so very close to its first 196 of the season, winning against Arizona 195.950-194.425. Cal had very strong rotations on beam and floor. On beam, four out of five counting scores were in the 9.8s, including Cassidy Keelen 9.850. On floor, all six scores were 9.825s or better (impressive!), with Toni-Ann Williams scoring a 9.950 and Kyana George a 9.900. Arianna Robinson impressed on vault with a 9.900. Arizona’s Madison Cindric had a fantastic day, posting a 9.875 on vault and winning beam with a 9.875 and the all around with a 39.225.
Penn State narrowly defeated Michigan State 195.600-195.550. Penn State impressed particularly on bars, where Lauren Bridgens and Sabrina Garcia posted two 9.925s. Briannah Tsang continued her streak of victories, winning floor with a 9.925 and the all around with a 39.475. Michigan State’s Hailee Westney won beam with an impressive 9.900.
Bridgeport won on the road with a 194.350, ahead of Brown (190.900) and Rhode Island College (177.100). Bridgeport had solid rotations with most scores in the 9.7s on all apparatuses. Maya Reimers posted the highest score of the meet, a 9.850, on floor.
Lindenwood won on the road with a 193.600, ahead of host Illinois State (191.200) and Winona State (186.825). Lindenwood’s Ryan Henry impressed on beam with a 9.825, while Illinois State’s Gabrielle Cooke won floor with a 9.875.
Texas Woman’s defeated Centenary College 192.650-189.750. Texas Woman’s impressed with some scores in the 9.8s. Schyler Jones posted a 9.800 on vault; Bria Northrop a 9.800 on bars; and Alyssa Kelly and Mallory Moredock a 9.825 and a 9.800 on beam. On floor, Centenary’s Navia Jordan posted a 9.800.
Brockport State defeated Ithaca College 188.925-188.575. Brockport State had an impressive rotation on floor, with three scores in the 9.6s and a 9.750 by Candis Kowalik.
Springfield defeated Cortland State 188.700-187.000. Springfield’s Tali Twomey impressed on floor with a 9.825.
Oklahoma is still the #1 team in the nation. The Sooners are in great physical and mental condition, and they seem ready to go for another national title. They have a very young team, however, and they lack some depth, so to retain the title will be harder than in the past. Moreover, the battle behind them is tighter than ever. UCLA looks in magnificent shape, it they peak at the right time, I would bet on Miss Val’s team for a seventh national title. Utah also looks money. The Red Rocks posted a big score this week and they overtook LSU for second place in the national ranking. Florida and LSU are also just behind, posting big scores in the mid-197s, which is huge for mid-season. Two big former powerhouses also stuck their neck out this week – Alabama and Georgia posted two 197.000s, their first 197s of the season. The battle is going to be breathtaking!
Individually, this week we had seven perfect 10.0s coming from only two meets. Unfortunately we still cannot add to the list the likes of Myia Hambrick and Sarah Finnegan, who keep being relegated to 9.975s. Hopefully their time will come soon too!
Highest scores of the week
Team: Oklahoma – 198.050
All around: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 39.900
Vault: Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma) – perfect 10.0
Uneven bars: Sarah Finnegan (LSU) – 9.975
Balance beam: Peng-Peng Lee (UCLA), Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma), Anastasia Webb (Oklahoma) – perfect 10.0
Floor exercise: Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA), Felicia Hano (UCLA) – perfect 10.0
Routines of the week
Vault: MaKenna Merrell-Giles (Utah) – There is nothing like a first career perfect 10.0. Welcome to the club, MaKenna!
Uneven bars: Marissa Oakley (Georgia) – This freshman has just started come out of her shell and her joy is our joy!
Balance beam: Maggie Nichols and Anastasia Webb (Oklahoma) – The young freshman and the star, united by perfection!
Floor exercise: Katelyn Ohashi and Felicia Hano (UCLA) – This is floor at its best: huge tumbling passes, fun choreography and steps dead on the music.
The meet of the week is taking place on Friday, when Alabama will compete at Florida. The rest of the weekend is pleasant but quiet. Georgia will compete at Kentucky, LSU at Missouri and UCLA at Cal. Utah will host Arizona State, Michigan will host Michigan State, and Oklahoma will welcome North Carolina.
Article by Talitha Ilacqua