It was another outstanding week of gymnastics. UCLA posted the highest score of the week, a massive 198.075, the Bruins’ first 198 of the season. Oklahoma was also back to full form this week and posted the other 198 of the week, a 198.025. Florida was not far behind, posting a big 197.725. LSU scored an excellent 197.575 on the road, while Cal upset Utah at home 197.500-197.450. Alabama and Kentucky also scored over 197, 197.300 and 197.100 respectively. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi posted the only perfect 10.0 of the week on floor. Floor was also the scene of drama this week, however, when Florida’s Kennedy Baker tore her Achilles. Her collegiate career devastatingly ends here.
UCLA were out on a mission this week, after a humiliating defeat against Utah last week – and they redeemed themselves. The Bruins won against Oregon State 198.075-196.525. They posted a perfect 10.0 and four 9.975s, and had outstanding rotations on beam and floor. On beam, Katelyn Ohashi and Peng-Peng Lee posted two 9.975s, Grace Glenn and Kyla Ross two 9.950s and Madison Kocian a 9.875. On floor, Ohashi scored a 10.0, Nia Dennis a 9.975, Felicia Hano and Gracie Kramer two 9.950s, and Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian two 9.900s. Amazing job. Dennis and Kramer, who made big mistakes in their floor routines last week against Utah, redeemed themselves and confirmed their spot in the lineup.
Oklahoma also had something to prove, after suffering three falls on beam last week – and they did it beautifully. The Sooners won with a 198.025 against West Virginia (195.750). Oklahoma had fantastic rotations on vault and beam. On vault, Anastasia Webb, Brenna Dowell and Maggie Nichols posted three 9.950s. On beam, Nichols posted a nearly perfect 9.975, Webb a 9.950, Natalie Brown and Nicole Lehrmann two 9.900s and Bre Showers a 9.875. Maggie Nichols also posted 9.950s on bars and floor, and won the all around with a big 39.825.
Florida won at home against Arkansas 197.725-196.875. The Gators had a weak rotation on floor, marred at the very end by Kennedy Baker’s season-ending injury, but had a solid competition on the other three apparatuses. On vault, Alex McMurtry and Rachel Slocum posted two 9.950s and Baker a 9.900. On bars, McMurtry and Rachel Gowey scored two 9.925s, and Alicia Boren and Megan Skaggs two 9.900s. And on beam McMurtry and Gowey posted two 9.950s, and Boren and Skaggs again two 9.900s.
LSU won big on the road at Georgia 197.575-196.725. The Tigers had a very solid competition on all apparatuses. On vault, Myia Hambrick and Sarah Finnegan posted two 9.900s. On beam, Kennedi Edney, Lexie Priessman and Finnegan posted three other 9.900s, although no Tiger managed to stick a perfect landing. On beam, Finnegan posted a 9.950, Myia Hambrick a 9.925 and Christina Desiderio a 9.900. On floor, Priessman posted a 9.950, Finnegan a 9.925 and Edney a 9.900. Georgia had impressive rotations on beam and floor. On beam, freshman Marissa Oakley impressed with a 9.950, followed by Sabrina Vega’s 9.925 and Vivi Babalis’ 9.900. On floor, Rachel Dickson and Vega scored two 9.950s and Babalis a 9.900.
California had an impressive win at home against Utah 197.500-197.450. Cal won thanks to outstanding rotations on bars and floor. On bars, Alma Kuc, Nina Schank and Toni-Ann Williams scored three big 9.925s and Kyana George a 9.900. On floor, Williams posted a nearly perfect 9.975, George a 9.925 and Sylvie Seilnacht a 9.900. Utah had a solid competition, but it lacked the spark, also due to the fact that star MyKayla Skinner competed only on bars and beam due to a sore ankle.
Alabama posted its highest score this season so far, a 197.300 to win on the road at Auburn (195.400). Although still weaker on vault, the Crimson Tide had outstanding rotations on the other three apparatuses. On bars, Kiana Winston won with a 9.925, followed by Shea Mahoney’s 9.900. On beam, Winston, Lexi Graber and Nickie Guerrero all posted 9.900s, and on floor Winston and Guerrero led the way with two 9.925s, followed by Abby Armbrecht’s 9.900. Nickie Guerrero also posted a big 9.950 on vault.
It was an impressive meet for Kentucky, which also posted its highest score so far, a 197.100 against Missouri (195.125). Kentucky had outstanding rotations on bars and floor. On bars, Mollie Korth posted a 9.925, Alex Hyland a 9.900 and three other gymnasts three 9.825s. On floor, Hyland scored a 9.925, Sidney Dukes a 9.900, and Cori Rechenmacher and Ella Warren two 9.875s.
The week’s mood was darkened by Kennedy Baker’s injury, who is the fourth star gymnast to tear her Achilles this season, after LSU’s McKenna Kelley, Georgia’s GiGi Marino and Alabama’s Mackenzie Brannan. The rest of the week, however, was lights out. The big protagonists of the 2018 season seem now clear – they are Oklahoma, UCLA, Florida, LSU and Utah. Alabama is growing towards the end of the season, as it always does. Among the outsiders, there could be Georgia, California, Kentucky, Washington, Nebraska, Michigan or Arkansas.
LSU’s Sarah Finnegan is for me the gymnast of the year for both her gymnastics and her incredible team spirit. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi has the most fun, best choreographed and most cleverly constructed routine in the NCAA, I could watch it over and over again. Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols remains the best gymnast in the NCAA, she competes with enviable ease – but then she is too nice a person to feel such a narrow-minded feeling as envy towards her. It’s only admiration, respect and more respect.
Highest scores of the week
Team: UCLA – 198.175
All around: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 39.825
Vault: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma), Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma), Anastasia Webb (Oklahoma), Alex McMurtry (Florida), Rachel Slocum (Florida), Nickie Guerrero (Alabama) – 9.950
Uneven bars: Kyla Ross (UCLA) – 9.975
Balance beam: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma), Peng-Peng Lee (UCLA), Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA) – 9.975
Floor exercise: Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA) – perfect 10.0
Routines of the week
Vault: Anastasia Webb (Oklahoma) – What an amazing Omelianchiik, difficulty and diversity paid off!
Uneven bars: Kyla Ross (UCLA) – It is not the hardest routine in the NCAA, but it is certainly the cleanest!
Balance beam: Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA) – She throws big skills as if they were nothing, is there anything this gymnast can’t do on beam?
Floor exercise: Toni-Ann Williams (Cal) – That feeling when you hit your routine and you win the meet for your team against a top team!
Week 9 is a quiet week. On Friday, Florida is competing on the road at Missouri, while Alabama is hosting North Carolina. On Saturday, Oklahoma is hosting Michigan, while on Sunday, UCLA is competing at the Masters Classic against Nebraska, Kent State and Iowa State, and LSU is hosting Auburn.
Article by Talitha Ilacqua