Recaps, videos, highlights, opinions, perfect 10.0s and the routine of the week – all of this in Week 1 of the 2019 Season.
1. UCLA: 197.250; Nebraska: 195.700
The Bruins started slow on vault, but the meet began all over, for energy and precision, when Kyla Ross stuck her new Yurchenko 1.5. After that, UCLA was UCLA again. Beam and floor were fantastic, the gymnasts are confident, well-trained and focussed. It’s going to be a great season. Nebraska was led by junior Taylor Houchin, who had a great competition, but had a bit of a rough first meet, with some landing problems on vault and what seemed a bit of lack of stamina at the end of their floor routines. The Huskers, however, changed head coach just before the beginning of season and they are counting a lot of freshmen. It’s just fine that they are starting slowly. See you in the post-season!
Bars: UCLA freshman Margzetta Frazier’s collegiate debut; Taylor Houchin‘s double-layout debut and those lines; and Nebraska freshman Sarah Hargrove debuted as the lead-off for the Huskers on their first apparatus. She was very nervous but did a great job – welcome to the NCAA!
Beam: UCLA senior Katelyn Ohashi‘s routine was super difficult (the triple series is back!), different and gorgeous; Grace Glenn was precise as ever as the lead-of; UCLA freshman Norah Flatley is a true beamer – welcome to UCLA; and Nebraska sophomore Sierra Hassel showed incredible confidence as the Huskers’ anchor.
Floor: Nebraska freshman Adnerys De Jesus looked money and we have a new triple twist in the NCAA; UCLA junior Gracie Kramer‘s choreography is chillingly good; and Katelyn Ohashi‘s new choreography is everything you’d expect from her and much beyond (that four-tumbling pass is astonishing and it will only get better)!
2. LSU: 196.775; California: 195.650
Although they did not have their strongest meet, I was impressed with LSU. They had two falls on vault, but the rest of the competition was solid. The sophomores stepped up, with Bridget Dean making the bars and beam lineups, Sami Durante debuting on beam and Reagan Campbell raising her difficulty on beam. Senior Sarah Finnegan is the driving force of the team and redshirt junior McKenna Kelley its soul. Somehow I’m more positive this year than the last. I think the Tigers will do well. California was also very impressive. They had very solid rotations on bars and vault, but unfortunately they were weaker on floor and especially on beam. They are a rising team, however, especially due to their amazing freshman class – welcome Talitha Jones, Abi Solari, Milan Clausi and Maya Bordas. They will do great things at Cal!
Floor: Sarah Finnegan‘s poise and beauty; Milan Clausi’s choreography; and Cal senior Toni-Ann Williams’ fun routine.
3. Utah: 197.175; Penn State: 194.450
Utah looked money from start to finish and posted their third highest ever opening season score. They did not have a perfect competition, but they have a strong and deep roster this year, and we can expect big things from them. Junior Mykayla Skinner and senior MaKenna Merrell-Giles are the driving force of the team and freshmen Cristal Isa and Adrienne Randall are also set to be game changers. Penn State had a very strong bars rotation, but their performance on vault and especially floor was rather poor. They will improve though, the skills are there, and execution should come with more experience later in the season.
Vault: Utah senior MaKenna Merrell-Giles’ stuck Yurchenko 1.5 and Utah junior Mykayla Skinner‘s stuck DTY.
Beam: Utah freshman Adrienne Randall’s beautiful debut and Penn State junior Kristen Politz’s lines.
4. Oklahoma: 198.050; Arkansas: 195.575
Oklahoma did their Oklahoma things, scoring a championships-winning 198.050 in their season opener. Am I impressed? Of course I am, though I don’t think that this puts the Sooners as the favourite to win the National title. Oklahoma likes to start strong and keep up the good work throughout the season, and this performance certainly proves that they are certainly a contender. But nothing more – as yet. Junior Maggie Nichols scored the first perfect 10.0 of the season on vault and is the undiscussed leader of the team. Impressive was also freshman Olivia Trautman, who anchored floor and showed off a beautiful Yurchenko 1.5 on vault. Arkansas also put up a strong performance. They did very well on bars and floor, but weirdly they suffered a bit on beam, their best apparatus. 2018 SEC Freshman of the Year Sarah Shaffer stepped up and is now a very strong all arounder.
Bars: Arkansas junior Hailey Garner’s lines and full pirouettes; Arkansas sophomore Sarah Shaffer’s new double layout dismount; OU sophomore Anastasia Webb‘s new dismount (double front half out); Maggie Nichols‘ new combination series; and Nicole Lehrmann‘s gorgeous set.
5. Georgia: 196.600; Ohio State: 194.900
So here is the ‘new generation’ of Georgia Gymdogs. How do they look? Awesome! They really do! There’s one thing that impressed me more than the fact that the Bulldogs looked solid and consistent and posted the highest opening season score since 2007. It’s the enthusiasm this young team showed: that infectious and genuine enthusiasm for their gymnastics, their team and for competing at Georgia. Georgia did great on all four pieces, including beam. The scores will go up slightly once landings will begin to be stuck, but other than that, all routines look solid, well-trained and well-performed. This is a very young team, but it will do great things. Congratulations to all the freshmen for their strong effort and great team spirit! Ohio State also had a strong start. They were particularly good on bars, but had a strong performance overall. They welcomed a very talented freshman class, which is good news for the future.
Vault: Georgia senior Sydney Snead nearly-stuck Yurchenko 1.5, Georgia freshman Rachael Lukacs’s DTY; Ohio State senior Jamie Stone’s beautiful Yurchenko half.
Bars: Ohio State freshman Colby Miller’s highest score on bars for Ohio State; Georgia freshman Alexa Al-Hameed’s huge release; Sydney Snead’s gorgeous lead-off routine; Georgia junior Rachel Dickson’s new dismount; Georgia sophomore Marissa Oakley’s gorgeous lines in the anchor routine.
Floor: Ohio State sophomore Jenna Swartzentruber’s fun routine; Ohio State senior Janelle McClelland’s beautiful routine; Sabrina Vega‘s new full-in pike and sassy choreography; Rachel Dickson‘s new double Arabian and choreography.
6. It was a stingy opening score for Alabama (194.750), but, as with LSU, I’m quite positive about the Crimson Tide this season. The score does not reflect an overall strong performance, and scores seemed particularly low on beam. The gymnasts seem better trained and disciplined than last year, skills and routines are strong and there are no wild performances. The Crimson Tide had two falls on beam and some landing problems on floor, but they also have strong tumbling passes on the latter apparatus and a very strong beam lineup, as well as a double-twisting Yurchenko on vault. Consider that Alabama has a lot of freshmen this year (and the nerves proved it this week) and among them Shallon Olsen missed half of the pre-season because of Worlds and Sania Mitchell joined the team only in January. Let’s give this young team some time and they’ll turn up strong.
Highlights: Freshman Shallon Olsen’s DTY on vault; freshman Emily Gaskin’s beautiful bars and beam sets; senior Abby Armbrecht’s solid beam set and gorgeous floor choreography (and double layout); sophomore Lexie Graber’s anchor beam routine; senior Ari Guerra anchor floor routine (with double layout); and junior Shea Mahoney’s beautiful floor choreography.
7. Michigan started strong with a 196.050 – highlights here. Freshman Natalie Wojcik was the queen of the meet, starting off with a stuck Yurchenko 1.5, followed by outstanding routines on the other three apparatuses, for a total score of 39.625 – it’s the highest score ever posted by a Wolverine freshman. The other two freshmen, Madison Mariani and Abby Brenner also had a great competition. Junior Emma McLean anchored floor with a big 9.925.
8. It was an outstanding quad-meet between Missouri (195.450) – highlights, Arizona State – highlights (195.000), Minnesota (194.150) and UIC (193.925). It was also a battle between two 2018 Freshmen of the Year, Lexy Ramler of Minnesota (Big 10) and Cairo Leonard-Baker of Arizona State (Pac-12). Lexy Ramler eventually won the all around crown (and a sombrero) with a big 39.525, as well as vault and bars (9.900). Cairo Leonard-Baker tied Lexy on bars and won floor with another 9.900. Missouri junior Aspen Tucker tied Cairo on floor, while teammate Britney Ward won beam with an outstanding 9.950. UIC freshman Alisa Sheremeta scored a big 9.850 on beam.
9. Despite losing Elizabeth Price to graduation last spring, Stanford started very well at the NorCal Classic with a 195.175 against UC Davis that also had an impressive start (194.950), San Jose State (193.300) and Sac State (190.000). Stanford sophomore Kyla Bryant stepped up and performed beautifully on all four apparatuses, including two 9.900s on beam and floor (her floor routine here), for a total score of 39.475. San Jose State junior Taylor Chan dazzled on floor with another 9.900, while UC Davis impressed with three 9.850s on beam.
10. Auburn had an impressive start against Iowa (194.825 to 193.225). The Tigers had particularly strong rotations on bars and beam: on bars, all five counting scores ranged from 9.800 to 9.850 and on beam four scores were 9.825 or better, including an outstanding 9.925 by sophomore Meredith Sylva. Auburn suffered on floor, hence the low overall score, but I thought their overall performance was strong. On vault, in particular, the Tigers showed off four Yurchenkos 1.5, including from freshman Derrian Gobourne, who performed amazingly on three apparatuses and was off to a great season and career, Iowa had to count low scores on all apparatuses, but they also showed some great gymnastics, especially on beam, where senior Misty-Jade Carlson scored a 9.825 and junior Clair Kaji an outstanding 9.900. A shoutout to both teams for some beautiful choreographies on floor and to Auburn for a gorgeous leotard.
Highest scores of the week
All around: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 39.750
Vault: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – Perfect 10.0
Beam: Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 9.975
Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – vault
Routine of the week
Michigan freshman Natalie Wojcik stuck her first ever competitive vault for a 9.975.