Here is a recap of the four Super-Regionals or of when the Sweet Sixteen turned sour. It was obvious, to an extent, that the finals would be disappointing, because eight outstanding teams were going to have their National dream shattered. And yet, at least for me, it was harder to watch than I had expected. We need to start with the Corvallis Regional.
- We talked a lot about upsets before Regionals and I had written on the eve of the Super-Regional that Florida was a bit wild for my taste this year. Yet, I was thinking of vault and at times floor, but I would have never predicted that the upset would be Florida on beam. But then it is always beam… Florida started off their meet on beam having to count two falls (Skaggs and Boren) and an overall shaky rotation and although they rallied after that, they were not able to make up the lost ground. Florida then, the beam team, the floor dream team, the team with the superstar freshman class, the team of Trinity Thomas and Alicia Boren, the team with a shot at the National title (if only vault…), failed to qualify to Nationals. I was upset. I am still upset. That said, I do not believe, as some have had it, that the problem is the coaching staff. I think that Jenny Rowland and her assistants are doing a pretty good job, though (only criticism) they should probably work on consistency, which has been lacking at times in the past few years. That said, what happened on Saturday night was a fluke, not the result of bad coaching. A costly fluke, yet a fluke. They will be back strong.
- The real drama is that Trinity Thomas did not qualify for the all around final (because stupid rules), but we will see her on bars and floor, where she will obviously become National champion with two of those very elusive perfect 10.0s! Here is Trinity on floor during the Super-Regional.
- I am also upset that the likes of Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley will not be at Nationals, they are amazing. On the bright side, however, Alicia Boren (AA), Savannah Schoenherr (VT) and Alyssa Baumann (BB) will join Trinity at Nationals. Even better, Alyssa will rotate with Georgia and her sister Rachel in the Semi-Finals. I am expecting some real sisterly bond, please do not disappoint!
- Denver did their job as expected. They did not have the cleanest competition, they looked a bit tired, especially on floor, but the Pioneers are the dream team this year, they are tough and they are through! I cannot emphasise enough how happy I am. Maddie Karr, the leader of this team, scored a huge 9.950 on bars, while Katelyn Schou and Alexis Vasquez led the team on beam.
- Oregon State was the big (non) surprise of the night. I had predicted that if Denver or Florida had mistakes, the Beavers would have a shot at Nationals, but I do not like what I have heard over the past few days that Oregon State qualified simply by taking advantage of other people’s mistakes. It is almost certain that without that fall on beam, Florida would have qualified ahead of them, but the Beavers earned their place at Nationals, delivering one of the strongest performances of their season, sticking landings and working on the details. You won it, guys, congratulations! (Watch their celebrations here).
- On the heart-break side of the spectrum, Florida’s failed qualification caused some individual qualification drama. BYU’s Madi Ward-Sessions, who scored a 9.925 on floor in Day 2, will not compete at Nationals, because she was edged by Trinity Thomas, and Alaska’s Sophia Hyderally (9.900) was edged on beam by Alyssa Baumann, although they tied on Day 2. The rules need to change here, this is not OK.
- Oregon State’s recap; Florida’s recap (bring tissues…).
ANN ARBOR SUPER-REGIONAL
- Ann Arbor was the second big upset, with Alabama falling short of qualification to Michigan by half a tenth. I love both Alabama and Michigan, and I would have been upset by either result, but it really hurts me to know that Abby Armbrecht will be the only Crimson Tide athlete to compete at Nationals. Ari Guerra (9.925) lost to Nebraska’s Taylor Houchin (9.975) on vault, while on beam the tie-break broke multiple hearts: Bama’s Emily Gaskins, Nebraska’s Sierra Hassel, Penn State’s Jessie Bastardi and Towson’s Mary Elle Arduino all scored a 9.900, but Jessie Bastardi was the only one who notched qualifications. Congratulations to Jessie, her routine is amazing, but what the hell NCAA? This is plain unfair…
- Now that I vented all my frustration, I can tell you how happy I am that Michigan made it through, after last year’s Regional disaster. I am happy for Olivia Karas and Emma McLean on their final season, I am happy for the team as a whole who rallied after some adversity at the beginning of the year and I am happy to see how happy they were when they found out that they had qualified (see the celebrations here). Star freshman Natalie Wojcik scored a 9.950 on beam to lead her team.
- UCLA dominated the competition, as expected, but it was a suffered victory, as the Bruins, in very UCLA fashion, started the meet with a fall on beam (Glenn). The team rallied, however. Kyla BOSS scored two perfect 10.0s on beam and bars, Madison Kocian scored a 9.950 on bars and Nia Dennis and Pauline Tratz stuck their two FTY on vault for two 9.900s.
- UCLA’s recap; Michigan’s recap.
- The protagonist of this meet were the scores, which were plain insane. Oklahoma at a certain point were at a pace of 199, Georgia scored over 198 for a performance that was good, but not a 198, and California and Kentucky both posted the highest scores in school history. It was insane and unacceptable. This does no good to the sport, to the gymnasts and to the perfect 10.0 system that I strongly support.
- That said, and regardless of the scores, the gymnasts were amazing and the competition was fantastic: close, intense and fierce, the best of gymnastics. Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols and Georgia’s Marissa Oakley scored two perfect 10.0s on bars (here is Marissa), while California scored three 9.950s on bars: Emi Watterson, Alma Kuc and Maya Bordas. Stunning.
- I was disappointed that California did not qualify to Nationals, because I love the Golden Bears, but the future looks bright for them. Their returning athletes are amazing, the current freshman class is one of the best in the nation and their incoming freshman class is incredibly talented. Watch out!
- Cal’s freshman star Milan Clausi qualified as an individual on vault, Kentucky’s Alex Hyland qualified in the all around, Sidney Dukes on floor and Cally Nixon on bars. I am happy for the two seniors, what a way to end their career! Heartbreaking misses are Kentucky’s Mollie Korth and Cal’s Kyana George on vault.
- Oklahoma’s recap; Georgia’s recap; California’s recap.
BATON ROUGE SUPER-REGIONAL
- There were no major surprises in Baton Rouge, but it was much closer between Utah and Minnesota than the NQS had it. Utah struggled on bars, while Minnesota did not manage to capitalise on their last two rotations on floor and vault. Auburn‘s #StickItForSam rally did not last a second day of competition, while LSU won comfortably, though not necessarily with their best performance. This to me is the average LSU team performance and the one we will see at Nationals too. If all their gymnasts have their best meet in the Four on the Floor Final, they could surprise everyone and become national champions, but the chances that this happens are quite limited, I think. By experience, it is usually the most consistent teams who end up contending for the National title. That said, I would like them to prove me wrong…
- LSU’s Sarah Finnegan was the star of the meet, scoring two 9.950s on bars and beam, and topping the all around competition despite suffering from flu symptoms all week.
- Utah’s MyKayla Skinner fell on a routine (on bars) for the first ever time – a shock, but what an athlete. The Utah team was super impressive on vault, where they more or less stuck all six landings, but because vault was so good, their overall score (which was fair) was a bit concerning: the Utes really need to polish their bars and beam routines if they want to qualify to the NCAA final.
- Minnesota’s Ivy Lu scored a near-perfect 9.975 on bars, while freshman Tiarre Sales really grew throughout the season to become an asset for the Gophers on bars and beam. This was a bit of a missed opportunity for Minnesota. They were really close to Utah after the second rotation, but did not manage to take advantage of the Utes’ problems on bars. Floor is the apparatus on which they will have to work the most next year.
- Among the individual heartbreaks, Auburn senior Abby Milliet ended her career at Baton Rouge, losing the beam tie-break to Arkansas’ Hailey Garner (9.900). Minnesota’s Ona Loper also lost the tie-break on vault to Auburn’s Derrian Gobourne (9.950), BYU’s Helody Cyrenne lost 9.900 to 9.925 on bars to ASU’s Cairo Leonard-Baker and BYU’s Shannon Evans narrowly missed out her own qualification on floor. Arkansas’ Sophia Carter will be the one going.
- LSU’s recap; Auburn’s recap.
Sienna Crouse (Nebraska) – Ann Arbor Regional
Alex Hyland (Kentucky) – Athens Regional
Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) – Baton Rouge Regional
Alicia Boren (Florida) – Corvallis Regional
Taylor Houchin (Nebraska) – Ann Arbor Regional
Milan Clausi (California) – Athens Regional
Derrian Gobourne (Auburn) – Baton Rouge Regional
Savannah Schoenherr (Florida) – Corvallis Regional
Sabrina Garcia (Penn State) – Ann Arbor Regional
Cally Nixon (Kentucky) – Athens Regional
Cairo Leonard-Baker (Arizona State) – Baton Rouge Regional
Trinity Thomas (Florida) – Corvallis Regional
Jessie Bastardi (Penn State) – Ann Arbor Regional
Brooke Kelly (Missouri) – Athens Regional
Hailey Garner (Arkansas) – Baton Rouge Regional
Alyssa Baumann (Florida) – Corvallis Regional
Abby Armbrecht (Alabama) – Ann Arbor Regional
Sidney Dukes (Kentucky) – Athens Regional
Sophia Carter (Arkansas) – Baton Rouge Regional
Trinity Thomas (Florida) – Corvallis Regional