Oklahoma Wins 2019 NCAA Championships

And here we are, we got to the end of a weird season with a weird National Championships, which was rightfully won by the best team in the country Oklahoma, but reserved surprises throughout.

Oklahoma 198.3375; LSU 197.8250; UCLA 197.5375; Denver 197.0000

Oklahoma started off on the uneven bars and led the competition from start to finish, but compared to 2017, when they also started on bars, this year they did not look dominant from the first routine up. The Sooners showed some nerves, failing to stick landings and being a bit shy on a few handstands. The rhythm changed on beam (because why not), when they really gained control of the competition. Oklahoma had six (nearly, to be very picky) flawless routines, building on each other and scoring one 9.9+ after the other. I loved the aggressive joy of Anastasia Webb after she hit her acro series where she had trouble on in the semifinal. Things got a bit tight again for the Sooners on floor, when Evy Schoepfer fell on her double tuck, but the rest of the lineup stepped up and they finished very strong. The Sooners saved the best for last. The highlight of their competition came on vault, where they competed six stellar Yurchenko 1.5s. Brenna Dowell, who was up last, killed off both the competition and the rest of the competitors, sticking her vault cold and bringing an involuntary bright smile to my face. What a way to cap off a brilliant career. That for me was a legitimate 10.0. After the competition, the Sooners explained that this Championships meant more than any of the previous ones, because they were dedicating it to Dave Richardson, the husband of their athletic trainer Jenn Richardson, who passed away last February. They made him proud. Jenn and her daughter were spotted ‘waving at daddy‘ after the meet, it was an emotional moment.

Things to watch:

 

Of the four teams competing in the final, LSU is the one that impressed me the most. The Tigers were a big question mark this season, starting the year slowly and having some inflated scores throughout the year that left me wondering how they would get scored at Nationals. It turned out that all my preoccupations were unfounded. LSU peaked at exactly the right time and in the Four on the Floor final they had the best meet of the season. They were not perfect: they broke into the 9.9s on vault and beam only with Sarah Finnegan and had a few avoidable steps here and there, but they had the best of an average day, which is how you normally do well at Nationals. Sarah Finnegan, in her final meet, put up a real show, sticking everything and having the perfect competition (VT 9.9125; UB 9.9500; BB 9.9500; FX 9.9500). In that split-second while she was tumbling towards her last pass on floor, it occurred to me that this was the last time I would see Sarah compete and that that was her very last skill. I cried for only one gymnast the evening of the Final, and that was Sarah Finnegan. McKenna Kelley ended LSU’s competition with her best routine of the season, the icing on the cake of yet another brilliant career. To be honest though, I am relieved that we will have a one-year break from Mary Lou before Emma Kelley gets to LSU.

Things to watch:

  • The recap of the meet.
  • D-D Breaux’s post-meet interview.
  • Sarah Finnegan, McKenna Kelley and Lexie Priessman’s emotional post-meet interview.
  • Sarah Finnegan’s tweet that shut up a man who claimed LSU’s billboard celebrating the team’s second-place finish was preposterous.

 

UCLA unfortunately did not have their best meet. They had two big wobbles on beam (Kocian and Ohashi), they were a bit tentative on their landings on floor, suffering two out-of-bounds (Kramer and Hano), stuck only two landings on vault (Ross and Dennis) and tried to be too perfect on bars, with the result that there were steps on landing all over the place. Some Twitter gym nerds suggested that the Bruins might have felt too much pressure on what was Miss Val’s final bow. I am a bit ambivalent about all this recent VKF criticism. On the one hand, I am relieved that this season is over for UCLA. The celebrations and emotions surrounding Miss Val’s retirement went on for so long I feel completely drained, and I had a feeling that the team felt compelled to match their personality to hers as a way to pay homage to her career and legacy, which is exhausting and not what Miss Val taught her gymnasts to do. On the other hand, feelings and comments would have been very different if UCLA had either won the title or had lost by a narrow margin. The very interesting question for me now is instead what will happen to UCLA next year. The Bruins will lose Miss Val and Jordyn Wieber and overall it really feels like a new beginning. It is scary and I am worried, but a breath of fresh air is not necessarily a bad thing. The Bruins may be a bit tentative in the years to come, but Miss Val built a brilliant legacy and I believe that they will survive her retirement. As for me, it will take me a very long time to overcome the shock of not seeing Miss Val there anymore. I got passionate about NCAA gymnastics because of the infectious enthusiasm of the UCLA Bruins that I was missing in elite gymnastics and especially because of Miss Val, for her commitment to turn young girls into empowered women, for her positive attitude that helped her overcome even the hardest of times and her unique personality and style. I am glad I have nine more months to prepare myself psychologically.

Things to watch:

 

Denver should be proud of their performance. Of course there were things that could be better and landings that could have been improved, but as I said for LSU, on a good day at Nationals you normally see the best of a team’s average day, and this was the case also for the Pioneers. I don’t have too much to say about their performance, because unfortunately they did not show too many of their routines on TV but for what I saw: Lynnzee Brown killed it on floor once again, Maddie Karr nearly stuck her Yurchenko 1.5 on vault and Denver had a fantastic rotation on beam, where Kaitlyn Schou scored a 9.9375 on her final routine as a Pioneer. Overall, I believe that Denver has a bright future ahead. Making it to the Four on the Floor final must be a big boost of confidence for the team and good advertisement for future recruits. I would not be surprised at all if in the next few years, they will be in contention for that national title.

Things to watch:

 

 

Other things that happened at Nationals:

  • From Semifinal one, Michigan narrowly missed out on qualifying to the final, which was super impressive, especially considering all the adversity they had to overcome this season. Natalie Wojcik won the beam title and I am ecstatic, while it will take me time to recover from Olivia Karas‘ graduation. Utah, on the contrary, lost their nerve on beam and it was heartbreaking. MaKenna Merrell-Giles fell on her last ever routine and looked devastated, while Kari Lee was interviewed after the competition and she could barely hold back her tears. Her future looks bright, however: she is getting married in the summer and will join her family as a coach in their gym. Finally, congratulations to the other Utah senior Shannon McNatt, for winning the Elite 90 Award, awarded to the gymnast competing at Nationals with the highest cumulative GPA.
  • In Semifinal two there were again a lot of surprises. We all had Oklahoma qualified to the final, but we were expecting a close competition between Denver and Georgia for second place. It ended up being close, but between Denver and badass Oregon State. The two teams were tied at the end of the third rotation, and cameramen were so freaked out that they even forgot to show Oklahoma! In the end the difference was that Denver was on bars and OSU on beam, but a huge congratulations to the Beavers! Georgia, unfortunately, did not have a great meet. They started quite well on bars, but the fact that Marissa Oakley fell twice in the anchor spot killed the Gymdogs’ momentum and they looked shaky throughout. Still though, this is a very young team and the progress they have made this year is outstanding.
  • Florida’s Alicia Boren tied for the floor title and the gymternet could not be happier. So well-deserved!
  • The Baumann sisters had some minor trouble on beam and ended up with the same score (9.7625). When it is meant to be!
  • LSU’s Sarah Finnegan is the 2019 uneven bars national champion, I am delighted she won the title by herself! Sarah also won the IAA Award for best senior in the nation. What a weekend!
  • Cal’s Toni-Ann Williams freaked out after Milan Clausi’s vault at Nationals and it was so cute!
  • Alabama’s Abby Armbrecht killed her final floor routine for a 9.9125. It was a beautiful goodbye.
  • Kentucky’s Alex Hyland had a fantastic competition to end her career. She added a new acro series on beam (she trained it for only two weeks!!!) and stuck her vault.
  • Auburn’s Derrian Gobourne stuck her Yurchenko 1.5 on vault and is now a national co-champion!!!
  • UCLA’s Kyla Ross tied for the vault and floor titles and she is now an NCAA National champion on all four apparatuses. How crazy is that? I would have never foreseen it…
  • Minnesota’s Lexy Ramler had the competition of a lifetime and tied for second place in the all around with Kyla Ross (here on bars), while Maggie Nichols regained her title for the second consecutive year.
  • UCLA’s Gracie Kramer is an all-American on floor!

 

Other things to watch:

  • Gymnasts sending their love and support to Sam Cerio after her injury.
  • Cal’s Milan Clausi explaining her friendship with Toni-Ann Williams.
  • The final ‘Hey Ruby, Hey’ – I will miss them!
  • Miss Val saying that it is ‘overwhelming’ to sit between Kyla Ross and Sarah Finnegan.
  • Alabama’s Abby Armbrecht‘s letter to her teammates.
  • Nebraska’s Sienna Crouse‘s letter to gymnastics.
  • Penn State’s Jessie Bastardi‘s letter to her mother.
  • The Baumann’s sisters mother Jarol’s pain through their beam routines.
  • LSU’s Julianna Cannamella‘s father’s outfit.
  • Miss Val‘s ‘no-regrets’ shoes:

Screen Shot 2019-04-27 at 18.02.00

 

Individual titles

NCAA All around Final Results:

1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 39.7125

2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) – 39.6625

2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) – 39.6625

 

NCAA Vault Final Results:

1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn) – 9.950

1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 9.950

1. Kyla Ross (UCLA) – 9.950

1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) – 9.950

This is Kennedi’s second title on vault after the one she won in 2017!

 

NCAA Bars Final Results:

1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) – 9.9500

2. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) – 9.9375

2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) – 9.9375

This is Sarah’s second bars title after the one she won in 2017!

 

NCAA Beam Final Results:

1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) – 9.9500

2. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) – 9.9375

3. Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA) – 9.9250

Natalie’s victory put an end to UCLA’s streak of beam titles since 2015.

 

NCAA Floor Final Results:

1. Alicia Boren (Florida) – 9.950

1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver) – 9.950

1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma) – 9.950

1. Kyla Ross (UCLA) – 9.950

This podium should satisfy everyone’s feelings!

 

 

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