The NCAA Weekly is back following the end of the 2019 season. Enjoy!
1. With much of what in Britain we call pomp and circumstance UCLA volunteer assistant coach Jordyn Wieber was named head coach at Arkansas. This was done in grandiose fashion, with Arkansas staff and team members boarding a private plane and travelling all the way to Los Angeles to bring back the new head coach. All of this, of course, was live on Twitter, as you do these days. The gymternet very understandably freaked out but I would be slightly more cautious. The chances that Jordyn will do great at Arkansas are overwhelming but results may be slower to appear than, say, next year and this will be a big adjustment for her: the role and responsibilities of a head coach are very different from those of a floor coach, though the expectation that Arkansas’ floor lineup will be lights-out next year is very real. Watch the first meeting Jordyn Wieber had with the team, as well as her first press conference. She looks so mature and ready for this job, best of luck to her!
2. In other head-coaches news Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden announced her retirement after thirty-five years with the Red Rocks. Megan said she announced her retirement only after the end of the season because she wanted to make this season about the team and not about herself. She is classy even when she sends little poisonous arrows through the air, is she not? Jokes aside, this is the first time ever that a Marsden is not in charge of Utah gymnastics. However, Tom Farden will stay on and become the only head coach, and with that and the strong freshman season that Utah will welcome in the summer, I believe that not much will change for the Red Rocks next season, except for…
3. Except for Utah junior MyKayla Skinner, who announced that she is going back to Arizona to train for the Olympics. She said that this has always been her dream and she wants to give herself another chance. Fair enough, you can but support that. Utah announced that they will keep her scholarship spot open in case she decides to come back for the 2020 season, but they did not say anything about she potentially coming back for the 2021 season, after the Olympics are done. Who knows what will happen… From my NCAA-lover perspective, I hope that MyKayla will fulfil her Olympic dream (however a long-shot it now seems) but then will come back for another season in 2021. Also, this may be my annoying academic perspective speaking, but has MyKayla completed her degree? And if not, when will she?
4. Speaking of question marks, LSU senior McKenna Kelley and her mother Mary Lou Retton were guests on the Morning Show a few days ago. McKenna announced that although she is eligible for a fifth year, she has decided to graduate with her senior class. This may not be the decision LSU was hoping for, but it seems the most logical to me. The senior class was very close and McKenna was an integral part of it, and she acted all season as if this were her final year. McKenna also said that she wants to become a motivational speaker and a writer. It seems a fitting job for her, her enthusiasm for life is infectious. Best of luck to her! The whole interview, however, was rather cringeworthy, especially after MLR made more controversial comments about survivors. It was infuriating and embarrassing. On the bright side, we will get a one-year break from the whole MLR narrative at every single LSU meet until Emma Kelley will join the Tigers in 2021. Enjoy it!
5. Speaking of commits, the future NCAA champions showed off some fantastic upgrades this week. Alabama signee Makarri Dogette showed off a stuck double layout off bars; Florida commit Olivia Greaves is training a full-twisting double layout on floor; and LSU commit Olivia Dunne just learnt a Liukin on beam.
6. Georgia freshman Alyssa Perez-Lugones is already training for the next season. Here she asks her fans if she could add this gorgeous double Arabian to her floor routine.
7. Two seniors competed their favourite skills one last time before wishing farewell to gymnastics. LSU’s Lexie Priessman showed off a double double on floor. Can you just imagine her potential without all those injuries… And Washington’s Malory Rose showed off a four-element acrobatic series on beam that unfortunately she never competed: an aerial cartwheel into free-walkover into BHSO into LOSO. Wow!
8. The four finalists of the prestigious Honda Award for gymnastics have been announced and are: Oklahoma’s Brenna Dowell, Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols, LSU’s Sarah Finnegan and UCLA’s Kyla Ross. The winner will be announced next week. Congratulations to all four gymnasts!
10. We have to conclude with some heartbreaking news. Kentucky alumna Shelby Hilton has passed away after being diagnosed with brain cancer for the second time last year. Shelby was a senior in college in 2014 when, after a bad fall on floor, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She battled it into remission and in 2016 she went back to Kentucky to complete her degree. In May 2018, however, just before her twenty-fifth birthday, the cancer was back and could not be beaten. Kentucky head coach Tim Garrison said: ‘Shelby had to give up many things during her fight with cancer, but more important is what she kept. She kept her courage, her smile, and her determination to live her life.’ Our thoughts are with her family, friends and the Kentucky community.
Routine of the week
Rest in peace, Shelby.