2017 P&G Championships Preview
By: Hannah Lerner
The P&G Championships will take place on August 17-20 in Anaheim, California. 54 gymnasts from across the country will be competing for national titles and many are hoping to be selected onto the US National Team. This competition is also crucial for determining who will compete at the World Championships this fall. There will be a lot of familiar faces from the US Classic will be competing at P&G’s and many of those who only performed 1-2 events at the US Classic will be competing in the all-around at this competition.
Emma Malabuyo: photo by USA Gymnastics
The talent shines bright for the young stars competing in the junior session. Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo are in strong contention to win the all-around title. Malabuyo from Texas Dreams won the US Classic with a 56.750, outscoring all gymnasts in the entire competition, while O’Keefe came in second to Malabuyo. Gabby Perea from Legacy Elite was the junior all-around champion at 2017 Jesolo Trophy and only competed bars at the US Classic, winning with a 14.500. Other stars from the US Classic like Grace McCallum and Adeline Kenlin will be competing at this competition. Twin City Twisters’ Grace McCallum had the 3rd highest AA score of the junior competition at the US Classic and had the highest vault score of the night. IGN’s Adeline Kenlin won beam at the US Classic with a 14.850. GAGE’s Leanne Wong stood out at the US Classic with her impeccable form and artistry and will be competing at this competition.
Ragan Smith: photo by USA Gymnastics
There is certainly no lack of talent in the senior session, as Olympic alternates Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear will be fighting for national titles, along with many others. Texas Dreams’ Ragan Smith won the 2017 American Cup and is certainly a favorite to win the all-around.
We will get to see Locklear perform on her best event, the uneven bars, as well as beam. Morgan Hurd will be competing in the all-around in this competition and is definitely fighting for a spot on the World Championships team. Hurd won the bronze medal in the all-around at the 2017 Stuttgart World Cup and has incredible execution and difficulty. Alyona Schennikova surprised many by winning the senior competition at the US Classic and will be looking to have another great competition and prove herself worthy of making the World’s team.
Riley McCusker: photo by USA Gymnastics
MG Elite’s Riley McCusker, winner of the all-around and beam titles at 2017 Jesolo Trophy, will be fighting to give a stronger performance than was seen at the US Classic, where she had minimal time to prepare after coming back from several injuries. Jade Carey emerged at the US Classic as a floor and vault powerhouse, winning those two events in the senior competition. If she performs well at this competition, she will have a solid argument to compete at World’s. Additionally, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf will compete in the all-around after only competing one event at the US Classic due to an illness. Chow’s Victoria Nguyen, who won silver in the all-around at the 2017 London World Cup, didn’t compete at the US Classic but will be competing in the AA at P&G National Championships.
A live stream of the senior and junior competitions will be available on the USA Gymnastics YouTube channel. Samantha Peszek, Jordyn Wieber and Jonathan Horton will host webcasts of the junior competitions on http://www.pgchamps.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @USAMSO for live tweets of the competition.
Schedule for the competition, pacific time:
Thursday, August 17: Juniors at 1 p.m., seniors at 7 p.m.
Friday, August 18: Juniors at 1 p.m., seniors at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 19: Juniors at 12 p.m., seniors at 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 20: Juniors at 11 a.m., seniors at 3:30 p.m.
In a wide open field at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois with many of the top US women’s worlds team contender opting not do the all-around, it was Alyona Shchennikova who seized the moment and took the senior title at the US Classic in Chicago. Shchennikova of 5280 Gymnastics, the younger sister of former US women’s national team member and current Michigan Wolverines gymnast Polina Shchennikova, was consistent and clean throughout the competition, showcasing her best gymnastics early on to score a dominant 54.950 all-around score, nearly two points higher than second place.
Coming in second place was one of the favorites going into the competition, Abby Paulson of Twin City Twisters. The 17-year-old also enjoyed a very solid competition, finishing with an all-around score of 53.100 overall, two-tenths better than third place finishers Luisa Blanco of WOGA and Kalyany Steele.
For Shchennikova, the 16-year-old began her competition with a bang, immediately scoring a big 14.350 on her solid double-twisting Yurchenko vault before another huge score of 14.500 on uneven bars, with her impressive Tskatchev and Ricna to Pak combination earning her a second place finish on that apparatus. A solid 12.850 and 13.250 on balance beam and floor exercise respectively sealed her first all-around finish here at Classics.
For the second place finisher Paulson, she was rock solid across the board, scoring a 13.000 on vault, a 13.350 on uneven bars, a 13.500 on balance beam, and a 13.250 on floor exercise, a very consistent showing from a very dependable gymnast.
Alyona Shchennikova on the balance beam during podium training at the City of Jesolo Trophy/FloGymnastics
A surprise third place finisher who impressed tonight was first-year elite Luisa Blanco of WOGA, fighting through an injury to put up a marker as to her talents and prospects as an outsider to make the world’s team. Blanco, an Alabama Crimson Tide commit, was also extremely consistent across all four apparatuses, scoring 13.400 on vault, 12.850 on uneven bars, a huge 14.300 on balance beam for second place, and a 12.350 on floor exercise to round out her meet.
Some potential world team members were also shining brightly in Chicago, as Rio 2016 US Women’s Gymnastics Team alternate Ragan Smith of Texas Dreams was insanely impressive on her two events of the night, uneven bars and balance beam, posting a big 14.550 on uneven bars to take the title on that event with two impressive upgrades, a brand new Downie and a new Ricna to Pak connection. On the balance beam, the American Cup champion’s signature event, Smith put up a huge 15.350, the highest event score of the night to take the title on that apparatus as well in large part due to her very difficult standing full and very clean double pike dismount.
Ragan Smith at the 2016 US Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Trials in San Jose/USA Gymnastics
The only other gymnast with major international experience in tonight’s competition was another Rio 2016 US Women’s Gymnastics Team alternate, Ashton Locklear, who finished fourth on uneven bars at the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanning. The 19-year-old reigning uneven bars national champion opted not to perform uneven bars tonight due to some pain and a poor performance during podium training yesterday on what Locklear called some very loose bars. The Everest gymnast did show some very impressive upgrades and clean execution on balance beam, with a triple and double wolf turns and her back-handspring layout stepout and side somi accentuating a very impressive balance beam routine for a 13.600 with only her hands down on her under-rotated double tuck dismount the only real dedcution.
Ashton Locklear on balance beam at the City of Jesolo Trophy/FloGymnastics
A gymnast who put her name on the map as a potential worlds team member was Jade Carey, who had a massively impressive night, winning the vault and floor exercise titles with a 14.350 on her hugely difficult tsuk double full and Amanar vaults and her double layout and double full tucked full in on the floor to show herself as a potential worlds medal contender on both events.
Finally two of the other potential favorites for a spot on this year’s worlds team in Montreal had solid showings as well with American Cup competitor and City of Jesolo Trophy all-around champion Riley McCusker of MG Elite scoring a 13.450 on uneven bars, a 13.000 on balance beam, and a 13.300 on floor exercise to keep her stock high despite having to not perform vault due to some serious injuries the past month.
Morgan Hurd was also good on the two events she competed scoring a 13.650 on balance beam and a 13.850 and skipping vault and floor exercise due to a nagging elbow injury.
Junior elite gymnasts from across the country competed in the U.S. Classic to show off their hard work and to qualify for the P&G National Championships. We saw a lot of incredible gymnastics from these rising stars.
Photo by John Cheng
Grace McCallum from Twin City Twisters’ took the all-around title in the junior session with a 54.15. Sydney Davis from WOGA was not far behind, scoring a 53.75, and Kara Eaker from GAGE won third place in the all-around with a 53.6. Six juniors competed in the senior session, results of which are not included here.
Photo by John Cheng
Some gymnasts especially stood out today. Grace McCallum performed a beautiful double twisting yurchenko, scoring the highest on vault with a 14.650. Madelyn WIlliams from San Mateo Gymnastics showed exquisite form on bars, taking the lead with a huge 14.300. Kara Eaker had the highest beam score with a 14.250. Her unique routine included a switch leap mount, a split leap to a side somi, and a beautiful side aerial LOSO LOSO series. Not to mention her round off BHS 2.5 twist dismount! Texas Dreams’ Annie beard took the floor title with a 13.4, showing off her creative choreography and clean tumbling.
Photo by John Cheng
TIGAR’s Jay Jay Marshall showed sky-high tumbling, opening with a dos santos and ending with a 1.5 twist to triple full. JaFree Scott from GAGE showed incredible potential on floor, nailing four double salto passes. Leanne Wong from GAGE presented a beautiful floor routine with impeccable form and nailed a triple full. Audrey Davis’ beam and bar routines earned her second place on both events. She showed classic WOGA precision on bars, finishing her pirouettes right on top of the bar and making her piked jaeger look effortless. Shilese Jones was a powerhouse on floor, opening with a huge double double.
It is safe to say that the future is bright for these gymnasts. We look forward to watching many of them at the P&G Championships!
This upcoming weekend some of the biggest names in elite gymnastics will be showcased at the 2017 U.S. Classic. Gymnasts from across the country will gather in Chicago, Illinois at the Sears Centre to compete and display their skills. This competition is the last opportunity for these gymnasts to qualify for the P&G Gymnastics Championships, which will take place next month in Anaheim, California. The athletes who have already qualified use this weekend as a final chance to prepare their routines for the national championships.
Among the 73 elite gymnasts competing this weekend are Rio 2016 US Women’s Gymnastics Olympic team alternates, Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear, who headline the field for the senior competition. Specifically, Locklear will be competing to defend her uneven bars national title and is a fan favorite because at 19 years old, she is currently the most decorated active US gymnast. On the other hand, American Cup champion Ragan Smith is a favorite to win the all-around and if she competes all four events, it’s likely she will.
(Ashton Locklear competing on balance beam at the 2017 City of Jesolo Trophy)
Other big names featured in the senior competition include Riley McCusker, Morgan Hurd, Trinity Thomas, Alyona Shchennikova, and Abby Paulson. All five of these athletes competed for Team USA at the City of Jesolo Trophy and are dominant on certain events. Riley McCusker of MG Elite is a first year senior who not only won the all-around gold in Jesolo, but also struck gold in the balance beam event finals. Since Jesolo, McCusker has struggled to come back from several injuries, however, is still fighting to make the worlds team. Hurd also has a good chance at placing in and possibly winning the all-around title if Smith and McCusker don’t compete all four events.
(Riley McCusker and Ragan Smith warming up prior to the 2017 American Cup)
Other senior elites that tend to fly under the radar include Margzetta Frazier, Elena Arenas, Jade Carey, Deanne Soza, and Jordan Chiles. Jade Carey of Oasis Gymnastics is one to watch on vault as she will be competing two insanely difficult vaults, an amanar and a Kasamatsu. If Carey successfully completes both vaults she could become a contender for a spot on the worlds team.
Due to the large quantity of junior gymnasts competing this weekend, the six junior national team members will be rotating with the seniors. Maile O’Keefe, Adeline Kenlin, Emma Malabuyo, Gabby Perea, Sunisa Lee, and Olivia Dunne, while in a different session, will still be competing for junior titles. Maile O’keefe, the reigning junior national champion, is a favorite to win the all-around title. Adeline Kenlin is strong on balance beam and proved at the City of Jesolo Trophy that she can also post an extremely high all-around score. Emma Malabuyo, possibly the second favorite for the junior title this weekend, is a great all-arounder and if given the opportunity, could definitely snag the title, as well. At the City of Jesolo Trophy Gabby Perea posted the highest junior all-around score this year, however, will only be competing uneven bars this weekend due to an ankle injury.
The junior competition will be streamed live on YouTube at 2:00 p.m. ET and the senior competition will follow at 8:00 p.m. ET on the Olympic Channel. A live stream of the senior competition will also be available on the USA Gymnastics YouTube channel, along with videos of each routine which will be posted after the meet. To ensure you get the best coverage throughout the weekend, make sure to follow us on Twitter @USAMSO for live tweets and coverage of the event on Meet Scores Online.
Madison Raesly-Patton took 2017 by storm. The 12-year-old Texas Dreams gymnast dominated her first year of Level 9 competition, first taking home the all-around title at the Texas State Championships. Madison also won uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise in her age division at state.
After qualifying at the Region 3 Level 9 Regional Championships, Madison headed to Idaho for Level 9 Westerns, where she gave an outstanding performance. Madison swept her age division, taking home a first place finish on all four events; scoring a 9.600 on vault, a 9.725 on uneven bars, a 9.625 on balance beam, and a 9.650 on floor exercise.
Along with winning her age group, Madison posted a 38.600, the highest all-around score recorded for a Level 9 at both the Western and Eastern Championships. After a season of dominating beam performances, she also tied for the highest balance beam score of the meet.
Madison is coached by Marcus Harlin and Alicia Goodwin.
This past weekend the top level 9 gymnasts from the East Coast gathered in Lansing, Michigan to showcase their incredible skills at the 2017 Level 9 Eastern Championships. These gymnasts, each representing their respective regions, competed by age division in hopes of clinching the title of Eastern National Champion. The competition was fierce, with many standout performances, however, only a select few came out victorious.
The gymnasts that competed for Region 5 scored a total score of 150.000 points in competition and had made it possible for their team to be rewarded the super-team title. The rankings show that they were followed by Region 7 in second place and Region 8 in third.
The girls that comprised the winning team traveled from all over Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio in order to represent their region in competition. Some of the standout performances from girls in Region 5 came from Izzabel Geig, Sophia Rios, and Shannon Chase. All three girls placed first all-around in their age groups with extremely high scores. Izzabel Geig, from Gymnastics World Inc., scored her personal best during competition with a 37.925. Geig took the all-around title as well as the bars and beam title with a 9.575 on both. Sophia Rios, of Gedderts Twistars USA, scored a 37.900, clinching not only the all-around title, but also the beam title with a 9.425. Shannon Chase, from Emeth Gymnastics, tied for first all-around in her age division with a 37.900. Chase also received the vault title with a 9.700, and the floor title with a 9.500.
Finishing in second place were the girls representing Region 7. These gymnasts from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia also had a phenomenal competition with a total score of 148.800. Mary McGinty, Emma Loyim, and Sarah Cohen all impressed during their competitions, in which they represented Region 7. Mary McGinty, of AJS Pancott Gymnastics, tied for the title of all-around champion with a score of 37.900, and she took home the bars title with a score of 9.725. Also with a score of 37.900, Emma Loyim, of North Stars Gymnastics Academy, took first place all-around and first place on bars with a 9.675. Sarah Cohen, of Hill’s Gymnastics, was second to Loyim in the all-around with a 37.850, however, took the beam title with a 9.425 on the event.
Taking third at Easterns with a score of 148.100, was the gymnasts of Region 8. These girls from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee displayed an incredible level of skill throughout the competition, ultimately securing their spot as third place team. Jennifer McMillan, Gwendolyn Fink, and Kiley Rorich, all of Southeastern Gymnastics Center, impressed the judges with their routines, leading them each to their individual success. Jennifer McMillan secured the highest all-around score of the competition with an impression 37.950. McMillan also received the beam title with a 9.500. Gwendolyn Fink placed first in the all-around, with a 37.725, and took the bars and beam title with a 9.500 on each. With an all-around score of 37.650, Kiley Rorich placed second in the all-around and second on bars with a 9.550.
Team awards aside, there was an incredible amount of talented athletes who impressed at the 2017 Level 9 Eastern Championships, and we recognize all of those who competed in this fierce competition.
Sander’s “never give up attitude” wins her Eastern Nationals
(Katya Sander hits her bar routine to win the Level 9 Eastern Championship title.)
By: Sasha Sander
For many rising gymnastics stars, level 9 eastern nationals is the biggest competition of the season. This competition makes all the long practices, bloody rips and nagging injuries worth it.
For 13-year-old Katya Sander, a gymnast at the Perfection Gymnastics School in West Chester, Ohio, the competition came as a life lesson. Before starting the competition Sander walked into the arena knowing if she wanted to come out on top, she had to be solid. However, her solid attempt turned into a shaky start after falling on her first event on a beam flight series. She scored an 8.875.
“When I fell I just told myself if I get a 10.0 on every event, I could get a 38.875. So if I try my very best, there’s still hope,” Sander said.
So try she did, Katya Sander scored an outstanding 9.450 (FX), 9.625 (VT) and a 9.750 (UB) to give her an all-around score of 37.700. Sander’s highest all-around was at the Pikes Peak Cup where she earned a 38.550.
On floor, Sander competed a front layout front full, round off back handspring one and a half and a roundoff back handspring one and a half front lay out to finish her routine. Her first two passes had really good air time but ended with a big step on the landing. Sander's leap and turn had great technique and extension which led to no deduction on these elements.
Sander competed a yurchenko layout on vault. She received a high score due to her flat body position during the layout and only taking a small step on the landing.
On the uneven bars, Sander made sure to hit all her handstands although being a little short on the handstand before her dismount. Her bail to handstand (high to low element) was tight with no leg separation. For her dismount, Sander stuck her double back dismount.
(Ella Walling placed second with a 37.650 and Eliza Millar placed third with a 37.575. Both gymnasts scored their highest all around of the season at this competition.)
“Winning the title just taught me that I should never give up trying even if I mess up along the way,” Sander said
Sander’s coach Luke Wasson knew Sander could come out with a win but says he remains pleasantly surprised considering the circumstance.
“Winning nationals with a fall, is unheard of,” Wasson said.
Sander says the win is especially memorable because her carpool buddy/teammate Anna Winger also came home with an all around title scoring a 37.800.
“I get to share this awesome feeling with one of my besties,” Sander said.
Sander and Winger both represented Region 5 at level 9 eastern nationals. Region 5 won both the junior and senior team divisions.
It was a historic night for the number one ranked Oklahoma Sooners in St. Louis at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Super Six Team Finals as the defending national champions notched the highest team score in NCAA Gymnastics history to claim their third national title. The Sooners, lead by head coach KJ Kindler, put on a masterclass in sticking landings, sticking 93 percent of their landings on the biggest stage at Super Six in front of an electric Chaifetz Arena.
After a disappointing semifinals for Oklahoma and a record breaking performance for LSU, it was a role reversal on Saturday night at Super Six as the Sooners came out red hot not putting a foot wrong, while the Tigers were slightly subpar, leaving a few tenths on the floor here and there throughout the competition. Oklahoma finished with a historic team score of 198.3875 whereas LSU finished six tenths behind with a solid, but not exceptional 197.7375 for the Tigers.
Finishing a close third was three-time national champions Florida with a strong 197.7000 for the Gators and in fourth was six-time national champions UCLA with a very respectable 197.2625. In fifth with a slightly underwhelming performance was the ten-time national champions Red Rocks of Utah with a 196.5875 and in sixth was six-time national champions Alabama with a low 196.0000.
For Oklahoma, the Sooners begun the Super Six in the locker room with a bye before heading to one of their best events, the uneven bars. On the bars, the Sooners came out red hot, counting no score below 9.8875 including huge 9.9250s from Brenna Dowell and Nicole Lehrman and a massive 9.950 from anchor and uneven bars co-national champion Maggie Nichols for a very impressive 49.5875 to begin their competition.
On the balance beam, an event KJ Kindler’s squad ranks number one on in the country, Oklahoma was even more impressive, once again counting no score below 9.8875 and receiving huge marks from Natalie Brown and senior Chayse Capps with big 9.950s and a perfect 10.0 from freshman phenom Maggie Nichols to total a huge 49.7000 for the Sooners on the beam.
Heading to floor exercise, Oklahoma left off right where they begun competition with more near flawless gymnastics, counting no score below 9.900 including a 9.9125 from Capps and two 9.950s from the final two gymnasts in their lineup, Maggie Nichols and AJ Jackson helping the Sooners amass a very impressive 49.6125 on the floor exercise.
Heading into the sixth and final rotation with a national championship on the line, the Sooners cooled down a little, only posting two scores of 9.9000 or higher, with big marks of 9.9500 from AJ Jackson and a huge 9.9625 from Maggie Nichols to clinch a third national championship for Oklahoma, a thoroughly dominant performance all season long from the Oklahoma Sooners.
“We had just amazing performance after amazing performance," said Oklahoma head coach KJ Kindler. "It felt crazy, really. I almost felt like I wasn’t here—it was that amazing. To have that kind of a performance from a coaching standpoint, wow. As an athlete, to be in that state of mind and to get your body to do what they got their bodies to do tonight over and over and over, performance after performance—I don’t think you see that very often, and I don’t know if we’ve done it at the national championship before the way we did tonight. It’s just a really special night,” concluded an overjoyed coach Kindler after winning her third national championship.
For LSU, it was a tough, emotional night for the Tigers, coming up short on their quest for a program first national title. After a near perfect semifinal performance, breaking NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships records, the Tigers were short of their performance from the previous night. LSU begun on the floor exercise, one of their best events, but early lineup jitters proved detrimental for the Tigers despite three scores of 9.9000 or higher from Sarah Finnegan, McKenna Kelley, and Ashleigh Gnat to round out the rotation for a 49.3250.
LSU moved to the vault, another of their best events where the Tigers ranked number one in the country, but a difficult vault rotation filled with hops on landings cost DD Breaux’s squad mightily, with no scores above 9.9000 on their best event leading to a low 49.3000 from the Tigers. On the uneven bars, LSU’s weakest event, the SEC champions stepped up, showing incredible fight to score three 9.900s from Kennedi Edney, Sarah Finnegan, and Lexie Priessman for a strong 49.3875 on the apparatus.
On their final event of the night, the Tigers once again showed tremendous heart, sticking to their motto for the 2017 season “All Heart”, LSU counted no scores below 9.900 on the balance beam, with a 9.9125 from leadoff Erin Macadaeg, a 9.9375 from freshman Kennedi Edney, two 9.950s from Myia Hambrick and senior Ashleigh Gnat, and a massive 9.975 from Sarah Finnegan to total a huge 49.7250 for the Tigers on the balance beam, the highest beam score for any team the entire weekend, an incredible way to end a historic season for the Tigers culminating in a second consecutive national runners up finish for LSU.
“Tonight we couldn’t get any traction or build any momentum,” said a very candid LSU head coach DD Breaux. “I am so proud though of the way we fought back tonight though and closed the night on beam. That was an incredible performance by the entire beam lineup.”
For three-time national champions Florida, the Gators, led by Jenny Rowland, showed impressive consistency and fight throughout the weekend, scoring strongly at both semifinals and Super Six. The Gators begun on balance beam, where despite a mid-lineup fall from freshman Rachel Gowey, Florida bounced back impressively a 9.9125 from newly crowned NCAA all-around champion Alex McMurtry to secure a solid 49.3000 on the beam.
After a bye before floor exercise, the Gators were very strong on their second event, counting no score below 9.8375 including an impressive 9.9250 from Kennedy Baker and two huge 9.950s from Alex McMurtry and Alicia Boren for a big 49.5000 on the floor exercise. Florida then moved to the vault, their best event, where scores of 9.900 from Kennedy Baker and 9.9375 from Alex McMurtry helped make up for a low score for Alicia Boren on an under rotated Yurchenko one and a half for a solid 49.3625.
The Gators ended on the uneven bars, where an end of lineup surge from Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley’s 9.900s and a perfect 10.0 from anchor Alex McMurtry helped to put an exclamation point on a very impressive competition for Florida resulting in a strong third place finish, the Gators’ fifth top four finish at Super Six since 2012.
"This team did a tremendous job of fighting,'' said Florida head coach Jenny Rowland. "We had a few mistakes, but everybody came back to cover each other and really, that's what this team has been about all year long. I'm extremely proud."
It was an exhilarating second semifinal tonight at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in St. Louis, with number two LSU, number three Florida, and number six Alabama impressing on their ways to the Super Six Team Finals. Second-ranked LSU, seeking their first national championship, soared through this session, scoring a huge 198.275 to qualify to Super Six, where the Tigers will be joined by Florida scoring an impressive 197.8125, and Alabama with a very strong 197.600.
Finishing below LSU, Florida, and Alabama was Nebraska putting up a very respectable score of 197.2125 for fourth, Michigan in a disappointing fifth with a 196.4625, and Georgia struggling in sixth with a low 195.800.
For LSU, the Tigers begun lights out on the floor exercise, amazingly counting no score lower than 9.900, with three huge 9.950s from Myia Hambrick, Sarah Finnegan, and McKenna Kelley and a massive 9.9625 from AAI Award winner Ashleigh Gnat to garner a whopping 49.7125 on the floor, the second highest floor score in NCAA history. On the vault it was more of the same from DD Breaux’s squad, again posting three 9.900s or above from Sydney Ewing with a huge 9.9625, Hambrick with another big score of 9.9825, and freshman Kennedi Edney posting an extremely high 9.9875 to score an impressive 49.625 on the vault, another one of LSU’s best events.
After a bye in the locker room, LSU went to uneven bars, their weakest event, showing more controlled handstands and better landings with a 9.925 from Lexie Priessman and a big 9.950 from Sarah Finnegan for the Tigers to score a much improved 49.4125, something that will be critical for DD Breaux’s squad if they want to take home their first national championship on Saturday.
LSU finished on the balance beam with for a second time no score below 9.900 counted, including a 9.9125 from Finnegan and a 9.9375 from Hambrick and Gnat to amass another big score of 49.5875 for the Tigers on balance beam, wrapping up a season best meet for them.
“It was an incredible first night of competition and there was so much energy in the building tonight,” said LSU head coach DD Breaux. “I am really excited and proud of what our team did. It’s been a great season and I can’t expect this team to do any more than they’ve done tonight. We’ll regroup and go out there tomorrow night with a lot of energy and the same outlook as tonight,” concluded the 40-year head coach of the Tigers.
For Florida, the third-ranked Gators and three-time national champions begun strongly on the vault, counting no scores below 9.8500 including 9.900s from Alicia Boren and Rachel Slocum and a huge 9.975 from Alex McMurtry on her double-twisting Yurchenko for a very impressive 49.5125 for Jenny Rowland’s squad to begin. The Gators then moved to the uneven bars after a bye where another big score of 9.950 from McMurtry helped lift Florida to a very solid 49.4250.
On the balance beam, McMurtry once again came up clutch with a huge 9.9375 leading to a strong 49.375 for the Gators. Florida wrapped up their competition on the floor exercise where big scores of 9.9375 from Kennedy Baker and 9.950 helped propell the three-time national champions to a very impressive 49.4875 to wrap up their competition.
"I think it was great. Starting out on vault was amazing momentum from this team. It set the tone for the evening. The girls were loose and they were having fun. I knew after vault it was going to be a good night. They kept that attitude throughout all six rotations even on the byes. It was very great. A very successful day and looking forward to reboot, regroup and do it again tomorrow,” said an enthusiastic Florida head coach Jenny Rowland.
"The SEC is the best in the country,'' said Jenny Rowland. "It says a lot about our conference. I'm really proud to be a part of it and look forward to battling it out again [Saturday]."
Finishing third in the final Super Six spot was Alabama, as the eight-time national champions showed an improved performance throughout. The Crimson Tide began on the floor exercise where a strong 9.9375 from Kiana Winston contributed to a 49.3875 for Dana Duckworth’s squad. As the Crimson Tide moved to vault, it was a consistent performance from Alabama, counting no scores below 9.850 to help amass a 49.3625.
After a bye before the uneven bars, Alabama came out swinging with three scores above 9.900 from Keely McNeer, Kiana Winston, and a massive 9.950 from Katie Bailey helping collect an impressive 49.4875 for the Crimson Tide. Dana Duckworth’s team finished on the balance beam, responding well from adversity to not count a fall, highlighted by Kiana Winston’s big 9.9250 to secure Alabama a spot in tomorrow’s Super Six.
"Our goal, every year, is to be on the floor the last night of the season with a chance to win a national title," Duckworth said. "That's what we've earned. Now comes the best part, going against the best-of-the-best, competing for a championship."
Also crowned today were individual all-around and event titles, with the all-around national champion being Florida’s Alex McMurtry, who won the NCAA Elite 90 Award, scoring a very impressive 39.8125 to take the national championship.
"I want to thank my coaches for setting that goal for me. I didn't think that was really possible or in my future, but we set that goal and worked towards it all season. I'm really happy with my performance putting together all four events. I'm happy with my team's performance, we started on vault and we started on fire. I think that's how we carried out the whole meet."
On the vault the title went to LSU freshmen Kennedi Edney with her huge 9.9875 for her Yurchenko one and a half, while the uneven bars title was a six-way tie between UCLA’s Kyla Ross, Oklahoma’s Nicole Lehrman and Maggie Nichols, Florida’s Alex McMurtry, Alabama’s Katie Bailey, and LSU’s Sarah Finnegan all scoring a high 9.950.
The balance beam title was won outright by UCLA’s Kyla Ross with a big score of 9.9625 for the freshmen, and the floor exercise title was a two-way tie between LSU senior and AAI Award winner Ashleigh Gnat and MyKayla Skinner each with 9.9625s.
With both semifinals done and dusted here at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in St. Louis, tomorrow’s Super Six Finals will feature defending national champions Oklahoma, UCLA, PAC 12 champions Utah, last year’s national runner ups and SEC champions LSU, three-time winners Florida, and Alabama competing for the national championship here at Chaifetz Arena.
It was a thrilling first semifinal at the 2017 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in St. Louis as number one Oklahoma, number five UCLA, and number four Utah displayed the clutch gymnastics to advance to the Super Six Team Finals. The top-ranked Sooners of Oklahoma won the first session with a great 197.7250 while the UCLA Bruins put together one of their best meets of the season to finish second with another good score of 197.5000.
Finishing third in this first semifinal was the fourth-ranked Red Rocks of Utah, claiming redemption from last year’s upset semifinal loss to finish third and advance to the Super Six with a solid score of 197.0500. Despite not advancing to Saturday’s Super Six, Washington, Denver, and Oregon State have a lot to be proud of with program-best seasons for each despite finishing in the bottom three here in St. Louis.
For the Sooners, the number one ranked team and defending national champions begun on the floor exercise, with two big 9.9250s at the bottom end of their rotation from former World team member and freshman phenom Maggie Nichols and AJ Jackson propelling Oklahoma to a very solid 49.3500. KJ Kindler’s team then went to the vault, one of their best events, with three huge 9.900s from senior Chayse Capps, AJ Jackson, and Maggie Nichols helping Oklahoma to another good score of 49.3500 on the vault.
After a bye before the uneven bars, the Sooners came out red hot, counting no scores below 9.8625 including three more 9.900s from Stefani Catour, defending uneven bars national champion Nicole Lehrman, and Maggie Nichols accounting for a huge 49.5250 for Oklahoma on that apparatus. Ending on balance beam, the Sooners best event, there was once again no scores counted below 9.8500, with a 9.900 from Catour, a 9.925 from Lehrman, and a massive 9.950 from Capps leading to a great balance beam lineup for a 49.500 for the defending national champions despite a shocking fall from Maggie Nichols in the fifth spot.
“We are very excited to be moving on," said Oklahoma head coach KJ Kindler. "It was tough out there for us. We started a little bit shaky on floor, lots of adrenaline and little extra steps. There were some uncharacteristic mistakes, but I think they were definitely working out some jitters that they had. We sort of settled in on vault and just got better as the day went on. We are really looking forward to tomorrow and having a chance to fight for a National Championship.”
Finishing second in this first semifinal here at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis was fifth-ranked UCLA, a team featuring two Olympic gold medalists, a first in collegiate gymnastics history. The Bruins, led by head coach Valorie Kondos Field, begun on their best event, the uneven bars, where no scores above 9.8250 were counted including big scores from Rio 2016 gold-medalist Madison Kocian with a 9.8750, London 2012 gold-medalist Kyla Ross with a huge 9.950, and senior Peng-Peng Lee posting a big 9.8875 for the six-time national champions UCLA.
On the balance beam, another one of the Bruins’ best events, it was once again some big scores for UCLA, with Kocian scoring a very solid 9.8625, Ross putting up a huge score of 9.9625, and Katelyn Ohashi anchoring the beam lineup with a great score of 9.9125 despite taking out her triple series due to an ankle injury.
After a bye before floor exercise, Miss Val’s squad came out energized for their third apparatus, scoring a season-best score on the floor with no score below a 9.8750 including two 9.9250s from Angi Cipra and Hallie Mossett and a big 9.9375 from Kocian to wrap up a floor rotation which saw the Bruins post a massive 49.5375. Wrapping up their meet on the vault, UCLA showed its best vault rotation of the season with some solid Yurchenko fulls throughout and a debut Yurchenko one and a half from Napualani Hall, scoring a solid 9.8250, contributing to an improved 49.2375 for the Bruins.
For Utah, the Red Rocks, coached by Megan Marsden, begun their competition on vault, given the favorable Olympic order. The Utes underperformed slightly on vault, one of their best events, with only one score above 9.900 from MyKayla Skinner and two scores in the 9.700s to amass a sub-par 49.0875 to begin. After a bye before the uneven bars, the Red Rocks were again underwhelming on the bars, being forced to count a 9.7750 with no scores in the 9.900s for another low 49.0875.
With their backs against the wall much like in last year’s semifinal, the Red Rocks responded on the balance beam unlike in 2016, with big scores of 9.900 from Makenna Merrell and 9.9125 from Skinner contributing to a much needed 49.3875 for Utah. The Utes ended on the floor exercise, their best event, counting no scores below 9.8500 including three huge scores from Makenna Merrell with a 9.900, Baely Rowe with a 9.925, and Skinner posting a massive 9.9625 to wrap up a comeback performance from the Red Rocks for a high 49.4875 on the floor exercise.
"We were a little tight on vault and bars,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden. "I told the team after bars that we had 12 routines down and 12 still to go and to just relax and trust themselves."
"MyKayla Skinner competes with such confidence that it carries over to the rest of the team," praised Farden. "Credit needs to go as well to our co-captains Maddy Stover and Baely Rowe, who talked like leaders coming into the meet and then showed it tonight on the floor."
Oklahoma, UCLA, and Utah will advance to Saturday’s Super Six Team Finals with the other three teams to be decided in semifinal two with LSU, Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, and Nebraska battling for the right to face the Sooners, Bruins, and Red Rocks for the National Championship here in St. Louis.
It was a second straight world cup title for Germany’s Tabea Alt, taking the lead in the FIG World Cup series after a win at home a few weeks back at the Stuttgart World Cup before taking home the gold here in London. Alt was joined on the podium by the USA’s Victoria Nguyen, competing in only her second international elite competition, finishing with a silver medal and Rio 2016 floor exercise bronze medalist Amy Tinkler of Great Britain in third in her first meet competing all-around since the Olympic Games in Brazil.
Coming in fourth was a surprise finisher as Spain’s Ana Perez took advantage of some inconsistencies from some of the other competitors to claim fourth with some very consistent, clean gymnastics for a 53.299 overall. Behind Perez in fifth was Russian Angelina Melnikova, with some stumbles on vault and floor and a fall on balance beam costing the Rio 2016 team silver medalist to score a 52.599 all-around.
For Alt, the German begun strongly, showcasing a clean double-twisting Yurchenko to score a solid 14.466 to put herself in second after rotation one. Leading after the vault was Britain’s Amy Tinkler, possessing more control on her double-twisting Yurchenko to score a very good 14.600, while The Netherland’s Tisha Volleman was in third with a 14.266.
On the uneven bars, it was German Alt who took the lead, posting a solid 13.833 with a beautiful piked Jaeger release move and stuck double layout dismount to seize first. 2015 World team bronze medalist Tinkler kept up her consistent day, falling down to second despite a solid bar routine scoring a 13.600 featuring her unique Markelov release move and a stuck full-in dismount. The USA’s Victoria Nguyen, training under Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas’ former coach Liang Chow, made up some ground on the bars as well, putting up another good score of 13.800 with a solid Gienger release and a slightly piked double layout dismount.
On the balance beam the competition really began to take shape, with Alt cementing her lead with a very difficult roundoff layout mount contributing to a competition high 6.0 difficulty score before putting her hands down on her double pike dismount to score a low 12.966, still good enough to maintain the lead.
Nguyen also kept her second place spot with another low score of 12.866 due to wobbles throughout on her back-handspring layout stepout series and on her switch leap to Onodi to sheep jump, finishing with a strong two and a half twist dismount. Spain’s Ana Perez kept up her great day, hitting with incredible consistency and great artistry, scoring the best beam score of the day with a 13.233 due to a clean routine throughout to send her into third going to the fourth and final rotation.
On the floor exercise it was the Olympic bronze medalist on this apparatus fighting back, showcasing some great tumbling with a full-twisting double layout, front handspring front full, and a double pike contributing to a clutch 13.233 to lock up the bronze medal to the delight of a packed crowd at the o2 Arena here in London. The USA’s Nguyen wrapped up a very successful world cup debut with a solid floor performance, scoring a 13.000 with some good tumbling, a tucked full-in, triple full, and a double tuck, to take the silver medal.
Claiming the gold and finishing off another beautiful World Cup performance was Alt, scoring around six tenths higher than needed to win the title here in London with a 13.333, another solid score contributed by some good tumbling on her tucked full-in and double pike to cap off a lovely routine.
After the competition, Rio 2016 floor exercise and 2015 World team bronze medalist Amy Tinkler said of competing in her home country in front of a boisterous London crowd, “It's amazing I'm so so happy. I've had some problems this year with my calf so coming into this I wasn't sure what to expect. My performance was better than I thought it would be, I think I fed of the atmosphere of the home crowd,” said the 17-year-old.
“I loved all the support, it was like Rio all over again but even better with it being in Britain. I've never heard so many kids shouting ‘Amy, Amy!’ that feels so special and for me I love the pressure and the buzz of competition so they definitely helped me today,” concluded a jubilant Tinkler after a successful return to the all-around with a bronze medal here in London.