The NCAA gymnastics season opened this weekend with more than 20 meets across the country. Catch up on the highlights from this week.
LSU sets records
The second-ranked LSU Tigers opened up their season at home against No. 9 Georgia this past Friday with a program-best 197.825, which included records on vault (49.525) and balance beam (49.450). Freshman Kennedy Edney won the vault title with a stuck Yurchenko one and a half. Sarah Finnegan won titles on both uneven bars (9.9) and balance beam (9.95). The Tigers didn't disappoint on floor with Myia Hambrick, McKenna Kelley, and Ashleigh Gnat all scoring 9.9s or better for LSU.
Georgia (beam) struggles
In their season opener at LSU, the Georgia Gymdogs had a fall on each of their first three rotations but were able to pull it together each time and hit their remaining five teams to avoid counting a low score. Georgia finished the competition on beam, and that was where things began to fall apart.
Sabrina Vega opened with some wobbles in her first collegiate beam routine but fought through to earn a 9.625. Rachel Dickson came off on her series and only got a 9.150. That put plenty of pressure on the rest of the lineup. It appeared that the Gymdogs would weather the storm after Sydney Snead put up a solid routine for a 9.800. However, the final three competitors struggled with Ashlyn Broussard (9.150) and Rachel Schick (9.125) both coming off on their flight series and Vivi Babalis (9.5) taking several large steps back on her double back dismount.
Is it too early to start panicking for Georgia? Probably not. The Gymdogs counted multiple falls in the first several meets of the 2016 season and eventually found their way into the Super Six. But their 193.600 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the lowest team score for the program since 1999.
This weekend marked the debuts of several top former top U.S. elite gymnasts. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma), Madison Kocian (UCLA), and MyKayla Skinner (Utah) opened their collegiate careers with event titles and wins in the all-around. Kyla Ross (UCLA) also had an impressive debut, competing on three events for the Bruins.
Nichols put up the top all-around score in the country with a 39.725. She scored at least a 9.9 on all four events, including a monstrous 9.975 on the uneven bars. Nichols hit a 10.0 at the Sooners intrasquad last month. In addition to taking the all-around title, she also earned uneven bars and floor exercise titles.
Skinner had perhaps the most surprising debut. She finished with a 39.550, which was good for fourth in the country. Unsurprisingly, she put up great performances on vault (9.900) and floor (9.900). But it was on uneven bars and balance beam where she showed that she isn't the two-event specialist we saw in elite. Her 9.900 on bars won the event title and her 9.850 on beam was good for a second-place tie.
Kocian's all-around performance tied for 10th place in the country with a 39.425. All eyes were on the two-time Olympic medalist, especially on the uneven bars where she put together a clean set for a 9.875. Kocian shared parts of the uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise title in Saturday's meet. While Ross didn't compete in the all-around, she put up three solid routines for the Bruins. We haven't seen her compete since the 2015 U.S. national championships and she did not disappoint.
Oklahoma's dazzling bars rotation
The defending champs were not messing around in their second rotation. Oklahoma's Chayse Capps, Stefani Catour, Nicole Lehrmann, McKenzie Wofford, and Brenna Dowell all posted 9.9s and Nichols added an almost-perfect 9.975 for a huge 49.575 team total to help the Sooners beat No. 3 Alabama at home on Friday. The mark was good for fifth best in program history and was the top score for any school on any event to open the season.
New year, new faces for Gators
Florida is coming off a fourth-place finish at the NCAA championships last season after winning three straight titles from 2013 to 2015. The Gators' lineups looked just a little different in UF's win at North Carolina State on Sunday without mainstays Bridget Sloan and Bridgette Caquatto. There were plenty of new faces, including a trio of freshmen in former U.S. senior elites Amelia Hundley and Rachel Gowey as well as Canadian Maegan Chant. All three contributed to the Gators' 197.100 total.
Juniors Kennedy Baker and Alex McMurtry and sophomore Alicia Boren also came up big for Florida.
History made for UCLA--and NCAA gymnastics
When Kocian and Ross each stepped up for her vault, the Olympic champions made history for UCLA and NCAA gymnastics. They became the first two Olympic gold medalists to compete for an NCAA program. Olympic medalists have competed for NCAA programs in the past--most recently, 2008 Olympic silver medalists Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan competed for UCLA and Florida, respectively.
Madison Kocian, Kyla Ross Make History in NCAA Debut