5 NCAA Stories To Follow At The Cancun Classic

2019 is here, and so is the NCAA gymnastics season! Many NCAA teams begin their seasons this weekend, and FloGymnastics is bringing live coverage of the Cancun Classic, where Iowa State, Michigan, Rutgers, and West Virginia will open their seasons January 4. Not only is it the first meet of the season for these four teams, but there are other stories to follow for each team as they compete in Mexico.

1. Olivia Karas' return to competition

Michigan senior Olivia Karas hasn't competed in an official meet since February when she suffered a season-ending injury at Maryland. Prior to her injury, Karas was one of the Wolverines' top gymnasts on every event. She has a career high of 9.900+ on every event and has an all-around career high of 39.625. 

At Michigan's preseason exhibition, Karas competed vault, bars, and beam and earned 9.800+ scores on vault and bars but faltered a bit on beam for just a 9.600. The Cancun Classic presents Karas with her first opportunity to officially compete since her injury and improve on her routines from the Wolverines' preseason exhibition. She has been stellar for Michigan in the past, but only time will tell when she can return to her pre-injury gymnastics.

2. Iowa State's large freshman class

The 2019 Cyclone women's gymnastics roster consists of 20 gymnasts, almost half of whom are freshmen. With nine freshmen, the Cyclones will surely rely on many newcomers this season. It takes time to transition from club to NCAA gymnastics, so it will be interesting to see how many freshmen make the Iowa State lineups and how they do in their NCAA debuts.

3. Umme Salim-Beasley's debut as Rutgers head coach

Many NCAA coaching changes have happened in the past two seasons, including former Temple head coach Umme Salim-Beasley taking over the reins at Rutgers starting this season. Salim-Beasley was an assistant coach for the Scarlet Knights from 2012-2015, so she may have some familiarity with the program and some of the gymnasts. However, for the past three years, she helped the Temple women's gymnastics team make history, including setting a program-high RQS and resetting the school record team score twice.

Since joining the Big Ten in 2014-2015, Rutgers hasn't been able to finish higher than ninth out of 10 teams. But under her leadership, she hopes to elevate the program.

“Everything that we're doing with the program now is nothing like what I was a part of when I was an assistant coach," she said. "So we really are bringing something fresh and new to this team that they've never experienced before.” 

The Cancun Classic is the first opportunity for the Scarlet Knights to show that they are a new, different, and better team and program than before.

4. West Virginia's increased difficulty on floor

According to Mountaineers assistant coach Kaylyn Millick, they've "upped (their) difficulty for the 2019 season," including multiple E passes. Floor was West Virginia's second-best event last season, finishing at No. 28. With harder routines, the Mountaineers have the potential to score higher, compare to higher ranked teams, and improve their overall ranking on the event. But what also comes with higher difficulty is risk. Will the E passes be worth the risk, or will it end up hurting their execution and scores?

5. Big Ten preview

Two of the teams competing at the Cancun Classic are Big Ten schools. Michigan and Rutgers will meet directly at least two times this season, first at the Cancun Classic and in late February at Elevate the Stage Toledo. The Michigan Wolverines are the reigning Big Ten champions, and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights finished ninth at the 2018 Big Ten Championships. So this meet can offer a perspective of the entire range of gymnastics from the Big Ten, which is the largest gymnastics conference with 10 teams.


Related:
Cancun Classic Offers Unique Opportunity To Start Season
Wolverines Start Strong At Exhibition Meet

Biles Easily Wins 2019 Debut At Stuttgart World Cup

Ahead of the 2019 World Championships to be held in Stuttgart in October, Simone Biles won all-around gold at her first meet of the year at the DTB Pokal World Cup in Stuttgart by more than 3.500 points. Canada's Ana Padurariu and Germany's Elisabeth Seitz earned silver and bronze, respectively.

UNC Grad Student Megan Ruzicka Has Walked An Unconventional Path

It is no secret that gymnastics is a hard sport to stay in. It’s extremely wearing on the body, tough mentally—honestly it can just be downright scary. Many gymnasts’ careers are marred by injuries, and the higher you progress in the sport, the more of your teammates start dropping out for one reason or another. Only a lucky few ever make it to the elite or college levels.

Simone Biles Ready To Dominate 2019 Debut At Stuttgart World Cup

After returning to international competition for the first time since the 2016 Olympics, Simone Biles was nothing short of dominant at the 2018 World Championships in Doha, Qatar. The reigning Olympic all-around champion came home with gold for team, all-around, vault and floor. She also claimed silver on bars and bronze on beam, making her the first American gymnast to medal on every event at Worlds. So it's safe to say she had a strong comeback.

Senior Spotlight: Boise State Gymnastics' Shani Remme

In the return of this ongoing series, FloGymnastics features a gymnast in her final collegiate season. Next up is Boise State's Shani Remme. 

Individual Medals Awarded At 2019 City Of Jesolo Trophy

The City of Jesolo Trophy was a weekend full of new seniors, international debuts, surprises and, most importantly, amazing gymnastics. On Saturday, we watched the U.S. senior team take gold and Sunisa Lee win the senior all-around title, while Russia won the junior competition and the U.S. came in second as a team, with Konnor McClain winning the junior all-around title. 

Jesolo: Team USA, Sunisa Lee Win Senior Titles

The U.S. women continued their international dominance with a relatively new group of seniors at the 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy, winning the team title, while Sunisa Lee won the all-around in her senior elite debut. Both as a team and individually, China and Italy were successful. China won the team silver while Italy won bronze, and the top seven all-around gymnasts were all from USA, China or Italy.

Russia Wins Junior Team Title, USA's Konnor McClain Wins All-Around

The junior gymnasts opened the 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy with an exciting team and all-around competition as Russia outperformed the U.S. to maintain the junior team title while American Konnor McClain hit four for four in her first international competition to win the junior all-around title. Team USA and Belgium rounded out the junior team podium with silver and gold, respectively, and Russian gymnasts Vladislava Urazova and Elena Gerasimova won silver and bronze, respectively, in the junior all-around competition.

Rachel Borden's Journey From Manager To Illini Gymnast

Rachel Borden wasn’t even supposed to be in Carver-Hawkeye Arena when Illinois competed at Iowa on Feb. 16. But she was. And instead of donning an Illinois gymnastics t-shirt like she would when acting as manager at Illinois home meets, she was wearing a white and orange leotard, complete with a big block "I" on the back. 

What To Watch On FloGymnastics This Week: Feb. 27 - March 4

This weekend has quite a few gymnastics competitions coming up, and luckily for gym fans, FloGymnastics is streaming many of the big ones. If you’re looking for some gymnastics to watch this weekend, keep reading to find out which meets are streaming live this weekend.

Senior Spotlight: Ohio State Gymnastics' Jamie Stone

In the return of this ongoing series, FloGymnastics features gymnasts in their final collegiate season. Next up is Ohio State's Jamie Stone.