Did the 2019 NCAA gym season make you leap out of your seat from excitement, cry happy and sad tears, and fall into post-gym depression? Because it sure did for us!
At this point in the year, we’re just far enough away from the beginning of preseason but not close enough to taste the bountiful sweetness of NCAA gym. The excitement of seeing upgrades posted in preseason videos is dying down, but the official beginning of the season is still well over six weeks away (not including December intrasquads). How can we get our gymnastics fix before the madness begins in January, you ask? We’ve got one way!
To keep you pumped for 2020, while also letting you remain slightly nostalgic for 2019, we’re rehashing five of the most exciting moments from the 2019 season. Finding just five moments was extremely difficult, as last season brought an unbelievable amount of thrilling moments, but these five are sure to get you all in your feels.
Disclaimer: emotional content to follow.
1. New regionals format = big gym upsets.
The new postseason format was a hugely important change in the season, but who knew it would produce such thrilling meets to watch! The new regionals format debuted last year, and boy, did it give NCAA fans more upsets and nail biters to enjoy. With one-third of the spots removed from the older format, going from 12 to eight teams advancing to the NCAA Championships, the attention to detail become even more crucial than ever before. For me, there were two moments from 2019’s regionals extravaganza that have me super excited for more moments like these in 2020.
Oregon State shines at home to secure an NCAA Championship spot.
Oregon State completed the biggest regionals upset to punch its ticket to Fort Worth, inching past Florida by just 0.2 of a point.
Starting off with a shaky beam rotation, the Florida Gators, the favorite to win this regional, weren’t able to make up enough tenths to get back into the game. On the flip side, the Beavers soared when this opportunity presented itself. Their usual joyous performances doubled in energy as they fed off of their home crowd and took their 100% sparkle all the way through the meet. The energy in the corral sky-rocketed after a huge floor rotation ended by a statement death drop by Kaitlyn Yanish to secure the Beavers a trip to Fort Worth.
A broken corral, a trip to the championships, and a huge upset made for a remarkable NCAA gymnastics moment.
Michigan edges Alabama to punch its ticket to Fort Worth.
In arguably the most stacked regional of 2019, the final standings were determined by the smallest of margins. With UCLA, Alabama, Michigan, and Nebraska all having potential to score high, this meet came down to who could minimize deductions the most.
UCLA ended its meet on bars with a MASSIVE 49.650 to easily secure its spot at the final. Michigan built its energy throughout the meet, highlighted by an impressive 49.45 floor performance. Going into vault, however, the Wolverines opened the door for the Crimson Tide by bouncing out of some vaults. Once the Wolverines were done, they had to sit back and wait to see how Alabama would perform.
As expected, this meet came down to the last routine where Alabama’s Lexi Graber performed a stunning beam routine to earn a respectable 9.95. The arena remained silent as everyone waited to see if Graber’s score would push Alabama just above Michigan.
At the end of the day, Michigan’s brilliant work on the other events and still solid vault performance helped them remain above Alabama by just 0.05 points to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships.
Broken corral and all (it must be a thing when you make it to nationals), the Wolverines celebrated their success with their home crowd and a dance party on the floor following the meet.
2. Brenna Dowell shocks the world one final time.
We’d all be lying if we didn’t admit to throwing our hands in the air when Brenna Dowell nailed her final routine as a Sooner gymnast at NCAA Finals. The senior had a legendary season, remaining unbelievably consistent all year as an all-arounder. The American Athletic Inc. award finalist had the most impressive year of her career at Oklahoma as the cherry on top of an amazing gymnastics career. And to top it off, she capped off her 2019 season with a perfectly stuck Yurchenko 1.5 to help the Sooners take home the national championship. Many argue this vault should have received a 10 (myself included), but I guess a 9.9875 will have to do.
3. Denver shows the NCAA that it’s here to play.
None of what Denver did last season was a spell of luck. The Pioneers completed their best season in program history, topped off by a trip to the first-ever Four on the Floor NCAA Final. Their RQS (Regional Qualifying Score) soared higher each week, proving their consistency and attention to detail throughout the entire year. In addition to a top-four finish, the Pioneers set a new record on bars last season, and the NCAA named Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart the National Coach of the Year. Well done, Pios!
4. Lexy Ramler is Golden (Gopher) at NCAA Championships.
The NCAA Championships isn’t just exciting for the qualified teams. The stacked lineup of individual qualifiers to the championship made the event titles and all-around battle even more dramatic. Big Ten star Lexy Ramler brought the heat this season, advancing as a lone Gopher to the championships in Fort Worth. And she did her job. Ramler was exquisite in the all-around competition, scoring no lower than a 9.8875 on any event for a huge 39.6625 final score and a second-place finish! AND she is the first Gopher in program history to become an All-American on all four events! She made the Big Ten and the NCAA proud! And we get two more years of her beautiful gymnastics. Lucky us!
5. The Sooners did it for Dave.
Every team faces their own internal challenges. Unfortunately, during the 2019 season, the Sooners were hit with a big one—the loss of their athletic trainer’s husband, Dave Richardson.
Dave served as a team dad for the Sooners, becoming very close with the girls and the coaching staff. The team originated the hashtag #DIFD, Do It For Dave, and dedicated their dominant season to him and his family.
Finishing the 2019 season with a huge 198.3375, Oklahoma celebrated its successes by stating, “Did It For Dave” in its social media posts. The win was much bigger than just a win for the Sooners, it was for their guardian angel.
Fans may have caught a beautiful moment of Dave’s wife Jenn and daughter Joie waving up to Dave after celebrating the championship win with the team. That is what it is all about at the end of the day.