The 2020 NCAA season is less than a month away, and eight teams, including the reigning national champion Oklahoma Sooners, will begin their season at the California Grand Invitational & Collegiate Challenge.
Both collegiate challenge sessions on Saturday, Jan. 4, will stream live here on FloGymnastics.
2019 Record: 17-0
2019 Final Ranking: No. 1
2019 Preseason Ranking: No. 2
Gymnasts lost: Brenna Dowell, Ashley Hiller, Nicole Lehrmann, Alex Marks
Gymnasts gained: Vanessa Deniz, Jenna Dunn, Erin Hutchison, Ragan Smith, Brooke Weins
Led by senior Maggie Nichols, the reigning NCAA all-around champion, Oklahoma is still in good hands despite losing four gymnasts and eight routines from last season. The Sooners' biggest loss comes from the graduation of Brenna Dowell, who competed all four events in 13 meets last season. Luckily for the reigning Big 12 champions, the addition of former elite Ragan Smith alone could fill that absence.
Graduated gymnast Nicole Lehrmann was a consistent and excellent competitor for the Sooners on vault, bars, and floor, capable of scoring 9.950 on all three events, while Alex Marks was a solid staple in the bars lineup. With half of the Sooners' bars lineup from 2019 now gone, it will be important to find routines to fill those spots in order to maintain their top-tier standing.
What should be noted, though, is that last season, Nichols did not compete in the all-around for much of the season after an early season injury. Therefore, Oklahoma should definitely benefit from her return to all four events. In addition, Nichols' fellow senior standout Bre Showers will be back in 2020 after missing the second half of last season. Showers was a bit shaky in the meets she did compete in 2019 but is a solid gymnast on every apparatus. Her highest scores have come on beam, where she's scored a near-perfect 9.975.
Other returning key gymnasts include Anastasia Webb, Jade Degouveia, and Olivia Trautman. Webb competed all-around for the Sooners most of last season, contributing good scores and reliable routines for her team. She scored 9.900+ on every apparatus and scored 9.950+ on vault, beam, and floor in 2018. Degouveia excelled on the power events of vault and floor, competing in every meet last season and earning scores of 9.800+ on both apparatuses in every meet but one.
Trautman, Nichols' former club teammate at Twin City Twisters, is a all-around star on the rise, having consistently competed vault, beam, and floor as a freshman last season. She also did the all-around once, where she earned a 39.725. The sophomore could easily fill an empty spot in Oklahoma's bar lineup.
As for freshmen, Vanessa Deniz and Erin Hutchison are both ones to watch. Deniz's beam fits right in at Oklahoma, and she was fourth at 2018 JO Nationals and first at 2018 Regionals. Hutchison placed in the top 10 on vault and floor at 2019 Regionals.
And of course, as previously mentioned, Smith, a 2016 Olympic alternate and 2018 world champion, is a freshman for Oklahoma as well. She's proven herself to be a strong all-around gymnast during her elite career, winning the 2017 American Cup and 2017 U.S. national title. She was even the favorite for the 2017 world all-around crown until she had to withdraw due to injury. Now putting her elite career behind her, she has extensive experience and an abundance of training that put her in contention for every Sooner lineup.