LSU and OU reign, but judging draws criticism in Week 3 of NCAA gymnastics

LSU and OU reign, but judging draws criticism in Week 3 of NCAA gymnastics

Tooba Shakir 3 months ago 0

Week 3 of the NCAA gymnastics season is officially complete, and wow, what a memorable week it was.

There were record-setting scores and program highs and oh-so-many perfect 10s across the country.

Perhaps nothing got more attention than the Tennessee Collegiate Classic. Featuring Ball State, Kent State, Southeast Missouri and Wisconsin-Whitewater, all four schools set new records for the highest team score in their program’s respective histories. Yes, that’s right — all four schools.

Meet-winning Ball State (198.025) also recorded the highest event total in school history on bars (49.775), recorded their best floor total score (49.625) and had three gymnasts score perfect 10s. Sophomore Zoe Middleton won the meet’s all-around title with a program record score of 39.750, and fellow Cardinals Megan Teter (39.575) and Victoria Henry (39.450) also surpassed the school’s previous all-around record.

Second-place Kent State (197.725) shattered its previous team record from 2004, while Southeast Missouri, in third, crushed its previous team record by nearly a point with a 197.050 final score. And Wisconsin-Whitewater not only broke their school record, but its score of 194.450 is the highest in Division III history.

While there was clearly some incredible gymnastics going on at the event, the number of records shattered — and the five perfect 10s awarded during the competition — also drew a lot of skepticism about the scoring. Some on social media pointed out how dramatically the scoring had varied from meet to meet. For example, Ball State’s first two scores of the season were 194.925 and 195.65. With such an average, the Cardinals were in 33rd place following the first two weeks of competition, but their Week 3 score was the third-highest score of the season so far, behind just Oklahoma, the two-time defending national champions, and LSU, who finished last season ranked fourth in the country.

All that said, discussions about scoring and judging are nothing new. Will this be a meet that furthers the conversation? For now, it’s impossible to say, but what we do know is that it shouldn’t take away from what the gymnasts did on Friday — nor should they be held accountable for the judges.

And, there were some truly exceptional performances. Just watch Ball State’s Suki Pfister’s perfect-scoring vault:

But the Tennessee Collegiate Classic was far from the only meet of the weekend. Here’s everything else you need to know from the third week of college gymnastics:

More members of the Perfect 10 club

In addition to the five perfect scores earned on Friday in Tennessee — Middleton (Ball State, bars); Teeter (Ball State, bars); Karlie Franz (Kent State; floor) and Lindsay Ockler (SEMO; bars) joined Pfister — three others made the season’s exclusive list, with the grand total now 15 on the year.

Here’s who else joined the club this week:

Haleigh Bryant, LSU: The Tigers notched the second-highest score of the season on Friday (198.125) during their meet against the Kentucky Wildcats — and it was in large part because of the heroics of Bryant. Already the program’s all-time 10.0 leader, she added the 11th of her career, and second on bars, during the meet. She also had the top scores of the meet on vault (9.975) and in the all-around (39.825).

Kiya Johnson, LSU: In 2023, during the team’s meet against Kentucky, Johnson tore her Achilles and missed the rest of the season. On Friday, during LSU’s meet against Kentucky, Johnson proved she was back — and maybe better than ever — with a floor routine that showcases her perseverance, powerful tumbling and joy. Her facial expression when she lands her final double pike truly says it all.

Lily Smith, Georgia: During the first week of the season, the freshman stunned with a 9.975 on bars and on Saturday, she earned a 10.0 on the event. Smith became the first Georgia freshman to record the score since 2001 and the first on bars since 1993. So, yeah, it was pretty impressive.

Sooners stay on top

Because LSU and Ball State both competed on Friday, they became the first two programs to cross the 198-score benchmark in 2024. But Oklahoma, the No. 1-ranked team after the first two weeks of the season, didn’t waste much time in joining them.

Competing in a quad meet on Sunday against Denver, UCLA and Stanford, the Sooners not only won, but earned the highest mark of the season so far with a 198.325. The score was over a full point higher than second-place Denver (197.175). UCLA (196.550) and Stanford (196.100) finished in third and fourth place, respectively.

While scoring is obviously subjective, the team has left little doubt about their talent by scoring the top total each week of the season so far. As Oklahoma has done in each meet, four gymnasts — Jordan Bowers, Audrey Davis, Katherine LeVasseur and Faith Torrez – competed in the all-around and led the team, yet again, with their collective consistency and stellar results. On Sunday, Bowers earned at least a 9.925 on every event, good enough for a new career-high all-around score (39.775) and the title. LeVasseur, Torrez and Davis all finished in the top five.

Known for their beam work, the Sooners were dominant yet again on the event with their highest total of the year (49.725). Torrez and Ragan Smith both earned 9.975s for their routines.

Aly Raisman has entered the chat!

Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman officially made her broadcast debut as a commentator during the Kentucky-LSU meet on Friday. In an interview with People, published ahead of the meet, the 29-year-old called it a “new chapter” but admitted she had some nerves about it as well.

“I’m so excited,” Raisman said. “If I’m being honest, I’m also very nervous because I want to do a good job.”

Raisman earned rave reviews from those on social media for her insight and knowledge — and she later wrote she was “touched by all the sweet messages” in an Instagram post.

Already looking ahead, and clearly being a woman of the people, Raisman said she was looking forward to calling an Arkansas meet this season. Her 2012 Olympic teammate Jordyn Wieber is the head coach for the Razorbacks and Kyla Ross, another member of the gold-medal-winning team, is an assistant.

Best of the rest

Here are just a few more routines that you need to see from the weekend:

Leanne Wong, Florida: Having already earned a 9.95 on bars during the Gators’ home meet against Auburn on Friday, Wong closed out the night in the anchor spot on floor. It was her debut on the event for the year — and she made a serious statement in the process. Making both her choreography and tumbling somehow look effortless, Wong earned yet another 9.95 to win the event title. She won all-around honors, as well as bars, in the Gators’ victory.

Carly Bauman, Michigan: With a sky-high Jaegar release move and a perfectly stuck double-front dismount, Bauman not only won the bars title in the Wolverines’ meet against Ohio State, but also tied her career-high score of 9.95.

Kalyxta Gamiao, Arkansas: The Razorbacks set a new record for team score (197.525) in their tie with Alabama on Friday — on the road, no less! — and this lead-off beam performance from Gamiao is one reason why.

Haleigh Bryant (LSU) and Arianna Patterson (Kentucky): The questions about judging weren’t limited to the Tennessee Collegiate Classic this weekend. Some on social media wondered about the scoring discrepancy between Bryant and Patterson’s vaults –both front handspring front pike-half vaults from the same meet — on Friday. So, here are both, side-by-side, for you to make your own judgment.

Key meets in Week 4:

Friday: LSU at Missouri; 6:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network

Friday: Alabama at Florida; 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Friday: Georgia at Kentucky; 7 p.m. ET

Friday: Denver at Oklahoma; 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+

Friday: Auburn at Arkansas; 8 p.m. ET on SEC+

Friday: Arizona State at Utah; 8 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network

Saturday: Michigan at Nebraska; 4 p.m. ET on B1G+

Saturday: Oregon State at California; 5 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network

Saturday: Washington at UCLA; 9 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network

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