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OU, Cal emerge victorious, LSU upset by SEC rival in Week 4 of NCAA gymnastics

OU, Cal emerge victorious, LSU upset by SEC rival in Week 4 of NCAA gymnastics

Tooba Shakir 3 months ago 0 0

Week 4 of the 2024 NCAA gymnastics season is officially in the books, and there is so much to talk about.

There were more routines that earned perfect 10s, more surprising results from the nation’s top teams, more routines poised to go viral — and even more discourse about inflated scoring.

But we have to start with the two top-ranked teams in the country: Oklahoma and California. Both squads recorded victories in their respective dual meets over the weekend.

No. 1 Oklahoma defeated Denver on Friday, 197.775-197.150, in front of more than 8,400 fans at the Sooners’ home opener. They trailed during the meet, a first for them this season, after their opening rotation on vault but came back thanks to strong performances. Jordan Bowers earned a 9.975 on bars and a 9.95 on floor, Ragan Smith won the beam title with a 9.975 and Faith Torrez shared floor honors with Bowers.

“I think it was the first time that we were behind this season and they didn’t give up, they kept pushing their way forward and it wasn’t easy,” head coach K.J. Kindler told the school’s website. “There’s a lot of little things and details I think we left out today overall. For us the lesson was, we fight back, you keep fighting, you don’t give up no matter what.”

Led by the surging eMjae Frazier and Mya Lauzon, No. 2 California was dominant in its 197.950-196.775 win over Oregon State on Saturday. It was also Cal’s home opener, and Frazier scored a 9.90 or better on all four events — including a 9.95 on bars. Lauzon earned a 9.975 on both beam and floor. The two tied atop the all-around standings (39.700), and the Golden Bears earned their second-best beam score in program history with a 49.675 and third best on floor (49.600).

And now Oklahoma and California, the two hottest teams in college gymnastics, are set to square off in one of the biggest showdowns of the season so far on Friday in a tri-meet with Arizona State in Tempe. As Jordan Chiles would do, get your popcorn ready.

Here’s everything else you need to know from the fourth week of college gymnastics:

Latest initiations to the Perfect 10 Club

After Week 3 saw a jaw-dropping eight perfect scores, this week didn’t match that number — but the five routines that did earn the mark are all must-see viewing.

Konnor McClain, LSU: As the 2022 U.S. national champion, there were high expectations for the Tigers freshman entering the season. And wow, she has already more than delivered on the hype. Two weeks ago, McClain earned her first perfect score on bars, and on Friday, she did the same on beam. If you’ve yet to see McClain compete at the NCAA level, you should probably stop everything you’re doing right now and watch the routine below. It feels like this has all the makings of a very special collegiate career.

Raena Worley, Kentucky: Before Friday, the super-senior had come close to a perfect 10 on several occasions throughout her decorated college career but had never done it — despite the repeated outcries from fans and even those in the know. But that all changed during the Wildcats’ meet against Georgia at home. In front of over 10,000 fans at Rupp Arena, Worley was the last to compete on the night in the anchor position on floor — and she more than met the moment.

Makenzie Wilson, Kentucky: While Rupp Arena had never seen a perfect 10.0 score before, and no member of the team had recorded the top mark since Jenny Hansen in 1996, the Wildcats incredibly had two on Friday. Wilson, a junior, closed out the first rotation with a high-flying front handspring pike half twist on vault — and the expression on her face after she stuck her landing shows she knew just how good it was, too.

Lilly Hudson, Alabama: The junior earned the Crimson Tide’s first perfect mark of the year — and the second of her career — with a flawlessly executed Yurchenko 1.5 during the team’s statement-making win over Florida on Friday.

Nikki Smith, Michigan State: It was a big day for the Spartans on Sunday as they recorded their highest home opener score (197.400) in program history and defeated Big Ten conference rivals Iowa for the first time in the regular season since 2015 — but perhaps nothing got the team and the fans more excited than Smith, who earned the program’s first perfect score on floor.

Watch for Smith’s sky-high tumbling passes, and stick around for the elated reactions from her and her teammates once the score comes in.


Upset alerts

While McClain was a bright spot on Friday, LSU — the No. 3-ranked team entering Week 4 — lost to Missouri, 197.325-197.225, on the road. In an SEC battle between two Tigers, LSU trailed after the first rotation on bars but, led by Kiya Johnson’s 9.90, fought its way back on floor to take the lead entering the final rotation of the night.

However, even with strong routines from McClain and Johnson on beam, the Missouri Tigers rallied back, thanks in large part to the heroics of freshman Kennedy Griffin, who tied the school record for the highest score with a 9.975 for her Destiny’s Child-themed floor routine. Ultimately Missouri pulled off its highest-ranked win in program history in front of a record crowd of over 7,000 fans.

LSU head coach Jay Clark later told the school’s website he hoped the loss would be a learning experience for his team.

“We are obviously disappointed with that result. We still had a chance to win going into the last routine,” Clark said. “The good news is that it’s a regular-season meet, but the bad news is that it’s a missed opportunity. If we’re going to be the team that I think we are, then we can’t have this drop in execution on the road. We’re going to go home and get better.”

LSU now drops to No. 5 in the rankings.

That wasn’t the only surprising result in the SEC. While Alabama was ranked higher than Florida entering their dual meet, the Gators hadn’t lost a regular-season meet at home since 2019.

That changed on Friday as the Crimson Tide narrowly eked out a 197.575-197.425 victory. It was the team’s first win in Gainesville since 2001.

In addition to Hudson’s perfect score on vault and a 9.925 on floor, the team was led by Luisa Blanco, who scored a 9.95 on beam and a 9.925 on bars, and Makarri Doggette, who added a 9.925 on bars.

“I’m so proud of the team tonight,” Alabama head coach Ashley Johnston told the school’s website. “This was a really important meet for us because it’s easy to get to a meet like this and try to be perfect, and I’m really proud of the way that the team focused on just making progress. Progress over perfection.”


Best of the rest

Brooklyn Moors, UCLA: There are many incredible tumblers in college gymnastics, as well as talented dancers, but there a few who also have the artistry of Brooklyn Moors. As former UCLA standout JaNay Honest said on the broadcast, “She just tells a story throughout the whole routine.”

Victoria Nguyen, Florida: Friday marked just the sixth time Nguyen competed on vault in her collegiate career — and yet the senior proved she more than deserved a permanent spot in the lineup with a 9.975 on her Yurchenko 1.5. The reaction from the crowd truly says it all.

Grace McCallum, Utah: The Olympic silver medalist reminded college gymnastics fans of exactly why she was the 2022 Pac-12 champion on bars and the runner-up on the event at the NCAA championships in 2023, with an effortless-looking routine during the Red Rocks’ victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday.

Jessica Hutchinson, Denver: It was difficult picking just one routine of Hutchinson’s from Denver’s meet against Oklahoma to feature. The senior earned three (!) scores of 9.95 on the night, and she recorded a career-high 39.725 in the all-around and won the title. While her performances on floor and vault were equally impressive, we’re still in awe of her beam routine — and her beautiful leaps and lines — in the anchor spot for the team.


The scoring conversation continues

While discourse over inflated judging in college gymnastics is nothing new, the conversation heated up last week after the record-setting scores in Week 3. And it continued across the “gym-ternet” in Week 4, with fans and even some commentators — including ESPN’s Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson Clarke — weighing in on the topic.

However, while the conversation is an important one and will likely continue throughout the season, former LSU gymnast Olivia Gunter added a valuable perspective on the issue that deserves to be mentioned. (Basically, don’t be unnecessarily cruel on the internet, no matter what you think their routine deserved to be scored.)


Key meets in Week 5:

Friday: Florida at Georgia; 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network

Friday: Kentucky at Alabama; 8:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network

Friday: Arkansas at LSU; 8:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network+

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

Friday: California, Oklahoma at Arizona State; 9 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Insider

Saturday: Minnesota at Penn State; 1 p.m. ET on BIG+

Sunday: Ohio State at Maryland; 1 p.m. ET on BIG+

Sunday: Michigan State vs. Michigan; 4 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network

Sunday: Arizona at UCLA; 5 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Network



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