By Emily Minehart
While we love NCAA leos, we also enjoy the unique, big and sometimes out-of-control hairstyles teams show off throughout the season. Take a look at some of our favorites from 2017, and let us know what we missed in the comments or on Twitter!
The Messy Bun
The messy bun has a long, storied relationship with gymnastics. McKayla Maroney and 2012 Nastia Liukin come to mind. The NCAA messy bun queen is Oregon State’s Dani Dessaints as her bun has unmatched altitude and volume.
Messy bun honorable mention: New Hampshire’s Danielle Doolin
The Intense Braids
Most former gymnasts probably remember sitting on the floor before a competition while a parent or teammate braided their hair as tightly as possible to avoid any opportunity for strands to escape. Braids are a mainstay in NCAA hairstyles as well, and MSU has perfected the art of the super-tight, perfect rows of braids, demonstrated here by Elena Lagoski and Lindsey Lemke.
The Secret, Under-the-Bun French Braid
Some messy buns have evolved to include a french braid underneath. This hairstyle has been especially popular this year and was worn by many teams throughout the season, most consistently by Oklahoma. We have attempted this hairstyle ourselves and can confirm that it is very challenging to achieve without a team to help you get the braid right.
Ponytails are ubiquitous, and Bridgeport has achieved some long, amazing styles, complete with poof and braids.
Honorable ponytail mention: UCLA’s Angi Cipra
The Swooping Braids
Another classic addition to the messy bun is a swooping braid, from the forehead back to a bun or ponytail. While the style is common, Michigan’s Emma McLean and Oklahoma’s Chayse Capps both had especially stellar swoops this season.
The Short Hair
Long hair is key for making most of these styles work, but some athletes opt to forego the keep-my-hair-out-of-my-face dilemma by sporting short cuts. Rae Balthazor at Illinois does it with particular style.
Best Overall Style
UCLA’s JaNay Honest always rocks strong hairstyles. Her combination of perfect diagonal braids and height and volume are standout and worthy of their own category.
Kari Lee’s hair always stands out, especially because it is Utah red, and her hairstyles always highlight the color.
We all know that in NCAA, more is better: more height, more cheering, more glitter and, of course, more hair. SEMO’s Alexis Brawner does more hair with style. She has big hair, big color and big style.
Peng Peng has earned her own category. She’s done the ponytail. She’s done the curled bun. She’s done Princess Leia buns. And she’s done it all with style. We love all things Peng, and can’t wait to see what she brings for her farewell season!