The Mount: Week 15

As the season winds down, the number of meets in a weekend dwindles but the excitement level rises exponentially. This weekend is the pinnacle of the season for teams with less than seven and a half scholarships. As always, you’ll find a preview of the meet, predictions and links to follow along below.

USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships

Friday, April 13 at 3 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET: Semifinals
Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m. ET: Team Finals
Sunday, April 15 at 2 p.m. ET: Event Finals

Eight teams will contest the 2018 USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships in Denton, Texas, beginning with two four-team semifinals on Friday. The USAG grouping consists of schools which offer less than seven and a half athletic scholarships and aren’t members of NCGA, the primary Division III governing body. That means that most teams are either Division II, which offers up to six scholarship, or members of the Ivy League, which don’t have academic scholarships. However, there are a few outliers: DI teams Air Force and SEMO both participate, as does DIII Centenary. This year, four Ivies, three DII teams and Air Force qualified to send full teams to USAG nationals, but the five non-qualifying teams will all be represented by individuals as well.

The first semifinal features No. 1-seed Lindenwood, which is coming off a decisive conference win at home, as well as a strong showing by senior Kierstin Sokolowski as a two-event specialist at NCAA regionals. With an RQS of 195.175—almost a point higher than the second highest ranked team, Bridgeport—the Lions are a sure bet to advance. For the second spot in Saturday’s team final, it will be a close battle between No. 4 Bridgeport and No. 5 Air Force. The two have scored similarly throughout the season, and each has a handful of 9.9 routines. Watch for freshman Kat Doran and sophomore Maya Reimers from Bridgeport, and MPSF event champions Anna Salamone and Analise Howard from Air Force. The Falcons have the advantage in consistency, but Bridgeport has a slightly higher ceiling and is defending a spot in the final. No. 8 Pennsylvania will round out the semifinal, and while it might not contend for a team final spot, it has some individuals that could make waves in event finals on Sunday.

In the second semifinal, host Texas Woman’s accompanies an Ivy League derby; Cornell, Yale and Brown join the Pioneers in this session. Ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, Texas Woman’s and Yale are the most likely to advance to Saturday’s competition. Both have high scores in the mid-195s, which should be sufficient to hold off the two lower-ranked teams unless they make mistakes. For the Pioneers, the semifinal will also be a good opportunity to gauge how much it can benefit from hosting. For Yale, watch the status of Jacey Baldovino; the freshman all arounder already set a program record on beam this season but had to withdraw from NCAA regionals with a foot injury. She plans to return for nationals, but if she’s not fully fit, it could make a difference for the Bulldogs.

For most of the season, USAG has been a tussle between Lindenwood and Texas Woman’s, and it’s very likely that the title will come down to those two squads. Texas Woman’s is the defending champion, but Lindenwood had won the three previous titles, as well as claimed the win in its most recent meeting at the MIC championship. The Lions are the only USAG team to break 196 in 2018, so in theory, repeating that feat should put them out of reach of the field. That said, Texas Woman’s is a team that’s capable of rising to to a challenge; it set a season high to pick up the title in 2017, and it does boast home field advantage. The most likely spoiler is Yale, particularly if Baldovino is back in the all around. The Bulldogs have had a banner year, setting a program record score at the ECAC-I championship, as well as qualifying athletes to NCAA regionals for the first time since 2005. However, it’ll take a repeat of their very best day to challenge the top two. Bridgeport could also figure in, assuming it gets past Air Force in the semifinals. The Purple Knights started the season strong but have slipped in standings as Lindenwood and TWU’s scores began to climb midseason. However, like Yale, if the top two have anything less than a perfect day, it’s possible for them to contend.

Individual qualifiers from the five non-qualified teams will compete on the semifinal day, with the all around title determined on Friday and top event scores advancing to event finals on Sunday. In the all around, the gymnast with the highest top score is Texas Woman’s senior Schyler Jones, and at home in the final weekend of her career, she’s the favorite. She comes in at No. 2 in RQS rankings, bookended by Yale underclassmen Baldovino and Jade Buford; Baldovino has held the top ranking since week seven, and her consistency makes her a frightening prospect. Kelsey Campbell of Bridgeport and Darian Burns of Seattle Pacific round out the set of gymnasts who have scored over 39.000 in 2018 and have a change of topping the podium.

Event titles are always unpredictable, but USAG boasts a strong and consistent set of specialists this year. On vault, expect seniors Sokolowski and Jones to lead the way as both qualified to NCAA regionals on that event. On bars, Air Force’s Anna Salamone’s set has led her to a top mark of 9.900, as well as numerous conference honors. Yale’s Jessica Wang, Penn’s Kyra Levi and Doran share this high score. Beam is the least predictable event of all, but it’s Lindenwood’s specialty; it boasts three gymnasts who have gone over 9.900 in 2018, and any one of them could compete for the title. Air Force’s Analise Howard and Baldovino are other major players here, as are Jones and Mallory Moredock representing the home team. On floor, Bridgeport’s Maya Reimers and SEMO’s Alexis Brawner tie for the top spot, with nationally competitive RQSs of 9.890. Alex Hartke of Penn, Samantha Henry of Cornell and Jade Buford of Yale have all topped out at 9.925, and expect TWU’s Jones and Moredock to go high at home.

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To see all the matchups for the weekend all in one place, take a look at our master schedule. You can also find live scoring and video links for every meet below.

DateTime (ET)MeetScoring LinkVideo Link
Fri, April 133 p.m.Semifinal One (LU, Bridgeport, USAFA, Penn)ScoresVideo
Fri, April 138 p.m.Semifinal Two (TWU, Yale, Cornell, Brown)ScoresVideo
Sat, April 148 p.m.Team FinalsScoresVideo
Sun, April 152 p.m.Event FinalsScoresVideo

Check out our updated injury report to see if any of gymnasts have been out of action.

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Preview by Rebecca Scally

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