WARNING: The following feature may lead to excessive YouTube binging, divided allegiances and significantly increased Fantasy Gymnastics scores.
It’s no secret that NCAA gymnastics scores and rankings don’t tell the whole story. Carol and crack scoring jokes aside, there are teams competing high-level, high-quality gymnastics across all conferences and divisions. But don’t just take our word for it!
We’ve compiled the following guide to introduce you to some of these under-the-radar teams based on their similarities to perennial favorites. We’ve included some impressive facts about each team as well as a few routines to get you started. The routines we’ve recommended aren’t necessarily the highest-scoring or most difficult on the roster, but they do showcase what’s exciting and unique about each team. We also tried to choose ones from athletes who will still be competing in 2020. (However, some—like 2019 Brown graduate Julia Green—were simply too cool to keep to ourselves.)
We’re not telling you to turn your back on your tried and true team; rather, we’re hoping to give you a little nudge toward some of the “hidden gym gems” you might be missing out on. Besides, can you really have too many favorites when it comes to gymnastics?
Be sure to tell us about all of your new favorites in the comments!
Like Bama, these teams have impressive legacies and levels of talent, but have struggled with injuries and consistency in recent years. Brown sat on the outside looking in as a team at the USAG national championships but has the potential to qualify a full squad. Pittsburgh sat in the 40s or lower in the rankings in recent years but has been on an upward trajectory thanks to new head coach Samantha Snider. West Virginia has the difficulty and skill to take its results to the next level and just needs a little extra push to enter the next tier of teams.
These teams seemingly came out of nowhere to make waves in recent years. Look for them to keep breaking records and smashing expectations in 2020. Yale stepped up its recruiting game to bring on one of the top freshmen in the country for the upcoming season. Northern Illinois won its first-ever MAC title, George Washington rode the success wave of its 2018 senior class for four years, making regionals and putting up a fighting chance for a nationals berth.
Big gymnastics and even bigger personalities characterize these teams. If you like the star power the Gators have had over the years, you’ll love the following programs. Bridgeport is all about power with Maya Reimers throwing a two E-pass routine at one point in 2019. Brockport Brockport regularly hits 49.500+ on floor during the season and is coming off a championship season. BYU, best known for its quirky floor music and fun choreography, is a team on the verge you want to follow now to say, “I was a fan when.”
A team with a storied history, Georgia is working its way back to the top. SEMO, too, is trying to get back to its glory days of perfect 10s and top marks with the help of its own alumna at the helm. UC Davis dominates the MPSF each season and is now ready for more with regionals in its sights. Prepare for Rutgers to take the Big Ten by storm in 2020 with its own former Scarlet Knight leading the team out of the basement and into the championship picture thanks to its brand new gym and roster of former elites and standout J.O. gymnasts.
Like the Wildcats, these teams have earned their share of impressive results but have the potential to reach new heights in 2020 thanks to impressive recruits. Towson struggled with injuries in 2019 and will look toward its monster freshman class to add depth. North Carolina will be counting on a freshman class of J.O. standouts to boost the team’s bars and beam scores to the same level as vault and floor. Similarly, San Jose State’s freshmen—including Canadian elite Emma Milne, who recently competed at the Mersin World Cup—will help bolster its small but talented roster.
If you want sparkle, sass and skill, look no further! Like LSU, these teams faced their share of obstacles in 2019, but never let adversity dull their shine. Bowling Green saved its best performances for the end of the regular season. With alumna Sunny Marchand recently named assistant head coach and rising senior Jovannah East leading the team, the Falcons are poised to soar in 2020. West Chester fought hard last season to qualify a full team to USAG nationals for the second time in three years (and only the second time in program history). Though Centenary finished fifth at MIC championships after struggles on bars, it managed to set a season-best on floor, as well as have multiple gymnasts earn career high scores on various events.
These teams have all had success within the conference and regional levels but are still looking to make a splash nationally. Central Michigan missed out on advancing to round two of 2019 regionals by half a tenth. With a solid incoming freshman class joining a strong returning roster, 2020 could be the Chippewas’ breakout season. Throughout its record-setting 2019 season, Penn showed it has the ability to earn big scores and go toe-to-toe with higher ranked teams. Maryland finished the regular season ranked an impressive 30th. A talented group of newcomers will hopefully provide the depth and consistency the Terps need to crack into the 20s in 2020.
Like the Sooners, these teams bring precision and intensity to their gymnastics. Ball State brings surprise power and intricate choreography on floor, not to mention an impressive number of E passes. New Hampshire is a standout beam team, rivaling the Sooners themselves on a good day. UW-Stout made waves in 2019 with Shadae Boone’s stuck Yurchenko one and a half—what better team to pair the Blue Devils with than the one that was the first with six 10.0 starts in a lineup?
The Beavers truly came into their own in 2019, capping off their most successful season in years with a berth to the NCAA championships. Likewise, Temple smashed several program records en route to its first ECAC team title. Though it struggled at EAGL championship, N.C. State rebounded to edge out UNH to advance to the second round of regionals. Meanwhile, Lindenwood not only won its third USAG national title since the program’s inception seven years ago, but became only the third DII team to qualify to ever NCAA regionals.
Like the Bruins, these teams bring fun and flair to everything they do (especially on floor). If you’re not on the bandwagon already, Alaska brings expressive choreography and eclectic makeup and hairstyles to every competition. Cornell floor is just plain fun to watch. You could say the same about Sacramento State, which has been in a dip in recent years but is making its way back up the rankings.
These teams boast impressive pedigrees and fierce competitive drives. While they’ve all certainly had their ups and downs, these teams will usually be in the postseason mix. With 1996 Olympic alternate Mary Fredericks taking over head coaching duties, Southern Connecticut is poised to make nationals for the first time in years. Despite a down year, Texas Woman’s has 11 national titles to its name. Air Force may have only just won its first conference title but has a long history of USAG-level success.
Article by Elizabeth Grimsley and Claire Billman
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