The first weekend of the season is always a weird one, and 2020’s edition did not disappoint. With interestingly scored meets, unfortunate injuries, strange lineups, collegiate debuts, program highs and program lows, there’s a lot to break down. Below you’ll not only find fast facts from every DI meet this weekend (for more on USAG and NCGA teams, check out their respective Dismounts), but a few superlatives for some of our favorite moments as well.
Routine of the Week
Alexis Vasquez (Denver): Beam, 10.000
If you predicted the Denver sophomore would have the first perfect mark of the year and the decade, go buy a lottery ticket. It was bound to happen eventually–Vasquez is absolutely gorgeous on the event—but we don’t think anyone expected it to come during the first weekend of the 2020 campaign.
Stick of the Week
Kyana George (Cal): Vault
Kyana George stuck FTY pic.twitter.com/JMdbfS5lGG
— Khorkina’s Revenge (@RevengeOfKhorki) January 5, 2020
George quietly had one of the best meets of her career in Anaheim this weekend. With this beautiful flared Yurchenko full, she secured the second-best vault score of the weekend, as well as the fourth-best all around total.
Most Judy Score
Yes, it’s only the first week of season, but it’s never too early to complain about scoring. Sacramento State freshman Taylor Weber nailed her debut routine (including a flawlessly executed back handspring layout step-out series), but somehow only got a 9.775… Not cool, judges. Not cool.
Note: The routines selected for this category are not a reflection on the gymnast performing the routine but rather the judging of the routine itself.
Save of the Week
Emily Glynn of Denver went over on her final cast handstand but managed to improvise a half turn into a giant half to avert disaster. This is exactly the type of quick thinking we want to see in these situations, and after a beautiful stuck dismount, she was rewarded with a 9.825.
Western Michigan kicked off its season with a win against Michigan State, scoring 195.275, the highest opening score in program history. Not only that, but it came in just one tenth shy of its record on beam with a 49.075. Payton Murphy also won the all around with a 39.175, and Ronni Binstock and Charlotte Tishkoff scored 9.825 on floor.
It’s no secret that SEMO limped through last season (literally and figuratively—it had to pull a gymnast out of retirement to have enough routines) to finish 70th overall. In their season opener against Illinois and Missouri, the Redhawks beat their 2019 season high by a full point, not to mention coming back after a disastrous first rotation on beam to earn the mark. This team has grit, determination and some truly fantastic gymnastics.
The Al Trautwig Award for Unnecessary Assholery in Gymnastics Commentary
“You see teams getting 196 and 197… These teams will be lucky to see 192.”
|California Grand with No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 UCLA, No. 9 California and No. 22 Stanford|
|Full Results||Oklahoma: 197.350||UCLA: 196.575||California: 196.200||Stanford: 195.475|
|VT: George, Ross, Webb 9.900||UB: Nichols 9.975||BB: Ross, Sakti 9.950||FX: Ross 9.950||AA: Ross 39.725|
The Big Storyline: A counted fall on beam meant that UCLA couldn’t challenge Oklahoma for the top spot. The Bruins appeared to be testing lineups in this meet, with many in lineups they don’t normally compete in. Oklahoma freshman Ragan Smith made her much anticipated NCAA debut, putting up a respectable 39.275 in the all around with a 9.950 and a 9.900, respectively, on bars and beam.
Implications: With a 197.350, Oklahoma will have the top spot in the country after week 1. UCLA will take the No. 3 spot, right behind Denver. Cal debuts at No. 5 and Stanford at No. 9. While week one scores aren’t usually a great indication of how the season will shake out, it does seem as if the Pac 12 is going to be competitive this year.
Records: UCLA sophomore transfer Samantha Sakti posted a career best 9.950 on beam in her first meet as a Bruin. Cal’s score of 196.200 is the highest season opener in program history.
|No. 31 Arizona at No. 2 LSU|
|Full Results||LSU: 195.725||Arizona: 195.025|
|VT: Johnson 9.900||UB: Berg 9.900||BB: Campbell 9.925||FX: Johnson 9.950||AA: Edney 39.350|
The Big Storyline: The final score doesn’t reflect the closeness of this meet, as LSU was only ahead by .050 after three rotations. Arizona opened with a fall on bars, but bounced back with some great sets until the very end when a low beam score put the nail in the coffin. LSU showed some opening season nerves, but the problems look more fixable than preseason worries would indicate. Freshman Kiya Johnson stole the show with her Yurchenko double on vault and powerful tumbling on floor to win both events.
Implications: Although not reason to panic yet, this is LSU’s first score under 196 since 2016 and its lowest season opening score since 2012. Arizona’s score is its highest season opening score since 2018.
Records: Johnson’s 9.900 on vault is the highest scoring first routine from an LSU freshman since senior Kennedy Edney scored a 9.950 on vault in her first meet as a Tiger. Their teammate Sarah Edwards also set a career high on floor with a 9.900.
Controversies: Arizona sophomore Kennedi Davis initially scored a 9.850 on beam, but her score was quickly changed to a 9.500. According to LSU co-head coach Jay Clark, part of this deduction came from the springboard not being moved after Davis mounted the beam.
|No. 12 Kentucky at No. 5 Utah|
|Full Results||Utah: 196.425||Kentucky: 195.350|
|VT: Tessen 9.900||UB: Tessen 9.925||BB: Isa 9.925||FX: Soloski, Tessen 9.900||AA: Korth 39.375|
The Big Storyline: It was the Kim Tessen show for the Red Rocks as the senior won all three events she competed to lead the Utes to victory. Mollie Korth, unsurprisingly, also had a great meet, winning the all around with a highest score on every event. Utah went through the meet relatively trouble free, with only a few errors on bars holding it back. Kentucky didn’t show many major errors, but with a lot of lineup changes from last season, many of the new gymnasts got stuck in the 9.7 range most of the meet.
Implications: With no major injuries (unlike many other meets this weekend), both teams come away from this meet in a good spot. Utah’s score is the fourth highest in the country from the opening weekend and Kentucky’s ranks 10th.
Records: In the first meet of the year, Tessen tied her career high on bars and set a new career high on floor.
|California Grand with No. 7 Denver, No. 13 Auburn, No. 21 Arizona State and No. 25 Penn State|
|Full Results||Denver: 196.700||Arizona State: 194.675||Auburn: 194.375||Penn State: 193.500|
|VT: Gobourne, Watson 9.900||UB: Brown 9.925||BB: Vasquez 10.000||FX: Brown 9.950||AA: Brown 39.575|
The Big Storyline: Denver erased a lot of preseason doubt with its performance in the first session of the California Grand Invitational, posting the second highest score of the weekend and having sophomore Alexis Vasquez notch the first 10 of the decade on beam. Maddie Karr, whose status was in question due to recent knee surgery, looked perfectly fine while posting two 9.875s and two 9.9s to place second in the all around. Arizona State’s consistency carried it to a second place finish despite some struggles on floor, where Auburn and Penn State also had some major issues that brought down their team totals.
Implications: Although it worked out, Denver only put up five vaulters in this meet, which could become a concern later in the season. The other three teams all scored lower than their previous year’s season openers.
Records: Vasquez’s 10.000 on beam is the first of her career, and Denver’s team score is the program’s highest for a season opener.
|Critique Classic with No. 8 Georgia, No. 11 Oregon State, No. 29 Iowa and Bridgeport|
|Full Results||UGA: 195.100||OSU: 194.450||Iowa: 192.700||UB: 189.300|
|VT: Guerin 9.925||UB: Gill 9.800||BB: Magee, Baumann 9.875||FX: Lukacs 9.900||AA: Lukacs 38.775|
The Big Storyline: This was a pretty forgettable meet for all four teams. The only rotation scores above 49.000 were both from Georgia, on beam and floor. Iowa had a respectable three events, but a full implosion on bars hampered its final score. The Beavers were solid but not outstanding on all four. The other story of the meet was injuries: Rachel Dickson has a confirmed Achilles injury, JerQuavia Henderson is also out with an Achilles and Crystal Gwinn was injured during floor touch. Plus, Sabrina Vega—who had her collegiate debut on bars—did not compete vault or floor, rumored so because of the flu. Iowa’s Lauren Guerin was the bright spot, leading the Hawkeyes on all three of her events, including her collegiate debut on beam. We also saw Iowa January enrollee Dani Castillo in the beam lineup.
Implications: Losing Dickson for the season is a blow for Georgia. The Gymdogs were poised to rely on the all arounder in her senior campaign. They managed to put up six on each event without her, but we can expect to see more freshmen than previously thought, plus Lukacs on bars. We saw Amanda Cashman (vault, bars), Haley de Jong (bars, beam) and Soroya Hawthorne (vault, floor) this week. All six routines were hits, and Hawthorn was especially strong. For Iowa, Henderson being out is a blow, especially on vault and floor. Her injury is not yet officially confirmed.
Records: Guerin’s 9.925 on vault ties for seventh overall in Iowa program history.
|No. 15 Nebraska at No. 23 BYU|
|Full Results||BYU: 195.750||Nebraska: 195.600|
|AA: A. Miner
The Big Storyline: BYU ekes out a win against Nebraska in its first match-up in almost two decades.
Implications: We knew this would be a close one, so the results aren’t that surprising. Both teams were missing key players—BYU’s Shannon Evans (knee) and Angel Zhong (Achilles); Nebraska’s Adnerys de Jesus and Kynsee Roby (both unspecified). Evans is expected to return to lineups soon, and BYU has the depth to cover for Zhong’s absence. Nebraska’s already-thin roster would be stretched if its two athletes were to miss the remainder of the season.
Controversies: BYU’s total puts it just ahead of LSU in the in-progress rankings.
|No. 27 Illinois and SEMO at No. 16 Missouri|
|Full Results||Ill: 195.850||Miz: 195.600||SEMO: 191.275|
|VT: Tucker 9.825||UB: Howell, Takekawa, Tucker 9.825||BB: Takekawa, Hu 9.900||FX: Simons, Porter 9.900||AA: Takekawa 39.350|
The Big Storyline: This meet was a freshman showcase. We saw nearly 30 routines from newcomers, not including transfers and gymnasts who missed their 2019 freshman season. Five event titles went to freshmen as well, and newcomers put up scores in the top three for each team on nearly every event. Illinois’ Mia Takekawa, Missouri’s Helen Hu and SEMO’s Dahlia Solorzano-Caruso and Molly Maxwell emerged as top performers. Beyond the new faces, this was an exciting battle in which Illinois led Missouri after each rotation, and just held off a late surge from the Tigers to secure the upset. This total bests all but four team scores from the 2019 Illinois squad.
Implications: Takekawa added her name to the list of top Big Ten all arounders with this showing; she’ll be one to watch all season. In what has been a strange first week, Missouri put a good foot forward in the SEC, and will be ranked behind only LSU in that conference. This is an absolutely stellar start for a SEMO team that struggled to put up six on each event and break 190 in 2019. The Redhawks will be thrilled with this result and the showing from their freshmen, and will look to challenge MIC Division I rival Illinois State this year.
Records: SEMO’s total is a full point higher than last year’s season best.
|No. 35 New Hampshire at Illinois State|
|Full Results||New Hampshire: 193.400||Illinois State: 189.050|
|VT: Winer, Kelley 9.750||UB: Labat 9.775||BB: Winer 9.775||FX: Winer 9.825||AA: Labat 38.850|
The Big Storyline: Due to injuries from key players Gabrielle Cooke and Mia Quigg, Illinois State struggled throughout the meet, having to count multiple falls. It wasn’t all bad for the Redbirds, however, as highly anticipated freshman Angelica Labat put up a solid meet, winning bars and the all around with a 9.775 and 38.850 respectively. While New Hampshire did not have its best day, it put up a respectable score to build on throughout the season.
Implications: Illinois State recorded the lowest total of the weekend. The Redbirds will be hoping to have Cooke and Quigg back to full strength soon or else they might be in danger of falling way behind in the MIC conference standings.
Records: New Hampshire senior Riley Freehling made her all around debut.
Controversies: Two different beams were used at this meet after the New Hampshire coaching staff was unhappy with the unevenness of the apparatus used in warmups.
|Michigan State at Western Michigan|
|Full Results||1st Team: 195.275||2nd Team: 191.850|
|VT: Smith 9.825||UB: Murphy, Mohler 9.800||BB: Douglas, 9.925||FX: Binstock, Tishkoff, Hofelich
|AA: Murphy, 39.175|
The Big Storyline: Western Michigan kicked off its season by scoring its highest debut in program history and defeating higher ranked Michigan State. The freshmen were the stars of the show, with Payton Murphy winning the all around with a score of 39.175, and Ronni Binstock and Charlotte Tishkoff tied with Michigan State sophomore Ashley Hofelich for the floor title with a score of 9.825. Also noteworthy: Michigan State senior Gabriella Douglas performed a beautiful beam routine and received 9.925 – the highest score of the day.
Implications: Often overshadowed by its conference counterparts, the Broncos proved that they should not be counted out when it comes to contending for the MAC title. If the team keeps this up, it’ll be right there with the likes of Central Michigan and Northern Illinois in March.
Records: Western Michigan came within one tenth of its program record on beam with its 49.075.
Controversies: Michigan State had a rough showing, with all but two gymnasts falling on bars. It will be looking to put this meet behind it.
|UC Davis at Sacramento State|
|Full Results||UC Davis: 191.8250||Sacramento State: 191.2750|
|UB: Weber, Johnson, Landess
The Big Storyline: The Hornets nearly pulled off an upset against the Aggies, despite the final scores not showing the full picture as there were a number of score changes to close out the meet.
Implications: UC Davis finished last season ranked 39th while an injury-plagued Sac State finished 64th. Even considering neither team is back at full strength, there looks to be a bit more parity between them this season. One thing’s for sure: This was a really exciting meet (and if you still aren’t watching MPSF, you should)!
Records: Sac State sophomore Amber Koeth earned a career high 9.825 on beam.
Controversies: There were at least five inquiries and multiple score changes (we lost track) affecting both teams. Obviously, there are always going to be kinks at the beginning of the season, but… It seemed especially pertinent in a competition this close where those tenths could have changed the outcome, not to mention how all that waiting around likely impacted the gymnasts’ performances.
READ THIS NEXT: Technique Point: Breaking Down the Yurchenko 1.5
Article by the editors of College Gym News
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