8 Pioneers of NCAA Gymnastics

From Greg Marsden to Courtney Kupets, NCAA gymnastics has had its fair share of superstars. Beyond the titles and rankings, there are a few gymnasts who stick out as trailblazers for college gymnastics. These eight gymnasts elevated the level of the sport and changed the way it’s viewed by those in and out of the sport.

Lucy Wener

Wener received the first 10.0 in collegiate gymnastics and was Georgia’s first individual champion, helping the team earn its first national title. Her bar routine, which featured back-to-back release moves, inspired a new level in the sport.

Missy Marlowe

Marlowe was an olympian, a fact in and of itself that brought more viewers to NCAA gymnastics. And during her career, she became one of the first major stars of the era. She received a 10.0 on each event during the course career and was an All-American all four seasons, bringing a new level of all-around excellence to the NCAA.

Karen Lichey

Lichey is well known to most NCAA gymnastics fans as the first and only person to ever score a perfect 40 in the all around. Lichey reached the elusive mark in her freshman year, and went on to lead Georgia to two national championships and collect 11 All-America awards during her college career. She proved that it was possible to be perfect on all four events and dazzled audiences with her power and grace on all four, bringing in new fans and setting a new standard of excellence for the sport.

Mohini Bhardwaj

Before Bhardwaj, NCAA gymnastics was viewed as an ending point where elite gymnasts could compete easier routines and give their bodies a rest as their careers came to an end. But not only was Bhardwaj able to go back to elite after her NCAA career, she was able to compete at a high enough level to make the 2004 Olympic team. That alone gave NCAA gymnastics more credibility. But she was no slouch in her NCAA career either. Bhardwaj was part of a record-setting, ridiculously talented UCLA team and had an amazing four years as a Bruin, competing crazy skills to further up the level of difficulty being done in college.

Jamie Dantzcher

Another Bruin in the early 2000s, Dantzcher joined the team after the Sydney Olympics and, in her freshman season, set new all around, floor and bars records for UCLA, wowing the crowd with her high double layout. She received an unbelievable 28 perfect 10s over her career and helped lead UCLA to three national championships, making UCLA the powerhouse it is today.

Jenny Hansen

Hansen won three consecutive all around titles, eight total individual titles and nine individual SEC titles throughout her time at Kentucky. And during her career, she made every gymnast and coach around the NCAA up their game to compete with her. Hansen was a true all-around gymnast and competed huge skills on all four events, such as a full-twisting double back on floor and a punch front mount and two-layout stepout series on beam. She also competed for a team that was not a title contender, proving to other top gymnasts that they could be successful even on a team that had not won a national championship.

Courtney Kupets

A two time elite national champion and Olympic silver and bronze medalist, Kupets’ name alone brought new fans to watch NCAA gymnastics. She dominated the sport for three years (she was sidelined her junior season due to a torn Achilles), leading the Gymdogs to four consecutive team titles and helping turn Georgia gymnastics into a true dynasty that may never be matched again. Along with helping the team, Kupets picked up three individual all around titles and gathered a record nine individual national titles

Mykayla Skinner

While only having one collegiate season under her belt, Skinner has brought a new level of difficulty to the sport. With skills like a double-twisting double on floor and a double-twisting Yurchenko on vault, Skinner has raised the level of gymnastics in college to new heights, causing others around her to strive to match her level of difficulty.

Article By Jess Stephans


  1. Excellent info. I’ve been around the gymnastics world for about 10 years now due to my daughter being a gymnast.
    She’s level 9 now. I’m always reading up and learning everything I can about the sport.

    Great article!

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