LIVE BLOG: Cancun Classic with No. 9 Michigan, No. 28 Iowa State, No. 35 West Virginia and Rutgers

Cancun is back, season is back, live blogs are back! Happy Friday, everyone! For those of you who, like me, live in cold places, let’s take a moment and think about the warm, sunny sandy beaches these four teams get to enjoy while in Mexico. Ahhh, OK, now we’re all mentally there. Grab your fancy drink in a coconut, and let’s go.

This meet is fascinating. We’re getting our first competition look at not only Michigan’s new, highly regarded freshman class but also a healthy Olivia Karas. Will Natalie Wojcik soar to the all around title? Will Karas be back on floor, which she did not compete at the exhibition in December? Will Abby Heiskell be healthy enough to appear at least on bars? I’m ready for those questions to be answered.

Iowa State and West Virginia have a lot going on as well. The Cyclones graduated an important class, headlined by Haylee Young, but bring in an enormous and international-heavy freshman cohort—featuring England’s Phoebe Turner, Spain’s Ana Palacios and Canada’s Meixi Semple—among a crop of U.S. talent as well. For the Mountaineers, Cancun is about the beginning of Kirah Koshinski’s final season, as well as the debut of freshman Esperanza Abarca, who joined the team this month from WOGA.

Don’t count Rutgers out of this meet. We’ve seen fairly little of the Scarlet Knights during preseason, almost as though new head coach Umme Salim-Beasley is intentionally keeping the team’s progress under wraps. We do know Rachel Ley is competing a Gebeshian (hecht full) mount on bars and that the four freshmen are poised to have a big effect. It could be a huge year for this team, and it starts today.

Leos are rolling in!

Notes: Syd Townsend (Michigan) is still presumed suspended and is not expected to travel with the team. Olivia Karas (Michigan) and Abby Heiskell (Michigan) are both recovering from Achilles injuries suffered last season. 

Notable here is Heiskell on vault and O’Hara on bars and beam; it will be the junior’s first competition routine on bars!

Note: there is no live scoring for this meet, but I’ll do my best to keep you up to date based on what Flo includes!

Nevermind about Heiskell! She will be replaced by Lexi Funk—who, it needs to be said, is a highly underrated gymnast and has been a rock for Michigan throughout her career.

Is everyone listening to this Flo intro music with me while we wait? It’s something.

Rotation 1: RU vault, WVU bars, ISU beam, UM floor

We’re starting now! Georgia alum Brittany Rogers is explaining the new postseason format while the gymnasts march in.

Karas (UM): She’s BACK! Gainer layout + beat, steady. Switch split jump + pike, great amplitude. Bhs loso, she falls! Not the start she or UM wanted. Gainer pike off the end stuck. Well, happy January.

Caught a nice FTY from Rutgers.

Diaz (ISU): Coming in mid-routine. Double pike, big bounce out to end.

Osman (UM): Bhs loso, just front foot up. Off on her front tuck, counting a fall. Split + wolf 1/1, very good positions. Gainer full small step.

Kaufmann (WVU): Shy first handstand, clear hip to Tkatchev, bail hand just a bit sloppy but good handstand. Dlo, sloppy and a big step forward.

Langkap (ISU): Whip + double back, great landing. Front lay + barani + straddle, nice, some foot form in the air. Tour jete half + split full, not quite full split.

Huang (RU): FTY, chest down on landing.

Williams (RU): Nice FTY, hop back. Good height.

Marler (WVU): Pike Jaeger, nice, bail, good body position. Short last handstand. DLO, puts her knees down.

O’Hara (UM): Lots of pressure after two falls. She’s very graceful in her dance. Side aerial + bhs, completely solid. Split + double stag, good. She’s SOLID on these landings. Side aerial + 3/2, stuck! Great set.

Tun (WVU): Feed froze! Got her LOVELY DLO, step back.

Hall (RU): FTY, hip angle and a hop forward.

Farley (UM): Bhs loso loso solid. Switch + split, nice 180s.

Koshinski (WVU): Put her feet down on her Pak.

Ros Vaquer (ISU): 5/2, puts her hand down. She opened with a nice combo pass before that. Pretty 2/1 to end.

Atienza (RU): Tsuk 1/1 step forward. Might have been exhibition?

Funk (UM): Bhs loso, step to the side but on. Switch side 1/4, gorgeous, my fave leap and she does it so well. Beat + popa, lovely. Quick rhythm in this set. Side aerial 1/1, stuck. Nice!

Russ (ISU): Oo dramatic opening I love it. She really pulls you in. Double pike, high and a good landing. Tour jete 1/2 + Popa + split 1/1, high and good positions. FHS front 1/1 front pike, good control, not great amplitude on the pike. HUGE double tuck, chest a touch low. Excellent set.

McLean (UM, exhibition): Bhs loso excellent extension, good landing. Cat + switch side, good. Split + loso, solid. RO + 3/2, hop forward. Very nice for her.

We got scores at a flurry at the end of the rotation and I missed them! Michigan will be happy with the way it recovered from two falls, but that’s not the ideal first two sets of the season. Iowa State is fun on floor, and looked strong. Rutgers will be very happy with that start; bounds ahead of where it was this time last year. West Virginia had some tough spots, but has a lot of potential to build from there. Notably, we saw Koshinski, which means she’s likely in the all around!

Rotation 2: ISU vault, RU bars, WVU beam, UM floor

Farley (UM): Double pike, stuck? Looked like it. Switch + switch 1/2, nice. Whip 1/2 front 1/1, sketchy on the half landing so the full was a bit wild, but stayed on her feet. 3/2 front lay, stag, again, messy in the air. That was okay, but not as tidy as she can be.

Ros Vaquer (ISU): FTY, tried to stick but had to hop forward, some hip angle in the air.

Osman (UM): Big double tuck, bounces out backward. Switch side Popa, strong straddle positions. Some of the better UM choreo out there. 3/2 punch layout, pulled it a bit short, but stayed on her feet. Double pike, good landing. Good set.

Ley (RU): SHE HIT THE GEBESHIAN! I was so excited I missed what happened next, but she did fall. Nuts. Finishes with a pretty DLO, but underrotates and hands down.

Funk (UM): Missed the first pass, then front 1/1 punch front, little wild in the punch. Switch side Popa, good. Double tuck, short, big bound forward.

Steinmeier (ISU): Y1.5, nice body position, near stick. Maybe a small step.

Koshinski (WVU): Her fun handstand mount. Bhs loso, small wobble and some back knee form. Beat + split + split 3/4. Missed a foot on side aerial + 1/1, but saved it! Low chest.

Wojcik (UM): Opened with a big double pike. Missed some of the middle. FHS front 1/1 + straddle to close, nice amplitude.

MASSIVE FHS PIKE HALF FROM ISU! I think it was Sievers.

Fontaine (WVU): BHS loso solid but knees. Side aerial + sissone, nice. Switch + split, great positions. Cartwheel gainer 3/2! Unique! Love it.

Brenner (UM): 5/2 + front lay, really nice in the air, little low on the lay. 3/2 through to 2/1 phew that’s a lot of twisting! Very nice. Switch side + Popa, got the rotation. Double pike, little deep landing, but no steps. That’s a fun set.

Amoresano (RU): Clear hip hand to Geinger, falls. Finishes with a stuck double Arabian!

McLean (UM): Gigantic double tuck, does move the front foot on the landing, though. Front lay + front 1/1, nice. Tour jete 1/2 + popa huge splits. Double pike, excellent landing. The routine you expect from her.

Farrell (RU): Maloney, good, pak, nice catch! Missed feet on a squat on, recovered, low last handstand, late release on her double tuck, really close to the bar, but gets it to her feet.

Littlejohn (RU, exhibition): Maloney, messy, but gets it, bail. Shy last handstand, blind, and she’s off. Pretty wild form throughout. Double tuck.

That was rough for Rutgers. Lots of early season mistakes showing. Michigan recovered well on floor, and didn’t show any endurance issues. Didn’t get too much of West Virginia on beam, but what we saw was very tidy, and Iowa State has some very big and clean vaults.

Rotation 3: UM vault, ISU bars, RU beam, WVU floor

Johnson (ISU): Geigner, nice catch, bail good, FTDB, couldn’t see her feet on the landing.

Funk (UM): FTY, usual for her, nice. Stuck, I think.

Osman (UM): BIG FTY, small hop and low chest, strong in the air.

Diaz (ISU): Hect mount, Nice first handstand blind + straddle Jaeger, good, bail shy of handstand. Dlo, hangs in the air a second, but stuck the landing.

McLean (UM): FTY, HUGE distance, flared, stuck. Stellar.

Burns (ISU): Big Ray, crumples on her bail hand. Nice DLO.

Brenner (UM): Y1.5, small hop to the side.

Wojcik (UM): Y 1.5 stuck cold. Oh mannnn guys. 9.975. Yup.

Not ignoring WVU and RU! Just only getting tiny pieces of routines!

Ros Vaquer (ISU): Shap to pak, nice catch positions. Short last handstand, piked some, DLO, hands down.

Kaufman (WVU): Double pike, low chest but good otherwise. front 1/1 front pike, nice. Tour jete 1/2 + popa, nice splits. High double tuck to close, steps forward, some cowboy in the second flip.

Tun (WVU): Full in HUGE and stuck! Wow. Whip to 2/1, very nice. FHS rudi, stuck. This is a stellar set.

Rizkalla (RU): Cat to switch side, nice. Front 1/1 dismount, medium hop.

Koshinski (WVU): DLO, massive, controlled landing. Performing the way you expect. Tour jete 1/2 Popa Sush, nice, good amplitude. 3/2 + front lay, so controlled. Best landings all night so far. This is a really fun routine. Huge double pike, no movement on the front foot. She should get that 10 this year.

Huang (RU): Beat + split 3/4, nice. RO 2/1, step back.

Littlejohn (RU, exhibition): Fun mount with a back walkover on her head! Bhs loso solid. Split + straddle 3/4, comes off the beam. Side aerial + tuck 1/1, sloppy in the air and a step forward.

Natalie Wojcik is proving to be the queen we expected her to be. West Virginia had a stellar end to that rotation, and very exciting. Rutgers and Iowa State had some mistakes, but keep in mind that it is January! No one should be panicking yet.

Rotation 4: WVU vault, UM bars, ISU beam, RU floor

Mariani (UM): Tkatchev, nice. Bail hand, loose back. Good last handstand. Full-in, small hop. Good start!

Betancourt (RU): Welp we panned away from her to watch Michigan stand around. Good! good. Nice front lay barani, closes with a double pike, legs a bit wild, but a solid landing.

Tun (WVU): FTY, deep knees but a stick! Good distance.

Sievers (ISU): Front toss + beat, steady. Bhs loso knees in the bhs but no wobbles. Switch + split 1/4, nice. RO 3/2 hops forward a bit.

Huang (RU): Front 1/1 punch lay punch front, crunched the tuck a bit to stay in, but good landing.

Farley (UM): Blind + pike Jaeger, good. Bail hand nice. Good handstands. Blind + double front hops back.

Orrego (ISU): Bhs loso, great! Tiny bobble on full turn, covered it well and danced out. Cat + side aerial, good. Switch + switch LOVE. Front 1/1 hop to the side. Overall a great routine.

Brenner (UM): Sticks her DLO cold.

Some judging drama is happening on floor. Both judges in the middle, chatting.

Russ (ISU): Bhs loso, good extension but she falls. Switch + split, very nice oversplit. Split + straddle 1/2, dropped her shoulder a touch. Cat + side aerial + 1/1, holds the stick.

Michigan chanting 10 for Wojcik’s bars.

Funk (UM, exhibition?): Blind full + huge Tkatchev. Messy bail. Little arch on the last handstand, small hop on DLO.

Diaz (ISU): Split + split 1/2, drops her shoulder but keeps feet still. Bhs loso, Biiiiiig wobble but saves it, small wobble on full turn. She’s just very tight and nervy. Cat + side arial + 1/1, small hop.

Waiting for beam and floor. La la la.

Woolfolk (ISU): Bhs loso, solid. Split + split 3/4, low chest, small check. Maybe .15. Cat _ side aerial, and she’s off. RO 3/2, tries for the stick underrotates and sits it.

Wojcik owns us all now. Hail to the queen.

Burns (ISU, exhibition?): Bhs loso knees and a small wobble. Straddle + split 1/2, nice. Cat + side aerial, medium wobble, drops her chest. RO 3/2, step back. Good saves in that set.

Huang (RU): I DO NOT KNOW who went earlier then I’m so sorry Rutgers forgive me. FHS rudi, nice. Ends a touch before her music I think? Unless my audio is off, which, possible.

Rizkalla (RU): FLO. we’re watching an empty beam instead of this set????? Come on. FHS front 1/1 punch front. Yeah! The song. The Usher song. Oh man, hi 2005. Switch side + popa + straight 1/1, really nice. FHS rudi little shy, steps a bit to the side.

And that’s all we have!

Rutgers has work to do for sure. Iowa State also had some misses and some nerves, but, again, it’s January! Plenty of time. Michigan recovered well from the two opening falls, and looked strong on the other three. West Virginia is very explosive, and with cleaning some details, will be a competitive team.

Waiting on final scores…

Rutgers finished with a 189.75 BUT FOR DRAMA:

Live blog by Emily Minehart

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