2019 Ann Arbor Regional Preview

It’s finally that time of the year! We know where each of the top 36 teams in the country will travel to compete for a chance at advancing to nationals. In the days leading up to the championships, we’ll preview and analyze each of the four regionals, discussing which teams have a chance of moving on each day and which individuals could qualify as well.

First up is the Ann Arbor regional. Thursday will feature No. 29 Illinois and No. 30 Central Michigan in round one. Friday we jump into round two action with No. 7 Michigan, No. 10 Alabama, No. 23 Penn State and No. 26 Ohio State competing in the afternoon session and No. 2 UCLA, No. 15 Nebraska, No. 27 West Virginia and the winner of round one in the evening session. Two teams from each of these Friday competitions will advance to round three on Saturday where the top two from that meet make it to nationals.

There’s also individuals that will compete on Friday in both of the round two meets. Simply put, the top all arounder and event specialists qualify. To determine those gymnasts, combine Friday’s individual event and all around results, wait until Saturday’s meet concludes, take out all the gymnasts from the two qualifying teams and take the top individual on each event and in the all around.

Easy enough, right?

For a more in-depth explanation, including how the tie-breaking procedure works, how the whole format is structured and even how judges are selected, check out our NCAA postseason format explainer.

Finally, don’t forget to enter your postseason predictions in the 2019 bracket challenge! The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. ET. Once you enter, you can follow your progress here.

Round One

Date: Thursday, April 4 at 3 p.m. ET

How to Watch: FloGymnastics.com ($)

Teams: No. 29 Illinois and No. 30 Central Michigan

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 29 Illinois 195.805 195.160 196.650 Vault
No. 30 Central Michigan 195.735 195.096 196.250 Bars


Well, the Illini and Chippewas really drew the short straw here. The two highest-seeded of the round one teams going head-to-head? It’s brutal. They’re so evenly matched! Illinois started the season quite slowly and has been dealt some tough injury blows. That said, newcomers stepped up, and the team found some last-minute consistency. The Illini ended the regular season on a high note, finishing second at the Big Ten championship with a season high.

Central Michigan has been more consistent all year but is coming off a tough second-place finish at the MAC championship after being upset by Northern Illinois. The Chippewas are consistent across all four events while Illinois struggles on vault but comes in at No. 17 on beam. The key for Illinois is to survive vault with a respectable total and eliminate falls. For Central Michigan, the focus will be competing normally and steadily on all four.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

If both teams put up their best meet, Illinois has a slight edge. Look at those NQS and average totals; it really is slight. The ceiling for the Illini is a bit higher, due in part to Mary Jane Otto’s scoring potential on bars and beam. Central Michigan has a threat of its own in Denelle Pedrick, especially on vault; if the Chippewas get the win, she will need to be on her A-game. Any way you look at it, this one should be an absolute thriller that comes down to the final landing.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Illinois sixth year Mary Jane Otto has been on fire on bars; she is coming off of a 9.950 and 9.975 in the last two weeks and hasn’t scored below a 9.850 since early February. Her Maloney, Pak, van Leeuwen set is must-watch. Kylie Noonan has become a bit of a floor star for the Illini, with five 9.900-plus totals to her name this year; keep an eye out for her death drop. For Central Michigan, Denelle Pedrick’s double twisting Yurchenko and stellar triple twist on floor are crucial sets, and Gianna Plaksa’s bars routine features a fantastic toe point that elevates her gymnastics.

Round Two

Session One

Date: Friday, April 5 at 2 p.m. ET

How to Watch: FloGymnastics.com ($)

Teams: No. 7 Michigan, No. 10 Alabama, No. 23 Penn State and No. 26 Ohio State

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 7 Michigan 197.320 196.824 197.750 Vault
No. 10 Alabama 196.990 196.658 197.350 Beam
No. 23 Penn State 196.070 195.594 196.775 Floor
No. 26 Ohio State 195.990 195.519 196.850 Bars


Michigan is the absolute favorite here with six 197-plus totals so far, home field (gym?) advantage and a significantly higher ceiling than Alabama. The Crimson Tide was stuck in the high-196 range for a good portion of the season but has three consecutive, increasing 197s in the past three weeks with its season high coming at SECs. For Ohio State, this has been a frustrating year. The Buckeyes came out of the gates very strong, but injuries and lack of consistency held them out of the top 25. They haven’t hit 196 away since January. Penn State, on the other hand, has been quietly cruising, with a nice surge to end the regular season on a high note of a string of 196s.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

Not a single team here is a guarantee. Michigan not advancing would be a massive upset, but this is the Wolverines in the postseason after all; they’ve been known to miss when it counts. This 2019, squad though, hasn’t scored below a 196.800 since the first weekend of February. Alabama is also likely to move on but is more vulnerable simply by virtue of its lower ceiling. That said, the Crimson Tide hasn’t fallen below a 196 since week one and regularly sits in the very high 196-range. For the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions to pull off an upset, they would need to be on season-high pace. That means eliminating even the smallest landing errors and form issues. One unknown remains Ohio State’s Jamie Stone. She had a bad fall on floor during week 11 and did not compete in the conference championship; she was taped up though, so it’s possible she was being rested. Her presence could make all the difference for the Buckeyes. Per the Big Ten broadcast, she has a high ankle sprain.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Michigan’s Natalie Wojcik is the only gymnast in this session with a perfect 10 in 2019; her vault can be impeccable, and she’s excellent on bars and beam as well. Olivia Karas is also having a strong senior season and has been a force on floor especially. Keep an eye on Shallon Olson on vault; she has been performing a Yurchenko double but has a variety of 10.0 vaults to choose from. Ariana Guerra’s three pieces are both impressive and important; don’t miss her on vault, bars and floor. She has put up 9.950s on all three. Lauren Bridgens is capable of a Yurchenko one and a half for the Nittany Lions and performs it occasionally; look to see if she throws it here, plus don’t miss her clean bars, which notched her a 10.0 last year. Tess McCracken and Jessie Bastardi are key on beam for Penn State and have fluid, graceful gymnastics capable of big numbers. Ohio State’s Claire Gagliardi has a spectacular bar set, featuring the only Ezhova in NCAA competition, and if she’s in the lineup, her floor set is extraordinarily well-performed. If her ankle is healthy enough for floor, Jamie Stone is stellar there as well, with a gorgeous two and a half twist.

All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Emili Dobronics, Eastern Michigan (w/ Ohio State) Riley Mahoney, UIC (w/ Michigan) Dara Williams, Kent State (w/ Penn State) Emerson Hurst, Towson (w/ Alabama) Alisa Sheremeta, UIC (w/ Penn State)
Allie Smith, Eastern Michigan (w/ Alabama) Mia Lord, Northern Illinois (w/ Penn State)
Kasey Meeks, Illinois (w/ Penn State) Mary Elle Arduino, Towson (w/ Michigan)

*Note: Individuals from both round one teams are included in the individual draw to account for one team being eliminated after Thursday’s competition. The spots from the individuals on the advancing team will not be filled.

Individuals to Keep an Eye on

UIC’s Alisa Sheremeta has put up three 9.900s on floor; a clean set here could mean she advances. All three beam performers can also score big numbers; watch especially for Emerson Hurst, whose 9.925 beam total from early March is certainly a competitive number. Allie Smith is one to watch on vault; she performs a tucked one and a half-twisting Yurchenko that is stickable; if she does stick and the top of the field doesn’t, she could very well advance.

Session Two

Date: Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m. ET

How to Watch: FloGymnastics.com ($)

Teams: No. 2 UCLA, No. 15 Nebraska, No. 27 West Virginia and the Winner of Round One

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 2 UCLA 198.115 197.808 198.400 Vault
No. 15 Nebraska 196.650 196.250 197.675 Beam
No. 27 West Virginia 195.845 195.473 196.425 Floor
No. 29 Illinois OR No. 30 Central Michigan Bars


UCLA has casually put up the two highest totals of 2019 in recent weeks. No other team in this session will touch 198, so the Bruins should feel very comfortable; their low score of the year is a 197.225, which only Nebraska has reached, and even then, the Huskers only bested it twice. Nebraska has been a perplexing team all season, with some stellar performances, some 195 outings that were just fine and a sprinkle of a 194 disaster meet. Which Nebraska squad will show up is anyone’s guess.

West Virginia* comes to Ann Arbor after an up-and-down season that never quite found its footing. Every 196 was followed by a low-195. It gets a significant number of routines from freshmen, so it will be interesting to see how the young squad handles the postseason.

*Fun fact: West Virginia is Michigan head coach Bev Plocki’s alma mater. Plocki was inducted into the Mountaineer’s athletics hall of fame this year.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

Barring complete and utter disaster, UCLA will advance. Nothing else is certain. Nebraska is capable of very big scores but also had a number of lackluster performances this year. The Huskers always seem to find a way into nationals, but this year is very up in the air. Is Taylor Houchin healthy enough to compete floor? Is Kynsee Roby, who has been teasing bar routines on social media, going to slip into the bars lineup? Will Nebraska survive vault without counting a fall? If your head hurts thinking about it, same. That uncertainty makes for a big opening for West Virginia, or even Illinois or Central Michigan. All three teams are tightly packed. Illinois is fresh off of an upset of Nebraska at Big Tens and has a higher ceiling than the Mountaineers. This should be one of the more exciting round two competitions of the day because truly any team could advance with UCLA depending on Nebraska’s day.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

You know the UCLA routines, so we won’t go into detail there; suffice to say that we expect Kyla Ross’ dominant season to continue, and the entire floor rotation is must-watch gymnastics. For Nebraska, Taylor Houchin’s clean bar set has an incredibly satisfying rhythm, and she and Sienna Crouse have very strong Yurchenko one and a halfs that could win the event if they’re stuck. Kirah Koshinski is another important vault, and she and Jackie Tun have exceptional floor work.

All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Mary Jane Otto, Illinois (w/ Central Michigan) Kayla Baddeley, UIC (w/ Nebraska) Cortney Bezold, Eastern Michigan (w/ Illinois or Central Michigan) Shaylah Scott, Illinois (w/ Nebraska) Kylie Noonan, Illinois (w/ West Virginia)
Karen Howell, Illinois (w/ West Virginia) Serena Baker, UIC (w/ UCLA) Abby Fletcher, Kent State (w/ Nebraska)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan (w/ West Virginia) Gianna Plaksa, Central Michigan (w/ Nebraska) Anna Martucci, Northern Illinois (w/ UCLA)

*Note: Individuals from both round one teams are included in the individual draw to account for one team being eliminated after Thursday’s competition. The spots from the individuals on the advancing team will not be filled.

Individuals to Keep an Eye on

If Illinois does not advance as a team, Mary Jane Otto is a likely candidate to qualify on bars and/or beam, or possibly the all around if she has a strong power event day. Denelle Pedrick’s Yurchenko double is a very competitive vault, and her clean triple twist make her a floor threat as well. Anna Martucci’s floor set is also stellar and could advance.

Round Three

Date: Saturday, April 6 at 7 p.m. ET

How to Watch: FloGymnastics.com ($)

Teams: top two teams from each Friday session

Starting Event Team
Vault Session 2, Team 2
Bars Session 1, Team 2
Beam Session 2, Team 1
Floor Session 1, Team 1

The Bottom Line

If round two goes as we expect, we’ll see UCLA, Michigan, Alabama and Nebraska here. Only two of those four goes to nationals. Alabama has missed nationals once ever. Michigan and Nebraska make regular appearances. No matter which teams qualify, this will be a heartbreaker. UCLA is going to Fort Worth unless something truly unpredictable happens. Michigan is the favorite for that second spot, but keep in mind that the last time Michigan hosted a regional, in 2016, it missed nationals, and when it saw Alabama at the Tuscaloosa regional last year, it also missed. The Wolverines need to stay focused and hit details to fend off the Crimson Tide. When Michigan unexpectedly loses in the postseason, it is rarely a disaster meet; the Wolverines are much more likely to be edged out by tenths. Every landing will count. For Alabama, this is going to be about redemption for being in the early session of SECs yet finishing third and for missing the Super Six last year. The team will know that Michigan is beatable and will have the Wolverines in its sights. Nebraska is the real wildcard if it makes it this far. The Huskers always seems to sneak into nationals when we don’t expect it; never count them out.

READ THIS NEXT: The New Postseason Format, Explained

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Article by Emily Minehart

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