We are live, and for the very first time, on podium! Welcome to the 2022 Big 12 Championship, where No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 15 Denver, No. 26 Iowa State and No. 34 West Virginia will face off for the conference title! Tonight will be the first time Denver plays host to the Big 12 Championship after joining the conference as an affiliate member in 2016. The Pioneers also happen to be the defending champions, winning their first title in 2021 with a narrow victory over Iowa State and top-ranked Oklahoma. The victory snapped OU’s streak of eight-straight conference crowns, and the Sooners would like to start a new streak this evening.
Oklahoma enters the postseason atop the national rankings with an NQS of 198.080. The Sooners boast an average of 197.793, and have scored above the 198-mark a whopping five times in 2022. Yet by Oklahoma’s standards, there have been a few shaky moments. The Sooners dropped key meets at Utah and Florida to record two regular season losses for the first time since 2014, and the 196.650-197.775 result at Utah was the first time they’ve been beaten by over a point since 2012. OU has also counted a fall on beam in two competitions this season, an intriguing stat for its famously consistent lineup. Last year, it was out of bounds troubles on floor that caused a ninth-straight title to slip away. Don’t pretend the Sooners aren’t still the heavy favorite though. Oklahoma is ranked in the top five on every event, including a No. 1 ranking on bars. Just over two weeks ago, the bars lineup posted a school-record 49.825 en route to a 198.475-197.900 victory over Michigan. The Sooners also have a share of No. 1 on three individual events, with freshman Jordan Bowers leading vault, sophomore Audrey Davis tied for the top spot on bars and junior Ragan Smith in the lead on beam. All three were named to the recently released All-Big 12 Team, along with teammates Katherine LeVasseur, Karrie Thomas and Carly Woodard. Bowers is the likely pick for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, but classmates Danae Fletcher and Danielle Sievers have helped OU sweep the category in 2022’s weekly awards. Oklahoma is a team with countless stars, where five different gymnasts have scored a 10.000 this season. Expect that if the Sooners avoid any major catastrophes, they’ll come away with the title tonight.
The home team Denver is holding strong at No. 15 after a season that has been nothing short of devastating. With all three members of its 2021 senior class coming back, excitement was in the air for a landmark 2022. The Pioneers started strong, going as high as 197.600 back in January. Then the injuries started. Senior Lynnzee Brown, the defending Big 12 Champion on bars, floor and in the all around, went down with an Achilles injury at Oklahoma on January 30. Classmate Mia Sundstrom injured her Achilles at the Metroplex Challenge on February 19, in her first competitive floor routine since the 2019 National Final. Senior Emily Glynn injured her Achilles just two weeks ago, leaving Denver with its entire returning class on crutches and a set of circumstances that would break most programs. Don’t expect the Pioneers to give up though. DU posted a 196.800 last weekend despite only putting up five athletes on three events. Sophomores Jessica Hutchinson and Rylie Mundell led the way in the all around, both notching scores above 39.500. Hutchinson specifically has been impressive on all four events after a delayed start to her season. She doesn’t quite have enough scores for an NQS, but averages over 9.900 on beam and floor and leads the team with a 39.550 all around average. Hutchinson collected three-straight Big 12 Gymnast of the Week honors from February 15 to March 1, and could be a dark horse for the all around title tonight. She and the rest of the team will have to be all but flawless if they want to repeat, but a hit competition in the midst of unimaginable circumstances would mean everything to Denver on its home floor.
Last year, Iowa State posted a 197.050 to finish just behind Oklahoma in third place. The score was tied for its highest ever at a conference championship, and was the first 197 score under head coach Jay Ronayne. With two scores above 196.800 in the past three meets, a similar finish is definitely possible in 2022. It took the Cyclones a while to get going this season, after last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Addy De Jesus announced she wouldn’t be competing and ISU had three-straight meets counting a beam fall. Since then, it has been a story of improvement, with six scores above 196.000 and stellar performances from its event specialists. Junior Maddie Diab scored a perfect 10.000 on floor on February 25, and classmate Makayla Maxwell posted a 10.000 on vault just last week. Their efforts earned them Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week honors, and made Iowa State the only team other than Oklahoma with a perfect score in the conference. The Cyclones have the biggest roster in the competition and a ton of depth, but they will have to maintain their consistency and hope for big numbers from key performers if they want a shot at a great result.
West Virginia comes into this competition ranked No. 34, a precarious spot for the final week before the regionals cutoff. The Mountaineers will be hoping to raise their NQS with another strong score in the 196s, which they’ve posted in five straight meets. Junior Abbie Pierson is the Big 12 Gymnast of the Week after posting a career-high 39.200 in just her second all around performance in college, and senior Kendra Combs was given the same honor just a few weeks ago. Watch out for WVU on floor, where it’s ranked No. 18 nationally and has a season high of 49.525. It will be critical for the Mountaineers to take advantage of its strengths on floor, but it will likely be beam that decides its performance here. West Virginia will have to hit five clean routines if it wants to challenge for the podium, and perhaps lock itself into a regionals berth.
As with every conference championship, there are so many storylines to follow in the Big 12. Will it be domination for Oklahoma? A storybook victory for Denver? A shock from Iowa State or West Virginia? I can’t wait to find out!
Update 3/19 afternoon: With results coming in from earlier meets across the country, West Virginia has mathematically clinched a spot at regionals! Congrats to the Mountaineers!
OU with a new leo this evening.
West Virginia wearing this leo tonight.
Denver tentative lineups. Six gymnasts in each rotation is a positive sign for the Pioneers.
Rotation 1: West Virginia VT, Iowa State UB, Oklahoma BB, Denver FX
Of course the basketball game went over time. I’m having some trouble accessing the stream on the app but I’ll figure it out shortly!
Lewis (WVU): Nice Yurchenko full, just a small hop back. Sounds like every team has had a hit routine in the lead off position so far. 9.800
Yancey (WVU): Big Yurchenko full, hop back. More distance than Lewis’s but also a bigger hop. 9.800
LeVasseur (OU): Going up after two 9.875s from Dunn and Trautman. Nice full turn. Slight wobble on the bhs loso series, also some bent knees in the air. Good flexibility on the leap series. Front aerial done well. Beautiful scale. Floats the bhs to gainer full with a stick! Good routine for OU. 9.900
Mundell (DU): Following two 9.825s from Iwai and Emma Brown. Not sure of Mabanta’s score yet. I love when there are four events going on and we watch people just standing there. Guess we’re going to Woodard on beam. Sorry DU fans. Oh wait, the miracles of split screen! That was a journey. Big double pike to start, nice landing there. One and a half to front full second pass, a bit out of control but nothing crazy. Good punch Rudi final pass. Good to see her hit after that long wait. 9.800
Woodard (OU): Nice full turn to start. Side aerial bhs series, a bit of a bent back leg on the bhs. Front toss dead on. Nice scale. Perfect splits on switch leap split jump. Side aerial back full dismount stuck! 9.950
Smith (OU): Split the beam on the bhs loso series. Yikes. Looks to be okay, and now we’ll get angry beam. Slight wobble on the front aerial. Big wobble on the straddle jump half and breaks the connection to the swingdown. Nails the bhs gainer full to finish. OU will be glad to drop that score. 8.700
Thompson (DU): Glad to see her back in the lineup for Denver. That’ll be a big boost. First pass wasn’t in the stream. We see the final pass, and it’s well controlled. 9.850
Hutchinson (DU): Looking to drop a 9.650 from Mabanta. Beautiful front double full to start, maybe a tiny bit over rotated if you want to be picky. One and a half to front layout, legs glued together and a great landing. Strong leap pass with good split position. Finishes with a Rudi punch straddle jump. Beautiful routine! Denver should be able to drop Mabanta’s score and will be in second after the first rotation. 9.925!
AFTER ONE: Oklahoma 49.475, Denver 49.225, Iowa State 48.875, West Virginia 48.850
Oklahoma with almost the start it wanted on beam, just missing Smith’s typical huge score in the anchor spot. Thankfully the Sooners didn’t score below 9.875 in the other routines and is easily out in front. Denver did a strong job on floor to start the day, counting five scores of 9.8 or above. I didn’t see any of Iowa State’s routines, but Laura Cooke led them there with a 9.850. Coach Ronayne said he was hoping for a bit better landings to start the Cyclones off strong. West Virginia did its job on vault. The Mountaineers don’t have much difficulty there, but the vaults were clean and the landings were pretty well controlled. Don’t think the fact they’re in fourth place right now means they’re out of this thing.
Rotation 2: Denver VT, West Virginia UB, Iowa State BB, Oklahoma FX
Hornung (WVU): Big Yaeger to start, nails the cast handstand afterword. Strong transition and final handstand. Nails the double back dismount! 9.800
Ruiz (DU): Big Yurchenko full with too much power, takes a big step and another smaller step. Not going to be a great score. 9.725
Steinmeyer (ISU): Nice front toss. No wobble on the bhs loso series but some flexed feet in the air. Short of split position the switch leap, but no landing trouble on the switch side. Nearly sticks the one and a half dismount! 9.775
Woodard (OU): Front double twist, great control and nice height. Whip half to front full second pass, floats it. Sounds like she’s following Johnson’s 9.825 in the lead off spot. Punch front layout front full to finish, beautiful form in the air and no problem on landings. Fantastically clean routine. 9.900
Mundell (DU): Hutchinson scored a 9.850 just before her. Tries for the stick on the one and a half but takes a small step back. Should be the highest score so far. 9.850. Guess I was wrong, sort of.
Fletcher (OU): Whip to double back to start, great landing. Punch front layout front full, another strong landing. Great leaps. Finishes with a two and a half twist, great control and form in the air. OU is bringing it so far! 9.850
Bowers (OU): That double pike is absolutely ridiculous. Perfect control this time. Nails the front double full to punch front second pass. Great leaps and a perfectly controlled landing. Not sure what the judges will take on that one, although so far the floor scores have been, dare I say, normal? 9.950
Smith (OU): Big double tuck to start, close to the oob line but I don’t think she went out. Floaty one and a half front layout. Nails the double pike to finish! Great recovery for her after beam. 9.950
Sievers (OU): We’re really just watching the entire lineup, aren’t we? Do better, ESPN. Sky high tucked full-in to start. Front through to double back, perfectly controlled landing. Great, high leaps. Good routine in the anchor spot. 9.950
Rotation 2 Scores: Denver 48.975, West Virginia 49.200, Iowa State 48.850, Oklahoma 49.600
AFTER TWO: Oklahoma 99.075, Denver 98.200, West Virginia 98.050, Iowa State 97.725
Denver scratching Hebinck in the anchor spot after five strong routines on vault, sitting in second place after two on the way to a nice score. Hutchinson looking solid in the all around, and with Davis not in OU’s floor lineup, she’s definitely the frontrunner now. Oklahoma was fantastic on floor with three straight 9.950s, absolutely postseason ready. Which is good, since I guess it’s the postseason now. Iowa State was able to drop Boychuk’s fall on beam, but hasn’t been able to go above 49 yet today and it’s showing in the results. West Virginia did a great job on bars, highlighted by a 9.900 from Combs and the return of star freshman Anna Leigh with a 9.775. If the Mountaineers hit beam, they could definitely be in the running for second place.
Rotation 3: Oklahoma VT, Denver UB, West Virginia BB, Iowa State FX
Handono (WVU): Front toss to beat jump, a small pause but she should still get connection. Short of splits on both leaps but no wobbles. Side aerial to tucked full, nearly stuck. Great leadoff for the Mountaineers. 9.825
Stern (OU): One and a half with a HUGE hop forward. Should still be a decent score, but not the landing the Sooners were looking for. 9.775
Pierson (WVU): Wobble on the full turn to start. Standing front to bhs series, should get connection for that. Nice leaps. Standing loso back full, huge height and a stuck landing! 9.875!
Bowers (OU): Following LeVasseur’s 9.900. Big one and a half with a large hop forward. 9.825
Hornung (WVU): Nice wolf turn to start. Balance check on the front aerial and has to repeat if for her series, dead on the second time. Short of split position on the leaps. Sticks the one and a half dismount! West Virginia doing great so far! 9.850
Trautman (OU): Nails the one and a half! 9.975
Combs (WVU): Fall on the front aerial to back tuck combo. I shouldn’t have gotten excited. Nice full turn. Perfect front toss to beat jump. Punch front full off the end. Nice recovery.
Denver is killing it on bars, but I guess we don’t get to see it. Three 9.9s and no score below 9.850. Mundell led them with a 9.950.
Hutchinson (DU): They must have heard me. Great Maloney transition. Nails the double layout. 9.925
Holmes-Hackered (WVU): Front aerial to back tuck, tiny wobble but great connection after Combs fell on the same series. Good leap series. Wobble on the full turn. Gainer full off the side, sticks it! Back on track! 9.875
Orrego (ISU): Pikes down on the double layout and under rotated, knees buckle and she stumbles forward. The Cyclones already have an 8.975, so this will have to count most likely. Great leap pass after a solid second pass. Fantastic double pike to finish! It’s a shame about that first landing. 9.650
Asper (WVU): Looking to drop Combs’s 9.200. Nails the triple series, although she was pretty low to the beam. Slight wobble on the leap. Sticks the one and a half! Mountaineers are still in it! 9.875
Diab (ISU): Huge front double punch front layout. She has so much extra power there and great form. Huge amplitude on the leap pass and great split positions. One and a half to front layout to stag jump, perfectly controlled. Floats the Rudi punch loso last pass. Absolutely fantastic routine. Should be equal to any of OU’s, but we’ll see what the judges do. It’s a 9.950!
Rotation 3 Scores: Oklahoma 49.475, Denver 49.500, West Virginia 49.275, Iowa State 49.150
AFTER THREE: Oklahoma 148.550, Denver 147.700, West Virginia 147.325, Iowa State 146.875
West Virginia with a wonderful beam rotation aside from the dropped fall, I expected the Mountaineers to be closer to second but Denver absolutely rocked on bars. 9.900 from Hebinck in addition to the 9.925 from Hutchinson and 9.950 from Mundell. Right now it’s those two for the all around, so we’ll see how beam goes. Oklahoma gave away quite a bit on landings in the first half of vault, but Trautman hit her best vault since last year’s NCAA final to prove she’s still very capable of going 10.000. Iowa State had to count a 9.650 on floor, but Maldonado went 9.900 before Diab’s meet-high (so far) 9.950 to give the Cyclones a boost. Denver will look to secure second place with a good beam rotation, while West Virginia and Oklahoma will move to their best events. Should be a great final rotation!
Rotation 4: Iowa State VT, Oklahoma UB, Denver BB, West Virginia FX
Ruiz (DU): Nice switch side to start. Bhs loso series, some bent knees in the air but not much of a wobble. Great side aerial to split jump. Gainer pike off the end with a small hop back. Solid start, and that was (likely) her last routine in Magness Arena. 9.875
LeVasseur (OU): Perfect handstand to start, nice Tkatchev and bail handstand. Slightly short of handstand on the bail. Sounds like Sievers had a 9.900 in the leadoff spot. Stick straight double layout with a stuck landing! Great to see her do so well after she had a somewhat scary fall last week. 9.925
Iwai (DU): Following a 9.900 from Mabanta. Great switch leap split jump to start. No question of split position there. Nails the bhs loso loso series! Great leg form on the side aerial and no wobble. A bit off on the cartwheel gainer full so the full is lower than normal, but just has a tiny hop. 9.950!
Bowers (OU): Smith just put up a 9.950 before her. OU with nothing less than 9.900 so far. Perfect handstand to start, nails the Ray and cast handstand after. Pak salto with a pirouette right on top of the bar. Nails the final handstand. Perfect form on the half in half out dismount, just the tiny step! Absolutely flawless on the bar. 9.925
Hutchinson (DU): Front toss to bhs series, great control. Looks like she’s following a fall from Thompson. Nice leaps. Slight wobble on the piked front toss. Perfect full turn. Nearly sticks the cartwheel gainer full! 9.925
Maxwell (ISU): Sticks the one and a half again! Leg separation onto the table and a bit low, but great vault. 9.950
Mundell (DU): Great bhs loso, just floats on that. Nice full turn. Strong switch leap switch half. Hop forward (or maybe two) on the one and a half dismount, but a hit routine! That should be good enough for second place. A truly gritty performance from this depleted squad. 9.800
Yancey (WVU): Good switch ring to tour jete half. Rudi to double stag jump hit well. Sky high double tuck to finish, a bit off balance on landing but stays in bounds I think. 9.850
Combs (WVU): Front through to double pike, fantastic form and landing. Great leap pass. Chest slightly down on the double back and bounces out of it. Should still be a good score and an easy second place for West Virginia.
Rotation 4 Scores: 49.225, Oklahoma 49.650, Denver 49.550, West Virginia 49.325
FINAL RESULTS: Oklahoma 198.200, Denver 197.250, West Virginia 196.650, Iowa State 196.100
Well, OU didn’t leave much doubt there. The Sooners were absolutely fantastic today, even giving away a few tenths on vault landings. Their 198.200 is the highest score in Big 12 Championships history. Denver with its second-highest score of the season, a truly remarkable achievement given all that’s happened. A 49.550 on beam to end the day is no laughing matter, especially with the fall from Thompson. Look out for them to be a dangerous No. 4 seed at regionals. Special shout out to freshman Momoko Iwai, with a career high 9.950 to tie for the beam title! West Virginia also with a season high. The Mountaineers will be proud of that beam rotation and will hope to replicate that at regionals. Iowa State battled back from some early mistakes to go above 196. The Cyclones have a ton of potential, and thankfully, they have another chance to show it in the postseason.
VT: Trautman (OU) 9.975
UB: Mundell (DU), Smith (OU), Thomas (OU) 9.950
BB: Iwai (DU), Woodard (OU): 9.950
FX: Diab (ISU), Bowers (OU), Smith (OU), Sievers (OU) 9.950
AA: Hutchinson (DU) 39.625
Gymnast of the Year: Jessica Hutchinson, Denver
Event Specialist of the Year: Carly Woodard, Oklahoma
Newcomer of the Year: Jordan Bowers, Oklahoma
Coach of the Year: K.J. Kindler, Oklahoma
Ryan’s Stories of the Night
Oklahoma is actually looking like the No. 1 team right about now. The Sooners’ bars work is second to none, and they’re so solid on every other event. It will be very hard for anyone to take them down in April. What can you say about Denver though? I personally would have thrown in the towel and booked a trip to Hawaii, but here the Pioneers are hitting season highs. The freshmen and sophomores stepped up big tonight, and it was a joy to watch. West Virginia left no doubt it deserves its regionals spot, and Iowa State’s individual stars continue to shine. The Big 12 has come a long way, and with BYU joining soon, this meet will continue to be a highlight of the postseason.
So long for now!
READ THIS NEXT: Bubble Watch: March 16
Live blog by Ryan Wichtendahl
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