Live Blog: Norman Regional Final

Featuring: No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 California, No. 18 Arkansas

It’s regional final time! Two bids to nationals are on the line here in Norman, Oklahoma, with the top two teams from each of Thursday’s round two sessions vying for those sacred spots. With no individual gymnasts competing and no scores carrying over from any previous competitions, everything hinges on tonight’s results.

Oklahoma will enjoy an “easy” path to nationals, posting the top team total of any program in any regional on Thursday to nab great momentum and also have the huge added benefit of competing in front of a home crowd. The Sooners haven’t placed lower than third at nationals for a decade, and I don’t expect today’s results to change that course they seem to be on once again. For Oklahoma, today will be about finalizing lineups heading for nationals in a few weeks and making sure it has at least an “average” day (by Sooner standards) to earn that spot.

Minnesota was able to advance to the regional final, as expected, but posted a score on Thursday that raised some eyebrows. The Gophers put up the fourth highest score in any regional round two session, and now carry momentum and added expectations to defeat the closely ranked Golden Bears to earn a spot to nationals. Their big trio – Lexy Ramler, Ona Loper, Mya Hooten – performed outstandingly, per usual, and will once again need their supporting cast to step up in order to make a return trip to Fort Worth. Hitting beam for the second meet in a row will be Minnesota’s biggest key today.

California also fulfilled expectations of making today’s regional final, but it wasn’t without a mini scare after a slow start on vault and a leadoff floor fall adding pressure to its final rotation on Thursday. By ranking and Thursday’s performance the Golden Bears enter today as an underdog, and will need to be nearly flawless to advance should Minnesota also have a good meet. Vault is an area of concern with significantly less difficulty than the pair of favorites in this meet, meaning landings will need to be stuck. California opens on its best event, bars, and coming out of the first rotation on top of Minnesota is going to be the its key if it hopes to put the pressure on and snag a nationals spot for the second year in a row.

After scoring an upset over seeded Arizona State to be here tonight, Arkansas enters this final as a major underdog. However, that role has proven dangerous many times in many sports, meaning if the Razorbacks can put together a good meet, they should remain somewhat in contention throughout the meet. Hitting bars was critical for Arkansas on Thursday, and maximizing scoring there again will be key, as will landings on vault and eliminating wobbles on beam. Arkansas, unfortunately, has an injury situation to deal with, as outstanding freshman Leah Smith tweaked something on floor and was held out of the vault lineup Thursday. Her injury status and potential loss of scoring potential is a storyline to keep an eye on for the Razorbacks tonight.

Minnesota will start on vault and rotate in Olympic order. California will start on bars, Arkansas on beam, and Oklahoma will open on floor.

Follow along with scores and video! (ESPN+)

Rotation One: Minnesota Vault, California Bars, Arkansas Beam, Oklahoma Floor

Gerdes (Minn): FTY. Good block and distance, tries to hang on to the stick but slides back. 9.800

Perea (Cal): Gets underway with on the high bar with a nice first handstand, pak, lovely, toe on, Maloney half, no issues, great last handstand, dismounts double layout, small shuffle back. 9.850

DeSouza (Cal): Nice handstand to open on the high bar, giant half to piked Jager, caught close but gets through to the overshoot, dismounts FTDT, step back. 9.775

Ramler (Minn): Y1.5. Good distance, small shuffle forward. 9.925

Gianfagna (Ark): Mounts and starts with a BHS LOSO, secure, full turn, small wobble, dances through it, cat leap to front toss, beat jump to split half, dismounts RO 1.5. 9.825

Hooten (Minn): Y1.5. Good height, small hop forward. 9.900

A fall from Arkansas in the leadoff.

Quarles (Minn): Y1.5. Phenomenal distance despite being back on the table on the block, stuck cold! 9.975

Li (Cal): Mounts to the high bar, opening handstand hit, pak, floaty, good handstand, Maloney half, perfect tow point, great final handstand, giant full to double tuck, out but stuck! 9.850

Loper (Minn): Y1.5. A little softer knees than usual, sticks! 9.950

Bordas (Cal): Starts on the high bar with a good handstand, giant half to Jager to overshoot, caught very close with bent arms, dismounts giant full double tuck, arm waves and big bend to save the stick. 9.850

Koch (Minn): Tucker Y1.5. Crunched on the block and lands crunched too, big squat and step. 9.750

Schank (Cal): Gets underway on the high bar, giant half to piked Jager to overshoot, lose a little swing in the middle, dismounts double layout and sticks. 9.800

Hambrick (Ark): Lovely choreo to open, full turn, BHS LOSO, very nice, switch leap to switch half, good job hitting 180, beat jump to straddle 3/4, dismounts cartwheel to stuck gainer full. 9.900

Bowers (OU): HUGE double pike, great landing, FHS front double full to punch front, amazing, switch leap to switch half to wolf jump full, no issues. 9.950

Elswick (Ark): Starts off with BHS LOSO, done well, full turn, split jump to split 3/4, small lean forward, front aerial, BHS 1.5, sticks! 9.900

Smith (OU): Easy opening double tuck, RO 1.5 front layout, doesn’t even need the step, switch side to wolf jump full, no problems, closes with a double pike, beautiful. 9.950

Rotation One: Minnesota 49.550, California 49.125, Arkansas 49.250, Oklahoma 49.600

The Sooners take the lead to start things off! Oklahoma almost looked like a carbon copy of Thursday’s opening rotation performance, and I’m sure it would love to repeat that 198.175 ending total as well. Minnesota nailed landings on vault and are pushing the Sooners through one, and will be in a prime position if it can continue to hang around them all night. Arkansas opened up with a fall, but did a nice job of remaining calm and hitting five for five to stay in the race. California isn’t out of it yet, but definitely needed to get more tenths out of its best event. The Golden Bears will likely be fighting from behind the rest of the afternoon.

Rotation Two: Oklahoma Vault, Minnesota Bars, California Beam, Arkansas Floor

Stern (OU): Y1.5. Clean in the air, just a small hop forward. 9.900

DeSouza (Cal): Starts with cat leap to front aerial, steady, BHS LOSO, soft knees but secure, beat jump to sheep jump, sissone, full turn, tiny check, dismounts RO 1.5, sticks. 9.850

LeVasseur (OU): Y1.5. Amazing form, good distance, hops forward. 9.900

Hooten (Minn): Mounts to the high bar, nice first handstand, giant half to piked Jager to overshoot, good extension in the catch, good handstand, dismounts FTDT and hangs on for the stick. 9.800

Bowers (OU): Y1.5. Big block, small shuffle in place, really open hips in the air. 9.950

Sievers (OU): Y1.5. Good in the air, nearly stuck but momentum carries her forward into a step. 9.875

Trautman (OU): Y1.5. Nice block, opens so early, tiniest of slides forward. 9.975

Williams (Cal): BHS LOSO, tiny arm check, front aerial, same small check, switch leap split jump, lovely, side aerial to tucked full dismount, sticks it. 9.850

Fletcher (OU): Y1.5. Stuck in warmups, tries again but comes in a little short, small step back. 9.850

Loper (Minn): Nice Maloney to pak, good half pirouette, short on final handstand, giant full to great double tuck dismount. 9.900

Sales (Minn): Great opening handstand, nice bail, giant half to Markelov, so fun, dismounts double layout, hangs on to the stick. 9.850

Shaffer (Ark): Mounts with a double pike, big lunge but stays in bounds, RO 1.5 front layout, steppy forward lunge, switch full to Popa, ends with a double tuck, chest low but controlled lunge. 9.900

Ramler (Minn): Amazing Maloney to pak, Maloney half just as nice, great handstands, dismounts FTDT and squats for the stick. 9.875

Li (Cal): Lovely choreo, front aerial to split jump, long connection there, BHS LOSO, full turn, beat jump to sheep jump, done well, dismounts gainer tucked full of the front of the beam, stuck it. 9.950

Lauzon (Cal): Showcasing her flexibility with her opening sequence, wolf turn, switch leap to split jump, BHS BHS LOSO, secure, dismounts cat leap to side aerial to stuck layout full. 9.950

Lovett (Ark): Nice opening double layout, perfect landing into the lunge, double tuck, great height, drops out of it, switch half to Popa, bouncy in a good way, closes with a front layout front full, dances right into her end pose. 9.925

Rotation Two: Oklahoma 49.600, Minnesota 49.275, California 49.525, Arkansas 49.400

Through Rotation Two: Oklahoma 99.200, Minnesota 98.825, California 98.650, Arkansas 98.650

It’s a close one! Oklahoma continues to cruise and nailed vault as expected, but California and Arkansas were able to make up ground on Minnesota. The Gophers didn’t reach their full potential on bars where they’re usual able to build leads, while Arkansas and California both performed well enough to cut into the lead and make things much more interesting. All eyes will be on Minnesota here to see if it can hit beam two meets in a row, which is crucial in this meet.

Rotation Three: Arkansas Vault, Oklahoma Bars, Minnesota Beam, California Floor

Kelley (Ark): FTY. Low on the block, slight pike down, slide back. 9.775

Koch (Minn): Opens up with a full turn, BHS LOSO, soft knees but secure, beat jump to split 3/4, leans forward, front toss to arabesque, lovely, dismounts RO 1.5, sticks. 9.750

Shaffer (Ark): Yhalf. Great extension throughout per usual, hops forward. 9.800

LeVasseur (OU): Mounts to the high bar, nice handstand to open, toe on, Tkatchev, good distance, bail, slightly bent arms on the catch, double layout small hop. 9.875

Gerdes (Minn): Starts with a front aerial, nice, BHS LOSO, wobbly steps back but stays on, lean on the full turn, split jump to double stag, side aerial layout full. 9.825

Hambrick (Ark): Y1.5. Needed to be a hit and it was, nice in the air, small hop forward. 9.875

Perea (Cal): Up instead of DeSouza who fell yesterday, nice RO double pike to open, slow double wolf turn but gets it around, switch half to wolf jump full, BHS front full front layout to close. 9.900

Fall from Smith (OU) on bars. On vault, the Razorbacks opted to not have Smith (Ark) go.

Loper (Minn): Gets underway with BHS LOSO, easy, piked front toss, secure, switch leap to split quarter, dismounts RO 1.5, sticks it. 9.900

Davis (OU): Mounts to the high bar, nice handstand, L grip to piked Jager, sky high, great toes, pak, great half pirouette on the low bar, giant half to front giant to double front half, late kick but sticks! 9.900

Ramler (Minn): Opens up with a full turn, BHS LOSO, issue-free, front aerial to beat jump, smooth, beat jump to ring jump, side aerial to layout full, beautiful and stuck. 9.900

Li (Cal): Mounts with a FHS front double full, FHS front full front layout, switch ring to switch half to wolf jump full, slightly short of rotation at the end. 9.925

Quinn (Cal): Starts off with a front layout to Rudi, nice landing, switch side to Popa to wolf jump, done well, closes with a double pike, great. 9.900

Rotation Three: Arkansas 48.800, Oklahoma 49.400, Minnesota 49.250, California 49.525

Through Rotation Three: Oklahoma 148.600, California 148.175, Minnesota 148.075, Arkansas 147.450

So close heading into the final rotation! Oklahoma would need a disaster at this point not to advance, so all it needs to do is stay on beam five times. Despite barely trailing second place, Minnesota actually has the upper-hand heading into the final rotation as it ends on its best event (floor, where it ranks second in the nation), while California is rotation to its worst (vault). The Golden Bears must stick today without much difficulty in start values to have any chance, while the Gophers just need to be normal on floor. Arkansas vault pretty much has it on the outside looking in now. While the Razorbacks can put up some big totals on bars, the other teams would need to likely mess-up for them to be able to make up the difference even with a massive number.

Rotation Four: California Vault, Arkansas Bars, Oklahoma Beam, Minnesota Floor

Williams (Cal): FTY. Good block, piked down for the landing, big slide back. 9.825

Koch (Minn): Opens front double full to punch front, tour jete half to wolf full, nice height, RO layout full side pass, closes with a Rudi, slide back. 9.900

Bordas (Cal): FTY. Good height, slides back. 9.850

Li (Cal): FTY. Great block, flares it out a bit, small slide back. 9.800

Gerdes (Minn): Mounts with a front tuck through to double tuck, slides back a bit, switch ring to split full, bouncy, closes with a double pike, nice landing. 9.850

Lauzon (Cal): FTY. Good distance, small hop back. 9.850

DeSouza (Cal): Y1.5. Leg separation on the block, clean in the air, big hop forward. 9.800

Oklahoma is hitting on beam and Arkansas is hitting bars. Focusing on the closer battle until California is done with vault.

Clausi (Cal): FTY. Pretty low, chest down on the landing but hangs on for a stick. 9.800

Ramler (Minn): RO 1.5 to double full, beautiful, lovely leaps, FHS Rudi, gorgeous, closes with RO 1.5 front layout. 9.850

O’Hara (Ark): Coming after a Hambrick fall. Mounts to the high bar, beautiful first handstand, toe half to Jager, great, lovely bail, dismounts double layout, sticks it! 9.900

Woodard (OU): Gets underway, full turn, side aerial BHS, no problems, front toss to beat jump, solid, switch leap to split jump, dismounts side aerial layout full, stuck! 9.950

Loper (Minn): Mounts with front layout to Rudi, a tiny bit of leg separation in the twist at the end, switch ring to tour jete half, RO BHS 2.5, controlled lunge, ends with a RO 1.5 front layout.

Smith (OU): Opens with BHS LOSO, great, front aerial, looked a little off so held to landing, split half to BHS swingdown, BHS gainer full dismount, sticks it! 9.975

Hooten (Minn): Massive full-in to open up, switch side to Popa, everything so great so far, FHS front full front pike, no problems, CROWD IS GOING WILD but maybe for Smiths score, absolutely drops out of the double tuck. 9.975

Rotation Four: California 49.125, Arkansas 49.225, Oklahoma 49.650, Minnesota 49.650

Final: Oklahoma 198.250, Minnesota 197.725, California 197.300, Arkansas 196.675

Both Oklahoma and Minnesota put out two great competitions this weekend, and have earned their spots at nationals! While California held qualifying position heading into the final event, it wasn’t able to overcome its weakest event while the Gophers cruised on floor. All around, it was a great weekend of competition! Congrats to all the qualifying teams and individuals!

Hambrick (AA), Griswold (VT), Li (UB), Linton (BB) and Mack (FX) will unofficially advance as individuals.

Live blog by Brandis Heffner

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