We had a lot of opinions and predictions going into the 2023 season. We guessed which teams would break out of their usual performance standards, which would potentially drop off, which gymnasts would have breakout years and more. And with the midpoint in the season upon us, we thought we’d check in on how those predictions are looking now. Where do we look like geniuses and where do we look like utter fools?
Let’s start with an easy one. Are you still confident in your choice for NCAA national champion?
Elizabeth: I picked Oklahoma, and the Sooners have shown me no reason not to continue to be confident in that answer. It’s been the dominant team thus far–like always—and Trautman has barely made it halfway through her dethawing process.
Alyssa: I picked Oklahoma to win it all this year, and so far, the Sooners seem not to have slowed down. KJ Kindler has the ability to pull 9.9-plus scores out of thin air, and I see that leading Oklahoma to its second consecutive title.
Peri: I chose Florida right before Savannah Schoenherr’s ankle announcement, but since then, Kayla DiCello has earned some massive all-around scores. This team has only broken the 198-plus barrier once in 2023, but I’m still putting my faith in a late season breakaway.
Claire: I’m feeling pretty good about choosing Oklahoma. The Sooners are looking postseason-ready, even with Trautman and LeVasseur at half strength.
Ian: Considering Oklahoma’s near 198 starting NQS, I’m still feeling confident betting on the Sooners. Even if things do go mildly awry, Oklahoma has proven itself to have the depth to cope.
Savanna: I picked Florida, and right now I stand by it. Don’t get me wrong, Oklahoma has had a phenomenal start to its season, but the Gators have not peaked super early like previous seasons, which makes me think they still have a shot. Their dual meet will be the final decision for me.
Emily M: Yes, I still believe Oklahoma is the team to beat. The Sooners have been playing with depth, and I’m not sure we’ve seen their top lineups yet.
Tara: I’m still on the Oklahoma train. The Sooners have consistently performed well, and that’s with KJ Kindler pacing gymnasts—we haven’t seen Trautman fully back yet, and Levasseur is being paced because of her back pain as well. While there are certainly teams on the Sooners’ heels, I’m not doubting this team.
What about for USAG and NCGA national champions?
Elizabeth: I chose Texas Woman’s for USAG national champion because after finding out the meet would be in Denton and from experience, I knew I shouldn’t count the Pioneers out at home. As for NCGA, I believe I chose Brockport, and while the Golden Eagles are starting to pick up steam now, I think if I could go back I might have chosen a West team instead, likely Oshkosh or La Crosse.
Alyssa: For the USAG champion I went with Texas Women’s. I still would not count the Pioneers out after a slow start, but I would be less surprised if the title was taken by another team than I would have been before season. As for the NCGA champion, I am still all in on Brockport.
Peri: I had Texas Woman’s and Brockport as my USAG and NCGA picks, respectively. While Texas Woman’s has proven to be a team that ramps up by March, I also can’t not recognize that SEMO is having a record-breaking season. In the NCGA, La Crosse has been on a similar trajectory as SEMO en route to a nailbiter of a championship match up.
Claire: Echoing Elizabeth, I’m banking on Texas Woman’s pressing its full home meet advantage. However, I’m keeping an eye out for SEMO: Its 196.175 season high is incredibly impressive.
Ian: In terms of USAG nationals, I’m going against the grain and sticking with Lindenwood to take the title in April. That being said, I would in no way be surprised with TWU. I agree with the consensus regarding Brockport for NCGA.
Savanna: I went Lindenwood for USAG and considering it’s in second place, I don’t think that was a bad decision. TWU will give it a run for its money at home. I went Brockport for NCGA and I think it will still pull it out, but La-Crosse has surprised me this season!
Emily M: Texas Woman’s has been a little slow to get up to speed, but that’s normal. I didn’t really see SEMO coming, though, so things could get interesting. Brockport has been progressing nicely, but like Savanna I’m impressed with UW-La Crosse.
When it comes to the freshmen, who did you think would stand out before the season began, and are you sticking with your choice now?
Elizabeth: I thought Selena Harris would be the top freshman this season, and it’s looking like a phenomenal prediction right now. She stepped into college gymnastics with basically no transition period and has looked phenomenal. Kayla DiCello I think would be the only other freshman right now to rival her, who, funnily enough, no one picked when we did our predictions in December.
Alyssa: I picked Selena Harris as the top freshmen, and that choice currently looks great.
Peri: I chose Morgan Price, and she’s definitely had big moments this season. Unfortunately, they’ve only come at meets that trend of higher scoring, so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
Claire: I went with Selena Harris, and I stand by that pick! She’s not only established herself as the best in her class but as one of the top all-arounders in the country too.
Ian: I had my money on Faith Torrez, and while she hasn’t gotten the opportunities of Selena Harris or Kayla DiCello in the all-around due to Oklahoma’s monstrous depth, season highs of 9.9-plus on all four events is nothing to scoff at.
Savanna: I went with Faith Torrez, and while she has excelled, I think she’s gotten lost in Oklahoma’s depth. She has made the most of every opportunity given to her, though, and I believe she will continue to do so.
Emily M: I went with Selena Harris, and that’s proving to be fairly true. The freshman class is absolutely stacked as anticipated, and it’s been fun to watch so far.
Tara: I had my eyes on Selena Harris and Faith Torrez, and both have been doing well so far! Torrez is an underappreciated part of the Sooners’ lineups, while Harris is living up to her status as the top recruit in her class.
In terms of teams on the regionals bubble, which are you regretting not including and vise versa?
Elizabeth: It’s obviously hard because the standings haven’t even switched to NQS yet, so I’ll speak to overall look vs. specific numbers so far. Iowa State is doing much worse than I thought. It’s doing fine, but I figured with such a large roster that a few injuries weren’t going to really matter all that much. On the flip side, Ball State started 2023 on a tear that I hope it can keep up, and Towson is also doing even better than I thought it would.
Alyssa: It is still too early to tell who will make regionals, but I expected Iowa State to be higher in the rankings by this point, and BYU is closer to the bubble than I thought. I was also not expecting Ball State to be in the picture at this point in the season.
Peri: Ball State should have been in my top 36! This is a team that’s figured out a formula and made Power Five conference fans start watching the MAC.
Claire: I’m feeling great about including Towson and Southern Utah, though I wish I’d ranked the Flippin’ Birds even higher. I’m thoroughly annoyed that I didn’t go with my gut and include San Jose State (I had it at No. 37).
Ian: As much as it kills me to say this, I don’t know if it’s in the cards this year for Central Michigan or Penn. Perhaps against my better judgment, I left Arizona out of the picture after finishing the 2022 regular season ranked 32nd, but the Wildcats are proving me wrong and vying for a spot in the top 25.
Savanna: Oh, Iowa State, you continue to break my heart. There’s been a lot of outside factors contributing to the lower than expected rankings, so I’m hoping the Cyclones can turn it around and get off the regionals bubble. Also, where in the world did Ball State come from?? That’s a team I have my eye on moving forward.
Emily M: I put Fisk in the regionals picture. I knew it was risky! I also have some egg on my face for leaving Towson out. Don’t worry, Rebecca has already given me a talking to about that. I predicted all 10 Big Ten teams to regionals, and so far that’s looking fairly likely. Rutgers is just a step outside right now.
Tara: I knew Utah State would drop off, but I didn’t think it would be this much. There’s still time to turn it around and drop its 193s, though. Other notable teams I had making regionals that currently sit outside the top 36: West Virginia, Iowa State and Western Michigan.
OK. Big picture time. What opinions did you have prior to the start of the season that are making you look like a fool now?
Elizabeth: So far, there’s nothing too outlandish. I knew I was gambling on placing Georgia so high, but I also knew it was just as likely to have a season exactly like it’s having. It’s at least doing better than last year, so small victories? Alabama’s relatively slow start to the season also surprised me a bit. I know coaching transitions can sometimes be tough, but I thought Alabama would be a bit more 197-y than 196-y.
Alyssa: One main prediction was that North Carolina was going to end the season ranked in the low 20s, but to this point the Tar Heels have had to continue to pace injury returners and have had incomplete performances that have led to low 196s instead of mid to high 196s. There is still time left in the season, but that prediction isn’t looking the greatest right now.
Peri: I had Central Michigan leading the MAC in my mind before season started, but beam troubles have kept the team out of the top three all season.
Claire: I really whiffed on Iowa State. Obviously, we didn’t know at that time that Makayla Maxwell would be out for the season or that assistant coach Nelson Mediros would seemingly fall off the face of the Earth, but I was still way too optimistic in my ranking. I also expected this to be a rebuilding year for California after losing such a star-studded senior class as well as Janelle McDonald, but that clearly hasn’t been the case.
Ian: I definitely underestimated Ohio State, having it only barely crack the top 25 just for the Buckeyes to seem like favorites for a seeded spot at regionals. I also perhaps overestimated Boise State, but I still do think the Broncos could make a final push as the season progresses.
Savanna: Leaving Minnesota out. Don’t talk to me about it. I’m still angry with myself. I also look like a complete idiot putting California as low as I did. A huge senior class was easily replaced score wise.
Emily M: Well I already mentioned Towson! I thought Georgia would have a comeback, but I didn’t anticipate it to be quite as good as it has been. I also underestimated LSU by a good bit, which I should know better than to do by now.
Tara: Georgia was my biggest one—I knew a rise was possible, but I wasn’t fully sure of the health status of some of the freshmen and didn’t have much faith in the coaching staff. I nearly left Towson out of regionals but kept it in—I definitely didn’t see the Tigers being on the verge of the top 25, though.
And to redeem yourself a little, where are you looking like an absolute genius?
Elizabeth: In the nicest way possible, I sort of knew Missouri wouldn’t immediately be the No. 5 team we saw at the end of the previous season. There’s still plenty of time for the Tigers to make up ground, and as we saw last year, nothing matters during the regular season if you can produce a big upset on the day.
Alyssa: After a couple of off seasons for the Bruins, having UCLA make nationals was not the most common prediction heading into the season, but the new coaching staff has brought the Bruins right back into the nationals conversation.
Peri: Keeping Auburn in my preseason poll top 10 has held up, with no scores below the 197 mark through six weeks.
Claire: I put Towson at No. 26 and—as of this moment—it’s No. 26!
Ian: I’m still on the Denver train, and while the Pioneers may not quite be the top eight team I envisioned them as, I do think Lynnzee Brown’s pacing and the team as a whole have exceeded expectations.
Savanna: I guess I jinxed LSU or something because I had it ranked just outside of the national picture and it is currently No. 8. Even though I didn’t expect half the team to be injured at this point, I figured it would take some time to build back that confidence we saw from teams past.
Emily M: Minnesota is exactly where I expected it to be. Some shining moments, definitely an adjustment period, and sitting right around the top 16. I also said it would be foolish to count Michigan out of the national title conversation. The Wolverines are keeping pace and flip-flopping placements with Florida every week, both just trailing Oklahoma. My biggest hit was calling out Payton Harris and Nikki Smith as the next star all-arounders in the Big Ten, though.
Tara: I know a lot of my fellow editors slept on Southern Utah—heck, even I did a little, but I had it sitting right around where the Thunderbirds are currently. Let’s not talk about the rest of the MRGC, though, but there’s still time for NQS to sort things out a bit.
Are there any other surprises, both good and bad, you want to call out from the 2023 season thus far?
Elizabeth: Kentucky has been a pleasant surprise to me. That program record a couple weeks ago was legit, and I didn’t really expect the WIldcats to be that good. I hope it continues to prove me wrong! California, Denver and Minnesota are also outperforming my expectations of them, even if only slightly.
Alyssa: I had Towson making regionals this year, but I did not expect the Tigers to come to be the highest ranked team in the EAGL half way through the season. That 11th ranked bars rotation has been a very pleasant surprise.
Claire: I expected Ohio State to improve on last season’s ranking, but I thought it’d be closer to No. 20 than No. 10. The Buckeyes are looking fantastic, and I hope they continue to defy expectations!
Ian: I don’t know if everyone’s heard, but Georgia is good at bars again. For a team with so much uncertainty that hadn’t broken the top 20 on bars since 2019, being ranked 13th at this point in the season is a breath of fresh air.
Savanna: West Virginia, I see you! It currently has an impressive streak on floor exercise of 24 straight meets with scores over 49. That number could keep the Mountaineers in the conversation for regionals should that streak continue.
Emily M: Yes, Penn State! If you’re not paying attention to the Nittany Lions, try to catch them in the coming weeks. When they hit, they’re scoring mid-196s, and even when they miss, they put up some really fun and lovely gymnastics. The pieces are really all coming together for the first time in awhile this year, and it’s nice to see.
Tara: UCLA pleasantly surprised me. We knew this team was capable of the performances it’s been putting out, but I wasn’t sure how the adjustment to a new coaching staff would go. So far, so good for the Bruins. Missouri hasn’t been as good as I anticipated, but that’s not to say the Tigers aren’t a good team. They’re just not quite replicating last year’s results despite not losing any routines.
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Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Alyssa Van Auker, Peri Goodman, Claire Billman, Ian LeWarn, Savanna Whitten, Emily Minehart, Tara Graeve
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