Jordan Bowers competes for Oklahoma.

2023 Norman Regional Preview

It’s almost time for the NCAA gymnastics postseason again! 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 Norman regional. Wednesday will feature No. 30 N.C. State and No. 34 Ball State in round one. Thursday we jump into round two action with No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 22 Illinois, and No. 25 Iowa competing in the afternoon session and No. 1 Oklahoma,  No. 16 Ohio State, No. 17 Arkansas and the winner of round one in the evening session. Two teams from each of these Thursday competitions will advance to the regional final on Saturday where the top two from that meet make it to nationals.

A handful of individuals will compete on Thursday in both of the round two meets. Simply put, the top all-arounder and event specialists qualify for nationals. To determine those gymnasts, combine Thursday’s individual event and all-around results, wait until Saturday’s meet concludes, remove all the gymnasts from the two qualifying teams, and take the top individual on each event and in the all-around.

Easy enough, right?

Check out our NCAA postseason resource guide for a more in-depth explanation, including how the tie-breaking procedure works (it’s complicated), how the whole format is structured, and even how judges are selected.

Round One

Date: Wednesday, March 29 at 3 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN+

Teams: No. 30 N.C. State vs. No. 34 Ball State

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 30 N.C. State 196.460 196.221 197.225 Vault
No. 34 Ball State 196.395 196.029 196.900 Bars


N.C. State is back in the play-in round after making a Cinderella story run to the regional final in 2021. Chloe Negrete’s return to lineups after an Achilles injury has made all the difference for the Wolfpack this season as they have scored as high as 197.225. Ball State was the surprise team of the regular season. It set records left and right and qualified a team to regionals for only the second time in program history. 

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

Both teams are coming off runner-up finishes at their conference championship meets, but when you look at individual events, both teams excel where the other struggles. Ball State ranks in the top 25 on vault, N.C. State’s lowest-ranked event, while N.C. State excels on floor, Ball State’s lowest-ranked event. These teams balance each other out, meaning this round will likely come down to whoever can hit both bars and beam and minimize their mistakes everywhere else.

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Ball State has some exceptional vaulters to watch out for. Suki Pfister and Victoria Henry have both gone 9.950 this season with stuck landings. Hannah Ruthberg also has an exceptional all-around program that could be the difference maker for the Cardinals. N.C. State has Negrete, but Alexis Ortega and Emily Shepard are both solid contributors to the all-around; Ortega just won the all-around at the EAGL championship while Shepard was just named EAGL Gymnast of the Year for her exceptional performances this year. 

Round Two

Session One

Date: Thursday, March 30 at 3 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN+

Teams: No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 22 Illinois and No. 25 Iowa

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 8 Alabama 197.720 197.311 198.000 Beam
No. 9 Kentucky 197.710 197.373 197.875 Floor
No. 22 Illinois 196.745 196.473 196.875 Bars
No. 25 Iowa 196.650 196.377 196.925 Vault


Under first-year head coach Ashley Johnston, the Crimson Tide didn’t lose much momentum from last season, scoring as high as 198.000 and taking second at the SEC championship for the second year in a row. Kentucky, normally an SEC bubble team, qualified to the evening session for the first time since 2019, a testament to the gains Tim Garrison has made with his team this season. Illinois has had a quiet and consistent season, maintaining scores in the 196 range most of the season while Iowa has had some ups and downs, especially towards the last half of season. 

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

This session should be all-SEC since Alabama and Kentucky have hit their stride as of late; however, Illinois and Iowa cannot be counted out. Iowa will have to hit balance beam, an event where it has struggled as of late, if it wants to have a chance to advance. Illinois will start on its lowest ranked event, vault; minimizing steps on the landing and keeping clean form in the air will be a key factor in where Illinois will finish. It would take a big misstep from either of the top two teams for Illinois or Iowa to advance, but Iowa advanced to the regional final last season on the heels of a top seed’s misstep, so anything is possible. 

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Jerquavia Henderson has been on the hunt for an elusive 10 on floor throughout her career, and this could be her last shot to do it should Iowa not advance. Mia Takekawa’s beam set has gone as high as 9.950 and could put her in position to advance as an individual should she hit that mark again. Raena Worley of Kentucky has a stellar all-around program, but vault is where she shines. Luisa Blanco and Lilly Hudson have been steady for Alabama all season, but pay close attention to their balance beam sets where both have scored a 10.0 in 2023.

All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Rachel Decavtich, Kent State (with Iowa) Emily Leese, Rutgers (with Alabama) Stephanie Zanella, Rutgers (with Kentucky) Alyssa Guns, Kent State (with Kentucky)
Hannah Joyner, Rutgers (with Illinois) Karlie Franz, Kent State (with Alabama)

Individuals to Keep an Eye on

The Kent State individuals will be ones to keep eyes on. Guns, Franz, and Decavitch have made waves for the Golden Flashes on floor this season and went 9.900-plus at the MAC championship. Emily Leese has gone as high as 9.925 on her vault this season, a number that could put her in contention for a nationals spot if she meets or exceeds it. 

Session Two

Date: Thursday, March 30 at 8 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN+

Teams: No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 17 Arkansas, and the winner of round one.

Team NQS Average High Score Starting Event
No. 1 Oklahoma 198.355 198.150 198.575 Beam
No. 16 Ohio State 197.100 196.888 197.600 Floor
No. 17 Arkansas 197.080 196.668 197.475 Bars
No. 30 N.C. State OR No. 34 Ball State 196.460 OR 196.395 196.221 OR 196.029 197.225 OR 196.900 Vault


Oklahoma has been the clear No. 1 all season. Between Olivia Trautman slowly adding events back—including possibly floor here—and continuous record-setting performances, the Sooners are on an undeniable roll. Ohio State comes in on the heels of its own strong year, but has scored significantly better at home than on the road. Bars and beam in particular have caused the Razorbacks some grief throughout the season, but Arkansas has had three well-hit meets in a row coming into Norman. Ball State has had a Cinderella season, while N.C. State has been steadily good, especially benefitting from Chloe Negrete’s return from a 2022 Achilles injury.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

Oklahoma will almost certainly sail through this session, unless it has its worst meet of the year by a good margin. Ohio State and Arkansas will do battle for the second Sweet 16 berth, and they’re about as closely matched as is possible in gymnastics. While the Buckeyes have a slight edge, it’s worth noting that their best away number is a 196.975; their three highest marks all came at home. Arkansas has a slight advantage in that regard, having scored a 197.150 at Georgia. Advancing could come down to a step on a landing or a micro-wobble on beam. It would take bad days from both for whichever team advances from the first round to sneak into second, but N.C. State and Ball State both own season highs that are competitive with Ohio State and Arkansas’ average days, so nothing is out of the realm of possibility.     

Routines You Shouldn’t Miss

Oklahoma has the best vault lineup in the country, headlined by Yurhcenko one and a halves from Katherine LeVasseur and Jordan Bowers. The Sooners are led by Audrey Davis on bars; don’t miss her stunning piked Jaeger. Plus, the Sooners’ Ragan Smith just notched the only 10.0 in Big 12 championship history on beam. Ohio State vaults a lineup of mostly huge, clean Yurchenko fulls, with Sydney Jennings and Elexis Edwards’ standing out in particular. Edwards is also remarkable on floor, where her amplitude and patient landings set her apart. Colby Miller leads the squad on bars with nationally competitive work. Arkansas’ Norah Flatley is a leader in the all-around and is particularly notable on bars and beam. Leah Smith’s Yurchenko full has scored a perfect 9.950, and Frankie Price has been nearly perfect on floor. Ball State is led by Suki Pfister’s high and almost-always stuck vault, while N.C. State’s Negrete is a floor standout.  

All Around Vault Bars Beam Floor
Emily Shepard, N.C. State (with Ball State) OR Hannah Ruthberg, Ball State (with N.C. State)  Suki Pfister, Ball State (with Ohio State) Megan Teter, Ball State (with Arkansas) Robyn Kelley, New Hampshire (with Oklahoma) Jaye Mack, Illinois State (with Ohio State)
Alana Laster, Illinois State (with Oklahoma) Kylie Gorgenyi, New Hampshire (with Ohio State) Chloe Negrete, N.C. State (with Arkansas) OR Grace Sumner, Ball State (with Arkansas) Chloe Negrete, N.C. State (with Arkansas) OR Megan Teter, Ball State (with Arkansas)
Chloe Negrete, N.C. State (with Arkansas) OR Victoria Henry, Ball State (with Arkansas) Alyssa Worthington, New Hampshire (with Ohio State)

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

Individuals to Keep an Eye on

The floor field is crowded. Chloe Negrete owns a 9.975 season high, and Jaye Mack is just behind that with a 9.950. Both score above 9.900 consistently and could head to Fort Worth. Suki Pfister is the easy choice on vault, although she has scored better at home than on the road. Alana Laster owns better road numbers, as does Victoria Henry. With a stick, all three are in a competitive position to advance. Megan Teter has several 9.900-plus bars road numbers on the year, and at the top of her performance ability she is also in striking distance. The beam individuals are all closely matched and on their best days have a chance. Emily Shepard and Hannah Ruthberg have a tough path in the all-around, with individuals from Oklahoma, Alabama and Kentucky to contend with should any of those teams not advance. Advancing would take surpassing the likes of Raena Worley or Luisa Blanco.

Round Three

Date: Saturday, April 1 at 6 p.m. ET

How to Watch: ESPN+

Teams: Top two teams from each Friday session

Vault Team with the second-highest NQS
Bars Team with the highest NQS
Beam Team with the third-highest NQS
Floor Team with the fourth-highest NQS

The Bottom Line

If all goes according to plan, this field will consist of Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, and Ohio State. That means that only one of Alabama and Kentucky can advance with Oklahoma, assuming the Sooners put up the performance we expect. This could shape up to be the most tense and heartbreaking competition of the weekend, as the closely matched Crimson Tide and Wildcats fight for a berth. Only Oklahoma and Alabama have hit 198 this year, but Kentucky is just behind with a 197.875 season high. The Buckeyes are not an afterthought, either: They own a 197.600 high and with a big hit on a day with mistakes from other teams cannot be counted out. 

READ THIS NEXT: The NCAA Postseason Format, Explained

Article by Emily Minehart and Savanna Whitten

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