While the upsets in the semifinals at the 2023 NCAA Championships were an indication of the increasing parity in the sport, the lack of mid-major and non-power five programs represented was much of the same. For the second-straight year, just two routines were performed by gymnasts outside of the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, or Pac-12, and this year they both represented the same school.
However, with perfect 10s on their resumes, Courtney Blackson and Emily Lopez entered their afternoon championship semifinal with the ability to make some noise for Boise State. That they did, with Lopez soaring on her piked Jaeger on bars for a 9.900 and Blackson dialing in on the landing of her Yurchenko one and a half for a 9.925 on vault. Blackson marked the best finish for a Bronco in program history as vault co-runner-up, while Lopez tied for 18th on bars.
“I think every gymnast has a goal coming into a competition, and it’s to do their best,” said Blackson post-meet. “I didn’t have the best warmup, so my goal was to turn that around, have a good attitude, and stick the landing. So, I think I did pretty good with that goal.”
“I didn’t have a specific goal, but I came here wanting to have fun and do well,” added Lopez. “So, I think I accomplished that goal.”
After lauding her gymnasts on their performances, head coach Tina Bird commented on how impactful it is to represent mid-major schools at this level with the growing interest in the sport.
“It means everything. It’s going to help our team, our program, our recruiting, everything by having their name on the national stage.”
Both juniors, the first Broncos to compete at the NCAA Championships since their last individual in 2018 will have a great shot at repeating the feat next season. The importance of appearing on podiums is not lost on Blackson, either, as she encourages gymnasts at every level to “go for it.”
“I hope people can look at this and just be encouraged that you don’t have to be part of the big schools to have a name. You can create it for yourself.”
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Article by Brandis Heffner
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