Judge’s Inquiry: Rejudging the Top 2 Teams From the 2023 NCAA Team Final

The 2023 NCAA team final was an exciting display of some of the best gymnastics in the NCAA, with defending national champion Oklahoma edging out the No. 2 ranked Florida Gators by a tenth and a half. But did the right team win?

In this article, I rewatched all the routines from Florida and Oklahoma in the final and rejudged them, taking all the deductions I saw, including those that are often missed in NCAA judging—even though they are still very real and valid deductions.

To be fair, I did not take deductions on bars or vault for leg separation, unless it was very large or during a twisting element, as these are nearly impossible to see from a true side view. Also as a disclaimer, the judges chosen to judge the NCAA championships are selected from the most senior and generally well-respected judges that are eligible to judge NCAA gymnastics, all of which have more experience than I do. However, I have the benefit of instant replay and the ability to analyze these routines, catching things that might not be obvious in real time or that are easily missed by a majority of the judges.

To make this easier to follow, I’ve created a table with a row-by-row analysis of each routine, listing the deductions I took. I used the following system to easily compare my score with the panel’s score on each event, as well as including the differential for each score.

✅ = In range (not “allowable range” but literally not lower or higher than the lowest or highest score given)

🔺 = overscored

🔻= underscored

Rotation One

Oklahoma – Vault

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Danielle SieversChest position on landing (-0.05)Step forward (-0.1)9.8625(9.85-9.9)9.85-0.0125 ✅
Allie SternHop forward (-0.1)9.90
9.90.0 ✅
Katherine LevasseurLarge step forward (-0.1)Adjustment of back foot on step forward (-0.05)9.8875(9.85-9.9)9.85-0.0375 ✅
Jordan BowersSmall step forward (-0.05)Knee bend in post-flight (-0.05)9.90(9.85-9.9)9.90.0 ✅
Faith TorrezDeep squat on landing (-0.1)9.925(9.85-9.95)9.9-0.025 ✅
Olivia TrautmanSmall adjustment on landing (-0.05)9.95(9.95)9.950.0 ✅

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

Oklahoma showed why it was the No. 1 vault team in the country in its opening rotation. The gymnasts’ form and technique in the air is flawless, and really the only deductions in the lineup were landing deductions—and they were minor at that.

Official Score after Rotation One: 49.5625

My Score After Rotation One: 49.5000

Florida – Beam

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Sloane BlakelyLeg form, front aerial (-0.05)Rhythm, leap series (-0.05)Balance error, full turn (-0.05)9.9(9.85 – 9.95)9.85-0.05 ✅
Ellie LazzariFall, layout stepout (-0.5)Leg form, layout stepout (-0.05)Balance error, full turn (-0.05)Chest forward, dismount (-0.1)9.0125(8.7 – 9.1)9.0(9.7 SV)-0.0125 ✅
Kayla DiCelloLeg form, front aerial (-0.05)Arm bend, back handspring (-0.05)9.9(9.9 – 9.95)9.90.0 ✅
Leanne WongLeg form, front aerial (-0.05)Leg form, double full (-0.05)Landing control, dismount (-0.05)9.9125(9.85 – 9.95)9.85-0.0625 ✅
Riley McCuskerRhythm, front aerial series (-0.05)Flexed feet, front aerial (-0.05)9.9375(9.9 – 9.95)9.9-0.0375 ✅
Victoria NguyenLeg form, Onodi (-0.05)Rhythm, acro series (-0.05)Leg form, dismount (-0.05)Small hop, dismount (-0.05)9.875(9.8 – 9.9)9.8-0.075 ✅

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

Overall, this was a pretty fair evaluation of Florida’s beam performance. With Lazzari having a fall early, it put a lot of pressure on the back half of the lineup, but it definitely delivered. 

Official Score after Rotation One: 49.5250

My Score after Rotation One: 49.3000

Rotation Two

Oklahoma – Bars

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Danielle SieversShort handstand (-0.05)Arm bend, giant swing (-0.05)9.925(9.9 – 9.95)9.9-0.025 ✅
Danae FletcherArm bend, Jaeger (-0.05)Arm bend, pike circle handstand (-0.05)Arm bend, giant (-0.05)Chest position on landing (-0.05)9.9125(9.85 – 9.95)9.8-0.1125 🔺
Olivia TrautmanShort handstand, high bar (0.05)Hop on landing (-0.05)9.95(9.9 – 9.95)9.9-0.05 ✅
Ragan SmithArch, cast handstand (-0.05)Arm bend, toe circle handstand (-0.05)Body position, double layout (-0.05)Hop on landing, (-0.05)9.8875(9.85 – 9.9)9.80-0.0875 🔺
Jordan BowersUnder rotation, Jaeger (-0.05)Arm bend, Jaeger (-0.05)Chest position on landing (-0.05)9.925(9.85 – 9.95)9.85-0.075 ✅
Audrey DavisFlexed feet, front giant (-0.05)Leg separation, double front half (-0.05)Landing adjustment (-0.05)9.925(9.9 – 10.0)9.85-0.075 🔺

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

Here is where we start to see some differences between my scores and the judges. Generally bars is the hardest event for me to rescore because the filmed angle makes it easy to see arm bends and leg separations but much harder to see cast angles, body positions, and amplitude,  which could also contribute to some variability in the scores. Fletcher had a lot of arm bends in her circling skills when she shifts her grips, which is a deduction if you can see it. Smith had some significant form errors on her dismount, which could have been more than the tenth I took with the pike, arch, leg separation, and hop, depending on what the judges could see from the side. 

Official Score after Rotation Two: 49.6375

My Score after Rotation Two: 49.3000

Florida – Floor

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Victoria NguyenChest position on landing, front 3/2 (-0.05)Foot adjustment, front layout (-0.05)9.8875(9.85 – 9.95)9.9 +0.0125 ✅
Sloane BlakelyChest position on landing, double pike (-0.05)Small hop back, double pike (-0.05)Bent knee, switch half ring, (-0.05)9.8625(9.85 – 9.95)9.85-0.0125 ✅
Rachel BaumannLeg form, double pike (-0.05)Step forward (0.1)9.9(9.8 – 9.95)9.85-0.05 ✅
Payton RichardsHop on landing, double layout (-0.1)Precision of turn, switch side (-0.1)9.875(9.80 – 9.9)9.8-0.075 ✅
Leanne WongLanding control, Dos Santos (-0.1)Knee bend, switch half (-0.05)Out of bounds (-0.1)9.725(9.7 – 9.9)9.75+0.025 ✅
Kayla DiCelloLeg form, front double full (-0.05)Landing control, front double full (-0.05)9.90(9.85 – 9.9)9.90.0 ✅

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

Here, my evaluation was relatively on par with the panel for this rotation, with most of the deductions on tumbling pass landings, leg form, or turn precision on the dance passes. 

Official Score after Rotation Two: 49.4250

My Score after Rotation Two: 49.3000

Rotation Three

Oklahoma – Beam

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Jenna DunnBalance error, layout step out (-0.1)Body position, full turn (0.05)9.85(9.85 – 9.9)9.850.0 ✅
Olivia TrautmanBalance error, layout step out (-0.15)Balance error, pike front toss (-0.15)9.825(9.75 – 9.9)9.7-0.125 🔺
Jordan BowersBody position, full turn (-0.05)Balance error, layout stepout (-0.05)Rhythm, leap series (-0.05)Leg form, double full dismount (-0.05)9.9125(9.85 – 9.95)9.8-0.1125 🔺
Faith TorrezHop, dismount (-0.1)9.9(9.9-9.9)9.90.0 ✅
Audrey DavisLeg bend, front aerial (-0.05)Body position, ring jump (-0.05)9.95(9.9 – 10.0)9.90.05 ✅
Ragan SmithBent arms, back handspring (-0.05)Bent leg, front aerial (-0.05)Body position, full turn (-0.05)Bent arms, back handspring (-0.05)Large hop on landing, dismount (0.1)Control of landing, dismount, (-0.05)9.90(9.9 – 9.9)9.65-0.25 🔺

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

This was probably the event that seemed the most overscored of the routines I watched, especially since I have the same view as the judges on the camera. Generally, Oklahoma has a lot of the “rarely taken” deductions on beam, like bent legs on front aerials, full turn positions, bent arms on back handsprings, and rhythm in connections, which makes sense why my scores are so much lower than the panel’s. However, there are athletes that can perform these skills without these errors, and deducting those that have errors is the only way to reward athletes that are able to execute a skill truly flawlessly versus “good enough.” 

Both of Trautman’s wobbles included a leg up, a small hip break, and a bottom foot adjustment, which is why I took a tenth and a half instead of just a tenth for the balance error. For reference, a balance error on beam is up to three tenths, so I think this is a very reasonable deduction. I’ve broken down Ragan Smith’s beam routine several times this year, and always point out her bent arms on her back handspring and her full turn body position. She also took a large hop forward and then continued to step forward into her salute, never showing control of her landing. Just the dismount should have had her at a max score of 9.850 in my opinion. Torrez had an absolutely beautiful routine and was the strongest performance in the lineup, although you would never know that by the the four scores clumped between a 9.9000 and a 9.9500 for this rotation. 

Official Score after Rotation Three: 49.5125

My Score after Rotation Three: 49.1500

Florida – Vault

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Leanne WongShuffle on landing (-0.05)9.9125(9.9 – 9.95)9.95+0.0375 ✅
Payton RichardsLeg form on table (-0.05)Leg form in post-flight (-0.05)Squat on landing (-0.05)Hop forward on landing (-0.05)9.8375(9.8 – 9.9)9.8-0.0375 ✅
Sloane BlakelyHop on landing (-0.1)Control of landing (-0.05)9.875(9.85 – 9.9)9.85-0.025 ✅
Kayla DiCelloHop on landing (-0.1)9.9(9.85 – 9.9)9.90.0 ✅
Trinity ThomasLA turn began early (-0.05)10(9.95 – 10.0)9.95 -0.05 ✅
Victoria NguyenSquat on landing (-0.05)Hop to the side (-0.1) 9.8875(9.85 – 9.95)9.85-0.0375 ✅

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

Florida definitely overperformed on vault compared to the majority of the season, showing six 10.0 start values in its lineup when it counted. Wong had the best vault in this competition for Florida in my opinion, with her beautiful execution and control. She makes this very intricate vault look easy. Thomas scored her record-tying 10 on this vault, but she does start twisting her shoulders on the table, before she gets in the air, which is why I gave her a 9.9500 (from the safety of my own home). I commend the brave 9.9500 judge who flashed that score under immense pressure to give it a 10. 

Official Score after Rotation Three: 49.5750

My Score after Rotation Three: 49.5000

Rotation Four

Oklahoma – Floor

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Audrey DavisLeg form, front double full (-0.05)Precision of turn, dance pass (-0.05)Leg form, back 3/2, (-0.05)9.90(9.85 – 9.95)9.85-0.05 ✅
Ragan SmithPrecision of turn, dance pass (-0.05)Small step forward, double pike (-0.05)9.9125(9.85 – 9.95)9.9-0.125 ✅
Jordan BowersStep forward, double pike (-0.05)Chest down, double pike (-0.05)9.95(9.90 – 9.95)9.9-0.05 ✅
Faith TorrezPike down, double layout (-0.05)Front foot slide, double layout (-0.05)Under rotation of turn, tour jetè half (-0.05)Front foot slide, double tuck (-0.05)9.925(9.9 – 9.95)9.8-0.125 🔺
Danae FletcherFoot slide, double back (-0.05)9.9375(9.9 – 9.95)9.95+0.0125 ✅
Danielle SieversBent leg, switch side (-0.05)Precision of turn, straddle full (-0.05)9.95(9.9 – 10.0)9.9-0.05 ✅

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

After watching this rotation, I realize I haven’t seen many Oklahoma floor routines this season, and after hearing a lot of complaining about the composition and choreography, I was pleasantly surprised. They all delivered clean, beautiful routines, with most having the same deductions as Florida: landings and dance pass form/turning. Torrez had some very subtle foot slides on two of her passes plus a pike down on the double layout, all of which are hard to see, which is why I think my score was lower than the panel’s. Most of her deductions were very well hidden, other than the double layout landing.

Official Score after Rotation Four: 49.6750

My Score after Rotation Four: 49.5000

Florida – Bars

AthleteDeductionsPanel ScoreMy ScoreDifference
Sloane BlakelyLeg separation, double front (0.05)9.925(9.9 – 9.95)9.95+0.025 ✅
Victoria NguyenLeg separation, maloney (-0.05)Body position, cast handstand (-0.05)Arm bend, giant swing (-0.05)Arm bend, giant swint (-0.05)9.90(9.85 – 9.9)9.8 -0.1 🔺
Kayla DiCelloArm bend, Ray (-0.05)Arm bend, giant swing (-0.05)9.975(9.95 – 10.0)9.9-0.075 🔺
Trinity ThomasArm bend, giant swing (-0.05)Arm bend, giant swint (-0.05)Arm swing, landing (-0.05)Chest forward, landing (-0.05)9.9125(9.8 – 9.95)9.8-0.1125 ✅
Leanne WongLeg separation, Maloney (-0.05)9.975(9.95 – 10.0)9.95-0.075 ✅
Riley McCuskerLeg separation, Maloney (-0.05)Arm bend, stalter (-0.05)
Body position, stalter (-0.05)
9.925(9.9 – 9.95)9.850.125 🔺

Discussion of Major Deviations in Scoring

Florida posted a massive bars total to close out its competition, but it had some help from the judges in the same way Oklahoma had help on beam. McCusker’s stalder has bent arms and an arch on the way into the handstand, which was my major deduction on her routine. I normally don’t take leg separation on the maloney backswings, but hers was very large, which makes me think it could have been seen from the side.

Wong posted the best bar routine I’ve seen her do, and I would have gone 10, but because I can see the leg separation on the Maloney, I had to take it. However, I see why this could have been a 10.0 from the judge’s view. Thomas had a tenth and a half score range from the panel, which is large considering how high her score is. She definitely should have had at least a tenth in landing deductions, so that 9.9125 average was a gift and was more due to her reputation than her performance that day.

Official Score after Rotation Four: 49.7125

My Score after Rotation Four: 49.4500

Official Final Score 

Oklahoma: 198.3875

Florida: 198.2375

My Final Score 

Oklahoma: 197.4500

Florida: 197.5500

Overall, the biggest overscoring was for Florida’s bars and Oklahoma’s beam. In my opinion, Florida was the stronger team at this competition. However, both teams scored almost a point higher in reality than my analysis here.

In a subjectively evaluated sport, so much depends on how each judge interprets each performance and applies the rules and deductions, with a lot of gray area. Even though the rules are clearly stated, there are literally hundreds of them, and each judge consistently applies the rules in the fairest way possible.

When there are some of the top gymnasts in the world competing against each other in peak form, it can be nearly impossible to separate the great from the greatest, and it sometimes can feel like the luck of the draw rather than a clear winner or loser.

When it counted, Oklahoma came out on top to the judges evaluating routines that day. In my analysis—with hindsight, instant replay, and different angles on my side—Florida came out on top. Either way, I hope we can all enjoy the artistry and athleticism that the athletes share with us in every routine throughout the entire season.

READ THIS NEXT: Judge’s Inquiry: How to Become an NCAA Gymnastics Judge

Article by Rhiannon Franck

Rhiannon Franck is a former national-rated NAWGJ women’s gymnastics judge with over 15 years of USAG judging experience and nine seasons judging NCAA gymnastics. Outside of gymnastics, Franck works at a university as a nursing professor and loves to travel.

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  1. You ignored the rules you didn’t want to take to benefit your opinion, which was clearly already in your mind from the start. Take those deductions you ignored on Vault alone and Florida doesn’t win anything. You giving Leanne a 9.5 for that vault with the extremely messy form throughout is proof.

  2. I knew Oklahoma was over scored throughout this competition. I appreciate this article for proving my point.

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