Kalyxta Gamiao Arkansas salutes after her routine

LIVE BLOG: NCAA Nationals Semifinal One

Hello from Dickies Arena and welcome to the dark horse session! None of the four teams competing have ever won a national title. 

No. 2 LSU has come the closest, landing in second three times since 2017. This is a very different vibe from last year’s team that scrapped their way to an unexpected fourth place finish despite limited depth due to injury. With all the key players (mostly) healthy and star all arounder Haleigh Bryant having the best season of her career, the Tigers are the decided frontrunners to advance. 

Hot on their heels are the Golden Bears. Cal has never made it past round one at nationals, but have positioned themselves as a legitimate threat for the final podium this year as the No. 3 seed. Cal is the only team in the nation other than LSU that has consistently challenged the Sooners’ scores, thanks in no small part to junior Mya Lauzon’s breakout season. 

Head coach Jordyn Wieber and assistant coach Kyla Ross were gearing up for the 2012 London Olympics the last time the Razorbacks made it to the final round. Regardless of Thursday’s outcome, this will be their first time cracking the top 10 since and—it’s worth noting—the first full roster of gymnasts recruited by Wieber. 

Similarly, Stanford is having its best season under seventh-year head coach Tabitha Yim. This is the team’s first championship appearance since 2015, all the more impressive given the Cardinal was unranked heading into the postseason. They may be the underdog on paper, but this is a solid team that’s proven capable of striking down higher-ranked opponents. 

As far as the individual event titles go, it’s anyone’s guess. It’s been rare for individual qualifiers to take the top spot in the post-event finals era, particularly those competing in the first session, but this has been an upset-heavy postseason so far. Anything can happen!

Individual qualifiers are listed below:

  • Rotation 1: VT – Lily Smith (Georgia), UB – Courtney Blackson (Boise State), BB – Amani Herring (Penn State), Skylar Killough-Wilhelm (Washington)
  • Rotation 2: VT – Killough-Wilhelm, UB – L. Smith, BB – Nikki Smith (Michigan State), FX – Chae Campbell (UCLA)
  • Rotation 3: VT – Anaya Smith (Arizona State), UB – Killough-Wilhelm, BB – L. Smith, FX – Skyla Schulte (Michigan State)
  • Rotation 4: VT – Emma Silberman (Maryland), UB – Jade Mangahas (Arizona State), BB – Killough-Wilhelm, FX – L. Smith

You can watch along at home on ESPN2 and follow scores here.

Rotation 1: LSU VT, Stanford UB, Arkansas BB, California FX


KJ Johnson: Her usual big, flared out Y full. Couldn’t see the landing due. 9.825

Brock: Beauty of a Y 1.5 in the air, sizeable step forward on the landing. 9.825

Drayton: Slid on her block and underrotated her Y 1.5 just a bit. Step back. 9.8125

Schoenherr: Y 1.5 with a touch of softness and a little deep on the landing, but she muscled out the stick. 9.900

Ki. Johnson: Wow, looked like her hands slid on the block, but absolutely no problems getting the double full around. Moderate bounce back. 9.875

Bryant: Her usual floaty, flared fhs pike half. Small hop back on her landing is the only thing to take. 9.900

Li. Smith (UGA): Not a ton of height and a fair bit of pike down, but a solid start for the SEC FotY! 9.725


Gutierrez: Missed this from people finding their seats. sorry! 9.8875

Sorrento: YIKES! Scary hb peel off. She seels OK though. Toe-hand and Maloney, both great. On no, comes off again. Deep DLO with a moderate hop. 8.600

Neault: Pak to  handstand. A little late on her blind full to double tuck, but a stick with a wave and an excellent comeback for the Cardinal. 9.825

Alexeeva: A hair close on her piked Jaeger, but such gorgeous form. A little shy on her final handstand, but a definitively stuck double tuck. 9.850

Roberts: Toe-hand and VL both great, and nailed a stick straight DLO! 9.8875

Widner: Couldn’t see anything until the landing. Good height on the DLO. She fought for the stick, but couldn’t quite avoid taking a step forward. 9.800

Blackson (Boise State):Really crisp handstand positions. Blind change to the Markelov, slight knee bend but awesome height. Wow, exceptionally clean DLO with a stick. High fives from the Cardinal and the Stick Stick. 9.925


Gamiao: Lovely straddle press. Standing loso loso with some form, but perfectly steady. side somi with the smallest adjustment. I love her whole vibe. Just so calm. RO back 1.5 with a small hop forwrad. 9.850

Jones: Gorgeous bhs loso, very steady and easy. Leg up check after her double stag. Punch front full, drilled the landing. awesome! 9.8125

Swaney: Rock solid bhs loso. The Razorbacks have been so calm so far! Switch leap to split jump, again very steady. 9.850

Weaver: Big waist bend on her series, but takes a breath and reined it in. Nice full turn. RO back 1.5 with nice rise and a stick. 9.6625

Klein: Another waist bend on the acro series. A little nervy on her leaps, but does a great job of working through them. RO back 1.5, another stick. 9.6375

Linton: Could see some nerves on the double  wolf and again on her triple series, but managed them well. Ugh, slipped down on her front aerial (?). Yet another stuck RO back 1.5. 9.4625

Herring (PSU): Super steady front toss. Oh so slight hip check on her full turn and a little lean out of her side somi. Beat jump to a huge Staddle half. Tucked front full with a small hop. 9.7875


M. Williams: Front lay to Rudi, not a ton of pop but excellent landing. Lost her form on the switch ring full. RO back 2.5 to front lay, very nicely done. A little nervy at times, but overall great start! 9.8625

Kane: Really pretty opening front lay (?) to Rudi. Well-controlled. Popa to wolf jump, nice amplitude. Really high back 1.5 to front lay, very clean. 9.825

Cesario: Quick front double full. Switch leap to switch ring half,  hit 180 but a little cock-eyed on the latter. 9.825

Mayhew: Front double full to front pike, excellent form and pop. Gorgeous final back 1.5 to front full. 9.900

Lauzon: Didn’t get a great punch out of her first pass and had to take a step back on the front tuck. Switch ring to switch half, excellent position on both. Much better amplitude on the RO back 1.5 to front full. 9.8875

Frazier: Nice extension and positions on her leap series. Ring jump was fine as far as I could tell, but my angle isn’t great. Punch front through to a MASSIVE double tuck with small foot slide. 9.9375

Killough-Williams (UW): Outstanding front double full, so pretty. A little off-kilter on the switch ring. RO back 1.5 to a front lay that just seemed to hang in the air, and a scorpion kick to close! 9.8875

After 1: California 49.4125, LSU 49.3250, Stanford 49.2500, Arkansas 49.8125

No surprise that Cal and LSU are leading the charge after one. All four teams showed a touch of nerves, but no outright disasters.

Arkansas lost their momentum in the back half of the lineup after a strong start, but did well to avoid any actual falls (death by a thousand tenths). Ditto Stanford, who kept cool after that early-lineup fall.

The individuals were incredibly impressive, particularly Blackson who wasn’t weight-bearing after a serious lower leg injury midseason.
Rotation 2: California VT, LSU UB, Stanford BB, Arkansas FX


M. Williams: Fabulous Y full! Super clean and a definite stick. 9.8875

Mayhew: Touch of form on her Y 1.5, but tons of power and a good landing. 9.875

Frazier: Totally missed it. Thanks late arrivers standing in the aisle! 9.850

Lauzon: Great job on her Y 1.5, just a small hop to take. 9.900

Silvers: Big leg sep in the air and sat down the Y 1.5. First major break we’ve seen from Cal today.  9.275

Cesario: Solid Y full lets Cal drop the fall. 9.850

Killough-Wilhelm (UW): Solid Y full, good form with a minor hop back. 9.850


Jeffrey: Excellent form and positions throughout. Sky-high FTDT landed deep with a micro hop forward. 9.8125

Cowan: Kch stepout to a big Ray. Kch to excellent final handstand. DLO with the tiniest hop forward. Also, shoutout to DD one section over from me with an unspecified beverage in each hand. 9.875

Ki. Johnson: No problems on her handstand positions. Good final toe hand and a super tidy DLO, with a stick. 9.900

McClain: A hair close on the Church  and Pak, but man! That form is so lovely. Big FTDT with pointed toes and a micro adjustment. 9.9125

Schoenherr: HUGE straddled Jaeger, maybe the biggest I’ve seen her do? Clean blind change to front double full half out with a hop forward. 9.8625

Bryant: Kch, good. Blind change to straddled Jaeger, no problems. Perfect bail to handstand. Solid final handstand. Blind change to front double full half out with some feet and a small hop back. 9.925

Li. Smith (UGA): Perfect bail to handstand. Sole circle, grat. Exemplary FTDT with the tiniest in-place foot adjustment. That’s gonna be a huge score. 9.925


Dean: Side aerial to loso with a little softness and leg-up check. Beautifully extended straddle. RO back 1.5 with a hop. 9.6875

Robinson: Tiny check after her split jump. Cat leap to side aerial to beat with some form, but good pacing. RO back 1.5 a little crooked with a bounce forward. 9.8375

Neault: Love her low beam mount. Slow, deliberate bhs bhs loso, beautiful (albiet with some arm bend). Strong RO back 1.5 with a small hop to finish. 9.850

Alexeeva: Excellent 2.5 wolf (I know, right?). Slight nerves on her bhs loso and leaps, but worked through them. 9.8875

Widner: Switch leap to split jump, gorgeous. Bhs loso, just perfect. A little big slow on her front aerial connection, but kept it moving. Bhs to a big side gainer full. Stick with a lean. 9.8375

Roberts: Very nice double wolf turn (I know, right?). Switch leap with a little lean to a split jump. Slightly nervy on her series. Missed the dismount. 9.900

N. Smith (MSU): Bent arms on the bhs made her loso go kind of wild, but she stayed on! Nerves throughout, but the stuck


Gamiao: RO back 1.5 step-out to double full, gee! Switch half to Popa, really well done. She’s a rock star. RO back double tuck with a well-controlled lunge. Shushunova to end. Another awesome routine from Gamiao. 9.825

Klein: Overcooked her first pass and landed OOB. switch Side to Popa to Shushunova, very good. Nice control on her double pike. 9.800

Jones: Perfect fhs front double full, so controlled. Same for the second pass, really showing off her form and precision. Lost it a bit on her Rudi and hand to pike down and take a forward step. 9.8125

Le. Smith: Front layout stepout to a BIG double tuck bounced OOB. Nice position on her Popa (though I think she was a little crooked on the second). Under on the double pike and takes a small step forward. 9.625

L. Williams: Just slightly under on her opening pass. Much better on the front full (?) to front lay, good air. Pretty straddle positions. And here’s the worm! RO bhs double tuck also juuust under, necessitating a step forward. 9.8125

Price: Big opening DLO, just about stuck. Cory Tomlinson himself was blocking my view of her leaps, lol. No shade, he’s doing his job! Excellent front lay to front full to close. Big smiles after that one. 9.8875

Campbell (UCLA): NAILED the opening FTDT. Little bit of form, but the landing was perfect. Does not get any better than watching her dance. Tour jete half to… something. Tons of height and oversplit on both. Fhs front full to front lay, excellent. And a huge, kicked-out double tuck with controlled lunge to close. Wasn’t a 10, but I’ll be stunned if that doesn’t put her in first. 9.900

After 2: LSU 98.8000, California 98.7750, Stanford 98.5625, Arkansas 97.9500

Still a nail-biter with LSU and Cal about as close as can be, but look at the Cardinal hanging with them! Do not sleep on this Stanford team, folks. They’re the real deal.

No surprise, Haleigh Bryant is leading the AA, but not by much… Less than 0.200 between her and the rest of the field.

Oh hey, Casey Magnesium!

Rotation 3: Arkansas VT, California UB, LSU BB, Stanford FX


Weaver: Excellent Y full to open, clean in the air and a good landing. 9.8875

Le. Smith: Wow, another beautifully stuck Y full for Arkansas. If you’re gonna do Y fulls, they need to look like those two. 9.8875

Price: Three for three on standout fulls. Minor hop back. 9.875

Essenpries: Y 1.5 with a significant step forward on the landing. 9.7625

Klein: Beautiful Y 1.5. A touch deep on the landing, but good control. 9.850

L. Williams: Man, another Y 1.5 more or less stuck. Great comeback for Arkansas! 9.825

A. Smith (ASU): OK, I know THAT one was stuck. Holy wow, that was the best Y 1.5 I’ve ever seen from Smith. Certainly the best of the day so far. 9.9375


Lauzon: No problems on the Pak. A hair close on her FTDT, but zero movement on the landing. One of the best bars routines she’s done. 9.900

Cesario: Blind change to straddled Jaeger, just a hair close. Bail a bit off as a result. Textbook stuck DLO. 9.900

Li: Massive Jaeger, got a little wild in the air. DLO was stuck, I think? Hoping they’ll show a replay. 9.9125

Frazier: Some form on the Pak but another drilled DLO for the Golden Bears! 9.900

Perea: Beautiful form on her Pak and VL. Another stick for Cal! Love a redemption arc after last year’s bars woes. 9.9125

M. Williams: DLO with a little forward hop. 9.825

Killough-Wilhelm (UW): Blind change to piked Jaeger to bail, just exquisite. Blind full to double tuck, toes pointed until the stick. Screw it, give her the 10! Seeing that and Smith’s beam back-to-back is about all you could ask for as a gym fan. 9.925


Ballard: Very steady bhs loso, well done. Sissone to switch half a little slow. Hip check on the front toss. RO back 1.5, stuck.  9.900

Schoenherr: Really strong bhs loso to open. Kicked out full turn with a hint of readjustment. Beat jump to a cheated split half. Drilled RO back double full. OK, where has THAT beam routine been the last six years?! 9.925

McClain: Shoot through mount. Switch leap to switch half was a little slow. Front aerial to bhs, lovely. Gah, that wolf jump! Small lean on her full turn and side aerial. 9.9125

Ki. Johnson: Fantastic bhs loso. Switch leap series, very nice. Front toss with a finessed bobble. RO back double full with a negligible adjustment. 9.900

Bryant: Front aerial to bhs, no problems there. Switch leap to straddle quarter, cheated the second. Slight check on her standing front full, but zero problems on the Rudi dismount. State of the art! 9.950

Finnegan: Tiny lean on an otherwise perfect bhs loso loso. Another lean after her full turn. 9.8875

Li. Smith (UGA): Front aerial to a perfectly smooth bhs bhs. Switch leap to split jump, excellent. Piked front toss, perfect. Beautiful full turn. stuck side gainer full with a slight pike down. That was the best beam we’ve seen so far. Somewhere KJC is sobbing. 9.9125


Dean: Big Rudi to open. Good tour jete half. Great job on the back 1.5 to front full. 9.8375

Zeng: Front lay to Rudi, good control. Somewhere in the audience, my husband is geeking out over the Mario music. Big double tuck with a large scoot back. Good pop on her leaps. 9.8125

Cluck: DLO comes up short, but she holds on. Much better back 1.5 to front pike. Switch full to Popa, very shy on the former. Low check on the RO bhs double tuck, but it was stuck. 9.7375

Neault: Solid opening double pike. Beautifully-done back 1.5 to front lay to finish. 9.8375

Roberts: Huge front lay to Rudi, great control. Big RO bhs double tuck, no problems. Stanford is pouring it on! 9.900

Widner: Fabulous double pike. Really nice height and extension on her leap combo to finish. 9.900

Schulte (MSU): RO bhs FTDT with some leg form in the air, but a perfect landing. She’s performing the hell out of this. Switch half to Popa to straddle jump, huge pop and extention on all three. Front tuck through to a definitively STUCK double tuck. The individuals are on fire! 9.9125

After 3: LSU 148.3875, California 148.3000, Stanford 147.8500, Arkansas 147.2750

Cal and LSU continue to be lights out. I’ve seen a few iffy scores, but these two teams are undeniably making their case for Saturday.

And how about Arkansas and Stanford?! The Razorbacks have dug themselves a sizeable hole, but that vault rotation is about as good as they could have asked for.

The highlight of the rotation for me was all four individual competitors. Just exemplary performances, all of which went 9.9125 or better.

Rotation 4: Stanford VT, Arkansas UB, California BB, LSU FX


Zeng: Twisted early in her Y full and a small hop back. 9.7875

Dean: Missed this one. 9.725

Neault: RO full on, pike off with a moderate bounce back. 9.7625

Widner: Beautiful Y full in the air, small hop back. 9.850

Gutierrez: Y 1.5, not a ton of height, but stuck with a swim. 9.875

Roberts: Y 1.5 stuck stuck. 9.950

Silberman (UMD): RO full on pike off, blocks high up on the table so doesn’t get a ton of height. 9.7625


Swaney: A little close on the Pak, Lovely final handstand and a stuck DLO. Great lead-off. 9.8125

Pratt: Gorgeous Ray. Clean form and precise positions throughout. Small hop back on the DLO. 9.7875

Drotar: There was a child holding a sign in front of me, but I can say with confidence that she stuck whatever dismount she did! 9.925

Park: Strong Ray. 9.800

Scalzo: Blind change to straddled Jaeger, excellent. Bail, no problems. DLO with a minor hop forward. Excellent routine for her to close out her career! 9.875

Jones: A little off on her Pak, but works through it. DLO landed deep with a hop forward. 9.8125

Mangahas (ASU): Good first handstand. Blind change to piked Jaeger, lovely. Good final handstand. Big FTDT with foot form and chest forward, but a stick! 9.875


Li: Front aerial to loso, super steady. split jump with some foot form. Full turn kicked out. Scorpion kick. Tiny adjustment after leaps. Tucked gainer full with low chest, but stuck. 9.875

M. Williams: Wolf turn, very good. Textbook bhs loso. Rock solid switch leap to split jump. Bhs side gainer full with a lean, but another stick. 9.8625

Cesario: Ever so slight bobble on her full turn. Bhs loso with a leg-up fight ala Bailey Bunn before finally coming off. Switch leap to switch half, no problems. 9.2875

Frazier: Front aerial to loso with a small foot up check. Split jump to ring jump, very steady. Cartwheel back 1.5 with a step. Nice recovery for Cal. 9.8125

Lauzon: No issues on the wolf turn. Bhs bhs loso, fantastic. Switch leap to split jump, very deliberate and steady. 9.950

Perea: Wolf turn, check. Little bobble after her series. Fantastic split jump series. Beat jump to side somi to tucked full with a hop back. Honestly, the connection was pretty quick. Should credit, no problem. 9.8875

Killough-Wilhelm (UW): Front aerial to bhs loso, so smooth and steady. Switch leap to split jump, beautiful. A little crooked on the dismount, but what a day for SKW! 9.8875


McClain: RO bhs DLO, excellent. Switch leap to tour jete half, Well done. Back 1.5 to front full with maybe a little form? Didn’t have a great view. Regardless, great start. 9.9375

Drayton: Another big DLO, stuck. Front tuck through to a tidy double tuck. Switch ring to switch half, really nicely done. She almost kicked herself in the head, which is exactly how a ring leap should be, IMO! 9.8875

KJ Johnson: That open FTDT with a controlled lunge out, chef’s kiss! Front full to floaty front lay, awesome. Popa series were precise, I think. Need to see a rewatch, but it was close. RO bhs double tuck, stuck. 9.950

Finnegan: BIG tucked double Arabian to stag jump. A little hesitation in between, but nbd. Switch ring to tour jete half, well done. Geez, flawless back 2.5 to front tuck. 9.9625

Bryant: Fhs tucked double front, yas! Standing loso, great. Was watching Perea beam, so missed the leaps. Front lay to Rudi, perfectly controlled. 9.9375

Ki. Johnson: Big ol’ FTDT with front foot planted (I think…), RO back 1.5 to front lay, stuck. Huge double pike. Awesome routine to close out the day. 9.9375

Li. Smith (UGA): Fhs front double full, beauty in the air but a small foot drag. Crisp back 1.5 to front lay. Her twisting form is just *chef’s kiss.* Lovely extension and height on the leaps, not sure about the staring position. Rudi to a well-controlled straddle. Awesome day for Smith! 9.9125

FINAL: LSU 198.1125, California 197.7125, Stanford 197.0750, Arkansas 196.4750

There were some iffy scores, but those were championship-caliber performances from Cal and LSU. Consider the gauntlet thrown down, Session II!

Speaking of throwing down the gauntlet, Stanford put on a SHOW! This is a team that “wasn’t even supposed to be here,” and they made the absolute most of the opportunity. Make no mistake, they’ll be back.

Arkansas showed a lot of heart and shook off the nerves from rotations one and two to finish strong. Not their day, but this is another team to watch in the near future. They’ve got the talent and all the necessary pieces, and now they’ve got some experience at the highest level of competition.

READ THIS NEXT: “Anchoring in Joy” Guides Cal to Nationals

Live blog by Claire Billman

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