Tensions are high and uncertainties abound as we approach the 3 p.m. start time for the first semifinal of NCAA Gymnastics National Championships!
ICYMI, the Gators qualified via the Pittsburgh Regional, where star Trinity Thomas suffered a lower-leg injury and has been day-to-day ever since. Still, the team rallied, and despite some errors on floor and vault, the team qualified in second behind California to punch its ticket to Nationals.
The Gators will start on bars today as the top-ranked team in the session, determined by random draw done before qualifiers were determined, and there are definitely a few factors to keep an eye on.
The biggest variable in this equation is, of course, Trinity Thomas. If she is feeling up to competing any events, she can make a big difference for this team to the tune of multiple tenths. Bars seems like the most likely event for her, given that her injury is leg or foot-related, but she was also seen warming up vault, which is arguably where she would make the most difference for this team.
Other factors to watch include Sloane Blakely and Rachel Baumann on floor – both had misses on floor at regionals that put Florida behind Cal. If they can hit this time around, the Gators should be in a much better position going into vault, their final rotation and perhaps their weakest.
There’s also the matter of Victoria Nguyen’s vault. Nguyen attempted a debut on vault in regular season but had an unfortunate crash and had to be held out the following week. However, at regionals, she warmed up her new Yurchenko 1.5 quite well. If she debuts it tonight and Thomas is able to compete, it will give the Gators a full lineup of 10.0 start value vaults!
It all starts in just a few minutes on ESPN2 or ESPN+, but if you can’t get away from the office or don’t have access, we’ll have all the quick hits right here moment by moment!
Kathy and Bart just confirmed on broadcast as well – she is expected in the bars and vault lineups!
3:07pm: We are getting ready to go here on the broadcast!
Blakely, UB: Misses the bar on her Maloney. What?! Rechalks to try again. Hits it this time, pak is nice and clean. Nails her blind change and double front dismount is stuck! Hoo boy. It’s going to be a stressful day.
Arenas, LSU BB: Hits her acro series. Front toss is a little funky in the legs but hits. Step on the dismount.
Mabanta, Denver VT: Yfull, chest a little low, little stutter step on the landing.
3:10pm: Nguyen, UB: Maloney to pak, very clean. Maybe the cleanest it’s been all season. DLO dismount is stuck! That’s the rest they needed.
Shchennikova, BB: Hitting everything so far, maybe a little shy on a split? Side aerial, little bobble there. Bhs to gainer full off the side, sticks it. Another hit for the Tigers.
Brown, DU VT: This is a vault y’all will want to see! This 6th year fighter is just incredible. Y1.5, super clean, NAILS the landing! Just a little heel raise to bring her feet together but basically stuck, WOW!
DiCello, UB: Ray is BIG, great air. Some leg sep on the pak salto, van Leeuwen is good. Great final handstand. Full out dismount, maybe a small foot adjustment? Slow mo agrees with me but commentators called it stuck.
3:15pm: Ruiz, DU VT: Yfull, not as straight in the air as I’d like to see, a little scoot back.
Thomas, UB: Great opening handstand. Maloney to pak, both great. Low bar handstand is excellent. Van Leeuwen is strong. Final handsstand is fabulous. DRILLS HER DOUBLE LAY! Perfection. Maybe a little wince of pain? Trying not to read too much into it.
She looks a little teary afterward as she hugs HC Jenny Rowland. Whether she goes on vault or not, whether or not they qualify to finals, that was clutch. She can be proud of that if that was her last routine.
Wong, UB: Maloney to pak both clean here. van Leeuwen looks good. Final handstand maybe shy a bit. DLO is stuck! Just one more routine and they can drop the fall.
9.95 for Thomas!
3:20pm: McCusker, UB: A little shy on first handstand. Maloney to pak, both sooooo clean, legs pasted together. van Leeuwen is the same. Stalder is clean. Double tuck, a little deep in the knee bend but she sticks it! A Queen!
Bryant, BB: Front to back acro series is solid. Maybe shy on her first split in her dance series? Standing front tuck, very steady this week. Punch front 1.5 dismount, sticks it!
Lauzon, Cal FX: Front double full to punch front for Cal, excellent. Love her choreo through here. So clean in her second twisting pass – they’re having a solid rotation so far.
Finnegan, LSU BB: Triple acro series is excellent, uses the full length of the beam. Splits are excellent in dance series, great 180 positions and extension. Front aerial is solid. Gainer full looked stuck from here?
Frazier, Cal FX: So unfair these are happening at the same time. DLO is excellent! Really selling the choreography through here. Leap sequence just floats, lovely split positions. Front through to double back, well controlled. Cal should be in a great position after this first rotation.
Time for some individuals now.
Harkness, MSU indiv FX: Full in to open, great form and control there, nice. A little short in her first split in her dance series? Front through to double tuck, front foot moves a bit. Should be a good score but not as good as Frazier.
AFTER ONE: UF 49.4875, CAL 49.4375, LSU 49.275, DU 49.225
A segment now on Florida’s “almosts” and how motivated they are this year, leading into an interview with Thomas – “this obviously isn’t how I wanted this all to go.” I didn’t need the tears, yet, ESPN!
3:37pm: Get ready for rotation 2! Gators will go to the beam.
Blakely, BB: Front to back acro series, clean so far. Switch leap to switch half to beat jump, lovely extension. Sticks her gainer full! Big celebration afterward – she knows how to have a short memory.
Ballard, LSU FX: DLO, a little short on the landing. Combination pass is clean, doesn’t even need the whole diagonal. Leap series is clean, and finishes well.
Williams, Cal VT: Yfull is stuck! Wow! Maybe a little pike down in the body but absolutely nothing on the landing, yeah.
3:40pm: Lazzari, BB: Triple acro series, looked like maybe she was going to wobble but didn’t move a muscle, what a pro. Leap series is clean, gorgeous toe point as usual. Front aerial, underdid it but was patient with it, just took a step back. Step on the landing of her gainer full. Dang.
Shchennikova, LSU FX: Front double full, just an arabesque out of it. Second pass is another hit, although I was watching Lazzari so I didn’t see what it was. Rudi to split jump, traveled and arm waved a fair bit.
DeSouza, Cal VT: Y1.5, big preflight leg separation, little hop forward.
DiCello, BB: Candle mount is great to start. Double wolf turn, a little arm wavy but keeps her leg position pretty even. Switch leap to split jump, great 180 positions. Bhs loso, locks it down. Front aerial, solid there. Sticks her dismount! Yes!
Frazier, Cal VT: Yurchenko double full, wow! Just a little hop, chest maybe a little low but they’re often more forgiving on the harder vaults.
Brown, DU UB: Maloney to pak, pretty clean through there. DLO, sticks it! Should be a great score for Denver.
3:45pm: We see a replay of Chase Brock from LSU on floor, where she slipped and fell on a tumbling pass! LSU now under pressure to drop that fall.
Wong, BB: Gorgeous switch leap to split leap. Bhs loso, has to lean and bring her leg up to correct but stays on with minimal wobbling. Double full, little adjustment on the landing.
Johnson, LSU FX: Full in to open, wow! Great to see her back, this is her first floor since breaking her foot. Second pass is another hit. Maybe a little shy in the amplitude on her dance series. She looks like she’s maybe limping as she comes off though… that’s not a great sign.
Hutchinson, DU UB: Transitions just gorgeous, some leg sep on the pak salto, hmm. DLO dismount, little slide back it looked like.
McCusker, BB: Bhs loso, another check there, uh oh. Leap series, a little bit off but covers well. Gainer full, looked like another step on the landing there. We see a slow mo replay of her front aerial, too – breaks at the hips. Not her best, but fought through it like a pro.
3:50pm: Finnegan, LSU FX: Double arabian, really good landing and almost can’t connect into the stag, but she does. 2.5 to front tuck, just gorgeous. Ring and split positions are clean through her leap series.
Richards, BB: Bhs loso, another leg up balance break – they need to calm down. Did not even really go for her switch half, sort of connects to the beat jump. Gets it back for a mixed series. Hop forward on the dismount.
Bryant, LSU FX: Double front, two foot stick! Wow. Front lay to Rudi almost immediately after, another excellent landing. Leaps are great. That’ll erase the fall from Brock.
Widner, Stanford indiv FX: DLO, little short, had to pike it down and hop forward. Double pike, overcooks it and stumbles back, sits it down. Oof, that’s rough. Lovely leap series, showcases her flexibility in her choreo as she finishes.
Harris, Ohio St indiv BB: Gorgeous leap series to start. Front aerial to back tuck, that’s a hard acro series! Double full dismount is stuck – nailed it. She’s got a bright future ahead of her, she’s just a freshman.
AFTER TWO: CAL 98.7875, LSU 98.75, DU 98.5875, UF 98.575
This is still a very tight meet, y’all – anything can happen.
Per Jay Clark, KJ Johnson is done for the night and will not vault – Bryce Wilson likely in instead.
4:10pm: Arenas, LSU VT: Yfull, little bounce back.
Nguyen, FX: Feel pretty good about her leading off here. Double full, a little off axis? Straight to sissone though, connection is fine. Gorgeous leap positions, Y turn is lovely. 1.5 to front lay, well controlled as she finishes out. Great start! They needed that calm reset.
Shchennikova, LSU VT: Y1.5, a little deep, a little shift forward it looked like?
Frazier, Cal UB: Maloney to pak, some leg sep there. Good final handstand. DLO, hops forward, chest quite low.
Brock, LSU VT: Y1.5, big step forward.
Blakely, FX: Starts with her 1.5 to front lay instead of the double arabian? Okay! Gorgeous leap series, great amplitude. Piked double back to finish – looks like they downgraded the routine to make sure she could hit. I think that was a good call.
Mabanta, DU BB: Acro series is solid to start. Goes for her switch to switch half and falls! Oh no. Finishes out the routine, but pressure’s on now.
Finnegan, LSU VT: Omelianchik, which is a Yhalf-on front pike – step forward, good distance.
Perea, Cal UB: Great opening handstand! Pak just floats, lovely. van Leeuwen and she can’t fully make the half turn, can’t make it to the bar and she falls, looks a little stunned as she lays on the ground for a second. Restarts after the skill, will not repeat it. DLO, little hop. Pressure’s on Cal too. Oh boy.
Bryant, LSU VT: Handspring pike half, not her normal stellar pop off the board, her legs weren’t as tight as usual, steps back, maybe a second adjustment?
4:18pm: Li, Cal UB: Pak was excellent. Had a little hiccup in there but fought through, stuck her dismount. Cal normally can hit bars like a dream – this is unusual.
Richards, FX: Okay, let’s have another hit here, please. DLO, one of her best! Really giving it her all here in the choreo. 1.5 to front full, BIG smile as she finishes the pass. Big cheers for her as she chomps it out for the end of the routine.
Denver counting a fall now – they may be out!
Williams, UB: Solid releases so far. DLO a little close to the bar, a little whippy, but sticks it somehow.
Schlottman, DU BB: Bhs loso, floats that one in. Switch leap to split 3/4, a little shy of 180, she’s nervous. Didn’t see the dismount but definitely a hit for them – they needed that!
Wong, FX: Dos Santos to stag, comes riiiiiight to the line but knows exactly where she is. Gorgeous extension throughout this choreography, really nialing it. Whip half to front full, excellent control, single step forward. I agree with Kathy, one of her best routines all season!
Cesario, Cal UB: Great blind change. Jaeger to immediate overshoot, she misses her hand and she’s off!! Cal now also counting a fall! Holy cow! DLO is stuck. But wow. This completely changes the meet.
4:25pm: DiCello, FX: Staying in the own Gator bubble. Being goldfish – short memories. It’s her time to shine. Front double full, steps to the side a bit – not her best, but stays on her feet just fine. Really playing to the camera in this next choreo section, love it. Double wolf is much cleaner than on beam here. 1.5 to front lay, gorgeous control as she finishes up. Won’t be her best but will be a hit, which is more than half of these teams can say for this rotation!
Hutchinson, DU BB: Front toss to bhs, very clean. Dance series is lovely, great extension. Another front toss, solid. Gainer full dismount is stuck! It’s a bit late for Denver, but every little bit counts.
Harris, Ohio St indiv FX: Double pike, front foot slides back a bit but solid amplitude. Front double full, that’s hard for a middle pass! She’s having fun with this choreography, love that. I think I heard a little O-H-I-O cheer somewhere in the stand? Front full to front lay, two foot stick! That should be an excellent score for her.
Sheremeta, Mizzou indiv BB: Lovely bhs loso to start off. Full turn, so clean. Leap series has great extension, to a straddle dive down to front support on the beam, love it. Gainer tuck full off the end, stuck! Should be a great score for her.
AFTER THREE: UF 148.1, LSU 148.0, CAL 147.4875, DU 147.1375
So far, so good! One rotation to go, but I’m not counting any chickens before they hatch!
Oop. Peep the all 10.0 SV lineup!
4:40pm: Last rotation! Can the Gators make it to Saturday!
The Gators look loose, dancing in their corral, staying in the Gator bubble.
Wong, VT: Yhalf on pike half off, one of her good ones! Dead center, chest high, just a little slide back. Angle isn’t great to see position in the air.
Jeffrey, LSU UB: A hit, but a deep landing on the dismount.
Richards, VT: Y1.5, just a little step to the side. Not her biggest vault, maybe some knees, but a hit. That’s what matters.
Cowan, LSU UB: Great opening handstand. Ray is gorgeous, to immediate overshoot. Final handstand maybe a little shy. DLO, just a little step back. Great routine for her.
Blakely, VT: Y1.5, big bounce forward, but they’d rather that than her sit it down.
Williams, Cal BB: Double wolf to start, lovely. Front aerial to split jump, very clean. Bhs loso, solid. Switch leap to beat jump, nice. Gainer full is stuck!
Tatum, LSU UB: Ray, not a lot of amplitude but fine, pak had some leg sep. Full in is stuck. LSU keeps on trucking.
4:46pm: Thomas, VT: Y1.5, great form, just a little scoot back. She looks so relieved. She and Schoenherr and Taylor are getting a little teary in the corral together.
Nguyen, VT: Y1.5, YES! She hits it, just a lunge forward. Now we wait.
Finnegan, LSU UB: Piked Deltchev, HUGE amplitude. Transition solid. Double arabian dismount, stuck! THAT was a bar routine.
Hutchinson, DU FX: Doing her mom’s old Olympic routine, which is super cool. Front double full, very nice form there. 1.5 to front lay, so clean. Leaps are lovely! Rudi to straddle jump, well controlled. Back attitude turn, love that, unique choice.
Shchennikova hits another for LSU – that should be enough for them. But again, now we wait.
Bryant, LSU UB: Jaeger is great, as is the transition. Double front half out, basically stuck – that should be it!
4:52pm: Brown, DU FX: Nails her DLO to open! Really milking the choreography through here – I think she knows it’s her last one. Leaps are excellent. 1.5 through to 1.5 punch front to close it out – Kathy gets a little teary, so does Brown, and so do I! An incredible career for Lynnzee Brown. What a fighter. What an athlete.
Denver elects to only compete 5, so that will be the meet for them.
Perea, Cal BB: Double wolf turn is clean and steady. Front toss to back tuck, not sure if I’d call that connected, she had a little too much hesitation there. Switch to split to beat, all very crisp connections and good extension. Side somi to back tuck 1.5 off the side of the beam – looked stuck?
Stephen, MSU BB indiv: Front aerial to two feet, some arm swing there but keeps it pretty steady. Full turn is on such high toe, so lovely. Bhs loso, big balance check but stays on. Beat to straddle 1/2, even with being extra cautious she still makes the 180 just fine. Double full dismount, slide back.
FINAL: LSU 197.475, UF 197.4, CAL 196.9125, DU 196.5
Florida qualifies to the final!! What a rollercoaster!
Currently, Thomas leads the UB individual title fight with her spectacular 9.95, and Wong and Finnegan of LSU are tied with the lead on floor with 9.9625.
Aside from the Gators, Bryant leads the AA title hunt, while we have some individuals in the mix for the other events! Lynnzee Brown is Denver’s lone contender with that massive 9.925 on vault, tied with Boise State’s Courtney Blackson, and individual Chloe Widner from Stanford leads the beam standings with 9.95.
Tonight’s meet for semi II will start at 9 p.m. ET, so make sure to tune in! I’ll be tweeting, but not liveblogging, so make sure to follow me @mycluttereddesk for all the latest updates! We’ll see you back here at Saturday at 4 p.m. ET for finals for one final liveblog of this season.