It hasn’t been easy, but they knew it wouldn’t be – these Gators have fought tooth and nail to arrive at this moment. Now that it’s finally here, can they seal the deal? The national championship hangs in the balance as the Gators enter this meet perhaps the underdogs, with a true Florida legend looking to cap off her NCAA career with the highest honor yet. Tonight, it’s “All for the Gators.”
A berth in today’s meet was never guaranteed, despite many saying that Florida ended up in the “easier” semifinal. Truth is, there was no easy semifinal – the parity in the NCAA this season has risen immensely, and the pressure cooker of a national championship will always make unpredictable things happen. None of these eight teams could truly be called a lock, especially after the chaos that was regional finals.
In Semifinal I, Florida had to fight past an opening fall on bars and a shaky beam rotation, after which it was in last place. Keeping in mind the mantra of freshman Kayla DiCello – “be a goldfish” – the Gators stepped onto floor for the third rotation and posted their third-highest FX score at national semifinals in program history, bringing them back into first!
Cal and Denver unfortunately both counted falls in the third rotation, putting them much further behind Florida and LSU, so to close out the meet, all the Gators had to do was hit.
They did a little bit more than that though – vault saw the triumphant return of Trinity Thomas to the lineup and the incredible debut of Victoria Nguyen’s Yurchenko 1.5! There were no stuck landings, but it seemed like they weren’t really focused on that – the team did what it needed to do to qualify, leaving plenty more in the tank for finals.
But more in the tank they will need – it will take more than their semifinal score of 197.4 to beat the likes of Oklahoma, Utah, and LSU, provided all the teams are on. The Gators will need to start with a much more normal beam rotation, repeat or improve on their floor performance from Thursday, and really for the vault landings to set themselves up well for a fight to the finish. They’ll end on bars, perhaps their best event this season, where they’ll hope to erase Thursday’s performance with a stellar six-for-six rotation that can challenge even Oklahoma, who many consider to be the likeliest winner today.
It all starts at 4 p.m. ET, with a 3:30 preshow, on ABC or ESPN+, but if you don’t have access, we’ll have updates for you here live, minute by minute, starting around 3:30.
3:35pm: Good afternoon everyone! The preshow is live and I am all set up in front of my television – hope you are too! But if not, I’m happy to keep you up to date throughout the afternoon as things move along in Fort Worth.
Trinity Thomas warmed up three events today, just not floor, so we don’t expect the all-around to be in the picture, but it’s possible that she’ll compete more than she did on Thursday.
The Gators have also posted their championship look for today – another stunning white look, almost a sister to their look from National Finals last year. Will Florida be the bride this year? Or mirror last year, coming up short?
3:43pm: ABC doing a fluff piece now on Trinity Thomas’s perfect 10.0s, and John Roethlisberger admits that even though he’s a Tennessee guy, Thomas makes even him want to root for her as a Gator.
Another fluff piece here on the perfect 10.0 legacy and the 10.0 records – interviews from current gymnasts, coaches, and commentators are expected, but they got Jenny Hansen (current record holder for most 10.0s) and Karin Lichey (only gymnast ever to earn a perfect 40) to discuss their legacies! And of course, Nadia Comaneci, the very first athlete to score a perfect 10.0, makes an appearance – she and commentator husband Bart Conner both express that the perfect 10.0 is one of the biggest contributions the sport of gymnastics has made to the cultural lexicon.
3:51pm: Roethlisberger introduces our commentating team for the meet proper – Conner, Kathy Johnson Clarke, and Samantha Peszek – and they predict Utah’s Maile O’Keefe and LSU’s Haleigh Bryant as potential 10.0s tonight, but I think that’s in addition to the obvious choice of Thomas. Walk-in clearly happening behind them now… y’all ready?
Lineups currently show Thomas in vault and bars, but this is clearly not the final lineup sheet, as LSU’s KJ Johnson is back in a boot and almost certainly will not compete floor. How many changes will we see??
3:57pm: Ashley Miles Greig saying (accurately) that Florida left a lot on the table on beam and that they will need a much better rotation in order to make this a national title-winning performance. Inaccurately recalls that there was a fall – no fall, just enough bobbles in Payton Richards’s routine to break connections, preventing her from completing her routines requirements and reducing her start value. I fully expect she was working those connections repeatedly in warmups today.
All four stream team members have different predictions for the national champions – LSU from Kennedy Baker, Florida from Bridget Sloan, Utah from Miles Grieg, and Oklahoma from Roethlisberger… who removes his shirt to reveal an OU leo! Oh boy. It is already a show, y’all. Let’s get ready for competition!
4:07pm: Sievers, OU VT: Y1.5, thought she was going to get the stick but takes a step forward.
Blakely, BB: Front aerial to bhs, very steady. Switch to switch half to beat, excellent. Gainer full is stuck – that’s how you start, Gators!
Brenner, UU FX: Solid opening pass. 1.5 to front lay, great control there. Double back to finish, well controlled as well – Utah with another good start.
Stern, OU VT: Y1.5, little hop forward.
4:09pm: Cowan, LSU UB: Great first handstand. Ray to immediate overshoot, clean. Solid last handstand as well. DLO, single step back.
LeVasseur, OU VT: Y1.5, very straight body, great distance, but big lunge forward.
Lazzari, BB: Triple series and she can’t save – she falls! No! Gets back up, dance series is clean. Front aerial, she’s back on track. Gainer full, deep squat but sticks it – still fighting for every tenth.
Gilstrap, UU FX: Front lay to Rudi, pretty clean through there. Front lay front full, great control. Didn’t feel like a lot of content in the routine, but certainly lovely choreography – great flexibility, extension, musicality.
Bowers, OU VT: Y1.5, not as straight as LeVasseur, another step forward.
4:12pm: Torrez, OU VT: Y1.5, deep knee bend but stuck it. They needed that – Florida did not.
DiCello, BB: Candle mount, great start. Double wolf turn, better than day one, much calmer. Switch leap to split jump, great extension, toe point. Acro series is fabulous. Bhs gainer full, stuck! That’s the rest they needed, wow. Freshman gets it done!
Paulson, UU FX: Great opening 2.5, pretty clean. Lovely leap series in the corner there. 1.5 to front lay, excellent twisting form. Again, felt a bit empty, but certainly very pretty.
Finnegan, LSU UB: Piked Deltchev to open, incredible amplitude. Bail is strong. Handstands look pretty good. Double arabian dismount, big step forward.
4:16pm: Trautman, OU VT: Y1.5, sticks it again.
Wong, BB: Switch leap to split leap, gorgeous. Bhs loso, FINALLY nails that series. She’s had problems for weeks. Full turn is steady. Front aerial to beat jump, solid. Roundoff double full, maybe stuck? Not sure if I give that to her, I’d like to see her hold it a little longer. Slow mo shows she maybe had more control than I thought though.
Bryant, LSU UB: Maybe a little shy on first handstand? Blind change is good. Jaeger is HUGE! Bail to handstand, solid. Great final handstand, NAILS her double front half out. LSU could use that right now.
McCusker, BB: Double wolf turn to open, excellent. Beat to front aerial, no trouble there today, excellent. Bhs loso, just lays it in there like she’s on the floor, gorgeous. Switch leap to split leap, fantastic. Gainer full is stuck!
Rucker, UU FX: Full in, good form in the air but landing a little funky. A lot more energy in this routine, I can appreciate that. Layout to front full, very clean.
4:21pm: 9.9375 for McCusker! Huge!
Nguyen, BB: In instead of Richards tonight. Onodi to bhs for her acro series, just gorgeous. Love it. Switch leap to split leap, excellent extension through both, 180 positions are perfect. 1.5 dismount, just a hop forward on the landing.
O’Keefe, UU FX: Double pike, finesses the landing. Front lay to front full, so quick there. Dance series is excellent, great amplitude and shapes. 1.5 to front lay, great control as she finishes out. Utah is having a fantastic rotation over on floor.
AFTER ONE: OU 49.5625, UF 49.525, UTAH 49.5, LSU 49.3125
4:33pm: Alright, let’s get ready for Rotation 2! The Gators head to the floor, OU to bars, Utah to vault, and LSU to beam.
Nguyen, FX: Front double full to sissone, much better today. Switch ring to switch half, gorgeous split positions and amplitude. Y turn, love that. 1.5 to front lay, well controlled as she finishes up. Another good start for the Gators.
Sievers, OU UB: Maloney to pak, both pretty clean. Maybe a little shy on last handstand? Sticks her dismount.
Brenner, UU VT: Y1.5, little hop forward, maybe not the distance she normally gets?
Fletcher, OU UB: Good first handstand. Piked Jaeger, not a lot of amplitude on that. Pak is clean. Sticks her full in dismount to huge celebrations.
Blakely, FX: 1.5 to front lay, surprised Kathy with her tumbling switch but I think it’s the best thing AC Adrian Burde could have done for her. Great dance elements throughout this choreo section, really playing to the Gator crowd. Double pike, a little bouncy on the landing.
Shchennikova, LSU BB: Gorgeous handstand mount. Front aerial, bhs loso, had to finesse that. Leaps hit 180 but she looks like she’s got some nerves. Side aerial is steady. Gainer full is stuck, looked like she surprised herself with that!
Trautman, OU UB: Short on first handstand? Maloney to pak, leg form very clean. Pirouette a little past vertical. DLO, little hop on the dismount.
Rucker, UU VT: Y1.5, little stutter step to the side.
4:40pm: Baumann, FX: 1.5 to front full to start, so well controlled. Incredible amplitude on her leaps as always. Double pike to finish, much better than day one, just pops into the lunge.
Smith, OU UB: Releases solid so far. Great half pirouette on low bar. DLO, little adjustment on the landing.
Gilstrap, UU VT: Yfull, just a little hop in place, but she’s a little off to the side.
Bowers, OU UB: Hecht mount into a solid opening handstand. Blind change is good, big Jaeger, maybe a little close caught? Pak is clean. Half pirouette looks fine. Last handstand is fine. Sticks that full in like it’s her job.
Richards, FX: DLO, ooh, it’s a bouncy one, maybe a little shy. Dance series is clean. 1.5 to front full, very well controlled. Won’t be the build they were looking for, but another hit.
Ballard, LSU BB: Acro series is solid, nice. A little shy on her switch half, there. Front toss – finesses that like a pro, doesn’t bobble at all. Roundoff 1.5, little step forward.
4:45pm: Davis, OU UB: Big Jaeger, Pak is clean. Last handstand is great. Double front half out, drops it in like a dime – she couldn’t move if she tried, I don’t think.
Wong, FX: Dos Santos, and she’s out of bounds. This is not what the Gators needed right now. Leap series is lovely. Great control on the combination pass, but it’s a bit late for that. I’m pretty sure it was both feet, so that’ll be 3 tenths by itself. Okay, must’ve only been one foot, it’s only a 9.725.
Bryant, LSU BB: Acro series to start, very solid. Switch leap straddle 1/4, both great 180 positions. Standing front, lean and has to bring her leg up a little to correct. Front 1.5 twist dismount, little adjustment on the landing.
4:50pm: DiCello, FX: Double full to open, definitely better than day one but not her best. Double wolf turn is clean, so was her dance series. Combination pass to finish, better control there and better leg form. We’ll see what she earns for that.
Finnegan, LSU BB: Candle mount 1/2, that’s fun! Bhs loso loso, little lean to the side but keeps her feet on the beam. Switch leap to split jump, lovely extension there. Front aerial, dead on. Gainer full is stuck! LSU needed that one.
AFTER TWO: OU 99.2, UF 98.95, UTAH 98.65, LSU 98.55
5:00pm: Rotation 3!
Morgan, UU UB: Opening release is clean. Bhardwaj for her transition, wow. Little adjustment on her dismount.
Dunn, OU BB: Little lean on her series. Dance series was clean, much steadier. Gainer full is stuck – better than her fall at regionals but Oklahoma showing some nerves.
Wong, VT: Yhalf on pike half off, one of her good ones – chest high, just a little slide.
Brenner, UU UB: Great first handstands. Jaeger to overshoot, good amplitude on both. Shy on that last handstand maybe? DLO, little bounce back it looked like.
Blakely, VT: Y1.5, good dynamics but hops forward and doesn’t hold at all to let judges see just how few steps she took.
Trautman, OU BB: A little robotic in her mount as she gets up. Full turn is clean. Bhs loso, has to stutter step, leg comes up, but she stays on. Cat leap to switch side, good 180 there. Front toss, another leg up bobble. Small adjustment on her dismount.
Thompson, UU UB: Maloney to pak, pretty clean. DLO, a little floppy, but sticks it!
5:05pm: DiCello, VT: Y1.5, great distance, just another hop forward.
Thomas, VT: Y1.5, STICKS IT!!!! Absolutely nails it! Give her the record!
Isa, UU UB: Strong releases, legs glued together on her transition. Full pirouette into DLO, fought for that stick.
Nguyen, VT: Y1.5, little scoot back but good in the air. That will be an excellent score.
Torrez, OU BB: Side aerial loso, she looks quite calm. Dance series is clean, steady. Little shift forward on the dismount. Still will be a good score, though.
Finnegan, LSU FX: Double arabian into stag jump, travels a little on that. 2.5 to punch front, so difficult but makes it looks effortless
McCallum, UU UB: Maloney to pak, very clean. Dismount looked stuck to me!
5:15pm: Davis, OU BB: Bhs loso, very steady. Front aerial is super clean. Beat to ring jump, that ring position was not clear enough for me. Roundoff double full is stuck. That’ll be a good one for the Sooners.
Bryant, LSU FX: Double front, pretty controlled on the landing. Front lay to Rudi, great twisting form there and well controlled. Switch ring to switch half, gorgeous. That’ll be a great score for the Tigers!
Smith, OU BB: Bhs loso to open, steady. Front aerial is solid. Straddle 1/2 to bhs swingdown, quick connection there. So confident through this whole routine. Bhs gainer full, has to hop forward, she was definitely short.
AFTER THREE: OU 148.7125, UF 148.525, UTAH 148.2, LSU 148.0
Oklahoma is… getting the benefit of the doubt more often than I’d like to see, personally, but scores have been a bit all over the place. But even if the Gators don’t win the title, Thomas writing her name in the recordbooks for all time as a co-owner of the perfect 10.0 record is a pretty great consolation prize.
5:27pm: Last one, best one! Let’s get it done, Gators!
Blakely, UB: Maloney to pak, some leg sep early but she redeemed herself from yesterday. Double front is stuck! The Gators are here to fight!
Davis, OU FX: Nails her opening pass, although I didn’t see what it was. 1.5 to front full, well controlled.
Morgan, UU BB: Triple series, fantastic. Dance series clean, hits her positions in the air. Front gainer full off the side – that’s cool! And she sticks it.
Nguyen, UB: Maloney to pak, legs are pasted together today! Thank you! Last handstand is excellent. DLO is stuck! You can tell I’m getting even more higher strung because I’m using so many exclamation points!
Smith, OU FX: Double back to start, step is well controlled. 1.5 to front lay, dances right out of it. Dance sequence is crisp. Double pike to finish, has to step forward.
Paulson, UU BB: Lovely leap series, great positions in the air. We didn’t get to see her acro series. Sticks her dismount!
DiCello, UB: Great opening handstand! Ray is big, caught maybe a little close. Pak and van Leeuwen are connected, love that. Full out is stuck! The Gators are on fire!
5:33pm: Thomas, UB: We’re seeing some fluff here beforehand – talking about how this isn’t how she wanted things to go, oh, and she gets teary. Talking about her support system, being able to do this with her team regardless of what’s for herself.
Maloney to pak, so patient, legs pasted together. van Leeuwen just floats. Great final handstand! DLO – she has to fight for, but it’s stuck!
The whole stadium going wild for her as she gets hugs from teammates and coaches. Getting a little misty eyed over here myself.
Torrez, OU FX: DLO, good in the air but a slide back of that front foot. Lands her dance sequence so precisely, wolf jump was maybe a little crooked in the air though? Front through to double back, another slide on that front foot.
Wong, UB: Maloney to pak, both looked clean as we join on the broadcast. van Leeuwen is great. DLO is stuck COLD!
5:38pm: Fletcher, OU FX: Really selling this opening choreo! Whip double tuck to open, another foot slide there. Front lay front full, well controlled on that one. Great leap series. 2.5 twist, one of her best it seems like. Sooners are going wild for her.
We didn’t get to see McCusker but it was clearly a hit by the sounds of it from Gator Nation.
O’Keefe, UU BB: Acro series, dead on – she is so calm as this chaos is happening around her. Switch leap to split leap, gorgeous. Bhs gainer full is stuck! A triumphant routine for her regardless of anything else going on. A perfect 10!!
Sievers, OU FX: Full in, strong landing there. Second pass is clean, dance elements are well done. She leaps off the podium and the team is screaming. Oklahoma has done it again.
5:45pm: McCallum, UU BB: The final routine of the night for the Olympian. Triple wolf into double wolf, very steady. Bhs loso, solid. Split to straddle 1/4, maybe a little shy of 180, might just be the flexed feet though. Gainer tuck full off the end, just a hop forward. Utah was certainly glad to have her back, but it still wasn’t quite enough.
FINAL: OU 198.3875, UF 198.2375, UTAH 197.9375, LSU 197.525
Both teams got gifts, but given the miniscule margin, just 0.15, you have to wonder what would be happening if all the foot slides, steps, and bobbles had all been scored the same. Nonetheless, you have to be proud of the Gators here. They gave it 110% and fought for every tenth, even the routines that had mistakes and were likely to be dropped.
Lots for them to reflect on this season, lots to be proud of. Historic in so many ways.
I’ll have a season wrap-up for y’all in about a week or so, but in the meantime, take some time to process the retirement of these incredible seniors and super-seniors, the knockout performances we witnessed tonight, and the palpable love these Gators have for each other. All for the Gators indeed. Goodnight everyone! Thanks for a great season.