Olympics

NCAA gymnastics experts weigh in

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Can Florida’s stacked lineup win the 2022 NCAA gymnastics title? Or will defending champion Michigan pull off the repeat? And then what about perennial powerhouse Oklahoma — or Utah, who has qualified for more NCAA championships than anyone else?

Starting Thursday, eight teams will face off at the NCAA championships — and it may be the most exciting year yet.

Who will win? What routines should we be sure to see? We asked our experts to weigh in.


Who do you think will win the team title?

Kathy Johnson Clarke: I believe any of the teams who make finals have an equal shot at winning because there is that much parity in scoring right now and more teams than ever are poised to upset top-ranked teams which pushes every team to greater performance.

Teams who scored 198-mid already this season have an edge, but teams competing with the « nothing to lose, everything to gain » mindset could create an « all bets are off » dynamic, which is exciting for everyone. I can’t predict who the winner is, but Florida’s consistency plus their high score potential from every position in all four event lineups will be hard to beat if they’re on.

Bart Conner: Each year there are more and more teams who have a legitimate chance to win — which is great for the sport. Florida has always been a top contender, but they have never had as much talent, depth and experience as they have this year. I think it will be extremely close, but if Florida is on, they are tough to beat.

Ashley Miles Greig: Florida, because each event has a lineup that can score 9.9 or better on every routine. Florida also has proven this season that they are confident in the big moments. Pressure does not seem to be a factor for this team. Also, they have Trinity Thomas!

Sam Peszek: My money is on Florida right now. They’ve been heating up and look like they have the swagger and confidence to get the job done this year. However, the winning team will not be able to make any mistakes. It’s going to come down to which team has the magic to get the job done that day.

Alicia Sacramone Quinn: I think the national championship trophy is going back to Gainesville! Florida is peaking exactly at the right time. The Gators’ performance at regionals shows that even on the road they can put up a great score.

Bridget Sloan: I think this year’s NCAA championship is going to be awesome. You have teams who are back and ready to win another championship and you have teams who are hungry to win their first. There are definitely some key teams that come to mind first: Florida, Michigan, OR because they have been dominant the last couple years. But you can’t consider Auburn, Alabama, Missouri, and Minnesota to be in the running. All teams have excelled this season in ways that we as viewers knew was possible. They are breaking records, and continuing to improve.

D’Arcy Maine: Florida’s unbelievable depth should be the difference-maker and give the Gators their first NCAA team title since 2015, but this is college gymnastics we’re talking about so we should probably expect the unexpected. For that reason, it feels as if Utah could sneak away with the trophy thanks to their beam work. The Red Rocks finished the regular season ranked No. 1 on beam and have been all but unflappable on what often is the deciding event for the championship.

I could absolutely see Utah quietly hitting routine after routine and ultimately claiming the weekend’s biggest prize.

Alyssa Roenigk: Florida. They are confident, consistent and ready — and because of their scoring potential in every spot in every lineup, if they hit, they win. That said, so much talent is spread across the eight teams that qualified for nationals, upsets feel inevitable (if you can even call them upsets this year). On Friday, if we’re talking about Missouri, Alabama, Auburn and Minnesota instead of Florida, Oklahoma, Utah and Michigan, I will be surprised, not shocked.

Amy Van Deusen: I’ll be the outlier and pick Oklahoma here. Florida has been the strongest team this year, but I think the immense pressure of redemption from last year may make it harder on the athletes to be spot-on Saturday. Oklahoma has won three of the five most recent championships, and has shown a tradition of perfection in these huge moments. The squad could lead a workshop in how to hit every handstand on bars and stick every dismount, and that is likely what is needed to win Saturday.


Whom are you secretly rooting for to win?

Johnson Clarke: I don’t have a secret rooting interest in one team. I do, however, want to make it the worst kept secret that I’m inwardly rooting for everyone to meet the moment and hit some incredibly memorable routines!

Sacramone Quinn: I’d love to see Minnesota win a national title and become members of the exclusive national championship club.

Van Deusen: Surprisingly, Michigan feels a little under-the-radar for a team coming in as defending champs, and I have to admit I’m rooting for the repeat. This team pushes the envelope on each of its events, and that makes it so much fun to watch. Double-back dismounts off beam? No problem. Leading off floor with a full in? Sure thing. And Natalie Wojcik on any event is, simply put, gymnastics at its best.

Roenigk: My rooting interest has to be loyalty to my alma mater, Florida. But my less-obvious crush is on 10-time national champion, Utah, the most consistently excellent team in NCAA gymnastics history and a squad full of stars poised to spoil Florida’s weekend.

Maine: There’s a valid argument for why it would be amazing for any of these eight programs to win, but I am a sucker for a good underdog story so I would love to watch Missouri shock the field. The Tigers are making just their second NCAA championship appearance, and have been the ultimate spoiler thus far in the postseason — helping eliminate higher-ranked LSU in the regional semifinals and then narrowly edging out UCLA in the regional final.

Missouri also happens to have Helen Hu, one of the most creative and underrated gymnasts in the college ranks. Her artistry and flexibility absolutely deserve to be on display on network television on Saturday.

Miles Greig: No secret here in that I’m always rooting for Alabama! I’m an Alabama alum and know firsthand the championship tradition of excellence and desire to win that comes with being part of this program.

Sloan: I will always love my Gators…it is in my blood. But I ultimately want each team and the individuals to be able to look back at this moment and say, « I left it all on the floor. »


Which routine should we absolutely not miss?

Johnson Clarke: Oh gosh, I can’t pick just one. There are so many really special « can’t-miss » routines, but I am really looking forward to seeing Minnesota’s Mya Hooten’s floor routine in person. Her intention to send a powerful message regarding racial inequity and social injustice through her music, choreography and performance while also showcasing great gymnastics makes it a « must-see » performance.

Roenigk: Any Trinity Thomas routine! The first Gator to win SEC gymnast of the year twice and the owner of 10 « perfect 10 » scores this season — and at least one on every event — Thomas is a human highlight reel. She revels in big moments and is a joy to watch on floor. But do not miss her on vault, an event which she’s called her least favorite for years and one that showcases a stellar athlete who consistently pushes herself to higher levels.

Peszek: On vault, Ona Loper (Minnesota), Trinity Thomas (Florida), Shallon Olsen (Alabama) and all of Michigan’s vaults!

On bars, Audrey Davis (Oklahoma), Leanne Wong (Florida), Suni Lee (Auburn), Helen Hu (Missouri), Grace McCallum (Utah) and Shania Adama (Alabama).

On beam, Maile O’Keefe (Utah), Alisa Sheremeta (Missouri), Natalie Wojcik (Michigan), Sophia Groth (Auburn), Megan Skaggs (Florida), Ragan Smith (Oklahoma) and Lexy Ramler (Minnesota).

On floor, Jordan Bowers (Oklahoma), Mya Hooten (Minnesota), Sydney Soloski (Utah), Lexi Graber (Alabama), Derrian Gobourne (Auburn).

Maine: Just one? I think that might be actually impossible. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already seen Nya Reed’s perfect-score-earning floor routine filled with powerful tumbling including a double layout in her opening pass, TikTok-worthy choreography and all the music from my throwback playlist (DMX! Lil Kim! Missy Elliot!) on Spotify, but you’re going to want to make sure you catch it live because it’s all but guaranteed to bring the house down. And while you’re watching Florida on the floor, you obviously are going to want to stick around for Trinity Thomas as well.

You’re also not going to want to miss Michigan on vault, where five (!) of the Wolverines have scored a 10.0 this season. And, of course, Auburn’s Suni Lee on bars should always be appointment viewing.

Sacramone Quinn: Kiya Johnson (LSU) on vault, Cally Nixon (Kentucky) on bars, Adeline Kenlin (Iowa) on beam and Jordan Chiles (UCLA) on floor.

Van Deusen: Oklahoma’s Audrey Davis does one of my favorite bar routines in the NCAA — with incredible height on her Jaeger (from inverts!) and an equally jaw-dropping dismount. I also love to watch UCLA’s Norah Flatley on floor. She does a gorgeous triple full, then comes back with a front double full — two highly difficult passes in a row — and has entertaining and beautifully executed dance throughout.

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