With this weekend being the final regular season weekend in the 2015 NCAA gym season for the women, it’s a good time to look back on some of the best routines of the year (from my perspective). Coincidentally, they all come from the 2015 senior class.
Vault, the domain of full-twisting Yurchenkos on the collegiate level. There is no shortage of gymnasts who do that vault, or its slightly bigger sister, the Yurchenko 1.5, extremely well. For the FTY, standouts include: Rheagan Courville of LSU; Toni-Ann Williams of Cal; and Elizabeth Price of Stanford. Brandie Jay of Georgia; Georgia Dabritz of Utah; Kayla Williams and Lauren Beers of Alabama do the 1.5Y well. My favorite, however, comes from a gymnast doing something different.
Shannon Mitchell of Kentucky does a really nice front handspring onto the springboard thru to a front pike off the vault table. The video below shows her vault from the Perfect 10 Challenge meet hosted by Oklahoma in February (at the 0:25 mark). I have no idea why it only scored a 9.775.
When it comes to bars, my favorite routine from this season was performed by Georgia Dabritz of Utah. Her form and lines are superb. Plus, I’m a bit of a sucker for a well-done Comaneci salto. Showcased below is her 10.0 performance from Utah’s victory over Arizona.
Other routines I really enjoyed this year were: Katie Bailey of Alabama; Peng-Peng Lee of UCLA; Shae Zamardi of LSU; and Bridget Sloan of Florida.
I had a hard time choosing one routine. I mean who could blame me with options like Jessie Jordan of LSU; Bridget Sloan and Kytra Hunter of Florida; Shannon Mitchell of Kentucky; Talia Chiarelli of Michigan; Grace Williams of Nebraska; Brittany Rogers of Georgia; Ivana Hong and Taylor Rice of Stanford; Danusia Francis and Peng-Peng Lee of UCLA; Kari Lee of Utah; and basically the whole beam rotation of Oklahoma?
After thinking about it, I’m going with Kayla Williams of Alabama. It has everything I like in a beam routine: good form, high difficulty level, good flow…and a dash of attitude. This is the performance Kayla gave on Senior Night. A memorable night for her, not only because she won a share of the beam event title with a career-best score (9.95), but she also got engaged to Seattle Seahawk Kevin Norwood (former standout Crimson Tide WR) at the meet. Read about the proposal here.
Like beam, there are numerous floor routines I could’ve chosen for my favorite of 2015. The shortlist: Lloiminicia Hall, Jessie Jordan and Jessica Savona of LSU; Kennedy Baker and Kytra Hunter of Florida; Carley Sims and Katie Bailey of Alabama (though we didn’t get to see Katie’s much this year because of injury); Lexi Mills of Arizona; Danusia Francis of UCLA; Nina McGee of Denver; Toni-Ann Williams of Cal; and Risa Perez of Oregon State.
My choice: Kytra Hunter of Florida. It may not be as expressive as Lloimincia’s, Nina’s, or Risa’s, but the choreography matches the music and it fits Kytra’s style perfectly. And, for the record, I’m really going to miss Kytra’s tumbling. But, I can’t not give an honorable mention to Lloiminicia’s routine, which is full of Easter eggs about LSU. For example, the music has parts of the LSU fight song and she does LSU football coach Les Miles’ signature hand clap as part of her dance. Also Risa’s routine, which she choreographed herself.