(Alternate Title: I didn’t know there’d be this many major injuries.)
For my preseason Super Six I chose (in alpha order): Alabama, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA and Utah. So far so good. These 6 teams are the top 6 in rankings right now (week of March 6).
Oklahoma (#1) is humming along the way everyone expected. The only questions each week for them seem to be: “Which event is Maggie going to score a 10 on?” and “Are they going to hit 198?”
LSU (#2) has found consistency at a high-level, riding a streak of nearly 20 consecutive 197+ meets. If they can have a meet like the one they had against George Washington and Iowa (without the very few mistakes), they could very well challenge for the title — especially with a vault rotation like that one.
The lineup at Florida (#3) came together a little faster than I expected. Their freshman class has stepped up to the challenge, as has transfer Rachel Slocum. Truly, their only speed bump has been a mid-season bout with illness. Although Claire Boyce was forced to retire mid-season because of hip issues, and it’d be nice if Kennedy Baker’s ankle is healthy enough for a postseason run.
UCLA (#4) is doing its normal thing — starting out kinda slow and building the closer we get to conference championship time. Felicia Hano, Angi Cipra and Madison Preston are chief among the team’s gymnasts that have missed meets because of injury. But they’re back or close to back. The only slightly concerning for them is a little vault inconsistency, and maybe not as much floor depth as they initially thought.
Utah (#5) has had more than its fair share of injuries. Sabrina Schwab tore her ACL, then a couple weeks later Kim Tessen tore her achilles — both major contributors. The Utes are hanging in there, however.
Alabama (#6) is an enigma. On paper they look like they can challenge, but really have only put a couple of meets together fully. They also are a step behind their competition in vault difficulty. A myriad of injuries appear to be effecting the team, most notably the ankle issues that have kept Mackenzie Brannan out and Keely McNeer’s recent broken hand from a car accident.
Most of the teams I also had potentially making Nationals before the season like Georgia (#7), Oregon State (#9) and Michigan (#11) are sitting in a good spot as the regular season winds down as well.
Note I said most. Auburn (#20) hasn’t been as consistent as its been in the past couple years, not yet recording a score in the high 196s (injuries to Abby Millet and Telah Black haven’t helped either), and Stanford (#28) is lagging behind even it’s typical come-from-behind pattern.
Of major note: Cal (#17) was the Cinderella story last year, but they might need a little magic to get back to Nationals this year. In the span of about a month, their star gymnast, Toni-Ann Williams, went down with a torn achilles, their standout freshman Cassidy Keelen suffered a dislocated kneecap, Dana Ho re-tore ligaments in a previously injured knee, and Sylvie Seilnacht fractured her foot (after tripping on a backpack in class, no less).
Denver (#8) and Boise State (#10) are seeking to be this year’s postseason Cinderella.
As for the team I thought could surprise: Led my Mollie Korth, who joined the team days before the season started after graduating high school in December, Kentucky (#12) is really making a run for Nationals. I thought they’d have Sydney Waltz back, but she suffered an arm injury forcing her to shut it down for the season after competing only 1-2 times.
Some preliminary projections have shown really stacked regional meets are a possibility (like the example below from Balance Beam Situation done on February 27). With only the top 2 teams able to advance out of each Regional, final placement after conference championships will be crucial for some teams.
Note: My end-of-season thoughts are here.