After 3.5 months, the teams that started as the top 6 in the rankings ended as the Super Six for 2017. But more than a half dozen teams deserve recognition for the freshly completed season. So here are some final thoughts on the teams that finished at the head of the field in women’s NCAA gymnastics this year.
1st – Oklahoma: It was a wire-to-wire season victory. The Sooners are basically a team of anchor performers. There’s no weakness in their lineup. As a result, the team won the championship in record fashion (198.3875 final score during the Super Six final).
2nd – LSU: Like OU, LSU was solid the whole season from the first meet with virtually no busted meets. They were the only team that realistically had a shot to dethrone OU, but wasn’t as sharp in the final as they were in their record-setting semifinal performance. (Having to compete two times in less than 24 hours during Nationals could’ve been a factor.)
3rd – Florida: It went under the radar somewhat, but it was a great season. Plus they don’t have any competition routines to replace for next season (Claire Boyce, who medically retired earlier in the season, was the only senior on the squad), so they have a good chance of improving their finish next season.
4th – UCLA: 4th was probably the ceiling for UCLA this year with the vault issues and run-ins with the inconsistency bug the team faced this year. They definitely have the bars and beam to challenge OU, the task now is to bring the other two events up to the same level.
5th – Utah: Did really well to manage their rash of injuries and display a respectable season-long performance that included a PAC-12 title.
6th – Alabama: In the last 25 years, the team has missed Super Six twice: 1997 and 2007. It was a distinct possibility that the pattern could continue in 2017. However, the team did make Super Six with one of its best meets of the season in semis. That’s the good news. The bad? The inconsistency that marked the team’s season caught up to them in finals.
7th – Nebraska: Started slow, but built to its best meet of the season in NCAA semis. Probably only missed the Super Six because the second semi was so competitive.
8th – Washington: Ended up being the breakout team of the year. Like Cal last year, showed a really solid foundation to build on for the future.
9th – Denver: A great season overall setting many program records, including highest finish. Possibly used up too much juice getting to Nationals and couldn’t replicate a meet level high enough to make it to the final.
10th – Michigan: Beam broke their heart again. This time it was at Nationals instead of Regionals.
11th – Oregon State: Did a good job of making it back to Nationals after a miss last season. In a similar outcome to a Denver, maybe ran out gas getting to the semifinals. They weren’t near as clean as they were at PAC-12 Championships or Regionals.
12th – Georgia: Still getting there. You’re not quite as nervous watching them on beam as in past seasons, but not supremely confident in a hit rotation yet either. Their fate at nationals was sealed early during the second semifinal. Had one of those “when it’s not your night” meets. Started tight on the beam and stayed that way the whole time.
13th – Boise State: Similar to Washington and Denver, Boise had what could be considered a breakthrough season. Got left out of the Nationals mix after falling to LSU and a surging Nebraska at Regionals.
14th – Kentucky: A little like what happened to Nebraska in semifinals, the team may have been a victim of a comparably more difficult Regional than others. They were neck and neck with Washington to transfer, but couldn’t control their floor landings as well as they had at times during the season.
15th – Auburn: Another team that saved its best meet of the season for last.
16th – Cal: The number of injuries the team sustained caught up to them. From a realistic point of view, it had to. Should challenge for Nationals again next year.
17th – Missouri: A lot of teams took a step up in competitive level this year, Missouri is another. To me, their position is similar to Kentucky a couple seasons ago — close, but needs another piece to take the step up to Nationals contention.
A Few Other Thoughts:
Shoutout to Arkansas (19th) for scoring a 196.6 (same as Auburn) at Regionals just a few weeks after not having enough competitors for a full score during a meet.
Stanford (28th) always seems to start slow and peak at the right time. But this year, despite having its best meet at Regionals, the team never truly found it’s high gear. Injuries were a big reason why, but it’s confusing to see a team that should be around the top 10 all season long have to sweat out simply making Regionals (top 36 at cutoff time).
Finally, it was so nice seeing Arizona State (41st) start to shake off the horrible fortunes of the past few seasons. Getting its first PAC-12 conference meet win since 2014 bodes well for the team’s future with new head coaches Jay and Jessica Santos.