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Stellar Performances Highlight NCAA Gymnastics Championship

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This past week, four women’s teams and six men’s teams competed in the NCAA Division I national gymnastics championship. Both competitions were highlighted with standout performances by athletes and historic wins for teams. 

The University of Oklahoma took the national title in the women’s team competition in Fort Worth, TX, from April 14-16. Despite ranking first overall and posting a 31-2 record on the season, Oklahoma’s route to the title was far from clear-cut. The Sooners finished in last place of the four teams in the first rotation with a season-low score on the floor event, which put the national title nearly out of reach. The Sooners responded with a season-high score on the vault in the second rotation to put them back into contention for the championship. In the fourth and final rotation, Ragan Smith earned the highest score of 9.9625 on the beam to secure the lead for Oklahoma to win its fifth national title since 2014. Florida and Utah took second and third place, respectively, and Auburn, originally seeded seventh in the nation heading into the tournament, took fourth place for the highest finish in program history

Trinity Thomas, a senior at the University of Florida, won the women’s individual all-around title. Thomas scored two perfect tens on the floor event en route to the individual title and Florida’s second-place finish. Thomas also won national titles in the floor event and the uneven bars.

Suni Lee, a freshman at Auburn University and the reigning Olympic all-around gold medalist, finished second behind Thomas in the all-around. Lee won the national title in the beam event. Jaedyn Rucker, a junior at the University of Utah, won the national title on the vault. 

The men’s championship on April 16-17 in Norman, OK, appeared to be a close matchup between the No. 1 ranked Stanford Cardinal and the No. 2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Since falling to Oklahoma in their first matchup of the season, Stanford had not lost a match for the remainder of the season. The Cardinal led the field of six teams through all six rotations to capture their third consecutive national title and the seventh in program history. The Sooners took second place, followed by Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Illinois.

In the men’s individual all-around, Paul Juda, a junior at the University of Michigan, took first place with an additional national title on the vault. Four different Stanford athletes won individual titles in different events. Bryan Perla took first place in the floor event, Curran Phillips took first in the parallel bars, Riley Loos took first place in the rings, and Olympian Brody Malone took first place in the horizontal bar. Penn State’s Chase Clingman took first place in the pommel horse. 

Aside from the impressive performances by all the athletes, the women’s national championship accomplished another remarkable feat. The women’s championship on Saturday, April 16, was the most-ever watched college gymnastics event. This year also marks record audiences on ESPN for women’s college championships in over a decade. Though the gymnastics season may be over this year, the sport’s popularity is growing, and I am excited to see the Oklahoma Sooners — my favorite team — compete for another national title next year.

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