NCAA women’s gymnastics Week 2 to feature Wasatch Classic, SEC showdowns

By Hannah Johnson | January 13, 2023
Morgan Hurd salutes after dismounting the balance beam.
Morgan Hurd following her performance on the balance beam in the Gators gymnastics team's season opener. (Photo: Hannah White/UAA Communications)

After an exciting first weekend, Week 2 of the NCAA women’s gymnastics season features more can’t-miss matchups. Below, we preview key matchups with key storylines to pay attention to.

SEC Showdowns

This conference matchup kicks off a weekend of action on Friday evening. Both teams will be looking to build on their solid performances last week.

#10 LSU at #12 Kentucky

For the LSU Tigers, look out for the triple threat of all-around gymnasts: Haleigh Bryant, Aleah Finnegan, and Kiya Johnson. All three had good performances last weekend at Utah and will be looking to do the same against Kentucky. Of note, LSU head coach Jay Clark tends to rest Johnson on floor exercise early in the season due to her Achilles tendinitis. She competed floor last week and may sit out this week if the meet is in the bag by the final rotation, especially since the Tigers have a meet against Oklahoma on Monday.

Kentucky comes into this meet hoping for a team score that will help them climb back into the top 10. In their last meet, the only gymnast to score above a 9.9 was senior standout all-arounder Raena Worley. The Wildcats are going to need someone else to step up in order to be competitive with LSU. Someone to keep an eye on is sophomore Jillian Procasky, who also competed on all four events last week. If she is able to get into the 9.9 range on multiple events, her and Worley would be a great 1-2 punch. Look out for junior Bailey Bunn as well. Bunn was a star all-around gymnast her freshman year but is returning from a knee injury suffered last season. Bunn only competed on beam last week, but look for her to crack more lineups as the season progresses. Freshman Bridget Bourque could provide some helpful scores on any of the four events. It shouldn’t be too long before we see her competing.

#2 Florida vs. #5 Auburn

This top-five conference battle is sure to be a treat. With each school coming off of stellar performances, this meet is truly anyone’s to grab.

NCAA gymnastics fans got their first look at 2022 National runner-up Florida last week. With fifth-year Gator Savannah Schoenherr out with a broken foot, the team looked to some new faces for big scores. The team’s two transfer students, Rachel Baumann and Victoria Nguyen, looked right at home competing on two events each for 9.9+ scores. Freshman and 2020 U.S. Olympic team alternate Kayla DiCello made her mark with a 39.475 all-around performance in her college debut. Look for big contributions from those three again this week. Former U.S. National Team member Trinity Thomas and fellow 2020 U.S. Olympic team alternate Leanne Wong are typical all-around gymnasts for the Gators, but neither performed on floor exercise last week. With this expected to be a tight contest, Florida head coach Jenny Rowland may put them both in the floor lineup, especially with Sloane Blakely walking off with soreness during her routine last week. 

For Auburn, Suni Lee and Derrian Gobourne are the headliners. Neither gymnast scored below a 9.9 during the Super 16 meet, and both should be expected to have similar results at Florida. Teammates Olivia Hollingsworth and Cassie Stevens can be expected to join Lee in the all-around, as they did during week one. If the Tigers want to go toe-to-toe with Florida, they are going to need to put together a higher scoring beam rotation than they did last week. Lee did score a 10 on the event, but the team earned only a 49.15 for its effort on the apparatus. Other gymnasts are going to need to step up and score in the high 9.8s and above. Freshman Hannah Hagle’s standout event is beam, so there is a chance we could see her break into this lineup if other regulars become inconsistent. Additionally, junior Gabby McLaughlin finished with a 9.9 NQS on the event last year. Look for her to fall into a rhythm and achieve similar scores this season after opening with a 9.825 last week.

Best of Utah

#6 Utah, #22 Southern Utah, BYU, and Utah State

The honor of being the best college team in the state of Utah is at stake during this meet. After the inaugural Super 16 event last weekend, the Best of Utah meet is providing another sure-to-be-entertaining competition on podium at the Maverik Center, just outside of Salt Lake City.

Utah is heavily favored in this matchup as the only top-20 team. Look for Olympian and Red Rock sophomore Grace McCallum to vie for the all-around crown after an uncharacteristic miss on vault took her out of the race last week. 

This is the third meet in the past week for Southern Utah. Look for Thunderbirds coach Scott Bauman and his staff to play with lineups. New faces with a chance to compete on more events are freshmen Kayla Pardue and Trista Goodman, who have thus far only competed on vault and uneven bars, respectively. Additionally, keep an eye out for fellow freshman Olivia Orlando, who could make just about any lineup for the Thunderbirds. Fifth-year student Karley McClain is already making the most of her extra year, with two 39+ all-around performances in her first two meets. 

BYU will be looking to earn a score they are more accustomed to after a slow start at last week’s Super 16. With no all-around performances and only two scores of 9.9, the Cougars will likely play with lineups to maximize their team potential. Madison Raesly-Patton and Kauri Hunsaker, two freshmen who looked like they would be big contributors for BYU, were both absent from lineups last week. One or both of them could get competition time here.

This will be Utah State’s first meet of the season. Gymnastics fan are eager to see how the team will perform under new head coach, Kristin White. After losing a number of key contributors to Clemson’s new team, which will make its debut in 2024, it will be important for Utah State to fill in those vacated lineup spots. Utah State junior Brianna Brooks will make a big impact after consistently competing on three events last year with great results. There is a chance she could enter the floor lineup if need be, as she has proven to be a reliable competitor for the Aggies. Senior Sofi Sullivan could return to the all-around after primarily being a beam specialist last year. 

Wasatch Classic 

#3 California, #6 UCLA, #16 Iowa, #19 Minnesota, #20 Pittsburgh, #25 Washington, #26 Oregon State, and Boise State

The Maverik Center will also play host to the Wasatch Classic on Saturday. This meet will be split into afternoon and evening sessions. No. 6 UCLA, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 25 Washington, and Boise State will compete in the afternoon while No. 3 California, No. 16 Iowa, No. 20 Pittsburgh, and No. 26 Oregon State headline the evening session.

UCLA and California are likely to win their respective sessions, but they will have to have clean meets. Both schools will likely need to avoid counting a fall if they want to emerge victorious. Olympians Jordan Chiles (UCLA) and Jade Carey (Oregon State) will be top contenders for the all-around title, as well as crucial contributors to the success of their teams. 

This meet serves as Boise State’s opener, while all of the other teams competed last week. The Broncos were ranked 26th in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association’s (WCGA) preseason poll. Last year, Boise State did not have any gymnasts who consistently competed all four events, an uncommon occurrence for most top teams. Instead, the team relies on specialists such as Emily Lopez and Adriana Popp to earn top scores on multiple events. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos continue with this strategy this year. Freshmen Sydney Kho and Kylee Hamby appear to be the most likely to break into lineups. 

Iowa, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Oregon State will all be looking to increase their rankings. Iowa will be looking to redefine itself after the departure of key gymnasts such as Clair Kaji and Lauren Guerin. Karina Muñoz looked poised to fill the vault and floor lineup spots left by Guerin, but she did not compete floor in the Hawkeyes’ opening meet. Before too long, she is likely to find her way into that lineup. Likewise, Minnesota will continue to find its identity after the graduation of stars Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper. Having to replace eight routines that all had the potential to score 9.9 or better is not a task accomplished in one meet. Expect the Gophers’ staff to continue to fine-tune the lineups that will lead them back to the top 10. Pittsburgh made waves with its near 196 last week. The Panthers will look to break the 49 mark on vault, uneven bars, and balance beam this time out. Washington is eyeing a score higher than 49 on all four events while Oregon State will want to focus on putting out a competitive bar lineup after scoring in the low 48s last week.