NCAA women’s gymnastics Week 5 recap: Iron Bowl, UCLA-Utah live up to hype

By Hannah Johnson | February 7, 2023
Danielle Sievers - Oklahoma
Danielle Sievers (© Matthew Smith/Oklahoma Athletics)

NCAA women’s gymnastics Week 5 was another week of fun matchups and big scores. Read on for a recap of key meets and stories to watch as the season continues.

SEC Showdowns

#6 Auburn @ #11 Alabama

The Iron Bowl meet did not disappoint. Alabama ended up defending its home arena – and its undefeated home win streak against the Tigers – securing the victory with a 197.850. 

Luisa Blanco (Alabama) – Beam vs. Auburn

This win was not without controversy, however, as some fans felt Alabama was a bit overscored on floor, which propelled them to victory. Most notably, Alabama’s Mati Waligora earned a 9.925 for her floor routine with a 9.85/10 split from the judges. This is problematic because the routine had visible deductions. The slight overscoring throughout the final rotation led to an event total of 49.7, which was just enough to win the meet. 

Regardless of scoring debates, Alabama won on the back of a great showing. Senior Luisa Blanco and sophomore Lilly Hudson led the Crimson Tide in the all-around with scores of 39.75 and 39.575, respectively. Blanco stood out with a perfect 10 on beam and 9.975 on floor, while Hudson contributed a pair of 9.975s on the same two events.

This meet saw the return of 2020 Canadian Olympian Shallon Olsen to the vault lineup for the Crimson Tide with her double-twisting Yurchenko. Having someone who can consistently hit a 10.0 vault is going to be key for the Tide’s success in the back half of the season.

Suni Lee (Auburn) – All events @ Alabama

The Auburn Tigers earned a team total of 197.7. They were led by reigning Olympic all-around champion Suni Lee’s 39.825 across four events. Lee received a 10 on bars and beam, bringing her career perfect 10 total to 8 – the most ever by an Auburn gymnast.

Senior Cassie Stevens and sophomore Sophia Groth also had big all-around performances, scoring 39.575 and 39.475, respectively. 

In the end, Auburn narrowly missed out on the win. They need gymnasts other than Lee, Stevens, and Derrian Gobourne to be able to consistently earn scores over 9.9 as well if they want to win close matchups. Additionally, having better control on the landings of their 10.0 vaults will prove crucial moving forward.

#2 Florida @ #18 Arkansas

The Gators cruised to a 197.85 road victory against Arkansas. This is a great road score for Florida to count in its National Qualifying Score (NQS).

Sophomore Leanne Wong paced the Gators and won the all-around title with a 39.775. Wong had two 10s on her best two events: bars and beam. Trinity Thomas also came up big, earning a 39.7, including a 9.975 on bars. Freshman Kayla DiCello was the other all-around gymnast for the team, finishing with a 39.475.

Leanne Wong (Florida) – Bars @ Arkansas

Florida unsurprisingly put up its best marks on bars and beam, earning a 49.625 and 49.6, respectively. The Gators are currently the No. 1 team in the country on bars and No. 3 on beam. Former elite bars standout Riley McCusker was slotted into the bars lineup for the first time this season, and she struggled through her routine for a 9.65.

On vault, sophomore Sloane Blakely was able to hit her Yurchenko 1.5 after stumbling backward the previous week. The Gators are still not using fifth-year Rachel Baumann on the event after she appeared to tweak her elbow warming up vault a few weeks ago.

Florida had some uncharacteristic landing mistakes on floor exercise which allowed the Razorbacks to remain in the meet going into the last rotation.

Arkansas finished with a 197.4. The Razorbacks put on a complete performance, earning well above a 49 on every event. Their 49.35 on beam was a season-high for the Razorbacks.

Fifth-year Norah Flatley returned to the all-around after resting on floor last week. Flatley was the only all-around gymnast for the Razorbacks, earning a 38.5 after an uncharacteristic fall on beam. 

Floor continues to be a bright spot for the team. Their current lineup has great performance quality and controlled tumbling, which make the rotation electric. Lauren Williams, Frankie Price, and Maddie Jones all earned scores of 9.9+ on the event. 

Overall, this meet proved how good Arkansas can be if they hit on all four events. This should give the Razorbacks great momentum as they head into the second half of the season.

Pac-12 faceoff

#5 UCLA @ #4 Utah

Utah managed to take this meet with a 198.2-197.45 win over conference rival UCLA. On the whole, both teams were very entertaining to watch across all four events.

Maile O’Keefe (Utah) – Beam vs. UCLA

Utah was able to earn the victory thanks to season-high scores on both uneven bars (49.575) and beam (49.775). The Utes were able to produce a bars rotation that pushed them over the 198 mark for the first time this season.

While the home scoring was a bit lavish, Utah showed the strength of its beam team once again. Being able to drop a 9.875 from the beam total is not a luxury most teams have.

2020 Olympic silver medalist Grace McCallum was brilliant in the all-around once again for the Utes, earning a 39.75 this time out. Teammate Maile O’Keefe returned to the floor lineup and earned a 10 on beam. 

For the Bruins, McCallum’s Olympic teammate Jordan Chiles and former elite Selena Harris led their team with all-around scores of 39.775 and 39.65, respectively. Chiles won vault, executing a stuck double-twisting Yurchenko (9.975), and Harris was excellent on beam with a 9.95.

Jordan Chiles (UCLA) – Vault @ Utah

Despite all-arounder Chae Campbell being absent due to a family emergency, the Bruins still put together a fantastic meet. 2018 world beam silver medalist Ana Padurariu was healthy enough to step into the beam lineup for the first time this season. Even with a balance break in her routine, her demeanor and experience was crucial to the Bruins earning a season-high 49.575 on the event. 

Vault was the lowest scoring event for the Bruins this time out. The 10.0 vaults from Chiles and Harris scored well, but no one else reached the 9.8 mark. The Bruins’ slew of Yurchenko fulls had big bounces on the landings, and Clara Wren’s debut front pike half did not look competition ready. Overall, this is the event that the Bruins should be focused on improving if they want to vie for a birth to nationals.

Big 12 matchup

Iowa State @ #1 Oklahoma

Oklahoma won this meet handily with a 198.225 to Iowa State’s 195.875. The Sooners were particularly excellent on bars, where they received a season-high 49.675. 

Sooner sophomore Jordan Bowers has not rested at all this season, competing once again in the all-around and taking the meet title with a 39.625.

Freshman Faith Torrez returned to the all-around for the Sooners but finished with a 39 after a fluke fall on bars. Expect her to continue being in all four lineups as the season progresses.

Oklahoma shifted around its beam lineup a bit. Torrez was in this week after teammate Olivia Trautman subbed in for her last week. Trautman remained in the lineup while typical leadoff Jenna Dunn was absent.

The Sooners were a bit bouncy on their floor landings, with multiple athletes going out of bounds. Expect these landings to be fine-tuned this weekend at the Metroplex Challenge. 

Iowa State’s 195.875 was a season-high score. The Cyclones are moving in the right direction after a slow start to the season. 

Most importantly, the Cyclones were able to break 49 on bars for the first time this season with a 49.125. Before this meet, their high on bars was only a 48.325. This should give the team confidence moving forward. 

Iowa State did not have any all-around gymnasts in this meet, but fifth-year Kelsey Boychuk made important contributions on vault, beam, and floor. Teammate Hannah Loyim only competed two events after doing the all-around last week, but narrowing her scope came with two 9.8+ scores.

This is a great building block for Iowa State to use as it makes another bid for NCAA Regionals. This is a solid road score that the Cyclones can use for their NQS. The goal from here on out should be to go 49+ on all four events every week.