1. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous ranking: 1
Oklahoma remains #1 and extends its lead over #2 LSU after scoring 198.125 in an away loss to Florida. The result will sting. It’s the Sooners’ first loss since January 2016 and comes in a meet where they’ll have justification for feeling cheated out of a win by the crazy judging (though it must be said that Oklahoma received a fair few gifts of its own en route to breaking the 198 barrier). Feel free to ignore the scores because they were meaningless nonsense, but the performance is nonetheless one Oklahoma will accept for a January meet even though the strain of being without Natalie Brown—and now Jade Degouveia with plantar fasciitis—does show.
2. LSU Tigers
Previous ranking: 2
LSU retains its #2 ranking and increases its season average after scoring 197.375 at Metroplex, a score about on par with what the Tigers have been doing all month. It will be difficult, however, to see past the loss. It’s the team’s first loss of the season, coming against a school it was expected to beat too. The primary difference-maker in the loss was beam, where LSU dropped multiple tenths to a currently unstoppable UCLA lineup. A few 9.7s on floor didn’t help either, but getting Desiderio into the floor six is still a victory for the future prospects of the lineup, even if the 9.7 this week wasn’t ideal.
3. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 3
Utah also retains its ranking position by recording a season-high 197.550 in a road victory over Arizona. The most encouraging part of the performance was beam, where a couple of the previously struggling(ish) members of the lineup showed season-best routines by about a billion tenths, making that six look much more competitive than it had in recent weeks. Utah will also be buoyed by the performances of Merrell-Giles and Lee, who were able to carry the load with 9.9s, showing that the team doesn’t have to be a one-Skinner show and can succeed even when she is not at her very best.
4. UCLA Bruins
Previous ranking: 4
UCLA stays in 4th but will be absolutely flying after heading to Metroplex and defeating the favored LSU. That 197.625 is the third-highest score in the country so far this year (behind the OU/Florida crack festival), also ranking as the team’s highest road score since 2010 Super Six and highest January score since 2004. (“Thank you, Metroplex. Sincerely, everyone who has ever competed there.”) The most significant accomplishment, however, was outscoring LSU on vault and floor, which few would have seen coming as recently as November and starts to make a real argument for UCLA’s top-3 competitiveness this year.
5. Florida Gators
Previous ranking: 5
Florida made a major stride, closing the gap between itself and the top four with that gigantic 198.150 in victory over Oklahoma. If the Gators are being honest with themselves, they’ll know that score is not representative of what was more a 197.4-like performance, but that 197.4-like performance was still a step forward from previous meets and evidence of a necessary level of improvement. McMurtry bringing back the DTY (pretend the 10 never happened), Hundley showing improvements on beam, and Skaggs making a real place for herself on multiple events were exactly the kind of developments we needed to see.
6. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 6
Kentucky continues its trend of doing better on the road than at home with a 196.700 in victory over Auburn. The margin behind the top 5 is widening, though Kentucky is surely not sneezing at being ranked #6. Weirdly, the team struggled on what should be its best event, beam, but pulled out a score nonetheless because of a sufficient collection of 9.900s on the other events.
7. Michigan Wolverines
Previous ranking: 8
Michigan gains back one spot with a 196.575 over the weekend against Nebraska. It’s a perfectly respectable road score for this point in the season, but a loss to the most competitive conference rival probably makes this meet hurt even more than the catastrophic score from last week. The main culprit was vault, with Karas and McLean both struggling in a lineup that can’t survive without their scores, but having Karas back in the all-around after a scary moment on floor the previous week was a more important development than the result in terms of Michigan’s prospects moving forward.
8. Arkansas Razorbacks
Previous ranking: 10
The Razorbacks keep trying to tell you that they’re the real deal this year, and a ranking of #8 means more and more people will start paying attention. This 197.175 isn’t just a regular old 197, it’s also the third-highest score in team history. What’s more, Sophia Carter’s 9.975 on beam broke the team all-time record of 9.950, which had previously been jointly held by Grable, Pisani, Magee, and Hardman. You know, Grable, Pisani, Magee, just the three best gymnasts in team history. Now let’s see what happens on the road against Alabama.
9. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous ranking: 12
Nebraska keeps chugging up the rankings and debuts in the top 10 this week after a 196.875 in victory over Michigan. The Sienna Crouse Y1.5 continues to be the team’s showcase routine with a 9.975 this week, though it was a string of increasing 9.8s on beam that helped beam edge vault as the high-scoring event. Nebraska has had a different high-scoring event in each of its first three meets, which tends to be the sign of a well-rounded squad.
10. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous ranking: 7
Alabama took a step back this week with a 195.850 against Missouri, the team’s second 195 of the year in a performance that featured a counting fall on beam and only five vaulters. So it didn’t go great. Really, this was a patented Dana Duckworth “exploring our depth” performance that included several B-team (or C-team) routines that won’t feature in March/April, though questions over who the first-choice gymnasts will end up being and whether the team has enough 9.9s to contend will only grow stronger now. Next week’s meet against upstart Arkansas just got a lot more interesting.
11. Denver Pioneers
Previous ranking: 13
Denver came home and got back on track with a 196.675 to gain two ranking spots, breaking the 49 barrier on every event, getting big AA scores from Karr and Brown, and hitting bars for the first time this season. Denver’s schedule is front-loaded with home meets this season, so the next two weekends at home will be important for racking up those big scores despite still being early in the year.
12. Arizona State Sun Devils
Previous ranking: 14
Arizona State continues to party like it’s 1985 and set more and more “highest score since” standards with this week’s 196.800, ASU’s highest score since March 2006. This marks the team’s third-straight meet without counting a fall, a performance paced by Cairo Leonard-Baker’s 39.575 in the all-around. Wins over Cal and Stanford are a start, but the next two weeks on the road against Oregon State and Utah will tell us a lot about how competitive ASU will be in the Pac-12 this year. Is this a top-4, evening session team?
13. Oregon State Beavers
Previous ranking: 18
Beyond the five spots gained in the rankings, Oregon State’s 196.975 in victory over Stanford served as a critical demonstration of where the new routines will come from this year with Force hitting floor and Lazaro coming through on beam for 9.900. Success for OSU this year will necessarily require unexpected contributors, and we just saw one of them emerge in Lazaro. As with many of the other meets this weekend, the score isn’t representative, but the performance was solid progress nonetheless.
14. Georgia Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 11
There’s nothing wrong with a 196.125 road score (given our tempered expectations for Georgia this season), but with so many other teams going into the high 196s as this season’s crack shipments officially arrived, Georgia couldn’t keep pace and dropped three spots. Given the strains on the team’s depth and these five-person lineups, one 9.7 or one OOB is enough to derail an entire rotation, so until Georgia can collect all the ingredients to perform the resurrection spell on Emily Schild, expect these somewhat unusable scores to be peppered in here and there.
15. Washington Huskies
Previous ranking: 14
Washington wasn’t the headline maker at Metroplex but still took advantage of the perennial road-score opportunity this meet presents by putting up a season-high 196.525. Some of the lineups (vault and beam) still feel like works in progress—we will expect higher scores from a couple would-be lineup leaders as the season goes along—but that progress is being made. Washington had to count only two scores in the 9.7s this time, and no scores lower than that.
16. Boise State Broncos
Previous ranking: 9
Boise State took the ranking plunge this week with a 195.475 in its first road competition of the season, a second-straight 195 for a team that really should be 196 each week. The performance was unrepresentative of the Broncos’ ability in a number of regards, particularly with two falls on bars. Getting freshman Rachel Obmann into the vault lineup, however, was an important development as she should be a big part of Project Vault this season. It need not be one of the team’s lower RQSs again.
17. Auburn Tigers
Previous ranking: 16
Auburn will continue cursing that first-meet 193 that will drag down the ranking for several more weeks, but another 196 over the weekend will be cause for optimism, despite coming in a loss to Kentucky. A couple struggles on beam from some unexpected people, and having to count a mistake on floor, took away the chance to upset the Wildcats, but it’s becoming clear that the 9.9 potential is there from several gymnasts on every event.
18. BYU Cougars
Previous ranking: 22
It’s not too surprising to see BYU racking up the home scores (that’s in keeping with historical tradition), but the level of those scores may be surprising. This weekend’s performance brought a very competitive 196.450, BYU’s highest team score since March 2005. The ability to keep up that kind of score over the next two weeks on the road will tell us a lot about BYU’s ultimate place in this season’s postseason ranking picture.
19. Arizona Wildcats
Previous ranking: 21
Arizona jumps back up into the top 20 by breaking the 196 barrier for the first time this season in a home loss to Utah. The score actually could have been much higher had a start-value disaster on beam not resulted in counting a 9.350. Otherwise, high 9.8s and 9.9s were the theme of the day, coming most significantly from Payton Bellows on vault with 9.950 for a Y1.5, which could really change the identity of vault as Arizona’s weak event.
20. Central Michigan Chippewas
Previous ranking: 19
Central Michigan kept pace with its own standard by scoring mid-195 over the weekend and staying relatively steady in the rankings. Denelle Pedrick is slowly but surely rising up the score ladder with a 9.925 for her DTY this time, but even though the team will be pleased that it withstood the lack of Macey Hilliker on beam and floor and didn’t fall, her absence was certainly felt in the scores.
21. Stanford Cardinal
Previous ranking: 23
Stanford keeps staying alive with mid-195s. None of these are particularly postseason-usable scores (and with just seven meets remaining in the regular season, that starts to become a problem), but they’re still enough to stay in the top 25. Stanford will be disappointed in the most recent score, however, because extremely lax scoring in the early bars lineup in the first rotation provided an opportunity to paper over that event, an opportunity that was later lost with two falls and another major mistake on beam.
22. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous ranking: 27
Minnesota debuts in the top 25 this week after a 195.775 away score, helping to overcome a first-meet 194 that had kept the team’s ranking down. As expected, Lexy Ramler has been a star of stars for Minnesota already this season, though Ivy Lu and Ona Loper are providing their share of 9.9s as well, an equally essential contribution since no team can survive on just one gymnast.
23. Missouri Tigers
Previous ranking: 17
Missouri drops several places after a second 194 road score (scores that sandwich a home 196). Each event proved a struggle, with a spate of 9.6s and 9.5s undermining the bars and beam scores and a counting fall on floor ensuring that the total dropped below 195. Missouri has a packed schedule this season, including 6 more road meets, so there’s plenty of time to pull things together.
24. Iowa State
Previous ranking: 25
Iowa State retains its place in the top 25 by reaching the 195 zone again in a victory over TWU. ISU hasn’t yet broken through with a single strong number, however, and maintains this ranking because of a lack of total disaster more than anything else. That can become a problem once other teams are allowed to drop their bad scores and zoom up the rankings. Iowa State is going to need some 196s soon in order to stay in the top 25.
25. George Washington Colonials
Previous ranking: 29
George Washington snatches back its spot in the top 25 by hitting that all-important 196 zone for the first time this season in a road victory over New Hampshire. The usual suspects led the scoring, but most important were the competitive numbers from gymnasts like McLaughlin, Kaplan, and Crasa, who have had to replace some of the lost routines from last season and cannot be 9.6s if GW is to continue as a competitive team (this year, but also in future years).
25. NC State Wolfpack
Previous ranking: 28
NC State also moves into the top 25 with a second-consecutive strong score, this time coming on the road at Metroplex. It has been too long since we’ve seen NC State as a truly competitive team, but the number of 9.8s recorded in the last couple meets has been encouraging in the quest to find some kind of supporting foundation for Chelsea Knight.