1. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous ranking: 2
So yeah, Oklahoma is winning. On the strength of a Maggie Nichols 39.750 in the AA, the Sooners dashed out to an eight-tenth advantage over the rest of the country, already providing quite a useful ranking buffer for as long as we’re going by average. It’s not surprising that Oklahoma has jumped out to a lead given the team’s specific attention to starting quickly, but seeing the 198 barrier fall so early is a surprise…since it has never happened before. This 198.050 now sits as the highest opening-weekend score in the history of college gymnastics.
2. UCLA Bruins
Previous ranking: 1
While UCLA finds itself well behind Oklahoma after the first weekend, breaking 197 in the first meet is still a significant step for a team that doesn’t really do that in opening meets. This is the Bruins’ first opening-week 197 since the 2005 season, demonstrating an extra level of preparation over previous seasons—but still with three falls and a sufficient level of “who’s in this lineup, nobody knows, even Val maybe” to make us feel right at home.
3. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 5
It’s like they can’t not be prepared. Utah’s storyline for the preseason has been a dissatisfaction with recent national championship performances and a focus on taking it a little slower this year and ensuring the best performances are saved for when it really counts instead of used up in late February. And then they go out and immediately have stuck vaults from MMG and Skinner back to back in the first rotation. Once again this year, Utah looks to be among the farther along when trotting out for the first time this season.
4. LSU Tigers
Previous ranking: 4
Things got a little weird early on, with LSU counting a fall on vault in the first rotation of the season—not exactly something we expect because it’s LSU and vault. But, we did see this same kind of thing happen last year as well, with LSU looking pretty good but also having one random mistake to take the score down in nearly every one of the early-season meets. This was nonetheless a useful benchmark and an acceptable score, though very much a first meet of the season with random small errors scattered about that weren’t a problem but also weren’t typical of those athletes or lineups.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 7
Georgia took a step forward with this one. Like UCLA’s, this was a historically notable first meet performance since Georgia hasn’t scored this well in an opener since 2007—sort of surprising because that takes us squarely into the midst of the dynasty years. It’s not a MY GOD score by any means, but it reflects a fairly composed meet with more-or-less complete lineups, improved vault difficulty, eight new routines (seven hit), Sabrina Vega looking stronger on the leg events than she did even last season, and of course a little help from their judging friends on beam.
6. Michigan Wolverines
Previous ranking: 9
It looked like it might have gone…baddd…for Michigan at the very beginning in Cancun with falls on both of the first two beam routines, but the Wolverines pulled it together after that break 196 even with a counting fall, rising in quality as the meet progressed and avoiding putting up a clunker of a road score that might bring down the average for weeks. This is fine. Natalie Wojcik debuted as the nation’s freshman star, going 39.650 in the AA to put her in the top 5 and receiving a 10 from one judge for a stuck 1.5 on vault.
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 10
Kentucky won’t be going, “OMG WE GOT A 195.975 THE FUTURE IS NOW” about this result, but given the overall national score-scape, this is a solid mark and a laudable first-week ranking. There were no counting falls, and you always take that in the first meet. We also saw six routines from freshmen and sophomores make it into the opening lineup to fill some gaps as Warren and Poland try to return from injury. Six routines may not sound like a lot, but with Kentucky moving ever closer to the day when these seniors can’t compete anymore, seeing countable routines from the newbies is important, particularly the 9.850 on beam from Josie Angeny.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous ranking: 11
Nebraska is another team that won’t be jumping up and down about the score but will absolutely take the overall quality of the performance and a current ranking in the top 10. The Huskers avoided counting a fall and ended up recording their top rotation score on the event I was most worried about—bars—as three new gymnasts came into the lineup with hit routines in the first three performances to send the message that this wasn’t going to be a disaster opener.
9. California Golden Bears
Previous ranking: 8
It started exceptionally well for Cal, breaking 49 in the opening bars rotation and leading LSU after one event (and tied after two events). The scoring pace fell off as the meet went on with the increased power potential on the leg events this season not yet translating into real-life scores—and with some stricter beam numbers in this one that reflected just how out of whack the various judging panels are with their beam evaluation out of the gate.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks
Previous ranking: 12
Arkansas will mark this as a medium meet, going through successfully with six usable routines in each lineup no counting falls, but also having to throw in some routines that probably won’t be in the final lineups once everyone is at full health, work against some mistakes, and count more 9.7s than the team will feel is acceptable as the season progresses.
11. Missouri Tigers
Previous ranking: 19
Missouri took the victory at the closely matched Arizona State quad meet to debut at #11, a big deal for a team that isn’t typically in this rarefied territory, and a big deal to record a score in the mid 195s even while counting a fall on bars. With a hit meet, we would be talking about Missouri nestled comfortably in the top 10 with something resembling a 196. This performance featured more 9.8s than most of Missouri’s peer teams are showing at this point.
12. Stanford Cardinal
Previous ranking: 21
I mean, it’s a 195.175, but we’re all just happy that Stanford was able to put up full lineups on all the events and did not have to count a fall on bars—even in the first meet, you guys. It’s basically a miracle. Having Aleeza Yu back on vault and bars allays some of the depth fears, but the next step for Stanford is ensuring that the team doesn’t just become the Kyla Bryant Show in the same way it was the Elizabeth Price Show before. There must be other scores over 9.800.
13. Arizona State Sun Devils
Previous ranking: 20
In terms of rankings, Arizona State will be pleased about picking up where it left off last season, comfortably entrenched with the legitimate national contenders. But, this opening quad meet was winnable for ASU, so they won’t be thrilled about the number of 9.6s that had to count, holding them behind a Missouri side that counted a fall. Even if that’s to be expected in the first meet. With two 9.900s, Cairo Leonard-Baker is continuing to be Cairo Leonard-Baker.
14. UC Davis Aggies
Previous ranking: UNR
Well hello there. Look at you. Of course, Davis won’t keep up this ranking once all the teams have competed and reality start bearing itself out out, but it’s still a big deal that they can report the gymnastics team ranked #14 in the country, a ranking built on some fantastic beam scores that nearly saw the team upset Stanford at the Norcal quad. In the limited routines we were able to see on the feed, I was most impressed by the line and handstands on bars from gymnasts like Sarah Liddle, which were top-team quality.
15. Ohio State Buckeyes
Previous ranking: 18
Ohio State’s performance against Georgia, while certainly not a score the team will want to keep around for postseason purposes, proved a significant step. The memory of the first-meet bars disaster at UCLA last year was still fresh (at least to me), and Ohio State came into a similarly difficulty road context against another top team this year and performed with much more precision and composure this time around, showing us a team capable of staying in the top 20.
16. Central Michigan Chippewas
Previous ranking: 30
So, it wasn’t last year’s debut ranking of #3, but CMU did still manage to hold on for the victory at its opening quad meet, just fending off Arizona and doing so without counting a fall. It was more a 9.5 parade on beam that kept the score out of the 195s we expect this team to start recording pretty soon. Though vault did not go great, Denelle Pedrick picked up the mantle again this season by leading the way on beam and floor with team-high 9.850s.
17. Auburn Tigers
Previous ranking: 14
Things were going exceptionally well for Auburn for almost the entire meet, getting four Y1.5s into the vault lineup and breaking 49 on bars and beam. This was going to be a statement result for a top-6 score…until floor. A mid-routine injury to Skyler Sheppard on her second ankle-cruncher landing in row meant she had to stop midway and every other score had to count—including a two-fall performance from Gracie Day in the anchor position, sitting her double Arabian and landing short on her final double back. Hence, Auburn in 17th instead of the top 10. But keep an eye out. These lineups look very competitive.
18. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous ranking: 6
So that wasn’t really the plan, was it? Alabama sits in entirely foreign territory down in 18th after recording 194.750 in the opening meet. It was going to be OK for a while with some 49.0s in the first couple rotations, and then beam happened. Alabama did have to count a fall on beam, though the performance was not as weak as the scores would make it appear—this being one of the few meets where the judges took the new pause deductions to heart, creating some really inconsistent scores compared to the rest of the country. It wasn’t harrowing beam. It was just super tentative. The problem for Alabama is that this score will be quite difficult to get out from under until RQS allows for dropped results, meaning we’re going to see Alabama ranked pretty low for a while.
18. Arizona Wildcats
Previous ranking: 33
Following last season and not even making regionals, Arizona will be thrilled by a ranking that starts with a 1, even if it comes after a slightly sparse week and a 194. Arizona came through for a second-place performance at CMU without counting a fall and featuring a bars rotation that continues to look like the team’s best event by breaking 49. Concerns over how floor would fare without Schneider, Cindric, and Mattson proved to be founded with a 48.350.
20. Penn State Nittany Lions
Previous ranking: 27
Penn State would have hoped for a stronger score from its opening-meet visit to Utah, but while we saw shades of excellence on bars, with Ava Verdeflor toe-pointing the crap out of all y’all and Bridgens and Garcia showing us that they will resume last season’s scoring with a few more meets under their belts, a multi-fall floor implosion brought what looked like it was going to be a 195 well down into the 194s.
21. Iowa State
Previous ranking: 28
Iowa State finished second in Cancun but did not exactly avoid the Cancun curse with a five-fall competition that brought the score down into the low 194s. Though with five falls, it could have been a lot worse than 194s. The score was largely saved by what looks like it’s going to be a nationally competitive vault lineup in time with several realistic 10.0 starts.
22. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous ranking: 23
Minnesota’s first-meet performance proved to be exactly as frustrating as you have come to expect as big scores on vault and bars (led by 9.900s from Lexy Ramler because duh) were undermined by a beam rotation in which it looks like only five competitors were able to compete and the only score over 9.625 came from Ramler (9.900, once again, duh). That 47.425 meant that Minnesota was not going to get a postseason-usable score out of this one.
22. West Virginia Mountaineers
Previous ranking: 35
West Virginia had its own little experience with the Cancun curse, recording three accetpable first-meet rotations on vault, beam, and floor that would have made for a reasonably high 195, but then suffering three falls on bars to go into the mid-47s there and take the score down to the low 194s.
24. UIC Flames
Previous ranking: UNR
This is the #saveUICgym week, as the team gets to be in the top 25, nearly beating Minnesota on the strength of 9.8+ scores from Northern and Sheremeta.
25. NC State Wolfpack
Previous ranking: 25
NC State dropped down into the 193s for its opening meet largely because of a vault rotation featuring two Ylayouts and a fall for 48.200, from which the team wasn’t really able to recover. Floor proved the highlight of the performance, with an excellent double Arabian from Paris Phillips delivering NC State its lone score over 9.800.