Viral UCLA gymnast is in Fort Worth for the NCAA championships
Individual event champions were crowned, and eight teams were cut to four, as the 2019 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships opened Friday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Heading into the championships, Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols didn’t look like she would be able to defend her 2018 all-around title. But she did just that.
Nichols turned in a 39.7125 to edge out UCLA’s Kyla Ross and Minnesota’s Lexy Ramler, who tied for second with a 39.6625. Nichols had a 9.9500 on the vault, a 9.9375 on bars, a 9.9000 on the balance beam and a 9.9250 on the floor exercise.
“This is the best I’ve felt the whole season, even at the beginning,” said Nichols. “It was so amazing to come out tonight and hit four really good routines.
“I wasn’t focused on winning the all-around. I just really wanted to go out there and hit my routines for my team and help advance to the second day. It all came together perfectly at the end, which was incredible, and I’m so ready for day 2.”
Nichols suffered a heel injury in mid-January and hadn’t done a floor routine at a meet since then and only twice in competition all season. The junior had also skipped vaulting, except for the Perfect 10 Challenge on Feb. 15 and at the Athens Regional two weeks ago.
“I’ve been training floor for a few weeks now, and I really had to step up this week because we had an injury in our floor lineup,” Nichols added. “We came up with a new floor routine for me, and I was really confident that I could do it. I’ve been really focused outside of the gym to get really healthy, and I’ve been feeling really good.”
The other individual national champions are LSU’s Kennedi Edney, Ross, Nichols and Auburn’s Derrian Gobourne, who all turned in a 9.9500 in the vault. LSU’s Sarah Finnegan won the uneven parallel bars with a 9.9500.
Michigan’s Natalie Wojcik is the balance beam national champion after turning in a 9.9500. Ross, Florida’s Alicia Boren, Denver’s Lynnzee Brown and Oklahoma’s Brenna Dowell shared the floor exercise title; all scored 9.9500.
There were few surprises in the semifinals of the team competition, as all of the top seeds advanced to Saturday’s final.
No. 1 Oklahoma (197.8500) and No. 5 Denver (197.0375) moved on from the second session, while No. 2 UCLA (197.6750) and No. 3 LSU (197.5125) advanced from session one.
Denver just edged out Oregon State after the teams were tied at 147.6500 after three events. The Pioneers pulled it out with strong performances on the bars. It is Denver’s fifth trip to the team championships, but the first time the Pioneers have reached the final round.
Ross led UCLA with first-place finishes on vault (9.9500) and floor (9.9500) in the first session. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist finished fourth on the balance beam (9.9000) and a big step on her dismount on the bars contributed to a 12th place tie (9.8625)
It was dicey for LSU early in session one. The Tigers struggled on the beam to open but rallied to finish second on the floor and win the vault and bars.
A wobble on the beam cost Utah’s MyKayla Skinner a shot at the all-around title. Skinner, the all-around runner up the past two seasons, finished in the top three of each of the other three events, but a tie for 21st on the beam dropped her to 7th place.
Much has been made of the new format for the team championships.
Starting in 1993, the top two teams from six regionals made it to the championships with the top three teams from two six-team semifinals reaching the Super Six.
Starting this season, the top two teams from four regionals made it to Fort Worth with the top two from two four-team semifinals reaching the Four on the Floor.
With only four teams and four events in each session, it cuts out the byes that had to take place with six teams and makes for a much cleaner, quicker event.
“What a great meet and what a fabulous format,” said LSU coach D-D Breaux, who is in her 42nd season as head coach of the Tigers. “It was so close and went down to the last two performers on the last event. I just can’t say enough about the quality of competition and how this meet has been managed.”
On Saturday, doors open for the team championship at 4:30 p.m. with an autograph session scheduled from 4:30-5:30 p.m. The meet gets underway at 6 p.m.
General admission tickets for Saturday’s team championship are $25.