UCLA women celebrating. Photograph: YouTube
The 2017 NCAA Gymnastics season is finally here. Week 1 will serve the purpose of testing new routines, as well as to have a first look at new freshers and returning student-athletes. You will find here a recap of the dates and of the most anticipated matchups.
Friday, 6 January
TBA ET/TBA PT - Kentucky @ Eastern Michigan
7:00 ET/4:00 PT - Georgia @ LSU
7:00 ET/4:00 PT - UIC @ Michigan State
7:30 ET/4:30 PT - Arizona State @ Iowa State (Beauty and the Beast)
7:45 ET/4:45 PT - Alabama @ Oklahoma
8:00 ET/5:00 PT - Texas Woman's, Utah State @ Arizona
8:00 ET/5:00 PT - Oregon State @ Auburn
8:00 ET/5:00 PT - Ball State, Illinois-Champaign @ Missouri
Saturday, 7 January
1:00 ET/10:00 PT - Bridgeport, New Hampshire, William & Mary @ Rutgers
1:00 ET/10:00 PT - Southern Conn. @ Towson
3:00 ET/12:00 PT - Gustavus Adolphus @ UW-Oshkosh
4:00 ET/1:00 PT - Bowling Green, BYU, Temple @ Penn State
6:30 ET/3:30 PT - Ohio State @ Pittsburgh
7:00 ET/4:00 PT - Arkansas @ UCLA
7:00 ET/4:00 PT - Michigan @ Utah
7:30 ET/4:30 PT - Denver @ Minnesota
7:30 ET/4:30 PT - George Washington, Yale @ (Little Boston Invitational)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT - Winona State @ Air Force
Sunday, 8 January
1:00 ET/10:00 PT - UW-Eau Claire @ Central Michigan
1:00 ET/10:00 PT - West Virginia @ Maryland-College Park
2:00 ET/11:00 PT - Florida @ North Carolina State
2:00 ET/11:00 PT - Iowa, Lindenwood, Western Michigan @ Northern Illinois
The most anticipated matchups
It is only week 1, but there are already some high-profile meets you may want to keep an eye on.
Alabama at Oklahoma
The current champions, Oklahoma, will open up the season with a home meeting against 2016 third-place finishers Alabama. It will be interesting to see if Alabama will finally be able to beat Oklahoma. This has not happened since 2013.
For Oklahoma, particularly exciting is the NCAA gymnastics debut of world champion Maggie Nichols, who proved to be competition-ready in a pre-season meeting last month. Alongside Nichols, we will also see the return of world champion Brenna Dowell and of such last-year stars as Chayse Capps (second in the all around), AJ Jackson (third on floor) and McKenzie Wofford (third on bars).
For Alabama, we are looking forward to the NCAA debut of world champion Madison Desch, who has not been competing for over a year. Desch announced her retirement from elite gymnastics last May, after learning she had re-fractured her back. We will also witness the return of, among others, 2016 NCAA vault champion Katie Bailey, Aja Sims and Amanda Jetter.
Alabama's Madison Desch sticks her new bars dismount in training.
Georgia at LSU
2016 second-place finisher LSU will host sixth-place finisher Georgia. Georgia beat LSU early in the season last year, but LSU prevailed towards the end of the season.
LSU have two freshmen, Kennedi Edney and Great Britain’s two-time Olympian Ruby Harrold. Harrold’s unique uneven bars routine is expected to be a highlight of the season. LSU can also count on some remarkable sophomore gymnasts, such as 2012 junior U.S. champion Lexie Priessman, 2012 Olympic alternate Sarah Finnegan and McKenna Kelley. They can also count on 2016 NCAA vault bronze medallist Ashleigh Gnat and floor silver medallist Myia Hambrick.
Georgia has to fill the gap left by Brittany Rogers, Brandie Jay and Mary Beth Box, who graduated last year. They can count on such gymnasts as Ashlyn Broussard and Syndey Snead, as well as on incoming freshman and 2011 world champion Sabrina Vega. Vega has not competed in a very long time and it is exciting to see her back.
LSU's Ruby Harrold competes on bars at the LSU Fall Intrasquad.
Michigan at Utah
Both Michigan and Utah started last season well, but faltered towards the end and failed to make the Super Six Final. They will both look for redemption this year.
Utah has a brilliant freshman coming in, world champion and Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner, who is expected to perform her incredible tucked double-double on floor. Utah can also count on the experience of such sophomores as Sabrina Schwab and Makenna Merrell.
Michigan will rely on the experience, among others, of seniors Nicole Artz and Talia Chiarelli and sophomore gymnast Olivia Karas.
Utah's MyKayla Skinner competes on floor at the Red Rocks Preview.
Other notable debuts include UCLA’s Olympic champions' Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian, and Florida’s 2016 Olympic Trials competitors' Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley.
Florida's Amelia Hundley competes on bars in a pre-season meeting.
By Talitha IlacquaAdvertisement