LSU is the 2017 SEC Conference Championships winner. Photograph: LSU Gymnastics/Instagram
The 2017 NCAA Conference Championships were held on Saturday, 18 March, in various locations across the United States. It was an incredible weekend, with stunning gymnastics all around. Four gymnasts scored perfect 10.0s: LSU’s Ashleigh Gnat and Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols on vault, UCLA’s Kyla Ross on beam and Utah’s MyKayla Skinner on floor. Scoring a perfect 10.0 in the post season is even harder and impressive than during the regular season, because gymnasts are assessed by four, rather than two judges – congratulations to them all!
What a stunning competition in Jacksonville, Florida. Some of the best teams in the country competed against each other, and produced some beautiful gymnastics. The LSU Tigers won their first SEC Conference title in thirty-six years with the highest score of any Conference, a 198.075. They finished ahead of Florida (197.825), Alabama (197.400), Georgia (196.700), Kentucky (196.625), Auburn (196.550), Missouri (195.825) and Arkansas (194.900).
The LSU Tigers did not have the perfect competition, counting some mistakes on bars by Ruby Harrold and on beam by Erin Macadaeg. But they rocked vault and floor, and they were the rightful winners. The highlight of the night came on vault, when senior Ashleigh Gnat scored the ninth perfect 10.0 of her career for a stunningly stuck double-twisting Yurchenko. Gnat also contributed greatly on beam and floor with two 9.950s. Lexie Priessman scored the highest score for LSU on bars, a 9.950, while McKenna Kelley matched Gnat’s 9.950 on floor.
Florida also produced some lovely gymnastics. The main difference between the Tigers and the Gators was that the latter failed to stick enough of their landings. Alex McMurtry had one of the best meets of her career, scoring over 9.900 on all apparatuses, and winning the all around with a huge 39.700. Kennedy Baker also impressed, scoring over 9.900 on vault, beam and floor, while Rachel Slocum nailed her unique vault (festive jumps included!).
Alabama had a good meet, with some excellent scores. Freshman Maddie Desch posted a huge 9.95 on vault. Senior Katie Baley scored a 9.950 on bars, while incredible junior Kiana Winston scored a 9.950 on beam and a 9.925 on floor.
Georgia did not have the best of meets, but counted a few 9.900s. Sydney Snead scored a 9.900 on both vault and bars, Lauren Johnson added a second 9.900 on bars, and Ashlyn Broussard scored another 9.900 on beam.
Among all these big names, however, it is probably Kentucky that impressed the most. They still lack some consistency overall, but they have some first-class athletes and are on their way to become a top-team in the country. Beam was Kentucky’s best apparatus. Katie Stuart scored a 9.850, Sydney Dukes a 9.900, and Alex Hyland a superb 9.950. Incredible freshman Mollie Korth led her team with a 9.900 on vault and three scores over 9.800 on the other apparatuses.
Auburn impressed on bars, when Samantha Cerio and Emma Engler scored two 9.900s.
Utah won the Pac-12 Championships in Stanford, California, with a huge 197.925. They finished ahead of Oregon State (197.400), UCLA and Washington (197.100), Stanford (196.625), Berkeley (196.300), Arizona (196.275) and Arizona State (195.600).
The Utah Red Rocks were on fire on all apparatuses. On vault, Tiffani Lewis and MyKayla Skinner scored two 9.950s, followed by Baely Rowe’s 9.900. On bars, Kari Lee and Missy Reinstadtler scored two 9.900s. On beam, Kari Lee, Baely Rowe and MyKayla Skinner scored three 9.900s. But the highlight of the day came on floor, when Utah scored five 9.900s or above: Missy Reinstadtler, Macey Roberts and Baely Rowe scored three 9.900s. Tiffani Lee scored a 9.925, and MyKayla Skinner earned the second perfect 10.0 of her career.
Oregon State impressed with a second-place finish and some significant scores. On vault, Dani Dessaints posted a huge 9.950, followed by Mary Jacobsen’s 9.900. On bars, Erika Aufiero scored another huge 9.950, while on beam Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, Dani Dessaints , Sabrina Gill and Kaytianna McMillan all scored 9.900s or better. Finally, on floor, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez and Kaytianna McMillan scored two 9.900s.
UCLA had a disappointing night. The Bruins started on vault, where they had to count Madison Kocian’s 9.775 after Gracie Kramer’s poor 9.250. They then moved to bars, where they had a terrible rotation as well. After JaNay Honest’s 9.075, they had to count Stella Savvidou’s 9.600 and Sonya Meraz’s 9.750, before Kyla Ross scored a 9.875 and Peng-Peng Lee sealed the rotation with a 9.900. The Bruins got back on track on beam, where Mikaela Gerber and Madison Kocian scored 9.900s, Katelyn Ohashi a 9.950 and Kyla Ross a perfect 10.0. Ross’s 10.0 was her second on beam, and the first ever Pac-12 Conference perfect score on beam.
Washington tied with UCLA for third place, managing to score 9.900 or better on all apparatuses. Hailey Burleson in particular impressed with a 9.925 on vault and a 9.900 on beam, and Joslyn Goings was equally surprising with a 9.900 on vault and a 9.925 on beam.
Stanford finished fifth after having one of their best meets of the season. Their leader, Elizabeth Price, scored an excellent 9.900 on vault and a 9.925 on floor, while Nicolette McNair and Ashley Tai impressed with a 9.925 and a 9.900 respectively on beam.
Michigan won the Big-Ten Conference in Piscataway, New Jersey, with an excellent 197.400. It won ahead of Illinois (196.875), Iowa (196.725), Nebraska (196.475), Ohio State (195.525), Penn State and Michigan State (195.500), Minnesota (195.175), Rutgers (194.700) and Maryland (193.625).
Michigan had a big meet. Nicole Artz won the all around with a 39.500. Her best score came on floor, a 9.900. Second in the all around was her teammate Olivia Karas (39.450), who also won the floor title (9.915). Emma McLean won the vault title with a nearly perfect 9.975 and contributed with another excellent 9.900 on floor.
Illinois’s Mary Jane Horth won the bars title with a 9.925. Illinois also had some excellent scores on beam, a 9.925 by Lizzy LeDuc and a 9.900 by Bridget Hodan, and on floor, two 9.900s also by Bridget Hodan and Lizzy LeDuc.
Third-place finisher Iowa impressed especially on beam, where Clair Kaji and Angel Metcalf scored two 9.900s and Mollie Drenth a 9.925, top score of the night with Illinois’s Lizy LeDuc and Michigan’s Talia Chiarelli.
Nebraska had a good meet, with solid scores in the 9.800s. Their highest score was Jennie Laeng’s 9.900 on the uneven bars.
Michigan State finished sixth overall, but impressed with three 9.925s on floor with Nicola Deans, Kira Frederick and Elena Lagoski.
Oklahoma had an easy win in Frisco, Texas, beating second-place finisher Denver 197.850 to 196.475. Third was West Virginia with a 195.575 and fourth Iowa State with a 195.500.
The Sooners did not have the perfect meet, but were on a league of their own. Maggie Nichols scored her second perfect 10.0 on vault, followed by Chayse Chapps’ 9.900. On bars, Nichols, Brenna Dowell and McKenzie Wofford scored three 9.950s. On beam, Natalie Brown and Chayse Capps scored two 9.925s, while on floor AJ Jackson posted the highest score, a 9.950. Chayse Capps won the all around title with a 39.650.
Denver had a solid meet with a lot of scores in the 9.700s and 9.800s. The only 9.900 came on beam with Julia Ross. Maddie Carr and Julia Ross were second and third in the all around with a 39.450 and a 39.350 respectively.
West Virginia impressed with two 9.900s, on vault with Kirah Koshinski and on floor with Zaakira Muhammad.
Finally, Iowa State also counted one 9.900 with Hailee Young on vault. This gymnast has so much talent and has been impressive all season long!
Boise State won the MRGC Championships title in Logan, Utah, with a 197.075. It beat Utah State (196.100), Southern Utah (196.075) and Brigham Young University (194.675).
Boise State’s Shani Remme won the all around with a 39.375, which included a high 9.900 on beam. Boise State posted some high scores on bars, beam and floor. On bars, Diana Mejia scored a 9.950, followed by Courtney McGregor’s 9.900. On beam, Alex Esmerian, Sarah Means and Remme scored three 9.900s, while on floor Abby Webb scored a 9.900.
Utah State also had a solid meet, which included two 9.900s with Hayley Sanzotti on beam and Madison Ward on floor.
Southern Utah impressed with a big floor rotation, where Madyson Blake-Howard, Autumn Jorgensen and Stacie Webb posted three 9.900s. Webb also posted a 9.900 on beam.
Brigham Young University’s highest score came on floor, and was a 9.850 by Shannon Hortman.
What an incredible weekend we have witnessed! Such difficult gymnastics, high-level performances and exquisite execution. Next week the Regional Rhampionships will be held and in three weeks it is National Championships time. Oklahoma is still ranked number 1 in the country, but LSU is on fire – do not miss out the big final battle, it will come down to a few tenths!
By Talitha Ilacqua