The first month of NCAA Gymnastics 2016 is done and what a month it has been! We've had six perfect 10s. SIX. This certainly makes for an exciting season. We've also had quite a few gymnasts that have returned from injuries and are making huge contributions to their respective teams.
We had 3 perfect 10s in one meet by Florida - Alex McMurtry on uneven bars, Bridget Sloan on balance beam, and Kennedy Baker on FX. An early perfect 10 was from Nina McGee of Denver on the floor exercise where she does not hold back in the least. The 2 perfect 10s on vault have been from Ashleigh Gnat. For the most part, it seems like scoring has been appropriate this season though these tens were not created equally. Some with bent knees, short landings or leg separations, but the accomplishment of these athletes can't be ignored. I truly enjoyed Ashleigh Gnat's DTY at Metroplex, the height and distance she gets is phenomenal (under gymnastike, here is her 10 from a home meet against Kentucky). Kennedy Baker's double arabian has been amazing since her elite days and continues to be.
Some of the highlight stories of this first month have been elite gymnasts making comebacks. Two elites that have been out for nearly 2 years following surgeries are Peyton Ernst (Florida) and Lexie Priessman (LSU). Ernst has been quick to help the Gators on beam where her flexibility is a huge asset. Priessman has made the Tiger lineup on the uneven bars but the coaching staff is hopeful that she will be able to add more events as time goes on. Priessman was one of the elites that competed the coveted Amanar vault. She has shown her FTY already and could potentially add more difficulty since the current college code rewards that.
Two other spectacular stories are in Sarah Finnegan, also of LSU, and Kaitlyn Hofland, an Ohio State Buckeye. Finnegan has been a star for the Tigers on both UB and BB. She has recently added floor exercise and adding vault will make her a true all around threat. The Tiger vault lineup, however, is probably one of the toughest to break into. We'll see if she remains in the vault lineup as she scored a 9.775 just recently and LSU currently has 2 strong all arounders. Finnegan, an alternate to the US 2012 Olympic Team, is recovering from an elbow surgery that nearly took her out of the sport entirely. She is back now with continued passion for the sport. Hofland is a Canadian elite gymnast that really caught my eye after the 2012 Olympics. She attended World Cup meets and graced many with her flexibility and unique skills on balance beam. Hofland did decide to start her career as a Buckeye in the 2014-2015 season, however, multiple injuries kept her out of her first season as she decided to redshirt that year. She is finally healthy enough to compete and is now competing vault, uneven bars, and balance beam for her team with a recent career and season high score of 9.925 on beam.
Honorable mention goes to Ariana Guerra of Alabama who had Dana Duckworth (and maybe me) in tears after her first floor routine back from back surgery!
The "team on the rise" for me is currently Arkansas. They have had a loaded season so far with wins against #4 Alabama and #9 Auburn. They are ranked in 9th place currently (week 5), 7th on vault, and 10th on floor. Star all around gymnast Amanda Wellick is ranked 8th on vault with Sydney Dillard ranked 17th on beam. They're a young team with a lot of potential. They show great quality vaults with great blocks and form in the air, with continued progress to having more stuck landings. They show great variety on uneven bars and beam. My one critique is on floor where some routines are perfect and really draw you in and others still seem to have a bit of step step pose choreography associated with them though that is certainly not the majority. As a whole, this team is phenomenal and, at the moment, they're my dark horse for the Super Six.
Super Six picture - right now is very blurry. I do think the championship is Florida's to lose. I'd say Florida and Oklahoma will make it to the Super Six. Then Utah is likely. UCLA is proving to be very strong and they're also showing depth we haven't seen in years. The floor lineup, for example, has changed multiple times, but they haven't really missed a beat. Replace one gymnast with a new 9.925. Sure! Why not?! We'll see what happens as the season progresses and we see the return of injured gymnasts to more event lineups. Alabama is also making a strong surge and could certainly make the Super Six if they continue to progress as they have been.
What do you think? Which was your favorite 10? Who has your favorite comeback story? What does your Super Six picture look like right now?