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Live updates from NCAA gymnastics championships semifinals

ByTeam BB

Apr 14, 2023

After an unforgettable season chock full of surprises, viral moments, dominant performances and even the occasional scoring controversy or twothe 2023 NCAA championships are upon us in Fort Worth, Texas.

The competition gets underway Thursday with the first semifinal (3 p.m. ET on ESPN2) as Florida, California, LSU and Denver battle for their spot in Saturday’s team final. Oklahoma, Utah, UCLA and Kentucky will compete in the night session (9 pm ET on ESPN2), and the two highest-scoring teams from each semifinal will advance. Gymnasts will also be competing Thursday for the all-around and individual event titles — awarded to the top scorers at the end of the second semifinal.

Of course, these are the NCAA championships and whatever can happen. We’re in for an exciting day of close competition — and we’ll have updates on all of the action here:

Leanne Wong

When her team needed her the most, Leanne Wong stepped up in a major way with a gorgeous floor routine to help lead the Gators to first place after the third rotation. The 2021 world bronze medalist on floor, Wong earned a 9.9625 – despite chants and pleas from her teammates for a perfect 10. Wong is currently tied for the top score on the event with LSU’s Aleah Finnegan. — D’Arcy Maine

Florida back on top!

Florida went from fourth to first after an absolutely wild rotation three, and the two spots to finals are now firmly in the hands of Florida and LSU as long as all goes well in the last rotation.

On floor, the Gators bounced back from their beam challenges, with Payton Richards scoring a 9.9250, Victoria Nguyen a 9.900 and Leanne Wong a 9.9625 for an oh-so-close-to-perfect routine.

LSU had a solid if not spectacular vault rotation, led by 9.8625s from Haleigh Bryant and Bryce Wilson. Bryant, one of the best vaulters in the country, was a little off on her block and scored lower than she normally would after taking a step. Unfortunately, it will keep her from earning the individual vault title today, but it was enough to keep LSU in the second spot overall, just .100 behind Florida.

Cal had a tough rotation on bars, typically one of his best events, counting a fall and scoring only 48.700. Lynnzee Brown led off for Denver with an incredible 9.9125 on beam, but the squad struggled from there with two falls, and they were forced to count a low 9.000 score in their team total. — Amy Van Deusen

Third rotation results:

  1. Florida: 148.100

  2. LSU: 148,000

  3. California: 147.4875

  4. Denver: 147.1375

Rotation Two: Florida struggles

After entering the rotation in first place, it was a shaky outing for Florida on beam and the Gators fell to fourth at the halfway mark. Sloane Blakely (9.9375) and Kayla DiCello (9.925) were the bright spots for the team but it was an uncharacteristically error-riddled rotation overall.

Buoyed by a 9.9. From Mya Lauzon, Cal took over the lead with a strong rotation on vault. The Golden Bears now hold an ever-so-narrow lead over LSU, but it was the Tigers who had some of the most entertaining performances of the rotation with powerful routines on floor from Bryant and Aleah Finnegan. — D’Arcy Maine

Second rotation results:

  1. California: 98.7875

  2. LSU: 98.7500

  3. Denver: 98.5875

  4. Florida: 98.5750

Aleah Finnegan

LSU’s phenomenal sophomore Aleah Finnegan earned the highest score of the day so far — a 9.9625 — for her floor routine, which included a gorgeous Arabian double front mount, and a super difficult back 2 ½ to punch front combo pass. The score puts her in firm contention for the individual floor title. — Amy Van Deusen

Haleigh Bryant’s opening statement

While Trinity Thomas was (understandably) the center of attention during the first rotation, LSU’s Haleigh Bryant casually scored a 9.9375 on beam to help boost the Tigers early and make a convincing argument for her own all-around campaign. — D’Arcy Maine

Rotation one: A roller-coaster start

Florida started off with a fall on bars on the first routine, but then came roaring back with scores above 9.9 for the last three gymnasts. Highlighting the rotation: The return of Trinity Thomas to the lineup. She earned a 9.95 for a near-perfect set. Denver was solid with a 49.225 on vault, led by Lynnzee Brown’s stuck Yurchenko 1½ that earned a 9.925. On beam, LSU’s Haleigh Bryant scored a 9.9375 with an immaculate set, and on floor, Cal’s Mya Lauzon and eMjae Frazier earned matching scores of 9.9375. — Amy Van Deusen

First rotation results:

  1. Florida: 49.4875

  2. California: 49.4375

  3. LSU: 49.2750

  4. Denver: 49.2250

Strong start for Lynnzee Brown

Lynnzee Brown made a statement for Denver in its opening rotation on vault. The only thing more impressive than her stuck Yurchenko 1½? Her absolutely perfect reaction to it. She earned a 9.925 — the best score for the Pioneers at the event. — D’Arcy Maine

Trinity is in!

After days of speculation and a near-constant stream of questions about her participation status because of a lingering lower leg injury, Trinity Thomas was announced to be competing on bars and vault moments before the meet.

Showing no visible signs of injury, nor wearing any wrapping, she did the Trinity Thomas things and scored a 9.95 with a nearly flawless opening routine on bars. Having been unable to practice her landing for nearly two weeks, Thomas stuck her double layout dismount.

“How did she do it?” ESPN reporter Sam Peszek asked Florida coach Jenny Rowland after the first rotation.

“Trusting her training, the months and weeks that led into these last couple weeks,” Rowland said. “She did a phenomenal job, extremely proud. I know this team is proud.” — D’Arcy Maine

It’s go time

The gymnasts are warming up, and Florida (with Trinity Thomas there as well) started the day with a dance party. The countdown begins.

Who to watch in Semifinal I

The biggest question leading into the weekend has undoubtedly been the status of Florida star and reigning all-around champion Trinity Thomas. The fifth-year senior injured her right leg during regionals and was unable to compete in the regional final.

During Wednesday’s practice session, Thomas trained exclusively on bars, giving fans a glimmer of hope that she will compete in at least one event.

Still, Thomas’ presumed absence for most of the competition is a major blow to the Gators, who for much of the season appeared to be a front-runners for the NCAA title. Florida has the talent to advance to Saturday’s final even with Thomas’ limited participation, but it won’t be easy.

Who else should you be keeping an eye on during the first semifinal? LSU’s Haleigh Bryant is the likely favorite from the afternoon session to take the early lead in the all-around race. Freshman phenom eMjae Frazier and California will be looking to keep their record-setting season going. And Denver’s sixth-year senior Lynnzee Brown, one of college gymnastics’ most beloved figures, could put up big numbers on bars and floor — and force one more meet in her legendary career. — D’Arcy Maine

Get more predictions from Kathy Johnson Clarke, Sam Peszek, John Roethlisberger and many more here,

Championship history

Georgia has won the most national titles overall, with 10, and had a streak of five titles in a row from 2005 to 2009. But the Bulldogs haven’t won since 2009, and did not qualify to compete in Fort Worth this year.

Utah dominated the 1980s to the mid-1990s and has nine titles overall, with the most recent coming in 1995. Recently, Oklahoma has been the team to beat, with five national titles since the Sooners first won in 2014 (a tie for the title with Florida — the only tie in history.)

The full breakdown of national titles:

Georgia: 10 (1987, 1989, 1993, 1998–99, 2005–09)
Utah: 9 (1982–86, 1990, 1992, 1994–95)
UCLA: 7 (1997, 2000–01, 2003–2004, 2010, 2018)
Alabama: 6 (1988, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2011–12)
Oklahoma: 5 (2014) [tied]2016-17, 2019, 2022)
Florida: 3 (2013, 2014) [tied]2015)
Michigan: 1 (2021)

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