Fort Worth Loading! 2024 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Preview

Fort Worth Loading! 2024 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Preview


By Della Fowler, Megan Roth, and Christy Sandmaier

From 36 to 8, Fort Worth promises an NCAA Women’s Championship to remember! Will 6-time (2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2022, 2023) National and defending champion Oklahoma capture their seventh crown? Will LSU finally take the championship title they’ve been chasing? Can Cal capitalize on a record-breaking season? It’s about to be Go-Time in Fort Worth and right now, it’s anyone’s game.

Here’s how to watch it all play out, along with our look at the field of eight including quick takes from commentators Aly Raisman and John Roethlisberger, who spoke with the media on Monday.


Thursday, April 18th

  • NCAA Championships Semifinal I | LSU, Cal, Arkansas, Stanford | 4:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2
  • NCAA Championships Semifinal II | Oklahoma, Florida, Utah, Alabama | 9:00 p.m. ET | ESPN2

Saturday, April 20th

  • NCAA Championships Finals | 4 p.m. ET | ABC

Both Semifinal competitions are scheduled to be televised on ESPN2 with John Roethlisberger, Aly Raisman and Taylor Davis on the call. ABC will broadcast the final “Four on the Floor” on Saturday. Each apparatus will have its own individual stream with commentary. Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan will commentate the vault and beam streams, and Anastasia Webb and Kennedy Baker will commentate on bars and floor.

SemiFinal I

#2 LSU

Let’s Geaux! Coming off their SEC Championship title and Regional Championship win, the LSU Tigers are looking to make it back to Four on the Floor and contend for the national title. Last season, LSU made an incredible run to the NCAA finals, overcoming injuries and what seemed at times, insurmountable adversity. 

The return of key athletes from injury this year like Kiya Johnson, as well as the addition of spectacular freshman Konnor McClain and Amari Drayton this season, give the Tigers one of the most stacked rosters in the NCAA and perhaps their best opportunity yet to take it all!

2024 AAI Award Winner and new Champion Athleticwear official sportswear partner and brand ambassador, Haleigh Bryant, arguably one of the best student athletes the NCAA arena has ever seen, has been an absolute rock for LSU again this season, completing a Gym Slam and posting the highest All-Around score in the country!

Standout Aleah Finnegan continues to light up the field on floor, scoring three 10.0s this season, and will be key to the team’s success if they’re going to contend for the top with OU. The Tigers will start on vault in Olympic order in Semifinal I and will finish on floor where they are #1 in the country! Look out for KJ Johnson, who opens LSU’s vault lineup with a huge Yurchenko full that she seems to stick every time! As always, beam will be key for LSU. Look to graduate student Sierra Ballard to set the tone for the Tigers — a position she embraces — on their make or break event.

It’s vault and floor in particular for LSU that stood out to Aly Raisman all season, along with the team’s camaraderie.

“The way that they push each other to the next level while also supporting each other, I’ve been really impressed with them,” Raisman said. “I think that if there’s any team that’s going to give Oklahoma a hard time and maybe beat them, LSU is the one to do it.

“Their tumbling and their vaults set them apart. I mean, we talk a lot about their opener on floor could be an anchor for anybody else. So they have the difficulty, they have the form and just hopefully, they’re able to put it all together. It’s really exciting.”

For our interview with Kiya Johnson, Click Here!

For our presason interview with Alyona Shchennikova (just prior to her injury), Click Here!

#3 Cal

One day better. Cal has had a record-breaking season, starting out incredibly strong and now ending even stronger. The Bears have posted three scores above 198.400 and have the highest non-Oklahoma team score of the season. eMjae Frazier and Mya Lauzon have been All-Around superstars for Cal and will need to be on their best game to keep Cal in the running. Frazier set a new program All-Around record with a score of 39.825 and has perfect 10.0s on beam and floor. Lauzon has not scored below 9.8 on any event this season and has recorded 10.0s on beam and vault.

Cal’s lineups have been consistent this year, possibly giving them an advantage over teams that have had shifting lineups throughout the season. Ella Cesario and Maddie Williams have been consistent All-Around performers and Andi Li and Gabby Perea always bring stunning performances to their events.

The Bears are known for their textbook form and artistry (something Lauzon says they train for every day) and will look to continue the consistent season they’ve had so far. Although Cal had a lower scoring meet at Pac-12s, the Bears bounced back at Regionals to score 198.2750 in the Regional Final, showing they are ready to contend for the national title. Cal will start on floor, where they had huge scores at Regionals and then move to vault, what has been their lowest scoring event this season (although improved from last season with four 10.0 start values). Look for the Bears to score big on bars and beam, their last events, to potentially find themselves in their first NCAA final in program history. 

For our preseason interview with Mya Lauzon, Click Here!

#7 Arkansas

Not done yet. Arkansas came out of the gates on a mission in 2024, breaking program records left and right, and are headed back to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2018 and for the first time under head coach Jordyn Wieber.  

At the Fayetteville Regional Final, Arkansas built momentum throughout the meet and broke through as one of the top two teams on the day with a score of 197.825, the second-highest in program history and setting a new regional record. It’s the program’s ninth berth to nationals and their first since the format switched from 12 teams to an “Elite 8” in 2019. 

“We have so much to be proud of this season, even if it ended right now. I would be so proud of the program and the team and the growth we’ve achieved this season,” Wieber told us after Regionals. “But knowing that we have another opportunity to go out there and show who we are as a program, as a team, I’m just really proud of all of the hard work not only our coaching staff, but our team has put in. Everybody has been so bought in this year to what our goal is and what we want to accomplish… Every meet, it’s just been an opportunity to show who we are as a program. And we get to do that on the biggest stage, which is such an opportunity and a blessing.”

Their success this season, together with their drive and determination, is something graduate student Sirena Linton, who transferred following her senior year at the University of Arizona, saw from the beginning and is excited to see the team capitalize on once they hit the floor in Fort Worth. 

“I feel like coming to Arkansas, a big part of that was feeling just the drive and determination that not only the gymnasts had, but the coaches to get us here,” Linton said. “I just wanted to be a part of that. Just to see it come to life this year, it’s been truly magical.

“From the beginning of the season, we made a vision board as a team, and we wrote and had images of all of our goals that we revisited throughout the year. [After Regionals] we walked in and we looked at a vision board and we said, ‘We did it.’ And we keep saying, ‘We’re the team that did it. And so now what?’ We’re not done yet. And I think that was the most exciting thing to hear from all of the girls was, ‘We got here, and now let’s keep pushing. Let’s do more.’”

Key for the Gymbacks in Fort Worth, Wieber said, is to do their normal gymnastics and not focus on one event over the other. Depth is also a factor and has been building for the Gymbacks all season. Look for big performances from Linton, Lauren Williams, Frankie Price, Kalyxta Gamiao, Maddie Jones, Cami Weaver and Leah Smith to play a huge role in Arkansas’ success.

“We’re trying not to build up any event in particular because on our best day, we’re really good on all four,” Wieber said. “We do start on beam, which I keep telling the team, we get to start on our best event. We’ve been the best on beam the last two meets. Really feeding that perspective of no matter what we start on or what we end on, it doesn’t matter. We just do our normal. That’s been the messaging. I think what tends to be the separator in postseason is vault, in my opinion. Whether you have that 10.0 start value advantage or you’re like us where you have half your lineup, 10.0 start value and half not, it’s just all about landings. I think that’s going to be extremely important for us is just to keep going with the consistent landings that we’ve had these last few meets. But I think it’s just everything. We just want to go and be our best when our best is required and continue to do what we’ve done this season.”

For more of our conversation with Jordyn Wieber and Sirena Linton, Click Here!

#8 Stanford

Time to Dance. In this season’s Cinderella story, for the first time since 2016, Stanford heads to NCAAs following a second-place finish at the Berkeley Regional Final. Down .100 going into the final rotation, the Cardinal came through to dance matching its best floor rotation of the season to secure a place in Fort Worth. 

Battling with Denver and Arizona State for the second spot throughout the competition, it was a fight to the finish in Berkeley and when fifth year standout Chloe Widner took to the floor to anchor the rotation, she knew the door was open just enough for Stanford to step inside. Widner needed a 9.875 to tie for the second spot and in what was reminiscent of a Hollywood script, came through with her first career 10.0 on the event, punching the Cardinal’s ticket to nationals and becoming the first unseeded team to make nationals in its new format.

And while the Cardinal heading to Fort Worth may have been the surprise of the season to everyone else, for Widner, it was all part of the plan. 

“At the beginning of season, actually, our goal was top eight. I feel like we had some ups and downs throughout season. I wouldn’t say we lost sight of that goal, but it wasn’t as at the front of our mind. We were trying to be less results-oriented and really focusing on competing exactly how we practice and doing exactly what we do in the gym. And before the first day of Regionals, (head coach) Tabitha (Yim) was actually talking to us, and she told us, ‘The postseason is for teams who are normal. You see all these teams that are supposed to be moving on that don’t, because something big happens that’s very different from what they normally do.’ When we saw our seeding, we said, ‘We can definitely make it out of day one. We got this.’ We didn’t really talk about day two until we got there.

“We’re very focused on one day at a time doing exactly what we need to do in that moment. Once we got to day two, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s do the same thing that we just did two days ago and see where it takes us. Let’s not try too hard. Let’s do what we do in the gym.’ And obviously it paid off. It’s really cool to see because we didn’t do anything special. That is what we’ve been training. And so, it almost did feel like a normal day.”

The task ahead in Fort Worth means staying normal and in the moment, trusting their abilities and showing up, Widner said, noting she thinks starting on bars will be an advantage to the team.

“Beam is our best event, and that’s a tricky event to be good at because people always say that’ll make or break the day. But we’re starting on bars. And so getting bars and beam, the two shaky events out of the way first and being able to set the standard on those because we have such clean gymnastics, I think that’ll be really nice for us. Then we get to end on vault, which is historically not our best event. Being able to capitalize on the momentum we have going into that is going to be really nice for us.”

Instrumental to the Cardinal’s success in Fort Worth will also mean key performances from Anapula Gutierrez, Brenna Neault, Amanda Zeng, Ava Sorrento, Ira Alexeeva and Sienna Robinson.

“This team is the hardest working team that I’ve been a part of,” Widner said. “I think that over the summer and in the fall, we put in a lot, a lot of work. We did a lot more conditioning than normal. We did a lot more numbers. We started focusing on the details way earlier in the preseason than we normally are able to. We all knew that this is a special team, that we were going to do something great. For it to come together in these last couple of months has been really cool to see.”

For our full conversation with Chloe Widner, Click Here!

SemiFinal II

#1 Oklahoma

The (defending) Champs. With a 198.400 in the Ann Arbor Regional Final, the No. 1 Sooners won their 14th-straight NCAA Regional title to advance to their 20th straight National Championship. They peaked at the Big 12 Championship, breaking the NCAA record team score with an enormous 198.950 at their home arena in Norman, Oklahoma. The reigning Champs return to Fort Worth after a season that really showed Oklahoma is in a league of their own. However, according to senior AAI Award finalist Audrey Davis, the Sooners are squarely focused on the next competition. When reflecting on how the team is feeling, Davis said, “We’ve been doing all these amazing things, but we can’t stop. We need to keep working and pushing ourselves to do better because at the end of the day we are capable of doing so much more.” 

The Champion mindset is felt throughout the OU gym every day, Davis shared their outlook on improving the details. The Sooners keep their eyes on details, small deductions and simply doing “good gymnastics” dominating competition so far. The depth off the bench has been showcased in full form throughout nationals as OU’s stars Jordan Bowers, Davis and Faith Torrez have been shining bright in all their events. Those names aren’t even all as it’s almost a guarantee that 5th Year Ragan Smith and Senior Kat LeVassuer will dominate the beam. Like we said, league of their own. 

When talking about Oklahoma or watching their meets, it’s clear that they are a detail-oriented team, but it’s the championships and anything can happen. Oklahoma has been known for recovering from a lower scoring routine, so the question will be, can they still do that under the lights in Fort Worth? We will have to wait and see, but one thing is clear, Oklahoma will always put on a show and a seventh title is theirs for the taking.

John Roethlisberger noted it’s the culture within the program that continues to feed what is quickly becoming a dynasty.

“I’ll call it a culture,” he said. “They have a system or a culture, that is conducive to great gymnastics, and people might think, ‘oh, they’re too serious, or they’re too that.’ Well, gymnastics is a serious sport and you have to have a level of focus and toughness, and you have to be serious on a certain level, and I think they have such a great blend of that.

“KJ (head coach KJ Kindler) and her staff that have been together, you know, 18 years, or something like that now, [and] they they have stood by their system, and they’ve brought in athletes that believe in it and want most importantly want to be a part of it, and I think that is, in my opinion, is really the biggest key to their success.”

For our preseason interview with Danae Fletcher (just prior to her injury), Click Here!

#4 Florida

Go Time. The Gators reached their season high team score of 198.325 in the Gainesville Regional Final following fabulous performances from Leanne Wong, Victoria Nguyen, Anya Pilgrim, and their head coach Jenny Rowland, proving once again that the Gators are a contender for the national title. At the 2024 SEC Championships, Rowland made the decision to start the meet on beam, leading many to question the move, especially when Florida finished 4th behind LSU, Alabama and Kentucky. However, the strategy paid off huge at the Gainesville Regional Final when the team not only crushed the rotation, they posted their second highest beam total of the season with a 49.600. 

Florida’s obvious big strength is the leadership and experience 2023 World Team gold medalist Wong brings to the floor and to a relatively young team, but Nguyen, Sloane Blakely and Pilgrim have consistently put up their fair share of big scores this season. According to Nguyen, in week 3 Florida coined the mindset of getting ‘1% better’ throughout the season and are continuing to build on their skills. That 1% will be a crucial part when it comes to setting sail for Fort Worth. The Gators will NEED everyone in their lineup to put up huge scores and be able to bounce back after any missteps. Lucky for them, according senior leader Nguyen, “Learning how to adjust and adapt is what the Gators are best at doing.” This meet for the Gators will be all about consistency, the 1%, and seeking a little bit of revenge for their 2nd place finish behind Oklahoma in 2023.

To win in Fort Worth, Roethlisberger noted the Gators will need to “just pretend they’re in the ODome. I mean, they perform so well at home. They performed unbelievably at Regionals. They need to repeat their Regional performance. I think you know, backing up a little bit, the job that Jenny Rowland and her staff have done this year, I think is the best job they’ve done as a staff since they’ve all been together at Florida. You look at the season coming in, and if anybody’s really being honest, and I think I’ve even said this to Jenny this year, I said this was kind of like, ‘oh, but wait ‘til next year for Florida.’ Trinity (Thomas) moved on, Skye Blakely deferred, Kayla DiCello’s taking a year off for the Olympics, Riley McCusker [is injured], Savannah Schoenherr is contributing really important routines to LSU – all those routines collectively. We’re talking about people that can set records for 10.0s. So [to] have them all not be part of this journey, and then have a team with different personalities that are a little different than Florida is used to, not better or worse in any way, but just a different team, a more reserved team — they had to develop their personality, not just their gymnastics. To get freshmen to contribute at that level right away in a team that’s finding their way – they’ve done a remarkable job. I think it’s going to be a big task for them to win this. I think everybody understands that. And everybody agrees with that.”

For our interview with Leanne Wong, Click Here!

#5 Utah

Turning the page. Utah had an off day in the Regional Final, just narrowly advancing over Missouri. The Red Rocks have not missed an NCAA Championship since the event started in 1982 and will look to turn the page in Fort Worth and get back on track to the top-5 performances we’ve seen from them this season. Although the Regional Final wasn’t their strongest meet, Utah showed incredible resilience to come back from being in fourth place after the first rotation to claim second place at the end of the meet. Makenna Smith came back after a miss in the first rotation to score 9.9+ scores on her other events and stick her vault to secure Utah’s spot in Fort Worth.

The team, who experienced a coaching change before the season even began, has had an uphill battle all season to overcome adversity and for that reason, are hungry and ready to prove once again they are contender.

“From everything I’ve seen and talking with the coaches, they’ve responded in a way that they might be better because of the adversity that they have faced,” John Roethlisberger noted. “And I think they’ve really rallied. We talked to (head coach) Carly (Dockendorf) a bit, and she really feels like they’ve rallied in a way that she is so impressed — it’s the hardest working team, the most resilient team that she has seen in her time at Utah…  Sometimes it’s the circuitous route and the rough and tumble journey that all of a sudden lands you in a spot that maybe got you ready for it better than that smooth road. So you know, look out for Utah. Don’t take them lightly.”

Utah will start on beam in the Semifinal. While fifth years Maile O’Keefe (the 2023 NCAA All-Around Champion) and Abby Paulson have brought in too many 9.95+ scores to count this season, the rest of Utah’s beam lineup hasn’t been as consistent as we’ve seen in past seasons. The Red Rocks will look to start off strong on beam – reclaim their “best beam team” moniker and carry that momentum through the rest of the meet. 

For our interview with Amelie Morgan, Click Here!

#6 Alabama

Roll Tide! ‘Bama is headed back to Fort Worth to compete for the 2024 NCAA title for the 39th time in program history. The Crimson Tide, who placed second in the 2024 SEC Championships – and is still the only program in the league to never finish outside the top four – advanced after punching its ticket with a 197.575 in the Ann Arbor Regional Final. Led by graduate student Luisa Blanco, the Tide has been strong all season, rolling to a 198.025 team score in March against top-ranked Oklahoma in Norman. 

Following the Regional Final, head coach Ashley Johnston said, “I am so incredibly proud of this group. They were gutsy, they were brave and they stayed present and focused on the things that they could control while taking it step-by-step, routine-by-routine, approach-after-approach to put together a really great performance. A year ago at this time, we were a great gymnastics team but mentally and emotionally, we didn’t always respond the best in moments that challenged us. We took a year and really dug in, worked on our culture, worked on our mindset and worked on our mental/emotional preparation, and it’s just so fulfilling to see that pay off in moments like this. This [part of the season is] never easy. There’s hard moments after hard moments where you got to step in and be clutch to deliver performances that help the team keep building momentum. Overall, I’m just so proud of this group, their collective belief, their gutsy energy, their bravery and we’re looking forward to getting back out there and we cannot wait to be in Fort Worth.”

In Fort Worth, the Tide will look to Blanco to lead, and will need a total team effort and go lights out to stay in the game. Their strength is their depth and this season, they seem to be competing with a new joy and confidence every time they hit the floor. Look for Gabby Gladieux, Jamison Sears, Chloe LaCoursiere, Ella Burgess, Cameron Machado and Mati Waligora all to contribute big as they take on OU, Florida and Utah in Semifinal II. If their “Wow Factor” is ready to go, don’t sleep on ‘Bama.

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics; courtesy of Stanford Athletics, and Arkansas Gymnastics

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