Oklahoma, Haleigh Bryant and perfect 10.0s highlight Week 1 in NCAA gymnastics

The 2024 NCAA gymnastics season officially got underway over the weekend with the marquee “Mean Girls Super 16” event in Las Vegas, as well as several other dual meets around the country. And even without every team competing, the week was one for the (burn) books.

Oklahoma, the reigning two-time NCAA team champion, looked every bit ready for its bid for a three-peat with the highest score of the weekend (197.850) and the highest totals on bars and beam (49.625 and 49.475, respectively). Led by Faith Torrez, Ragan Smith and Jordan Bowers, the Sooners were stellar in their Las Vegas victory over Kentucky, Michigan State and Michigan.

LSU’s Haleigh Bryant had the highest individual all-around score (39.675) of the weekend with a near-flawless performance in the Tigers’ win over Ohio State.

And that’s not all. Week 1 truly had something for everyone. There were perfect scores, surprising upsets and memorable debuts. Here’s everything you need to know from college gymnastics’ opening week:

Earning a perfect 10.0 score in NCAA gymnastics always warrants celebration and recognition. But doing it during the very first week of the regular season? That is something else entirely.

Two gymnasts accomplished the feat over the weekend: Michigan State’s Sage Kellerman on vault and Utah’s Maile O’Keefe on beam. And both performances need to be seen — immediately — if you haven’t had the chance.

Kellerman, a sophomore who was Big Ten co-champion on the event last year, earned her first ever 10.0 score. But you wouldn’t know it by her calm demeanor after an absolutely ice-cold stuck landing during the Spartans’ meet at the Mean Girls Super 16 event.

O’Keefe, however, is no stranger to receiving perfect scores — this was the 12th one of her career, and 11th on beam. But she told The Salt Lake Tribune this one — coming in a win at home over Boise State — felt particularly special after the upheaval within the program over the past several months. “Honestly, it was probably one of my more emotional 10s,” O’Keefe said. “Starting off the season like that is kind of crazy and surreal.”

Debuts to remember

The transition to NCAA gymnastics can be difficult. Being part of a team, often for the first time, combined with the often rowdy crowds and unparalleled energy, can be a culture shock that takes time to adjust to. But that wasn’t the case for LSU’s Amari Drayton and Georgia’s Lily Smith.

The two freshmen looked completely at ease and like they were both ready to be major contributors this season.

Drayton, a former elite gymnast who trained alongside Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles at the World Champions Centre, made an immediate impact for the Tigers during their meet against Ohio State, earning a 9.925 on vault to start the meet – and then following it up as a late replacement on floor with another 9.925. Drayton drew cheers from the home crowd for her opening-pass double layout and only seemed to enamor the fans – and Biles, who immediately showed her support on social media — more as she went on:

Smith, one of the top-ranked recruits in the current freshmen class, showed what all the hype was about with a staggering 9.975 score in the anchor spot for the team on bars. The meet commentators gushed about her technical prowess, toe points and lines and you’ll see why if you’ve yet to see this routine:

On a related note, Smith’s fellow freshmen teammate Ady Wahl won the all-around title during Georgia’s victory over North Carolina State.

It’s not how you start …

UCLA and Michigan were the No. 5- and No. 6-ranked teams, respectively, in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association preseason poll, and there were (and are) high expectations for both teams. But both squads — competing in separate meets at the Super 16 event — finished in fourth place in their sessions. UCLA finished behind Alabama, California and Auburn, with a 196.550 final score, and Michigan (195.875) lost to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Michigan State.

UCLA led its meet after the first two events before a disastrous beam rotation, which saw two gymnasts fall. Michigan was in third place after its first rotation and never found a way to make up the deficit.

Still, there were bright spots for both teams. Selena Harris had a strong meet for the Bruins, winning a share of the title on bars with a 9.95-scoring routine and finished second in the all-around competition. Chae Campbell had a 9.95 for her Yurchenko full (a perfect score for that vault, which is valued at 9.95), and the team rallied on floor after beam with four gymnasts scoring a 9.9 or better. Brooklyn Moors earned a career-high 9.95 on the event.

Gabby Wilson had a huge showing for the Wolverines, with three scores of 9.90 on the day, and a second-place finish on floor and third on beam.

TL;DR: Don’t panic, UCLA and Michigan fans. It’s just Week 1 and there’s plenty to feel good about. According to the Daily Bruin, UCLA coach Janelle McDonald cited “first-meet jitters” but didn’t seem too concerned.

“We’ll get back into the gym, and we’ll dial things in,” McDonald said. “I expect them to come out with confidence next week.”

Keep calm and Carey on

While several Olympic hopefuls — including 2020 medalists Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles — are taking the year away from college gymnastics to focus on Paris, Jade Carey remains at Oregon State with her eyes set on both NCAA and elite hardware.

Unlike during her first two seasons at the collegiate level, Carey will not be regularly competing in all four events this year, and will instead primarily be doing bars and beam for the Beavers. Known for her vault and floor success at the elite level, Carey looked equally comfortable on her two “weaker” events over the weekend in Las Vegas.

She earned a 9.90 on beam and scored a 9.975 on bars — with Chiles (and Lee’s coach Jess Graba) providing commentary on the broadcast.

And even though Chiles is not competing for UCLA this year, she still managed to have one of the more fun moments of the weekend in Las Vegas. After Graba and former LSU coach D-D Breaux drew criticism on the broadcast for saying Chiles wouldn’t eat popcorn because she was training for the Olympics, Chiles posted a picture of herself doing just that on her Instagram story. Iconic.

If you ain’t a 10 (you’re a 9.9)

With thanks to Luke Bryan for the category headline here, these are just a few more routines that you need to see from the weekend:

Sierra Ballard, LSU: Performing in the leadoff spot for the Tigers after a rough third rotation, the senior set the tone on the event with poise, polished choreography and SO MUCH ENERGY to score a 9.90.

Raena Worley, Kentucky: The fifth-year super senior earned a new career-high on bars with a 9.975 — and her reaction after sticking the dismount says it all.

She tied Torrez for the highest all-around score of the Super 16, and the second-highest, behind Bryant, of the weekend.

Mya Lauzon, California: The junior took home the all-around title during the Bears’ session in Las Vegas and ended her night with this 9.95-scoring Yurchenko 1.5.

Aleah Finnegan, LSU: We were on the fence about sharing yet another LSU routine here, but Finngean’s beam set — which included a perfectly executed triple series — absolutely warrants inclusion. After a shaky beam rotation, the junior closed out the event for the Tigers with a much-needed 9.95.

Key meets in week 2:

Jan. 12, Missouri vs. Alabama; 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network

Jan. 12: Florida, Fisk, George Washington and Talladega; 7 p.m. ET on SECN+

Jan. 12: Michigan vs. Stanford, 7 p.m. ET

Jan. 12: Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad Session #1 (Arizona, Boise State, Nebraska, North Carolina); 9 p.m. ET on ACC Network

Jan. 13: Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad Session #2 (LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA, Utah); 4 p.m. ET on ABC

Jan. 13: Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad Session #3 (BYU, California, Michigan State, North Carolina State); 9 p.m. ET on ACC Network

#Oklahoma #Haleigh #Bryant #perfect #10.0s #highlight #Week #NCAA #gymnastics