The 2020 women's college gymnastics season presents several interesting storylines to follow. Not only is this an Olympic year, but there are opportunities for NCAA programs to make an impression in what could be a crowded national championship race.
Here are the top three storylines to follow as we enter the 2020 season:
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LSU's quest for first national championship
Only six different programs have won a women's gymnastics national championship since 1982. LSU is not among this group, but the Tigers have finished runner-up in four of the last six seasons. They've been so close to the final but have ultimately fallen short four times. Will 2020 be the year of the Tigers?
Ten gymnasts return for the Tigers in 2020 along with seven freshmen. The 17-woman roster will try to one-up a 2019 season that saw LSU place second to Oklahoma in the national championship. The Tigers posted a 197.8250 final score, matching the highest finish in program history, just behind the Sooners' 198.3375. The experience from the 10 returnees will be paramount in the Tigers' quest for their first title.
Of the cornerstone figures from last season's run, four graduated, including some of the greatest student-athletes to walk through the program.
The departures include Julianna Cannamela, a two-time All-American on vault; Sarah Finnegan, the fourth gymnast in school history to win multiple national championships; McKenna Kelley, a two-time All-American and All-SEC performer; and Lexie Priessman, a five-time All-American on uneven bars.
But the seven incoming freshmen show plenty of promise, with several who competed as Level 10 gymnasts in high school.
Best teams who could challenge Oklahoma
Oklahoma finished an undefeated 2019 season with its fourth national title in six years. The Sooners are expected to be in the title mix again in 2020 but several competitors are eyeing a chance to take down the strongest program of the last decade. Here are three schools who can challenge Oklahoma for a national championship this year.
As mentioned above, the Tigers fell just short of the title last season and look to take the crown away from the Sooners in 2020. LSU will be led by senior Kennedi Edney, who won the 2019 vault individual championship after earning a 9.95 score in the anchor spot.
This opening weekend's Collegiate Challenge should give us a glimpse at Oklahoma's strength, as the Sooners contend with two of the other best teams in the country (Denver and UCLA). The Bruins can be in the mix in April to deny Oklahoma a fifth title in seven years.
In 2019, several out-of-bounds deductions during floor routines placed the Bruins on the wrong path to the title, as they finished third to Oklahoma and LSU.
The semifinals marked the end of last season for Georgia, who scored just behind Oklahoma (198.475). Despite scoring the third-highest points of all eight teams in the two semifinals, the Bulldogs were sent home. They return junior Marissa Oakley, who earned her first perfect score on bars to send Georgia to the 2019 NCAA championships.
The identity of UCLA under new head coach Chris Waller
Legendary UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field retired at the end of last season, and longtime associate head coach Chris Waller was named her successor in May 2019.
Waller helped guide UCLA to four national championships as an assistant and was the acting head coach when the Bruins gave Utah its first home loss in 23 years, snapping the longest home win streak in NCAA history for any sport. A former member of the UCLA men's gymnastics team, he won three national titles and competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics.