Eight teams are headed to Fort Worth, Texas for the 2022 NCAA women's gymnastics championships: (1) Oklahoma, (8) Minnesota, (4) Utah and (5) Alabama in Semifinal I, and then (2) Florida, (7) Auburn, (3) Michigan and (11) Missouri in Semifinal II.
Team semifinal and individual competition will be conducted in two sessions at 1 and 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 14. The top two teams from each semifinal will advance to the championship final competition at 1p.m. ET on Saturday, April 16. Both semifinals will be broadcast live on ESPN2, while championship final competition will be broadcast live on ABC.
The NCAA announced the team, all-around individual qualifiers and qualifiers for individual events on Monday.
College Gym News editor in chief Elizabeth Grimsley sat down with NCAA.com ahead of the championships to break down the top storylines, contenders and more. Here is everything you need to know:
ROTATION ORDER: Click or tap here for rotation order at the championships
Florida is a clear favorite for the national title
The championship could just be Florida's to lose right now. In the regionals, the Gators set a program record with a score of 198.775, which is also the third highest all-time score.
"They scored almost a point higher than Auburn, which was the second advancing team out of that Regional, so I mean and I think it was even five-tenths higher than the next highest team in any Regional," Grimsley said. "So that's definitely the team to beat. Our senior data editor Jenna King did some simulations for the national champion and Florida is expected to win with almost a 50% chance — which is pretty huge for gymnastics. And for the national championship. I think the next highest team is Oklahoma with just over 25% chance. So I think it's the heavy favorite."
Trinity Thomas is also a clear front-runner for the all-around title
Thomas had not one, not two, but FOUR perfect 10 performances in the regionals. She completed the season slam — a perfect 10 in all four events for the first time in Florida gymnastics history. She scored a 39.9 in the competition, and is now a heavy favorite for the all-around title.
"Before regionals I would have put Jade Carey up there with her but I think Trinity's dominant performance at regionals has really set her ahead of the pack of all the other all arounders," Grimsley said. "I mean a 39.9 is like a single step on one landing in all four routines. So that's pretty crazy that she can score that high and it's not like it was just a one-off performance either. She consistently scores around that number."
Oklahoma, Michigan will be chasing the team title along with Florida
Oklahoma and Michigan seem to be the next two front runners for the team final. Grimsley said Oklahoma is probably the second-closest team to Florida and that Michigan, as the reigning national champs, should never be counted out.
"(Michigan) had sort of an off Regional... I wouldn't even go as far as saying off. It just didn't have its ideal lineups on every event so it'll be interesting to see if those gymnasts were just being rested because it was confident in making Nationals or if there's a little bit something up with those gymnasts. We will have to see on semifinal day," Grimsley said. "But Michigan does have what we would call the easier semifinal out of the two, so I don't think it'll have a problem making the team final on Saturday. It's definitely one of the contenders for the national title as well."
The race between Utah and Alabama will be the most exciting storyline
When asked what the most exciting storyline would be, Grimsley immediately said the race between Utah and Alabama for a spot in Saturday's competition. Oklahoma, in her opinion, is more or less a sure thing, so the last spot will come down to Utah and Alabama, given no other surprises. The two teams scored within a quarter of a tenth of each other when they last faced.
"That's basically as close as you can get without actually tying," Grimsley said. "So while Utah has been in the top four pretty much all season long, I think Alabama has sort of worked its way up there throughout the whole season and is basically at the same level as Utah and either team could go through on any given day."
Under-the-radar team or Cinderella story?
Missouri. The Tigers have made nationals before but they are guaranteed their highest ranking ever this season just by nature of making the top eight already.
"I think their second highest will have been either ninth or tenth. So they're already guaranteed that but it's definitely a Cinderella story," Grimsley said. "I'm not sure that we'll be able to make the team final but I mean even just making nationals at this point is a really big accomplishment, having upset LSU at regionals to complete the season sweep. I don't think anyone expected that coming into the season and then it also obviously upset UCLA at regionals."
As for the individual competition, there is an abundance of talent, as usual. Grimsley said there will likely be a lot of ties and it will all come down to who hits their best routine on that day.
"You may see someone who's been ranked number one on bars all season long, but maybe they have a very miniscule error in the routine on Thursday and they don't end up getting the best scores. So I think it's really up in the air, but I think we'll also see sort of like a combination of maybe some surprise national champions tied with some of those like mainstays that you've heard about all season long like Sunisa Lee or Grace McCallum, or like we've mentioned Jade Carey and Trinity Thomas or some of the Michigan gymnasts Sierra Brooks or Gabby Wilson, so I think it'll it'll really be sort of like a combination of the surprise and some of those dominant athletes from the whole season."
On top of that, Grimsley noted that Lindenwood's Gayla Griswold qualified on vault as a DII gymnast, which is pretty unheard of to qualify to NCAA nationals. Jaye Mack also qualified out of Illinois State, just the second ever to do so out of that program.