As the host school, UCLA gets to compete in the evening session on Friday. Unfortunately as the #6 seed, they were placed in an absolutely brutal session.
If you missed it, here's my preview for the first session.
In the World Cup, there's always a "Group of Death." In gymnastics, this feels like the "Session of Death."
In case you missed it before, here is the exact rotation order:
|Vault||Bye||U. Bars||Balance Beam||Bye||Floor|
The objective is simple: place in the top three of this group, and you will advance to the Super Six on Saturday.
One would think that since UCLA is ranked in the top 3 of the group, we should easily advance, however UCLA has matched up against all of the teams in this group ... and lost to three of them, two on the road. Maybe home gym advantage will help this time... although it didn't help against Michigan.
Oklahoma Sooners - Final Team Ranking #2
(Side note: They integrate social media so well on their school website.)
No lie. Oklahoma is also really good. How good? They annihilated the Bruins back in February in Norman, 198.375 to 197.200, the highest score they posted this season. (One could argue they were very motivated to take us on. Or that they're that good. Their RQS was 197.570.) They won their regional with a team score of 197.375 and are competing in their 10th consecutive National Championship. The gymnasts to watch are still Brie Olson and Taylor Spears for the Sooners. Here is my original preview for OU and the recap from our trip to Norman.
Alabama Crimson Tide - Final Team Ranking #3
Never ever count Alabama out of any Gymnastics competition, as they are the reigning, two time defending NCAA Champions. They are making their 31st consecutive trip to Championship weekend, and won their 28th overall regional title. Their high score this year is 197.800 and I'll be very surprised if they do not make it to the Super Six. Keep your eye on Kim Jacob and Sarah DeMeo from Alabama. When we traveled to Tuscaloosa, unfortunately we were unable to bring home a win, although Alabama was a very gracious host with a huge home crowd - they regularly draw 10-15k for a home gymnastics meet. (We can't even do that for basketball!) Here is my original Alabama preview. Hopefully this team we will not fall apart on the floor.
UCLA Bruins - Final Team Ranking #6
YAY GO UCLA. Who are the Bruins? We are looking for NCAA Title #109 and NCAA Gymnastics title #7. Our last title came in 2010, and we won in 2004 when NCAAs were held at Pauley. (Quite possibly, the best NCAA Gymnastics team ever, if you ask me. And the person that created this video.) We're led by Vanessa Zamarripa, whom I think is one of the best gymnasts to ever come through UCLA and I'm extremely curious if she'll return to elite after her UCLA career is over. (by the way, the only gymnasts who have been successful at transitioning back to elite are both Bruins.) This team could be stronger if Sam Peszek and Mattie Larson were healthy, but the Bruins have battled all season.
Note note: Zamarripa admitted in an interview earlier this week with Gymnastike that her foot is still in pain after her miss at Regionals on the beam, but she'll gut through it. This is a bit of a concern. It won't affect her that much on the bars, but on vault, beam and floor... oh boy. (She also answers/not answers the return to elite question in the interview.)
Michigan Wolverines - Final Team Ranking #5
Why is UCLA ahead of Michigan? Because we had a higher NQS, so we're the #6 seed for NCAAs, and Michigan is #7, but over the course of a season, Michigan was ranked higher with a higher average RQS. We came in second to Michigan in a quad meet earlier this season. Joanna Sampson was battling with Vanessa Zamarripa for most of the season for #1 in the all-around and is still the gymnast to watch, and vault is the event to watch for the Wolverines. Here is my original preview.
Utah Utes - Final Team Ranking #9
Utah has qualified for their 38th consecutive National Championship and is the only program in the country to qualify for all 32 NCAA Championships. UCLA took on Utah in the second meet of the season and soundly defeated the Utes, 197.425 to 195.300. When this season started, I was worried about Utah when I should have been worried about Oregon State (who didn't even qualify.) Utah however, knows how to compete and has made every single Super Six since 2000. Keep looking out for Georgia Dabritz and Tory Wilson.
Arkansas Razorbacks - Final Team Ranking #16
The Razorbacks are competing in their sixth straight National Championship and is hoping to make the Super Six for the third time in their program history. Last year they came in sixth in the Super Six. When Arkansas came to Pauley, they left with a loss, as UCLA put up a 197.425, with a 49.50 on vault and 49.55 on floor. Katherine Grable is Arkansas top gymnast.
Oklahoma I think is the only sure bet coming out of this session. This group is absolutely loaded, and any of these teams can make the Super Six. As long as UCLA stays upright and looks to eliminate hops on landings, they should make it to Saturday. We cannot afford a single mistake on Friday evening. I'll go with Oklahoma, Alabama and UCLA, barely, coming out of this session. If they were grouped with the teams in Session 1, I would be breathing a little easier.