Four U.S. Olympians you’ll remember from Tokyo. Eight ultratalented teams. And a ridiculously tight battle for the team and individual titles. The NCAA gymnastics championships start Thursday, with semifinal I starting at 1 p.m. ET (ESPN2), and semifinal II at 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2). Want the lowdown? We’ll have live updates throughout this whirlwind day:
Here we go: Who to watch in semifinal I
No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, No. 4 Utah, No. 5 Alabama and No. 7 Minnesota will each compete in semifinal I with the same goal: To place first or second and advance to the final on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ABC).
Also on the start list? Individual qualifiers, including a blockbuster one. Olympic gold medalist Jade Carey, who finished the regular season ranked first in the all-around, second on bars and third on floor, has been nothing short of spectacular competing for Oregon State. This sums up why we should all be in on the Jade Carey hype:
— Oregon State Gymnastics (@BeaverGym) April 13, 2022
She’ll have a chance to win the all-around and an individual event title Thursday — but it won’t be easy. There are perhaps a dozen other gymnasts who could also win the all-around, awarded to the highest finisher on all four events after both semifinals are complete. More on the all-around battle here.
High on that list would be Carey’s Olympic teammate (and good friend) Grace McCallum, who’s ranked sixth in the all-around and second on bars. McCallum is competing with the storied Utah team, and has had herself some kind of season as well, including two perfect 10.0s on bars.
🚨 IT’S A PERFECT 10!! 🚨 Grace McCallum scores the first 10.0 of her career on bars!! pic.twitter.com/PoUikK9qZ2
— Utah Gymnastics (@UtahGymnastics) February 5, 2022
On the team front, Oklahoma and Utah are the favorites to advance, just as their rankings indicate. Utah’s roster also includes Olympic alternate Kara Eaker and two-time NCAA event champ Maile O’Keefe. The pair clinched the team’s nationals bid in the most dramatic way two gymnasts can, by scoring consecutive 10.0s on beam at regionals. Because of course you’ll want to see that, here it is.
Oklahoma has its own stars in 2016 Olympic alternate Ragan Smith, as well as freshman Jordan Bowers and sophomore Audrey Davis. Each of these gymnasts could win an individual event title. Don’t miss Oklahoma on bars, especially — the team is ranked No. 1 on that event.
But, really, nothing is guaranteed Thursday. Alabama’s regional finals score was 198.175, to Utah’s 198.200 and Oklahoma’s 198.250. Those margins are as miniscule as they seem. And Minnesota is not be counted out. The squad has also hit the 198 mark this season, and if they hit, could upset any of the other team. This is going to be an epic battle, and anything could happen. — Amy Van Deusen