On April 20, Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas was packed full of fans cheering on their favorite teams and gymnasts at the 2024 Women’s National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships. Four colleges, Louisiana State University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Florida and the University of Utah battled it out on the championship stage to see who would take home the national title. 

In a championship meet, the four teams start and compete in the events of vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercise. Each team has six gymnasts competing in every event, with only five gymnast’s scores counting towards the overall total, dropping the lowest scorer. There are six judges per event, and each routine is scored out of ten points. Each gymnast is scored by six judges per event. Scores are calculated by taking the average of the four middle scores, and dropping the highest and lowest. 

All the gymnasts’ individual scores are added up and the team with the highest total wins.

But before the championship meet could take place, each school had to qualify through the semifinals, where individual athletes also competed for event titles. Two semifinals take place, with four teams competing, while only the top two qualify for the championship. Second-ranked LSU, third-ranked California, tenth-ranked University of Arkansas and unranked Stanford University competed in the first semifinal while first-ranked University of Oklahoma, fourth-ranked Florida, fifth-ranked Utah and eighth-ranked University of Alabama competed in the second. The format of these meets is the same as the final, with the exception of individual qualifiers competing following the teams. These individual qualifiers hope to win titles.

In the first semifinal, LSU and California were able to advance to the championship after putting up a 198.1125 and 197.7125 respectively. The two other teams were not far behind with a 197.0750 from Stanford and a 196.4750 from Arkansas.

Unlike the first, the second semifinal sent shockwaves through the gymnastics community. The top-ranked back to back champions, Oklahoma, struggled to land on their feet with five falls. Due to the scoring system, they had to count three of those scores. The Sooners had been a heavy favorite to win the championship. The same problem seemed to plague Alabama as well, with both teams receiving overall scores significantly lower than the two that qualified. Utah came out of the semifinal on top with a score of 197.9375, followed by Florida with 197.8750, then Oklahoma with 196.6625 and lastly Alabama with a score of 195.4125. 

In each semifinal, many individual qualifiers competed for event titles, but none were able to come out on top as every individual title this year went to a gymnast whose team competed in the semifinals. Stanford’s Anna Roberts won the vault title with a score of 9.9500 in the first semifinal. Oklahoma’s Audrey Davis tied with Florida’s Leanne Wong, each receiving a 9.9625 in the second semifinal to win the uneven bars title. Audrey Davis and Faith Torres, both from Oklahoma, split the beam title after scoring a 9.9625 in the second semifinal. LSU’s Aleah Finnegan had the high score of 9.9625 to win the floor exercise in the first semifinal. Lastly, LSU’s Haleigh Bryant was crowned as the All Around Champion with her score of 39.7125 across all four events in the first semifinal. 

While the athletes were warming up at the championship meet, commentators highlighted a few key athletes from each team to look out for. These commentators consisted of former three-time Olympic gymnast John Roethlisberger and former Olympic champion Aly Raisman. Haleigh Bryant from LSU won the 2024 All Around title and is known for her consistent performances and high scores. eMjae Frazier from California is nationally ranked in the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the top ten on bars, beam and floor. Leanne Wong from Florida is the 2024 Uneven Bars Champion and is also aiming to make the 2024 Paris Olympic Team. Maile O’Keefe from Utah is the 2023 All Around Champion and has four career individual NCAA championship wins. 

For the first rotation, Florida started on vault, Utah on the uneven bars, California on beam and LSU on the floor exercise. Florida had a decent performance on vault, but was not perfect as there were some over and under rotations that caused a step or a hop on some of the landings. There were no major faults, and the lowest score of 9.7875 was dropped for a total of 49.2500. Utah also had a solid first rotation on bars, with many stuck landings and strong handstand positionings for scores in the high 9.8s to 9.9s. Grace McCallum missed her connection on the low bar and ended up taking a skill out, but was able to score a 9.9500 to help her team to a total of 49.4375. Starting on beam is never easy, and California was able to make the most out of it. Their first five gymnasts performed well without any falls, however their last gymnast Gabby Perea missed a three skill connection after wobbling following each skill. The Bears were able to drop her 9.4125 and the team’s highest beam score of 9.9500 from eMjae Frazier led the total to 49.4750. LSU started on floor, which is considered their best event, and the Tigers did not disappoint. All of their gymnasts had impressive, strong yet controlled landings on their tumbling passes. An unfortunate over rotation of a one and a half led KJ Johnson to land sitting on her subsequent punch layout, but LSU was able to drop her 9.2875 as the rest of the team produced scores of 9.9125 or higher. LSU ended the first rotation with a total of 49.6125 followed by California, Utah then Florida. 

In the second rotation, LSU competed on vault, Florida was on the uneven bars, Utah was on beam, and California was on the floor exercise. LSU struggled to stick their landings and weren’t competing to their usual standard until Haleigh Bryant in the anchor position nailed her front pike half off of the vault with great form, earning her a 9.500. LSU’s vault rotation total was 49.4000. Similar to LSU, Florida had a decent rotation with no major faults until their final gymnast Leanne Wong anchored with a stunning routine. Wong’s great cast handstands were held with good body positioning and she stuck her double layout landing, earning her a 9.5000, the highest Gator score on bars. Florida’s second event total was 49.4750. On beam, Utah did not count any huge falls or balance checks, with only scores between 9.8500 and 9.9375 counting towards the total event total of 49.4750. On California’s floor rotation, their third gymnast up Kyen Mayhew fell during her last tumbling pass and received a score of 9.2000, but the Bears were able to rectify the situation with a pair of 9.9125 scores from Mya Lauzon and eMjae Frazier to bring their total up to 49.3750. After the second rotation, LSU was still in the lead with a total of 99.0125 on their two events so far, followed by Utah with a 98.9125. California and Florida were not far behind with 98.8500 and 98.7250 respectively. 

For the third rotation, California was on vault, LSU on the uneven bars, Florida on beam and Utah on the floor exercise. California had a good rotation, with the first stuck landing for the Bears from Mya Lauzon. This scored a 9.500, bringing their event total up to 49.5000. LSU had a decent rotation on the uneven bars, with some solid routines, stuck landings and good release skills, for an event total of 49.5000 as well. On beam, the Gators had some trouble with the apparatus, after their fourth gymnast Victoria Nguyen had a huge balance check that prevented her from connecting two skills and their anchor gymnast Leanne Wong fell off the beam on a front aerial. Nguyen scored a 9.6625 and Wong scored a 9.3750 — the lowest on beam for Florida — forcing the Gators to count Nguyen’s low score that they were looking to drop initially. Florida ended their beam rotation with a total of 48.7625. Utah excelled at the floor exercise, with all of their gymnasts scoring a 9.9000 or better. Abby Paulson, Laylene Gilstrap and Maile O’Keefe all performed beautiful floor routines scoring 9.9250, helping their team to an event total of 49.5875. After LSU led for the first two rotations, Utah’s wonderful floor rotation catapulted them into first place with an overall total of 148.5000 over the first three events, LSU was right behind with 148.4625, followed by California with 148.3500. Florida struggled this rotation, leading to a total of 147.9625. 

On the fourth and final rotation, Utah was on vault, California was on the uneven bars, LSU was on the beam and Florida was on the floor exercise. Utah’s vault rotation was reminiscent of Oklahoma’s run in the semifinals, after their starter Camie Winger under-rotated and landed in a squat position that led to a fall and their second vaulter Ella Zirbes also landed in a squat that forced her to take a huge step forward. Winger scored a 9.2875 and Zirbes a 9.6750. Fortunately, the rest of the vaults were all solid, with scores of 9.9000 or higher for an event total of 49.3 even after counting Zirbe’s 9.6750. On bars, California’s Mya Lauzon in the leadoff position also suffered mistakes in her routine. She missed a pirouette on the low bar and lost her grip when transitioning to the high bar. Lauzon was able to hold on, preventing a fall, and finished with a stuck landing for a 9.4750. The rest of the Bear’s routines were good enough to drop Lauzon’s score and the team ended up with a total of 49.5000 on bars. LSU on beam had a little fright after their second gymnast Savannah Schoenherr fell on a non-acrobatic skill. Although her feet never touched the ground, her hands touched the beam to regain balance which is counted as a fall, leaving her with a 9.3875. The Tigers were able to bounce back with vengeance as they hit all of their other routines, each scoring 9.9500 or higher. Konnor McClain scored a team high of 9.9625 with her connections between each skill, great form and stuck landing. LSU had an outstanding rotation for a beam total of 49.7625, a new school record. On floor, Florida had a decent rotation but did not score their best after most that counted were only in the high 9.8s. Leanne Wong performed the very last routine of the competition, and her floor routine scored a 9.9500, but it wasn’t enough to change the Gator’s outcome with an event total of 49.475. 

After an outstanding rotation for LSU, and a not so great one for Utah, LSU was able to pull ahead into first place with an overall total of 198.225. California was consistent and came in second with a 197.8500, Utah dropped to third place with a 197.8000 and Florida found themselves in last place with an overall total of 197.4375. 

In an interview with commentator Taylor Davis right after the win, the LSU Gymnastics head coach Jay Clark said “I love these kids so much. They did everything we asked them to all year long. They never complained, they were unselfish when they needed to be … It feels fantastic and I’m just so happy for them. I’m speechless.” LSU became the eighth school to win the national title, the first in program history.