Let’s start with the shock, shall we?
In the biggest surprise of the first night of 2011 NCAA competition, Utah upset the defending NCAA champions 195.700-195.300 in front of 12,000 people at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Beam was the difference. UCLA gave the meet away on the event after both Tauny Frattone and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs fell (the team counted Hopfner-Hibbs’s 9.3 after she missed a switch leap and a 9.675 from Mizuki Sato) and finished 0.4 behind Utah on the event.
Utah’s slightly stronger vaulting, including an event-winning 9.925 from Kyndal Robarts, tipped the meet in the Utes’s favor. Brittani McCullough tied Hopfner-Hibbs for the bars title (9.8), Aisha Gerber won beam (9.875) and Utah’s Stephanie McAllister tied UCLA freshman Olivia Courtney for the high score on floor (9.85). The all-around went to McAllister (39.175), followed by Utah freshman Corrie Lothrop (39.025) and Hopfner-Hibbs.
This is likely to be a shot in the arm for Utah, which has still not replaced the star power of graduated seniors Ashley Postell, Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim. Lothrop is a good step in that direction, and McCallister, who has great lines and execution, is beginning to fulfill her potential as her junior season begins. As for UCLA, it didn’t have Vanessa Zamarripa (Achilles). It didn’t have Samantha Peszek (foot fracture). Hopfner-Hibbs is better than she performed Friday. This meet is not indicative of how UCLA is as a team. (Utah Utes)
Here’s what else happened in the NCAA Friday night:
Alabama vs. Penn State @ Alabama: Alabama wins, 195.35 to 192.75. After losing senior star Brandi Personett and longtime coach Steve Shephard in 2010, Penn State is obviously in regrouping mode. Alabama’s strong, crisp freshman class helped carry the meet for the Crimson Tide, with Diandra Milliner tying for the vault title (9.9) with all-around winner Kayla Hoffman (39.5, a big first meet number) and former GAGE gymnast Sarah DeMeo winning beam (9.925). Sophomore Ashley Sledge won uneven bars (9.85). (Alabama Crimson Tide)
Florida vs. Nebraska @ Florida: This one was all Florida, 196.925 to 194.95. The team that even UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos-Field said “looks the best on paper” was the best in the NCAA on this first night of competition (and wore the same elegant blue leotards as the Russians at the World Championships). Last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year Ashanee Dickerson was in superb form, winning the all-around (39.55), vault, beam and floor (all 9.925s). Texas East’s Alaina Johnson made her collegiate debut by winning uneven bars (9.925). Look for lots more from her this season. (Florida Gators)
Iowa State vs. Auburn @ Iowa State: No. 22 ranked Iowa State turned the tables on no. 15 Auburn, 193.475 to 192.775. I keep expecting Auburn, which was so good in 2009 and 2010, to have a banner year at some point and make the NCAA Championships. Alas, this might not be the year, given that the program is in the hands of first-year head coach Jeff Graba, formerly an assistant at Utah. Iowa State junior Michelle Browning won the all-around (39.175) and floor (9.85), while ISU’s Michelle Shealy tied with Auburn’s Rachel Inniss for the beam title (9.85). Auburn’s Petrina Yokay won vault (9.825) and teammate Kylie Shields took bars (9.825). (Iowa State Cyclones)
Michigan State vs. Iowa, Michigan and Western Michigan @ Michigan State: Michigan State’s first outing of the year was less about competition and more about remembering senior Kathryn Mahoney, who sustained a spinal injury vaulting in practice last week and has recently been discharged from a Lansing hospital and moved to a rehab center in Chicago after surgery to stabilize her C6 vertebra. Michigan State finished fourth after a courageous performance that scored 191.85. Michigan won the meet with 195.700. Iowa was second (193.825) and the WMU Broncos third (192.050). Michigan senior Kylee Botterman won the all-around (39.4) as well as vault and beam (both 9.825), Michigan State’s Jackie Berg was the top gymnast on bars (9.875), and Michigan sophomore Natalie Beilstein and Iowa’s Rebecca Simbhudas shared the floor title (9.875). (MSU Spartans)
Oklahoma vs. Arkansas @ Oklahoma: Oklahoma wins in a close meet, 195.475 to 195.075. Arkansas newcomer Katherine Grable won the all-around (39.225) (Oklahoma did not compete anyone on all four events). Aside from Arkansas junior Jaime Pisani’s 9.875 floor tie with Oklahoma’s Kayla Nowak, the Sooners swept the individual titles. Sara Stone was the best on vault (9.875), Megan Ferguson on bars (9.875) and Natasha Kelley on beam (9.85). (Oklahoma Sooners)
Oregon State vs. LSU @ Oregon State: OSU wins 195.4 to 193.35. Another surprise of the night: OSU junior Leslie Mak (she’s the one who does a Bhardwaj on bars, btw) wins the all-around (39.375), vault (9.875), beam (9.825) and ties for first on floor with teammates Makayla Stambaugh and Olivia Vivian (9.875s all around). Surprisingly bars was the only thing Mak, who hadn’t competed all four events in college before Friday, didn’t win. But Vivian did, with a 9.875. (Oregon State Beavers)
Pittsburgh vs. Ball State @ Pittsburgh: Pittsubrgh tops Ball State 192.000 to 190.475 for its first win of the season. Pitt’s Molly Moyer captured the all-around title (38.2) and tied for first on vault with teammate Alicia Talucci and Ball State’s Nicole Allen (9.7). Talucci also took the beam title (9.7) and Pitt freshman Brittney Harris won bars (9.775). Allen was the best on floor (9.775). (Pittsburgh Panthers)
Sacramonto State vs. Central Michigan, Wisconsin-LaCrosse and Alaska @ Sac State: Central Michigan had the winning score (193.575) over Sac State (185.875), Alaska (185.725) and Wisconsin-La Crosse (180.050). Central Michigan’s Andrea de la Garza led a CMU sweep of the all-around (38.725), and three different CMU gymnsts took first in event finals: Darrian Tissenbaum on vault (9.825), Alyssa Wilson on bars (9.8), Emily Heinz on beam (9.775). Sacramento’s Kailey Hansen was the top gymnast on floor (9.7). (Sacramento State Hornets)
Utah State vs. Southern Utah @ Utah State: SUU takes down its in-state rival on the road, scoring 193.475 to USU’s 192.8. SUU’s Brooke Cersosimo and Ari Lamb filled in nicely for departed senior Elise Wheeler, tying for the all-around with 38.875 apiece. Utah State’s Lyndsie Boone won vault (9.8) and floor (9.825), while Lamb took beam (9.825) and Utah State’s Nicole Simoneau bars (9.825). (Utah State Aggies)
Winona State vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire @ Winona State: Wisconsin-Eau Claire wins, 175.675 to Winona State’s 174.6. Winona State’s Heather Rummelein captured the all-around title (34.85), floor (9.4), while Wisconsin’s Sarah Hulbert won vault (9.35) and Claire Johnson bars (9.050) and Cece Solem beam (9.35). (Winona State Warriors)
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