I won’t bury the lede here. When it came down to it, Mizzou got it done. Performing on the balance beam in their final rotation, they showcased nerves of steel and ice in their veins and got that s@$* done. The ending was technically decided before the anchor Sienna Schreiber even took to the 4-inch wide apparatus.
Moving On!!! #MIZ pic.twitter.com/UhYHSxEF4g— Mizzou Gymnastics (@MizzouGym) March 31, 2023
Let’s look at how we got here before examining the toughest competition for Saturday’s Regional Finals. Consider this a recap AND preview, Tiger fans.
First Rotation (Floor): Mizzou kicked off their Regionals meet on the floor exercise, an event at one point they ranked no. 8 nationally on, and for the second consecutive week in a row was just... okay? Sienna Schreiber led off with a solid 9.875, close to her season-best 9.90, of which she was awarded by 2 judges. What accounted for the overall low-ish score was that the high scoreres just weren’t very... high. Hannah McCrary, who received one 9.95 score from the judging panel, and Jocelyn Moore, both earned 9.90. If you partake in Mizzou Gymnastics watching (which you SHOULD), you know a 9.90 is usually one of their lowest scores. Not in this case, friends. Could it be that there are too many cooks in the kitchen judging them? Perhaps. But that’s the postseason.
In an interesting case, Amari Celestine, normally a floor juggernaut, had a 9.825 and was ruled — I really thought she was in — a 1/10 deduction for stepping out of bounds. Basically, that means the highest she could get after that was a 9.90. All that’s to say, if she is in-bounds, she likely had a 9.925, which would have been great (and therefore raised their score to a much better 49.475). After one rotation, Mizzou trailed UCLA by .30 and held a .10 lead over third place Stanford. The former isn’t the one to monitor here; it’s the pesky Cardinal.
Second Rotation (Vault): Attaining a new regional meet program record on vault, Mizzou really shined. Hannah’s slight under-rotation on earned her a 9.75 in the leadoff spot, but the Tigers were able to drop her score in favor of Sienna’s season high-tying 9.90, Grace Anne Davis’ season high-tying 9.85, and solid 9.90s by Amari and Jocelyn. In the anchor spot was Blue Springs’ Kyra Burns, who earned a career-high 9.85. Not bad for someone who has only been competing in vault a few weeks! After two rotations, Mizzou remained in second place, trailing the Bruins by 0.40, and keeping a 0.100 over Stanford, who scored an identical team score on Vault.
Third Rotation (Bars): Grabbing only a 49.15 team score was potentially season-ending for the Tigers on bars, as this was their second worst score of the year (beating only the unsightly 48.66 sustained against Illinois in the season-opener). Amari and Sienna were a full 1/10 off their best scores, adding a 9.825 and 9.85 (team-high), before Jocelyn and Alisa Sheremeta were both 0.785 off their bests (9.80 and 9.85, respectively). And then... this one hurt. In what looked to me like a wonderful bars routine, Helen Hu botched her landing in the 5-spot, falling on her backside after what seemingly looked like a stick, and erased her contributions. It could have been HUGE for Mizzou, but ultimately that 9.40 had to be dropped and the 9.80 from Alisa had to be counted. Kyra anchored fairly strongly, securing a 9.825. Meanwhile, Stanford also had a bad score (on FX), thankfully keeping the distance between them at .100 heading into the final rotation. For what it’s worth, Mizzou trailed UCLA by 0.825 as the Bruins continued to kill it.
Final Rotation (Beam): Most impressive to me in the final rotation was actually Sydney Schaffer, who irregularly competed on the beam this season until re-emerging in the SEC Championships. She earned her highest score of the season, a 9.875 in the two-slot. And with strong performances by Grace Anne (9.90, tying her best), a career-best 9.95 for Alisa, and 9.90 scores by Sienna and Helen, Mizzou was able to drop Addison Lawrence’s leadoff 9.80, and didn’t need Sienna to do anything too fancy in the anchor role to cement their advancement to the Sweet 16.
Stanford came to play in the final rotation, however, coming in with a 49.45 team score on vault, which was highlighted by a 9.925 and a 9.95 and was their highest vault score in 11(!!) seasons. But it wasn’t enough to overtake Mizzou, whose regional program record score of 49.475 put them over the edge, beating the Cardinal by 0.125 to earn their Regionals Finals berth. The winner of Session 2 was UCLA, who tied their season-high in overall points and achieved season-high team scores on beam (49.625 to 49.675) and vault (49.475 to 49.575). On beam, Selena Harris and Emma Malabuyo were each awarded two 10.0s by half the judging panel.
Earlier on the other side of the bracket in Pauley Pavilion, Auburn shocked the country in a not-good way by failing to qualify for the Sweet 16 after a disastrous bars rotation that featured three consecutive falls and three sub-9.25 scores. Tough way to end the season for the preseason darlings.
Utah, the Session 1 winner, achieved season-high scores on bars (49.600 to 49.625) and vault (49.525 to 49.625). Cristal Isa and Sage Thompson were each awarded a single 10.0 by of the four judges on bars, while Abby Brenner received one 10.0 and Jaedyn Rucker got three 10.0s to get a posted perfect score on vault. Maile O’Keefe also got three 10s to get a perfect score on beam.
Meet Info: NCAA Regional Finals
When: Saturday, April 1
Where: Edwin W. Pauley Pavilion | Los Angeles, Ca.
Time: 5pm PT (7pm CT)
Live Stats: uclabruins.com
Mizzou Individual Stats & Honors
WCGA All-Americans: Helen Hu (Second Team, Beam); Jocelyn Moore (First Team, Vault)
All-Conference honorees: Jocelyn Moore (Vault); Alisa Sheremeta (Floor); Helen Hu (Bars, Beam); Amari Celestine (Vault); Sienna Schreiber (Beam)
to Watch in the Way:
The Bruins are led by newly-annointed WCGA All-Americans Chae Campbell, Jordan Chiles and Selena Harris. Per uclabruins.com, Campbell is now a 6-time AA after being named to the second team in both vault and floor. She finished the regular season ranked 14th nationally on vault and 12th on floor. Chiles, the 2020 Olympic silver medalist in the team event and 2022 World Championships silver medalist in the vault and floor exercise, ended the regular season with four first-team honors, and ranked 1st on bars, 2nd in the all-around, 3rd in vault, and 4th on floor. Harris, only a freshman, was named to the first team in the all-around and second team on vault, bars and beam. The PAC-12 Freshman of the Year ended the regular season ranked 6th nationally in the all-around, 14th in vault, 12th on bars and 9th on beam.
UCLA is coming off a second place finish behind Utah in the PAC-12 Championships, figting back from an early deficit on vault (49.175) to earn a 49.575 on bars, which was anchored by Chiles’ fifth 9.975 of the season to move them up to third place. In the third rotation, the Bruins scored a 49.50 on beam to move to 2nd place, and were anchored by the freshman Harris, who scored her fifth 9.95 of the season. In the final rotation, UCLA pulled out a 49.60, and despite two 10s awarded to Chiles, Utah was able to hold on to their lead, winning the title by the thinnest of margins, just .075.
The Utes are led by newly-annointed WCGA All-Americans senior Jaedyn Rucker, senior Maile O’Keefe, sophomore Kara Eaker and fifth-year senior Cristal Isa. O’Keefe also picked up All-Pac 12 first team honors on beam and bars, Eaker was first team beam, Rucker was first team vault, and Isa was first team beam and honorable mention on bars.
This team really is THE Queens of the Beam. Per utahutes.com, O’Keefe ended the regular season ranked as the country’s top gymnast on beam while Eaker was 4th and Isa was 15th (Second Team). Rucker earned Second Team AA status on vault, where she finished the season ranked 14th nationally.
O’Keefe, also named the Pac-12 Specialist of the Year for the second consecutive year on beam, is a 12-time All-American and has an absolutely insane NQS on beam with a 9.98. She scored three perfect 10.0s this season, and a 9.95 or higher in 8 of 11 meets. Damn. Eaker, now a two-time AA, finished with the nation’s second highest average on beam (9.947). Isa is a 4x regular season AA on beam, and scored 9.90 or better in 8 of 11 meets. Rucker, the reigning national champion in vault, is a first-time regular season All-American on vault, and was awarded at least a 9.90 five times this season, including a perfect 10 against California.
In the aforementioned paragraph about UCLA’s performance at the PAC-12 Championships, we already know the Utes took home the trophy, but what you might not have known is it’s for the third consecutive year. Abby Brenner took the vault title with a 9.925, O’Keefe was second in the all-around and finished tied for third on beam and floor, and Makenna Smith and Jaedyn Rucker tied for vault runners-up. As for how the meet went, they didn’t start off too strong on the bars, with only one score above a 9.90, and were in third place after one. On the second rotation, beam, they scored a 49.525 (Mizzou’s highest score), which moved them to second, and on floor, they had five strong scores to erase the issues Brenner displayed, and were able to move into the lead for the final rotation, vault.
Fun Facts: Utah is attempting to advance to their 47th consecutive national championship, and is the only program in the country to qualify for EVERY national champship. They’ve won 33 regional titles.
It's a day to be a Ute! #trUSt | #Sweet16 pic.twitter.com/Vo1A15CEY1— Utah Gymnastics (@UtahGymnastics) March 30, 2023
This one’s for all the glory. Time to show the country you’re a force to be reckoned with, Tigers.