Breaking:2024 NCAA gymnastics championships finals: LSU wins first-ever national title

April 20, 2024

2024 NCAA gymnastics championships finals: LSU wins first-ever national title

Can Mya Lauzon lead the California team to its first national title? Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FORT WORTH, Texas — After a surprising day of semifinal action on Thursday, which saw the shocking exit of two-time defending champions Oklahoma, the NCAA gymnastics national championship (4 p.m. ET on ABC) is upon us.

While it might not have all of the teams we expected, it’s a monumental opportunity for the four teams that are competing. For Utah and Florida, the two teams that defeated Oklahoma, it’s the chance to return to the sport’s pinnacle. Nine-time champion Utah hasn’t won since 1995, and Florida looks for its fourth title and its first since 2015. (More on this below.)

Maile O’Keefe dazzles with the end of her floor routine

Utah’s Maile O’Keefe dazzles with a spectacular finish to her floor routine earning her a 9.95.

California will be making its debut in Saturday’s championship final round after a record-setting season and several years of steadily climbing the ranks. And for LSU, which had the highest qualifying score in the semifinals, it’s the chance to win its first NCAA team title after coming so-very-close on several occasions.

We’ll have live updates on all the action right here:

Rotation three: Here come the Red Rocks

After an impressive rotation on floor from start to finish, Utah took over the lead with one rotation to go. Led by Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson and Jaylene Gilstrap, who each earned a 9.925, all six gymnasts scored a 9.90 or better. O’Keefe brought Utah fans to their feet with her high-flying tumbling and infectious energy and Gilstrap wowed with her trademark artistry.

The team looked thrilled as they walked over to vault, their final event.

But it’s far from over. Utah holds just a .037 lead over LSU and it truly go either way during the final rotation.

California had a good outing on vault, led by Mya Lauzon’s 9.95, eMjae Frazier’s 9.9375, and a 9.90 from Kyen Mayhew, who found redemption after falling on floor during the previous rotation. The Bears are .150 behind Utah.

Sloane Blakely was a bright spot for the Gators on beam, earning a 9.95. Unfortunately for the still-enthusiastic Florida fans in the building, Leanne Wong, arguably Florida’s most consistent and high-scoring performer all season long, fell on beam and looked devastated as she walked off the platform and back towards the team. She earned a 9.3750 and the Gators had to count Victoria Nguyen’s 9.6625 in its rotation score.

But what’s going to happen now? It all comes down to this. — D’Arcy Maine

Results after rotation three:

Utah: 148.5000

LSU: 148.4625

California: 148.3500

Florida: 147.9625

Top vaulting

Cal hasn’t always been considered a vaulting team, but the Golden Bears totaled the highest score on vault so far tonight. eMjae Frazier earned a 9.9375 with her Yurchenko double — the most difficult vault of the competition — then Mya Lauzon bettered her score with a 9.95 for her stuck Yurchenko 1.5. Despite the impressive vaults, Cal remains in third, but just .15 out of the lead.

Mya continues the Bears’ fantastic vault rotation with a 9.95!!!

eMjae continues here phenomenal meet with a 9.9375 on vault!#GoBears🐻| #OneDayBetter

— Cal Women’s Gymnastics (@CalWGym) April 20, 2024

Rotation two: Things are getting interesting

While LSU held onto first following the second rotation, its lead was lessened, and all four teams are within .288 of a point at the halfway mark.

LSU didn’t quite have the same success on vault as it did on floor, but it saved its best two performances for last. Kiya Johnson earned a 9.9125 and Haleigh Bryant, in the anchor spot, earned a 9.95 — despite her teammates and fans calling for a 10 — with her signature front handspring front pike half vault.

Utah took over the second-place position thanks to a strong showing on beam. Grace McCallum continued what has been an impressive day so far with a 9.9375 on beam, which included a perfectly executed triple wolf turn and a thrilled ovation from the Red Rocks. Maile O’Keefe — Utah’s undisputed beam queen — earned a 9.90 and loud cheers from the Utah faithful in what was the final routine of her career for this event.

California fell to third place despite 9.9125s from both eMjae Frazier and Mya Lauzon. Florida remains in fourth place, but Leanne Wong had perhaps the Gators’ best performance on the day thus far with a 9.95-earning bar routine. — D’Arcy Maine

Results after rotation two:

LSU: 99.0125

Utah: 98.9125

California: 98.8500

Florida: 98.725

McCallum the MVP

Olympian Grace McCallum led a strong Utah beam team with a 9.9375 — starting with her trademark triple wolf turn, and landing her handspring layout stepout without a waver. McCallum is on fire tonight, earning a meet-leading 9.95 on bars earlier, as well. –Amy Van Deusen

Add a 9⃣.9⃣3⃣7⃣5⃣ to the tally for Grace McCallum on beam‼️

Amelie Morgan started the rotation with a 9.9125 🙌

📺ABC#RedRocks | #OurBoat

— Utah Gymnastics (@UtahGymnastics) April 20, 2024

Rotation one: Floor party for LSU

With a vocal and passionate crowd in attendance, LSU took the lead in the first rotation on floor with a 49.6125.

After a massive performance on the event on Thursday — counting five scores of 9.9375 or better — LSU wasn’t quite as polished, but still put up some impressive scores. Freshman phenom Konnor McClain got things started with a near-flawless performance to earn a 9.925 and set the tone for the Tigers. But KJ Johnson, the reigning co-SEC champion on the event, had a fall during her second tumbling pass to earn a 9.2875, leaving no room for error for the remaining three gymnasts.

The Tigers trio of Aleah Finnegan, Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson did just that and LSU was able to count five scores of 9.9125 or better — with each routine seemingly getting a louder “L-S-U” chant than the last from fans.

California showed few signs of nerves or inexperience in its NCAA championship debut with a 49.4750 showing on beam and were led by sophomore eMjae Frazier’s 9.95.

Grace McCallum was the standout performer for Utah on bars with a 9.95 and Danie Ferris (9.9125) was the only Florida gymnast to score over a 9.90 on vault. — D’Arcy Maine

Results after rotation one:

LSU: 49.6125

California: 49.4750

Utah: 49.4375

Florida: 49.2500

Fantastic freshmen

Konnor McClain led off the meet for LSU with a stunning 9.925 — no small feat, considering no other team scored a 9.9 or higher until the fourth gymnast up. McClain’s lofty double layout and impeccable dance left no room for deduction. Fellow freshman Amari Drayton completed the 1-2 punch with a 9.9125 immediately after McClain, helping the team earn the top score after rotation one. — Amy Van Deusen

Miss McClain sure knows how to get things started 🔥

The freshman leads off with a 9.925

📺 ABC | @_KonnorMcClain

— LSU Gymnastics (@LSUgym) April 20, 2024

The teams are ready

It is absolutely pouring in Fort Worth, but it doesn’t seem like the gloomy weather is dampening anyone’s spirits inside Dickies Arena.

Despite the stakes and a palpable energy of nerves and excitement throughout the building, all four teams seemed loose and relatively relaxed during warmups. There were a lot of smiles, laughs, dancing and cheers. LSU, Florida and Cal all remained on the floor for some pep talks and huddles once warmups had concluded, but Utah went immediately to the locker room to get ready. Will that focus be the difference? Stay tuned.

Although Utah believed it would be competing in the Olympic order when the team spoke to the media on Thursday, Florida will in fact be starting on vault, with Utah on bars, Cal on beam and LSU on floor.

Fans started streaming into the building as soon as the doors opened — about an hour before competition was set to begin — and there are a lot of pom-poms and glitter. Based on my completely unscientific observation skills, it seems like LSU might have the edge in terms of fan support, but every school seems to have a fair number of supporters, decked out in school colors and some overalls and cowboy hats. And, no matter who has the most fans here, I have a feeling this place will be absolutely rocking once we get started. — D’Arcy Maine

Farewell to the Pac-12

It’s a bittersweet day for the Pac-12 conference and its fans. Utah, who won last month’s conference championship, and California, the regular-season champions, are both competing for a national title in what is effectively the Pac-12’s final day as a gymnastics conference because it is disbanding following the conclusion of the school year.

The Stanford gymnastics team account perhaps summed it up best on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday as it wished both Utah and Cal good luck as they used the #BackThePac hashtag one last time. — D’Arcy Maine

We knew this day would come… we get to #BackThePac for the very last time!

To @UtahGymnastics and @CalWGym– today is YOUR day. One you both have worked incredibly hard for. We are in awe of your skill and dedication and can not wait to watch it on the biggest stage!


— Stanford Gymnastics (@StanfordWGym) April 20, 2024

LSU’s mentality

With Oklahoma out, No. 2-ranked LSU is now the favorite to win, but the meet is expected to be extremely close. Senior Haleigh Bryant, who won the all-around title on Thursday, said the team knows what the stakes are heading into the final round, but she didn’t want to focus on that.

Haleigh Bryant turns in stellar 9.95 performance on beam

Haleigh Bryant of LSU nails her beam performance at the NCAA gymnastics semifinals with an impressive score of 9.95.

“I think everybody is so capable of such amazing gymnastics, so I think our mindset’s going to stay the exact same [as it has been throughout the season],” Bryant said Thursday. “Nothing more, nothing less. Normal is enough and we don’t need to make it more than it has to be. Obviously we know we’re going to be competing for a national championship on Saturday, but we don’t want that to be in the forefront of our mind. We just want to go one skill at a time, one minute at a time.” — D’Arcy Maine

Championship history

Georgia has won the most national titles overall, with 10, and had a streak of five titles in a row from 2005 to 2009. But the Bulldogs haven’t won since 2009, and they did not qualify to compete in Fort Worth this year.

Utah dominated from the 1980s to the mid-1990s and has nine titles overall, with the last one coming in 1995. Recently, Oklahoma has been the team to beat, with six national titles since the Sooners first won in 2014 (a tie for the title with Florida — the only tie in history.) Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 every week this season, making their third-place finish on Thursday all the more surprising. — Amy Van Deusen

Oklahoma won the 2022 and 2023 national title, but didn’t make it to the final round this year. Cal Sport Media via AP Images

The full breakdown of national titles:

Georgia: 10 (1987, 1989, 1993, 1998-99, 2005-09)
Utah: 9 (1982-86, 1990, 1992, 1994-95)
UCLA: 7 (1997, 2000-01, 2003-2004, 2010, 2018)
Alabama: 6 (1988, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2011-12)
Oklahoma: 6 (2014 [tied], 2016-17, 2019, 2022, 2023)
Florida: 3 (2013, 2014 [tied], 2015)
Michigan: 1 (2021)

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