Who will win the 2022 national championship? Our experts weigh in
Can Florida’s stacked lineup win the 2022 NCAA gymnastics title? Or will Michigan’s defending champion win the second time? What about Oklahoma, a perennial powerhouse? Or Utah, who has qualified more for the NCAA championships than anyone else. Starting Thursday, eight teams will compete at the NCAA championships. It could be the most exciting year yet.
Who will win? What routines should you be looking out for? Our experts were asked to weigh in.
Who do you think will win the team title?
Kathy Johnson Clarke: I believe any of the teams who make finals have an equal shot at winning because there is that much parity in scoring right now and more teams than ever are poised to upset top-ranked teams which pushes every team to greater performances.
Teams who scored 198-mid already this season have an edge, but teams competing with the “nothing to lose, everything to gain” mindset could create an “all bets are off” dynamic, which is exciting for everyone. Although I cannot predict the winner, Florida’s consistent performance and high scoring potential in each of the four event lineups will be difficult to beat if they are on.
Bart Conner Every year, there are more and better teams that have a chance to win — which is great news for the sport. Florida has been a top contender for years, but they don’t have as much talent, depth, or experience this year. It will be close, but Florida is hard to beat if they are on.
Ashley Miles Greig: Florida, because each event has a lineup that can score 9.9 or better on every routine. Florida has also shown this season that they are confident during the big moments. This team doesn’t seem to feel pressure. They also have Trinity Thomas!
ANOTHER PERFECT 10 FOR TRINITY THOMAS @Gym_Trin
— ESPN (@espn) April 1, 2022
Sam Peszek: My money is on Florida right now. They have been heating up and seem to have the confidence and swagger to succeed this year. The winning team will not make mistakes. It will be decided which team has the ability to pull off the feat.
Alicia Sacramone Quinn: I think the national championship trophy is going back to Gainesville! Florida is at its peak. The Gators’ performance at regionals demonstrates that they can score well even on the road.
Bridget Sloan: I think this year’s NCAA championship is going to be amazing. There are teams that are ready to win another championship, and there are teams who are eager to win their first. Because they have been dominant in the past couple of years, there are certain key teams that spring to mind: Florida, Michigan and OU. You can’t ignore Auburn, Alabama and Missouri. This season, all teams have performed in ways we didn’t expect. They are setting new records and improving every day.
D’Arcy Maine: Florida’s unbelievable depth should be the difference-maker and give the Gators their first NCAA team title since 2015, but this is college gymnastics we’re talking about so we should probably expect the unexpected. Their beam work makes it seem as though Utah could win the trophy. The Red Rocks finished the regular-season ranked No. The Red Rocks finished the regular season ranked No. 1 on beam and have been unflappable in what is often the deciding event for championship.
I could see Utah quietly executing routine after routine, and winning the weekend’s largest prize.
Alyssa Roenigk: Florida. They are confident, consistent, and ready to win. Despite this, there is so much talent among the eight teams that qualified to nationals that upsets feel inevitable (if they can be called upsets this year). If we are talking about Missouri, Alabama and Auburn, and Minnesota, instead of Florida, Oklahoma and Utah, I will be surprised, but not shocked, on Friday.
Amy Van Deusen Oklahoma will be my outlier. Florida has been the strongest team this year, but I think the immense pressure of redemption from last year may make it harder on the athletes to be spot-on Saturday. Oklahoma has won three of five of the most recent championships and has a history of excellence in these big moments. It is possible that the squad could lead a workshop on how to do every handstand on bars or every dismount, which is what is required to win Saturday’s championship.
Whom are you secretly rooting for to win?
Johnson Clarke: I don’t have a secret rooting interest in one team. However, I want it to be the worst kept secret. I have an inner desire to see everyone succeed and to do some memorable routines.
Sacramone Quinn: I’d love to see Minnesota win a national title and become members of the exclusive national championship club.
Van Deusen It’s surprising that Michigan is so under-the-radar as a team coming in as the defending champs. I have to admit, I’m rooting hard for the repeat. This team pushes the boundaries in all its events, which makes it so much more fun to watch. Double-back dismounts from beam? No problem. Lead off the floor with a full in? Yes. Natalie Wojcik at any event is simply gymnastics at its finest.
Roenigk: My rooting interest has to be loyalty to my alma mater, Florida. But my less-obvious crush is on 10-time national champion, Utah, the most consistently excellent team in NCAA gymnastics history and a squad full of stars poised to spoil Florida’s weekend.
Maine: There’s a valid argument for why it would be amazing for any of these eight programs to win, but I am a sucker for a good underdog story so I would love to watch Missouri shock the field. The Tigers are making their second NCAA championship appearance and have been the ultimate spoiler in the postseason, helping to eliminate LSU, which was higher-ranked, and then narrowly beating UCLA in the regional final.
Missouri also has Helen Hu, one the most talented and underrated college gymnasts. Her flexibility and artistry are worthy of being shown on Saturday on network television.
Miles Greig: No secret here in that I’m always rooting for Alabama! I am an Alabama alumnus and know firsthand the championship tradition and desire to win that comes from being part of this program.
Sloan: I will always love my Gators … it is in my blood. I want each team and individual to be able look back and say, “I left everything on the floor.” “
— Minnesota Women’s Gym (@GopherWGym) February 12, 2022
Which routine should we absolutely not miss?
Johnson Clarke: Oh, gosh, I can’t pick just one. There are so many great “can’t miss” routines. But I’m really looking forward to seeing Minnesota’s Mya Holten’s floor routine. It is a must-see performance that conveys a powerful message about racial injustice and racial inequity through her music, choreography, and performance. She also showcases great gymnastics.
Roenigk: Any Trinity Thomas routine! The first Gator to win SEC gymnast of the year twice and the owner of 10 “perfect 10” scores this season — and at least one on every event — Thomas is a human highlight reel. She is a joy to see on floor and revels in big moments. Do not miss her at vault. She has called it her least favorite event for years, and vault is a showcase of a stellar athlete who pushes herself to greater heights.
Peszek: On vault, Ona Loper (Minnesota), Trinity Thomas (Florida), Shallon Olsen (Alabama) and all of Michigan’s vaults!
On bars: Audrey Davis (Oklahoma), Leanne Woong (Florida), Suni Le (Auburn), Helen Hu(Missouri), Grace McCallum [Utah] and Shania Adama (“Alabama”).
On beam: Maile O’Kefe (Utah), Alisa Shremeta (Missouri), Natalie Wojcik(Michigan), Sophia Groth, Megan Skaggs and Ragan Smith (Oklahoma), Lexy Ramler-Minnesota).
On floor, Jordan Bowers (Oklahoma), Mya Hooten (Minnesota), Sydney Soloski (Utah), Lexi Graber (Alabama), Derrian Gobourne (Auburn).
Upgraded dismount? No problem for @audreydavis132. It’s a 9. 925 for the sophomore!
— Oklahoma Women’s Gym (@OU_WGymnastics) January 15, 2022
Maine: Just one? It might not be possible. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already seen Nya Reed’s perfect-score-earning floor routine filled with powerful tumbling including a double layout in her opening pass, TikTok-worthy choreography and all the music from my throwback playlist (DMX! Lil Kim! Missy Elliot!) You can stream it on Spotify, but you will want to see it live as it is almost certain to bring down the house. You’ll want to be there for Trinity Thomas while you’re watching Florida live on floor.
You won’t want to miss Michigan vault, where five (!) of the Wolverines have scored a 10.0 this season. Auburn’s Suni Lee on bars should always be viewed by appointment.
Sacramone Quinn: Kiya Johnson (LSU) on vault, Cally Nixon (Kentucky) on bars, Adeline Kenlin (Iowa) on beam and Jordan Chiles (UCLA) on floor.
Van Deusen Oklahoma’s Audrey Davis performs one of my favorite routines in the NCAA. She is incredible on her Jaeger (from inverts! and a similarly jaw-dropping dismount. I also enjoy watching Norah Flatley from UCLA on the floor. She does a beautiful triple full, then returns with a front doubleful — two very difficult passes in a row — and she has an entertaining and beautifully executed dance all through.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.