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3 weeks in, what do we know about college gymnastics?

A quarter of the way through the season, some trends have emerged, including who are the chief contenders for a national title.

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Michigan gymnasts react after defeating Minnesota at an NCAA college gymnastics event Monday, Jan 24, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune via Associated Press

There was palpable excitement entering the 2022 college gymnastics season, and for good reason.

In a post-Olympics year, interest in gymnastics is as high as ever, plus multiple Olympians made the decision to continue their careers at the collegiate level, including Suni Lee, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, Brooklyn Moors and Amelie Morgan, among others.

Throw in the fact that the NCAA allowed gymnasts whose eligibility would otherwise have been exhausted to return for an additional season — a consequence of the pandemic — and the 2022 gymnastics season was primed to be as competitive and entertaining as any that came before it.

Three weeks in, the excitement has proven justified. Here’s what we know so far.

Michigan is as good as advertised

The Wolverines are the defending NCAA champions and entered the season as the favorite to win the 2022 national title. Those projections seem spot on right now, and Michigan might even be better than anticipated.

The Wolverines have the highest single meet score this season (197.950), the highest average team score (197.850), and are the top-ranked team in the country on vault and floor exercise, No. 3 on uneven bars and No. 4 on balance beam.

The Wolverines aren’t as deep as some of the other title contenders out there, but with gymnasts such as Natalie Wojcik, Gabby Wilson, Sierra Brooks, Abby Brenner and Abby Heiskell (the list could go on), Michigan is the team to beat this season, until someone proves otherwise.

No Olympian has impressed like Jade Carey

This is in no way a slight of Lee, Chiles, McCallum or any of the other Olympians currently competing at the NCAA level.

With two meets under her belt, though, Carey has simply been outstanding. Already, she has broken an Oregon State all-around record that had stood since 1993, is the top-ranked all-around gymnast in the country and has the Beavers off their best start to a season since 2016.

Oh, and she was recently named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week and Pac-12 Freshman of the Week in the same week.

Lee has done wonders at Auburn — the Tigers are No. 8 in the country — McCallum has had her moments for No. 2 Utah and Chiles is starting to make an impact at No. 24 UCLA, but Carey has been at another level.

“(Jade) has been doing so well. I’m so proud of her,” McCallum said (Carey and McCallum are best friends). “She is doing amazing. It is awesome watching her succeed and do so well in the college world. I can’t wait to see what the season brings for her.”

Utah is off to arguably its best start ever

The Red Rocks have been a power in college gymnastics for years, though the team’s last national title came in 1995.

This might — keyword being might — be the year Utah ends its title drought, though.

Only one other time in school history has Utah started a season with scores of 197 in back-to-back-to-back meets, the other instance coming in 2018-19.

Those MyKayla Skinner-led Red Rocks scored a 197 or better in 12 consecutive meets that year, before falling short in the NCAA semifinals.

Already, the 2022 Red Rocks have reached scoring heights that it took months for the 2019 Utah team to reach, with the obvious potential for higher scores (especially once the injured Kara Eaker returns to the lineup).

When Florida puts it all together, watch out

The Florida Gators entered the year with one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the sport, and expectations were through the roof as a result.

Thus far, Florida has disappointed — keep in mind disappointment in this case means being ranked No. 4 in the country — and much of that has been due to perceived underachieving by the freshman class.

With gymnasts such as Leanne Wong, Riley McCusker and Sloane Blakely, Florida’s incoming class was considered to be on par with anyone’s, including UCLA’s top-ranked class and Utah’s Olympian-laden group.

Against Georgia last weekend, however, only Wong managed to score a 9.90 or better on an event, and she, McCusker and Blakely combined to compete seven routines.

When those three grow more comfortable with college gymnastics, Florida will indeed to be a team to watch.

The golden era of UCLA is waning, for now

From 2016 through 2020, UCLA gymnastics was a force to be reckoned with. The Bruins finished in the top 5 for five consecutive seasons, winning the national title in 2018.

It was truly a golden era of Bruins gymnastics, with gymnasts such as Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Nia Dennis, Peng-Peng Lee, Katelyn Ohashi and many more taking the country by storm.

Those glory days seem distant now, at least for the time being. Last season, UCLA was just a solid team, finishing the year ranked No. 12 in the country, and thus far this season, the Bruins are a fringe top 25 team, at No. 24.

In the season opener against Minnesota and Iowa, UCLA scored a 194.850, the Bruins’ lowest score since 2015.

UCLA bounced back in a big way the following week against Oregon State and UC Davis with a 196.300, but that was still far removed from what regularly occurred in the not so distant past.

UCLA has talent — the Bruins had the top-ranked incoming freshmen class — but thus far it hasn’t paid off.

Making matters much worse are the allegations of racism and bullying that have arisen within the program, allegations that have clearly impacted the gymnasts negatively on and off the competition floor.

(Details can be heard on the podcast Small Doses with Amanda Seales, with a guest appearances by UCLA seniors Margzetta Frazier and Sekai Wright).

UCLA likely won’t stay down for long, but right now things are not going well in Los Angeles.

How does the Pac-12 look?

Most seasons, a look at gymnastics by conferences goes as follows: No. 1 SEC, No. 2 Pac-12, No. 3 Big 12 (depending on how good Denver is) and No. 4 Big Ten.

Thus far this season, things have not looked as great for the Pac-12.

Utah, at No. 2, is holding up, but where the conference normally has two or three top 10 teams, right now it is only the Utes.

The SEC, by comparison, has five top 10 teams (Florida, LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri). The Big Ten has two teams in the top 10 (Michigan and Minnesota), while the Big 12 has two top 5 teams (Oklahoma and Denver).

Cal is No. 11, but the Bears have started slower than many expected given how close they were to making it to the final day of the NCAA championships last season.

Oregon State is No. 14, and with Carey, the Beavers will likely rise. Then there is No. 16 Arizona State, No. 19 Stanford and No. 24 UCLA.

Gymnastics remains a strength of the Pac-12, of that there is no doubt, but early on this season, the conference has taken a slight step back.