Three teams stand between Utah gymnastics and an NCAA record 48th consecutive trip to nationals.

Sunday afternoon inside the O’Connell Center on the campus of the University of Florida, the Red Rocks will need to defeat two of No. 4 Florida, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 13 Missouri to continue an unmatched run of history making.

The stage is officially set after two regional semifinal meets in Gainesville on Friday.

The Red Rocks won their semifinal in convincing fashion, thanks to season-best performances on balance beam and the uneven bars. Michigan State finished second with a performance that had some notable mistakes, miscues that prevented the Spartans from making a real run at Utah.

Utah made it look easy in its regional semifinal
History is on the line for Utah in Gainesville

Florida, meanwhile, won its semifinal going away, finishing 0.4 points better than Missouri (by comparison, Utah beat MSU by 0.35 points).

The Gators and the Red Rocks are the favorites to advance on Sunday, but already this postseason there have been numerous upsets. No. 9 UCLA, No. 11 Michigan, No. 14 Auburn and No. 16 NC State all went home earlier than expected, and teams like Arizona State, Penn State and Stanford had surprising performances.

All of which is to say, anything can happen Sunday.

Who are the Florida Gators?

Morgan Hurd of Florida during her floor exercises during an NCAA gymnastics meet on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, in Athens, Ga. | Jason Allen

For years now, Florida has been one of the powerhouse programs in women’s college gymnastics. A blue blood in every sense of the word. The Gators are one of just seven programs to ever win a national title and UF has three them, all coming in the 2010s.

Since then, Florida has come close to winning again, but hasn’t been able to break through despite routinely boasting arguably the most talented team in the country year after year.

This year has been a little different, though. With Kayla DiCello deferring her sophomore season to train for the Paris Olympics and Riley McCusker hurt for the entire year, the Gators have been mostly defined by their youth. There is still elite talent around — including Olympic hopeful Leanne Wong — but most of it is untested at the highest levels of NCAA competition.

As a result, Florida started the season slowly, by its standards, but progressively improved as the season went on, ultimately settling in as a top 5 team.

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The team’s performance at the SEC championships — Florida finished in fourth, behind LSU, Alabama and Kentucky — was a little concerning, but the Gators bounced back in a big way in their regional semifinal.

The Gators are led by a pair of All-Americans in Wong and Anya Pilgrim. Wong is ranked No. 9 in the country in the all-around and is in the top 35 on every apparatus. She is notably a top 3 gymnast on bars, ranked behind only a pair of Oklahoma Sooners.

Pilgrim, meanwhile, is a top 30 gymnast on two events — floor exercise and vault. She’s ranked No. 13 overall on the latter.

On Friday, Pilgrim was a star at bars, though, posting an event-winning 9.975.

Florida is more than just those two gymnasts, of course. The Gators, on the whole, entered the postseason ranked in the top 10 on every event and are a top 5 team on vault and balance beam.

On Friday, the Gators shined just about everywhere, finishing with a 197.925.

Who are the Michigan State Spartans?

Michigan State's Nikki Smith during an NCAA gymnastics meet on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Las Vegas. | Stew Milne

After competing against the Spartans in the regional semifinal, Utah is familiar with the challenge presented by MSU.

Michigan State made a couple of notable mistakes on Friday, on bars and beam, specifically, but the Spartans were Utah’s equal or better on floor and vault.

All-American Nikki Smith had a star performance in the all-around, winning the title in the early semifinal and nearly posting the highest all-around score across both semifinal competitions in Gainesville. And fellow All-American Sage Kellerman was one of the best in the competition on vault, her standout event.

Michigan State has ambitions to upset either Utah or Florida, and Friday’s performance didn’t change that. In fact, it may have even buoyed those hopes.

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“For me, the fact of the matter is everything is craziness. It’s our March Madness,” Gabrielle Stephen told College Gym News’ Alyssa VanAuker.

Michigan State head coach Mike Rowe told VanAuker that he didn’t want to change anything — mentally — about his team’s performance ahead of Sunday’s competition. Instead, he wants to “deemphasize what it all is because we don’t want to change a thing.”

Ranked No. 14 on balance beam and floor exercise, No. 12 on uneven bars and No. 4 in the country on vault this season, the Spartans have the capability to pull off a major upset. It is just a question of will they.

Who are the Missouri Tigers?

Missouri gymnast Kennedy Griffin during an NCAA gymnastics meet against Alabama on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Vasha Hunt

Only two years ago, Missouri finished the season as one of the top eight teams in the country, after earning a berth to nationals (the Tigers finished the year ranked fifth overall).

Since then, Missouri has been a good team, but maintaining a position in the great tier of women’s college gymnastics has been hard to manage.

That doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t a team to be reckoned with, however.

Ranked No. 13 in the country overall — No. 8 on floor, No. 11 on bars, No. 12 on vault and No. 22 on beam — the Tigers have wins against No. 2 LSU and No. 20 Georgia this season.

They weathered a serious upset push by the Bulldogs Friday night to earn their spot in the regional final.

And with three 2024 All-Americans on the roster in Sienna Schreiber (beam), Jocelyn Moore (floor) and Mara Titarsolej (bars), plus the always dangerous vaulter Amari Celestine, the Tigers have top-end talent at or near the level of Utah, Florida and Michigan State.

The Tigers weren’t at their very best Friday, recording a 197.525, but that leaves room for an improved performance on Sunday.

All of which is to say that Missouri is capable of pulling off an upset or two if things break the right way.