The No. 27 West Virginia gymnastics team look to ride the momentum it gained during its impressive eight-match winning streak as it heads into the Big 12 Championship in Frisco, Texas.
The Mountaineers closed their regular season with two impressive wins in a home-and-home series against the University of Pittsburgh, earning scores of 195.925 and 195.825.
The team owns top-20 national rankings, coming in at No. 14 on the floor with a 49.235 regional qualifying score (RQS) and No. 19 on vault with a 49.05 RQS.
Junior Alexa Goldberg, sophomore Zaakira Muhammad and freshman Kirah Koshinski also hold national rankings. Koshinski has the highest ranking with No. 16 on vault (9.89 RQS), closely followed by Muhammad at No. 27 (9.875 RQS). Goldberg is the only Mountaineer to hold a ranking on the uneven bars at No. 42 (9.865 RQS).
Although the team has been on fire as of late, it faces a daunting task in trying to take down some of the nation’s gymnastics powerhouses in No. 1 Oklahoma (197.85 RQS), No. 10 Denver (196.65 RQS) and No. 39 Iowa State (195.225 RQS).
For the second year in a row, West Virginia finds itself staring down the barrel of the nation’s top team in the Big 12 Championship. Having finished as a top-5 nationally ranked team since 2010, the Sooners have established themselves as a gymnastics dynasty in Norman, Oklahoma.
The team owns three No. 1 rankings in every event but vault, where it ranks No. 3.
Oklahoma won every single meet this year with the exception of its season opener, which was a tightly contested road battle against No. 3 Lousiana State University. The loss also marked the only time the Sooners scored below a 197.0 all year. The Mountaineers have failed to hit 197.0 yet this season.
The Oklahoma squad is led by junior Chayse Capps and senior Keeley Kmieciak, who are both nationally ranked all-around at No. 2 (39.620 RQS) and No. 13 (39.450), respectively. Expect this duo to put a show on in Texas this Saturday.
The Sooners also rely heavily on the services of freshman Nicole Lehrmann, who tied West Virginia’s own Koshinski in Big 12 Newcomer of the Week awards, with five votes apiece.
The Mountaineers were able to take home 2nd place in the Big 12 Championship last season, edging out Iowa State comfortably. It will not be an easy battle for second this time as this year’s meet will feature the addition of an extra competitor in the University of Denver.
No. 10 Denver was a new addition to the Big 12 this season, and it has certainly made its mark. It opened up the season with a tight home win against West Virginia, where it put up a comparatively poor score of 195.375. After that, it never looked back, putting up scores of over 196.0 in every meet for the rest of the season.
While Oklahoma’s Capps holds the No. 2 all-around ranking in the nation, Denver’s senior Nina McGee follow close behind at No. 3 (39.570 RQS). She’s also tied for first in the national rankings on floor (9.965 RQS).
While it appears Oklahoma and Denver will be trading blows for the top spot in this year’s championship, West Virginia still holds a puncher’s chance. They have been improving by the week, and it only takes one stellar performance to take home the crown.
One team that does not stand much of a chance at winning is Iowa State. The Cyclones have been a model for inconsistency throughout the season, continuously fluctuating in scores ranging from 193.0 to 195.0. Their highest score of the year was a 196.025 at home against in-state rival University of Iowa. The team may have a shot at beating the Mountaineers, but it’d take a miracle for it to leave as the overall victor against next-level teams like Oklahoma and Denver.
With some of the nation’s premiere talent coming together to compete, Saturday’s Big 12 Championship in Frisco, Texas should prove to be one for the ages.