FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — This is the reason Sunisa Lee stored her promise and got here to Auburn. And why Trinity Thomas endured at Florida.
To compete on the rostrum with their sport stopping to observe. To have a good time with their teammates beneath the lights. To earn an opportunity to have yet another likelihood.
The 2 gymnastics stars checked each field through the NCAA girls’s staff semifinals on Thursday night time.
Lee, the primary Olympic champion to compete collegiately, helped ship Auburn to the finals for simply the second time since 1993 because the Tigers completed second to Florida within the second semifinal to qualify for Saturday’s closing 4.
Thomas claimed the all-around title, capping a showstopping efficiency with an ideal 10 on flooring train because the Gators earned the suitable to affix Lee and the Tigers in addition to Oklahoma and Utah for a shot at a nationwide championship.
“I feel absolutely amazing,” mentioned Thomas, who completed with an all-around whole of 39.8125, simply forward of Lee at 39.675 and Florida teammate Megan Skaggs at 39.6625. “I’ve been working through this ever since I got to school and just having a few setbacks, you know, I kept fighting. And to finally do it this time is literally a blessing.”
Even when Thomas didn’t initially know her 10 on flooring — the eleventh good rating she’s collected this season, tops within the nation — made her the fourth Gator to win the all-around within the final decade. She was so centered on ensuring Florida made it to the staff closing she didn’t actually take note of the place she stood within the general standings till the meet was over.
“(I asked my teammates) ‘do you know what the all-around was?’ And they were like, ‘No,’ and I was like, ‘Me neither,’” Thomas mentioned with amusing. “So, I had no clue, actually.”
Thomas finally turned to fellow senior Savannah Schoenherr, the staff’s resident calculator. When Schoenherr knowledgeable her longtime teammate it was most likely her, Thomas set free a semi-surprised “oh.”
Take into account it a testomony to Thomas’ capability to remain within the second.
An tools problem when Florida was on the uneven bars compelled Thomas to attend 10 lengthy minutes whereas it was mounted. She handed the time by cracking jokes. When it was lastly her flip to go, she delivered a 9.9750, the most effective of the night time.
“I’m so glad it was Trinity that had to wait,” Florida coach Jenny Rowland mentioned. “If it was going to be somebody, Trinity is great one to be able to shake it off and just go with the flow and step up and raise her game.”
The identical goes for Lee.
Eight months in the past she pulled off the meet of her life in Tokyo, turning into the fifth straight American girl to seize gold within the all-around. She didn’t let newfound fame distract her from going to Auburn, even when her movie star created outsized expectations. The 19-year-old admitted to feeling jitters on Thursday earlier than getting a pep discuss from Olympic teammate Jordan Chiles, now competing for UCLA.
Chiles’ recommendation was easy: attempt to keep in mind that is purported to be enjoyable.
“I think (after that) I really took the pressure off of myself and I just went out there and enjoyed it,” mentioned Lee, who gained the beam title along with ending runner-up to Thomas within the all-around.
Lee joyfully ran to her teammates after her uneven bars routine served because the exclamation level that pushed Auburn to the finals.
Chiles wasn’t the one one handing out pep talks. Earlier within the day, Oklahoma reached the finals for the ninth straight time by posting a staff rating of 198.112, the most effective of the day. The assertion got here a day after receiving a pep discuss from former Oklahoma star and present Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The Sooners chatted with Mayfield — who gained the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in 2017 — on Wednesday night time, with Mayfield urging them to “feel dangerous” as this system tries to win its fourth title since 2016.
Oklahoma moved in entrance through the second rotation, utilizing a stellar set on uneven bars to slide by the Utes into first. The set included a 9.887 from Olivia Trautman, competing within the occasion for the primary time this season after being restricted by a knee damage.
“(Mayfield) told us to just do our stuff and believe in ourselves,” Trautman mentioned.
Utah reached the finals for the fourth time in 5 championships by ending the meet with a rock-solid beam set. The Utes’ rating of 49.600 was the very best within the occasion through the first semifinal, ending any hope of Alabama or Minnesota closing the hole.
Defending nationwide champion Michigan’s bid for a repeat ended through the third rotation of the second session, the place a wobbly set on uneven bars despatched the Wolverines tumbling down the standings to fourth behind Florida, Auburn and Missouri.
The finals will characteristic acquainted faces in Oklahoma, Florida and Utah. Lee’s arrival helped thrust the Tigers into heady firm, which was the plan all alongside when she caught together with her dedication to compete for Auburn.
What occurs subsequent for Lee is unknown. She has made no secret of her need to return to elite competitors in preparation for the 2024 Olympics, a course of that would begin sooner somewhat than later, which might make her a gymnastics equal of “one and done.”
That call gained’t be made till after the season, a season that has yet another meet to go.
“I’m really proud of us,” Lee mentioned.
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