Flippin’ Birds to compete in 2022 NCAA Gymnastics Championship

The Flippin’ Birds finished the regular season and did enough to punch their ticket for the ninth-straight year to head to the 2022 NCAA Gymnastics Championship. The first stop is in Auburn, Alabama for regionals. 

Southern Utah University will face three schools all from the South-Eastern Athletic Conference: The University of Kentucky, Auburn University and the University of Georgia. This regional matchup is going to be a show of power with every team ranked in the top 30. 

The Flippin’ Birds

Southern Utah enters regionals after a third place finish at the MRGC Championship on March 19. The meet was a solid showing for the Flippin’ Birds with Shylen Murakami winning the individual championship on the bars. Aubri Schwartze earned a 9.875 on the floor. Celine Barney led the Flippin’ Birds with a 9.825 with her floor routine. Karly McClain scored a solid 9.875 on the beam. 

Five Flippin’ Birds earned All-MRGC Honors with Caitlin Kho selected to Vault First Feam. Morgan Alfaro and Rachel Smith were named to the Vault Second Team. Murakami was a Bars Second Team selection and McClain was named to the Floor Second Team. 

The Flippin’ Birds are No. 27 in the country, averaging 196.073 and a season high of 197.000 in a loss to No. 21 Brigham Young University on Feb. 18. SUU did finish the season undefeated at home with wins against the University of Arizona, Brigham Young University, Utah State University, Boise State University and the College of William & Mary. 

The Tigers 

The No. 7 Tigers of Auburn University enter the match as one of the best teams in the nation and the hosts for the regional meet. 

Auburn finished third at the SEC Championship with freshman sensation and 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist Sunisa Lee winning the individual bars championship with her fourth perfect 10 of the season. Four other Tigers scored above 9.800. 

Derrian Gobourne and Lee finished with a 9.950 on the floor. Drew Watson scored a solid 9.900 on the vault for the Tigers and Sophia Groth finished with a 9.950 on the beam. Auburn’s third place finish was the program’s best finish at the SEC Championship with a 197.225. 

The Wildcats

The University of Kentucky Wildcats come into regionals No. 10 in the country. The Wildcats finished seventh at the SEC Championship with a final score of 196.350. 

Top performers for Kentucky were Arianna Patterson on the vault with a 9.875. Raena Worley was a bright spot for the Wildcats with a 9.900 on the bars and Josie Angeny performed a solid routine earning a score of 9.850 on the beam. Worley dominated the floor portion with a 9.950. 

Kentucky averages 197.040 per match and their season high was a 197.650 on March 11 against Big Ten-foe Michigan State University. 

The GymDogs  

The University of Georgia enters regionals after an eight place finish at the SEC Championship.

Victoria Nguyen led Georgia on the beam with a 9.850. Rachel Baumann and Soraya Hawthorne both scored a 9.900 on the floor. 

Baumann scored the highest on the vault with a 9.850 and Nguyen scored a 9.900 on the bars.  The No. 23 GymDogs have averaged 196.095 in the regular season and have a season high of 197.175. 

The match

Two out of the four squads will advance to the National Championship round. The Auburn Regional will be held Thursday, March 31, at noon MT. The match will be streamed on ESPN+. 

Story by: Anthony Colasuono

Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics