FORT WORTH, Texas — There was no shortage of drama at the women’s NCAA championships this week. Trinity Thomas and Grace McCallum returned from injuries for the final meet of the season, hitting exceptional routines with barely any practice time. Jordan Chiles and Maile O’Keefe earned consecutive 10s in semifinals, with O’Keefe then edging out Chiles for the all-around crown. And fifth-year senior Olivia Trautman, who had considered retirement, earned her first individual event title on vault, then led Oklahoma to yet another national championship.
While O’Keefe has announced she will return for a fifth year, this was the last competition for Thomas and Trautman, two icons in college gymnastics. Chiles has said she will take next season off to train for the Olympics, and McCallum said at nationals that she is still undecided on her plans.
But never fear, there are many other gymnasts who can bring this type of excitement to the 2024 season. Alongside established leaders like Haleigh Bryant, Leanne Wong and Jordan Bowers, watch out for these “next” five. Because all signs point to them becoming new stars of the sport in the coming year:
When Finnegan joined the LSU Tigers last year, head coach Jay Clark said her potential was even greater than that of her older sister, Sarah, who graduated in 2019 as a 23-time All-American. No small praise.
Now a sophomore, the younger Finnegan had a streak of four perfect 10s in four meets this season — on three different events, no less. At nationals, she placed second on floor and fifth in the all-around, just .115 away from O’Keefe’s winning total. On each event, Finnegan pushes the envelope in both difficulty and originality, making her perhaps the most interesting all-arounder in the country. Up next for 2024: a perfect 10 on bars, the only event where that mark has eluded her.
DiCello, a freshman, stepped onto a Florida team already loaded with talent and immediately became one of the squad’s MVPs. “She really has elevated this team’s greatness,” head coach Jenny Rowland told ESPN on Saturday.
She certainly had the credentials — DiCello was the bronze medalist in the all-around at 2021 worlds — but sometimes the transition to NCAA competition can be a tough one for elite gymnasts.
Not so for DiCello, who competed all-around on both days of NCAA championships, and on the finals day scored 9.900 or higher on every event. DiCello received a perfect 10 twice this season, both times on bars, and her solid, error-free gymnastics lends itself to many more down the road.
Harris was sensational in her freshman year at UCLA, helping to lead the Bruins back to their first national championship appearance in four years. She also competed with a calm consistency that few others could match. Over 14 meets she did 56 routines, and she never once fell. And, perhaps even more incredible, 80% of her routines scored a 9.900 or higher.
“She has an innate quality that pushes her to lock in and compete at her best when her best is needed,” head coach Janelle McDonald said, adding that she thought Harris could be one of the best ever in collegiate gymnastics.
Davis has always been a crucial scorer for Oklahoma, shining brightest on bars, where her piked Jaeger release move is simply superb. This year, the junior has become a powerhouse in the all-around as well: She scored a 39.500 or better in eight out of the 10 meets in which she competed all four events. “She puts everyone else first and is gracious and thoughtful,” said head coach K.J. Kindler, “Yet, she has the fight of a lion in her.”
On Saturday, Davis earned a team-high of 9.950 on beam, and led off floor with an exemplary 9.900. “In motion, she is beauty and grace personified,” Kindler said. “Her flexibility, style and genuine joy set her apart.” And combine for huge scores when the team most needs them.
Frazier, a freshman, earned the first perfect 10 on floor in Cal’s history on March 3. And honestly, she could have scored one earlier in the season had the judging gone her way. She was awarded a 9.95 on her debut floor routine for the Bears and received two 9.975s during the season.
At regional finals, Frazier had a massive 39.75 all-around total — one that should turn heads in any competition. While championships was not her best meet overall, she was stellar on floor, earning a 9.9375. The younger sister of UCLA’s Margzetta Frazier, eMjae joins her sister in having a performance quality that draws the audience in.
“She has an infectious personality, is a great teammate, and has a light that radiates from within,” co-head coach Elizabeth Crandall-Howell said. While Marz graduates this year, eMjae’s star is only just beginning to rise. “She has so many skills that she can add to her routines,” added Crandall-Howell. “Watch for her to continue to increase her difficulty next year.”