Last January I made the comment that Nebraska’s ability to survive on what was essentially a team of six gymnasts was both impressive and unsustainable. In practice, the Huskers managed to sustain relative equilibrium in that position much longer than I expected, right up until a postseason injury to Jamie Schleppenbach pulled down the veil and exposed the lack of depth. The Huskers ultimately finished short of another Super Six berth, landing fifth in their Semifinal.
Only Lora Evenstad has graduated from the gang of six that sustained Nebraska though 2012. Expect the big four of Jessie DeZiel, Janelle Giblin, Emily Wong, and Schleppenbach to once again feature in the all-around and lead the scoring with three strong numbers on each event. A Super Six team, however, cannot survive on just four gymnasts, and it is difficult to see Nebraska replicating even the eighth-place finish from last year without developing 5th and 6th routines on each event and cultivating usable backups that are not simply throwaway 9.800s.
Fortunately for the Huskers, their depth will increase in 2013 with four new gymnasts coming in compared to the loss of just one. I expect Hollie Blanske, Ariel Martin, and Jordyn Beck all to see at least some competition time this season to give the team a solid base of eight gymnasts from which to choose. It’s not an ideal level of depth, but it is an improvement. These new gymnasts will not necessarily have to be stars because there will be enough 9.9 potential at the back of the lineups, but as Nebraska knows well, every 9.7 erases a 9.9. The freshmen need to prove capable of popping up on multiple events and delivering the kind of 9.850s that depth is made of to be useful in competition.
This event is by far the healthiest for Nebraska. While they are probably just a tad short of what the big three teams will bring in, DeZiel, Schleppenbach, Wong, and Giblin are all excellent here and should keep the scores quite high. The lowest RQS for any of them last year was 9.885, which will put the team in the fortunate position of finding even multiple 9.875s disappointing.
In 2012, those four dictated the scoring because Evenstad and Brittany Skinner (and occasionally Jennifer Lauer) were very 9.800. At Championships, Wong and Schleppenbach both vaulted poorly, which killed the rotation. This year, there should be a little bit more backup with Ariel Martin, who is dominant on the power events and has a very clean Yfull, and Hollie Blanske, who has competed a Yurchenko 1.5 in the past. By the postseason, this should be a legitimate 49.450-49.500 rotation.
Without Evenstad, the bars rotation is all about Giblin. She’s a dream here, and Wong and DeZiel are both certainly 9.875 capable, but there is much less room for error. On this event, the dynamic end-of-lineup routines are there, but the depth must improve to make up for the lack of Lora Evenstad and the average routines that look to populate the beginning of the lineup.
I expect Schleppenbach and probably Skinner to make the lineup again, but those routines are not going to be priceless. Blanske is solid here and comes i in with better form than most of the other freshmen around the country. This event could be a little rough on some days, but Giblin, Wong, and DeZiel will help keep it over 49.
Speaking of rough, Nebraska on beam. It’s been a struggle these last few years, a cavalcade of falls and 9.7s that continue to make a 49.000 seem like a blessing. There is not a ton of great happening in this rotation. Wong is by far the best one, and her ability to get a 9.9 makes her potentially the strongest all-arounder on the team, which was borne out at the Big 10 Championships. We all also remember the time that DeZiel showed a wobbleburger of a US team how beam is done at Pan Ams, and I’m sure she will show Nebraska how it’s done a few times in 2013 as well.
After that, tumbleweeds. Giblin, Schleppenbach, and Skinner all can do beam routines in the same way that I can shoot a basketball. It doesn’t mean I should. Jennifer Lauer seemed like a reliable 9.800 at the end of last season, so she may be somewhat helpful here, but mostly keep an eye on Jordyn Beck. Beam is my favorite event of hers. She has more precision than the other freshmen and can contribute here.
Floor is the other event where the loss of Evenstad will be a real blow, but I like the routines from DeZiel, Wong, and Giblin enough to feel secure in the lack of real catastrophe. They’ll be good for 9.850-9.900s to keep the rotation safely positive.
There should be options for the remaining spots. In addition to Schleppenbach and Skinner, Ariel Martin has a DLO (the second salto is a little piked, but the power is there), and Blanske competes a tuck full and a 2.5, so there will be some usable options among the new ones as well. Expect some good 49.300s here but nothing that sets anyone on fire.
Even though the team lost a major contributor, the freshmen should be able to combine to make up for the loss of tenths. The increased depth will help avoid problems should anyone go down, but I’m skeptical as to whether the Huskers can improve on the overall quality of last season’s team. Nonetheless, it’s still going to be a 197-capable group. They should have no trouble making Nationals and on a good day can make Super Six. The eternal beam concerns make it less likely that the good day will happen when it needs to, but it is well within the realm of possibility.
Watch the top four. If they are consistently getting those 39.550s and higher in the AA, this team will be successful and can carry that through to Nationals. If, however, they are throwing in wonky beam performances and 9.825s too often this season, then Nebraska won’t be able to make it up with other gymnasts and will wallow in the mid 196s.