Before we get to today’s business, a bit of commitment news. I don’t usually pay too much attention to the various commitments we hear now unless they’re for the upcoming season because I don’t have the energy to consider 2018 a year that exists yet. This news, however, is a fairly prominent. Here’s what happened:
So, Lexie Priessman was standing in the hallway when Georgia walked by, and Lexie went, “Oh my God, I love your championships. Where did you get them?” and Georgia was all like, “They were Suzanne’s in the 2000s,” and Lexie was all like, “Vintage! So adorable.” Then, Georgia walked away, and Lexie went, “Those are the ugliest effing championships I’ve ever seen.”
That’s exactly how it went down. All of which is to say that Lexie Priessman has switched her verbal commitment from Georgia to LSU. And the changing balance of power in women’s college gymnastics continues. Priessman had planned to defer until after 2016, but we’ll see if that’s still on. Sometimes we have Mattie Larson situations where people are going to defer until after the Olympics, and then . . . nevermind. Rio is going to be a fairly long shot for Priessman. She’s already behind the likes of Biles, Ross, and Maroney (and a healthy Elizabeth Price probably) in terms of Olympic likelihood, and we still have three years of new seniors to go.
But now to the main business of the day: beginning to look at this year’s freshmen and where they might contribute for their teams. Today, I’ll start with Florida and Utah (paired for no other reason than that neither team has very many freshmen and they can fit together in a single, non-behemoth post), but I’ll go through most of the major teams over the next month or so.
Unless they are prominent elites, we’re often blind when it comes to judging how a gymnast might fare in college, going off of a few routines from JO Nationals here and there, which makes it challenging to develop a complete picture before they compete. Usually at this point, it’s just about evaluating general style, basics, and skill set.
The Gators are down more routines this year than in the past couple years and are bringing in Claire Boyce and Silvia Colussi-Pelaez to fill in the gaps. Boyce was a junior elite in 2009 and 2010 before dropping back to L10 for the 2012 season, and Colussi-Pelaez continues to be a senior elite, competing for Spain at the most recent World Championships in Antwerp.
As is true for all the incoming gymnasts with elite experience, they have the skill sets to compete on any event (except we need to talk about these bars dismounts) and could be used basically anywhere. The question comes whether they have the quality to break into lineups on a team as strong as Florida.
Though Florida has lost King, Dickerson, and Stageberg, some of those spots will be filled by Alaina Johnson’s AA return and Bridgey Caquatto’s potentially increased contribution, as well as someone like Kiersten Wang, who has been on the cusp of several lineups for two years and could use this opportunity to break in fully. We’ll get into that more in the full team previews in December. For now, the Gators are looking at maximum two openings per event, in some cases one, and in some other cases zero. On bars, for instance, Johnson, Caquatto, Sloan, Hunter, and BDG are all returning, and that doesn’t take into account Caquatto 2 and Wang, who should be right there as well, so the freshmen may be on the outside there. Overall, I expect the contributions of these new freshmen to be about in line with what we’ve seen from Wang and Spicer the last few years, early lineup or solid backup on multiple events. Let’s take a closer look.
2011 Elite Qualifier – All events
2012 Texas state meet – L10 – Vault
2012 JO Nationals – Floor
As I said, the skills are mostly there. Beam looks nice enough, especially once some of those elite struggles like the switch 1/2 are removed, and she has a solid basis for an NCAA routine there with the walkover and the onodi, etc. She competed a 1.5 dismount as a L10, which is very straightforward for her. Vault looks much better in the 2011 version than the 2012, which is a bit more sluggish and piked.
Bars is my biggest question mark because I do like a lot of what’s happening there. I’m such a stalder whore that she has me with her stalder elements, but something will have to be done about a dismount if she is to get anywhere near competing. It could be simply adding a full before the double back (even though that’s basically the gainer full of bars dismounts). She competed a full twisting double back in her junior elite days, but it was always a struggle.
Keep in mind that we have been instructed to pronounce her name “Pelaeth,” like we’re from Bathelona, so that will be fun to say this year and I already like her. She’s at competition readiness already because she competed at Worlds, so we have a nice, fresh crop of routines from which to evaluate. At Worlds qualification, she had kind of a sloppy day all around but did end up being only a beam fall on a Y-spin away from making AA finals.
2013 Worlds – Podium training vault
2013 Worlds Qualification – Bars
2013 Worlds Qualification – Beam
2013 Worlds Qualification – Floor (Warning: Huge and hilarious wedgie alert)
The story for Colussi-Pelaez at Worlds was her beam routine because she got the side aerial in side position named after her. I assume she wouldn’t compete it during the NCAA season, but she could break it out at Nationals or something. Then, she can Danusia could have a skill-off about it. Or, Danusia might whip out a different weapon from her stable of unique beam elements and go, “Um, that skill is so 2013. Psssh.” Of course, for any of that to happen, Colussi-Pelaez will have to make the beam lineup first, and there are a number of strong nominees for those spots.
Note: I’m already getting a little tired of typing out Colussi-Pelaez, so she will now be joining BDG in the initials club as SCP.
The vault is fairly strong, some clear piking, but she did hit 9.000 in her execution on her competition vault. 9.000 on vault isn’t as difficult in elite as a 9.000 on other events, but it’s still a respectable score. There are several potential openings in Florida’s vault lineup right now, and I could see her getting solid competition time, especially if they are being careful with Macko again, as I would expect, in which case there will be even more openings. It could be a similar case for floor, but it will be interesting to know what passes she’s doing. Does that full in make the NCAA routine?
She’s another one who is staldering me out of commission, but again without something more difficult in the dismount department, that routine is a non-starter. This dismount knocked her D Score down 0.2, and if she didn’t have something ready for Worlds . . .
The Utes didn’t graduate anyone after last season, so in theory 2014 should be a year of gains. The team last year was clearly depleted on nearly every event, and the Lothrop and Delaney injury comebacks should allow for the removal of some of those stopgap routines that shouldn’t have had to appear in competition in the first place, but they won’t be able to do it alone. Utah will need to rely on the single new freshman, Baely Rowe, to contribute right away. This is not a large roster (just 13 now), so she’ll have to hold her own. Rowe tied for the victory in Senior C at JO Nationals this year, recording a top-five placement everywhere but floor. Floor isn’t really a bad routine for her (and energy is always a plus – she’s not a deadface), but it’s the event where the team will need her the least and will likely be the most difficult lineup for her to make.
2013 JO Nationals
By far the most important routine of hers for the team will be beam, and this routine is a clear upgrade over what the Utes were competing last year. She works confidently into and out of her acro skills, which is the prime quality I like to look for in beam potential. Slotting Rowe and Lothrop into the beam lineup (I would say for Tutka and Wilson) should lower Ute fans’ blood pressure at least a million points from the get go. There will still be some questions in that lineup, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the devastating weakness it was last year.
Bars is not a showy routine, and there was a handstand issue or two in this incarnation, but overall it’s a technically clean event for her with no standout problems. That dismount is completed early and looks stickable, and we know stuck dismounts are where Utah makes its bars money. I’d like to see her in the lineup there. She has a Y1.5 on vault, which looks like it should be downgraded to a full for NCAA. I can’t see her landing that 1.5 consistently enough for a big score. Still, we can expect it to be another sound routine for Utah, but that will come down to how consistently she can stick or near-stick.
Even though it’s only one freshman, Utah should get a solid enough contribution from Rowe not to feel as though they are missing an infusion of new talent. The most important quality I see in those bars and beam routines is that they look secure.