As we move ever closer to the NCAA season, I’ll be spending the next month-ish looking into the 2017 freshmen on both major and minor teams and proceeding to make wild and unfounded claims about what we should expect to see from them.
We’ll begin with Georgia’s trio of newbies, Rachel Dickson, Sabrina Vega, and Jordyn Pedersen.
Here are the routines and RQS/averages Georgia returns from the 2016 season.
Marino – 9.880
Snead – 9.880
Broussard – 9.830
Johnson – 9.810
Vaculik – 9.755
Snead – 9.870
Schick – 9.855
Vaculik – 9.850
Cherrey – 9.795
Johnson – 9.625
Broussard – 9.875
Vaculik – 9.810
Babalis – 9.805
Schick – 9.604
Cherrey – 9.269
Marino – 9.905
Snead – 9.850
Babalis – 9.850
Reynolds – 9.819
This year, Georgia finds itself with at least three legitimate openings on each event and must unearth at least one or two big new scores on each one. The freshmen have jobs to do. They won’t have the luxury of “oh well, it’s her first year, getting acclimated, blah blah blah.”
Rachel Dickson has the least name recognition of the three freshmen but may end up being the most important to the team….is a thing I love to say. I do it all the time. At the very least, she doesn’t suffer from the extreme level of Question Mark Syndrome that a name-brand like Sabrina Vega does.
Dickson finished 3rd AA at JO Nationals and is one of those classic 9.700-across-the-board L10s. Hers are not necessarily OMG10HANDS routines, but for a team that has lost so many valuable numbers from last season, Dickson brings realistic routines on all four pieces that can absolutely get countable scores in NCAA. I’d put a “not everyone’s going to pick her in fantasy gym, so maybe I should” star next to this one.
Dickson is the current Senior F national champion on bars.
That amplitude on the Ray will go over well, as will that bail with legs together. Given just a little more cast-handstand verticality and some minor cleaning, I can see this routine being a solid score. Dickson also has plenty of composition options, including a shaposh and a tuck full dismount that she has thrown in the past year or so. Always good.
For a team that needs to burn last year’s beam lineup to the ground and never look at it again, Georgia will be pleased that Dickson won Region 5 this year with quite a usable set (get rid of that sheep jump, and I’m not mad at you), marked by extended legs on that bhs+loso series.
The power events have tended to be the more consistent scores for Dickson, especially pre-2016. She vaults just a full in JO, which isn’t ideal when trying to replace Jay and Rogers, but the distance and amplitude can make it a Broussard-equivalent lineup contender. On floor, Dickson competes the normal complement of double-salto passes led by a full-twisting double back. The amplitude isn’t always huge huge and the performance quality will need to get college-ified (also a little awkward that she literally has a Gator chomp in this routine), but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Dickson get time on all four pieces.
Now, let’s talk Sabrina Vega. Seventy-eight years later, Vega finally came to her senses and decided to leave elite behind in favor of NCAA gymnastics, primarily as a way of ensuring her legacy features more than just that Level 84 nervous breakdown she had when she didn’t make the 2012 Olympic team.
I hesitate even to attempt to preview Sabrina Vega because…we just don’t know. Sure, 2012 Sabrina Vega would project as an NCAA star, but it’s not 2012 anymore and we haven’t seen a shred of vault or bars from her in over four years. Those routines could have turned into Miss Havisham’s wedding cake at this point for all we know. Vega did vault a Y1.5 as an elite, but it’s not necessarily a 1.5 I would expect to stick around for NCAA. On bars, that to-die-for Stalder work of hers better be the basis for sculpting a strong college routine (shoulders willing), though low amplitude on release skills may be an obstacle.
On beam and floor, however, we have seen routines from Vega more recently, during 2015’s short-lived elite comeback attempt.
“Very NCAA” acted as a criticism then, but now it works. These are very NCAA routines. Beam was Vega’s most impressive event during her best years (year), and while the form appears to have deteriorated to some degree, I’d absolutely send that routine out there (but with an NCAA dismount like a 2/1). On floor, I wouldn’t expect as much from Vega—not because of inability but because her potential burnout level and injury history are both at Maximum Red Alert—though she still has that full-in and more-than-competitive dance elements. Priority #1 for Vega is a high-scoring, reliable beam routine. Because…Georgia. Floor would be a bonus.
The talent is not debatable. Vega has it, but it would be foolhardy to project world-team-member expectations upon her with only a handful of routines under her belt in the last four years. Whatever happens, Vega’s existence will be one of the more fascinating features of the early season.
The third member of the pack is former Canadian elite and 2014 world alternate Jordyn Pedersen who is, FYI, a completely different person from 2014 world team member Kirsten Peterman. What? I didn’t just realize that. You just realized that.
I haven’t seen a ton from Pedersen recently, but because of her time as an elite, Pedersen does have the all the traditional D-elements to choose from along with an occasional DLO on FX. I do, however, keep returning to the question of how many of these routines can actually be retained for a good score in NCAA without reconstruction. Of the three freshmen, Pedersen’s routines would need the most changes before we can really judge potential.
The cowboying on that double tuck for instance (something that also crops up on her bars and beam dismounts), would render it too deduction prone and essentially unusable. As for the DLO, we’re still waiting for Ashlyn Broussard’s to materialize, let alone this one.
I enjoy some of her beam acro elements—she was training a barani at one point—and like Vega, if you drop that double back dismount, you should have something going. On bars, Pedersen has a Pak, Shaposh, and Jaeger, but I worry that the leg separations and that double front dismount will hold her back too much. Note that all these routines are from 2014.
In Georgia’s search for new vaults, Pedersen also performs a yfull, but from what I’ve seen of it, I’d put it closer to the Vaculik category on the depth chart.