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2017 Freshman Preview: Minnesota & Arkansas

Returning Routines – Minnesota
VAULT
Abernathy – 9.840
DeMuse – 9.815
Holst – 9.770
Gardner – 9.770
Hitchcock – 9.500
BARS
Holst – 9.885
DeMuse – 9.840
Gardner – 9.805
Hitchcock – 9.690
Cutler – 9.646
BEAM
Gardner – 9.820
Rahon – 9.730
Ung – 9.658
Holst – 9.525
DeMuse – 9.370
FLOOR
Gardner – 9.875
DeMuse – 9.850
Abernathy – 9.835
Rahon – 9.810
Holst – 9.765
Cutler – 9.650

Obviously, the worst part for Minnesota is the no-Mable part. But losing Nordquist, Haines, and Hanley doesn’t help the situation much either. Just…be generally concerned about everything you see there.

But for now, let’s focus on Paige Williams. Jenny Hansen casually added Williams to the class just this April in a very “Oh, didn’t I mention…?” kind of way.  Williams is the strongest gymnast in Minnesota’s hefty incoming septet and will need to compete the all-around. Also maybe more than that, if possible.

Here’s her double front on floor and even more impressive 90-foot straddle jump amplitude. I’m excited for Minnesota to have a big floor routine this year.

The ease of completion on that Yfull will also be a mighty fine addition. Just, you know, cross fewer state lines on landing.

Floor and vault are the more impressive events for Williams, but I do like her split work on beam, and given that Minnesota’s entire nationally competitive beam rotation just flew the coop leaving only a crumpled-up piece of sadness behind, it will prove useful.

The same is probably true for bars because it’s just never a good event for Minnesota. Williams has a gienger, but we’ll see if she can overcome crazy-legs-fever to make this one a good score.

Most important, however, in overcoming the woes of bars and beam will be another Canasian sensation, Ivy Lu, who should not only contribute on both events but likely put up the team’s best score.

Her handstands and precision on bars make that routine an obvious choice (she also does have a worthy DLO dismount to complete the picture), and that beam work is the strongest among the incoming gymnasts. #aintnopartylikearulfovaparty

Other scholarshippies for Minnesota include Ryan Stach, who is sadly not a boy that’s secretly sneaking into the program in some sort of horrifically unpleasant 90s straight-to-VHS type scenario. Instead, she’s simply a solid, acrobatically focused JO standout (sigh) with a well-scoring full on vault and a bunch of comfortable D tumbling options on floor. Beam is more of a question (because of splits) as is bars (because of crazy legs), but we’ll see.

Casey Betts is also joining this season, and her name is sometimes Cassie. I think. Unclear. What is it with the freshmen this year and their complicated nomenclature? Pick a side.

Betts is a Bordenette who was a Level 4 in 2009 and then made Level 10 Nationals in 2013. So that’s…wait, what? Really? Some of her routines are definitely simpler—Yurchenko 1/2 on vault, nothing more difficult than a layout stepout on beam—but she does have a very high Tkatchev on bars and viable D-level floor tumbling to provide options.

In the walk-on category, we have Kristen Quaglia, who made JO Nationals in 2015 and has frequently scored well on vault and bars, even if trying to find useful routine videos of her is a little Sacramende. YouTube and Mymeetscores both attempt to redirect you to different gymnasts. I feel like she might be a ruse concocted by the CIA.

Becca Taylor competes only bars and floor (with no back handsprings), but I do quite like her speed and rhythm on bars. She’s not messing around up there. Julia Huebert has a legitimate beam routine—dance elements and extension are her best qualities—that I do think we could see in competition at some point. I’m especially rooting for her because she filed all her uploaded competition routines on YouTube in the “Comedy” category. Well played. She gets us.

I was originally planning to put Arkansas’s freshmen in with the SEC also-rans, but that seemed unfair, so they’re getting smashed in with Minnesota instead. For whatever reason.

Returning Routines – Arkansas
VAULT
Wellick – 9.900
McGlone – 9.850
Speed – 9.805
MacMoyle – 9.785
Nelson – 9.775
Anderson – 9.670
BARS
Speed – 9.845
Wellick – 9.840
BEAM
Wellick – 9.875
Nelson – 9.855
Bargiacchi – 9.800
McGlone – 9.775
Anderson – 9.200
FLOOR
Nelson – 9.890
Wellick – 9.880
McGlone – 9.830
Anderson – 9.770
MacMoyle – 9.585

You’ll notice that’s two people on bars, which isn’t great. Arkansas, however, has recruited to that weakness this year by bringing in quite a few believable bars routine. The one with the most compelling star potential comes from Hailey Garner.

You had me at a Gienger with legs together. I’ve watched a lot of JO Giengers over the past couple weeks, and that’s the best one I’ve seen. They’ll just have to decide whether that overshoot is actually trying to go to handstand or not (pick one or the other) because everything else about that routine is worthy of a big score.

Garner’s fully extended 180 splits on beam should make that routine a must-use as well, but I wouldn’t classify her simply as a bars and beam gymnast. Her tight, clean tumbling positions on double pikes and tucks on floor could make that routine just as compelling.

Michaela Burton from Legacy Elite is another we should end up seeing on multiple events. Her acro ability and amplitude on beam and floor is definitely usable, and as long as they avoid some of those dance elements, she’ll be fine.

For a Legacy Elite gymnast, bars has not been a great strength lately, though Burton was dealing with a shoulder injury and hasn’t done a ton of bars in the last couple years, so perhaps we give her an incomplete there. If you’re a Legacy Elite gymnast whose best event isn’t bars…you just have to quit, right? Those are the rules?

It will be interesting to see where the other three freshmen fall on the spectrum between contributing routines and “depth gymnast.” Sarah Shaffer should end up being an adequate option on a couple pieces, with good shapes on beam, a high double tuck on floor, and very precise cast handstands and bail on bars (though just a non-connected double tuck dismount, a problem).

Jessica Yamzon is a Cassie Rice gymnast who dismounts bars with a DLO 1/1 that she can stick on occasion, making my eyes perk open about that routine. Maybe she and Sarah Shaffer can melt into one person to anchor the bars lineup. Still, her bars may just be correcting a few leg separations away from a good score. Yamzon also shows an efficient little beam and, like pretty much every other member of this Arkansas class, a somewhat ragged Yfull.

There are enough realistic fulls in this class (Burton usually has the best VT score) that hopefully we don’t have to keep forcing Samantha Nelson to vault anymore, though it’s clear that Wellick will still have to do nearly all the heavy lifting.

I’m most inclined to give Kirby Rathjen the dreaded “she’ll be great at providing depth” edit because she’s the type who’s fine everywhere but stands out nowhere. Although, given the struggles Arkansas had at filling out lineups last season and the sheer number of departed routines, providing depth may actually be a big deal for this year so that they don’t have to throw up a random 2 in the postseason.

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