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2017 Freshman Preview: Alabama

Returning Routines – Alabama
VAULT
Brannan – 9.890
Guerrero – 9.865
Bailey – 9.860
Winston – 9.850
McNeer – 9.840
Bresette – 9.835
Armbrecht – 9.642
BARS
Winston – 9.920
Brannan – 9.900
Bailey – 9.890
Jetter – 9.875
Guerra – 9.855
Giancroce – 9.792
BEAM
Sims – 9.915
Guerrero – 9.895
McNeer – 9.885
Winston – 9.845
Brannan – 9.820
Sanders – 9.800
Bailey – 9.735
FLOOR
Winston – 9.905
Jetter – 9.888
Bailey – 9.875
Brannan – 9.870
Guerrero – 9.850
Sims – 9.845
Valentin – 9.831
Guerra – 9.820
Giancroce – 9.635

Alabama will surely feel the sting of losing Lauren Beers and Carley Sims in 2017, but the sheer number of routines this team trotted out last season provides us a fairly clear and comfortable projection of how these lineups stay hearty in the new season, bolstered by this freshman class.

Let’s start with fastidious bun’s Maddie Desch. The mystery of what exactly Maddie Desch’s college career will look like has confounded scholars for near months. Such is often the case when a former elite directly connects her college career out of an extended injury layoff.

Desch obviously has the skills and ability across all four events, four routines that were largely equal during her elite career. That’s exactly what got her the alternate spot in 2014. She’s more or less the prototypical Martha alternate, someone who could step in and give a perfectly normal prelims 14.000 routine on any event as needed.

Desch’s elite skill set included a DTY on vault, a whip-double Arabian on floor, and a stalder-thon of a bars routine. Beam was always a nail-biter (I’d put Desch closer to the Brenna Dowell school of GAGE beam than the Courtney McCool school) but essentially right there with the other events. Of note on bars, Desch is among the select few who can do a shaposh 1/2 with her legs together the whole time, making it a very appealing option for NCAA construction. All things being kittens, you’d throw her into three/four events without much of a thought.

The determining factor for Desch will be health, particularly her struggle with chronic back problems having re-fractured her back earlier this year. “Re-fractured her back” is what they call a red flag. Desch made the wise choice to skip out on the whole Trials process to try to get healthy for college, but the question remains, what skills/events will she be able to train comfortably at this point—and how often—while keeping her vertebrae/everything not in goop form?

So basically the exact same thing we wondered when Amanda Jetter started.

Not forced to take all the weight herself, Desch is joined in this year’s class by two of the nation’s top L10 gymnasts. First and foremost, Wynter Childers is the name of a person. The first fan to bring a sign that says “Wynter Is Coming” wins. Childers is from South Dakota, and if you’re wondering what that’s like, her signing with Alabama made the news. THE NEWS.

Childers’ best event and most likely contribution to Alabama is floor, where she performs a full-in. Performs being the operative word. This routine is just weird enough for me to like it. When Kim Zmeskal has to stop everything and put both hands on her left hip to watch your floor routine instead of prepping her own gymnasts for vault, you’re doing something right.

On vault, Alabama has a whole collection of high, comfortably landed, chest-up Yurchenko fulls that can easily score into the 9.8s, so boasting that in and of itself is not OMGLINEUP, but Childers certainly does.

One of the questions for Alabama, however, is where the 10.0 starts will come from. Brannan and Guerrero have them. Bresette can do one. But they will need a little more than that this year based on what the other top teams are doing.

On beam, Childers gets amazing scores. I’m not totally sold on the precision and feet parts of this routine, but she can hit a set and stick a 2/1 dismount pretty much every time. The highlight video from Ghosts and Goblins also features someone who may or may not be her (but may be her) doing quite a pleasant kickover front to scale, so that’s encouraging.

Now, we really need to talk about bars. Mostly because of the routine I’m about to embed here, with the disclaimer that I don’t think any of these are her actual skills. Childers’ normal bars routine, based on all other video evidence, is a very traditional shaposh, bail, double-front-1/2-out JO routine. But this year, perhaps because of some sort of a problem or awesomeness disease, she showed up at the Nastia and randomly threw out this routine featuring a Yezhova and a Shap 1/2.

It did not go great. But I’m also obsessed with it. “I’m going to the Nastia. Instead of my normal routine, should I just do a Yezhova and a Shap 1/2? Probably? Sure.” Of note, Childers didn’t compete bars at all at JOs this year. She probably would have finished 2nd in the all-around had she. As long as it wasn’t this routine.

Shea Mahoney is quite the accomplished L10 herself (she hit 39.000 in the AA last year), but I’ll preface discussion of her by noting that there was a shot of her in a boot at last week’s Ghosts and Goblins. This was followed by a very misleading comment from her about how fun it was to show their routines to the crowd, and I’m like…but did you, though?

Anyway, at some point Mahoney should be another possible, sniffing-around-the-lineup style option on all four events. Sort of like the JO version of Desch, none of Mahoney’s events stand way out over the others, but they all have the makings of competitive college sets and have all scored consistently fantastically in the JO ranks. The question for Mahoney will be whether she can actually break into lineups and stand out among the depth that Alabama has, particularly on those power events.

For instance, Mahoney has great position and height on a double pike on floor, along with deduction-free split elements, but it’s just a double pike. Alabama will have the luxury of going for a six-E-pass floor lineup should they choose to and should everyone be healthy enough to do so. Similarly, I’d put her Yfull on the same level as Childers. Right in the mix, but just in the mix.

That’s not to say we won’t see a lot from Mahoney should foot-boot work out—especially considering how much lineup rotation Duckworth did last year—but standing out on this Alabama team will be a task. I mean, we’re still waiting for Ari Guerra.

Mahoney is a powerful gymnast, but I prefer her routines on bars and beam. These splits and that style should fit in very well among Duckworth-era Alabama beaming.

On bars, you can see Legacy Elite in those handstands. And those toes! I’m not wild about the composition of this routine (and by that I mean I hate it with the strength of all I have) with that random half turn at the beginning that I just want to throw into a fire, but this can become something great, right? Right.

The fourth member of this class is walk-on Caitlin Cole. She won’t contribute on vault, bars, or floor, but she actually has awesome splits. Legitimately awesome. If they can figure out a way to make her not have to do any acro skills, she could be one of those random Alabama walk-ons who just suddenly pops up in a beam lineup and you’re like, “Wait, were you even a person?”

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