Alabama 2017

Katie Bailey
  • Weekly UB, frequent VT, BB, FX throughout career
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.890, FX – 9.875, VT – 9.860
  • 2016 average: BB – 9.714
Amanda Jetter
  • Constant in UB lineup, FX contributor as physically able in first three years
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.875
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.888
Keely McNeer
  • Leadoff VT, UB, BB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.885, VT – 9.840, UB – 9.835
Mary Lillian Sanders
  • Suddenly made final BB lineup in 2016
  • 2016 average: BB – 9.800
Aja Sims
  • Queen of BB lineup, semi-regular FX in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.915, FX – 9.845
McKenzie Valentin
  • Transfer from Arizona for 2015 season
  • Competes a few FX routines per season
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.831
Mackenzie Brannan
  • Near-weekly AA contributor in 2016, made all four final lineups
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.900, VT – 9.890, FX – 9.870, BB – 9.820
Nickie Guerrero
  • Staple of BB, VT lineups in 2016
  • Occasional backup FX
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.895, VT – 9.865
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.850
Jennie Loeb
  • Has not competed in first two seasons
Kiana Winston
  • Weekly UB, frequent BB, FX, occasional VT in 2016
  • 2016 RQSL UB – 9.920, FX – 9.905, BB – 9.845
  • 2016 average: VT – 9.850
  • Competed 3 VTs in 2016 for 9.642 average (one fall)
Jenna Bresette
  • Weekly VT in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.835
Peyton Ernst
  • Transfer from Florida
  • Weekly BB in 2016 for 9.860 RQS
  • Occasional early season UB, FX in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.635
  • 2016 average: UB – 9.792
Ari Guerra
  • Occasional mid-season UB, FX in 2016
  • 2016 average: UB – 9.855, FX – 9.820
Wynter Childers
  • Spearfish SD
  • 2015 JO National AA champion
  • 2016 JO National BB, FX champion
Caitlin Cole
  • Haydens
  • 2016 Region 8 BB 3rd
Maddie Desch
  • GAGE
  • 2014 World Championship alternate
  • 2014 Nationals 7th AA
Shea Mahoney
  • Legacy Elite
  • 2015 JO Nationals 7th AA, 2nd VT, 3rd FX

Recent History
2016 – 3rd
2015 – 4th
2014 – 4th
2013 – 3rd
2012 – 1st
2011 – 1st
2010 – 3rd

Alabama owns the country’s longest active Super Six streak, sitting at nine years. Considering the relatively non-devastating roster losses from last season and the sheer depth of this team, that streak should reach ten years this season.

That, of course, isn’t the goal. The goal is winning. Alabama remains among the more likely schools to win the title this year, though not the most likely. To get over that hurdle once again and improve on last year’s finish, Alabama will have to find a way to translate its bevy of nearly interchangeable 9.875s into a core of a few 9.9s. A team with five 9.9s will do better than a team with ten 9.850s, which is Alabama’s challenge right now. In Super Six last year, Alabama recorded six 9.9s compared to Oklahoma’s twelve, and that’s your margin of victory right there.

Based on last season, it would be foolish nonsense to even attempt to profile Alabama’s lineups since seven million people will compete on each apparatus and the lineup will reinvent itself every week, so let’s do it.

Top returners – Brannan (9.890), Guerrero (9.860), Bailey (9.860), McNeer (9.840)
Returning options – Winston (9.850), Bresette (9.835), Armbrecht (9.642)

Alabama has plenty of Yurchenko fulls that can score into the 9.8s. Probably enough for two whole teams and certainly enough to expect a season of 49.2s and 49.3s. That’s not an issue. The number of 10.0 starts that we’ve seen, however, may fall behind that of other top teams. Start value isn’t everything, but having fewer 10.0s is an obstacle that must be overcome with superior landings.

Mackenzie Brannan‘s Y1.5 will need to take over as the leading vault this season, one that is capable of going over 9.900 when she sticks. We’ll also see Nickie Guerrero with her 1.5, and while it’s a little sloppier and lower than Brannan’s, it should remain an important score. Beyond that, Jenna Bresette is one to watch. She debuted an Omelianchik later in the season in 2016, a vault that appeared a better choice than her full because of both SV and execution, and the moment I began to think that, she immediately fell in Super Six, compromising the pro-Omelianchik argument. Still, if she can hit it each week, that vault is a better option in the long run.

Ideally, we’ll see something impressive from Maddie Desch, but you know, also stay in one piece. It may end up being a full. In terms of fulls, Keely McNeer has proven herself an extremely clean vaulter and lineup stalwart, and I also hope to see more of Kiana Winston on vault since she has among the best amplitude on the team but wasn’t used in the final vault lineup last season. Katie Bailey suddenly showed up in the postseason last year with scores I definitely did not expect, though that was for a Fauxrabian, which means it won’t be the same this year.

Wynter Childers and Shea Mahoney both showed high-potential, possible-upgrade fulls in JO, Ari Guerra may add vault this season, and the list goes on. So many options, but keeping up with the 49.4s from Oklahoma/LSU/Florida will require finding a new 9.9 or two compared to last year (when Alabama ranked 5th, and that was with the 1.5 from Lauren Beers), which is why Bresette and Desch are critical options.

Top returners – Winston (9.920), Brannan (9.900), Bailey (9.890), Jetter (9.875)
Returning options – Guerra (9.855), McNeer (9.835), Giancroce (9.792)

Alabama got stuck in 9.875-land on bars last postseason, which shouldn’t have happened given the ability of the lineup. The highlight routines come from Kiana Winston, whose Tkatchev and Pak are sublime, and Katie Bailey, who has used her full-out dismount to turn herself from solid into star (when she lands). We should expect 9.9s for both of those routines, exactly what a competitive bars total is built on.

Helping those two will be Desch in her most likely major contribution to the team. Desch didn’t quite have the difficulty in elite to be known for bars but has skill set and execution to spare and is poised to be a special NCAA bars worker. With this core, there’s really no reason Alabama’s bars should be all 49.2y in the postseason again (though there was no reason for it last year either).

Brannan does not have a flashy bars routine, but she is clean, even, and the most stick-likely on the team. That’s why it worked to move her to the anchor position last season to get her those 9.900s. You know how I love my lineup strategies, so I wouldn’t mind if that continues. Amanda Jetter still somewhat scares me and hasn’t really lived up to the 9.950 STAR status we thought she might reach, but she’s still good for a 9.875 and is clearly one of the top six bars workers on the team. As on vault and beam, Keely McNeer has been the smooth and reliable leadoff for a while now, so the six I’ve named so far could end up being the six. They would do very well, but with Aja Sims continuing to progress in removing some of those dramatic leg separations from her bars work and other realistic contenders like Guerra and Mahoney in the conversation, it doesn’t have to be the six.

Top returners – Sims (9.915), Guerrero (9.895), McNeer (9.885), Winston (9.845)
Returning options – Brannan (9.820), Sanders (9.775), Bailey (9.735)

Stylish rhythm on beam has become the hallmark of the Duckworth era, making this the premier event for the current Alabama roster, a group that recorded the highest beam score in Super Six last season. There are many, many worthwhile options, making it a very difficult six to make. One of the only guarantees is Aja Sims, who has probably the best beam dance elements in the country.

In terms of the other spots, we’ll see Nickie Guerrero and her two-loso series again. Keely McNeer‘s most impressive event is beam (her routine is truly excellent, something that can get lost with her in the first position), and Kiana Winston is almost as much of a joy on beam as on bars. It’s a tough lineup to pin down, but I imagine those four will return. I also hope to see more of Katie Bailey. She had some falling problems toward the end of last year but is a contender for 9.9s under normal circumstances.

That’s already five people, and you could easily throw in Mack Brannan again, who has started to figure out beam, for a sixth useful score. But, I also expect to see Maddie Desch in this lineup, and then there’s Mahoney who has such Dana Duckworth style that she shouldn’t really be left out, Childers who shows an excellent kickover front to scale, sentimental-favorite Sanders who suddenly decided she was on the team last year and made the final beam lineup, and I’ve already named ten people I want to see,

Top returners – Jetter (9.919), Winston (9.905), Bailey (9.875), Brannan (9.870)
Returning options – Guerrero (9.850), Sims (9.845), Valentin (9.831), Guerra (9.820), Giancroce (9.635)

Surprise, surprise, Alabama has 465 options on floor as well. On floor, that level of depth is more necessary because of the storied and somewhat upsetting health histories of typically important gymnasts like Jetter, Winston, and Bailey. They all should be in the final floor lineup, but to make sure that happens, they’ll need to be swapped in and out and rested at times during the season, meaning the whole gang will have to jump in on floor here and there. Once again, Alabama does have the supply of 9.850s to be able to rotate without losing all that much scoring potential.

Still, there’s work to do. Hopes can’t entirely rest on someone like Jetter swooping in at the end and being magnificent even though she has competed in only half the meets. Plus, those now-departed 9.9s from Beers and Carley Sims kept the lineup competitive for the last couple seasons. They need to be replaced, which is why in addition to the usual suspects, I’m looking to Wynter Childers, who has competitive E-pass difficulty and is a joyful and creative performer who could turn into a star on floor. Desch can certainly figure as well, and I hope to see more from Ari Guerra this season. Floor is Guerra’s event. She was expected to be the new floor star when she arrived and likely would have been if fully healthy. If she’s able to get that DLO working, she could emerge as the most likely replacement for the Beers routine. That would be a major boost.

Beyond this group, there’s Brannan, who has been a useful member of the lineup, Guerrero and Sims who have shown flashes of big-score potential on floor, and several others who typically see a meet or two during the year. Alabama is close on floor but still needs that extra infusion of a new 9.900 or two who can go every week in order to make this a very top floor team.

The ability is there. Most, if not all, of the lineups look like they should rank in the top five this season, putting Alabama in position to strike come the national championship. As it often does, much of the final result will rest simply on how well they’re sticking on bars in the postseason. To win against teams like Oklahoma and LSU, Alabama basically needs six sticks in a row, but some pressure can be taken off stuck landings by getting some of those other possible 10.0 starts into the vault lineup (two 10.0s doesn’t look like it will be enough for top teams this year).

It will take those 10.0 vaults and the new floor 9.9s—in addition to the sticking—to win a championship, so watch for signs that’s happening early in the season. In the SEC, Alabama needs to rank right with LSU on vault and floor. If so, I like Alabama’s chances, but right now, the worry is that Alabama is giving up just a touch too much on those pieces.

12 thoughts on “Alabama 2017”

  1. Armbrecht was vaulting a Y1.5 in one of Dana’s instagram videos. I haven’t seen any training footage of Desch vaulting, but I would guess that having her vault a Y1.5 would be a higher priority for Alabama than getting her out there on floor. Not sure how her injury has affected her vault training however.

  2. Peyton Ernst cannot compete this season according to SEC rules as she transferred

  3. Transferring within the Southeastern Conference. A transfer student from a member institution shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition at another member institution until the student has fulfilled a residence requirement of one full academic year (two full semesters) at the certifying institution

    1. I’m thinking since Florida wanted to medically retire her and she didn’t agree with their medical assessment it voided any obligation she had to UF and left her a free agent to do whatever she wanted.

    2. No way, for real?! That REALLY sucks, & it truly seems like an unfair, bullshit, and pointless rule. I wonder what reasoning the SEC has for that rule. Super, SUPER unfortunate for Peyton, Bama, and any other athlete it affects! Boo SEC!

      1. I just found this as their reasoning: “Our SEC institutions adopted the intra-conference transfer rule in 2000 due to concerns that the transfer of current student-athletes within the conference would be viewed as unhealthy for student-athletes, the institutions and the conference alike…” — source:

        I don’t get how it is “unhealthy” at all…

      2. Probably because they don’t want people transferring all willy-nilly. I could see teammates/fans/coaches getting angry if an athlete left a team that wasn’t winning to go to a rival school who was winning. But hopefully there would be an exception for Peyton’s case since Florida seemingly just said “see ya!”

      3. Peyton said on a live instagram video that the year off is kind of needed anyway to rehab her shoulder and get back into shape.

  4. Do I want Mary Mystery Sanders to become a beam star from nothing or to disappear and for her only competition routine ever to have been at Super Six? DECISIONS

  5. What happened to Dominique Pegg. I thought she was senior? An Olympian who could barely make a lineup.

    1. Medical retired. Something about her wrist. She actually graduated early so she’s already back in Canada I believe.

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