Around these parts, October means freshman previews, a chance to open up boxes filled with brand new bars specialists and make overly optimistic assessments of what inevitably glowing contributions will be made by the first years.
(I still find it awkward to use the word freshmen because when I was in college we weren’t allowed to say that because of sexism. We had to say first years. And then I graduated and realized I’m from California and no one else is bothered even a little bit. So…freshmen it is? I guess? )
The University of Georgia brings in a class of four this year to learn the ways of the Kupoculan, the first four that will be theirs and their alone: Emily Schild, Marissa Oakley, Ashley Foss, and Madison McPherson.
Meanwhile, these are the routines Georgia returns from last season for a quick glance at what glaring openings exist that the freshmen are going to be required to fill.
Snead – 9.915
Johnson – 9.860
Dickson – 9.845
Marino – 9.825
Snead – 9.890
Dickson – 9.865
Johnson – 9.835
Vaculik – 9.825
Sanders – 9.785
Babalis – 9.875
Vega – 9.840
Sanders – 9.820
Dickson – 9.790
Snead – 9.756
Marino – 9.930
Dickson – 9.905
Vega – 9.850
Babalis – 9.850
Snead – 9.795
Schild is expected to be the jewel of this freshman class, one of those much-sought second-tier elites who are considered so valuable in NCAA because they have the elite skill set and required precision and details but ideally without suffering from too aggressive a case of Elite Burnout Syndrome. It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s the idea, and that’s the idea with Schild.
Based on what Schild is capable of doing and the number of new routines Georgia needs this year (realistically 7-10 competition sets), the goal for her contribution will be the all-around.
Bars was Schild’s showcase event in elite, because of Everest Bars, and we can expect her to be a significant late-lineup contributor there for Georgia. As we’ve lived through, it’s not always a 1:1 ratio of a high D-score in elite : good scores in NCAA, and there are some handstands and feet to clean up here, but this should still become a very strong set when pared down to NCAA difficulty.
An underrated, though no less important aspect of Schild’s contribution to Georgia will be vault. With only four returning vaults from last season, the GymDogs need her in that lineup regardless of what she’s actually vaulting, but as the only newcomer with a possible 10.0 start, her capability on vault becomes all the more valuable. Admittedly, elite DTYs very often become NCAA FTYs right before our eyes even nowadays, but at least there’s the potential for something more.
Expect a useful lineup-ready beam routine from Schild, especially once she is able to get rid of some of the more troubling elite dance elements. Given her ability, an NCAA beam set really should be no big deal for her. Back handpsring series, side aerial, sheep jump, you’re fine.
Floor was never the biggest score for Schild in elite, but Georgia will very much hope to get her squarely in that lineup as she can add an E-pass routine to a team that did not have enough of those last season, especially when directly compared to the other big SEC schools. Sure, you’ll see clean-double-pike routines get 9.9+s in dual meets because there’s no tangible reward for having an E pass, but also…eh. It’s really easy to keep the scores down on a 4th-up double-pike routine, especially in the postseason. 9.850 for you!
Schild’s teammate at Everest made a run at elite this summer, just joining Georgia about 30 seconds ago, which provides us with very recent routines to use in gauging her level and possible contribution to her new NCAA team.
Because of Everest, Oakley’s biggest-deal apparatus is bars, where she can very quickly become Georgia’s best routine.
In Oakley’s bars work, I notice the strength and confidence with which she snaps those legs together on the cast handstands. The first handstand in this routine is a very good example of a zero-deduction NCAA handstand. That, and coupled with excellent form and amplitude on skills like the pak and piked jaeger, should make this routine quite a high-scoring set.
Equally important are Oakley’s beautiful leaps and extension on beam. She even makes the side jump look acceptable! (Just don’t make her do a wolf turn, and we’re all happy.) After watching tons and tons of freshman beam routines in preparation for each season, I come to greatly value those who do not suffer from Karolyi-legs on back handspring series.
It’s imperative that Georgia get Oakley comfortable and confident on beam because they need that execution in the lineup.
The leg events will be less important for Oakley, though she does have quite solid amplitude on a Yfull that I could see being a useful piece to fill out that lineup.
We haven’t seen a competition floor routine from her in over three years, so it’s impossible to have any expectations there, but floor is also the event where Georgia returns the most competitive scores and doesn’t need quite as much contribution from the freshmen.
If this were 2012, and we were talking about which of these Georgia freshmen had the most elite potential, it would have been Ashley Foss. Things don’t always work out as expected (Foss missed large parts of 2014 and 2015 with injury before dropping back to L10 for 2016, and then didn’t compete in 2017), but she has been primed as a useful NCAA contributor for a while.
I’ll be looking for a floor routine from Foss, an event where she has shown comfort with what would be solid NCAA composition and managed to score multiple JO 9.7s in her most recent season of competition.
Foss also won the JO National beam title in 2016 with this set.
Georgia’s beam has gained a new reputation of being consistently terrifying and a constant fall-risk during the Durante era. This class of freshmen should bring enough new routines to reinvigorate that lineup and provide the opportunity to restore the own-the-beam reputation of years past.
Those two pieces are what I see as Foss’s most likely or most significant contributions. On bars, however, she has mastered Shaps and a Jaeger, so if they can clean up some of those details, she has the tools.
Vault is not Foss’s strongest piece, with a full that in its most recent incarnation would get too heavily deducted for knees and shape to receive a competitive score, but it is a fully-cooked, ready-to-serve Yurchenko full if needed.
Rounding out the class is McPherson, the annual walk-on from Georgia Elite. Unfortunately, it has already been announced that she’s having shoulder surgery and has been ruled out for the 2018 season, so we won’t see any routines from her this year. She is listed on the roster as specializing in vault and floor—her better scores from JO, typically in the 9.4 range—reminiscent of a sort of Beth Roberts-style walk-on role.