2018 Freshmen – Alabama

Alabama lost a significant proportion of its routines after last season, and while the team’s previously established depth insulates a little against those losses, there’s still work to do. The Tide will be looking for 2-3 new (good) options on each event, many of which will need to come from the freshman class of four.

ALABAMA 2018 – Returning routines
VAULT
Guerrero – 9.880
Armbrecht – 9.855
Winston – 9.850
Desch – 9.845
Childers – 9.840
BARS
Winston – 9.910
Mahoney – 9.860
Brannan – 9.825
Guerra – 9.800
Childers – 9.771
Armbrecht – 9.725
BEAM
Guerrero – 9.945
Winston – 9.935
Childers – 9.865
Desch – 9.850
Armbrecht – 9.583
FLOOR
Winston – 9.945
Desch – 9.905
Guerra – 9.870
Guerrero – 9.865
Childers – 9.855
Armbrecht – 9.500

On the bright side, this class contains a major star and a wealth of potentially realistic routines. On the less bright side, we saw very few submissions from this group at the Halloween intrasquad (no vaults or floor routines from any of them). That’s a possible leg-health warning sign, but it’s still early.

Bailie Key

It’s obviously not about talent for Key, a gymnast whose skill level and execution have set her up to be a 9.9+ NCAA gymnast since she was about 11. Key’s gymnastics should translate to NCAA quite nicely, meaning the only real obstacle between her and NCAA stardom will be health. We’ve seen Key complete a season just once in the last four years, so the hope is that NCAA can be a new lease on health for a partially broken elite (see: Bridget Sloan).

Key’s most famous and best event, especially in her junior days, was beam, and that’s where she’s most comfortably poised to shine for Alabama. It also happened to be the only apparatus on which she showed a complete routine at Ghosts and Goblins.

As an elite, Key’s beam routine deteriorated as she became not four years old anymore—and as TD insisted on keeping that whip-back-pike of a layout that would never get credit on this planet (not over it). Fortunately, NCAA composition allows for only Key’s best skills, like the superior switch 1/2, to be retained. This will be an anchor-level routine (though it would also be a good nominee for strategic mid-lineup placement).

On bars, Key has quite a large number of well-executed D elements to choose from, so it’s perhaps a bit of a letdown that Alabama is going the Shap-bail, no same-bar release route with her. In elite, the Jaeger and Pak were both among the best out there.

Still, with enough numbers, that routine will be easy for her to execute pristinely, depending on what the dismount ends up being. At G&G, Key warmed up a DLO 1/1 that didn’t look like the best option, so we’ll see what she shows up with in January.

On floor and vault, we’re in wait-and-see mode as to how…doing them…Key is right now, but in terms of her potential contribution, Alabama will be hoping to get not only execution but real difficulty out of her. Key has the typical top-level elite repertoire of E floor passes and should benefit from the fact that her best of the bunch was a double layout, the NCAA favorite, that wouldn’t need much adjustment to score well in college.

As for vault, Key’s hefty time spent with the DTY in elite should lead Alabama to have aspirations higher than a full. We’ll just need to see what emerges from the rubble.

In conclusion, she’s Bailie Key. She should be a starring all-arounder in college. That’s the expectation, and that’s what Alabama needs out of her to keep pace with the other top-6 teams, all of which are improving this season.

Kylie Dickson

Belarus’s favorite daughter Kyushka Dicksenka (she just loves Maladzyechna in the springtime!) will finally get us to stop making Belarus jokes—except not really—by continuing her career at Alabama.

Dickson, a borderline elite/successful L10, should provide exactly the level of gymnastics necessary to make herself another real contender in the all-around for Alabama. I expect most of us aren’t really familiar with what Kylie Dickson’s gymnastics looks like at her best since she had to push the difficulty (and her own physical intactness) beyond her ability level in order to compete as an elite. When paring down to difficulty more in her wheelhouse, Dickson may surprise this season.

The one event less likely to be pared down is vault, where Dickson continued to compete a DTY through JO nationals this year, which indicates an effort to provide Alabama with another 10.0 start.

Legs, yes, but it’s definitely worth continuing to work some manner of 10.0 start for her.

Dickson is among the tallest gymnasts in NCAA at a nearly-actually-tall 5’8″, which gives her the classic “LOVE HER LINE” on bars.

She works a sufficiently high Tkatchev, along with a Shaposh and 1/2 in, 1/2 out dismount that should make her an excellent replacement-Jetter in that bars lineup, as long as the issue of a transition to low bar is resolved. She didn’t have one in the above JO routine and is currently working a bail that isn’t up to competitive level yet.

On floor in 2017, Dickson opened with a full-in and ended with a double pike, both of which looked NCAA-realistic and can contend for the lineup.

In the leap department, she’s very capable of hitting the necessary split positions, though the form can sometimes get a little awkward (the more leg you have, the more things can go wrong), something I’d be more worried about on beam than on floor. Beam will likely depend on how much consistency Dickson can show through the training process. She has the skills (and sure likes a front tuck) but it always looked the least sure of the four events.

Lexi Graber

Graber finished 4th AA in her age group at JO nationals this year, but the major accomplishment was her score of 10.000 on vault. (That’s why it was slightly disappointing that we didn’t see any freshman vaults at G&G—this is a vaulting class.) Graber performs a 1.5 and has proven she can stick it, making her vault a significant contender for a spot of honor at the end of the lineup.

That’s the one sure-thing event for Graber. The rest  of the apparatuses I haven’t seen in a while so it’s tough to say, but she has the skills to challenge on any one of them and should provide at least a reasonable option on all.

The potential is there on bars, with the Gienger, the bail, the double tuck full dismount. This 2015 edition would need some cleaning in the leg-separation department, but keep an eye on it.

Beam may not be breezy enough to be a sure thing, but she has usable-enough leaps to be in the running, and that’s something. So why not? I’d worry about twisting form in the rudi-style elements on floor, but once again I wouldn’t be shocked to see it. Graber is, after all, the Florida state champion on both beam and floor for 2017.

Alonza Klopfer

Like Graber, Klopfer also finished 4th all-around in her age group at JO nationals this year, less on the strength of one big score like Graber and more on the strength of being solidly sufficient everywhere.

Klopfer’s best-scoring event has tended to be beam, where she won the JO title in 2016. Of note, she actually stands out of her wolf turn by design, rather than by accident!

I may have some concerns here, such as the dismount with the leg buckling on the side aerial and how Alabama has retained the sheep jump for her NCAA routine, but she could make it nonetheless.

I’d say beam is probably Klopfer’s most likely piece. She does have the swing and the amplitude on bars—as well as a worthwhile FTDT— to do something. It will come down to composition. Floor and vault seem less likely at this point. Klopfer did have a double Arabian way back when, though she struggled through her single pass at G&G, indicating that her routine is far away.

On vault, Klopfer has a solid full with a little piking, but that’s not going to be enough to make Alabama’s lineup this year. Alabama is hoping for a whole lineup of 10.0s this season (in a special fantasy world, Guerrero, Desch, Graber, Key, Dickson, Brannan and Guerra—new Omelianchik?—are all 10.0 choices). Plus, with Winston, Childers, and Armbrecht all returning good fulls, it’s a deep field that will be challenging to break into barring a heap of leg injuries.

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4 thoughts on “2018 Freshmen – Alabama”

  1. No mention of Shallon Olsen’s signing? She’ll likely bring an actual 10.0 vault to the table, as well as some maybe not awful D passes to floor.

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    1. This is about Freshmen competing this season. Shallon signed for next season. And these posts include all freshmens, walk ons included, on the team. Next year Olsen will be included in Alabama’s post.

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    2. Olson will be a freshman starting in Sept. 2018-19. Then she’ll take a year off to try for the 2020 Olympics before returning to Alabama for her final three years.

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