2018 Freshmen – Cal

With so many routines departing after last season—13 of the 24 routines from regionals—Cal will need to expect quite a lot from its five freshmen this year (and Cassidy Keelen in her return from injury), meaning multiple competition-ready routines on each event.

CAL 2018 – Returning routines
Robinson – 9.860
Williams – 9.842
Sy Seilnacht – 9.820
Keelen – 9.817
Gallarzo – 9.770
Mastrangelo – 9.750
Shu – 9.840
Sternberg – 9.833
Williams – 9.831
So Seilnacht – 9.785
Gallarzo – 9.130
So Seilnacht – 9.860
Sy Seilnacht – 9.825
Gallarzo – 9.810
Shu – 9.790
Keelen – 9.650
Williams – 9.894
Robinson – 9.855
Sternberg – 9.825
Sy Seilnacht – 9.600
So Seilnacht – 9.558
Keelen – 9.542

The good news is that Cal has the prettiest freshman class in all of NCAA gymnastics this year. There’s a reason Cal has become a favorite team of the Round-Lake-obsessed. In contrast to many of the other teams previewed, this is not a class where I’m going to be saying, “I’m worried about the leaps” a lot.

Kyana George

The best all-around gymnast of the bunch is George from Metroplex. She finished 3rd at JO Nationals this year (after finishing 2nd in 2016) and took the floor title with a 9.825. Expect to see her on every event.

Floor has consistently been the standout event for George, half because of the scores and half because she can actually dance. It’s worth nothing that these scores have not come because of E-level difficulty. She opens with a front tuck through to double tuck, but it’s so high and easy for her that you can’t really deduct too much.

Because of her amplitude—particularly on the dance elements—and the ease with which she completes the simpler passes, that could be a worthwhile strategy if continued into NCAA (I could see Williams up 5th and George up 6th to dance a cherry on top of the rotation). [Maybe it’s a testament to her amplitude that I basically didn’t even realize she’s doing a front 2/1 as her second pass, which is an E.]

On vault, George brings a big ol’ full. It would be nice if it were a 10.0 start (Cal will still have a few this season as long as Toni-Ann’s landing on the 1.5 is good enough to make it worth doing), but it should be a definite for the lineup regardless.

What’s nice about George is that she’s not simply a vault and floor gymnast, though those tend to be her better scores. That great dance-element amplitude on floor doesn’t disappear when moving to beam, where the highlight of the routine below is that beat jump + split jump combination.

The form does get rather mushy in the loso series, which is probably why they’re going with the fake-o aerial+bhs series for her this season. And please don’t do a triple wolf turn, even if it is named after her in the JO code of points.

On bars, George brings the full JO—a bail, Tkatchev, and FTDT dismount.

Bars was not typically one of her bigger scores in JO—there’s some knees and form in the interior there, but those issues have looked less pronounced in training so far this preseason.

Alma Kuc

Kuc is from All Olympia and most notably competed internationally for Poland for several years. She had the option to compete for the US, Canada, or Poland, and went with Poland—though Canada is kind of like, “We could have used your bars, you know?”

“Well, at least if you hit it.”

Kuc is a gorgeous bars worker with all the potential in the world to be a total star in NCAA. The Shaposh and the Pak are fantastic, and while it looks like she’s not going with a same-bar release, she is retaining her L-grip work to give her routine something compositionally special. It’s like when Peng didn’t have a same-bar in 2016, but you were fine with it because she was doing a Shap 1/2 and Bhardwaj. Kuc could get 10s if the dismount is there.

Kuc is also lovely on beam with similar execution potential, as long as she can hit in college. The consistency is the worry there, not the ability. But now that she’s free from AOGC, perhaps the sun will shine again and she’ll figure out beam.

Kuc hasn’t done vault or floor for a while, and though they were OK enough for Poland to use at worlds in 2015 (Yurchenko 1/1, D passes on FX), they weren’t that great and probably weren’t up to the level this team will want to put in the lineup. Bars and beam are her things.

Nina Schank

Schank has the least YouTube presence of Cal’s freshmen, so therefore off with her head. It means I haven’t seen a lot from her in terms of recent routines, save this very encouraging bars set that casually won JO nationals this year.

I love that she still got a 9.700 for this routine despite completely botching that toe shoot. That’s what line and a college-stuck DLO 1/1 dismount will do for you. Cal is going with the regular DLO for her NCAA routine, as you would, but this should have no trouble becoming a lineup routine. Bars is going to get good this year.

Schank also shows excellent confidence and precision on beam, where she should contribute. As long as no one is going to try to identify that as a two-foot layout, we’re fine. It’s an open-to-pike, and it’s a D.

I haven’t seen vault or floor from her in a cool thousand years, so TBD. Both have scored well recently. Last I saw of her vault, it was a high full with a ton of potential, while floor showed good positions, just perhaps lacking in the amplitude and strength.

Victoria Salem

Knee injury alert. Because of course we can’t have nice things.

Anyway, Salem is a stellar gymnast who will contribute multiple events when healthy. Surprise, surprise, her best pieces are bars and beam, where she has real star potential. Great extension on both the acrobatic elements and the leaps is a hallmark of her beam work, as seen in this title-winning routine from 2016 JO nationals.

The stalder work and extension through the legs and toes on bars will also make for excellent tools in putting together an NCAA set.

Those two are her main apparatuses, but her full on vault is also quite nice (high, straight) and could very easily find a spot.

For whatever reason, floor is the weak event for Salem, typically her lowest score. She doesn’t have the pop there, but I could see coming up with a usable clean-and-simple style routine as needed.

Maleah Pearson

Pearson rounds out the class and should bring possible options (probably borderline or backup) on multiple events. She hasn’t competed since the 2016 season, but at that point floor was typically her best score and looked the most realistic for her, with a presentable double-pike routine that wasn’t bad in the leaps either.

Bars also looks like an option. It’s not a super smooth routine, but she has the necessary skills and quite a nice DLO dismount. That dismount promotes it from “eh” to “possible.”

4 thoughts on “2018 Freshmen – Cal”

  1. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Kyana George’s front double full an E pass in NCAA? So she already has an E pass, just in the middle of her routine- no need to upgrade to something new!

  2. Any news on Emi Watterson, who I believe was listed as a January arrival a few months ago? Also, anyone know if Cal is planning any sneak previews before the holidays so we can see these new routines in action?

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