2018 Balance Beam Situation Preseason Rankings

December has arrived, which means it is officially time to unveil the 6th annual Balance Beam Situation Preseason Rankings. It’s like the coaches poll, except I’ve been paying attention.

Last season, I got all the Super Six teams and almost went perfect on the final Super Six order (just flip-flopping Utah and Alabama), which was my best showing yet, following 2016’s disaster. Due for another slump. Here we go.

1. Florida Gators

Florida returns each and every lineup routine from last season’s third-place finish, while casually adding the best freshman class in the country. All that combines to create the strongest and most accomplished roster of any school in the country. In the final season with Baker and McMurtry, this is Jenny’s time.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

What, am I supposed to rank the two-time defending champions first or something? Too easy. Oklahoma returns a more than championship-capable roster that nonetheless will have to improve on last season’s quality in order to fend off challengers that will expect to be better this time around.

3. LSU Tigers

LSU had the title within its grasp last season after a stellar semifinal performance but ultimately came up an inch short. Yet again. The flame of hope has not yet died given the talent remaining on the roster, but without Ashleigh Gnat, LSU will be in search of a new scoring leader.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama’s much-touted depth will be put to the test this season as the Tide will have to manage without some evergreen routines that the team had come to depend on for what felt like 15 seasons. Alabama will hope to use the talent and status of Bailie Key, the single most accomplished freshman in the country, to return to its rightful place in the big four.

5. UCLA Bruins

The song is the same for the Bruins, with bars and beam that can beat any team. Questions over whether the vault start values will be competitive enough—and whether the floor will be big and consistent enough—keep the Bruins down just a notch below some of the biggest contenders. The uncertain status of Madison Kocian this season also raises doubts. UCLA needs her.

6. Utah Utes

The rule is to underestimate Utah at your own risk. The Utes will be in the hunt, but the retirement of Schwab means that Tessen’s return from injury may just help Utah tread water. Is the smaller freshman class strong enough to improve the lineup quality over last season?

7. Denver Pioneers

There are plenty of question marks over Denver, from the depth on vault and bars to the departure of Sam Ogden, but the team finished 9th last season, returns star Maddie Karr for another year, and has a hearty collection of new multi-event contributors to bolster some lineups. Denver’s time as the surprising dark horse is not over.

8. Michigan Wolverines

The temptation is to demote Michigan because of the losses of Artz and Chiarelli, two crucial contributors who will be very difficult to replace in those lineups, but Michigan should get enough routines from injury comebacks and freshmen (no huge stars, but a team effort) to reach somewhere close to the same level.

9. Kentucky Wildcats

A year stronger and dropping zero routines from last season’s near run to nationals, Kentucky is poised for another successful season—ranking 5th in the nation in returning routine scores. That makes predicting the Wildcats finally to make nationals after all these years an irresistible prospect.

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska is not without concerns for the 2018 season, with the need to replace the Lambert/Laeng routines swirling, along with the injury status of intended freshman star Kynsee Roby who missed the end of the 2017 JO season. Still, we all always expect Nebraska to pull it together enough to get by, and this season should be no exception.

11. Boise State Broncos

It’s easy to forget that Boise State spent most of last season ranked between 7th and 12th, but what lingers is the memory that the Broncos were another heartbreaking near miss at regionals in 2017 after being seeded to advance. With enough quality returning to keep up the pace of last season’s scores on most events, expect Boise State to make another run.

12. Washington Huskies

The ultimate 8th-place finish last season probably overstated Washington’s true place in the hierarchy of NCAA gymnastics, but it does come with some perks, like getting ranked in the top-12 again the following preseason. We just need to see how well the Huskies are able to replace those Duranczyk and Yacalis scores to stay up in this territory.

13. Georgia Bulldogs

Gotta keep things spicy, you know. Georgia is in a period of flux, coming off a weak 12th-place showing at 2017 nationals, adjusting to a new coaching staff with its own well-established way of doing things, and dealing with far too many injuries. It’s easy to be pessimistic about this season’s chances. Still, a team with Snead, Dickson, Schild, and Oakley all healthy would actually be a good bet to make nationals and do better than 13th. If that happens.

14. California Golden Bears

Cal is the hardest team of them all to rank because typically when a school loses an entire team worth of routines in one year, as Cal basically did after last season, hopes aren’t high. Yet, with Williams and Keelen returning from injury, along with an exciting freshman class, this could very well be a huge season for Cal. In the end, Cal’s potential success right now is based on too many unknowns to be too bullish about nationals chances. Yet.

15. Missouri Tigers

Missouri should be a sleeper hit again in 2018 after finishing last season at 17th, returning all competition routines, and getting Morgan Porter back from season-ending injury. The big question this season is whether the Tigers can get the road scores to go along with those home 197s this time around.

16. Oregon State Beavers

Expectations are low for Oregon State this season given the massive exodus in essential routines that will not be replaced by the new class, meaning it’s very easy to see an 11th place last year translate into missing nationals this season. Can Dessaints, Yanish, and company keep things 196y?

17. Stanford Cardinal

After the disaster that was last season, 17th seems weirdly optimistic and yet at the same time totally pessimistic for a roster with this much talent. Price and the freshmen could make up an exceptionally good team, but it’s too many ifs right now. The roster is still too small to feel comfortable about fully competitive lineups, and the freshmen all have to pan out. They have to.

18. Auburn Tigers

Auburn’s post-Atkinson/Demers/Kluz slump proved larger than anyone expected last season as the Tigers spent most of the year ranked outside the top 20. Things should get better this season with a lineup-bolstering freshman class, but it’s hard to find the star power on this roster right now to expect Auburn to challenge for the nationals spots.

19. Arkansas Razorbacks

The Razorbacks are another side poised for a comeback in 2018 after the season that shall not be named. With Amanda Wellick ready to return from injury and a couple accomplished L10s coming in, there should be a little less “we need you to do floor even though you don’t have a floor routine” this year.

20. llinois Fighting Illini

Getting Mary Jane Horth back for a fifth year means that Illinois retains the lion’s share of important routines from last season’s performance and should remain a threat on beam. Now, are there enough new sets to move up out of the #20 section?

21. Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa had a breakthrough season last year, nestling itself comfortably into the teens and becoming a legitimate spoiler at regionals (coming just a tenth of a point short of upsetting Oregon State). But without Drenth and Metcalf in 2018, will the team be able to retain that same level?

22. George Washington Colonials

GW has one more year of the class that gave this team a national footprint, so expect Drouin-Allaire, Winstanley, Mermelstein, Zois, Pfeiler to keep the Colonials at a similar level to the last few seasons, earning a solid place in the top 25.

23. Iowa State Cyclones

Watch out for Iowa State as a sneaky little underdog this season, a team that finished 29th in 2017 and returns every competition routine for 2018, including 14 sets with an RQS of 9.8 or better. Upward from there.

24. Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Last season was Southern Utah’s big opportunity to break into the big time, spending most of the year ranked inside the top 20. No team lost more important scores to graduation than SUU did, so it’s reasonable to expect some regression in 2018, but a new freshman class of 10 is supposed to mitigate that loss.

25. Minnesota Golden Gophers

I went back and forth about Minnesota or West Virginia for this spot, but the introduction of Lexy Ramler should not be lost among all the discussions of impact freshmen on bigger teams. Ramler is a potential NCAA star with the ability to reinvigorate every lineup through Mable-level scores.


19 thoughts on “2018 Balance Beam Situation Preseason Rankings”

  1. Mary Jane Horth tore her achilles again. I would rank Illinois out of the top 25.

    1. They have such a good chance to if everyone stays healthy! It’s crazy that Mollie, Alex, Sidney, and Katie Stuart aren’t even seniors this year so hopefully this season and next Kentucky really makes its mark. I will cry the day they make Super Six.

      1. Kentucky is definitely the fourth best team heading into the SEC season. Not ready to lump them into Florida-LSU-Alabama territory yet, but I think the Wildcats are closer to the Top 3 then they are to the bottom four.

    2. Going to Kentucky’s preview meet on Sunday. Can’t wait to get my first real glimpse at the 2018 squad. Hoping for more contributions this year from some of last year’s freshmen class (Alaina Kwan and Erynne Allen especially) this year!

      And senior Cori Rechenmacher has shown some preseason upgrades so I hope we look even stronger than last year.

  2. Jan. 8 – NCAA football national championship could see Alabama vs. UGA.

    Jan. 12 – SEC opener UGA at Alabama

    Could be an interesting week, unless OU and Clemson spoil the SEC fun…

    1. I’m excited for the UGA Bama meet solely because like, Suzanne is back, but it shouldn’t be much of a contest with all of Georgia’s freshman injured/returning from injury. If Georgia’s freshman were healthy, they would likely be contributing 8-9 line-up routines and the team would have a higher scoring potential from last year. However, without them, you wonder how they are even going to fill out some of these line-ups.

      1. From the Stories on the UGA Facebook:
        Vivi Babalis is training vault in addition to beam and floor.
        Jasmine Arnold expects to make the lineup on either beam or floor.
        Natalie Vaculik is training bars and beam.
        Hayley Sanders is training bars and beam.
        Lauren Johnson is training vault and bars.
        Gigi Marino is training vault and floor.

        Sydney Snead is training the AA and will be lead-off on beam.
        Gracie Cherrey was training bars without a dismount as she’s recovering from ankle reconstruction but now she also has a shoulder injury.

        Sabrina Vega will anchor beam and be on floor. She’s also training vault and (though she didn’t sound excited about it) stepping up on bars after several years of not training them.
        Rachel Dickson is training the AA.
        Jordyn Peterson is training bars and floor.

        The “Stories” video hasn’t been posted yet (as of this post) – but everyone is injured.
        The walk-on gymnast is out for the season after shoulder surgery. (Madison, I think)
        Emily Schild is out until mid-to-late February with a leg/knee injury.
        Marisa Oakley is the closest to returning – I think I heard she had a shoulder problem…
        Ashley Foss, not sure, but I think she has a lower-body injury.

        Hope that helps.

  3. Last season, I felt pretty sure the top six would be the top six. This year, I actually would be somewhat surprised if we don’t have at least one spoiler. Michigan, UK, even Stanford all strike me as teams that could make a run.

  4. I think BBS got preseason rankings spot-on. Obviously things change throughout the course of the season, but I have no qualms with the position/projection of any of the Top 10 teams. Nicely organized.

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