The five-member freshman class for Alabama will be tasked with the daunting duty of making up for the loss of lineup-leading sets from Kiana Winston and Nickie Guerrero, who delivered all six of Alabama’s 9.9 RQS routines in 2018. Luckily for Alabama, there are some impressive names you might recognize in this freshman class, who should be up to the task.
|Alabama Freshmen 2019
|Gaskins has been a fan-favorite among the second-tier elites since she was a little baby junior because of her pristine execution, beyond-her-years performance quality, and just-wait-for-NCAA potential. Having now been granted refugee asylum in a college program, she has the tools to be a four-event NCAA star—with the usual elite health caveats implied. While it’s a lot to expect right away, Alabama will need Gaskins to be new-Kiana Winston to keep pace in the arms race of the top teams, especially if Bailie Key has another 2018. But we’ll get to that in the team preview.
Floor has always been the standout piece for Gaskins, and by retaining that DLO, she looks primed for a deep place in the lineup. Her line should suit her well on beam and bars, where the reduction to NCAA composition will allow the toes and handstands to shine while sifting out some of those elite execution trouble spots. Vault is an under-the-radar event for Gaskins, but recall how nice that DTY is in the linked video. Expect her to provide a clean, comfortable, and lineup-ready full there.
|It has always been about vault and floor for Olsen. She just won a vault medal 30 seconds ago at worlds and will be counted on to bring an anchor-position 10.0 vault for Alabama. Olsen has a ton of vault choices, but several of them wouldn’t be execution-smart, so I’m thinking the Y1.5 will be the go-to. Similarly, Olsen has a whole bushel of E-passes on floor to deliver what should be the most difficult routine on the team. Also watch to see how Olsen meshes with the patented “It’s 3am and I’ve traveled through time to pass out in 4 clubs at once” Alabama floor music approach because that could be interesting.
It’s easy to chalk up Olsen as only a vault and floor specialist and leave it there, but she did just hit beam in a worlds team final for Canada. I think a lot of us watched that routine and thought, given some more time at the Dana Duckworth Beam Finishing School for Alabama Ladies, that could actually be a thing for her. On bars…congratulations Shallon you don’t have to worry about bars anymore.
|Those first two will do most of the Winston/Guerrero replacement work, but expect to see a few routines from James this year as well. She’s very capable on all four pieces, particularly with that believable Yfull. I’m most eager, however, to see what plays out on floor as we go along because the floor tumbling I’ve linked to here is excellent—but it’s from 2014. I haven’t seen floor from James in a long time, and the scores haven’t been consistently competitive the last couple years, but still…back in the day…
I’d note bars as another possibility because the skill set and rhythm is there, even if it would take cleaning. Beam is a similar case where this routine seems like a somewhat workable option, but that’s a pretty tough lineup to get into.
|It’s tough to know what we’ll see from DeWalt because recent Achilles issues have hampered what should be a strength for her, the power events. Vault has been by far DeWalt’s best-scoring event in JO, so Alabama will hope for a big Yfull from her to challenge for a spot the lineup. Noteworthy amplitude on transition elements on bars like a Shap 1/2 also make that event look like a worthy project.|
|Watch the bars and beam videos for this walk-on because you’ll go, ‘Oh, I see it.” With those handstands and that Jaeger, Alabama will feel it can turn that bars routine into something very real, and on beam, the leaps and flexibility make you start paying attention—as long as they can work out a dismount.|
Auburn isn’t losing any competition routines from 2018, so expect the top couple members of this freshman class to get into lineups and provide a depth and scoring boost over last season without having to work against any losses.
|Auburn Freshmen 2019
|The lone original signee for this class from last November, Gobourne finished in the top 5 AA at JO nationals each of the last three years (5th in 2016, 4th in 2017, 3rd in 2018), which should foreshadow her potential contribution. She’s the star of the group and most likely to contribute routines on four events and be deeply entrenched in the back of the lineup on at least a couple.
Gobourne’s most important contributions will be on vault and floor, showing a late-lineup Y1.5 on vault and a full-in on floor matched only by her “I’m so ready to be on TV every week” facial expressions. Beam looks likely (good series, ditch that switch side, you know the story), and while bars could be a weak link with some nickle-and-dime deductions, I wouldn’t bet against it. She’ll be a thing.
|Frack will be one of our freshman mysteries for at least a little while because she has been missing on the competition scene since 2016, when she had a brief JO stint following her junior elite career. As a former multi-year junior elite, we know Frack has the skill set on all events, but we don’t yet know the status of those skills in the current time period.
I mostly like Frack as an option on beam, where she has the acro to be a major player and performed very competitively as an elite (scoring right with the likes of Oakley and Desiderio in her final year). Elsewhere, Frack’s JO floor is a very believable double back routine, the kind that goes third up in NCAA lineups all the time, and the potential is there for a bars set to be built around those cast handstands.
|Auburn has a bit of a walk-on parade in this year’s class, with Schaefer the one I’d register as most likely to see competition time. She can deliver early-lineup routines or depth options on at least a few events depending on the health status of the roster as a whole. She’ll give the team a perfectly usable full on vault, a double pike on floor, a backup beam routine if needed…that kind of thing.|
|Cheney’s best JO scores have come on floor, with a whip+double back that should get her in the depth mix there.|
|I’d put Schlarbaum in a similar position to Cheney, with a whip through to double pike on floor that could make her an option. I should also note that Schlarbaum’s best JO scores have come on beam, which is a routine I’ve never seen from her.|
|Wrighte joins that same club, someone I’d say has the acro on beam and floor to put herself in the selection group but, based on previous routines, might be disqualified by the leaps—depending on what they can put together.|