Meet the Freshmen – UCLA & Cal

UCLA

UCLA has every reason to expect that the 2019 team will display more formidable depth than last season’s national championship team, having lost just four routines from that Super Six performance. Improving the scores on every event, however, is not a given because…Peng’s perfect 20…but still, the essential core remains intact and should receive a boost from this small-but-mighty new crop.

UCLA Freshmen 2019
Margzetta Frazier VT UB BB FX
You’re familiar with Marz. There’s little mystery in this part of the preview. She has both the tumbling and the performance quality to provide an essential routine on floor that I’m sure UCLA is already angling to submit for “this is our viral floor routine this year” status. UCLA will also count on Frazier for a 10.0 start that can go toward the end of the vault lineup, if not anchor it. She has continued training the DTY so far in preseason.

We never end up talking about Frazier as much on bars, but she has shown tremendous difficulty there in the last couple years of elite and has the kind of legs-together Shap 1/2 that should render her bars routine equally important to her vault and floor in restocking UCLA’s lineups. I fully expect to see three weekly events from Frazier, and in most team circumstances, she would be an all-arounder. She’ll surely give UCLA an option on beam, though beam isn’t exactly an easy UCLA lineup to get into. We could very well just see the five returners and Flatley make up the 2019 group.

Norah Flatley VT UB BB FX
Flatley’s NCAA debut is among the most anticipated this season because it has been a geologic age since we’ve seen her in competition. That endless injury history is why power-event expectations will be muted for Flatley, at least early on. She, of course, has the ability to pull out a lovely vault and 3/1 her way to perfection on floor (which she has been training in preseason), but I think as long as Flatley can stay healthy enough to deliver gorgeous bars and beam, UCLA will be happy.

Beam was always Flatley’s wow event in junior elite, with a rare mix of difficulty and “China circa 1992” execution that had her on Olympic-prognostication shortlists. So if anyone is going to take on Peng responsibilities on beam, it will be Flatley.

Sekai Wright VT UB BB FX
Sekai Wright is here to lift the power quotient on vault, an event on which UCLA’s relative lack of difficulty last season compared to other top teams looked like a disqualifying weakness right up until about…the middle of Kyla Ross’s beam routine during Super Six. Wright’s powerful 1.5 will be critical over the next few seasons for UCLA in delivering the necessary amount of 10.0 starts. Wright brings that same power ability to floor and will look to deliver an option there as well.
Sara Taubman VT UB BB FX
I’ve never seen actual competition videos of Taubman, just training work, but based on that training, the pieces are there for Taubman to provide a routine in the depth pool on bars, her best event.

CAL

Cal has lost six routines to graduation from the lineups that graced the national championship in 2018 (including the important 10.0 vault from Robinson), but I see far more than six compelling lineup routines in this freshman class of JO national champions, one that Cal has been waiting on feverishly for a while now.

Mark Cal as yet another team that should be looking at greater depth and scoring potential across the four events in 2019 with every reason to expect improving on that 9th-place finish from April.

Cal Freshmen 2019
Milan Clausi VT UB BB FX
Clausi won JO nationals in 2017 and placed 2nd in 2018, delivering the kind of crisp routines that can make her a legitimate AA threat in NCAA. I expect to see all four events this season. Her most significant influence will come on vault, where that comfortable Y1.5 should put her right into the anchor position and will critically boost Cal’s difficulty.

On floor, Clausi has multiple options for E passes, and on beam she delivers a super solid routine (hitting 8 for 9 in the 2018 JO season) with the combination of power and leaps that should be a reliable force for the team. Her JO scores haven’t been as high on bars over the years, but in that routine I see a fairly straightforward NCAA set with legs together that should score right with the other events.

Maya Bordas VT UB BB FX
Like Clausi, Bordas won her division at JO nationals in 2017, which is what has made this class such an anticipated prospect. Cal has moved into the category of teams that can scoop up all the best ninja L10s. Easily my favorite event for Bordas is beam, where she shows the remarkable presence and split positions to be an anchor-level performer. Bars also looks very believable for scores, especially because the composition is now Jaeger + overshoot, which removes a potential trouble area from that JO routine.

Like Clausi, don’t be surprised if we see Bordas on all four in time because she has a clean full on vault that can be very lineup worthy and trouble-free D passes on floor, both of which could see opportunities depending on the needs of the team.

Abi Solari VT UB BB FX
It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything competition-wise from British elite Abi Solari, but I anticipate that her highlight will be the possibility she provides for a 10.0 start on vault. To get to that 10.0, Solari can either add a 1/2 twist to the handspring tuck 1/2 in the video above, or she can go for a handspring pike 1/2, but the tuck 1/1 has looked better so far in training snippets.

Expect Solari to be able to train believable routines on all four because of her elite composition options, but I do prefer her on the leg events. Of note, Solari had a full-in as an elite, and Cal is still looking for a little bit of big to add to a “here’s my rudi” floor lineup that was too easy to stick in the 9.775-9.800 zone last season, especially compared to the very top teams.

Talitha Jones VT UB BB FX
If you’re looking to pick out a theme here, Jones’ most important event will be vault, where she also brings a Y1.5 for a 10.0 start. There may be some knees, but the start value should make up for that and get her into a fairly prized position in the lineup. Cal will be looking for at least three freshmen and at least three 10.0 starts in the vault lineup this year.

Bars is an interesting one because Jones, first of all, looks about 98 feet tall on this event, and even though the JO composition wouldn’t garner countable scores in NCAA, with that Shap and dismount, there’s something. Jones definitely has floor potential as well in those tumbling passes, so keep an eye on that. We’ll have to see if the whole package of elements is there.

Grace Quinn VT UB BB FX
Basket of question marks????? We don’t know what we’re going to get here. Cal has taken a shot with Grace Quinn, and why not? When you watch Quinn’s junior elite routines from 2015, you see a total star, a patented KZB junior sprite who’s full of power and extension and could have been an elite wonder. Talent-wise, the sky is the limit. And by the sky, I mean 9.9s.

Now, the problem is we haven’t seen Quinn compete since 2015, and there’s usually a reason for that, one that doesn’t just go away once college starts. Basically, she’s either going to be an NCAA revelation or will never compete a single routine.

 

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11 thoughts on “Meet the Freshmen – UCLA & Cal”

  1. Question for readers:
    Which set of four would you prefer?
    (A is last season’s UCLA seniors, B is this season’s UCLA freshmen):

    Set A: Peng-Peng Lee, JaNay Honest, Pua Hall, and Sonya Meraz.
    or
    Set B: Marz Frazier, Norah Flatley, Sekai Wright, and Sara Taubman.

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    1. I would go with set B…Frazier steps in as a reliable AAer if needed and can provide 3 events, Wright will be in the line up for FX and VT and along with Frazier will boost VT totals quite a bit from last year. Flatley on BB and possibly UB won’t be as good as having Peng-Peng though. However, overall this foursome bring more to the team that the previous foursome. Hall only contributed on VT, Honest on UB, and Meraz was a stable AA but wasn’t used post season IIRC.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would go with A, because UCLA regularly gets star classes of gymnasts that aren’t able to contribute much in NCAA for whatever reasons. A is a known quality. B is not.
    I hope Marz and Norah have a great NCAA run! But I think it’s always silly to assign stardom to people who haven’t participated in a meet yet. I don’t care how many 10.0 vaults UCLA’s insta-story shows.

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  3. B is better tbh. They actually sync up really well. You have bars/beam girls in Peng v. Flately. Of course, Peng is better there, but Flately can also bring other events.

    Then you have a floor /vault girl in Pua v. Sekai. I think Sekai will take that, will likely be more consistent on vault and be able to contribute on floor.

    Then you have your depth fillers Marz I think will contribute more than Janay. Right now Meraz looks better than Taubman but Taubman has also shown and omelianchik and a double front in training so we’ll see. By the of the season Janay/Sonya were only contributing one score total, I thik we will get much more than that from Marz alone, so anything from Taubman is bonus.

    Overall, I hope to see a better UCLA this year. Gracie seems to have worked vault out, Anna and Grace are fully healthy, Nguyen is back on floor, Madison back AA, Toronjo competing, not to mention (hopefully competition ready this time) new 10.0 starts on vault.

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    1. Madison Kocian is rehabbing from leg stress fracture and may be limited. However, she has shown amazing recuperative powers in the past. UCLA’s Freshmen will come in handy (or leggy) if Madison isn’t ready.

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      1. I don’t think Madison is going to do vault as she’s not going to vault more than a full. Even if Pauline/Kyla go with the full, their fulls are better than Madison’s I think. The only way I see Kocian in the lineup is if Kramer continues to struggle with her Y 1.5. I do think she will do bars, beam, and floor.

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  4. I’m excited to see where this UCLA freshmen class will go. I’m especially intrigued to see how Flatley will score in college. Her routines may not be as flashy as Peng’s, but her form is arguably stronger (dismount shape in particular). Getting 9.9+ on UB and BB during post-season should be realistic. We’ll see!

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  5. If all goes according to plan, it would appear we might see:

    Gracie Kramer Y1.5
    Kyla Ross Y1.5
    Pauline Tratz Y1.5
    Felicia Hano Y1.5
    Sekai Wright Y1.5
    Marz Y2

    The last three seem very real, almost certain. The first 3 look better this year than in the past, but we will see. It is tempting to go with Kyla’s very clean, easy to stick full, but even if she’s first up as a table setter and they get 5 10.0 starts, that would be incredible, and would turn a weak event last year into a strength.

    On bars, UCLA is losing Peng, but both Marz and Nora seem very capable of going 9.9+. Replacing Peng with Nora will lose some, but I think UCLA will gain more trading out Janay for Marz. Sonia’s routine is replaceable as she never scored much above a 9.8. Bars is still the event I worry about for them.

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  6. Let’s see, for UB, UCLA should have:
    Kyla
    Madison
    Anna
    Norah
    Katelyn
    Marz? Nia? Macy? Stella?

    Really hope Stella will be OK by January. It would be such a bummer if she had to sit out for two years!

    On a side note, it looks like UCLA trimmed/lost some of its huge walk-on base? It seemed like they always had a bunch of gymnasts who would never see any actual competition time, but this year, aside from Mercedes Sanchez, it looks like they have mostly gymnasts who can or eventually will be able to contribute on one or more events.

    Super excited to see what the year brings for the Bruins!

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