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
|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.
|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 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.|
|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 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
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.