The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Freshman Preview: Georgia

As previously established, the official platform of this website is to pretend this is a normal season and that everything is normal and LALALALALA can’t hear you. Which means, the normal thing to do about this time of year is freshman previews so that we can start making wild proclamations about who’s going to be better or worse this season. Up first, Georgia. Because I said so.


Who Is She?

Georgia has welcomed a trio of new gymnasts headlined by former junior elite obsession Victoria Nguyen. Nguyen burst onto the scene in 2014 as a Chow’s baby who scored a massive 15.200 on beam the second day of nationals, the highest beam score of the junior competition and third-highest of the entire meet—behind only Simone Biles and Kyla Ross.

The remainder of Nguyen’s elite career was marked by being injured every 30 seconds of her life, but she did return to elite as an Everest athlete in 2019, where the stupid elite qualifying rules meant she could compete only vault and bars at American Classic and we didn’t even get to see beam. But I’m totally over it.

Nguyen is joined in this class by Katie Finnegan (no relation), who arrives at Georgia a year early to save the day. Finnegan is among the group of new 2021 athletes in the odd position of having almost never competed as a senior. She was a junior in 2019, and then the everything happened, and now she’s coming to college a year early. That doesn’t mean anything about anything; it’s just unusual to have your senior division years get…skipped. In the junior F division at 2019 JO Nationals, Finnegan placed 6th all-around with a particularly significant (for Georgia purposes) 3rd place on bars.

Nhyla Bryant makes it three. Bryant qualified to L10 Nationals for the first time in 2019 after a very strong showing at regionals, going on to place 9th on floor in Senior C at nationals. Bryant has consistently scored quite high on both vault and floor throughout her L10 career.

What’s She Going to Do?

Because of Rachel Dickson’s injury last year, Georgia was already forced to grow accustomed to living without her, so the sole task for this new class is making up for the 3.5 lost routines from Sabrina Vega. Given this group of three athletes, all of whom should contribute, Georgia will expect a net gain in depth and realistic competition sets for 2021. Anticipating ~8 competition routines from this group is not going out on a limb.

It’s a total former-elite-cliche to say that the only obstacle to success in college is whether she can stay (or become) healthy, but with Victoria Nguyen it is even more exceptionally true than usual since she has been able to compete only sporadically over the last six years—and never ever for any concentrated length of time. It’s a concern.

But if a college-career renaissance is in the cards for Nguyen, her most impressive event has always been beam, where she has the chops to produce one of the best college beam routines in the country. In terms of current college athletes (and former club teammates), a Norah Flatley-style contribution should be the model for Nguyen at Georgia. The team will want a big beam from her to replace Vega’s score, and her truly beautiful ability on bars will be required to reinvent what was quite a weak lineup last year. After that, if you end up getting a Yfull option on vault and a floor routine from Nguyen, that’s even better, but it’s not the most important thing.

Katie Finnegan is not the most heralded of L10 recruits, but there’s a reason Georgia has her joining early this season as she’s a realistic lineup contributor on all four pieces. Most important among that collection should be bars and vault. On bars, Finnegan boasts a Van Leeuwen, Staldering to the max, and a comfortable FTDT dismount that looks like a definite fixer for that lineup. Finnegan also vaults a Y1.5 that has been quite pretty for her at times. On other occasions she has struggled with the landing (why her JO vault scores aren’t the 9.8s you might expect), but the potential is there, making it certainly a worthwhile project to try to get into the lineup.

Finnegan’s clean twisting extends to floor, where she opens with a college-ready front 2/1, and on beam she has the necessary repertoire of deduction-minimal acro like a side aerial and a layout stepout series. Those events did not score quite as high for her overall in her JO career, but with some savvy leap selection in developing college routines, she can figure in both lineups.

For Nhyla Bryant, the name(s) of the game on vault and floor is big, simple, and technically precise. While not competing more than a full on vault or a double pike on floor, those skills are high and correct, which can go a long way if you’re looking for someone to fill that Vega role on vault or set up the floor lineup in an early-mid position. I don’t anticipate we’ll see Bryant on bars and beam, but she is someone with more nascent ability on those pieces than her competition results would suggest, so if it’s an “all hands on deck” bars situation, you never know.

Shut Up and Show Me It

Nhyla Bryant VT UB BB FX
Katie Finnegan VT UB BB FX
Victoria Nguyen VT UB BB FX
%d bloggers like this: