Elite to NCAA 2021

I’m rounding out the freshman previews today with a full accounting of the elites—current and former—who will be joining NCAA programs in the coming maybe-season. First, links to those I’ve already dealt with in the individual team freshmen previews, then on to the rest.

Oklahoma – Audrey Davis (USA)
UCLA – Frida Esparza (MEXICO), Chae Campbell (USA)
LSU – Elena Arenas (USA), Olivia Dunne (USA)
Utah – Jaylene Gilstrap (USA), Lucy Stanhope (GREAT BRITAIN)
Florida – Ellie Lazzari (USA), Gabrielle Gallentine (USA)
Cal – Gabby Perea (USA)
Georgia – Victoria Nguyen (USA)
Denver – Isabel Mabanta (USA)
Alabama – Shania Adams (USA), Cameron Machado (USA)

STANFORD

Ira Alexeeva – RUSSIA
Isabela Onyshko – CANADA
Tan Sze En – SINGAPORE
Sandra Jessen – CZECH REPUBLIC

United Nations: Palo Alto Campus has the opportunity to change its team’s trajectory more than any other new class this season, standing among the most accomplished groups any team is welcoming. With these freshmen, and Kyla Bryant representing the United States delegation, those lineups can become formidable. Imagine the possibilities for not being abjectly petrified by Stanford’s bars rotation with a lineup that adds Alexeeva, Onyshko, and Tan—not to mention Amanda Zeng, the lone “just an American” in the club who is quite good on bars as well.

Irina Alexeeva, a Texas-based WOGA gymnast, competed as a junior elite in the United States in 2016 but was ineligible to represent the US internationally and opted instead to compete for Russia. She made Russia’s 2018 World Championships team, advancing to the all-around final and placing 13th, while also earning a silver medal in the team final where she contributed the team’s highest score and least stressful routine on beam.

Isabela Onyshko’s meteoric rise as a Canadian elite culminated in her reaching the 2016 Olympics, where she became the first Canadian to advance to an Olympic beam final after scoring 14.533 in qualification. Injuries subsequently derailed some of her all-around hopes in the next quadrennium, but Onyshko did win an all-around silver medal at the 2018 Canadian Championships and an all-around bronze medal at 2020 Elite Canada, shortly before the shutdown.

Tan Sze En, who trains at Legacy Elite, competed at her first World Championships representing Singapore in 2019, scoring a 48.098 in qualification that—by a margin of just .032 over Ireland’s Megan Ryan—was enough to earn her the final spot available there for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sandra Jessen, a Parkettes gymnast, spent some time competing for the Czech Republic in 2019—recalling the career trajectory of another Stanford gymnast, Nicole Pechanec. Much like no one was able to stop telling you that Nicole Pechanec competed elite as Nicole Pechancova, I’m sure we’ll hear about how Sandra Jessen is Sandra Jessenova to the FIG. Like Tan, Jessen competed at her first World Championships in 2019, competing vault, beam, and floor for the Czech team that finished 23rd.

IOWA

Adeline Kenlin – USA

Adeline Kenlin from Iowa Gym-Nest spent about a solid year in the pantheon of the next-big-thing American juniors. She placed 4th all-around at 2017 junior nationals, sandwiched between Kara Eaker and Leanne Wong in the final standings while boasting the second-best beam score of the competition behind only Eaker. Injuries kept Kenlin from making an all-around impact in her senior debut in 2018 when she was not named to the national team, and after that point, she elected to leave elite, returning to L10 for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

NEBRASKA

Chloe Lorange – CANADA
Kinsey Davis – USA
Martina Comin – ITALY

An offseason of transfers and upheaval has left a new-look Nebraska seeking real contributions from its freshmen, many of whom had momentary forays in the elite world.

Kinsey Davis spent a second as a junior US elite, placing 23rd at the junior US Classic in 2016, just a touch ahead of fellow former elite NCAA freshman Olivia Dunne. That proved enough to qualify Davis to nationals, though she was not able to finish the competition on the second day, competing only bars. Post 2016, Davis returned to L10.

Chloe Lorange competed elite domestically in Canada, placing 29th at Elite Canada in 2018 in her senior debut, and made a few international appearances as well, performing in the open division at Massilia in 2017 with her Gymnix team and traveling to Belgium for the Gymnova Cup in 2019, where she placed 5th all-around.

Martina Comin has not competed internationally for Italy but has been a staple of the Serie A circuit for several years, using her vault and floor scores to help her team Audace earn promotion to Serie A1 for the 2020 season.

PENN STATE

Madeleine Johnston – USA
Abi Walker – USA

Madeleine Johnston from Hill’s competed as a junior elite for several years, her best showing coming in her debut year when she placed 9th all-around at junior nationals, a huge result for her after placing just 26th at Classic a few weeks prior. She later made the jump to senior elite, qualifying to nationals and placing 15th all-around, then electing to go back to L10 following that 2018 season.

Abi Walker from Texas Dreams debuted on the elite scene in 2015 as a spritely little junior with potential, placing 18th at nationals, sandwiched right between Maile O’Keefe and Marz Frazier. We saw only glimpses of Walker after that, but she too was among the fairly rare birds who made the leap to senior elite, placing 10th at the senior US Classic in 2017 and going on to compete three events at nationals that year.

ARIZONA

Jessica Castles – SWEDEN

Jessica Castles, a British-based gymnast at Heathrow, has competed internationally for Sweden for several years to great success while also owning the distinction of having won all-around medals at multiple different domestic championships—winning the Swedish national all-around title in 2018 and winning silver at the English Championships in 2019. In 2018, Castles advanced to the floor final at the European Championships, finishing 7th, and represented Sweden at the World Championships in both 2018 and 2019.

At the 2019 World Championships, Castles scored three tenths higher than aforementioned Olympic qualifier Tan Sze En, but she missed out on an Olympic spot because she finished seven tenths behind countrywoman Jonna Adlerteg. Castles does, however, remain the next in line for Sweden should Adlerteg not be able to attend.

AUBURN

Olivia Hollingsworth – USA

Olivia Hollingsworth is basically an elite lifer, among that rare group of athletes who were there every year without fail, maintaining a five-year US Classic streak beginning with the Hopes Championship in 2015, followed by two years of junior elite in 2016 and 2017, and two years of senior elite in 2018 and 2019. In 2017, Hollingsworth qualified to nationals, where she placed 19th.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tienna Nguyen – VIETNAM

Tienna Nguyen began her elite career as a junior on the US circuit in 2015 and 2017, at which point she began competing internationally for Vietnam. Nguyen participated in the World Championships in both 2018 and 2019 and is best known for getting a floor turn named after herself in 2018, a double turn with the first half in L position and the second half in wolf position.

WASHINGTON

Cathy Eksteen – SOUTH AFRICA

Cathy Eksteen, a Texas-based gymnast at Metroplex, spent a single year competing elite for South Africa in 2017. She attended South African nationals that year, placing 4th all-around, and went on to represent RSA at the world championships, where she competed beam and floor.

ILLINOIS

Amelia Knight – GREAT BRITAIN

Amelia Knight has been a staple of the English and British Championships ever since she was a small baby competing in the Espoir division. Her highlight result came in 2018, when she placed 8th all-around at the senior British Championship—nine tenths back of fellow 2021 NCAA newcomer Lucy Stanhope—and finished 5th in the beam final.

NC STATE

Carina Jordan – USA

Carina Jordan appeared in the elite world for a moment in 2017, qualifying to the junior US Classic and placing 40th all-around. Her best event result came on the strength of a Yurchenko double full that put her 8th on vault.

MICHIGAN STATE

Delanie Harkness – USA

What seems like centuries ago, Harkness was a junior elite at Gedderts (or, as her club is listed on her USAG profile, blank space) during the 2014 season at 12 years old, when she placed 20th all-around at the junior US Classic, right between Alyona Shchennikova and Lexy Ramler in the final results. That was enough to qualify her to the national championship, where she finished 32nd. She has competed as a L10 since.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

Alyssa Al-Ashari – USA

Another Gedderts elite, Al-Ashari succeeded Harkness by a year in the junior elite realm, placing 25th at US Classic in 2015, then returning the next year to place 39th, back when she was a verbal commit to Michigan. She has been competing as a L10 since the 2017 season.

TOWSON

Amanda Pedicelli – CANADA

Amanda Pedicelli placed 17th all-around at this year’s Elite Canada, her best-ever result at the event. On multiple occasions, Pedicelli traveled to France for elite competitions, most recently in 2018 when she placed 27th all-around at Massilia. That was apparently not, however, enough to get Towson to spell Quebec properly on the team roster this year.

BALL STATE

Marisol Perez-Banus – CHILE

Marisol Perez-Banus (competing under the name Maria Del Sol Perez) represented Chile internationally for several years, appearing at the Pan American Championships in 2018 and Pan American Games in 2019 and placing 7th in the all-around at the 2019 South American Championships in Chile, where she also advanced to the bars final.

SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT

Shannon Farrell – AUSTRALIA
Kiara Richmon – JAMAICA

Shannon Farrell has been competing at the Australian Championships for years and years, with her best senior result coming in 2018 when she placed up at 11th in the all-around.

Kiara Richmon has represented Jamaica at the World Championships each of the last two years, recording a 44.632 all-around score in 2019, a 6-point improvement over her result the previous year.

LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY

Cael Bixler – USA
Talia Folino – AUSTRALIA
Izzy Hilliard – GREAT BRITAIN
Alisson Lapp – FRANCE
Mara Titarsolej – NETHERLANDS

Mara Titarsolej enjoyed an extensive career as a Dutch elite, and while she found it harder to make teams in most recent years, she was an integral member of that initial breakthrough group in 2015 that qualified the Netherlands to the 2016 Olympics, competing the all-around in qualification and a vault in the team final.

Alisson Lapp enjoyed a similarly lengthy tenure in the world of French elites, marked by a successful 2016 season in which she won a bronze medal in the all-around at the junior French national championship and appeared on the country’s team at the junior European Championships, advancing to the floor final. Lapp continued competing elite domestically in France through early 2020.

Talia Folino followed up a medal-strewn tenure as a junior elite by becoming among the most successful Australia senior elites of the last quadrennium, placing 6th, 4th, and 4th at the last three national championships and appearing on Australia’s World Championships teams in both 2017 and 2019.

Izzy Hilliard has been consistent in her domestic placements, enjoying the odd coincidence of having placed 21st at the English Championships each of the last two years and 31st at the British Championships in both years as well. Internationally, she traveled with an English group to compete in Slovenia in 2018.

Czel Bixler, a former Oklahoma verbal who ended up at LIU, spent two years in the junior elite ranks, enjoying her best result at 2018’s US Classic, when she placed 28th all-around, just ahead of three other members of this year’s freshman class, Ellie Lazzari, Cameron Macahdo, and Audrey Davis.

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