The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2021 Alabama Crimson Tide

2021 ALABAMA ROSTER
Seniors
Lexi Graber
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed AA in 7 of 9 meets in 2020
  • #1 returning score on FX (9.910), VT (9.880)
  • #3 returning score on UB (9.845)
  • #4 returning score on BB (9.765)
Alonza Klopfer
BB
FX
  • Competed BB every meet in 2020
  • #2 returning score on BB (9.840)
  • Showed 4 FX, avg 9.844
Juniors
Emily Gaskins
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed 7 BB, 4 UB in 2020
  • #4 returning score on BB (9.765)
  • Avg 9.762 UB
Jensie Givens
UB
  • Competed UB in 8 of 9 meets in 2020
  • #2 returning score on UB (9.855)
Griffin James
FX
  • Competed FX in 6 meets in 2020 before injury
  • Pre-injury avg 9.820
Sania Mitchell
 
  • Did not compete in first two seasons
Shallon Olsen
VT
BB
FX
  • Competed VT, FX every meet in 2020
  • Competed BB in 6 of 9
  • #2 returning score on FX (9.860), VT (9.845)
  • Avg 9.829 BB
Kaylee Quinn
VT
  • Transfer from Nebraska
  • Competed in first 2 meets in 2020 before injury
  • Competed VT every meet in 2019, peak 9.775
Sophomores
Luisa Blanco
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed VT, BB every meet in 2020
  • #1 returning score on BB (9.900)
  • #3 returning score on VT (9.835)
  • Showed 4 FX, hit 3 of 4, peak of 9.950
  • Showed 1 UB for 8.975
Ella Burgess
 
  • Will miss 2021 season with Achilles injury
  • Competed 9 VT, 7 BB in 2020
Makarri Doggette VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed 9 UB, 7 BB, 6 FX, 1 VT in 2020
  • #1 returning score on UB (9.905)
  • #2 returning score on BB (9.840)
  • #3 returning score on FX (9.830)
  • 1 VT of 9.875
Mati Waligora
UB
BB
FX
  • Did not compete in first season
Freshmen
Shania Adams
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Future
  • US Elite 2014-2019
  • 12th AA, US Nationals 2018
  • 11th AA, US Nationals 2017
Sarah Duhe
VT
  • Elmwood
  • 3rd VT, 2019 Region 8s
Cameron Machado
UB
BB
  • First State
  • US junior elite, 2016
  • 17th AA, 2019 JO Nationals
Isabella Martin
VT
BB
FX
  • Paramount
  • 8th AA, 2018 JO Nationals

RANKING HISTORY
2020 – 8th
2019 – 12th
2018 – 8th
2017 – 6th
2016 – 3rd
2015 – 4th
2014 – 4th
2013 – 3rd
2012 – 1st
2011 – 1st

THE 2020 STORY
Alabama’s 2020 season wasn’t…as bad as 2019? It didn’t take nearly as long to get into 197 gear, and the team was probably on track for a surprisingly good ranking and a pretty cushy postseason draw following those last couple road meets that never happened.

To some extent, the artificial end of the season scuttled Alabama’s chance to change that DECLINE narrative, but still, 2020 did not represent a recovery to the Alabama of old, and this team wouldn’t have challenged for a title or (probably) made the team final.

DEPARTED ROUTINES
Shea Mahoney – VT, UB, FX
Maddie Desch – VT, BB, FX
Wynter Childers – UB
Kylie Dickson – VT, UB

INCOMING ROUTINES
Shania Adams – VT, UB, BB, FX
Isabella Martin – VT, BB, FX
Cameron Machado – UB, BB
Kaylee Quinn (JR) – VT
Sarah Duhe – VT

2021 PROJECTION
Steady.

Alabama has lost some important routines here and there but not an excessive amount. It shouldn’t crumble to bits as a result. Likewise, there are some critical new routines coming in but not enough to represent a drastic roster reinvention or massive talent influx. Signs point to a pretty similar team overall to the one we saw last year.

VAULT

2020 Event Ranking: 12

Lineup locks: Lexi Graber, Shallon Olsen
Lineup options: Makarri Doggette, Shania Adams, Luisa Blanco, Kaylee Quinn, Isabella Martin, Emily Gaskins, Sarah Duhe

Alabama did not have enough 10.0 starts to rank exceedingly well on vault in 2020, though things did start to pick up after a shaky first month. There is a chance for improvement in 2021, and foremost in that quest will be getting sophomore Makarri Doggette into the lineup regularly. As a JO athlete, Doggette profiled as a lineup anchor with a gorgeous 1.5, but she was able to compete vault just once last season. If she can vault this year, that more than makes up for a lost Yfull. Alabama will also hope to get something difficult out of Shania Adams, who is currently training a 1.5 that may or may not materialize, to provide a core of four high scores that could be quite competitive within the conference.

Luisa Blanco’s Yfull was pretty last season, so I’d expect that to make it back, joined by any number of viable full options on a roster that shouldn’t have a problem coming up with a lineup of six. Though that’s not the big concern. Mahoney and Desch were comfortably getting mid-9.8s last season, so upgrading from a team that ranked 12th on vault last season will hinge on having more than 9.8s and solid Yfulls.

BARS

2020 Event Ranking: 6

Lineup locks: Makarri Doggette, Shania Adams, Lexi Graber, Jensie Givens
Lineup options: Cameron Machado, Emily Gaskins, Mati Waligora, Luisa Blanco

Overall on bars, Alabama should feel pretty good about a “last season’s team plus Shania Adams” approach. This is my favorite event for Adams, and she should become a late-lineup contributor who can make up for not having Mahoney. Doggette and Givens turned into two of Alabama’s best bars scores last season, and Graber has been a stalwart in the lineup for years. That’s a comfortable four, but Alabama will feel the last-minute departure of Kylie Dickson here, as it lessens the options on an already slightly sparse event.

Cameron Machado has the difficulty on bars, so if we see her, this seems the most likely event. Meanwhile, Emily Gaskins has been a 9.9er in the past on bars, and Alabama is trying to get Mati Waligora and her DLO 1/1 dismount back to compete this event. Luisa Blanco could be lovely on bars, but last season’s one showing for 8.975 meant we had to content ourselves with the other three events and not get greedy.

Alabama doesn’t have a billion bars routines but should six 9.850+ gymnasts to choose from. Should.

BEAM

2020 Event Ranking: 13

Lineup locks: Luisa Blanco, Lexi Graber, Makarri Doggette, Shania Adams, Alonza Klopfer
Lineup options: Shallon Olsen, Emily Gaskins, Cameron Machado, Mati Waligora, Isabella Martin

Alabama’s entire beam lineup from the final meet of 2020 returns, but Shania Adams should also make an appearance here, which bodes well because it means it will be harder to make this lineup in 2021 than it was in 2020. But who gets bumped?

Obviously not Luisa Blanco, whose beam is perfect, and Lexi Graber is a lock (she has a weaker NQS but that’s because of counting a fall—she’ll be there). Alonza Klopfer has carved out a lineup-steadying early role for herself that I see the team valuing, and Makarri Doggette has started to show some reliable 9.850+ potential. So I’m down to edging out either Shallon Olsen or Emily Gaskins to make room for Adams. Olsen has improved tremendously as a beamer, but it’s still not a natural event for her, while with Gaskins…I never feel confident knowing what we’re going to get out of Emily Gaskins. The all-around? A redshirt season? Who can say. The Mary Lee Tracy Magic 8 Ball might be defective.

Beam ranked as Alabama’s weakest event in 2020, which was weird because it definitely wasn’t the team’s weakest event, but rough road performances held the NQS down. So, just sort of naturally we can expect the beam ranking to move up in 2021 even without a ton of changes.

FLOOR

2020 Event Ranking: 6

Lineup locks: Makarri Doggette, Lexi Graber, Shallon Olsen, Luisa Blanco
Lineup options: Shania Adams, Alonza Klopfer, Mati Waligora, Emily Gaskins, Isabella Martin, Griffin James

Alabama loses two important floor scores from 2020 (just like on vault and bars), but floor is where I see the most uncertainty because there aren’t natural replacements for those scores from Mahoney and Desch, which were two of the top three floor routines for Alabama last year.

Doggette, Graber, and Olsen will look to lead the way in the tumbling department. It will be interesting to see how things progress with Olsen because she’s prepping for the Olympics, so I imagine they’ll want to retain her difficulty readiness. Yet, we’re also getting to an “is this difficulty helping or hurting?” point in her college gymnastics. Olsen has never consistently received HUGE floor scores in college because it’s almost like landing a Silivas is harder than landing a rudi. Go figure.

Luisa Blanco can also just point a toe and get a 9.9 (as she should), and the path to success for Alabama on floor will be 9.9+ routines from the aforementioned quartet. While I can pick out more than enough possible and competitive routines on floor—it was an excellent event for Waligora in JO, Klopfer went a few times successfully last season, Adams has plenty of comfortable skill options—Alabama most of all needs 9.950 leaders to emerge. The best teams have multiple people who are consistently getting 9.950s on floor, and that’s what’s required avoid the possibility that Alabama gets a bunch of solid, clap-worthy 9.850s for 49.250 and then is like, “Wait Florida got 49.7 and we lost by a lot.”

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