The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2021 Utah Red Rocks

2021 UTAH ROSTER
Seniors
Alexia Burch
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed VT, BB every meet in 2020
  • #1 returning score on VT (9.890)
  • #5 returning score on BB (9.880)
  • Showed 1 FX for 9.725
Emilie LeBlanc
UB
BB
  • Competed UB, BB every meet in 2020
  • #2 returning score on UB (9.855)
  • #6 returning score on BB (9.850)
Sydney Soloski
VT
BB
FX
  • #1 returning score on FX (9.925)
  • #3 returning score on VT (9.805)
  • Made final 2019 BB lineup
Juniors
Cammy Hall
VT
  • Competed VT every meet in 2020
  • #1 returning VT score (9.865)
Cristal Isa
VT
UB
BB

FX
  • Competed UB, BB every meet in 2020
  • Appeared in AA 3 times
  • #1 returning score on UB (9.900), BB (9.930)
  • NQS of 9.840 FX, avg 9.825 VT
Adrienne Randall
BB
FX
  • Competed BB every meet, FX in 8 of 9 in 2020
  • #2 returning score on FX (9.880)
  • #4 returning score on BB (9.915)
Sophomores
Jillian Hoffman
UB
FX
  • Preseason shoulder surgery
  • Competed 4 FX in 2020, hitting 2 of 4
Maile O’Keefe
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed UB, BB every week in 2020
  • Appeared in the AA four times
  • #3 returning score on BB (9.925), FX (9.870), UB (9.810)
  • Avg of 9.775 over 5 VTs
Abby Paulson
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed BB, FX every meet in 2020
  • #1 returning score on BB (9.930)
  • #4 returning score on FX (9.855)
  • Showed 4 UBs, avg 9.838
Jaedyn Rucker
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Missed entire 2020 season with injury
  • 1st VT, 2nd AA, 2018 JO Nationals
Freshmen
Jaylene Gilstrap
VT
BB
FX
  • Metroplex
  • Senior elite, 2018-2019
Alani Sabado
VT
UB
BB
  • SCEGA
  • 3rd AA, 2019 JO Nationals
Lucy Stanhope
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • City of Liverpool
  • Member of GB 2018 European Championship team

RANKING HISTORY
2020 – 4th
2019 – 7th
2018 – 5th
2017 – 5th
2016 – 9th
2015 – 2nd
2014 – 7th
2013 – 9th
2012 – 5th
2011 – 5th

THE 2020 STORY
Utah will have been exceptionally pleased with how the 2020 season was playing out…until it wasn’t playing out any longer. Despite the team having to do without MyKayla Skinner, 2020 (if we count it as real) will go down as Utah’s best result since 2015 and second-best result of the last decade—thanks almost entirely to a beam resurgence. Utah would have entered the postseason as a comfortable favorite to make nationals and would have been in a fascinating fight with the likes of LSU to see who could make the team final.

DEPARTING ROUTINES
Missy Reinstadtler – VT, UB, FX
Kim Tessen – VT, UB, FX
Hunter Dula – UB

INCOMING ROUTINES
Jaylene Gilstrap – VT, BB, FX
Alani Sabado – VT, UB, BB
Lucy Stanhope – VT, UB, BB, FX

2021 PROJECTION
Steady.

The cores of the lineups remain largely intact on three events, with some areas of potential improvement on those pieces. It’s tough to move up much when we get into the top 4 of the rankings, but Utah will expect to pick up where it left off last season as a team final contender.

VAULT

2020 Event Ranking: 7

Lineup locks: Alexia Burch, Cammy Hall, Lucy Stanhope, Jaedyn Rucker
Lineup options: Cristal Isa, Maile O’Keefe, Sydney Soloski, Jaylene Gilstrap, Abby Paulson, Alani Sabado

Despite Utah’s overall improvement in 2020, the team did regress a little on vault, the result of no longer having Skinner and Merrell-Giles. The window for improvement is open again in 2021 because the team should be adding two big scores to replace the one big score lost from Kim Tessen.

Lucy Stanhope made British teams in 2018 for her Yurchenko double full, and she is eyeing a 1.5 in college that would put her in a position of honor in the lineup alongside the returning 1.5s from Cammy Hall and Alexia Burch. Sophomore Jaedyn Rucker, who missed last season with injury but returns for 2021, competed an absolutely beautiful Y1.5 in JO that I had marked down as Utah’s top vault for 2020. Rucker performed a full in the most recent intrasquad video (a full that would also make the lineup), but Utah will very much hope that 1.5 comes back.

O’Keefe, Isa, and Soloski all vaulted a bunch last season and will probably be in competition with each other for the remaining spots, but there should be plenty of options for respectable fulls, including from Gilstrap and Sabado. Still, Utah won’t want to use more than a couple of those fulls if it wants to stay top-5 competitive.

BARS

2020 Event Ranking: 7

Lineup locks: Cristal Isa, Emilie LeBlanc, Maile O’Keefe, Alani Sabado
Lineup options: Abby Paulson, Jaedyn Rucker, Lucy Stanhope, Adrienne Randall, Jillian Hoffman

If Utah has a question mark event in 2021, it’s bars. On this piece, Utah returns just three members from its final 2020 lineup and has the fewest realistic options available overall. (Case in point, we’ve seen Adreinne Randall training bars, so even though she hasn’t competed the event for Utah yet, I’m putting her on the options list because it’s another warm body.)

Cristal Isa developed into a strong bars worker last year, Emilie LeBlanc competed consistently every week for at least 9.8s, and Maile O’Keefe is exceptional on bars, even her scores ended up a bit lower for double Arabian reasons. We’ll need to see all three of them every week in 2021, and I’d expect Alani Sabado to join them, the best bars worker among the new athletes.

We saw Abby Paulson compete a few times last year for reasonable 9.8s, and Jaedyn Rucker seems a likely choice as well. Her bars doesn’t have the wow factor of vault or floor, but it has always been a good event for her. I hope Lucy Stanhope also sees some time. She has a bunch of difficulty, but the question is whether it can be refined into a clean college set. So…that’s 7 people? A lineup and spare? It’s enough, but there is a chance of getting 9.825ed into submission with this group.

BEAM

2020 Event Ranking: 2

Lineup locks: Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson, Adrienne Randall, Cristal Isa, Jaylene Gilstrap
Lineup options: Alexia Burch, Emilie LeBlanc, Jaedyn Rucker, Lucy Stanhope, Sydney Soloski, Alani Sabado

Utah’s tremendously successful 2020 beam lineup returns all six members, which provides every reason to think this beam rotation will be among the best in the country again in 2021. There’s really not a ton to say about it because…just do the exact same thing again.

The main discussion point is Jaylene Gilstrap, who happens to be excellent on beam and really does need to be in this lineup. So, someone who got big scores last season probably won’t make it this year. The lowest returning score comes from LeBlanc, but is that because it was the weakest routine of the six, or because it was the leadoff? Decisions, decisions. In my mind, O’Keefe, Paulson, Randall, and Isa all have to be considered locks given last season’s performance, but we shall see.

There are other solid beamers on this roster (we’ve seen training video of Stanhope and Soloski), but given the current setup, they probably won’t be needed much this year.

FLOOR

2020 Event Ranking: 8

Lineup locks: Sydney Soloski, Jaedyn Rucker, Adrienne Randall, Maile O’Keefe
Lineup options: Lucy Stanhope, Jaylene Gilstrap, Cristal Isa, Abby Paulson, Alexia Burch, Jillian Hoffman

Floor ended as Utah’s lowest-ranked event last season, and the quest to turn that dial up a little bit in 2021 runs through Jaedyn Rucker and Lucy Stanhope, just like on vault. Rucker has supreme tumbling that is complemented by solid leap ability, so she should rank up there with Soloski as the highest floor scores for Utah.

I’d like to see Stanhope and Gilstrap both get into the floor group as well, Stanhope for the tumbling and Gilstrap for the leaps and general movement quality. Both look like they have a pretty good shot even though Utah is not saying goodbye to all that much on floor from last season. O’Keefe should be there, Randall has always scored solidly, and Isa did well last season, but other than Soloski, there isn’t a lot of “she absolutely must be there lest the world crumble” among the returning options. That could end up being a scoring problem in Utah’s quest to get into the top 5 on every event, which is why I view it as important to get Stanhope and Gilstrap in there along with Rucker. That new blood is Utah’s best argument for improvement.

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