The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2023 Utah Red Rocks

UTAH RED ROCKS

Super Seniors

Abby Brenner

VT
UB
FX

  • Transfer from Michigan

  • NQS of 9.905 UB, 9.895 FX in 2022

  • Competed 3 VTs, avg 9.642

Cristal Isa

UB
BB
FX

  • #2 returning score on BB (9.965)

  • #3 returning score on UB (9.910)

  • Competed 1 FX in 2022 for 9.875

Seniors

Jillian Hoffman

VT
FX

  • #4 returning score on VT (9.820)

  • Competed 3 FXs in 2022, avg 9.917

Maile O'Keefe

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on BB (9.970)

  • #2 returning score on FX (9.925)

  • #4 returning score on UB (9.895)

  • Competed 6 VTs in 2022, avg 9.840

Abby Paulson

UB
BB
FX

  • #3 returning score on BB (9.935)

  • #4 returning score on FX (9.890)

  • #5 returning score on UB (9.831)

Jaedyn Rucker

VT
FX

  • #3 returning score on FX (9.905), VT (9.895)

  • Competed 1 UB in 2021 for 9.725

Juniors

Jaylene Gilstrap

VT
BB
FX

  • #5 returning score on FX (9.850)

  • Competed 1 BB in 2021 for 9.700

Alani Sabado

VT
UB

  • Competed 1 VT in 2022 for 9.800

  • NQS of 9.819 on UB in 2021

Lucy Stanhope

VT
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on VT (9.910)

  • NQS of 9.740 on FX in 2022

  • NQS of 9.838 on BB in 2021

Sophomores

Kara Eaker

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Competed 7 BBs in 2022, avg 9.927

  • Competed 1 FX for 9.800

Grace McCallum

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on UB (9.955), FX (9.945)

  • #2 returning score on VT (9.905)

  • #4 returning score on BB (9.925)

Amelie Morgan

UB
BB

  • #4 returning score on UB (9.895)

  • #5 returning score on BB (9.910)

Sage Thompson

VT
UB

FX

  • #2 returning score on UB (9.915)

  • Competed 5 VTs in 2022, avg 9.770

First Years

Sarah Krump

BB

  • Brown's

  • 4th BB, 2021 L10 Nationals

Makenna Smith

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Gold Cup

  • 5th VT, 6th FX, 2021 L10 Nationals

Ranking History
2022 – 3rd
2021 – 3rd
2020 – 4th
2019 – 7th
2018 – 5th
2017 – 5th
2016 – 9th
2015 – 2nd
2014 – 7th
2013 – 9th

Where 2022 Finished…

There aren’t many complaints Utah can have about the 2022 season. The team won the Pac-12 title again, advanced to the national championship, and finished a solid 3rd with three very competitive rotations. This is pretty much the exact same story as the 2021 season, for which Utah’s 3rd-place was hailed as an unequivocal victory given the clear improvements it showed over the run of 9th-5th-5th-7th finishes in the previous four postseasons. If there’s a frustration for Utah, it will be that the team clearly upgraded in talent in 2022 compared to 2021, just gobbling up all kinds of Olympians, and did so for…the exact same result.  

Now, after two straight seasons of 3rd place, doing it again wouldn’t feel like quite the same kind of victory. Does the team have more?

Gains and Losses

LOSTGAINED
Sydney Soloski – FXAbby Brenner – transfer
Alexia Burch – VT (UB, BB)Sarah Krump
Adrienne Randall – BB (FX)Makenna Smith
Cammy Hall – VT

The New Ones

Utah brings in only two first-year athletes this season, but we should expect to see plenty of Makenna Smith, who has raked in the podium finishes on vault and floor as a L10 for years. Her most important event for Utah is vault, where she shows a 10.0-start round-off 1/2-on front pike (Omelianchik) that should be one of the best-scoring vaults in the lineup, but Smith will also function as at least a viable option on all four events and should make several postseason lineups.

Sarah Krump is the only other first year joining Utah’s class. We didn’t see any of her at the Red Rocks Preview, but she did have a full-in on floor as an L10 athlete and has some potential as a beam development project on a team that doesn’t really need beamers right now.   

Abby Brenner joins Utah’s team for her fifth year of eligibility as a transfer from Michigan. Brenner has been a four-year regular in the vault, bars, and floor lineups for Michigan, known for her Yurchenko 1.5 on vault and full-in on floor. Perhaps her crowning achievement, though, was her last-minute return to the bars lineup for a team-leading 9.925 in Michigan’s 2021 championship performance after she had been injured on floor at the conference championship. With 9.9 ability on her three events, Brenner will look to get into all three lineups for Utah.

Overall, the turnover probably amounts to a slight upgrade in routine supply. The challenge for Utah, then, will be how to transform that slight upgrade into real-life improvement in the final results.

Event by Event

VAULT

2022 Event Ranking: 5

Lineup locks: Jaedyn Rucker, Grace McCallum, Makenna Smith, Abby Brenner, Lucy Stanhope
Lineup options: Sage Thompson, Jillian Hoffman, Jaylene Gilstrap, Maile O’Keefe, Alani Sabado, Kara Eaker

The most straightforward approach for Utah this year on vault would have first-year Makenna Smith and transfer Abby Brenner slot in for the lost Yurchenko 1.5s from Alexia Burch and Cammy Hall, joining Jaedyn Rucker, Grace McCallum, Lucy Stanhope, and Maile O’Keefe from last year’s final lineup to keep the scoring on track with 2022. And that may very well be what we see. Makenna Smith’s Omelianchik was the best vault performed at the Red Rocks Preview and is a must for this lineup, and while Abby Brenner’s Y1.5 was in and out of the Michigan lineup in her final year there, Utah doesn’t have as many 10.0-start options and could really use a healthy Brenner on vault. 

As for the returning locks, the Jaedyn Rucker Y1.5 will likely anchor, Grace McCallum’s Servente should continue to be essential (though she performed only a Yurchenko full at the RRP), and Lucy Stanhope’s Y1.5 earned Utah’s best vault NQS last season thanks to its consistent landing. They should all be back.

In terms of Operation All 10.0s, it sounds like Utah is hoping to get a Yurchenko 1.5 out of Sage Thompson this year as the 6th vault, but if not, there is a comfortable supply of fulls from the likes of Thompson, Hoffman, O’Keefe, Sabado, and now Jaylene Gilstrap as well, who has not vaulted for Utah but showed a very realistic full with good distance at the preview. Having one full in the final lineup probably won’t be the ideal plan if Utah has winning aspirations, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

BARS

2022 Event Ranking: 6

Lineup locks: Maile O’Keefe, Cristal Isa, Grace McCallum, Sage Thompson, Abby Brenner
Lineup options: Amelie Morgan, Makenna Smith, Abby Paulson, Alani Sabado, Kara Eaker, Jaedyn Rucker, Lucy Stanhope

Utah brings back its entire championship lineup on bars this year, so the option exists to just keep everyone the same. Yet, this is probably the event with the most potential for upgrade enhancements, so Utah won’t actually want to keep this one exactly the same. The first bit of news per faithful Utah gymnastics reporter Trent is that Cristal Isa’s injury that kept her out of the Red Rocks Preview is not considered season-threatening (and certainly did not curtail her sideline dancing contributions), so we can go ahead and put her in lineups for the purposes of this preview. Isa should once again be considered a lock for this bars lineup, along with O’Keefe, McCallum, and Thompson. Four big scores, no reason to change anything there. Amelie Morgan also seems solid to return to the leadoff position, and the toe tuck 1/2 dismount looks like a stickable option for her thus far. 

Abby Brenner had an NQS over 9.9 last year, so Utah’s path toward upgrading the bars scores likely has her slot into the lineup in place of Abby Paulson, who is typically in the 9.800-9.850 zone for her routine. This year’s best lineup probably has Paulson as the reliable backup. The best lineup may also end up including Makenna Smith, who has a lovely Maloney to Pak to start her routine and whose presence in the six may hinge on the consistency of that double Arabian dismount. Alani Sabado also has a pretty bars option but is usually in backup zone here. 

BEAM

2022 Event Ranking: 1

Lineup locks: Kara Eaker, Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson, Cristal Isa
Lineup options: Grace McCallum, Amelie Morgan, Jaylene Gilstrap, Lucy Stanhope, Makenna Smith

Utah’s beam was best in the country last season and returns all six athletes from that lineup (since Adrienne Randall didn’t end up in the championship beam lineup), so there’s really the least to say here. In this case, Utah would have exactly zero problems with keeping that Eaker, O’Keefe, Paulson, Isa, McCallum, Morgan group exactly the same. Without Randall and Alexia Burch on the team this year, there are actually fewer great beam workers you need to try to cram into a lineup and therefore less angst about what the actual best six should be. It’s pretty much…this. Grace McCallum’s place was touch-and-go at times last year, but she was in the nationals lineup, and Utah’s best-scoring beam team would have her in it.

In place of Isa, Jaylene Gilstrap performed a lovely routine at the RRP that is a very viable option as well, at least for inevitable resting and injury replacement needs—if not for the final lineup. Lucy Stanhope was relegated to backup last season after making the lineup in 2021, and that’s probably the case again this year, while first-year Makenna Smith presents a possibility as well. Because of split positions, beam seems the least likely lineup for Smith to make in her first year, but she’s in the picture.

FLOOR

2022 Event Ranking: 4

Lineup locks: Grace McCallum, Jaedyn Rucker, Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson
Lineup options: Abby Brenner, Makenna Smith, Kara Eaker, Jaylene Gilstrap, Jillian Hoffman, Lucy Stanhope, Sage Thompson

The single biggest replacement question on any event for Utah this season is the Sydney Soloski floor anchor 9.950 and where that might come from now—since there isn’t really the huge floor star joining the team who would obviously make up for it—but there shouldn’t be any lack of reasonably scoring options.

Utah will certainly have Grace McCallum, Jaedyn Rucker, and Maile O’Keefe returning with presumably the top 3 scores in the lineup, and Abby Paulson once again should feature after appearing on floor in nearly every meet last season. As on vault, the simplest solution may be to have Abby Brenner and Makenna Smith come in and join a first-choice returning four. Brenner’s NQS of 9.895 on floor last season would put her at 4th-best on this year’s Utah team, and Smith is a clean twister with a front 2/1 (she also has a double Arabian in her pocket from L10) who looks like she would fit into a six nicely.

In terms of potential game-changing wildcards, remember that time Jillian Hoffman got 9.975 on floor last year before her injury? That. There’s also Kara Eaker if she’s able to get into the lineup at all regularly this time, though that 1.5 combo pass attempt at the RRP had us all saying, “Just save yourself for beam.” 

Ideally, we’d see Gilstrap in this lineup because of how gymnastics is supposed to look, but she’s more typically in the 9.8s, so it’s not a given. The same is true for Stanhope who has the difficulty in her corner but has tended to get knocked to backup position in this lineup.

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