The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2023 Florida Gators

FLORIDA GATORS

Super Seniors

Rachel Baumann

VT
BB
FX

  • Transfer from Georgia

  • NQS of 9.925 FX, 9.870 VT, 9.865 BB in 2022

Leah Clapper

UB
BB
FX

  • #4 returning score on BB (9.910)

  • Competed 3 FXs in 2022, avg 9.767

  • NQS of 9.850 on UB in 2021

Savannah Schoenherr

VT
UB

  • #2 returning score on VT (9.905)

  • #3 returning score on UB (9.920)

  • Competed 4 BBs in 2021, avg 9.831

Halley Taylor

FX

  • Competed 1 FX in 2022 before injury

Trinity Thomas

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on FX (9.990), BB (9.975), VT (9.965), UB (9.960)

Seniors

Payton Richards

VT
BB
FX

  • NQS on 9.630 on FX in 2022

  • Competed 1 BB (9.875), 1 VT (9.8125)

Juniors

Chloi Clark

VT
FX

  • Competed 4 VTs (avg 9.769), 2 FXs (avg 9.787) in 2022

Ellie Lazzari

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Competed 1 BB in 2022 before injury

  • 2021 NQS of 9.956 BB, 9.888 FX, 9.881 VT, 9.825 UB

Alex Magee

  • Did not compete in first 2 seasons

Victoria Nguyen

UB
BB

  • Transfer from Georgia

  • NQS of 9.850 UB, 9.845 BB in 2022

Sophomores

Sloane Blakely

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #3 returning score on BB (9.930), FX (9.880)

  • #4 returning score on VT (9.850), UB (9.850)

Bri Edwards

VT

  • Competed 5 VTs in 2022, avg 9.780

Riley McCusker

UB
BB
FX

  • #5 returning score on UB (9.845)

  • Competed 1 BB in 2022 for 9.850

Leanne Wong

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #2 returning score on UB (9.950), FX (9.945), BB (9.935)

  • #3 returning score on VT (9.865)

First Years

Lori Brubach

  • RAD

  • 10th VT, 2022 Region 8s

Kayla DiCello

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Hill's

  • 2021 World All-Around bronze

Morgan Hurd

(redshirt)

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • Missed 2022 season with injury

  • 2017 World All-Around champion

Ranking History
2022 – 2nd
2021 – 4th
2020 – 2nd
2019 – 10th
2018 – 3rd
2017 – 3rd
2016 – 4th
2015 – 1st
2014 – 1st
2013 – 1st

Where 2022 Finished…

Florida didn’t win the national championship in 2022. That’s basically where things start and end for a team like Florida, with all this roster talent and all those expectations, but 2022’s finish did prove noteworthy and encouraging in that the team did not fall apart or botch the postseason this time. It wasn’t 2019’s regionals implosion or 2021’s beam disaster. The Gators performed well right to the end of the season—winning SECs, winning regionals, and winning their semifinal—and simply got beat in the final with what was nonetheless the best postseason showing of the Rowland Era.

But it still wasn’t a championship.

Gains and Losses

LOSTGAINED
Megan Skaggs – VT, UB, BB, FXKayla DiCello
Alyssa Baumann – BB, FXLori Brubach
Nya Reed – VT, FXRachel Baumann
Gabrielle Gallentine – (UB)Victoria Nguyen
Sydney Johnson-Scharpf – (BB, FX)

The New Ones

It’s a very small first-year class for Florida this season, supplemented by a couple transfers who could prove significant. In terms of the new gymnasts, Florida will have a fresh young upstart named Kayla DiCello, the most accomplished gymnast in this year’s national incoming class. DiCello should be an easy lock for all four lineups (…perhaps Florida’s beam depth means beam isn’t a lock…?) and should bring vital, late-lineup scores on most apparatuses. Florida has lost a number of important routines, and DiCello is their path toward making that not matter so much. 

The only other first year for Florida is Lori Brubach, someone who has been surprisingly prolific in training videos and probably profiles in the Chloi Clark vein as someone who isn’t a first-choice lineup performer but will be there to jump in as needed to spell the main lineup.

In the transfer department, Florida has Rachel Baumann coming in to make sure the Baumann detox isn’t too abrupt. Baumann was deeply important for Georgia on three events with her team-leading floor, Y1.5 on vault, and strong beam routine, and while all will be harder events to crack for Florida than they were for Georgia, her routines are still realistic for the lineup on all three. Her vault and floor NQSs from last season would both rank as the #3 returning scores on those events if she were on Florida’s team, which makes a very good argument for lineups. Victoria Nguyen, meanwhile, is a lovely worker on bars and beam (who is also training a surprise Y1.5 this year), whose form and style you would take any day of the week for both lineups but who will also have to prove sufficient consistency this season to break into those challenging groups where she’s probably sitting on the borderline of lineup and not.

Event by Event

VAULT

2022 Event Ranking: 2

Lineup locks: Trinity Thomas, Leanne Wong, Savannah Schoenherr, Kayla DiCello
Lineup options: Sloane Blakely, Rachel Baumann, Payton Richards, Victoria Nguyen, Ellie Lazzari, Bri Edwards, Lori Brubach, Chloi Clark

Florida will expect to have an entire lineup of 10.0 starts this season in order to match the likes of Oklahoma and Michigan, and this year’s roster presents more than enough options in that regard, at least on the surface. Three locks should return to the lineup from last season with the Y1.5s from Trinity Thomas and Savannah Schoenherr and the…whatever Leanne Wong wants. Wong went as high as 10.000 last season for her round-off 1/2 on, pike 1/2 (which also looked better than her Yurchenkos at worlds), so one would think that’s the best choice. To add to that returning group, Florida will look to get something in the 10.0 department from DiCello, who always had great comfort in her DTY in elite.

The rest of Plan A for Florida will feature getting a more consistent Y1.5 in 2023 from Sloane Blakely, who was expected to be one of the top scorers on vault last season but didn’t end up making the final lineup. And that issue of consistency may be where Rachel Baumann comes in since her Y1.5 was very reliable for Georgia last year while Blakely and Payton Richards (who showed up with hers at the very last second) were more touch-and-go for Florida. That’s already a group of seven 10.0 starts—though with a healthy supply of question marks as we consider the injury statuses of Wong and DiCello and the consistency of others—from which Florida will hope to have six of the seven come through. We can then add the potential wildcards like Victoria Nguyen throwing out a Y1.5, or perhaps Ellie Lazzari, who was working on one before her injury last season. 

BARS

2022 Event Ranking: 2

Lineup locks: Trinity Thomas, Leanne Wong, Kayla DiCello, Morgan Hurd, Savannah Schoenherr
Lineup options: Sloane Blakely, Riley McCusker, Victoria Nguyen, Ellie Lazzari, Leah Clapper, Payton Richards

Florida returns all but Megan Skaggs from last season’s bars lineup and, given the influx of routines in this year’s group, has every reason to expect a scoring upgrade in 2023. As on vault, Thomas, Wong, and Schoenherr should return to the lineup each week with their NQSs that all went well into the 9.9s last season. The other returning athletes, however, may be less secure in their positions as it becomes a fiercer fight to make this six.

Kayla DiCello is a lock for this lineup and will be expected to deliver the same kind of 9.950s that Thomas and Wong receive pretty much every week, and with Morgan Hurd returning and progressing in her bars training, hers is a toe point this lineup is going to want, even if her spot is not a lock considering the supply of options. The issue, then, is that if all five of those routines come through, you’re left with one lone spot for Nguyen, Blakely, and McCusker to fight over. Blakely probably represents the safest choice there, someone who was in the lineup all of last season and good for 9.8s in the leadoff position but probably isn’t going to get the biggest number, but that would exclude the routine from Nguyen, which has gone as high as 9.950 before.

And then there’s the McCusker factor. If you’re picking the lineup on talent, the spot is hers, but with the increased depth this season, she’s not going to be able to retain her position in this lineup without showing greater consistency than she did in season one. I’d want to see McCusker in the lineup at least at the beginning of 2023 to give her the chance to earn a spot (because in terms of ability and scoring ceiling, she’s right at the top), but if she’s not getting 9.9s, there will be others who deserve the opportunity to show that they can get 9.9s instead. 

BEAM

2022 Event Ranking: 2

Lineup locks: Trinity Thomas, Leanne Wong, Ellie Lazzari, Sloane Blakely, Leah Clapper
Lineup locks part 2?: Morgan Hurd, Kayla DiCello, Victoria Nguyen, Rachel Baumann, Riley McCusker

This is once again the hardest lineup to concoct in all of college gymnastics because there are legitimately 9 or 10 routines that aren’t just options but are routines you’d obviously want to see in a first-choice beam lineup. So what do we do here? Work through it with our words?

To start, I don’t see any way you can evict Thomas or Wong from this lineup. So that’s two. If we look at other returners, Ellie Lazzari had an NQS of 9.956 in her first season, so while it’s convenient to kind of forget about that routine when trying to create this lineup because she was injured last season, Lazzari has an even better beam scoring record than Leanne Wong. Then we have Sloane Blakely, whose NQS was at 9.930 last season, and Leah Clapper who has a 10.000 and three other 9.975s in her beam career and an NQS of 9.910 in 2022 and 9.950 in 2021.

Under normal circumstances you’d say, “Well, all five of those obvi,” but then there are also four new, very realistic lineup members in Hurd, who is Morgan Hurd and a literal world beam silver medalist and therefore obviously needs to be there, DiCello, who would have done beam for the US in the team final at worlds this year had she wanted to do that and therefore obviously needs to be there, Nguyen, who would easily be top-3 on this team on dance element execution, and Baumann, who saved Georgia’s bacon on beam more times than can be counted. And none of that even includes McCusker, who was better on beam last season than bars and could have made that lineup.

Ultimately, I imagine that having been in the lineup before and scored a bunch of 9.9s is going to carry the most weight when naming a beam lineup for Florida this year, even though that would by necessity mean excluding a name.

FLOOR

2022 Event Ranking: 3

Lineup locks: Trinity Thomas, Leanne Wong, Kayla DiCello, Morgan Hurd, Rachel Baumann
Lineup options: Sloane Blakely, Payton Richards, Ellie Lazzari, Halley Taylor, Leah Clapper, Chloi Clark

Floor was technically Florida’s weakness last season based on that lowly #3 ranking, and with three of the six members of the final lineup not returning, there actually is some serious replacement work to do. But also the roster strength to do it.

Thomas and Wong are the only two returners from last season whose spots in the floor lineup should be absolutely locked in without question. Of course you want them in this lineup. In terms of others, and based on the exceptional double layout we saw from her in Florida’s season preview, Morgan Hurd looks pretty far along on floor and a first-choice option to replace the lost scores along with DiCello, who should have any number of E tumbling options to create a highlight routine.

Given her results last season, featuring seven 9.9+s including a 10.000, Rachel Baumann has the clearest opening to make a Florida lineup on floor, where her scores are more consistently lofty than any of the other returning gymnasts. The first-choice six would also feature Sloane Blakely. She, too, scored a 10.000 last season but then also had a fairly inconsistent journey with that double Arabian and didn’t end up competing floor at nationals. So it’s not a given, but you want it.

If Florida elects to go for a lineup that excludes a gymnast who scored 10.000 last season (first-world problems), they will have Payton Richards, who got pushed out of most of her lineups in the 2022 season but came in for Blakely in the national championship for 9.900, or Ellie Lazzari and her five 9.9s on floor from 2021 once she is fully back, either of whom you wouldn’t be surprised to see in a floor lineup in 2023.

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