The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2023 Alabama Crimson Tide

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Super Seniors

Sania Mitchell

FX

  • Competed 5 FXs in 2022, avg 9.875

Shallon Olsen

VT
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on VT (9.900)

  • #4 returning score on FX (9.855)

  • #5 returning score on BB (9.865)

Seniors

Luisa Blanco

VT
UB
BB
FX


  • #1 returning score on UB (9.940), BB (9.940)

  • #2 returning score on FX (9.900)

  • NQS of 9.755 on VT in 2022

Ella Burgess

BB

  • #3 returning score on BB (9.900)

Makarri Doggette

VT
UB
BB
FX


  • #2 returning score on UB (9.935)

  • #3 returning score on VT (9.825)

  • Competed 4 BBs (avg 9.744), 2 FXs (9.900, 9.000) in 2022

Mati Waligora

VT
UB
BB

FX

  • #4 returning score on BB (9.885)

  • #5 returning score on FX (9.800)

  • #6 returning score on UB (9.845)

  • Competed 5 VTs in 2022, avg 9.725

Juniors

Shania Adams

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #5 returning score on UB (9.860)

  • Competed 5 BBs (avg 9.835), 4 VTs (9.688), 1 FX (9.450) in 2022

Cameron Machado

UB
BB
FX

  • #3 returning score on UB (9.910), FX (9.870)

  • Competed 1 BB in 2022 for 9.700

Isabella Martin


  • Did not compete in first 2 seasons

Sophomores

Corinne Bunagan

UB
BB

  • Did not compete in first season

Lilly Hudson

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • #1 returning score on FX (9.930)

  • #2 returning score on BB (9.900)

  • #3 returning score on VT (9.825)

  • #4 returning score on UB (9.885)

Jordyn Paradise

VT
UB

  • #2 returning score on VT (9.865)

  • Competed 3 UBs in 2022, avg 9.825

First Years

Karis German

VT

UB
BB
FX

  • WCC

  • 3rd AA, 2021 American Classic

Gabby Gladieux

VT
UB
BB
FX

  • High point

  • 1st AA, 2022 L10 Nationals

Zoe Gravier

VT
UB
BB

  • First State

  • 9th AA, 2022 L10 Nationals

Lillian Lewis

BB

  • San Mateo

  • 8th AA, 2022 L10 Nationals

Lauren Little

UB
BB

  • Everest

  • 7th AA, 2022 US Classic

Rachel Rybicki

BB
FX

  • Olympia

  • 8th FX, 2022 L10 Nationals

RANKING HISTORY
2022 – 7th
2021 – 5th
2020 – 8th
2019 – 12th
2018 – 8th
2017 – 6th
2016 – 3rd
2015 – 4th
2014 – 4th
2013 – 3rd
2012 – 1st

Where 2022 Finished…

The 2021 and 2022 performances signaled a mild resurgence for Alabama compared to the team that dropped to 12th in 2019 and looked on the verge of…trending Georgia. The gymnastics returned to nationals level in the final two years under Duckworth, but 2022 was still the season of a second-tier contender, one that could pop into the national championship if everything goes just right but isn’t actually considered a serious threat to win. That’s a solid position for most teams, but for an Alabama program that used to win national championships as recently as a decade ago (is that recent?) and was part of the Big Four, it’s a downgrade. The 2022 result was also a downgrade from the 2021 team that finished 5th and won SECs. This time, it wasn’t as close.

Now, we wait to see if the new coaching staff will throw all that out the window and get Alabama back to the final day of the season, which hasn’t happened since 2017.

Gains and Losses

LOSTGAINED
Lexi Graber – VT, BB, FXKaris German
Emily Gaskins – UB, FX (VT, BB)Gabby Gladieux
Kaylee Quinn – VTZoe Gravier
Griffin James – (FX)Lillian Lewis
Lauren Little
Rachel Rybicki

The New Ones

There’s a lot here. Many potential lineup routines float around this first-year class, starting with Karis German. German was a multi-year elite at WCC most known for her floor work, where the double double and DLO 1/1 represent far more difficulty than she would ever need in putting together a highlight NCAA routine. Similar is true on bars, where her extensive supply of challenging Tkatchev variations shouldn’t go unutilized.

Gabby Gladieux committed a slight breach of etiquette in having a name that ends in X and not going to LSU (can you imagine the tweets), but Alabama has this Senior D national champion who placed in the top 6 on every event at L10 nationals this year, winning beam. Gladieux profiles as, at the very least, on option on every apparatus, and Alabama will basically aim to get a Lilly Hudson 2022 season out of her if everything goes right.

As for the other former elites, Zoe Gravier is an MG Elite refugee who competed on the L10 circuit for the last couple seasons, 2022 proving her best one with a 9th-place AA and UB finish at L10 Nationals. Similarly, Lillian Lewis had an 8th-place AA finish this year in her age group, which was also her best result as a senior after returning from a stint as a junior elite. Meanwhile, Lauren Little has been an elite for roughly 715 years, competing in parts of three different cycles (she and Trinity Thomas were junior elites together way back when), and while she was most known for vault as a tiny when she showed up with a DTY in 2016, bars now looks to be her strongest event and most likely contribution.

Rachel Rybicki is the lone Devo lifer of the group, who had a standout result on floor—the event that nearly always delivers her best results—at this year’s nationals with a 9.700.

Event by Event

VAULT

2022 Event Ranking: 5

Lineup locks: Luisa Blanco, Shallon Olsen, Lilly Hudson, Jordyn Paradise
Lineup options: Makarri Doggette, Karis German, Gabby Gladieux, Mati Waligora, Shania Adams

Alabama returns a strong core of vaulters that can retain last season’s position, though the true competitiveness of this lineup will be determined by how that group is rounded out with two more routines. All things being healthy, Luisa Blanco’s Y1.5 should be the strongest vault on the team, and Shallon Olsen had her best-ever vaulting year in 2022 when the landing control arrived on her DTY for more 9.9s than she had ever seen before. Lilly Hudson and Jordyn Paradise added Y1.5s of their own to the team last season, both of which should have a place in this year’s lineup.

We finally got the briefest glimpse of the possibilities presented by Makarri Dogette’s vault at the beginning of 2022, but that has been only a rare gift for Alabama’s lineup and did not appear after mid-February. Ideally, Doggette’s vault would be the solution to the main replacement job this lineup faces—the loss of Lexi Graber’s Y1.5—but we’ve never seen it often enough to be counted on. Similar is true for Mati Waligora’s Y1.5, which popped up for the occasional 9.9 last season but didn’t make a lot of cameos, and perhaps the Shania Adams Y1.5, which was either 9.950 or 9.300 or missing last season. Lots of Y1.5s are theoretically there, but are they actually there? 

Karis German went back down to the Yfull for the 2021 and 2022 elite seasons, though the possibilities presented by her acrobatic ability on floor lead one to believe there could be more here. Even if not, her full seems one of the best possibilities for this team, along with Gladieux’s, which always scored comfortably.

BARS

2022 Event Ranking: 3

Lineup locks: Luisa Blanco, Makarri Doggette, Cam Machado, Lilly Hudson
Lineup options: Shania Adams, Mati Waligora, Karis German, Lauren Little, Jordyn Paradise, Gabby Gladieux, Zoe Gravier, Corinne Bunagan

Bars was the breakout event for Alabama last season, the most likely to deliver a real-life 9.950, and since Graber wasn’t really doing bars toward the end and Gaskins was only an occasional member of the lineup, it also remains the most intact for the 2023 season. Here, we have seeming-locks in the first-year class trying to replace seeming-locks from the returning classes in order to make up a lineup of six. They can’t all win.

Luisa Blanco and Makarri Doggette are the top bars workers on this team and should return to the 5th and 6th spots in the lineup. Lilly Hudson found her 9.9s in the second half of 2022 for a routine that would seem difficult to displace here, and Cam Machado went 9.9s as many times as she went 9.8s last season for a noteworthy improvement in scores. All of this means despite how fiercely I might campaign on the Justice For Shania Adams platform (we have buttons) given her occasionally confounding bars scores compared to the rest of this lineup in 2022, she may have a fight on her hands to get back given the first-year routines coming in. You have the Karis German releases and the Lauren Little handstands, both of which one would normally expect to break into a lineup. And where does that leave Mati Waligora and her regionals 9.950 from last year? Not to mention the very realistic routines coming from most of the first-years, where ideally we would see Zoe Gravier get a shot. There may end up being 0-1 spots for new gymnasts, and Alabama would be fine with that given last season’s #3 ranking.

BEAM

2022 Event Ranking: 5

Lineup locks: Luisa Blanco, Lilly Hudson, Ella Burgess
Lineup options: Mati Waligora, Gabby Gladieux, Shania Adams, Shallon Olsen, Lillian Lewis, Zoe Gravier, Makarri Doggette, Corinne Bunagan, Cameron Machado, Karis German, Rachel Rybicki

Alabama will need to replace the Lexi Graber beam routine, but otherwise the team returns five members of its first-choice lineup from 2022 in Blanco, Hudson, Burgess, Waligora, and Olsen, all of whom could very realistically return to the six. Certainly, Blanco is the best beam worker on the team, Hudson emerged as pretty necessary routine in this lineup last season, and Burgess’s run of seven consecutive 9.9s last season bumped her up from a maybe-lineup contender to a weekly must-have.

Waligora was on beam nearly every week last season for plenty of high scores, and Olsen has been probably the steadiest option, so you wouldn’t be surprised to see either return, even if there should be a healthy fight for spots among both returners and newbies to see who actually makes up the highest-scoring lineup, not just the safest one. Shania Adams, for instance, scored nothing lower than 9.9 on beam last season once she got into the lineup starting at regionals, and Gabby Gladieux is a L10 national champion on beam. There’s also Corinne Bunagan, who did not compete last season, but beam would probably rank as her most likely contribution if she were to jump in this year.

As on bars, Alabama has a hearty supply of beam options, so we’ll have to wait and see if the several first years who also profile as potential-filled beam projects (which is honestly most of them, they’re all “lots of talent but…[leaps][tentative][feet]) can even get looks, or if there’s just no room.

FLOOR

2022 Event Ranking: 7

Lineup locks: Luisa Blanco, Lilly Hudson, Karis German, Gabby Gladieux
Lineup options: Rachel Rybicki, Makarri Doggette, Cam Machado, Shallon Olsen, Mati Waligora, Sania Mitchell, Shania Adams

For a second-straight season, floor stood as Alabama’s lowest-ranked event in 2022, which is…weird and shouldn’t be the case for this team, so the search for upgrades may be on. In that regard, three of the first years present strong possibilities. Health seems like the only thing that would prevent Karis German from being a late-lineup star on this event given her tumbling ability, but also keep an eye on Rachel Rybicki, who has a pretty front 2/1 in a twist-a-thon routine, and Gladieux, who scored well for her FTDT in L10. You wouldn’t be surprised to see all three break into the lineup in a half-refresh, though it’s far from a guarantee.

As far as returners, of course Luisa Blanco will have a place late in the lineup, though it was Lilly Hudson who ended up snatching the higher floor scores in 2022 (Blanco was out on floor at the end of the season). Regardless, both should be considered locks to return to the lineup. The most exciting returning floor prospect, however, may be Makarri Doggette, who has competed a grand total of four floor routines in the last two seasons but has been working the event in preseason and would be a deeply welcome full-time addition to the lineup in 2023 if that’s possible. Shallon Olsen will also bring back her big difficulty, and much like on vault, she seemed to find her landing control with it in the second half of last season to attain the kind of scores one would expect her to get on floor.

That could mean that people like Cam Machado, who ended up doing quite well on floor last season, or Sania Mitchell, who got a casual 9.950 at one point, or Mati Waligora, who also went 7 times last season peaking at 9.925, get muscled out of the lineup this season, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them.

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