Category Archives: Freshman Preview

Meet the Freshmen – UCLA & Cal


UCLA has every reason to expect that the 2019 team will display more formidable depth than last season’s national championship team, having lost just four routines from that Super Six performance. Improving the scores on every event, however, is not a given because…Peng’s perfect 20…but still, the essential core remains intact and should receive a boost from this small-but-mighty new crop.

UCLA Freshmen 2019
Margzetta Frazier VT UB BB FX
You’re familiar with Marz. There’s little mystery in this part of the preview. She has both the tumbling and the performance quality to provide an essential routine on floor that I’m sure UCLA is already angling to submit for “this is our viral floor routine this year” status. UCLA will also count on Frazier for a 10.0 start that can go toward the end of the vault lineup, if not anchor it. She has continued training the DTY so far in preseason.

We never end up talking about Frazier as much on bars, but she has shown tremendous difficulty there in the last couple years of elite and has the kind of legs-together Shap 1/2 that should render her bars routine equally important to her vault and floor in restocking UCLA’s lineups. I fully expect to see three weekly events from Frazier, and in most team circumstances, she would be an all-arounder. She’ll surely give UCLA an option on beam, though beam isn’t exactly an easy UCLA lineup to get into. We could very well just see the five returners and Flatley make up the 2019 group.

Norah Flatley VT UB BB FX
Flatley’s NCAA debut is among the most anticipated this season because it has been a geologic age since we’ve seen her in competition. That endless injury history is why power-event expectations will be muted for Flatley, at least early on. She, of course, has the ability to pull out a lovely vault and 3/1 her way to perfection on floor (which she has been training in preseason), but I think as long as Flatley can stay healthy enough to deliver gorgeous bars and beam, UCLA will be happy.

Beam was always Flatley’s wow event in junior elite, with a rare mix of difficulty and “China circa 1992” execution that had her on Olympic-prognostication shortlists. So if anyone is going to take on Peng responsibilities on beam, it will be Flatley.

Sekai Wright VT UB BB FX
Sekai Wright is here to lift the power quotient on vault, an event on which UCLA’s relative lack of difficulty last season compared to other top teams looked like a disqualifying weakness right up until about…the middle of Kyla Ross’s beam routine during Super Six. Wright’s powerful 1.5 will be critical over the next few seasons for UCLA in delivering the necessary amount of 10.0 starts. Wright brings that same power ability to floor and will look to deliver an option there as well.
Sara Taubman VT UB BB FX
I’ve never seen actual competition videos of Taubman, just training work, but based on that training, the pieces are there for Taubman to provide a routine in the depth pool on bars, her best event.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – UCLA & Cal


Meet the Freshmen – Oklahoma & Arkansas


It’s a small freshman class for Oklahoma this year, one that will not be called upon for an overwhelming number of routines but will have to provide several critical spot sets as part of the project to make up for not having Jackson, Brown, and Catour in lineups anymore.

Those dear departed 2018 seniors delivered important scores, but not an excessive number of competition routines—a number that this freshman class should be able to manage itself, especially on the leg events where this group excels.

Oklahoma Freshmen 2019
Olivia Trautman VT UB BB FX
Trautman’s is the most recognizable name in the class, and she should prove to be the most lineup-influential of Oklahoma’s three freshmen. Her foremost contributions will be on floor and vault. On floor, Trautman’s massive amplitude allows her to complete a DLO more comfortably than most as well as producing standout leaps, getting much higher than the competition. Similarly huge is the Y1.5 on vault that Trautman has competed since dropping back down to L10. Expect both routines to secure prime lineup places from the start of the season.

While floor and vault are the essential routines, don’t be surprised if we see all four from Trautman. Bars isn’t as much of a natural event for her, but she has good rhythm, a useful DLO dismount, and could get there. As for beam, it’s Oklahoma. You can throw a dart at the roster and hit four 9.9s, but Trautman has proven a very solid beamer who should be in the mix.

Allie Stern VT UB BB FX
To me, Stern is a bit of a wildcard in terms of how much we’ll see her contribute, but she’ll angle for positions in the vault and floor lineups. Most importantly, she has a 1.5 on vault, reigniting Oklahoma’s quest to show up at nationals with six 10.0 starts. Her JO performances make that vault look like a very realistic NCAA option.

Stern also had a full-in on floor in JO (which she has continued to work in training videos) and comfortable twisting ability, so she could help shore up some of those question mark positions in the early half of the floor lineup from last season. Stern does have a beam routine as well, but on this team that will be a tough lineup.

Emma LaPinta VT UB BB FX
LaPinta is walking on for Oklahoma this year and will be looking to provide a depth option on floor. She had a double Arabian in JO and has continued working a 3/1 in preseason, so the tumbling skills are definitely there for her to put together an Oklahoma-worthy floor set.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – Oklahoma & Arkansas

Meet the Freshmen – Florida & Kentucky


How are you not winning the national championship every year, Florida? Last year’s freshman class brought that championship ability, but it didn’t quite happen. This year’s class brings the same quality, the major difference being that the 2019 class also has a ton of replacement work to do in making up for the absences of McMurtry, Baker, and Slocum. That must be accomplished before they can even entertain the prospect of improving on last season’s performance.

The good news for Florida—the talent is there. This class should bring enough routines to increase the squad depth even over 2018’s roster.

Florida Freshmen 2019
Trinity Thomas VT UB BB FX
I mean, come on. If Trinity Thomas isn’t a star in college gymnastics, there’s something wrong with college gymnastics. The combination of exceptional extension and crazy-easy power makes her potentially the most compelling 10 prospect among all freshmen this year. Expect Thomas to figure critically on every event.

Beam has always been Thomas’s most impressive piece because of the way she separates herself from the rabble through her leaps, but she has equally vital power on floor—not to mention about a million viable tumbling-pass options. Beyond that, Thomas’s ability to maintain leg position on skills like Shaps on bars tells me that coming up with a deduction-free NCAA bars routine shouldn’t be much trouble. On vault, she has settled into the Y1.5 these last couple years, which tended to undermine her AA score in elite because of elite, but it should be a clean option in NCAA, almost entirely free of sloppy-knee-town.

Sydney Johnson-Scharpf VT UB BB FX
Let us not forget SJS, the type of elite who always seemed like, “OK, Have fun with this for a while, but NCAA will be your real thing.” Floor has always been her event, not just because she has an inherent comfort in performing. The tumbling is there too. I’d also expect to see SJS on beam, where she shows the acro extension and viable NCAA leaps to snatch a strong score.

On bars, SJS shows efficient and solid D elements that can make for a lineup-ready option. On vault, we haven’t seen the DTY in several years, but the full she showed most recently in elite would make an acceptably clean option if Florida is looking for more fulls, which it may not be.

Savannah Schoenherr VT UB BB FX
The name you don’t know in Florida’s class but should learn now is Schoenherr’s. She finished 2nd AA at JO nationals this year and should make her way into a least a couple lineups for Florida with the potential to do all four.

Most importantly, Schoenherr vaults a realistic Y1.5 that Florida will need to make up for the three critical lost vaults from last season. She’s a key piece there. On beam, those leaps and smooth acro skills make her routine an appealing prospect, and with the height she gets on the Jaeger, bars should be able to score quite well too. (Is the dismount difficulty enough to get into the lineup?) On floor, Schoenherr is working a maybe-3/1 and can twist and leap, so it’s feasible but still probably her least likely piece. We’ll see if the ultimate difficulty is there to break into the six.

Leah Clapper VT UB BB FX
You know Clapper from her sojourn in elite, and she’ll be a fascinating one to watch because she’s an accomplished athlete in both elite and JO (finished 9th AA at JO nationals this year in the same division as Schoenherr) who has the skill set to provide a routine on any event for 9.800. For most teams, Clapper would be a “get in the all-around right now” prospect. But on this team, it’s unclear yet which lineup positions will even be open by the time you get to Clapper.

I see floor as a possibility. The D passes she used in L10 this year are very comfortable for her. She’s also been showing a solid two-loso series on beam in training videos, has a workable full on vault should Florida need it, and has cleaned up bars since going back to JO/NCAA composition.

Nya Reed VT UB BB FX
Reed’s most likely contribution to Florida will be on floor, where she has been training a massive DLO (and also has a worthwhile double Arabian from JO days). Her twisting form is strong as well, so Florida will look to get that routine into the lineup for a big score. Reed also gets some real distance on a Yfull, presenting that as yet another vault option. We’re much less likely to see bars and beam, but she can be in the depth pool on beam.
Halley Taylor VT UB BB FX
Taylor was sort of supposed to be “the other one” in this class, but her surprise 8th-place AA finish at JO nationals this year really complicated things. That’s not a random-walk-on kind of result. Taylor is working a DLO to present herself as a viable floor option on this team and could be in the depth pool on bars and beam as well, where might challenge with a little cleaning.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – Florida & Kentucky

Meet the Freshmen – LSU & Georgia


Today, it’s LSU and Georgia—pairing a teeny, tiny freshman class with a large army freshman class to balance things out.

With Bailey Ferrer signing yesterday to join the LSU team for the 2019 season (and a vital signing it is), that brings LSU’s new class up to two members. This still does not present a net gain of routines for 2019, a season in which the important work from Hambrick and Macadaeg will need to be replaced somehow, so the upperclasswomen will also be counted on to take some of that burden.

LSU Freshmen 2019
Bailey Ferrer VT UB BB FX
In Ferrer, LSU has a former junior elite whom we can expect to contribute on multiple events right away. Since dropping back to L10, Ferrer’s best scores have come on vault, where that 10.0-start Omelianchik gives her a leg-up in the lineup discussion. Her non-terrifying double Arabian and comfortable twisting ability on floor will also be an asset for a lineup that needs Ferrer and Kelley to restock the group this season. Expect to see her on at least those two pieces.

I could also see Ferrer getting into that bars lineup in an early spot. Someone has to slot in for Hambrick—it’s not yet clear who it will be—and Ferrer is a nominee. The knees and leaps probably keep Ferrer from the beam lineup on a team like this, but she presents a routine if needed.

Rebecca D’Antonio VT UB BB FX
D’Antonio is the kind of walk-on unlikely to see competition time on a team as strong as LSU’s, but that beam work has a lot of potential, so I could see a project to develop that as something more than just a depth routine.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – LSU & Georgia

Meet the Freshmen – Utah, Nebraska, Denver


Can you be better in 2019 than they were in 2018? That’s the question facing the top programs as the number of teams competing on the final day drops from six to four this year. Being among the best six teams doesn’t mean anything anymore.

With this year’s standout freshman class of four ninja L10s, Utah has every reason to expect that it can improve over 2018 on each event. The Utes lose four routines from 2018’s final lineups, but this freshman class can very realistically add 10-11 new ones, meaning 2019 should bring Utah a net gain in both depth and scoring potential.

Utah Freshmen 2019
Cristal Isa VT UB BB FX
Major all-around accomplishments are a theme of this freshman class (three of the four finished in the top 10 at JO Nationals this year), but if there’s one I’d pick as most likely to see time on all four events this season, it’s Isa. You watch these routines and see efficient, NCAA-ready gymnastics that needs only minor skill-selection adjustments—the type of routine you’d be happy to put in the middle of the lineup on any event.

In training videos so far this preseason, we’ve seen the addition of a full-in on floor and a gainer 1.5 dismount on beam, which could provide that little extra standout quality and difficulty to get her out of “good for 9.850” territory. Her vault is a very clean, usable full, and on bars, if you can do a Ray, a bail with legs together, and a clean DLO, you’re in business. Definite options here.

Hunter Dula VT UB BB FX
Utah will be excited about Dula on bars. Those precise handstands can be used to create a set free from the kind of built-in deductions that take routines down to 9.850 once April rolls around. A full-in and clean twisting on floor should make Dula a definite contender there as well.

Vault, however, may be the most interesting event for Dula because she boasts a little-seen round-off 1/1 on, back pike—a 10.0 start. It’s actually quite well done and gets better height than most 1/1 on vaults, but it’s so hard to score well for that because these vaults tend to get held to Yurchenko standards of height, distance, and landing position and deducted for all three. Can’t wait to see how it plays out, though.

Adrienne Randall VT UB BB FX
Beam is the event on which Randall is most likely to star—the legs are extended, the leaps are usable, and that real Rulfova can be a signature piece—but her 4th-place AA finish at JOs this year should tell us that Randall is a lineup contender on most events. Bars is similarly important. With those crisp toes and very capable DLO, she has a chance to elevate that lineup, and I would keep Randall in the mix on floor as yet another viable member of Team Full-In from this class.
Cammy Hall VT UB BB FX
Hall was the late signing for Utah, a VT/FX specialist who can deliver a big Yurchenko 1.5 to pump up the team’s supply of 10.0 starts. Of the freshmen, Hall looks the most likely to make her way into the vault lineup and should figure for critical scores as long as the landing control is there. We may also see Hall on floor, where a pretty solid double Arabian should put her among the options.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – Utah, Nebraska, Denver