Category Archives: Freshman Preview

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

Meet the Freshmen – Alabama & Auburn


The five-member freshman class for Alabama will be tasked with the daunting duty of making up for the loss of lineup-leading sets from Kiana Winston and Nickie Guerrero, who delivered all six of Alabama’s 9.9 RQS routines in 2018. Luckily for Alabama, there are some impressive names you might recognize in this freshman class, who should be up to the task.

Alabama Freshmen 2019
Emily Gaskins Vault Bars Beam Floor
Gaskins has been a fan-favorite among the second-tier elites since she was a little baby junior because of her pristine execution, beyond-her-years performance quality, and just-wait-for-NCAA potential. Having now been granted refugee asylum in a college program, she has the tools to be a four-event NCAA star—with the usual elite health caveats implied. While it’s a lot to expect right away, Alabama will need Gaskins to be new-Kiana Winston to keep pace in the arms race of the top teams, especially if Bailie Key has another 2018. But we’ll get to that in the team preview.

Floor has always been the standout piece for Gaskins, and by retaining that DLO, she looks primed for a deep place in the lineup. Her line should suit her well on beam and bars, where the reduction to NCAA composition will allow the toes and handstands to shine while sifting out some of those elite execution trouble spots. Vault is an under-the-radar event for Gaskins, but recall how nice that DTY is in the linked video. Expect her to provide a clean, comfortable, and lineup-ready full there.

Shallon Olsen Vault Bars Beam Floor
It has always been about vault and floor for Olsen. She just won a vault medal 30 seconds ago at worlds and will be counted on to bring an anchor-position 10.0 vault for Alabama. Olsen has a ton of vault choices, but several of them wouldn’t be execution-smart, so I’m thinking the Y1.5 will be the go-to. Similarly, Olsen has a whole bushel of E-passes on floor to deliver what should be the most difficult routine on the team. Also watch to see how Olsen meshes with the patented “It’s 3am and I’ve traveled through time to pass out in 4 clubs at once” Alabama floor music approach because that could be interesting.

It’s easy to chalk up Olsen as only a vault and floor specialist and leave it there, but she did just hit beam in a worlds team final for Canada. I think a lot of us watched that routine and thought, given some more time at the Dana Duckworth Beam Finishing School for Alabama Ladies, that could actually be a thing for her. On bars…congratulations Shallon you don’t have to worry about bars anymore.

Griffin James Vault Bars Beam Floor
Those first two will do most of the Winston/Guerrero replacement work, but expect to see a few routines from James this year as well. She’s very capable on all four pieces, particularly with that believable Yfull. I’m most eager, however, to see what plays out on floor as we go along because the floor tumbling I’ve linked to here is excellent—but it’s from 2014. I haven’t seen floor from James in a long time, and the scores haven’t been consistently competitive the last couple years, but still…back in the day…

I’d note bars as another possibility because the skill set and rhythm is there, even if it would take cleaning. Beam is a similar case where this routine seems like a somewhat workable option, but that’s a pretty tough lineup to get into.

Asia DeWalt Vault Bars Beam Floor
It’s tough to know what we’ll see from DeWalt because recent Achilles issues have hampered what should be a strength for her, the power events. Vault has been by far DeWalt’s best-scoring event in JO, so Alabama will hope for a big Yfull from her to challenge for a spot the lineup. Noteworthy amplitude on transition elements on bars like a Shap 1/2 also make that event look like a worthy project.
Jensie Givens Vault Bars Beam Floor
Watch the bars and beam videos for this walk-on because you’ll go, ‘Oh, I see it.” With those handstands and that Jaeger, Alabama will feel it can turn that bars routine into something very real, and on beam, the leaps and flexibility make you start paying attention—as long as they can work out a dismount.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – Alabama & Auburn

Meet the Freshmen – Stanford & Oregon State

As the elite season winds down (and then winds back up again with Cottbus in two weeks, and then winds back down again) attention turns to NCAA. I’m beginning preview season with little capsules about the freshmen you’ll soon meet and how they might plump up their new teams—like a collagen treatment.


Be prepared: there is no Ebee ex machina in Stanford’s incoming class, and Stanford will take a “wait, where is my anchor 9.950?”-shaped hit in the scoring department in 2019.

Hope emerges in the form of increased depth, since this five-member freshman class will be tasked with replacing only one routine on each event. Stanford will be looking to gain back some of that lost Elizabeth Price scoring potential not from new 9.950s but by swapping out early-lineup 9.725s from last season with 9.800s this season.

Stanford Freshmen 2019
Grace Waguespack Vault Bars Beam Floor
The former junior elite from 2013 placed 12th AA at JO Nationals in 2017 and looks the most likely freshman to contribute multiple events—potentially seeing time on all four—for Stanford in 2019.

Because Stanford returns only one strong bars score from last season, nearly all of the freshmen must have competition-ready bars routines in order to reinvent the apparatus. With those handstands and the smooth Shaposh, you can see Waguespack in the lineup with a little cleaning. She also shows a lineup-ready Yurchenko full, comfortable twisting ability on floor (at least for a 2.5), and solid enough acro to render her an option on beam. Waguespack looks very much like the “early lineup on any event” type to bulk up the collection of options.

Wesley Stephenson Vault Bars Beam Floor
Coming out of Legacy Elite, Stephenson is looking to provide options on bars and beam and has the skills on both pieces to do so. I’d rank her as the most likely freshman to get into the beam lineup—with the acro security to provide a boost compared to some of the other, more nerve-wracking 9.750s—and on bars, the routine competition is there. All of the freshmen need refinement on bars, but in the desperate search for 9.8s, she’s more than in the mix.
Madison Brunette Vault Bars Beam Floor
Speaking of bars sets, Brunette will provide an important routine there—on her best event. With that Deltchev and that line, Stanford should be able to put something together worthy of mid-lineup.

If we do see Brunette on other pieces, it will be on vault (especially because she is not listed as training floor on the roster) with a perfectly believable, clean FTY that can challenge for the top 6.

Morgan Hoang Vault Bars Beam Floor
For Hoang, it’s about floor. Getting that exceptional DLO into the floor lineup is necessary in the race to lose as little ground as possible without Price’s routine. If she’s able to repeat that in NCAA, it will be a standout pass.

Hoang is unlikely to contribute bars, which is partially why the bars routines from the other four newbies are so critical, but like the others, she has a possible Yfull—with impressive distance that could get her into the lineup—and looks like a beam option despite not being listed as training beam on the roster. From what I’ve seen, that routine looks about on the level of the other 9.750-9.800 routines Stanford has hanging around.

Eve Micco Vault Bars Beam Floor
With her Jaeger and bail, Micco should be among the new members of the bars lineup, though resolving the cast handstand issue will be a continued topic of discussion for lineup contenders both old and new. Last season, that’s what took a few otherwise strong routines down into the 9.700 area, and that can’t happen again this year.

Bars looks like the main option for Micco, though we could see her on floor as well with a 2.5 twist as a possible early-lineup option. On vault, she has shown a round-off 1/1 on, back tuck that may seem appealing because of its 10.0 start but probably isn’t at the level to be worth it.


Continue reading Meet the Freshmen – Stanford & Oregon State