Let the previews BEGIN! On the roster, I’ve noted which events the gymnasts normally compete for a quick glance at possible lineup choices.
Aufiero, Erika – Senior – VT, UB (capable of adding BB, maybe FX)
Colussi-Pelaez, Mariana – Freshman
Colussi-Pelaez, Silvia – Junior – UB, BB
Dessaints, Dani – Sophomore – VT, UB
Gardiner, Maddie – Junior – VT, UB, BB, FX
Jacobsen, Mary – Freshman
Jimenez, Megan – Junior – VT, FX
Khamedoost, Shireen – Sophomore – UB
McMillan, Kaytianna – Junior – VT, UB, BB, FX
Perez, Risa – Senior – BB, FX (possible VT, did UB at ASU)
Radermacher, Jamie – Senior – FX
Ricci, Taylor – Junior – VT, FX
Singley, McKenna – Freshman
Yu, Elizabeth – Freshman
2015 – 12th
2014 – 13th
2013 – 16th
2012 – 12th
2011 – 8th
2010 – 8th
Oregon State crossed a significant hurdle last season by returning to nationals at a point when underperforming at important meets was becoming an unfortunate trend. This season, Oregon State should find itself in a similar position, squarely in the fight for a spot at nationals but with nothing guaranteed. It’ll be another on-the-cusp season. Because of that, quite a bit will depend on other teams, particularly how well the likes Illinois and Arkansas end up performing, but Oregon State should be a reasonably 196.6 team this year once everything falls into place. The Beavs haven’t lost too, too many crucial scores from last season, especially because Tang wasn’t scoring at consistently the same level post-injury. Aside from Tang’s beam and floor and Keeker’s suddenly 9.9 vault, which will absolutely be missed, OSU lost a handful of 9.825s that should be easily replaceable with this roster.
Kaytianna McMillan. McMillian suffered a wild knee catastrophe on vault at regionals last year, rendering her unavailable for nationals (and walking) and effectively dashing any hope the team had for stirring up some trouble among the big girls. At this point, she’s still in the comeback process, but having her contributing serious routines by the end of the season is a must for Oregon State. If it’s just Maddie Gardiner with spot greatness from Aufiero and Perez, this will not be a particularly successful season. Those scores alone do not amount to enough to challenge. They need one more 9.9 leader across multiple events, and it looks like it needs to be McMillan. If she joins the other big contributors and they’re all going strong by the end of the season, picking the Beavs to make it back to nationals becomes a much more comfortable prospect.
Vault has not been a traditional strength for Oregon State, usually lacking the power and difficulty of the top teams and forcing the Beavs to hang out closer to the 49.2s than teams cracking the top 10 should be. That concern could be exacerbated this year with the new start values, since Oregon State does look to be vaulting primarily fulls. If they’re not pristine fulls, the gap widens. The newbie Mary Jacobsen may then be a serious asset because word on the street from the cool kids (you know how people on the street corner are always talking about vault lineups?) is that Jacobsen will be vaulting a Tsuk full, which still has a 10.0 SV. McMillan also possesses great power and did a 1.5 in JO, but after multiple years of serious leg traumas, it’s more important just to get her back vaulting something at some point rather than pushing the difficulty.
Other fulls from Aufiero and Gardiner will certainly return to the lineup and usually (usually) feature comfortable, minimal-deduction landings. Both have gone 9.900 for those vaults, so while that may translate down to 9.850 this year, they will still be valuable. Ideally, McMillan, Aufiero, Gardiner, and Jacobsen will be the vaulting core. When those four are together, expect competitive scores and something that can break out of the 49.2 doldrums. When the second-tier vaulters (Jimenez, Dessaints, Ricci, perhaps Singley) have to jump in and contribute significant routines, that total is probably dropping down toward the 49.1s since they’re more likely to hang around 9.800. That puts quite a bit of pressure on the other events to keep the team competitive.
For my money, Erika Aufiero’s bars routine is the most important performance on the team this year. When she sticks that DLO, it’s pretty much a guaranteed 9.900 (unless she arches a handstand like in the video above—come on, youtube!). On a roster without any other true bars sorceresses, hers will be an essential weekly score because if she doesn’t get it, who else will? There are other definite lineup returners like Gardiner, SCP, and McMillan, all of whom are solid enough on bars, but they’re solid for 9.825s, not 9.9+s. They have supporting routines rather than lineup-defining routines and wouldn’t be enough to protect the team against those 9.7s that cropped up too often last season.
In the remaining two spots, the Beavs have lost guaranteed lineup routines from Tang and Keeker, but the freshmen should be able to pick up that slack. Jacobsen shows laudable height on release elements and should be an option in the 9.8s, and Singley has a lot to like in her bars work, particularly with the handstands and (get this!) a pak with legs fully together. I know. The only issue is that she still needs a real dismount to be a true standout. As for MCP, her elite bars was often a rough little ride, but she has the basics to be able to reconstruct for an NCAA routine close in quality to her sister’s. The other choices are Dessaints (who suddenly filled in at championships for McMillan and got a 9.850, so we’ll see if that’s the start of something for her), and Khamedoost, who’s probably in the backup-9.750-as-necessary category again this season. Because it’s not a lineup of many stars, they’re going to have to rely on developing consistency of 9.8s to pick up ground over last year, when key competitors were getting unfortunate 9.725s.
Beam is where OSU will feel the loss of Chelsea Tang the most. She was this lineup for several seasons and, post-Leslie Mak, single-handedly saved the team’s asses on beam more times than are even possible to count. Without her, everything will be terrifying (so don’t worry), but when it’s on, this event also has the potential to be something pretty interesting and unexpected. It’s an “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so scared” lineup. Maddie Gardiner is brilliant and should lead the way with 9.9s. She just does not give away execution nasties. There’s also Risa Perez, whose score isn’t always remarkable, but she conjures glitter bombs out of thin air with her beam work, so no one really cares. It’s Risa Perez. She should at least keep the team protected against 9.7itis, along with McMillan, who also brings that touch of flair with a front handspring to her knees. (It’s the kind of skill that makes this lineup more appealing than most.) With these specimens, Oregon State should be able to go into the 49.3s in a couple meets this year, but because of beam reasons, we’re just as likely to see 48.7s as 49.3s. Hopefully not more likely.
In other news, I heretofore pledge to stop complaining about not seeing SCP’s transverse aerial. We have Danusia covering that anyway, and it’s way more important just to get her out there with a hit. Beam really should be her best event, and she’s capable of so much more than the 9.7s she was scoring most of last season. We can expect better. As for the rest of the lineup, this roster should be able to conjure a few more realistic options than it did in previous seasons, allowing the coaches to pick the most consistent. Many of the returners could reasonably do beam, just haven’t as yet, so we may see a case or two of Sudden Beam Syndrome. All four of the freshmen also boast perfectly competent little beam routines and may see time. Jacobsen and Singley were already part of the competition group in the season preview, MCP has an attitude turn on beam and gets 40 points for that, and while Yu didn’t show any routines in the preview and may have fallen into a well somewhere, she had respectable form going for her on beam back in JO Nationals days. There’s enough room to experiment that they should be able to come up with a consistent lineup this year.
The Beavs do not have a big floor team. They’re not going to be busting out E pass after E pass. Maddie Gardiner can give a 3/1 and McMillan has some difficulty in her repertoire (once again, how much can you push that right now?), but for the most part, they’ll need to rely on clean and secure, something they’ve done pretty effectively lately. Floor was OSU’s best piece last season—and the team’s only top-8 event—and that wasn’t achieved though shoving difficulty in everyone’s faces.
Most importantly, I’d like to see Risa Perez in the anchor spot. No, she doesn’t have traditional anchor difficulty, but if anyone is going to take advantage of score building and some performance perks to get 9.950 for a routine that would normally get 9.850, it’s Risa. She is the floor star on this team, and it’s not a conversation.
Gardiner and McMillan (as possible) will produce the other big scores in the lineup. Really, all three of them should be going at least 9.850 every time out and frequently popping into the 9.9s. That’s a healthy start to a healthy score. The issue is the remaining routines. Jacobsen looks like a good double-pike-9.8er, and among Ricci, Radermacher, and Jimenez, the team should be able to put together a complete 9.800 foundation to support the big scores at the end. (MCP also had some tumbling in elite, but is that still a thing?) It should be a competent lineup, looking hopefully to do the old 9.800-9.825-9.850-9.900-9.900-9.925 thing on the best days, but they’ll still have to squeeze out everything possible to muster a score close to that of the big teams, which is why I like the idea of Bridgeying Risa in that last position.