As in the past, in this analysis, we have made a conscious decision to exclude transfers and redshirts in the consideration. We also discounted the athletes who left school during the Fall training period and added consideration for those who are confirmed to join their team in January. Injuries and competition "sabbaticals" were considered, as they are indicator of both fitness and motivation. The rankings are based on past performance and skill level, which are no guarantee of success at the collegiate level. Time and time again, some athletes get injured or go through adjustments in their first year of competition that limit their first-year success. Trend is also an important consideration. A hardworking L10 with excellent form, technique and a strong history of improvement usually continues that progress in college.
Developing the ranking starts month ahead with a watch list of classes, based on announced recruiting classes. Gymnasts were divided into tiers as prospects, with a rough ranking of the Top 50 athletes. A preliminary ranking was developed, and then recently reassessed based on the latest information. In the past, we have tried quantitative methods of ranking athletes based on results, level and skills. These rankings end up being useful, but ultimately just as flawed as a more subjective ranking.
With the proliferation of on-line video, you can checkout for yourself the recruits of nearly every single scholarship athlete on teams in our Top 10. Interestingly, this year only 5 of the 10 team are repeats from last season, showing the ebb and flow of recruiting, as well as the number of scholarships available in a given year.
So, without any further excuse making, here are the CollegeGymFans.com Top 10 Recruiting Classes for 2008-2009.
1. UCLA: UCLA shoots to the top of the rankings with a large and talented class of eight frosh. The class is headlined by Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, the Canadian Olympian and former world championship bronze medalist (beam). The 2006 and 2008 Canadian AA champion and the 2006 Commonwealth Games AA co-champion, EHH brings a wealth of international experience. With top level skills and exceptional form, she is coming off a 16th place AA finish at the Olympic Games.
Another Canadian, Aisha Gerber, came back strong in 2008 after taking part of 2006-2007 off. The former Canadian Jr. National AA champ was the first Canadian woman to medal at the American Cup, doing so not only with great style but big skills. Also pushing for frontrunner status is Vanessa Zamarippa. One of the most accomplished vaulters in L10 history, she won a total of nine individual L10 National titles, including the AA championships in 2007, 2004 and 2003. With big elite-level skills and power to spare, she appears to be one of the L10s that can rise to the top of the NCAA ranks.
Kaelie Baer is a L10 from DeVeau's who was hampered by injury in 2008. In 2007, she was the runner-up in the AA in the Senior B division at L10 Nationals, and was the co-champ on the vault. She also qualified to L10 Nationals in 2004, 2005 and 2008. Another L10, Tauny Frattone, is coming off a stellar L10 season with her club Olympic Gymnastics in 2008. She placed 3rd AA, 2nd (t) on BB and 4th(t) on VT at the L10 Nationals. She was also 13th AA in 2007.
Three more walkons complete the UCLA class: Tiffany Hyland, Naomi Manea, and Alyssa Pritchett. Hyland placed 3rd AA at the South Africa National Championships while Manea qualified to L10 Nationals in 2003. Pritchett, another L10, showed a nice full-in on FX at the recent Bruin preview.
2. UGA: Georgia is 2nd in this year's ranking, wth a class comprised of Mariel Box, Kathryn Ding, Gina Nuccio, and Amber Trani. Signee Trani may be the most recognizable name in the class. The senior international elite from the Parkettes was a competitor at the 2008 Olympic Trials, but was hampered all season by injury. The US National Team member was 11th at the 2007 VISA US Championships and has a wide variety of elite-level skills on every event, but especially shines on VT, where she won a silver at the 2007 Pan Am Games. Not to be outshone in terms of potential, however, is Gina Nuccio, a L10 from Arena. One of the top L10 performers of the last several years, Nuccio won L10 National AA titles in 2006 and 2007, while tying for 3rd in 2008. A complete gymnast, she also picked up individual national titles on VT (2006, 2007t), UB (2006, 2007, 2008t), BB (2006) and FX (2008).
The third signee in the class, Kathryn Ding, is a L10 from FLIPS USA. A gymnast with beautiful lines and stong execution, she has not been slowed down this pre-season like her classmates. At the 2006 L10 Nationals, she placed 2nd AA and 1st on UB, while placing 5th on UB again in 2007. She also tied for 24th AA at the 2008 L10 Nationals. Walkon Box, a L10 from Cartersville, was expected to challenge on VT and FX before suffering a season-ending injury this summer.
3. Alabama: Bama is up near the top of our ranking with another top-notch class, led by a pair of elite standouts. Signees Geralen Stack-Eaton, Ashley Preiss, and Caitlin Sullivan are joined by walkons Jocelyn Fowler, Erika Pearson and Rachel Terry. Stack-Eaton, the Parkettes-trained athlete, finished 6th AA and 4th on UB at the 2007 VISA US Championships. She was 17th AA at the 2006 VISA Championships. With solid skills shown in fall training (double Arabian on FX, double tuck of BB), she appears ready to step in to a leading AA role for the Tide.
Another standout elite, Ashley Preiss, trained at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy. A member of the 2006 World Championship silver medal team, she placed 10th AA at the meet. She was also 6th AA at the 2006 VISA US Championships. After a back injury held her out of the 2007 VISA US Championships, she withdrew from the 2008 VISA US Championships due to recurring back pain.
The third signee, Courtney Sullivan, is expected to join the team in January. The L10 and former junior international elite finished 10th AA and 4th(t) on BB at the 2008 L10 Nationals. A member of the Junior National team from 2003-2004, she was 5th AA at the 2003 VISA US Championships. Bama's class is completed by three L10 walkons. Fowler is a L10 Regional qualifier from the Bama Bounders. Pearson is a two-time L10 National qualifier from the Tennessee Academy of Gymnastics, who placed 3rd on BB and 19th AA at Nationals in 2004. The third walkon, Rachel Terry from JFJ Elite, placed 23rd(t) at the 2008 L10 Nationals and was the Regional VT champion in 2007.
Bama suffered a loss from this class when Julie Cotter returned home earlier in the Fall. The addition of Sullivan helps compensate for this lost recruit.
4. Florida: Florida is right up with the top group with a set of three signees and one walkon. Nicole Ellis, Amy Ferguson, Elizabeth Mahlich, and Kailey Tissue look to contribute immediately to the Gator squad. Tissue is a former elite who trained at WOGA, and bears all the classic lines that are so characteristic of the club. She placed 7th AA at the 2007 US Classic, qualifying as a Senior International elite. The biggest impact, however, could come from Elizabeth Mahlich. The L10 from Geddart's Twistars has excellent lines and has been a consistent top finisher in the L10 ranks. This past season, she tied for the UB title and placed 13th AA at the L10 Nationals. At the 2007 L10 Nationals, she was 2nd AA, 2nd on BB, 2nd on UB and 4th(t) on VT. She also tied for 2nd AA and placed 1st on BB in 2006.
Another top L10, Nicole Ellis, looks to contribute immediately. From Arena Gymnastics, she placed 11th AA and 4th(t) on VT at the 2008 L10 Nationals. In 2007, she was 5th(t) AA, 2nd on VT and 3rd(t) on UB at the L10 Nationals. The final member of the class is Ferguson, an in-state walkon from LaFleur's. She was 21st AA at the 2008 L10 Nationals and 35th AA in 2007.
5. Stanford: Stanford's recruiting class includes Alyssa Brown, Catherine Nguyen, Nicole Pechanec, Jenny Peters and Alexandra Skoly. Canadian National Team member Alyssa Brown trained at Gymnastics Mississauga. An alternate to the 2008 Olympic Games, she also competed for Canada at the World Championships in 2006 and 2007. This past season, she placed 4th AA at the Canadian Championships. She also picked up Canadian National titles on VT and BB in 2006.
Nguyen (whose sister Christine competes for UNC), is a senior international elite from WOGA. Known for her beatiful lines, she placed 15th AA at the 2007 VISA US Championships. She also placed 8th AA as a junior in 2006. Pechanec is a Parkettes trained athlete who competes internationally for the Czech Republic under the name Nicole Pechancova. She competed for the Czech national team at the World Championships in both 2006 and 2007. With clean lines, she especially excels on the BB, where she won a World Cup event title in Ostrava in 2007.
Peter had her best season as a L10 for Iron Rock in 2007, when she finished 8th AA at the L10 Nationals. This past season, she finished 32nd AA at the L10 Nationals. Skoly, a L10 from Aim High, is cited for her power on VT and FX.
6. Oklahoma: The Sooner class is headlined by elite Natasha Kelley, a four time National Team member from Cypress. In 2006, she had a breakout year, placing 2nd AA at the VISA US Championships and qualifying to the FX finals at the World Championships. In 2007, she was 2nd at the American Cup and 10th AA at the VISA US Championships. Another former elite, Sara Stone, trained at Metroplex Gymnastics. This past season, she competed three events at the L10 Nationals. She is a three time qualifier to the L10 Nationals and a two-time qualifer to the US Classic.
Megan Ferguson, a L10 from Eagles, is a two-time L10 National champ on the BB. She placed 22nd AA at the L10 Nationals in 2008, but also finished 12th AA in both 2006 and 2007. The final member of the class is Hailey Wagner, who returns to the sport after taking the year off. She tied for 19th AA at the L10 Nationals in 2005. She was also 32nd AA and 6th(t) on VT in 2006.
7. Utah: Utah has a small but talented frosh class, which includes Cortni Beers and Stephanie McAllister. Beers is a former international elite from Krafft and a two-time National Team member. She placed 16th AA at the VISA US Championships in 2006, 10th in 2005, and 12th in 2004. She was also 7th AA at the 2007 US Classic. McAllister is a L10 from Wright's American, a three time member of the JO National Team. She tied for 1st on the UB at the 2008 L10 Nationals, while placing 2nd(t) on FX and 7th AA. Another constant fixture near the top of the L10 ranks, she was the L10 UB champ in Senior A in 2007, while placing 4th AA and tying for 4th on VT. She was also 4th AA in 2006 and back in 2005, was the L10 AA National Champion. She was 2nd on VT(t), UB, and BB that year.
8. Auburn: Auburn boasts one of the largest classes in our ranking, led by four L10 signees with a strong history of achievement in the L10 ranks. Justine Foster, Kareen Kevah, Allyson Sandusky and Kylie Shields form the core of the Auburn class, and are joined by walkons Laura Lane, Kelcie Montgomery, and Kendall Swartz.
Foster, from the Atlantic Gymnastics, tied for 33rd AA and 9th on VT at the 2008 L10 Nationals. She was also 21st AA and 10th(t) on FX in 2007 and 11th AA, 2nd on FX and 3rd on VT in 2006. She is known for her power, and tumbles a full-in on FX. Hailing from Hill's Gymnastics, Kevah finished 16th AA, 4th(t) on BB and 7th(t) on FX at the 2008 L10 Nationals. Another long-time fixture at L10 Nationals, she tied for 5th AA in 2007, and placed 3rd on FX and 5th(t) on BB. She was also 7th AA in 2006 and 10th(t) in 2005.
Sandusky is coming off one of her strongest seasons as L10, winning the UB title in the Senior B division at L10 Nationals, and placing 4th in the AA. Another Hill's trained athlete, she also finished 12th AA, 7th on FX and 7th(t) on UB at the 2007 L10 Nationals. She also tied for 9th AA in 2006. The fourth signee, Shields, hails from Dynamic Gymnastics in New York. In 2007, she placed 9th AA, 3rd on BB and 10th(t) on VT in the Senior A division at L10 Nationals. She was also 24th AA in 2006. Shields is especially strong on BB, where she has dismounted with a double pike.
Lane, a L10 from Richmond Olympiad, finished tied for 28th AA at the 2008 L10 Nationals. A L10 from Starlight, Montgomery is also coming off a strong L10 season. She placed 25th AA and tied for 4th on FX at the 2008 L10 Nationals. The final member of the class, Kendall Swartz, trained at Trousdell Gymnastics Center in Florida.
Auburn also suffered a loss during Fall training, when Clare Bregetti returned home. Bregetti had been a consistent fixture at the top of the L10 ranks, including a 7th(t) AA finish at the 2008 L10 Nationals.
9. Washington: Washington's staff scored an impressive class in their first full recruiting season for the new coaching regime. Hatsune Akaogi, Amanda Cline, Lauren Eller, Ruby Engreitz, and Anna Epps comprise a class that could help the Huskies improve their standings.
Akaogi is a L10 from Airborne who came off an injury in 2007 to tie for 23rd AA and 6th(t) on VT at the 2008 L10 Nationals. She was also 15th(t) AA in 2006. Amanda Cline, a L10 from the Colorado Gymnastics Institute, has been a regular at L10 Nationals the past several years. An early season injury slowed her last season, resulting in a 36th place AA finish and 6th(t) on VT at the 2008 L10 Nationals. In 2007, she was 5th AA, 2nd on BB and 6th(t) on FX in the Senior B division at Nationals.
Eller won L10 National titles on the UB in 2008 (tied) and FX in 2007. She also tied for 5th AA and 7th on FX in 2008, in the Senior D division. She was 7th AA in 20007, with a 5th on VT. She also tied for 9th AA in 2006, with a 2nd on UB and 7th on FX. Engreitz suffered an injury in the preseason last winter. The in-state L10 from Leading Edge Gymnastics South was 8th AA, 5th(t) FX and 7th(t) on UB at the 2007 L10 Nationals. The final athlete, Epps, is a L10 walkon from Cascade Elite. She was 43rd AA at the 2008 L10 Nationals.
10. Kentucky: Kentucky enters the ranking with three top signees: Storey Morris, Jennifer Taylor, and Whitney Rose. Morris is a L10 who trained with new UK assistant coach Chuck Dickerson at Texas East. At the 2007 L10 Nationals, she placed 24th(t) AA, 8th(t) on VT and 6th(t) on FX. In 2006, she tied for 15th AA, 2nd on FX and 6th on UB at Nationals. Although she had troubles hitting all her events at L10 Nationals, she is known for her high skill level.
Taylor is a former senior international elite and one of the top UB workers in L10, with three National titles to her credit. However, several injuries have hampered her over the last several years. She missed L10 Nationals in 2007 and 2008 after qualifying through Regionals. In 2006, she placed 5th AA, 1st on UB, and 5th(t) on VT at the L10 Nationals. The third signee, Whitney Rose, finished 10th AA and 1st on VT at the 2008 Region III L10 Regionals. From Kurt Thomas Gymnastics, she was the L9 Western National AA champ in 2003 and placed 3rd in the Challenge Optionals division of the 2004 US Classic.