Background and a Word about our Methodology:
An incoming class doesn’t always compare to or replace, a seasoned graduating class. It’s not as simple as just swapping in the number of graduated routines and the number of incoming routines. There are too many intangibles, such as how an incoming freshman adjusts to college, gels with the team or responds to new coaching styles. Each new incoming class changes the dynamics within the team as a whole and there is no way for us to guess in advance how the dynamics will play out or contribute to overall team success. The best we can do is look at the incoming class as a discrete unit. What does each athlete’s competition history, skills, execution and even injury history (if we know it) tell us about what she brings to the mix that makes up her incoming class? Our methodology is based on a snapshot of each incoming class as they enter college for the first time. That is, we consider what we know about incoming freshmen as they enter school in the fall. For those joining their teams mid-year, we consider what we know of them as of the time of their entrance in January, however, transfers are excluded.
What we consider:
Competition History - An athlete's competition results reveal how an athlete stands up to competition and how consistently she performs from one event to another, and meet to meet. It is especially interesting to see how an athlete measures up against the competition in elite or rigorous Level 10 meets like the Nastia Liukin Cup and Junior Olympic Nationals (JO Nationals). Decades of recruiting classes show that a strong history of top finishes in these major meets is a strong predictor of future NCAA success.
Skill and Routine Evaluation - Many athletes or meet sponsors post training and meet videos. Some college teams also give us peeks at preseason training videos. We use these to get a look at the athletes’ skills and execution, and how their competition routines compare to NCAA requirements. With significant differences between the NCAA code and the Junior Olympic (not to mention the Elite) code, gymnasts with stellar execution and no "built-in" deductions will have an easier time in the NCAA. Gymnasts with FIG E skills, 10.0 Start Value (SV) vaults or exceptional levels of grace, expression or execution quality will also have an easier time posting scores of 9.9+/.
Injury Status and History - Sometimes specific major injury information is available. Other times, a major injury or other break in training may be indicated by holes in a competition history. To the extent that we can determine whether an injury history will potentially limit an athlete’s contribution over the course of her NCAA career, we factor that information into our ranking considerations. We tend to view absences from competition in the season before entering college negatively, unless otherwise explained.
Potential Contribution - Ultimately, we place high value on recruits who have the potential to make some starting lineups and to consistently score 9.85 or better on their events.
Balancing Class Size – We attempt to consider large incoming classes versus small classes. A large incoming class, even if it is loaded with walkons and specialists, provides important depth and coverage on all events. That depth can be especially important if a team suffers some key injuries. A large class is also sometimes filled with exceptionally gifted specialists. In contrast, a small class of, say, one or two all arounders can have just as much impact on their teams. Of course, a marquee athlete promises to bring in big scores that make the crucial difference to a ranking and end of season success. So, size of recruiting class is factored along with our best guess as to how the individual recruits will figure in lineups.
This Year's Rankings
So, how did the teams stack up? Here's the CollegeGymFans.com Top Recruiting Classes for 2018-2019 (click on the links to see video clips, where available):
Florida tops the 2018-2018 edition of CollegeGymFans.com Top Recruiting Classes. It's a large class filled with potential superstars, big skills, high level placements and tremendous depth.
Trinity Thomas is a potential superstar and her decision to enter school this season solidified UF as our top pick.. It's been a while since we've had a gymnast still actively training on a US team, and Thomas' visit to the November US Women's Training camp showed that she's competing at the highest of levels. She's proven her ability to handle many tasks at once, and even had a successful high school diving season earlier in the year. She's got power, amplitude, execution and consistency on all four events. In 2018, she placed 8th AA and 4th on UB at the US Gymnastics Championships. She also placed 4th AA at the 2017 P&G Championships.
Joining Thomas is a strong cadre of talented gymnasts, including former elite Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, elite/L10 Leah Clapper, and L10s Nya Reed, Savannah Schoenherr and Halley Taylor. Johnson-Scharpf is a powerful tumbler and vaulter, but she’s also strong on UB and BB. As an elite, she placed 6th A at the 2015 P&G Championships and she placed 4th on floor at the 2017 P&G Championships. She dropped back to L10 for the 2018 season. She only competed three meets last season, but won all of them with impressive all around scores.
Clapper competed as a senior international elite in 2017 and placed 2nd AA at the American Classic, qualifying for the . She dropped back to L10 for the 2018 season, finishing 9th AA and 8th on FX at the Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals (JO Nationals).
Reed did not finish the 2018 JO Nationals meet, presumably due to injury, but she tied for 4th on FX and VT. She was also 8th AA in 2017. With a Yurchenko 1 1/2 and double layout on FX, she brings some big skills to the leg events.
Schoenherr was the UB co-champion and AA runnerup at the 2018 JO Nationals. She demonstrates clean lines and strong execution, and also tied for 4th on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and 6th on BB. Schoenherr won a UB title and placed 2nd on BB at JO Nationals in 2016.
The final member of the class, Taylor, an in-state product, placed 8th AA and tied for 9th on BB and FX (double layout) at the 2018 JO Nationals. She is a three time JO qualifier.
UGA cast a wide net in the recruiting season and hauled nine frosh. Rachel Baumann, Rachael Lukacs, Mikayla Magee and Megan Roberts form a strong foundation for this class.
Baumann is a former jr. international elite who last competed at the 2015 P&G Championships and a two-time JO National Team member. She has a JO National AA championship (’16, tie) and beam title (’17) to her credit.
Lukacs has been a standout on the L10 scene for years with one of the strongest competitive resumes we will see in this season's recruiting crop. She is a four time JO National Team member, a three time JO AA champ, a four time JO vault champ, and a two time JO floor champ. She is also a five time Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier and 2016 champion. Lukacs is particularly known for her near-perfect double-twisting Yurchenko.
Magee is a L10 from Pearland Elite with big skills on VT and FX (pike full-in). Although she struggled in the 2018 season, she tied for 10th AA, 3rd on BB and 8th on VT and FX at the 2017 JO Nationals.
Roberts is a former Canadian National Team member and Olympic Team alternate. She has some big tumbling (Dos Santos) but can also contribute a strong UB routine (toe full to Maloney to overshoot) and potential 10.0 SV vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2). She was 13th AA at the 2018 Canadian Nationals, and has had some issues with injuries, including during the fall training period.
The 2019 Gymdogs also welcome Samantha Davis, Alexa Al-Hameed,Sterlyn Austin, Alyssa Perez-Lugones and Abbey Ward. Davis is a two time JO National Team member and the 2016 floor champ. Unfortunately, a back injury has continued to bother her in 2018, and potentially could impact her contributions moving forward. Al-Hameed originally committed to OU but is now a GymDog after battling back from ankle injuries. She placed 5th on BB and 14th AA at the 2018 JO Nationals.
Austin tied for 29th AA at the 2018 L10 JO Nationals. She also won the Regional title on FX (full-in). She however, will miss her frosh season. Lugones-Perez is a three time L10 Regional qualifier who finished 4th(t) on UB and 4th on VT at the 2018 Region VIII L10 Regionals. Ward is a standout on vault, with a 10.0 start value layout Kasamatsu. She also tied for 40th AA at the 2017 Level 10 JO Nationals.
The standout Bruin frosh class is led by a pair of elites, Norah Flatley and Margzetta Frazier. Flatley is a former junior National Team member known for her stellar BB work. At her peak, she was the third ranked junior int he US. She disappeared from the competitive arena, but dropped back to L10 for the 2018 season. It appears that she has battled through injuries to return to form. She's been looking strong on all four events during the preseason. Frazier is a Senior National Team member from Parkettes who has big tricks and a big personality that should translate well into NCAA competition. At the 2018 US Gymnastics Championships, she placed 13th AA. In 2017, she had an even better season, placed 5th AA, 5th on UB, 7th on FX and 8th on BB at the P&G (US) Championships.
The Bruins also welcome Sekai Wright and Sara Taubman. Wright is a L10 standout known for her power on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double layout). She was a VT champion (Sr. E division) at the 2018 JO Nationals, where she also placed 3rd on FX and 10th AA. She was also 7th AA and 2nd on VT in 2017. She also won VT at JO Nationals in 2016 and 2015, giving her three titles in all. Taubman is an in-state L10 who placed 12th AA and 4th(t) on UB at the 2018 Region 1 L10 Regionals.
Michigan looks to return to the National stage, in part from leveraging a super strong frosh class. The class is headlined by Natalie Wojcik, a Level 10 standout who is destined to become Michigan's next superstar. She competes with a high level of difficulty but also has superb amplitude and clean lines. She also brings strong credentials, with a long history of competitive success. She is a five time JO qualifier who has finished in the top 7 each year. She has won a JO title on each event and is the 2018 JO National AA champion in Senior F. She was also the runnerup on VT and UB (pike Jaeger, double layout) this year. She brings a coveted 10.0 vault with her Yurchenko 1 1/2.
Abby Brenner is another very accomplished athlete. She is a three-time JO National FX champ (’14, ’16, and ’17) and she won the UB and AA titles in 2017. She is a five time JO National Team member. She adds another 10.0 vault (Y1.5) to the lineup and a piked full-in on floor. She competed in the all around at the preseason quad meet and looks to bolster every Michigan lineup.
The third gymnast in this triumvirate of JO National champions is Abby Heiskill. She was the AA and bars champ in 2016 and the 2017 vault champ. She is coming back from injury. She shows strong technique and clean execution, especially on UB (Tkachev, Pak, double front). Also coming back from injury is Madison Mariani, a member of the JO National team in 2017. She especially stands out on UB (5th(t) in '17, 2nd(t) in '16) and she offers another 10.0 vault with another potential Yurchenko 1 1/2.
The Crimson Tide welcomes a large and talented class of six newcomers, led by elites Emily Gaskins and Shallon Olsen. Gaskins has been slowed in her elite career by injury but has been looking solid in her preseason training. Her strong execution and big skills (double layout on FX) could give Bama an edge to break into the 9.9+ range in the post season. She tied for 4th on FX and placed 7th AA at the 2017 P&G (US) Championships. She also qualified to Championships in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Olsen, the newly minted world Silver medalist on VT, appears to be in top form after the World Championships. She is a trickster who has been well rewarded during her (ongoing) elite career and she should bring lots of excitement to the NCAA. With a double twisting Yurchenko on VT and many E skills to choose from on FX, Bama will count on her to bring in some high scores. A 2016 Olympian and Olympic VT finalist, she was the 2018 Canadian Champion on VT and FX, and the Gold medalist on VT and Bronze medalist on FX at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She was also 6th AA at the 2017 Canadian Championships.
Griffin James is a L10 from Gymstrada who finished 4th on VT, 8th(t) on FX and 21st(t) AA at the 2017 JO Nationals. She also won the 2018 Virginia State L10 titles on UB, BB and the AA. She also finished in the top eight in the AA at JO Nationals in 2014 and 2015. Asia Dewalt, a L10 and former junior international elite from AIM Athletics. She tied for 5th on VT and 9th on UB while placing 33rd AA at the 2018 JO Nationals. She's also a two-time JO National qualifier. Finally, Bama also adds walkon Jensie Givens, a L10 from South Coast who shows great lines and potential on UB and BB.
Cal welcomes a large and talented incoming class, blending Junior Olympic National champions and elite-level talent.
The class is led by Milan Clausi who has a few JO titles under her belt. She was the ’15 bars champ, the ’17 all around champ and the ’18 beam champ. She has some big skills in her repetoire, including a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and full-in on FX.
Maya Bordas has clean lines and strong technique that should translate well to NCAA competition. Although she missed the 2018 postseason, this Capital-trained L10 placed 2nd(t) on UB, 3rd on FX and 7th(t) on VT at the 2017 JO Nationals. She was also 7th AA in 2016.
British Elite Abi Solari brings a high level of difficulty, unique skills and international experience to bolster Cal’s lineups. She tumbles a full in on floor and a tuck front full on vault. She was 15th AA at the 2018 British Championships. She sat out the ’17 elite season with an injury after placing 3rd AA at the English Championships in 2016.
Former jr. international elite Grace Quinn has been out of competition for quite a while, but has been showing strong form and execution on BB in preseason. She was 9th AA, 6th on FX and 7th on VT at the 2015 P&G Championships. Another frosh, Talitha Jones, brings a big 10.0 start value VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) that will further strengthen one of Cal's historic best events. She placed 14th AA at the 2018 JO Nationals, in the Senior D division. She was also 6th AA and 4th on FX at the 2017 JO Nationals and 3rd(t) on VT and 8th AA at the 2016 JO Nationals.
Utah adds a class of top L10s with a strong history of past club success. Leading the way are Cristal Isa and Adrienne Randall.
Isa is a two time National Team member who has won two JO National bars titles (’17 and ’18). The Gymcats-trained L10 has placed in the top 5 AA the last three JO Nationals. She has had success on all events throughout her career and could push for an all around spot for the Utes.
Randall is also a JO National Team member after her 4th(t) place AA finish at the 2018 JO Nationals. The SCEGA-trained athlete also tied for 2nd on BB (Rulfova), 5th on UB and 6th on FX (full-in) at the meet. She was also 6th AA and 1st on BB at the 2017 L10 JO Nationals.
Classmate Hunter Dula has shown an upward competitive trajectory over the past few years and landed in 9th AA and 4th UB at the 2018 JO Nationals. Bars seems to be her strength, but she also has a full-in on floor and a piked Luconi vault. She was slowed by preseason illness, but it appears that she is working her way into competitive shape before the season starts.
Cammy Hall promises to bolster the Utes on leg events. She has a 10.0 vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and a Double Arabian on floor. Unfortunately she suffered an Achilles injury in December and will sit this season out.
Nebraska adds what may be their strongest overall frosh class in years, boasting some strong skill sets and a history of strong results at rigorous L10 meets.
Abigail Johnston is the 2018 JO National BB champion and the all around runner up (Senior F). If her L10 scoring ledger is any indication, she should be a force not only in the AA (top 16 the two prior years) but especially on FX (full-in mount).
Hargrove is another L10 standout. The Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy trained athlete placed 7th AA and 3rd(t) on UB at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals and she was a ’17 JO National Team member. She is an athlete with clean execution, good lines and good technique. She was also 3rd AA and 3rd(t) on BB at the 2017 L10 Nationals. She's an athlete with clean execution, good lines and good technique.
Quinn was the 2017 JO National FX champ and the 2016 National Champ BB champ. As she is also the 2018 runnerup on floor with a piked full-in, it appears that she will make a strong bid for a spot in that lineup. She is also a capable vaulter, with a Yurchenko 1 1/2.
Two more L10s complete the class: Thompson qualified to L10 Nationals in 2018 and tumbles a tight triple twist on FX and a bhs-layout-layout series on BB. De Jesus is a two-time JO National qualifier from the Darien YMCA, and has looked strong in training with a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and triple twist on FX. She placed 19th AA in Senior B at the 2017 JO Nationals.
SUU makes its debut on our Top 10 List, boasting a couple of L10 standouts in Karley McClain and Shylen Murakami plus a large supporting cast.
McClain, an in-state L10 from All-American Gymnastics, is the 2018 JO AA champ (Senior E). She has looked great for a number of years, wining the JO floor title in 2016 and placing in the top five AA at JO Nationals the last three years. She has a full-in on floor and no weak event with numerous top ten event placements to her credit.
Murakami rolled to a 5th place AA finish at 2018 JOs. Her strengths are bars (huge Jaeger to overshoot, full-in) and beam (Onodi, bhs to layout-layout). A look at her competition results and videos indicate an upward trend, indicating that she is still growing and improving in the sport.
Kho and Smith bring 10.0 Start Value vaults; Kho a Y 1.5 and Smith a piked Luconi. Kho was a JO National qualifier in 2018, placing in the top ten on both VT and UB. Smith also throws a full-twisting double layout on UB and piked Luconi vault. She's a two-time JO National qualifier.
A trio of in-state L10s add depth to the class. Wissman hails from the Gymnastics Training Center and tied for 24th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals. She shows a clean whip to 2 1/2 twist on FX and strong tumbling on BB (kickover front to bhs layout). Tervort trained at Nebo Gymnastics and was also a standout track athlete and a L10 Regional qualifier. Finally, Bentley is from the Southern Utah Gymnastics Academy.
We had a good deal of discussion about the number 10 spot, as there are several strong contenders. In the end, we have selected Denver, which could arguably be ranked higher, if not for some lapses in competition time and some pre-college injuries.
Alexandra Ruiz was the JO National beam co-champ and a JO National Team member in 2015. She has look strong in her last L10 season, tumbling a double layout, qualifying to JO Nationals and posting AA scores in the 38+ territory (a very good score in the L10 world). We expect her to compete for lineup spots on all events at DU.
Maddie Quarles missed the 2018 post-season due to injury, but she has always been a strong competitor, particularly on FX (full-in mount). In 2017, she placed 2nd on FX, 3rd on UB and tied for 5th AA at the JO Nationals . She also made the JO National Team in ’15 and was 6th AA in '16. Her Yurchenko 1 1/2 will boost the Pioneer's power on that event, and she is another who could eventually contribute in all four events..
Alexis Vasquez trained as an elite at Chow's and was the BB Champion at the 2014 P&G (US) Championships. She has spent a considerable time out of the competitive limelight, battling injuries for much of the time. She changed gyms and dropped back to L10 last season. She looks to be on her way back, showing a front aerial to bhs layout combo on BB and stellar flexibility and extension.
Fall signee Natalie Morton will graduate early and join the team in January. The Texas Dreams athlete tied for 30th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals. She was also 4th on FX and 6th AA at the 2016 JO Nationals.
Just Outside the Top 10
Just outside the Top 10 are a number of teams and outstanding individuals. It was an extremely close to finalize our Top 10, with our final selections ultimately based on the quantity and quality of 9.85s+ potential scores the class could deliver.
OU finished just outside the rankings, with a small class headlined by former elite Olivia Trautman. Trautman is an elite gymnast who trained with Sooner Maggie Nichols at Twin City Twisters. In 2016, she placed 8th on FX and 17th AA at the 2016 P&G Championships. Dropping back to L10 this past spring, she placed 3rd AA, 1st on FX, 2nd(t) on VT and 5th(t) on UB at the JO Nationals. She is known for some big skills on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2 and double) and FX (double layout). Another power gymnast, Allie Stern, was the 2017 JO National co-champ on VT in her age division with her Yurchenko 1 1/2. She's continued to look strong on that vault during the preseason training. Emma LaPinta is a L10 from Kurt Thomas Gymnastics who placed 20th AA at the 2018 JO Nationals. She also tied for 16th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals.
A number of other teams and individuals are expected to make a mark. In no particular order, they include:
Arkansas: The GymBacks welcome no less than five frosh, led by Amanda Elswick, Bailey Lovett and Kennedy Hambrick. Elswick placed 29th AA, 3rd on VT and 4th(t) on BB at the 2017 JO Nationals. She vaults a Yurchenko 1 1/2 (and trains a double) and has a double Arabian on FX. Lovett missed the post season last year but finished 6th AA, 2nd(t) on BB and 3rd on FX (double layout) at the 2017 JO Nationals. She was also 6th AA in 2016. Hambrick is coming off a strong club season where she tied for 14th AA, 4th on UB and 9th on VT and FX at the 2018 L10 JO Nationals. She also tied for 7th on VT and placed 44th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals. Katarina Derrick is a L10 from Pearland Elite who was 12th AA at the 2016 Region III L10 Regionals. The final frosh, Savannah Pennese, was 11th AA and 3rd on VT at the 2018 Region III L10 Regionals. Both gymnasts provide Yurchenko Full options on an event where the GymBacks have struggled with depth, fielding only five gymnasts at times.
Auburn: The Tigers welcome six frosh, including Sabrina Cheney, Molly Frack, Derrian Gobourne, Reid Schaefer, Mia Schlarbaum and Sydney Wright. Gobourne is a potential superstar for the Tigers. She's the 2018 Sr F JO National Champ on UB (Tkachev to Pak). She also tied for 4th on FX, 6th on BB and 7th on VT en route to a 3rd place AA finish at the 2018 JO Nationals. She also made the JO National Team in 2017, placing 4th AA, 3rd on VT and 8th(t) on FX at the 2017 JO Nationals. She was also 5th AA in 2016. The Tigers also added Molly Frack, a former jr. international elite and three-time P&G Championships competitor who has not competed the last two years.
Iowa State: The Cylcones features one of the largest classes in the country, with Kelsey Boychuk, Natalie Horowitz, Maddy Langkamp, Makayla Maxwell, Ana Palacios, Meixi Semple, Avery Stoll, Samantha Strickler, Phoebe Turner, and Grace Woolfolk. The key athletes here are international elites Palacios (Spain), Semple (Canada) and in particular Turner, along with top L10 Maxwell. Turner is Great Britain National Team member who placed 11th AA at the 2018 British Championships. She also won the title on BB and was 5th AA at the 2017 British Championships. Palacios is a former Spanish National Team member who finished 13th AA at the 2nd 2018 Spanish Championships. Semple is a former Canadian Junior National Team member who tied for 13th AA at the 2018 Elite Canada meet. She's been working her way back from a knee injury. Top L10 Maxwell (injured in the preseason) tied for 10th AA and 6th on VT at the 2017 JO Nationals. She was also 10th at the 2018 Region I L10 Regionals.
LSU: LSU welcomes Bailey Ferrar and L10 Rebecca D'Antonio. Ferrer is a former junior international elite gymnast who will graduate early and join the Tigers for January. As a L10 in 2017, she placed 3rd in the AA and on VT at the JO Nationals. She also tied for 6th on FX and 7th on UB. She's a powerful gymnast, throwing a double Arabian on FX and a Pike Omelianchik on VT.
Oregon State: Oregon State's class includes Leah Bivrell, Madison Dagen, Alex McClung and Kristina Peterson. Dagen is the standout here. the L10 from San Mateo tied for 2nd on BB, 8th on UB and placed 6th AA at the 2018 JO Nationals. She made the JO National Team in 2017, placing 3rd AA at the JO Nationals. She also tied for 4th on VT, 5th on BB and 7th on FX at the meet. She was 2nd(t) on BB and 10th AA at the 2016 JO Nationals. She's complemented by Peterson, who tied for 16th AA at the 2018 JO Nationals and placed 18th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals.
Washington: Washington is another team with a large incoming class that should impact between one and three events each (Brenna Brooks, Talia Brovedani, Amara Cunningham, Madeline McLellan, Meaghan Ruttan, Hannah Vandenkolk). Former Canadian National Team member Ruttan and clubmate McLellan bring elite-level experience. They were 15th and 14th, respectively, at the 2017 Canadian Championships. McLellan won Canadian L10 titles on UB and VT at the 2016 Canadian Championships but tore her ACL last spring. Also in 2016, Ruttan won a silver on BB and placed 5th on FX at the Pan American Championships. Cunningham is a L10 from Galaxy who has amassed a series of top placements on VT (top 6 in '18 and '16) and FX (top 7) at the last three JO Nationals. Brooks is a WOGA-trained L10 who tied for 9th on BB at the 2018 JO Nationals and for 3rd on VT at the 2017 JO Nationals. She was 5th(t) AA at the 2015 JO Nationals. Both gymnasts are capable of 10.0 Start Value vaults.
A number of other gymnasts and teams should also make an impact this season: Look for Tiarre Sales at Minnesota, Mallory Mizuki and Shaylah Scott at Illinois, Czech Anna-Maria Kanyai at BGSU, frosh Sadie Miner at BYU, the former elites at Yale and the large incoming class at Stanford.