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Sunday, 12 December 2021 15:20

2022 Season Previews: Teams #1 to #12

Written by Staff

Here are the first 12 teams in our Capsule Previews of our Top 25, based on the 2022 Preseason Coaches' Poll. 

 

 1.  Michigan

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 19/24
Routines Gone: 0 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Associate Head Coach:  Scott Sherman
Assistant: Maile'ana Kenewa-Hermelyn
Returning Starters (8):  Carly Bauman (So/I), Abby Brenner (Sr), Sierra Brooks (Jr), Reyna Guggino (So), Abby Heiskell (Sr), Naomi Morrison (So), Gabby Wilson (Jr), Natalie Wojcik (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Nicoletta Koulos (Jr), Jenna Mulligan (So)
Graduated (3):  Anna Dayton, Lauren Farley, Anna Maxim
Other Losses (2):  Abigail Gaies (Jr/?), Maddie Mariani (Sr/R)
Newcomers (3):  Ashley Lane, Abigael Vides, Jacey Vore

Quick Assessment:  Michigan broke through into an exclusive club last season and claimed their first National Championship.  The squad started strong in December and never looked back as they used an unbeatable vault rotation to build a cushion on the remaining top contenders.  They are led by seniors Abby Heiskell and Natalie Wojcik and juniors Sierra Brooks and Gaby Wilson.  The four competed all four events at last year's finals, a remarkable feat of leadership and grace under pressure.  They all return and look strong at the team's recent intrasquad and exhibition meet.     

Unfortunately, the Wolverines lost sophomore Carly Bauman to a torn Achilles' in early December.  The sophomore was looking strong in preseason training and figured to challenge for an AA spot.  Her loss highlights one of the few soft spots in the Michigan lineup, the balance beam.  They miss routines from Bauman plus the graduated Lauren Farley and a potential backup from the recently retired Maddie Mariani.  In her stead, classmate Naomi Morrison has also been looking strong in the preseason, and competed AA at the preseason exhibition meet.  

The Wolverines welcome three frosh:  Ashley Lane, Abigael Vides and Jacey Vore.  Vore has been a club standout the last several years, with particular strength on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2).  She was the 2019 L10 National AA champion, with four top five event finishes.  She also placed 2nd at the 2020 Nastia Liukin Cup.  Unfortunately, she too reportedly suffered an Achilles' injury in February 2021.  However, she has successfully returned to training and has been competing on UB and BB.  Vides is a former senior elite with strong skills across the events.  On FX, she can do a full-in or double layout, a 1 1/2 twisting Yurchenko on VT and a full-in off UB.  In 2021, she placed 10th in the AA at the L10 Nationals and was also 5th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals.  She did not compete at either the public intrasquad or the exhibition meet.  The third frosh, Lane, apparently did not compete in the 2021 club season also did not compete on UB in 2020.  However, she did show a solid VT and clean UB set at the fall intrasquad.  

Michigan heads into the season as the rightfully earned #1 position.  To hold on to this rank through the end of the season, Michigan will need some luck with injuries, as they depend heavily on five key gymnasts.  With one of the smallest squads and Bauman's injury, they are further hampered by some injury issues with their frosh/soph classes.  They'll need Morrison and one of the frosh to step up and help bolstered the depth, particularly on UB and BB.  Barring injury, they will be around to defend their title, but will have some other talented teams looking to take advantage of any mistake they might make.      

 

 2.  Florida

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 24/24
Routines Gone: 0 VT, 0 UB, 0 BB, 0 FX
Head Coach: Jenny Rowland
Assistants: Adrian Burde, Owen Field
Returning Starters (8):  Alyssa Baumann (Sr), Leah Clapper (Sr), Ellie Lazzari (So), Nya Reed (Sr), Payton Richards (Jr), Savannah Schoenherr (Sr), Megan Skaggs (Sr), Trinity Thomas (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Chloi Clark (So), Gabrielle Gallentine (So), Sydney Johnson-Scharpf (Sr/I), Alex Magee (So), Halley Taylor (Sr)
Graduated (0):  N/A
Other Losses (1):  Jazmyn Foberg (Sr/R)
Newcomers (5):  Sloane Blakely, Bri Edwards, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Leanne Wong

Quick Assessment:  Florida placed fourth at the NCAA finals, after some problems on BB.  This was somewhat surprising after they led the NCAA on the event during the regular season NQS (National Qualifying Score) stands.   In addition, last year's squad was also impacted by an injury to star Trinity Thomas, who was not quite at 100% at Nationals.  But with their entire lineup intact and five talented newcomers, Florida has all the tools to win the title. 

Thomas, an 18-time All-American, once again leads the way.  The standout is a threat to score a 10 on every event (only on VT is her career high a 9.975) and potentially tie the NCAA AA record of 40.,  Thomas is far from alone, with senior Alyssa Baumann, sophomore Ellie Lazzari, and senior Megan Skaggs all stepping into AA roles at last year's Finals.  The Gators also got key contributions from seniors Nya Reed and Savannah Schoenherr, plus junior Payton Richards, another potential AAer.  There is a tremendous amount of experience and talent among the 13 returners, and they would be competitive for a title even without any new additions.

But what a incoming class it is, led by 2021 World AA silver medalist Leanne Wong and former World AA champ Morgan Hurd.  The Gators also welcome seven-time US National Team member and 2018 World Team Gold Medalist Riley McCusker and former US National Team member and 2021 L10 National AA champ Sloane Blakely.  Wong, Blakely and McCusker have been looking strong in Fall training.  Hurd has joined the Gators in January, following a successful tour and a disappointing year preceded by some untimely injuries.  It may take some time for her to adjust to college competition.  The five frosh should boost the Gator lineups and provide more depth in 2022, in case injury issues develop, like was the case last season.  (This analysis assumes that National Team member Shilese Jones will not enter school in January).  They also can bring some potential high scoring routines on all four events, with some 10 Start Value (SV) vaults and strong UB and BB routines.  

With the entire lineup returning and a standout frosh class, the Gators have all the ingredients for a successful run for the title.  However, they've had the talent before, so we'll see if they can overcome the nerves and achieve the level of consistent polish demonstrated by the other challengers.  A big difference for Florida this season will be increased depth, which could allow the coaches the time to pace the squad for optimal post-season performances. 

 

 3.  Oklahoma Sooners

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 1 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: KJ Kindler
Associate Head Coaches: Lou Ball, Tom Haley
Returning Starters (9):  Audrey Davis (So), Jenna Dunn (Jr), Bell Johnson (So), Emily LaPinta (Sr), Katherine Levasseur (So), Ragan Smith (Jr), Allie Stern (Sr), Olivia Trautman (Sr), Carly Woodard (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (6):  Vanessa Deniz (Jr), Danae Fletcher (So), Audrey Lynn (So/I), Sheridan Ramsey (So/I), Meilin Sullivan (So/I), Karrie Thomas (Sr/I)
Graduated (3):  Jordan Draper (Sr), Evy Schoepfer (Sr), Anastasia Webb (Sr)
Other Losses (3):  Julianne Fehring (So/R), Erin Hutchison (Jr/TR/Pitt), Quinn Smith (So/R)
Newcomers (6):  Jordan Bowers, Caitin Kirkpatrick, Moorea Linker, Danielle Sievers, Madison Snook, Amy Wier

Quick Assessment:  OU loses eight routines from last year's runnerup squad, one that finished just less than a tenth from the title.  Gone from that squad is superstrar Anastasia Webb, the 2021 NCAA AA, VT and FX champion as well as Evy Schoepfer, who tied with Webb for top spot in the country in the regular season NQS rankings.  The Sooners will feel the loss of the three seniors most acutely on VT and FX, the two events where they lagged behind the Wolverines at the National meet.

The 2022 Wolverines will be lead by senior Olivia Trautman and sophomores Audrey Davis.  Although limited in the past by injury, Trautman stepped up last season into an AA role, nearly matching Webb's performance in the final.  Davis competed on up to three events for the Sooners last season but her form and execution stand out on UB and BB.  Also key to the Sooner's fortunes will be two potential AAers, junior Ragan Smith and sophomore Katherine Lavasseur.  OU has had a strong history of top three finishes since 2013, including 1st in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.  They've accomplished this my managing to have other gymnasts step up to take the high scoring place of the departed athletes.  With the current program pipeline in place, there is no reason to expect anything otherwise from the coaching staff.    

OU also welcomes six frosh, headlined by former junior and senior National Team member Jordan Bowers.  She's a former AA champ at the junior Pan American Championships and Pacific Rim Championships.  Injuries caused her to drop back to L10, where she finished 3rd AA at the L10 Nationals in 2021.  She's joined by a pair of L10 standouts, Moorea Linker and Danielle Sievers.  Linker posted a rare 10 in the L10 ranks twice during the 2021 L10 season, with her Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT.  She's also a standout tumbler, with a full-in and L10 National titles to her credit in 2018 and 2019.  She a fine four event gymnast, and was 3rd AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals, as well as 2nd in 2019.  Sievers had an outstanding club year in 2021 and has some high level skills as well (Yurchenko 1 1/2, full-in on FX).  She was 4th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals and owns a trio of National titles on FX (ties in 2017 and 2019 and a solo win in 2018).

OU will once again be in the mix for the finals, and the National finals.  Although their losses are great, Bowers and the rest of the roster should be able to step up.  The key difference could be the health of the standout frosh, and how quickly they are able to make the transition.  Otherwise, the large roster includes several gymnasts capable of stepping up on one event or more, to help fill in the depth chart behind the established stars.  Vault and FX are two events most impacted by graduation and retirements, and where the squad will need to make up ground on the other challengers.  

 

 4.  Utah Utes

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 23/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 1 UB, 0 BB, 0 FX
Head Coach: Tom Farden
Assistant:  Carly Dockendorf, Jimmy Pratt
Returning Starters (10):  Alexia Burch (Sr), Cammy Hall (Sr), Maile O'Keefe (Jr), Abby Paulson (Jr), Adrienne Randall (Sr), Cristal Isa (Sr), Jaedyn Rucker (Jr), Alani Sabado (So), Sydney Soloski (Sr), Lucy Stanhope (So)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Jaylene Gilstrap (So), Jillian Hoffmann (Jr/I)
Graduated (1):  Emilie LeBlanc
Other Losses (0):   N/A
Newcomers (4):  Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, Amelie Morgan, Sage Thompson

Quick Assessment:  Utah loses just one gymnast and one routine from a team that finished just 0.2625 behind the National Champions.  The Utes look to improve upon their 3rd place finish with 12 returners and four standout frosh.  Leading the way in 2022 will be junior Maile O'Keefe, a NCAA champion on UB and FX in 2021 and the Pac 12 Gymnast of the Year.  She'll be joined by seniors Alexia Burch and Cristal Isa, plus fellow junior Abby Paulson.  All three are potential AAers, with Paulson looking solid on VT during the Fall training period. Sophomore Lucy Stanhope also had a strong rookie campaign and is another potential AAer, while Jaedyn Rucker rebounded from injury her first year for a standout campaign in 2021.  She too is looking solid on all four events this Fall.  

In the finals last year, the Utes excelled on the BB but lagged behind on the VT.  They will look to strong VTs from Burch, Rucker, Stanhope and Cammy Hall, while counting on the frosh to bring additional 10.0 SV vaults into the mix.  The Utes also look to get back junior Jillian Hoffman.  She competed a strong Yurchenko Full at the Red Rocks Preview, after missing her first two seasons due to injury. 

The Utes welcome one of their strongest class in years, featuring US Olympian Grace McCallum, alternate Kara Eaker, UK Olympian Ameliie Morgan and L10 standout Sage Thompson.  McCallum has a high level of difficulty throughout, but will most help the Utes on VT and FX where her big skills will help Utah close the gap on the top contenders. Eaker is looking strong in the preseason on all four events, although she is best known for her outstanding BB work.  She'll also add another 10.0 SV VT and a triple full on FX.  Morgan's best works is on UB and BB, while Thompson is a former L10 National Champ on the UB and figures to make the lineup there.  Thompson also has some strong tumbling potential on the FX.  This class will form the cornerstone of future Utah squads for years to come.

Utah has brought aboard all the ingredients they need to close the gap on the leaders and challenge for a national team title in 2022.  This somewhat depends on keeping their stars healthy while having their frosh adjust quickly to NCAA competition.  The signs are positive already in the preseason, but what happens in April is what ultimately counts.     

 

 5.  LSU

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 24/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 0 UB, 0 BB, 0 FX
Head Coach: Jay Clark
Assistants: Ashleigh Gnat, Garrett Griffeth
Returning Starters (12):  Elena Arenas (So), Sierra Ballard (So), Chase Brock (So), Haleigh Bryant (So), Reagan Campbell (Sr), Bridget Dean (Sr), Christina Desiderio (Sr), Olivia Dunne (So), Sami Durante (Sr), Sarah Edwards (Sr), Kiya Johnson (Jr), Alyona Shchennikova (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Rebecca D'Antonio (Jr), Lexie Nibbs (Jr), Maddie Rau (Jr), Kai Rivers (Jr/I), Kamryn Ryan (Jr)
Graduated (1):   Olivia Gunter
Other Losses (2):  Courtney Goodrich (Jr/?), Caitlin Smith (Jr/R)
Newcomers (3):  Aleah Finnegan, KJ Johnson, Tori Tatum

Quick Assessment:   LSU returns all 24 routines from a squad that finished 4th in their semifinal at the NCAA Championships.  They were led last season by juniors Kira Johnson and Alyona Shchennikova and sophomore Haleigh Bryant.  Johnson battled a tender Achilles' last season and was paced by the coaching staff for maximum impact in the post-season.  Shchennikova had a breakout season last year, becoming an AAer and showing improvement on all four events.  The dynamic Bryant was the NCAA VT champion with a tremendously well-executed front pike 1/2 on vault and clean work through her all-around program.     

BB was the Tigers downfall last year, and they'll need seniors like Reagan Campbell, Bridget Dean and Christina Desiderio in top form and consistent under pressure in the post-season.  Another senior, Sarah Edwards is a key vaulter and FX worker.  Classmate Sami Durante has been slowed by injury, but is a top UB and worker when healthy.  Also providing additional upside potential is sophomore Olivia Dunne, a former elite who could add another strong BB set.

LSU welcomes a trio of talented frosh, headlined by National Team member Aleah Finnegan, younger sister of Tiger great Sarah Finnegan.   She has star potential as an AAer, but especially shines on BB.  She's joined by two former junior elites who both dropped back to L10.  KJ Johnson excels on VT (big Yurchenko Full) and FX (full-in), and she tied for 4th on each event at the 2021 L10 Nationals.  Tatum won the BB at the 2019 L10 Nationals, where she placed 2nd AA and on the VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2).  She also placed 4th AA at Regionals this past season but did not compete at Nationals.  When in top form, she'll be another strong contender for every lineup.

LSU settles in fifth in the current rankings, with a tremendous amount of talent on the roster but with also the need to address the BB problems that have been their problem in the past.  They will also need to manage the health of their standouts, in order to present the strongest lineups as possible at the end of the season.  If the pieces come into place, LSU can certainly contend for a place among the title contenders. 

 

 6.  Alabama Crimson Tide

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 22/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 0 FX
Head Coach:  Dana Duckworth
Assistants:  Gina Quinlan, Ryan Roberts
Returning Starters (10):
  Shania Adams (So), Luisa Blanco (Jr), Makarri Doggette (Jr), Emily Gaskins (Sr), Lexi Graber (Sr), Griffin James (Sr), Cam Machado (So), Shallon Olsen (Sr), Kaylee Quinn (Sr), Mati Waligora (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Ella Burgess (Jr/I), Isabella Martin (So), Sania Mitchell (Sr)
Graduated (1):  Alonza Klopfer
Other Losses (3):  Sara Duhe (So/TR/PSU), Audrey Evans (Fr/?), Jensie Givens (Sr/?)
Newcomers (3):  Corinne Bunagan, Lilly Hudson, Jordyn Paradise

Quick Assessment:  Alabama loses just a pair of routines from last year's squad that finished 5th at the National meet, placing 3rd in their semi-final just 0.025 behind Utah.  They will be led in 2022 by a pair of National Champions, Luisa Blanco (BB) and Lexi Graber (FX).  Both are potential AAers who provide a strong 1-2 punch at the bottom of the Tide lineups.  Alabama will also count on key contributions from senior Shallon Olsen, whose double twisting Yurchenko, double-double on FX and double pike off BB push the envelope of difficulty in the NCAA.  Classmate Emily Gaskins also emerged as an AAer last season, although all of the Tide AAers will have to battle hard for slots on all four lineups.  

Juniors Makarri Doggette and Mati Waligora could also play a bigger role in 2022, along with sophomore Shania Adams.  The two juniors have battled some injury issues while Adams should benefit from another year of experience under her belt.  Adams is a former elite National Team member who can also be an AA threat.  The two juniors have been training well in the in the preseason.  However, any number of the remaining Tide athletes could also step up to challenge this season, like Ella Burgess, who was out with an injury last season but shone as a frosh, or Kaylee Quinn, who can bring big power skills on VT and FX.

Bama welcomes a trio of frosh: Corinne Bunagan, Lilly Hudson and Jordyn Paradise.  L10 National Team member and former jr. international elite Hudson leads the way.  She finished 4th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals and 3rd AA at the 2021 Nastia Liukin Cup.  She shows clean form, good extension and precise execution on all four events, and looks to challenge the lineups on three to four events.   Bunagan is a former Philippine National Team member and US L10.  She won the L10 BB title in 2017, which is perhaps her best event.  Paradise is another L10 who won the 2021 L10 Florida State meet with a big 39.125 AA score.  She tied for 22nd AA and placed 2nd on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and 2nd(t) on UB at the 2021 L10 Nationals.  She has been slowed by an injury, however, but could be a key for the Tide on VT, UB and FX (double Arabian).  

The Tide have been sometimes overlooked in preseason rankings in recent years but continue to challenge for a top spot at Nationals and in the SEC.  This year should be no different, as they have a core of talented and experienced athletes.  With some better luck with injuries and some immediate contributions from their frosh, the Tide could be a threat for the NCAA final.  As is the case for many contenders, getting an extra tenth or two on VT will be key, either through 10.0 start values or more consistent sticks.  In addition, specific to the Tide, they also have an opportunity to clean up the details and strengthen their depth on the UB to close a gap on the event with the other contenders.     

 

 7.  Cal Bears

Official Web Site:   Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coaches:  Justin Howell and Elizabeth Crandall-Howell
Assistant Coach:  Janelle McDonald
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 1 FX
Returning Starters (9):  Maya Bordas (Sr), Milan Clausi (Sr), Neveah DeSouza (Jr), Kyana George (Sr/I), Andi Li (So), Grace Quinn (Sr), Natalie Sadighi (Jr), Nina Schank (Sr), Emi Watterson (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (6):  Elise Byun (So/I), Blake Gozashti (So), Maya Green (Jr), Talitha Jones (Sr/I), Gabby Perea (So), Abi Solari (Sr)
Graduated (2):  Alma Kuc, Victoria Salem
Other Losses (2):  Cosette Carranza (So/?), Kennedy Quay (So/Student Coach)
Newcomers (5):  Ella Cesario, Jordan Kane, Mya Lauzon, Abbey Scanlon, Madelyn Williams

Quick Assessment:   Cal placed 3rd in their NCAA semi-final last season, just 0.075 behind Florida.  They graduated just one routine last season, an UB set from Alma Kuc.  Unfortunately for the Bears, star Kyana George tore her Achiilles' in the preseason.  Thus, the Bears enter the season missing a potential AAer and one of their top VT/FX performers.

The Bears will be led in 2022 by National UB Champ Maya Bordes, a top AAer.  She'll be joined by classmate Milan Clausi, fifth year Nina Schank, junior AAer Neveah DeSouza, and standout sophomore Andi Li.  These five form a powerful core on each event, supplemented by top specialists like Emi Watterson.  Cal will also seek to get increased contributions from other returners like former elite Gabby Perea and senior Talitha Jones, who was out last season with an injury. 

A talented frosh class may see more opportunity than expected, due to some injury issues in a few returners.  They featured prominently in the recent intrasquad meet.  There are five frosh, led by Mya Lauzon and Madelyn Williams.  Lauzon is a two-time L10 VT champion (2021, 2019(tie)) who has a strong Yurchenko 1 1/2 and is a two-time L10 National Team member.  She's a lineup threat on all four events.  Joining her is former jr. international elite and L10 Williams.  She was the L10 National AA champ in the Sr. A division at the 2019 L10 Nationals.  Her work is characterized by beautiful execution and extension, in particular on UB and BB.  A third frosh, Abbey Scanlon, is another former jr. international elite who shines on BB and FX (capable of a double layout, but a double pike at the exhibition).  

The Bears also welcome Ella Cesario, a two-time L10 National Team member and former ('19) L10 National UB champ.  She does not appear to have competed in 2021 and did not compete at the intrasquad.  The final frosh, Jordan Kane, is a two-time L10 National qualifier.  In the most recent public intrasquad, she competed a strong aerial to back layout series on BB.     

Cal returns a strong and talented core and looks again to challenge for a spot at the National finals.  In order to move even higher, they'll need to have their strongest lineups available for the post-season on VT and FX, where their difficulty and depth lag a little behind the top challengers.  Look for the squad to build throughout the season, as the frosh gain experience and key gymnasts become available. 

 

 8.  UCLA Bruins

Official Web SiteLink      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 19/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 1 FX
Head Coach: Chris Waller
Associate Head Coach:  Kristina Comforte
Assistant:  Dom Palange
Returning Starters (10):  Emma Andres (Jr), Chae Campbell (So), Frida Esparza (So), Norah Flatley (Sr), Margzetta Frazier (Sr), Kendal Poston (Sr), Samantha Sakti (Sr), Pauline Tratz (Sr), Sara Ulias (So), Sekai Wright (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Paige Hogan (Jr), Chloe Lashbrooke (Jr/I), Brooklyn Moors (RS Fr), Kalyany Steele (Jr), Sara Taubman (Sr)
Graduated (4):  Nia Dennis, Savannah Kooyman, Nicki Shapiro, Lilia Waller
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (6):  Jordan Chiles, Alexis Jeffrey, Emily Lee (I), Emma Malabuyo, Katie McNamara (So/TR/Washington), Ana Padurariu

Quick Assessment:  The Bruins welcomes back 19 routines from a squad that missed the National Championships, after placing 3rd behind Michigan and Cal at the Regionals.  However, high expectations remain from the Coaches' pull, that elevate the team into the top eight.  This is not only due to their past history of success and the talent on the roster, but is also likely due to their outstanding frosh class.  The Bruins will be without the services of four gymnasts, including standout Nia Dennis.  Dennis' potential big scores and dynamic presentation will be missed.  

The Bruins will be led in 2022 by seniors Norah Flatley and Margzetta Frazier, along with sophomore AAer Chae Campbell.  Flatley stood out at the recent Meet the Bruins meet, sporting an updated triple series on BB (front aerial to back handspring to layout) and a triple full on FX. They will capably supported by senior Kendall Poston, who brings a key 10.0 SV vault and a triple series on BB.  Senior Pauline Tratz also looks to be back on track after some injuries.  She brings a key VT and FX set, and has added back her full-in mount during her performance at the recent Meet the Bruins meet.  Sophomore Frida Esparza also could be due for an expanded role this season, while a fully healthy Sekai Wright could give a lift on her best events.

The story for the Bruins is the full arrival of a superb frosh class, headlined by Olympian Jordan Chiles.  Following her gym switch, Chiles became of the country's most outstanding gymnasts, winning the Winter Cup and placing 3rd AA at the US Championships and the Olympic Trials.  Another gymnast with an outstanding 2021 was Emma Malabuyo.  After a period of injury, she rebounded in 2021 to grab an alternate spot on the US Olympic Team and placed 4th AA at the US Championships.  Both gymnasts appear ready to adapt quickly to college competition, based on their exhibitions at the Meet the Bruins event.  The Bruins also welcome Canadian Olympian Brooklyn Moors, who enrolled last season but took off the year to train.  She is potentially another impact gymnast on all four events, but in particular on FX.  The Bruins also add World BB Silver Medalist Ana Padruriu of Canada.  She is working back from an ankle injury but showed her progress at the Meet the Bruins event.  Another standout American elite, Emma Lee, was an Olympic Trials finalist.  However, she tore her Achilles' at the trials and is still working her way back.  Not to be overlooked, however, is former jr. international elite and L10 drop back Alexis Jeffrey.  Having focused on getting ready for college, she appears set to contribute immediately this season.  In top form at the recent exhbition, she also finished 6th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals.        

The Bruins have plenty of potential to contend for titles in the future.  Whether it is this year or a future year depends on how quickly the frosh can adjust to collegiate competition and contribute to bolster the Bruin lineups. They are a big wild card, with a spot at Nationals or even on the podium within their grasp. 

 

9.  Minnesota Gophers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach:  Jenny Hansen
Associate Head Coach:  Rich Stenger
Assistant:  Geralen Stack-Eaton
Starting Routines Returning: 22/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 0 UB, 2 BB, 0 FX
Returning Starters (12):  Gianna Gerdes (So), Kate Grotenhuis (Jr), Mya Hooten (So), Emily Koch (So), Mallory LeNeave (Jr), Ona Loper (Sr), Abbie Nylin (Sr), Maddie Quarles (Jr), Lexy Ramler (Sr), Halle Remlinger (Jr), Tiarre Sales (Sr), Hannah Willmarth (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Maya Albertin (Jr), Erin Fortman (So/I), Katie Horak (So), Ella Sirjord (So/I), Ali Sonier (Sr)
Graduated (2):  Mary Korlin-Down (RS Sr), Lexi Montgomery (Sr)
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (5):  Alissa Fuelling, Marissa Jencks, Lauren Pearl, Olivia Reed, Haley Tyson

Quick Assessment:   Minnesota looks to improve on last year's fourth place finish at the NCAA semi-final.  They finished just 0.25 out of 2nd place at the meet, and return all the key pieces from 2021.  Leading the way are two superstar fifth year athletes:  2021 AA/VT All-American Ona Loper and 2021 Big Ten AA champ Lexy Ramler.

Ten other starters return to support the Gophers effort to break through to the finals. Sophomore All-American Mya Hooten looks to build on her breakout sophomore campaign.  She especially shines on FX, with one of the cleanest full-in mounts in the NCAA.  Senior Tiarre Sales was a key gymnast on two events last season, but can also go AA.  She's also a key part of the UB and BB lineups.   Junior Maddie Quarles brings her Yurchenko 1 1/2, a top event for the Gophers.  Minnesota has a large squad, with 12 returner starters from last year's lineup.  Unlike other large rosters, most of the returners have lineup experience already, standing out in particular events or providing depth.

Minnesota welcomes five newcomers for 2022, led by L10 standout Haley Tyson.  Tyson is a former two-time L10 National Team member (2017, 2018) who tied for 15th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals (she had a mistake on her Ray on UB).  She brings another potential Yurchenko 1 1/2 to the strong Gopher VT lineup but is a lineup threat on all four events.  The Gophers also add former jr. elite Lauren Pearl.  She brings another strong VT option but is also capable of a big number on BB.  A third frosh, Marissa Jencks, won the 2021 Region 4 L10 Regional title on BB and placed 4th AA.  However, she missed out on the National meet.  She tied for 15th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals.

The Gophers are led by an experienced and talented core, and could easily field a top lineup from their 17 returners.  The newcomers, however, have the potential to bolster the squad's depth on the key events and help close any gaps with the other squads.  With a quick adjustment from the frosh and the avoidance of major injuries, Minnesota should once against contend for a spot at Nationals, if not more. 

 

 10.  Denver Pioneers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach: Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart
Associate Head Coach:  Linas Gaveika
Assistant: Dave Kuzara
Starting Routines Returning: 22/23
Routines Gone/Missing:  0 VT, 0 UB, 1 BB, 1 FX
Returning Starters (8):  Lynnzee Brown (Sr), Rosie Casali (So), Jessica Hutchinson (So), Bella Mabanta (So), Rylie Mundell (So), Alexandra Ruiz (Sr), Mia Sundstrom (Sr/I), Abbie Thompson (So)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Emma Brown (Jr/TR/LIU), Victoria Fitts (Jr), Emily Glynn (Sr), Callie Schlottmann (Jr)
Graduated (0):  N/A
Other Losses (4):  Amoree Lockhart (Jr/R), Natalie Morton (Jr/?), Akoray "AK" Subject (Jr/?), Alexis Vasquez (Jr/R)
Newcomers (2):  Mia Hebinck, Momoko Iwai

Quick Assessment:
  Denver placed 3rd at the Athens Regional final last season, just 0.15 behind Minnesota.  They did this tremendous feat despite only competing five gymnasts on FX.  They return 22 routines from that squad but experienced a wave of retirements in the offseason, including BB standout Alexis Vasquez.  Vasquez had a career high of 10 on the BB and competed up to three events for the Pioneers. 

However, the core of the Pioneer squad returns, led by superstar Lynnzee Brown.  The 2019 NCAA co-champ on FX, Brown rebounded from injury in 2020 to return to her status as a top AA threat.  She was joined last year in the AA by sophomore Jessica Hutchinson and senior Alexandra Ruiz.  Sophomore Rose Casali is another top returner, with big skills on all her events.  She competed up to three events last season and is capable of a pike full-in on FX and a Yurchenko 1 1/2.  Her cassmate Rylie Mundell contributes key sets on UB and VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) but is also capable of being an AAer.  Both sophomores could be even stronger this year, after a full offseason of training and the added experience from last season.   

Another fifth year senior, Mia Sundstrum, has had to overcome injuries in the past but is another key piece of the DU puzzle.  Her classmate Emily Glynn, who provides a key VT (layout Kasamatsu) and missed last year's Regional meet.  Having both seniors in top form would be a big boost for DU.    

DU welcomes two frosh to the squad for 2022.  Momoko Iwai placed 7th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals but stands out for her presentation and form on UB and BB.  As a junior elite, she competed in her native Japan.  The second frosh, Mia Hebinck, did not appear to compete in 2021 but finished 18th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals.  She's been training strongly this fall and appears set to break into the lineups as well.  The Pioneers also welcome back Emma Brown, who transferred to LIU for her sophomore season but transferred back for her junior year.  She gives some necessary depth on FX and BB. 

With a smaller squad, depth will continue to be a watchword for the Pioneers.  Behind the strength of Brown, the Pioneers do have enough pieces available to once again challenge for a spot at Nationals.  Having nearly the full squad together in the post-season could be the difference maker for DU, as they have the skills and execution to keep up with the leading contenders. 

 

 11.  Arkansas Razorbacks

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 1 FX
Head Coach: Jordyn Wieber
Assistants: Chris Brooks, Felicia Hano
Returning Starters (9):  Amanda Elswick (Sr), Kiara Gianfagna (Jr), Kennedy Hambrick (Sr), Madison Hickey (Jr), Abby Johnston (Sr), Maggie O'Hara (Gr), Savannah Pennese (Sr), Jensen Scalzo (So), Sarah Shaffer (Gr)
Other/Injured Returners (3): Emma Kelley (So), Bailey Lovett (Sr/I), Claire Rogers (Jr)
Graduated (1):  Sophia Carter
Other Losses (3):  Katarina Derrick (Sr/R), Jordan Olszewski (So/I/R), Gillian Rutz (So/?)
Newcomers (6):  Kalyxta Gamiao, Maddie Jones, Frankie Price (I), Makenzie Sedlacek, Leah Smith, Cami Weaver

Quick Assessment:  Arkansas returns 20 of 24 routines from a squad that placed third at their 2021 Regional Final.  They lose a number of gymnasts from that squad, including standout BB/FX worker Sophia Carter.  However, the GymBacks return 12 athletes from their final linups including senior AA standout Kennedy Hambrick.  Hambrick had a breakout season last year, winning three regular season All-American honors and four 2nd team NCAA All-American honors.

She's capably supported by grad student Sarah Shaffer, another standout AAer.  Seniors Amanda Elswick and Savannah Pennese also were key contributors, along with juniors Kiara Gianfagna and Madison Hickey.   Arkansas also got a boost from two transfers last season, grad student Maggie O'Hara and senior Abby Johnston.  At the Regional meet, the GymBacks were missing the services of Bailey Lovett, a senior who brings a big double layout on FX and some big scoring potential on BB.  She's working her way back into top form, and looks ready to contribute at a high level once again.

To this strong set of returners, Arkansas brings an exciting class of newcomers, led by 2021 Nastia Liukin Cup champion Leah Smith.  Smith brings some big tumbling (pike full-in), super clean work on UB (double layout) and huge Yurchenko Full.  She was also 2nd AA and 2nd on UB at the 2021 L10 Nationals.  Coach Wieber has also called out Makenzie Sedlacek as a potential standout.  The 2018 L10 National Team member brings a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and full-in on FX.  She also excels on UB, where she tied for 3rd at the 2021 L10 Nationals.  2019 L10 National Team Member Kalyxta Gamaio is capable of the same E skills as Sedlacek on VT and FX, and adds strong skills on BB as well.  She placed 2nd on FX and 17th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals.  Unfortunately, L10 Frankie Price tore her ACL in the spring after a strong club season.  Fellow frosh Cami Weaver and Maddie Jones are also challenging for lineups.  Weaver is a three-time L10 National qualifier while Jones has excellent form and technique, and was a Region 8 AA champ in 2019 and L10 National FX co-champ in 2018. 

After a strong initial season in the Weber era, Arkansas looks to continue the momentum and challenge for a spot at Nationals.  They have a gap to close on the top eight, but with Hambrick, a solid set of returners and a potential high impact frosh class it will be interesting to see how far they can progress this season.    

 

 12.  ASU Gym Devils

Official Web Site:   Link    Schedule      Roster
Head Coaches:  Jay and Jessica Santos
Assistant:  Kristin White
Starting Routines Returning: 21/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 0 BB, 1 FX
Returning Starters (10):  Cassi Barbanente (So), Juliette Boyer (Jr), Sarah Clark (So), Jasmine Gutierrez (Sr), Jada Mangahas (So), Gracie Reeves (Jr), Hannah Scharf (Jr), Anaya Smith (So), Megan Thompson (Sr), Emily White (So)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Skye Harper (So), Jordyn Jaslow (Jr), Alina Miller (Jr), Isabel Redmond (Jr), Cienna Samiley (So)
Graduated (2):  Cairo Leonard-Baker, Maya Williams
Other Losses (1):  Kaitlin Harvey (Jr/Manager)
Newcomers (2):   Mallory Marcheli, Alex Theodorou

Quick Assessment:   ASU returns 21 of 24 routines from a squad that finished just 0.15 from 2nd place at the Salt Lake City Regional Final.  Gone from that squad is star Cairo Leonard-Baker.  Despite being limited at times by injury, she was a major end-of-the lineup athlete for the Gym Devils.  Her leadership and big 9.9+ scores will be missed. 

ASU welcomes ten starters from last year's Regional Final lineup.  They are led by junior AAer Hannah Scharf.  Scharf emerged as a top AAer last season, with clean execution on all four events.  Another junior, Juliette Boyer, competed on UB in every meet last year and went AA twice.  Sophomore Emily White also has competed on every event, but excels on UB (Van Leeuwen) and BB where her beautiful form and clean execution pay off.  Classmate Sarah Clark also made a big splash last year, competing on all but VT.  She can bring in big scores on UB and BB.  Another sophomore, Jada Mangahas, was a key part of the high impact sophomore class and looks even stronger in the preseason, especially on VT and FX (full-in).  The Gym Devils also count on a key vault from another sophomores, Anaya Smith as well as solid contributions from classmate Cassi Barbarente.  All told, ASU had 11 routines at the Regional Final coming from frosh.  That level of experience will serve the squad well for years to come.

ASU welcomes a pair of frosh, Mallory Marcheli and Alex Theodorou.  Theodorou will be looked upon to replace the high impact routines of Leonard-Baker.  She has a 10.0 SV vault, a full-in on FX and clean work on BB and UB (Jaeger, double layout).  She placed 2nd AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals and tied for 6th at the 2019 L10 Nationals.  Marcheli, a former jr. elite, excels on BB (side aerial to back handspring series), where she tied for 4th at the 2021 L10 Nationals.  She'll also provide depth on the other events.

ASU just missed a spot at Nationals last season, using a remarkable performance from some key veterans and a strong class of newcomers.  Now with one more year of experience, we'll see if the Gym Devils are ready to take the next step to Nationals.  They'll need to keep their key athletes healthy, particularly on VT, and get immediate contributions from frosh Theodorou.     

 

 

Teams #13 to #25

Intro

 

Key to the Tables:

 

Ranking: By 2022 Preseason Coaches' Poll

Coaches: Only regular, paid coaches are listed.

Starting Routines: Defined by starting lineup in last meet of the post season.
Returning Starters:
Defined by starting lineup in last competition
Year in School:
(Is listed as reported on the school's roster)

Fr = Freshman
So = Sophomore
Jr = Junior
Sr = Senior

Gr = Graduate Student

Status Codes for Returners:

I = major season ending injury in 2021 or preseason 2021-2022
R = retirement/not competing (for any other reason than transfer or injury)
TR = Transfer
RS = Redshirt (note:  not all eligible gymnasts will employ or are awarded a redshirt year)
?=unconfirmed/unknown information

Last modified on Sunday, 02 January 2022 19:40