The Pac-12 could be incredibly competitive in 2019, with nearly every team gaining more routines than it graduated. This week we’re analyzing the top half of the conference, including quintessential rivals UCLA and Utah. Those two will likely land on the top once again, but the rest of the conference is increasingly capable of challenging them. Expect some close dual meets this year.
The potential lineups series is back to discuss teams’ prospects for the 2019 season. However, it has a bit of a new look: less body, more straight-forward analysis yet all the same great information you’ve come to know and love.
No. 1 UCLA Bruins
The defending national champion enters 2019 a significantly stronger team than last year, a frightening prospect to its competitors at the top level. Its ability to defend its title in head coach Valorie Kondos-Field’s final year will come down to the team’s mental game, so it will be interesting to see if this stacked roster can avoid the early-season missteps we’ve come to expect.
Note that senior Stella Savvidou recently underwent another wrist surgery and is questionable for the 2019 season.
|Losses:||Peng Peng Lee (UB, BB), Pua Hall (VT), JaNay Honest (UB), Sonya Meraz|
|Gains:||Norah Flatley, Margzetta Frazier, Sara Taubman, Sekai Wright|
|Returning From Injury:||Macy Toronjo (FX; back), Stella Savvidou (wrist)|
UCLA has lagged behind other top programs in number of 10.0 starts in recent seasons and has struggled to convert preseason difficulty into real lineup options. That might not be an issue this year. As well as the returning 10.0 vaults from Felicia Hano and Gracie Kramer, the Bruins showed new Yurchenko one and a halfs from returners Kyla Ross, Nia Dennis and Pauline Tratz—the first two of which have looked particularly convincing. They also add two great 10.0 vaults in freshmen Margzetta Frazier and Sekai Wright, who do a double and a one and a half, respectively. And sophomore walk on Kendal Poston surprised us all this summer by debuting a handspring front pike half that could easily crack the lineup. For those keeping count, that’s eight 10.0 vaults, and even if a significant number of them fall through, the Bruins will have plenty of Yurchenko fulls as backup.
Potential Contributors: Felicia Hano (9.900 RQS), Kyla Ross (9.895), Nia Dennis (9.885), Pauline Tratz (9.875), Anna Glenn (9.825), Katelyn Ohashi (9.831 AVG), Gracie Kramer (9.500), Margzetta Frazier, Sekai Wright, Kendal Poston
The Bruins trialed numerous options on bars in 2018, so it will be interesting to see which remain regular contributors and which drop. Madison Kocian’s return to regular competition will make an impact, and both Glenn twins have looked strong this preseason. Freshman Norah Flatley could match graduate Peng-Peng Lee’s scores and Frazier brings exciting difficulty, including a Church. Hano has been training the all around convincingly and is an outside contender for this lineup while perpetually injured Macy Toronjo is gorgeous on bars and may finally have her shot in 2019.
Potential Contributors: Kyla Ross (9.960 RQS), Nia Dennis (9.880), Katelyn Ohashi (9.875), Madison Kocian (9.863 AVG) Savannah Kooyman (9.800), Anna Glenn (9.700), Felicia Hano (9.025), Grace Glenn, Margzetta Frazier, Norah Flatley, Sara Taubman, Macy Toronjo
With three returning RQS’s over 9.900, beam shouldn’t be a challenge for the Bruins in 2019. Outside of the obvious returners, expect Hano to make a very serious run at this lineup, as she has looked great in preseason. Once again Flatley is a near-guarantee for this lineup while Frazier’s chances will depend on her consistency. Anna Glenn has been training upgrades, including a very Peng-Peng-esque two foot “layout.” Savannah Kooyman, Poston and Mercedez Sanchez have looked strong in training and provide interesting backup options while Toronjo once again could be a game changer depending on her health.
Potential Contributors: Katelyn Ohashi (9.945 RQS), Grace Glenn (9.925), Kyla Ross (9.910), Madison Kocian (9.875), Brielle Nguyen (9.850), Anna Glenn (9.900 AVG), Nia Dennis (9.792), Felicia Hano (9.775), Savannah Kooyman, Kendal Poston, Mercedez Sanchez, Margzetta Frazier, Norah Flatley, Macy Toronjo
Floor is where things get crazy for the Bruins, with around a dozen athletes who seem like likely competitors. Outside of the eight strong returners, Brielle Nguyen’s routine appears to be a favorite among the team, and while floor might be more difficult on Toronjo’s body than bars and beam, she has been great in the past. All four freshmen have popped up in training updates, with Flatley showing a gorgeous triple twist and Sara Taubman’s double front to stag jump making repeated appearances. Frazier seems to be opening her routine with a tucked full-in instead of her sometimes-crunchy double layout—a good sign. Wright is a star tumbler and a J.O. national champion on this event.
Potential Contributors: Katelyn Ohashi (9.970 RQS), Felicia Hano (9.935), Pauline Tratz (9.910), Gracie Kramer (9.890), Kyla Ross (9.890), Nia Dennis (9.860), Madison Kocian (9.865 AVG), Savannah Kooyman (9.825), Brielle Nguyen, Macy Toronjo, Norah Flatley, Sekai Wright, Sara Taubman, Margzetta Frazier.
UCLA has more depth in 2019 than it’s seen in years—the biggest challenge will be not drowning in it. This Bruin team will be in contention for the national title no matter what happens between now and April, but if we see them settling into lineups and performing consistently by February, they’ll be difficult to beat. Predicting all arounders at this point seems like a fool’s errand, but expect Ross to fight to keep her spot on floor and for Frazier, Hano and Dennis to get a chance at all four events, if not necessarily in the same week.
No. 5 Utah Utes
Utah will be able to hold steady in 2019, with only four routines graduating and a freshman class that is strong if not revolutionary. The Utes will look to develop a few more consistent 9.9s and replace the weaker routines, but their core quadrant of all arounders likely won’t be seriously threatened.
|Losses:||Maddy Stover (BB), Tiffani Lewis (VT, UB, FX), Erika Muhaw|
|Gains:||Hunter Dula, Cameron Hall, Cristal Isa, Adrienne Randall|
|Returning From Injury:||Macey Roberts (FX; several surgeries)|
Utah is a team that likes to keep its lineups steady when possible, and it’s very possible that all five RQS-ranked returners will take places in the lineup this year. Missy Reinstadtler has showed an upgrade to a Yurchenko one and a half in preseason, making Kari Lee the only one of this quintet still vaulting a full. If any of the group loses their spot, it’s likely to be her. Cameron Hall is the leading vaulter of the newcomers, with a powerful Yurchenko one and a half, and Hunter Dula’s Yurchenko full-on back pike is an alternate possibility. Cristal Isa provides a beautiful backup Yurchenko full, and returners Alexia Burch and Macey Roberts have also filled the backup role in the past.
Potential Contributors: MyKayla Skinner (9.930 RQS), MaKenna Merrell-Giles (9.925), Kim Tessen (9.895), Kari Lee (9.875), Missy Reinstadtler (9.840), Cameron Hall, Hunter Dula, Cristal Isa, Alexia Burch (9.775 AVG), Macey Roberts (9.750)
Once again, newcomers will have their work cut out to push the existing five out of their lineup spots; in this case, the most vulnerable is likely Kim Tessen, whose technique is beautiful but who was a bit inconsistent in 2018. Expect J.O. national champ Isa to be an instant star here, having already become the focus of Utah training updates. Dula has great lines and amplitude, and Adrienne Randall is very tidy. Don’t forget sophomore Lauren Wong either—she didn’t meet her full potential in 2018, but she could be valuable in the future.
Potential Contributors: MyKayla Skinner (9.925 RQS), MaKenna Merrell-Giles (9.870), Missy Reinstadtler (9.865), Kim Tessen (9.860), Kari Lee (9.850), Cristal Isa, Hunter Dula, Adrienne Randall, Lauren Wong
One spot on beam changed hands several times in 2018, with Sydney Soloski ultimately taking over for Alexia Burch with Shannon McNatt having a few turns in the middle. Soloski might make the strongest case to return of the three, but it’s more likely that two freshmen will take spots instead. Randall has made waves already with an uncommon Rulfova, and Isa is consistent and beautiful. Tessen is also making a run at this lineup, and with some of the best form on the team, she could have a strong case.
Potential Contributors: MyKayla Skinner (9.915 RQS), MaKenna Merrell-GIles (9.890). Kari Lee (9.875), Missy Reinstadtler (9.835), Alexia Burch (9.800), Sydney Soloski (9.838 AVG), Shannon McNatt (9.588), Adrienne Randall, Cristal Isa, Kim Tessen
All four freshmen bring E passes to NCAA, but with plenty of difficulty already in the lineup, it’s difficult to anticipate who will make the final six. Dula and Randall both have full-ins and great showmanship while Isa’s full-in has popped up in training videos and might be a new addition. Hall opens with a double Arabian, but her form can be a bit of a sticking point. Randall was the strongest of the four in J.O., but it’s hard to tell if that will be predictive. Last season’s backups Burch and Roberts will also factor in.
Potential Contributors: MyKayla Skinner (9.960), MaKenna Merrell-GIles (9.940), Missy Reinstadtler (9.895), Sydney Soloski (9.890), Kari Lee (9.865), Alexia Burch (9.850 AVG), Macey Roberts (9.725), Hunter Dula, Adrienne Randall, Cristal Isa, Cameron Hall
Expect Utah’s core to be the same as 2018, with MaKenna Merrell-Giles and MyKayla Skinner doing the all around weekly and Reinstadtler and Lee seeing at least some time in those positions. The best case scenario for the Utes is for the freshmen to eventually pick up the weaker events of the bottom two all arounders, but training footage thus far has prioritized returners; we don’t expect the newcomers to immediately change the landscape. Either way, Utah will need its twin weapons of consistency and vault/floor difficulty if it wants to factor into the national final.
No. 9 California Golden Bears
California had a rollercoaster year in 2018, opening with a perplexing weeks-long bars crisis before surging in the rankings in March as it replaced its poor road scores at the last opportunity. The incredible recruiting of co-head coaches Justin Howell and Liz Crandall-Howell has been a talking point for years, but with their first two really exceptional signing classes now freshmen and sophomores, 2019 might be our first glimpse of just how good the Golden Bears can be.
Note that redshirt senior Toni-Ann Williams is recovering from a dislocated elbow injury and might be event-restricted for part or all of the season, and Maya Bordas is recovering from an injury sustained early in the 2018 J.O. season.
|Losses:||Alicia Gallarzo (VT, BB, FX), Arianna Robinson (VT, FX), Yuleen Sternberg (UB)|
|Gains:||Maya Bordas, Milan Clausi, Talitha Jones, Grace Quinn, Abigail Solari|
|Returning From Injury:||Victoria Salem (ACL)|
Vault is an event where Cal will be looking to replace its weaker options from 2018. Milan Clausi’s Yurchenko one and a half is an obvious pick, and junior Rachael Mastrangelo surprised us with a recent upgrade to the same vault. British elite Abi Solari has shown two 10.0 options, a handspring front pike half and a handspring front tuck full, of which the pike half might be more likely since judges are more familiar with it and its landing is easier. Fellow freshmen Talitha Jones and Maya Bordas have beautiful fulls, and sophomore Nina Schank flirted with this lineup in 2018.
Potential Contributors: Toni-Ann WIlliams (9.895 RQS), Kyana George (9.860), Cassidy Keelen (9.820), Sylvie Seilnacht (9.810), Rachael Mastrangelo (9.790), Milan Clausi, Abi Solari, Talitha Jones, Maya Bordas, Nina Schank
Ironically, considering their Herculean struggle on this event in early 2018, bars is the event on which the Bears return the most immediately useful routines, and their newcomers aren’t shabby either. Bordas and Clausi have already shown routines in training that Cal would have loved last year while Victoria Salem has recovered enough from her ACL tear to show off her 9.950-worthy work on this piece. Grace Quinn, a Texas Dreams alumna who hasn’t competed since 2015, looks strong in training while Solari’s pedigree as an Academy alumna and a former teammate of Ruby Harrold is evident in her bars work. All this combined, with video proof of the likes of Schank and Alma Kuc are as beautiful as ever, means that bars could be a big deal for the Golden Bears in 2019.
Potential Contributors: Nina Schank (9.905 RQS), Toni-Ann Williams (9.865), Kyana George (9.860), Alma Kuc (9.855), Sofie Seilnacht (9.830), Emi Watterson (9.842 AVG), Maya Bordas, Milan Clausi, Victoria Salem, Grace Quinn, Abi Solari
Beam isn’t an event on which the Bears were hurting in 2018 by any means, but a few exciting gains could make this lineup stand out. Clausi is a likely immediate contributor, and Solari has popped up in training updates already, corroborating our inference that her strong elite beam set would convert well to college. Bordas and Salem might not be fully fit yet, but both were beam stars in J.O. Jones has a daring set and could be a good backup option.
Potential Contributors: Toni-Ann Williams (9.895 RQS), Sofie Seilnacht (9.880), Kyana George (9.860), Chelsea Shu (9.840), Cassidy Keelen (9.835), Milan Clausi, Abi Solari, Maya Bordas, Victoria Salem, Talitha Jones
Floor is the other event on which Cal will be hoping to replace the less consistent half of its lineup, but it won’t be short of options. Clausi is once again a frontrunner with two beautiful E passes as well as great dance ability. Jones’ tumbling is difficult and floaty, and Bordas was elegant and reliable in J.O. Australian Emi Watterson was expected to be a floor star in college, and training footage indicates she’ll live up to her potential in 2019 with the return of her fabulous double Arabian.
Potential Contributors: Toni-Ann Williams (9.935 RQS), Kyana George (9.865), Sofie Seilnacht (9.820), Sylvie Seilnacht (9.805), Chelsea Shu (9.805), Milan Clausi, Talitha Jones, Maya Bordas, Emi Watterson
Cal is in a strong position in 2019, having gained far more useful routines than it lost. It might be too soon to imagine them in the final four, but it’s also difficult to confidently rule it out given the incredibly high ceiling of this team. At this point there’s still some lineup uncertainty based on injury statuses, but expect Clausi to make a serious run at the all around alongside Kyana George and hopefully Toni-Ann Williams.
No. 11 Washington Huskies
The Huskies are always an understated team, with a small roster and a level of difficulty that lags behind other national qualifiers. However, they excelled the last two years by focusing on consistency and routine construction. They enter 2019 having lost some critical routines, but after some late recruiting developments they should be able to improve on their conventional weaknesses and keep moving upward.
Note that freshman Talia Brovedani suffered a preseason ACL tear and will not compete in 2019. Madeline McLellan’s status is unknown after a 2018 knee injury.
|Losses:||Hailey Burleson (AA), Joslyn Goings (AA), Haley Roy (VT; no longer on roster) Zoey Schaefer (BB, FX), Hannah Willmarth|
|Gains:||Brenna Brooks, Talia Brovedani, Amara Cunningham, Madeline McLellan, Meaghan Ruttan, Hannah Vandenkolk|
|Returning From Injury:||Geneva Thompson (Achilles)|
Vault has been a serious weakness for the Huskies in recent years, with usually only one 10.0 start and some annoying built-in deductions on their Yurchenko fulls, but things could improve radically this year. Sophomore Geneva Thompson was a star on vault in J.O. and has worked a Yurchenko one and a half, so if her ankle is ready to vault weekly by January she could make a big difference. Freshmen Brenna Brooks and Amara Cunningham bring consistent and beautiful 10.0 vaults from J.O.—an Omelianchik and a Yurchenko one and a half, respectively—and should also be expected to contribute from week one. Senior Kristyn Hoffa hopes to upgrade back to her J.O. Yurchenko one and a half, and junior Maya Washington is working a front handspring entry that could lead to another 10.0 after her previous Tsukahara vault proved too inconsistent to compete. If McLellan is healthy, she could be a depth option here.
Potential Contributors: Evanni Roberson (9.820 RQS), Monica Riley (9.805), Kristyn Hoffa (9.800), Madison Copiak (9.800), Maya Washington, Geneva Thompson, Brenna Brooks, Amara Cunningham, Madeline McLellan
Bars should be fairly comfortable for Washington in 2019, with five returning routines that improved noticeably over the course of last season plus several new options. Brooks has a classic WOGA style but can be extremely inconsistent. Canadian Meaghan Ruttan looks strong in preseason, and her former clubmate, McLellan, is also strong on the event when healthy. Bars was Thompson’s weakest event in J.O., but training footage indicates she’s been working hard on handstands and will be targeting the top six.
Potential Contributors: Monica Riley (9.900 RQS), Madison Copiak (9.855), Evanni Roberson (9.835), Michaela Nelson (9.825), Maya Washington (9.810), Geneva Thompson, Meaghan Ruttan, Brenna Brooks
Predicting a beam lineup for Washington is always an adventure as almost the whole team trains the event and most are very good. This means the loss of three senior standouts isn’t all that painful for the Huskies, as much as fans might miss them. Thompson should once again be in the conversation after a strong J.O. career on this piece, and Ruttan has great form in her routine. Brooks might be a frontrunner with a combination of precision and feel on the beam that’s very reminiscent of what Washington usually presents on the event. Junior Michaela Nelson was in and out of the top six in 2018, but the Hills alumna is very stylish and could easily become a 9.900 option. The wildcard here is freshman Hannah Vandenkolk, who trains only beam and floor but is gorgeous on both. She’s an athlete who heavily favours front elements, which always add excitement if also a bit of uncertainty.
Potential Contributors: Evanni Roberson (9.900 RQS), Madison Copiak (9.865), Malory Rose (9.845), Maya Washington (9.780), Michaela Nelson (9.825 AVG), Geneva Thompson, Hannah Vandenkolk, Meaghan Ruttan, Brenna Brooks
This event is usually a scoring strength for the Huskies, but they still lack difficulty compared to other top teams. Vandenkolk has a beautiful front double full that could be her ticket to a lineup spot. Brooks and Cunningham don’t tumble anything more difficult than a double pike, but both are powerful on the event and have great landing sense. Thompson was one of the strongest on the team in preseason last year, and the Huskies will hope her ankle is healthy enough for her to return this year. Madison Copiak hasn’t competed floor yet in college, but she’ll look to add it in 2019. Meanwhile, lineup standby Hoffa has an old tucked full-in that could return to her routine.
Potential Contributors: Maya Washington (9.895 RQS), Kristyn Hoffa (9.875), Evanni Roberson (9.850), Michaela Nelson (9.835), Monica Riley (9.675 AVG), Madison Copiak, Geneva Thompson, Hannah Vandenkolk, Brenna Brooks, Amara Cunningham
The Huskies will seek to hold steady or improve incrementally in most places, but vault could be a major step forward, with three newcomers likely to replace weaker vaults, as well as upgrades possible from the returners. Vault dragged the team’s potential scores down for years, so the additions there are an exciting development. Expect Evanni Roberson to become the team’s scoring leader on several events and in the all around, but keep your eye on Thompson—it’s easy to forget about sophomores who didn’t compete freshman year, but her potential is massive.
The fascinating dynamics of the Pac-12 don’t end here, so make sure to check back in for the second half of the conference next week!
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Article by Rebecca Scally
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