We’re back for another roundtable with this week’s discussion benign all about Long Island University’s new gymnastics program! While we know most or all of this information will come out eventually, it’s still fun to speculate, discuss rumors and come up with wild conjectures for every question we’re waiting to be answered about the Sharks.
Who should Randy Lane hire to fill out his coaching staff?
Elizabeth: I like the idea of a strong, young female associate head coach that will be groomed to eventually take over the program once Randy starts a program at another school and leaves to help it in its first few years. While I don’t have any specific names, that’s the type of person I hope fills one of the positions. The second I hope is a stellar choreographer. You can’t be that close to NYC and Broadway and have crappy floor routines.
Mary Emma: I have to agree with Elizabeth here as I would like to see a young up-and-coming female coach, who would eventually take over the program when Randy either retires or moves on to other roles in the gymnastics world. Perhaps someone who is currently an AC or VAC at another program, such as Ashleigh Gnat, Marissa Beucler or Alex Hyland.
Jenna: Just throwing this out there: Bryan Raschilla deserves to be getting paid. A coach with his resume should not be a volunteer at any program in the country. I have no idea if he’d be interested in New York, but he’s who I would reach out to if I were in Randy’s shoes. I’d also love to see a recent graduate who’s serving as a volunteer assistant be promoted to a paid position at LIU (can you tell I’m a fan of people getting paid?); someone like Alex Hyland or Lauren Marinez.
Emily M: Stay with me here: Olivia Karas. She lives in New York, she’s been very involved with Randy as a CGGI ambassador—including having traveled to J.O. meets to promote college gym—and she has remained active in the gymternet after graduating. Does she want to coach? I have no idea. Am I intrigued? Yes. I’d also love to see Randy tap into all of his J.O. contacts and bring up a really superior technical coach. An outstanding technician could really elevate the staff: think the next Mark Heredia.
Claire: Sabrina Vega! Echoing Elizabeth, I’d love to see a strong, young female AC; who better than the former world champion and outstanding collegiate gymnast who’s from nearby Carmel, NY?
Who are you eyeing as a potential transfer to LIU? Which incoming freshmen would you like to see commit?
Elizabeth: Obviously Rachel Dickson would be a phenomenal transfer for the Sharks. We know she’s likely planning to come back for a fifth year, but no one knows if that’ll be at Georgia or another school. She could be an absolute star at LIU, and help the team succeed in its very first year.
Mary Emma: Well, obviously I’d want to see Rachel Dickson transfer to LIU. She’d be a great addition to the program and help elevate it immediately. Also judging by some social media hints, Emma Brown may be looking to transfer from Denver and seems to have some ties to LIU. As for incoming freshmen, I’d hope to see some gymnasts who were planning to walk-on to another school switch to LIU instead (and perhaps get to be on scholarship).
Jenna: In addition to the obvious choice of Rachel Dickson, I’d love to see Addy de Jesus transfer to LIU. She is from Connecticut and has the talent to be an absolute star all arounder. In terms of freshmen, I hope Randy is talking to some of the talented walk-ons currently committed to schools with large incoming classes, particularly at nearby Rutgers. It’s not too late to change some minds, particularly with a scholarship offer in tow!
Emily M: I’ve been wondering if any UCLA folks would follow Randy, but that doesn’t seem like it’s happening. There are a few schools that seem to have a transfer leave year after year; will a Maryland or Eastern Michigan gymnast take the bait? We also know that the UIC gymnasts were in contact with Randy when the Flames lost their program. Those who were freshmen that year still have, I believe, two to three years of eligibility on their clock.
Claire: Rachel Dickson, of course, but I’d also love to see LSU’s Rebecca D’Antonio in the Sharks’ roster. She’s a former J.O. qualifier with solid technique and skills (including a nice Yurchenko full) who doesn’t typically factor into LSU’s lineups, but could be a major contributor on a new team. I’m hoping to see some of the uncommitted Chelsea Pier gymnasts recruited, drum up some local interest! My absolute dream star recruit? Shilese Jones. Yes, I know she’s committed to Florida, but how cool would it be for her to step into a brand new program and be the undisputed team (not to mention conference) star? Plus, she hasn’t actually signed yet, so you never know…
What would it take for LIU to win an EAGL title?
Elizabeth: I think two or three more key recruits (whether that’s transfers or freshmen) need to sign on for LIU to make a run in its first year. The EAGL may be a second-tier conference, but its teams aren’t pushovers.
Mary Emma: I think it will probably be a few years before LIU will be serious contenders for the title. In recent years, the EAGL has become much more competitive, with multiple schools qualifying for regionals every year. Randy will need to land some exceptional recruits and transfers, which can take some time. I predict that by 2022 or 2023, the Sharks will be right up there at the top of the conference.
Jenna: To have a chance at winning the EAGL title anytime soon, Randy is going to have to recruit like crazy. A few high-quality transfers would be ideal, especially for the first year since there isn’t a lot of time left to recruit freshmen. But there is plenty of time to grab top talent from 2021 and 2022 graduates.
Emily M: This is tough! EAGL has been very competitive, with North Carolina learning how to bars and N.C. State succeeding under Kim Landrus. I think if LIU can land one or two signature recruits who will become the team star (think a Morgan Lane or a Cami Drouin-Allaire) and have some individual success that pulls the team forward, EAGL success could follow a year or two later.
Claire: The EAGL has been one of the more tightly ranked conferences in recent years, with four different teams taking the conference title in the past five years. The Sharks will need some exceptional transfers—think Michaela Burton transferring to Pitt—and standout freshmen recruits just to keep pace with the other teams, and could really set themselves apart with a strong vault lineup. In any case, I think it’ll be at least a couple of years before we see them at the top of the EAGL standings.
Based on what we know today, how well do you think LIU will do its first year?
Elizabeth: We know of seven gymnasts so far for the 2021 squad, which I guess is enough for lineups technically but I consider only around two of them to be high-quality NCAA athletes (no offense to the others). That being said, I think fans should temper expectations and that LIU will finish around the likes of Towson, San Jose State and Western Michigan in the standings. Prove me wrong!
Mary Emma: Not to sound negative, but I have very low expectations for the team for its first year. If you look at the two most recent teams added (Arkansas and Lindenwood), neither of them had great first years, and LIU is at even more of a disadvantage with such a short timetable to get a team together (not to mention in the middle of a global pandemic). However, both Arkansas and Lindenwood rose through the ranks quickly, so I think it’s a good bet that LIU will do really well after a few seasons.
Jenna: LIU was always going to have a disadvantage in 2021 with its short timetable from the announcement of the team to its projected first meet, but hiring Randy Lane is one of the best moves it could’ve made. That being said, it’s still going to be very difficult to see major success the first year. If there are some big name transfers, I could see LIU being competitive in the EAGL, but otherwise there just won’t be enough experience or big scoring potential on the team for 2021. I’m really optimistic about the next 3 to 5 years, though.
Emily M: It’s so hard to say, given that we only have seven names, and six are incoming freshmen. Landing Nika Takagi is great, but we still haven’t seen her compete in college. With so many unknowns, it’s hard to put the Sharks higher than the mid-50s. That sounds harsh, I know! But consider that Rutgers used to be at the bottom of the pile and finished the abbreviated 2020 season at No. 44. It would be a solid starting place, with so much room for growth as the program becomes established. Of course, if Rachel Dickson transfers (or anyone of that caliber), my opinion on this will change in an instant! We just don’t have enough names yet.
Claire: Under the best circumstances, it generally takes some time for a new team to find its groove. Given the current certainty in the world—never mind in NCAA gymnastics—I have zero expectations for this team in 2021. That said, snagging Randy Lane was a ridiculously good move, and I fully expect to see great and exciting things from this team in the next few years!
Every team has its own personality and traditions. What are some fun things you’d like to see LIU do (stick object, choreography, etc.)?
Elizabeth: What I don’t want to hear is that stupid baby shark song 50 times a meet. Aside from that, I want the team to fully lean into all things sharks: shark attacks, shark preservation, Shark Week… If someone doesn’t have a Jaws floor routine every year like Alabama does with Sweet Home Alabama, what are we even doing?
Mary Emma: I want LIU to incorporate some sort of shark move into each of its floor routines (like Florida with its Gator Chomp), and I echo what everyone else said about having a shark fin stick object.
Jenna: Randy has teased the idea of holding at least one home meet in Brooklyn every season, which would be great—even though the team won’t technically be in NYC, it absolutely should play up the proximity. I agree with Elizabeth that it would be fun to incorporate the Shark mascot into things as much as possible! With Randy’s UCLA connections and the gymternet’s excitement about the new program, I’d also love to see a lot of attention paid to the team’s social media presence. When the gymnastics world is excited about the team, it’ll make it more appealing to high-level recruits.
Emily M: I’m like Elizabeth and very into the shark imagery. If we don’t see a foam shark fin stick object I’m going to be upset. The other athletic teams also have a shark fin hand motion that had better show up in floor routines! Not to mention the Jaws theme! There’s just so much here to play with.
Claire: I am 100 percent on board with the shark fin stick object and 100 percent in favor of banning the Baby Shark song. I’d also like to see LIU reach out to the huge NYC gymternet contingent: It’s literally a ready-made group of enthusiastic, dedicated fans just waiting to become season ticket holders. Oh, and if Randy hasn’t contacted actress Cassie Scerbo yet, he needs to ASAP, and have her emcee a meet or something. She played Lauren Tanner on Make It or Break It, Nova on Sharknado and was born in Long Island; she’s basically the human embodiment of this team.
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Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Mary Emma Burton, Claire Billman, Jenna King and Emily Minehart
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