We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying it: MPSF is the best gymnastics conference most college gym fans have never heard of. Scrappy, competitive and always exciting (if not always consistent), MPSF exemplifies why scores and rankings don’t tell the whole story. In addition to the challenges posed by COVID-19, this year feels a little different in the wake of the shocking discontinuation of Seattle Pacific’s gymnastics program at the end of last season and the recent news that Alaska will likely follow suit after 2021.
While there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season, it’s business as usual until we hear otherwise. That means it’s time for our annual potential lineups analysis! With preseason training in full swing for most teams, we’re breaking it all down and taking a look at every squad’s prospects for 2021—from who’s expected to contribute, holes that need to be filled and exciting upgrades fans should look out for.
No. 46 UC Davis
The Aggies got off to an uncharacteristically shaky start last year, and—thanks to the abbreviated season—never had a chance to fully rebound. With nearly the entire 2020 roster returning and a fantastic group of freshmen joining the ranks, UC Davis will be looking to bounce back in a big way this season.
|Losses:||Sarah Liddle (AA)|
|Gains:||Anna Holtan, Isabella Fitz-Gerald, Marisa Laird, Kaitlyn Lyle, Emma Otsu, Nandhini Senthil|
|Returning From Injury:||Lauren Chu (unknown), Kyla Kessler (ACL and meniscus)|
Potential Contributors: Cammi Johnson (9.785 NQS), Cortney Cunningham (9.775), Alyssa Ito (9.770), Logan Clagg (9.760), Gabby Landess (9.730), Rachel Schuelke (9.375), Kelley Hebert (9.419 AVG), Thea Michovsky (9.400), Emma Otsu, Kaitlyn Lyle
How It Looked Before: Vault was a strong and consistent event for the Aggies despite lower start values (most notably, an injured Kelley Hebert competing a Yurchenko layout versus her usual full) than in recent seasons.
How It Looks Now: UC Davis is not only returning its entire vault lineup, but adding some very strong freshmen vaults into the mix: Emma Otsu’s Omelianchik (which earned a 10.0 earlier this year) and Kaitlyn Lyle’s gorgeous Yurchenko one and a half (which has already earned her the title “vault anchor” from teammates).
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Given that they’re adding two outstanding vaults to last year’s already-strong roster, the Aggies should easily top the ranks again in 2021.
Potential Contributors: Gabby Landess (9.800 NQS), Cortney Cunningham (9.780), Cammi Johnson (9.760), Alyssa Ito (9.650), Logan Clagg (9.645), Thea Michovsky (9.450 AVG), Shannon Sklow (9.550), Lauren Chu, Kelley Hebert, Kyla Kessler, Anna Holtan, Marisa Laird, Kaitlyn Lyle, Emma Otsu, Nandhini Senthil
How It Looked Before: Bars was the Aggies’ most inconsistent yet highest ranked event, even without star all arounder Hebert competing.
How It Looks Now: Freshman Lyle was one of the top level 10 bar workers in 2020, earning three of the top 100 scores on the event; Otsu also earned a spot on that list and will likely join Lyle as a regular in the lineup. Their classmates Anna Holtan, Marisa Laird and Nandhini Senthil (all of whom have big same bar releases) will pose strong competition for the remaining lineup spots. Senior Kyla Kessler and junior Lauren Chu missed last season with injuries but could also contend for a spot if healthy.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The Aggies have a ridiculous amount of depth this season. If they can iron out the inconsistency issues, this could be a stellar event.
Potential Contributors: Alyssa Ito (9.845 NQS), Cammi Johnson (9.805), Kelley Hebert (9.785), Rachel Schuelke (9.770), Logan Clagg (9.670), Gabby Landess (9.520), Shanae Oishi (9.237 AVG), Petra Engstrom (8.950), Kyla Kessler (9.725 AVG in 2019), Anna Holtan, Marisa Laird, Kaitlyn Lyle, Emma Otsu
How It Looked Before: The Aggies were wildly inconsistent on beam with a whopping 4.5-point swing between their season high (49.200) and low (44.750).
How It Looks Now: Lyle and Otsu, both of whom regularly scored 9.6-plus in level 10, could add much-needed stability to this lineup. Schuelke and Landess are high risk/high reward, capable of going 9.8-plus when they hit, versus Clagg, who typically hits but her scores tend to hover in the 9.6 to 9.7 range. Freshmen Holtan and Laird are both clean, lovely beam workers who could challenge those upperclassmen for spots in the top six (particularly if they can demonstrate consistency under pressure). Kessler has been sidelined since early 2019 but could be a game changer if she’s able to return.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Talent isn’t an issue here; being able to hit when it counts will be the determining factor.
Potential Contributors: Gabby Landess (9.825 NQS), Cortney Cunningham (9.785), Logan Clagg (9.775), Shannon Sklow (9.705), Petra Engstrom (9.350 AVG), Kelley Hebert (9.685), Cammi Johnson (9.765), Thea Michovsky (9.644), Rachel Schuelke (9.575), Kyla Kessler (9.683 AVG in 2019), Emma Otsu
How It Looked Before: Despite being its most consistent event, UC Davis only ranked 53rd nationally on floor behind both San Jose State and Air Force.
How It Looks Now: All-MPSF First Team honorees Landess and Cunningham, along with program record holder Hebert, should easily retain their weekly spots. Given the strength of the returners, this will be the hardest lineup for the newcomers to break into. Otsu is the most likely freshman to make the cut, with a front double to front pike and floaty jumps. Once again, Kessler (who posted a 9.810 NQS her freshman season) is a strong contender if healthy.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up, particularly if Hebert can contribute her usual 9.9-plus.
This team has an incredible amount of talent and potential but can’t afford to repeat the missteps that held it back in 2020. However, if the Aggies can put all the pieces together, they’re capable of a breakout season and a huge jump in the national rankings.
No. 49 San Jose State
Though UC Davis edged them out of the top spot in the conference rankings, the Spartans were the most consistent MPSF team in 2020 hands down. Their talented newcomers—including UCLA alumna Mercedez Sanchez—will certainly help fill in the gaps left by Taylor Chan.
|Losses:||Taylor Chan (AA), Chelsey Andrada (VT, BB, FX), Simone Adams (AA), Nikki Duggan (UB, BB)|
|Gains:||Mercedez Sanchez, Natasha Forrand, Madison Kirsch, Jaudai Lopes, Lauren MacPherson, Makayla McMahon, Julieta Mendiola|
|Returning From Injury:||Alexa Solomon (foot/ankle surgery), Shyan Phillips (unknown)|
Potential Contributors: Cameron Kelperis (9.750 NQS) Tia Gin (9.735), Emma Milne (9.585), Antonia Marquez (9.515), Shyan Phillips (9.800 high), Carli Orcutt (9.715 NQS in 2019), Alexa Solomon, Natasha Forrand, Madison Kirsch, Jaudai Lopes, Lauren MacPherson, Makayla McMahon, Mercedez Sanchez
How It Looked Before: Though not a liability by any means, vault was the Spartans’ lowest ranked event in 2020.
How It Looks Now: Sophomore Shyan Phillips’ gorgeous Yurchenko full scored a 9.800 in her first (and only) competitive vault for the Spartans; if she’s healthy, she’ll be a key contributor to this year’s lineup. Alexa Solomon was sidelined last season after an ankle injury, but competed a huge Yurchenko full during her level 10 career. Freshmen Lauren MacPherson and Jaudai Lopes both have excellent Yurchenko fulls and have trained Yurchenko one and a halfs onto a hard surface; either of those vaults should be enough to secure spots in the lineup. The remaining freshmen are also strong possibilities: Makayla McMahon has a solid Yurchenko full while Madison Kirsch and Natasha Forrand have well-executed Yurchenko tucked fulls. Kirsch has previously trained a Yurchenko tucked one and a half; if she can clean up the landing, she’ll have the advantage. It’s also worth noting that junior Carli Orcutt—who only competed bars in 2020—competed a Yurchenko half her freshman year while grad student and recent UCLA graduate Mercedez Sanchez is training a Yurchenko full.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The added depth alone is enough to boost the Spartans’ vault prospects; the potential increase in start values is just icing on the cake.
Potential Contributors: Emma Milne (9.840 NQS), Carli Orcutt (9.715), Jada Mazury (9.635), Tia Gin (9.330), Shyan Phillips (9.725 AVG), Alexa Solomon, Jaudai Lopes, Lauren MacPherson, Mercedez Sanchez
How It Looked Before: The Spartans struggled with consistency on bars and had to count a fall (or falls…) on several occasions. However, when they hit, they were capable of earning a 49-plus. MPSF Freshman of the Year Emma Milne led the team in scoring, earning a season high 9.925.
How It Looks Now: Sanchez only made a handful of exhibition appearances for UCLA, but she has the skills and technique to be a standout contributor for the Spartans. Phillips contributed three solid bars scores last season before being injured, and Solomon has a number of impressive skills—including a Ricna, Maloney, Pak and full-twisting double layout—to choose from. Assuming they’re healthy, they’ll both be in the mix. Several of the freshmen could potentially contribute to this lineup, with MacPherson and Lopes the two most likely to see action (though both would need to tweak their level 10 routines to ensure they’re UTL).
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Last year’s lineup was hampered by the cascade effect (i.e., if one person made a major mistake, the remaining competitors would also make major mistakes). If this year’s group can master its collective nerves, it has the talent to score very well.
Potential Contributors: Emma Milne (9.850 NQS), Jada Mazury (9.765), Tia Gin (9.755), Shyan Phillips (9.725 high), Madison Kirsch, Jaudai Lopes, Lauren MacPherson, Makayla McMahon, Mercedez Sanchez
How It Looked Before: Beam was the Spartans’ standout event in 2020, ranking first in the MPSF by over half a point and 39th nationally. Their success was thanks in large part to Milne: She not only topped the MPSF beam rankings but also earned the highest beam score in program history. Twice.
How It Looks Now: Milne, classmate Jada Mazury and junior Tia Gin are a formidable trio, remarkably consistent and capable of big scores. Phillips was dubbed “beam queen” by her teammates last preseason; health permitting, she’ll be n the top six. There will be stiff competition among the newcomers for the remaining spots: Kirsch’s beam scored well in level 10, and her unique skill set—which includes a candle mount and back handspring + Onodi series—would play very well in NCAA. Lopes, MacPherson and McMahon all have the poise, difficulty and clean technique needed to bring in a big score. Sanchez is also a consideration, showing off solid jumps and acro skills in recent training videos.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Holding strong. Despite losing strong routines from Chan and Andrada, the quality of both the returning members and newcomers bodes well for the Spartans.
Potential Contributors: Jada Mazury (9.760 NQS), Cameron Kelperis (9.750), Antonia Marquez (9.730), Tia Gin (9.720), Jasmine Henley (9.692 AVG), Shyan Phillips (9.625 high), Carli Orcutt (9.610 NQS in 2019), Alexa Solomon, Natasha Forrand, Madison Kirsch, Jaudai Lopes, Makayla McMahon, Lauren MacPherson, Julieta Mendiola
How It Looked Before: The Spartans topped the conference on floor, with Chan scoring 9.875-plus in all but two appearances.
How It Looks Now: All six freshmen posted strong floor scores in level 10 and have skills and technique that would score well in college. However, with so many strong returners in the mix, it’s going to be tough for any of them to earn a regular spot in the lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Even without Chan, this lineup should have no problem matching or even exceeding last year’s results. Given the depth and number of potential contributors, expect to see some variation in the lineups, at least at the beginning of the season.
This is a deep freshman class joining a fantastic group of returners. That added depth—and new training gym—is only going to bolster the Spartans’ prospects. The big question is whether San Jose State can build on last year’s momentum without Chan.
No. 58 Sacramento State
The Hornets bounced back from their disappointing 2019 season in a big way, finishing third in the MPSF and jumping six spots in the national rankings. A talented freshman class could help the Hornets rise even higher in 2021.
|Losses:||Alexis Belkoff (VT, UB, FX), Kendra Braida (BB, FX), Tara Catour (VT, BB, FX), Wanda Deriot, Courtnee Marquez (UB, BB, FX), Taylor Weber (AA)|
|Gains:||Sarah Fitzgerald, Emma Morgenthaler, Torri Tavenner, Katelyn Searle, Mary Won|
|Returning From Injury:||Karissa Hoffman (unknown), Destiny Watley, Mariah York (ankle)|
Potential Contributors: Jordyn Brent (9.740 NQS), Destiny Watley (9.705), Bella Lahmidi (9.685), Payton Gillen (9.575 AVG), Kelly MacLeod (9.463), Anna Leroy (9.306), Sarah Fitzgerald, Emma Morgenthaler, Katelyn Searle, Torri Tavenner
How It Looked Before: Sac State typically performed well on vault but simply lacked the start values to keep pace with San Jose State and UC Davis.
How It Looks Now: This lineup is going to showcase the Hornets’ talented group of freshmen: Torri Tavenner competed a Yurchenko full in level 10 and was training a Yurchenko one and a half earlier this year—either of those vaults should be enough to secure her spot in this lineup. Same with Sarah Fitzgerald, who brings a rarely seen round-off full-on, pike off (a 10.0 SV). Emma Morgenthaler has a fabulous Yurchenko one and a half that scored a whopping 9.9 earlier this season and has secured a spot on the level 10 Top 100 vaulters for the past two years; she’s a strong contender to anchor the lineup. Katelyn Searle has only competed vault a handful of times since 2017 but had a very usable Yurchenko full.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Despite losing strong vaults from Alexis Belkoff and Tara Catour, the Hornets’ freshmen could be a game changer for this lineup.
Potential Contributors: Jordyn Brent (9.740 NQS), Bella Lahmidi (9.670), Destiny Watley (9.580), Shaye Mathias (9.415), Amber Koeth (9.490 AVG), Shaye Mathias (9.454), Raine Gordon (9.825 high in 2018), Mariah York, Sarah Fitzgerald, Emma Morgenthaler, Mary Won
How It Looked Before: Bars was one of Sac State’s steadier events, though—like vault—its capped scoring potential kept the team from ranking higher in the conference.
How It Looks Now: Brent and Lahmidi are the only locks. The remaining returners will face stiff competition from the freshmen: Morgenthaler’s club routine was packed with difficulty (including a full-twisting double layout dismount) that would provide a big boost to the lineup. Mary Won has lovely form that scored consistently well in level 10. Tavenner has an aggressive swing, a straddled Jaeger and very nice full-twisting double tuck dismount; if she can clean up her handstands and transitions, she could be a valuable addition to the lineup. Searle has a nice straddled Jaeger and gorgeous handstands. Fitzgerald is another possibility: She has good lines and handstand positions, though she tends to lose form in pirouettes. Senior Mariah York was a standout bar worker prior to college, but has been plagued by injuries. If she’s healthy, she could finally get an opportunity to compete the event in college.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Expect to see some experimentation with the lineup, especially if seniors Gordon and York are able to compete.
Potential Contributors: Amber Koeth (9.820 NQS), Peyton Gillen (9.685), Jordyn Brent (9.670), Raine Gordon (9.075 NQS in 2018), Bella Lahmidi, Mariah York (9.625 AVG in 2018), Sarah Fitzgerald, Emma Morgenthaler, Katelyn Searle, Torri Tavener
How It Looked Before: Beam was the Hornets’ standout event, with fourth-ranked Amber Koeth having a breakout year.
How It Looks Now: Sac State has lost the bulk of last year’s lineup, but the returning trio—Koeth, Gillen and Brent—provide a strong core of routines to build on. Freshman Searle is virtually guaranteed to join them; she brings flawless form and difficulty as well as an unusual skill set that includes a Valdez and Y turn. Fitzgerald has solid acro skills and a very pretty switch split. Morgenthaler isn’t the cleanest, but her combination of high difficulty and poise give her an edge. Similarly, Tavenner tends to be a little shy on her split positions, but she has confident, solid acro skills. The team may also find added depth from seniors York and Gordon.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. If the Hornets can improve on overall consistency, they’ll score very well.
Potential Contributors: Jordyn Brent (9.830 NQS), Anna LeRoy (9.755), Bella Lahmidi (9.660 AVG), Destiny Watley (9.125 high), Sarah Fitzgerald, Emma Morgenthaler, Katelyn Searle, Torri Tavenner, Mary Won
How It Looked Before: Floor was inconsistent at best, but the Hornets were great when they hit, even posting the conference’s highest floor total of the season. Brent was the team’s top scorer and ranked third in the MPSF standings.
How It Looks Now: Once again, expect a heavy freshman presence in the lineup: Won has an excellent one and a half to front full and has trained a full-twisting double layout; she’s a strong contender for a regular lineup spot. Searle brings beautiful leaps and dance skills (including a Memmel) and solid tumbling. Morgenthaler’s split positions need some work, but her tumbling is excellent. Fitzgerald and Tavenner both bring big double pikes and nice twisting form.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Sac State lost the bulk of last season’s routines, so a lot is going to depend on the team’s health.
Last season Sac State proved it can go toe-to-toe with perennial conference favorites San Jose and UC Davis. With the overall added difficulty this impressive freshman class brings, the team has the potential to bring in big scores…if it can hit when it matters. With a little consistency (especially during away meets), it could really shake things up in the MPSF.
No. 60 Air Force
After an inauspicious first meet, Air Force performed steadily throughout the 2020 season (though never quite reached the benchmark it hit two years ago). With a new head coach, a talented freshman class and the return of star all arounder Tyler Davis, the Falcons will seek to recapture some of that 2019 magic.
|Losses:||Anna Salamone (VT, UB, FX), Katie Bishop, Mackenzie Blum (VT, BB, FX), Amber Boll (VT, UB, BB), Maddie Martin (DNC)|
|Gains:||Anya Ishida, Kimberly Kinkade, Grace Nelson, Maddy Ohren, Elizabeth Shearns, Madison Zinn|
|Returning From Injury:||Tyler Davis (Achilles), Chloe Camello (unknown), Cam Barber (unknown)|
Potential Contributors: Heidi Sand (9.755 NQS), Daija Stevenson (9.670), Brooke Bruder (9.595), Grace Bardes (9.595), Tyler Davis (9.558 AVG), Jessica Kirkpatrick (9.625), Natalie Meyer (9.475), Lauren Miller, Pixie Brock, Chloe Camello, Anya Ishida, Kimberly Kinkade, Grace Nelson (9.463), Grace Nelson, Maddy Ohren
How It Looked Before: This was a consistent—if not especially high scoring—event for the Falcons, with senior Anna Salamone leading the pack.
How It Looks Now: Seniors Heidi Sands and Jessica Kirkpatrick will almost certainly retain their roster spots, as will Tyler Davis if healthy. Here’s where things get interesting: Daija Stevenson, Brooke Bruder and Grace Bardes were all solid contributors in 2020 but have 9.9 start values; Chloe Camello (who missed most of last season due to injury) has a lovely Yurchenko full while Pixie Brock is training a Yurchenko full-on entry (potentially a 10.0 SV, depending on the post-flight). Though freshmen Grace Nelson competed a Yurchenko half in 2016 and Maddy Ohren has a usable Yurchenko tucked full, expect the final three spots to go to one of the upperclassmen.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Holding steady. With strong returners and increased depth (if not overall difficulty), vault should look pretty similar to last season.
Potential Contributors: Grace Bardes (9.525 NQS), Daija Stevenson (9.480), Pixie Brock (9.300), Jessica Kirkpatrick (9.205), Cam Barber (9.675 AVG), Tyler Davis (9.625), Lauren Miller (9.562), Jessica Kirkpatrick (9.665 NQS in 2019), Anya Ishida, Kimberly Kinkade, Grace Nelson, Maddy Ohren, Elizabeth Shearns, Madison Zinn
How It Looked Before: Bars was inconsistent at best, tending to score around the 48 mark.
How It Looks Now: Air Force will certainly feel the loss of 2019 USAG bars champ Salamone and Amber Boll (the only other Falcon to break the 9.8-plus threshold in 2020). This is where the freshmen could make an immediate impact: Elizabeth Shearns has great form and a beautiful straddled Jaeger that should earn her an immediate spot. Ohren has a college-ready routine that she performs very well. Ishida has a massive Tkatchev and nice lines; if she can clean up her form during pirouettes and transitions, she could bring in a big score. Kimberly Kinkade competed bars at the Falcons’ recent intrasquad and consistently scored 9.5-plus in level 10 competition. Nelson hasn’t competed in nearly two years, but showed gorgeous, deliberate handstand positions and a Maloney at the intrasquad.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. If the freshmen contributors can hit under pressure, they could turn this event around for the Falcons.
Potential Contributors: Briona Carswell (9.805 NQS), Daija Stevenson (9.510), Cameo Stapleton (9.400), Pixie Brock (9.285), Heidi Sand (9.210), Tyler Davis (9.394 AVG), Val Smith (9.350), Lauren Miller, Cam Barber (9.785 NQS in 2019), Anya Ishida, Kimberly Kinkade, Grace Nelson, Maddy Ohren, Elizabeth Shearns, Madison Zinn
How It Looked Before: Beam—even more so than bars—was pretty hit or miss, with a whopping three-point spread between the Falcons’ season high and low.
How It Looks Now: Sophomore Briona Carswell is one of the top beamers in the MPSF and is poised to have another big year. Senior Cam Barber did not compete beam in 2020, but was all-conference on the event in 2019 and will easily snag a spot if healthy. All six freshmen are training beam and potentially in the mix, though Shearns, Ishida and Madison Zinn have the edge. In addition to the freshmen, seniors Camello and Bruder (neither of whom has competed beam for the Falcons) performed a triple series and front tuck mount respectively at the recent intrasquad.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Cautiously optimistic that beam is trending up.
Potential Contributors: Natalie Meyer (9.785 NQS), Pixie Brock (9.730), Brooke Bruder (9.700), Cameo Stapleton (9.675), Grace Bardes (9.650 AVG), Briona Carswell (9.225), Tyler Davis (9.888), Heidi Sand (9.525), Anya Ishida, Kimberly Kinkade, Grace Nelson, Maddy Ohren
How It Looked Before: Even after losing standout Tyler Davis halfway through the season, floor was hands down Air Force’s best event in 2020. The Falcons ranked second in the conference and 50th nationally.
How It Looks Now: If two-time USAG floor champion Davis is anywhere near healthy, she’ll be back in the lineup. Freshman Ishida is a two-time level 10 nationals qualifier who placed third on floor in 2018; with powerful tumbling and excellent performance quality, she’s a lock. Freshmen Ohren (who competed a front double twist in level 10), Kinkade (who has trained a full-twisting double tuck) and Nelson (who has a gorgeous triple full and placed fifth at the 2019 Texas championships) could all potentially make this lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Air Force shined on floor last year, and this season has the potential to be even better.
Depth clearly isn’t a problem for Air Force, but utilizing that depth will be a challenge. Even with this talented group of freshmen, the Falcons are unlikely to regain their top spot in the MPSF rankings. However, there’s lots of room to improve on last year’s results, and this group certainly has the potential to make that happen.
No. 63 Alaska
Alaska has already faced more than its fair share of obstacles. In addition to the loss of head coach Tonya Ho (who returned to her alma mater UC Davis as an assistant coach), beam queen Sophia Hyderally and top all arounders Isabelle Fox and Kenadi Brown, the team learned that 2021 will most likely be its final season.
|Losses:||Kennedy Green (VT, FX), Sophia Hyderally (UB, BB, FX), Mackenzie Miller (UB), Isabelle Fox (AA), Michaela Phillips (BB), Kenadi Brown (AA),|
|Gains:||Kylie Reese (SR transfer from Seattle Pacific), Marcela Bonifasi, Montana Fairbairn, Silje Hildebrand, Jessica Johnson, Brooklyn Kopsack, Alyssa Manley, Allie McClure, Emily Walker|
|Returning From Injury:||Joanna Chambers (Achilles), Winter Osbourne (unknown)|
Potential Contributors: Louisa Marie Knapp (9.530 NQS), Mackenzie Robinson (9.505), Tere Alonso (9.375), Hope Nelson (9.365), Rachel Decious (9.350 AVG), Joanna Chambers, Montana Fairbairn, Silje Hildebrand, Jessica Johnson, Allie McClure, Emily Walker
How It Looked Before: Injuries decimated the Seawolves’ already-thin vault lineup last season, but the team rallied and managed to field six vaulters most weeks.
How It Looks Now: The bad news: Alaska’s two top vaulters—Isabelle Fox and Kenadi Brown—have transferred. The good news: This group of freshmen can fill the gaps and then some. Canadian elite Montana Fairbairn is one of CGN’s most anticipated freshmen on vault; her 10.0 SV Yurchenko half-on, pike half will be a game changer for the Seawolves. Emily Walker and Allie McClure both have Yurchenko fulls. Jessica Johnson competed a Yurchenko tucked full but has trained both a laid-out full and a Yurchenko full-on, tuck off (also a 10.0 SV). Silje Hildebrand has a nice front handspring tuck with very little to deduct. Even if redshirt freshman Joanna Chambers isn’t able to add her front handspring tuck half into the mix, that’s already a six-to-seven-tenth boost to Alaska’s score ceiling.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending way, way up.
Potential Contributors: Hope Nelson (9.765 NQS), Louisa Marie Knapp (9.635), Mackenzie Robinson (9.292 AVG), Tere Alonso (9.144), Rachel Decious, Montana Fairbairn, Jessica Johnson, Alyssa Manley, Emiy Walker
How It Looked Before: Bars was the Seawolves standout event in 2020, where they ranked second in the conference and 49th nationally.
How It Looks Now: Team captains Knapp and Alonso struggled with consistency, but are capable of big scores when they hit; expect to see them both back in the lineup. Freshmen Alyssa Manley (who has clean lines and a sky high Tkatchev) and Walker (who brings a lovely piked Jaeger and flyaway one and a half dismount) will almost certainly make the cut. Johnson has impressive difficulty and a large repertoire of skills to choose from. Fairbairn has a Pak, good handstand positions and a gorgeous double tuck dismount that will score very well in NCAA. Junior Decious recently posted video of a tucked double Arabian dismount and sophomore Robinson, who stepped into the lineup at the eleventh hour last season, has a Pak and straddled Jaeger that will keep her in the mix (particularly if she can upgrade her toe-on front tuck dismount).
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Replicating last season’s success would be a tall order under the best of circumstances. However, the Seawolves have both a habit of exceeding expectations and a major axe to grind. Don’t count them out.
Potential Contributors: Hope Nelson (9.725 NQS), Rachel Decious (9.655), Tere Alonso (9.075 AVG), Louisa Marie Knapp (9.050), Kylie Reese (9.108 with Seattle Pacific), Mackenzie Robinson; Marcela Bonifasi, Montana Fairbairn, Jessica Johnson, Alyssa Manley, Emily Walker
How It Looked Before: The Seawolves couldn’t match their record-setting beam scores of 2019, earning a season high 48.575 on the event.
How It Looks Now: Guatemalan elite Marcela Bonifasi’s lovely execution and variety of skills virtually guarantee her a spot. Walker’s flexibility, difficulty and gorgeous dance elements make her the natural successor to Hyderally’s role. Fairbairn tends to lose form in her acro, but is a stylish and confident beam worker with high difficulty. Manley and Johnson struggled with consistency in level 10, but both have high scoring potential when they hit.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. It’s going to be tough to replace Fox and Hyderally’s scores, but this group can almost certainly improve on last year’s hit rate.
Potential Contributors: Rachel Decious (9.655 NQS), Tere Alonso (9.615), Kylie Reese (9.575 with Seattle Pacific), Hope Nelson (9.560 AVG), Mackenzie Robinson (9.550), Marcela Bonifast, Montana Fairbairn, Jessica Johnson, Alyssa Manley, Emily Walker
How It Looked Before: Floor wasn’t Alaska’s highest scoring event, but it was its most consistent. Assistant coach Alina Cartwright’s choreography highlighted each gymnast’s strengths and distinctive style.
How It Looks Now: Reese was a mainstay in Seattle Pacific’s floor lineup, and her clean tumbling and energetic style would fit well into the Seawolves’ lineup. Bonifasi is a beautiful floor worker with difficult tumbling, but her dance elements—including a Memmel and perfect split jump full—set her apart. Fairbairn has great presence and is capable of performing high difficulty passes cleanly. Walker and Johnson both have valuable E passes while Manley and McClure bring high difficulty dance skills.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Given the depth and talent of this roster, this should be an excellent event for Alaska. If nothing else, it’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun.
Since this season is likely to be Alaska’s swan song, expect to see contributions from every team member at some point. The fate of this program is largely out of its hands: It’s unclear how the university system as a whole will fare after this academic year, never mind its various athletic programs. One thing that is clear is that the Seawolves have a lot of heart and won’t go down without a fight. You can stay up to date on the latest news and ways to help save Alaska gymnastics on the team’s Instagram.
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Article by Claire Billman
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