Welcome to our first look at the 2022 TWU Pioneers! Last season, TWU was hindered by some end-of-season inconsistency on bars and beam. However, there were bright spots in Madeline Gose’s rise to stardom and Isabel Goyco’s consistency across all her events. This year brings the promise of six new freshmen and several returners coming off of injury.
All the freshmen have the potential and talent to make waves on all four events. Kyla Podges is back fully training vault and bars for the first time since knee surgeries limited her participation in her freshman and sophomore seasons. Keep in mind…she has one of the few 10.0 start values on vault in Division II gymnastics. In addition, Kenzie Kunzman has been seen back training her triple beam series after missing all of last season. From Instagram stories, it appears that Madeline Gose is currently nursing some sort of injury, so don’t be surprised if she participates on fewer events today than she did in her freshman season. Rather rest her now and be prepared for season later.
Watch for the Pioneers to test their strength and depth on each event today. They should have plenty to go around. From what I’ve seen in early preseason, there should be some new faces mixed in with old staples in each lineup. With that being said, let’s get ready to tumble! (And maybe see Santa, too.)
Rotation 1: Reindeers VT, Elves BB
We’re having a slight delay on the start time. Looks like the gymnasts are doing a little run through on vault and beam right now! I’ll start in with the routine details as they come! It does look like the Pioneers will be competing in two teams today. I’ll keep you guys updated as things play out.
There will be six competitors on beam with three exhibitions! Hello depth!
Daisy Woodring (BB): BHS LOSO. Very solid. switch to switch leap, split jump. A little short of position. A little wobble on the full turn. Front toss to beat jump. Stuck RO 1.5 dismount. OKAY! Very good start!
Emily Six (VT): Yurchenko full. A little bent knees. Unsure if it was supposed to be a tuck or layout. Large hop. Good start for the freshman.
Kenzie Kunzman (BB): BHS LOSO LOSO. STUNNING! Switch leap, switch leap. RO 1.5 dismount with small hop. We love a short but sweet beam routine!
Kyla Podges (VT): Yurchenko full on, back tuck off. Small hop! How exciting to see her vaulting!
Sierra Muns (BB): BHS LOSO small wobble. switch leap split 3/4. side aerial. Very beautiful. Switch side. Good extension. small wobble on the full turn. BHS to stuck back 1.5 dismount. Very good confidence from the freshman.
Lexi Leake (VT): Yurchenko Layout full. A little low on height, but pulled it around nicely with a small hop.
Isabel Goyco (BB): Beat jump to straddle 3/4. Good extension. BHS LOSO. Textbook. Switch leap to switch 1/2. Punch front full with slight hop forward. Her split positions were giving me LIFE.
TWU is going to be good on beam this year… You heard it here first.
Steelie King (BB): BHS LOSO. The height on that was just lovely. WOW. Hello hip rise! Punch front. Switch leap to straddle 1/4. RO back 1.5 dismount with a small hop.
Madeline Gose (BB): Apparently Maddie was injured last season and is coming back from surgery. BHS LOSO, a little short but adjusted well. Switch leap, switch half. Solid. Switch kick to Aerial. RO back 1.5 with a large step forward. Pretty solid! She looked a little tentative at the beginning but got back into it nicely.
AnnaKate Bickel (BB): BHS LOSO. A little short of rotation, and she’s off. Cat leap to Aerial. She’s looking confident… spoke too soon. Down on the leap series. RO back 1.5 dismount with a large step to the side off the mat. She looked a little nervous. It’s hard for your first college routine to be on beam. I’m sure she’ll be back and better than ever once she shakes out the nerves.
Mara Johnson (BB): BHS LOSO with a large wobble with her leg up. Side Aerial with another check. Solid RO back 1.5 dismount. Small hop in place.
Lainey Hunt (BB): Side Aerial. Short of rotation but pulled it off. Switch leap to split jump. A little short of position. Front Aerial to swing down. Lovely connection. I love a good swing down. Switch half. And she’s off. Gainer full. Stuck. That was pretty solid. Showed a few nerves, but it will get better with time.
There are no official scores that I can see, so I’m just going to give you guys my general thoughts. First of all, the Pioneers are about to be a BEAM TEAM this year. They have so many solid options to choose from on that event, it’s crazy. They looked very confident for it to be December. TWU will love having Kenzie Kunzman back on beam. She’s going to be a great asset come end of season. The vaults we’ve seen so far have been okay… I think they’ll get better once the gymnasts get more numbers twisting onto competition mats. This time of year is always hard with vault landings, so I can’t judge too harshly. Vaults will definitely get more aggressive once everyone gets more confident landing on hard mats. Kyla Podges was definitely a highlight there!
Rotation 2: Elves VT, Reindeers BB
Yes. There are indeed more beam competitors to go.
Kyla Podges (BB): BHS LOSO. Solid. Switch leap, switch half to beat jump. OKAY! Work it! She’s looking so confident up there. Gainer pike dismount. She’s picking up where she left off last year for sure.
Mara Johnson (VT): Powerful Yurchenko full. Large hop, but better height there.
Emerson Adams (BB): BHS LOSO. A small wobble, but covered it well. Front toss. She fought hard for it, but could quite save it. Small wobble on her jump. Solid leap series. Good position. Punch front layout dismount. Stuck. I’m assuming that dismount will be upgraded come season.
Steelie King (VT): Yurchenko full. I love how you can clearly see her initiate the layout, and THEN twist. Small hop back. Best vault so far.
Emily Six (BB): BHS LOSO. Lovely. Switch leap, switch leap. Slightly off on the timing. Front toss to beat. A little low on the landing, but solid. RO back 1.5 dismount. Good landing.
Sierra Muns (VT): Yurchenko full. Great power and height. Hoping she will upgrade to the 1.5 later in the season. She definitely had the rotation to do it today.
Domi Bonzagni (BB): Switch side. Good position. BHS LOSO. Stuck solid. Switch half. She is not messing around today! RO tuck 1.5 dismount. Small hop.
Daisy Woodring (VT): Yurchenko full. Twisted quite early, but pulled it around. Short on the landing with a large step forward.
Mackenzie Balderas (BB): Beautiful beat to sheep jump. No one does it like that anymore. Side Aerial. BHS LOSO. Missed her back foot. Cat leap to switch side. Good position. Punch front full. Stuck. I’m sad she fell. She had a beautiful routine going. Her leaps are easily the best on the team. Not to be dramatic, but I desperately need to see Balderas’ sheep jump in the lineup this season.
Alix Pierce (BB): Front toss to BHS series. Lovely connection. Switch leap, split 1/4. A little slow to connect. Front Aerial to beat. She’s performing up there. Tuck front full dismount. Small hop back. Yet another gymnast who is picking up right where she left off last season.
Delaney Bruns (BB): BHS LOSO. A little soft knees, but solid. Switch leap, split 3/4. Side Aerial. Slight check on the turn. RO back layout dismount. That will get upgraded later in the season. A good start for the freshman.
Lexi Leake (BB): BHS LOSO. A little short of rotation, but she fought for it. Side Somi. Apparently that’s a new skill for her. It was nice! Switch half to split jump. RO back 1.5 dismount. Small hop.
Beth Lazarus (BB): Switch leap, back tuck. Small check. BHS LOSO. She’s fighting to stay on. Good leap series. Side Aerial. Gainer full dismount with a hop to the side. The team loved it! Glad to see her back after missing last season.
Name a Pioneer gymnast who can’t do beam… I’ll wait. But seriously, they have so much potential on beam this year. I hate to repeat myself, but it cannot be emphasized enough how good beam is looking right now. And it’s only Dec. 5!
The Elves’ vaults looked much stronger. There were a couple landing errors, but overall good work. Daisy Woodring twisted uncharacteristically early, but that will definitely be worked out by season. The highlight of this vault rotation was Steelie King. Her technique on the twist timing is textbook, and she had one of the best landings of the bunch.
Rotation 3: Reindeers UB, Elves FX
Kyla Podges (UB): Blind to straddle Jaeger. Pak salto, some knees. Half pirouette. Good final handstand. Blind full to double tuck dismount. A little short on the dismount. Small hop.
Steelie King (FX): Double pike. OOB. A little low on the landing. Back 1.5 to front layout. Strong landing. Back layout last pass. That will obviously be upgraded come season.
Beth Lazarus (UB): They just started mid routine. Overshoot handstand. Tkatchev. Double layout. Hop back. The announcers are saying she had an elbow surgery last season. Very impressive to be back on bars after an elbow injury.
Mara Johnson (FX): Double pike. Chest up on the landing. I’m getting the impression that everyone will be doing two passes today. Back layout middle pass. That’s normally her combination pass. Strong Rudi to finish. She’s bringing the energetic performance as usual!
Domi Bonzagni (UB): Blind straddle Jaeger. Good. Overshoot. Good handstand position. Blind full to double tuck dismount. A little short on the dismount. Step forward.
Madeline Gose (FX): Wasn’t sure if we’d see her on floor today. Back layout first pass. Switch side, popa, popa. Good height. Front full, front layout. Strong landing. I love her floor dance. Never gets old. Rudi last pass. She’s excited about that one!
Alix Pierce (UB): Hop, front giant to straddle back handstand. Straddle Jaeger. Unique toe front with a half dismount. Stuck!
Sierra Muns (FX): Double pike. Very overcooked, but it’s HUGE height. Front lay, front full. Good amplitude there. Switch side, split full. A little short of rotation on the jump. Double tuck. Small step OOB. It’s really impressive seeing the freshman doing a full set in December!
Maddie Griffith (UB): Blind to Jaeger. Overshoot handstand. A little wonky on the transition to the high bar. FTDT dismount. Twisted a little early with a large step forward. Just a little off today.
Daisy Woodring (FX): Double pike. Good control on the landing. Switch side, popa. Front full, front layout. Daisy is really showing off her new dance. I’m loving this new music for her! Double tuck. Not quite enough juice, but she saved it with a few steps forward.
Lexi Leake (UB): It’s good to see her back in the bar lineup. Toe hand to maloney to pak salto. Lovely connection. She didn’t quite make the pirouette? Jumped down. Turned around. Beautiful shape on that double layout. Small hop in place.
Isabel Goyco (FX): Double pike. She is in the rafters! I want her to compete a double layout so bad! Switch side to popa. Good amplitude. Front lay, front full. She looked like the ground surprised her, but recovered smoothly. Double tuck with her chest up. Points right at the camera to end. Love it!
The Pioneers are already showing improvements and increased depth on bars compared to last season. Alix Pierce, Kyla Podges and Beth Lazarus are going to be great additions to the regular lineup this year. Lexi Leake had a little hiccup on bars today, but her lines are definitely lineup caliber. I hope to see a little more of her in the lineup this season as well. You can definitely tell that TWU has been focusing on handstands this preseason. That will definitely help in the scoring department come January.
Floor is a little harder to make a full judgement on since not everyone competed full sets. Isabel Goyco looked amazing as usual with two sky high double backs. Sierra Muns will also be a great addition to the lineup, especially when she gets all of that power under control. I’m glad that Gose was able to get back out there as well. Here’s to hoping she’ll be healthy enough to be in the lineup this season.
Rotation 4: Elves UB, Reindeers FX
Sierra Muns (UB): I think she was doing a turning skill? She’s off. Starting over. Swing half to overshoot, toe up to high bar. Good double tuck dismount.
Mackenzie Balderas (FX): Rudi. Strong landing. I think she used to start with her double back. Double pike. Chest down. But good control on the lunge. Beautiful extension on her leap pass. Back 1.5 to front layout. A little short with a step back. Overall, good performance. Update, the Rudi is new for Balderas.
Kenzie Kunzman (UB): Blind to piked Jaeger. Didn’t quite get her dowel over the bar. Overshoot to handstand. Very short on the last cast. Didn’t quite make her blind full over the bar. She casted short, a couple extra swings. Attempted the blind again. Shook her head in the middle. She’s off again. She’s done.
Delaney Bruns (FX): Double tuck. A little bump from the coach, but she didn’t need it. Solid landing. Chest up. Strong leap pass. Front lay, front full. Good amplitude. Front layout last pass. Wondering if that will turn into a Rudi?
Steelie King (UB): Blind to straddle Jaeger. Overshoot handstand. Blind full to double tuck. Strong set from Steelie. One of the best on the day so far.
Domi Bonzagni (FX): Double tuck. Held on a little long, but good control. Strong leap pass. Front full, front layout. Rudi. Some legs in the twist, bust solid landing. She really showed off her dance. Love that for her!
Mara Johnson (UB): Clear hip handstand to Tkatchev. Some legs. Strong overshoot to handstand. She held it. Strong last handstand. She pulled in some on the dismount. Wild hop on the dismount.
Lexi Leake (FX): Double pike. Huge amplitude. Large slide back. Back 1.5 front… tuck? A little short on the landing. Timing was a little off. This music is SENDING ME! Double tuck. VERY deep squat, but she fought to keep it on her feet.
Isabel Goyco (UB): Clear hip hand to Gienger to overshoot. Smooth connection. Couldn’t tell if she skimmed her feet on the low bar. Blind full to double tuck. Sizeable hop back.
Alix Pierce (FX): I can just tell this routine style is going to be intense. Love it! Front double full. Nice! Easily my favorite floor performer for the Pioneers. Good amplitude on the leaps. RO back 1.5 to front full. Very strong connection. This routine will go BIG this season.
Depth. Depth. Depth. That is the name of the game for TWU in 2022. The announcers noted that this was one of the first Holiday Spectaculars that EVERY single gymnast on the roster competed at least one event. With a roster of 19 athletes, that’s just incredible. If today’s performance is a sign of things to come, the Pioneers are in for a strong season this year. It was apparent that TWU has been working hard on the little details this preseason. Handstands on bars and confidence on beam are typically things that don’t come along until midseason. The Pioneers, more or less, have those things Dec. 5.
Vault still needs a little bit of time to come along, but I’m certain that’s mainly due to recently transitioning to harder landing surfaces. This is the event where the Pioneer’s depth is the most shallow, so the landings will need to get a bit sharper from those contributing. King’s vault looked like it hasn’t missed a beat since last season, and Sierra Muns really brought the power today. Here’s to hoping Muns’ will upgrade to her 10.0 start value vault sooner than later. Kyla Podges also looked strong in her first vault in KMA.
The handstands on bars are way ahead of schedule, but there were a few hiccups along the way. More competition sets under the bright lights should work out some of the kinks. There were definitely some highlights in there that shouldn’t be ignored. Alix Pierce and Steelie King showed off beautiful, competition-season-ready sets. There is definitely potential for TWU to be strong on bars this season if it can get consistent.
My opinions on beam remain the same. This team is going to kill it on beam this season. No questions asked. The amount of depth and confidence the Pioneers are already showing is indicative of a team that KNOWS how to compete beam.
Floor looked relatively strong as well, and will continue to improve the more full routines the Pioneers get under their belts. Look for Madeline Gose, Isabel Goyco and Sierra Muns’ power packed routines to lead the way. But don’t count out Alix Pierce. With her E pass, beautiful combination pass and stellar performance quality, she’s bound to get the big scores this season.
I’m trying not to be dramatic here, but in my opinion, we need to be on the lookout for the Pioneers to contend for an MIC conference and USAG national title this year. Don’t sleep on TWU. It has depth for days–talented freshmen and several strong returners coming off of injury. Realistically, TWU has at least nine athletes capable of putting up high scores on each event. That’s a recipe for a GOOD year if you ask me.
Tavia’s Winners of the Day
AA Winner: Steelie King
VT Winner: Steelie King
UB Winner: Alix Pierce/Steelie King
BB Winner: Kenzie Kunzman
FX Winner: Isabel Goyco/Alix Pierce
SANTAAAAAA I KNOW HIMMMMM! – Elf
Live Blog by Tavia Smith
Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year!