At the end of every season, a handful of gymnasts on each team graduate and then welcome new additions in the fall. This turn over can be difficult on the upcoming season’s lineups depending on what was lost and what was gained. Freshmen have less experience competing in college than the seniors whose spots they’re looking to fill.
Most teams recruited with this in mind, working to replace gaps on events where contributions would be lost from season to season. However, the success a team has in replacing routines falls heavily on the incoming freshmen. Will they be able to fill the grips of the standout seniors?
UCLA also is bringing back most of its routines from 2015 with only six lineup spots opening up from the graduation of Samantha Peszek and Jordan Williams and medical retirement of Jennifer Pinches.
On the other end of the spectrum, Auburn and LSU lost the most from last season. Each have 10 total spots to fill with incoming freshmen or returning team members. Both Tiger squads lost half the beam and floor lineups and a third of vault and bars. How well these spots are filled will determine the teams’ success in 2016.
Oregon State, Nebraska and Utah are in similar positions with nine lineup spots up for grabs. Half of Nebraska and Utah’s floor lineups graduated while half of Oregon State’s beam rotation is gone.
But let’s take a more detailed look at what teams are leaving behind and what they stand to gain.
Losses: Kytra Hunter, Jamie Sisler, Rachel Spicer, Kiersten Wang
Gains: Alicia Boren, Ashley Hiller, Amanda Cheney, Lacy Dagen, Peyton ErnstThe Gators are looking to win their fourth national title in a row in 2016. But it’ll be a long road if they wish to do so. Replacing not only Hunter’s spot in the lineups but matching her scores will be almost impossible for a newcomer to collegiate gymnastics. However, if anyone can do it, it’s Boren. The three-time J.O. national champion has similar strengths to Hunter and, with polishing in the fall, there’s a good chance of her being able to take over for Hunter come season. Ernst and Dagen also come in with strong background and should be able to provide good enough routines on vault, beam and floor to make the loss of Spicer and Wang less noticeable. While Hunter was a two-time national all around champion and Honda ward Winner, her absence will be felt less with Florida’s strong freshman class waiting in the wings.
Losses: Georgia Dabritz, Corrie Lothrop, Becky Tutka, Tory Wilson
Gains: Shannon McNatt, MaKenna Merrell, Erika Muhaw, Sabrina SchwabIf you look only at what the Red Rocks are losing from 2015, it’s hard to imagine anyone replacing the one-two punch of Dabritz and Wilson in the team’s lineups. No incoming freshmen, besides maybe Bridget Sloan, could hit near perfect or perfect 10s on vault, bars and floor week in and week out like Dabritz. Add onto that Wilson’s consistency and high scoring potential on vault and it’s hard to see Utah replicating it’s second place success form a year prior. But the Utes have a history of always managing to stay near the top, no matter who they lose and who they gain.
Losses: Brenna Dowell (deferred), Erica Brewer, Rebecca Clark, Haley Sorensen
Gains: Nicole Turner (transfer), Nicole Lehrmann, Megan ThompsonThe Sooners are known for creating NCAA gymnasts who excel out of ordinary level 10s with a few standout elites sprinkled in. Unlike some other teams where non-competing walk-ons graduate alongside individual national champions, all of Oklahoma’s graduates contributed to the lineups regularly during their senior season. The trio all contributed heavily to the beam lineup with Brewer contributing a perfect 10. But Oklahoma is known for its beam work, so although half the lineup will be gone, it’s not as worrisome as it could be. Brewer also contributed on floor and bars in 2015 while Clark was a mainstay in the bars lineup as well. Dowell, who is deferring in the hopes of making the 2015 world and 2016 Olympic teams, had perfect 10s on bars and near-perfect marks on floor and vault as well. Her absence in 2016 will most likely be felt more than the three graduates. Lehrmann comes to the Oklahoma program with a national championship and another top three finish on bars. She also has a career high of 9.925 on vault. however, she did not compete past February in 2015, so whether or not she is 100 percent healthy is yet to be seen. Turner was a frequent member of Oregon state’s floor lineup. She should challenge for a spot in the Sooners’ after transferring for her senior year.
Losses: Hunter Dennis, Kayla Williams, Kaitlyn Clark, Lora Leigh Frost
Gains: Avery Rickett, Amanda Huang, Ariana Guerra, Angelina Giancroce, Jenna Bresette, Abby ArmbrechtAlabama will lose the 2009 world vault champion in Kayla Williams, who regularly competed vault and floor. The team will also need to make up for Kaitlyn Clark, who scored above a 9.9 multiple times on all four events last season. The Crimson Tide welcomes a large freshman class that includes two former elite in Ariana Guerra and Amanda Huang. Guerra trained at Texas Dreams and competed in U.S. championships four times, and Huang competed at U.S. championships in 2012 before switching back to level 10. Huang qualified to J.O. nationals four times where she won bars in both 2011 and 2014. Angelina Giancroce competed as a level 10 for five years and placed fourth on both beam and floor at 2015 J.O. nationals. Jenna Bresette is a four-time national qualifier and finished seventh all around last year. Finally, Abby Armbrecht won beam at level 10 nationals in 2013 and placed fifth all around in 2014.
Losses: Pauline Hanset, Samantha Shapiro, Kristina Vaculik, Rebecca Wing
Gains: Taryn Fitzgerald, Hailee Hoffman, Nicole Hoffman, Dare MaxwellStanford had one of its most successful postseasons in 2015, qualifying to the Super Six and finishing fifth overall (and it would have won with a floor rotation like it had in prelims!). But in 2016, the Cardinal is losing a lot of quality routines. Hanset was a regular in the vault, beam and floor lineups with career-highs over 9.9 on two of the three. Shapiro, known for her breathtaking toe-point, was a standout on bars, scoring 9.9 plus on a weekly basis. She also contributed to the floor rotation and was the national runner-up on bars as a sophomore. Wing, a 2008 Olympian for Great Britain, contributed three events to the team, with career-highs of 9.9 on bars and beam while Kristina Vaculik, a Canadian Olympian in 2012, was a strong all around gymnast with top scores above 9.9 on all four events. The incoming freshmen weren’t nearly as successful before college as the graduated seniors. But that doesn’t mean they won’t see the same success in college. Fitzgerald is a two-time NIT competitor with strengths on vault and floor, Hailee Hoffman was the NIT vault champion in 2013 and Nicole Hoffman is a two-time J.O. nationals qualifier. The strongest newcomer is Maxwell, who’s strength lies on bars. She is a three-time J.O. nationals qualifier and four-year junior international elite competitor. She was also a member of the Oklahoma City Ballet, so at the very least she will be a treat for fans to watch on beam and floor should she compete.
Losses: Bri Guy, Caryn Kadous, Kelsey Thomasson, Megan Walker, Brittany Webster
Gains: Telah Black, Samantha Cerio, Emma Engler, Taylor Krippner, A’Miracal Phillips, Emma SlappeyThe biggest loss for the Tigers will come from Walker, who was a standout competitor on bars and beam for the team while also contributing to the floor lineup. With career highs of 9.925 on her two best events, it will be hard to replace her contributions with inexperienced freshmen. Webster also was a member of the vault and floor lineup, producing consistent routines regularly for Auburn alongside Kadous who was a mainstay in the beam and floor rotations. Guy was strong all arounder for the team despite contributing mostly on vault, bars and beam her senior year due to her double Achilles tear the year before. Cerio won bars at the 2015 J.O. national championships and finished third on the event in 2014, so she should make an immediate impact for the Tigers in 2016. Krippner is also a J.O. national champion. The Texas-native claimed the beam title in 2015. Finally, Slappey is a former junior elite, finished tied for third on floor at the 2013 J.O. national championships and fifth on beam in 2012.
Losses: Sachi Sugiyama, Brooke Parker, Annette Miele
Gains: Emma McLean, Olivia KarasMichigan’s biggest loss this season is Sachi Sugiyama who competed all around for the Wolverines. She consistently scored above a 9.9 on vault and floor last year and only had one fall the entire season. Brooke Parker regularly competed vault and floor, but she only scored a 9.9 twice – both on floor. Emma McLean is a four-time level 10 national qualifier and finished third all around and second on floor in 2015. Olivia Karas competed level 10 for five years and qualified to J.O. nationals three times. She won vault at nationals for the last two years and also won all around in 2014. Karas has scored above a 9.9 on vault five times in level 10 and will surely contribute heavily on the event for Michigan.
Losses: Jessie DeZiel, Amanda Lauer, Jennifer Lauer, Desire’ Stephens
Gains: Kelli Chung, Sienna Crouse, Megan Kuo, Catelyn Orel, Megan Schweihofer, Kami ShowsThe losses outweigh the gains for the Huskers in 2016. Jessie DeZiel was one of the team’s top all arounders and spent the majority of the season ranked near the top of the standings on multiple events. Stephens was also a contributer on all around events for Nebraska and notched career-highs of 9.9 plus on vault and bars during her time in Lincoln. Jennifer Lauer was yet another all arounder for the Huskers while her sister Amanda competed on two events for the team. Crouse is a three-time nationals qualifier, finishing second on bars in 2014 while Orel qualified to nationals once in 2012 and hails from the well-known club gym GAGE. Schweihofer is a two-time nationals qualifier and had three top-10 finished at the 2013 national championships but was injured mid-way through her senior season in 2015. Finally, Shows is a multiple top-10 finisher at nationals and a five-year level 10. However, in 2015 she specialized on only bars and beam after recovering form an Achilles injury from 2014.
Losses: Chelsea Davis, Sarah Persinger, Demetria Hunte, Whitney Kirby, Kiera Brown (dismissed)
Gains: Sydney Snead, Gracie Cherrey, Caroline BradfordGeorgia’s gains this year far outweigh its losses. Even though Sarah Persinger competed off-and-on on all four events last year, her scores were often dropped. In over 30 routines in 2015, Persinger only earned a 9.85 or higher seven times. Both Chelsea Davis and Kiera Brown will be missed on bars as they both typically had two of the team’s top scores. Sydney Snead begins her collegiate career after finishing second at level 10 J.O. nationals in 2014 and consistently scoring in the 38s. She has high difficulty, particularly on vault and floor with her Yurchenko full and a half and piked full-in. However, Snead was out most of last season with an injury, so her contributions to Georgia will be dependent on if she is healthy by January. Gracie Cherrey of Twin City Twisters also joins the Gymdogs this year. She is a four-time J.O. national qualifier, and in three of those four years, she finished in the top 15 all around.
Losses: Rheagan Courville, Britney Ranzy, Lloimincia Hall, Jessie Jordan
Gains: Julianna Cannamela, Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman, Kaitlyn Szafranski, McKenna KelleyLSU lost two strong all around gymnasts in Rheagan Courville and Jessie Jordan, while also graduating Lloimincia Hall who made significant contributions on multiple events. On floor last season, Hall only scored below a 9.9 three times and she earned a perfect 10 twice. Courville and Jordan each scored a 10 last year on vault. However, LSU’s large freshman class comes in with experience and the potential to make up for the gymnasts who graduated. Former elites Sarah Finnegan and Lexie Priessman join the team, but both have rarely competed recently. Finnegan qualified to 2012 Olympic Trials, but since then has only competed in a few level 10 meets with St. Louis Gym Centre in 2015. Priessman was the junior national champion in 2011, but has not competed since 2013. Kaitlyn Szafranski qualified elite, but primarily had success at the J.O. level where she won bars at 2015 nationals. McKenna Kelley, daughter of Mary Lou Retton, is the 2014 Nastia Liukin Cup champion. She has also qualified to level 10 nationals three times and won floor in 2014. Julianna Cannamela qualified to level 10 nationals five times and consistently scored in the high-37s and 38s all around.
Losses: Jennifer Pinches (medical retirement), Ellette Craddock, Samantha Peszek, Jordan Williams
Gains: Matteah Brow, Katelyn Ohashi, Madison Preston, Nicki Shapiro, Macy ToronjoUCLA is always questionable. Many elites who are recruited to the program end up burning out before graduation. The loss of Peszek will hurt the team. The team could count on 9.9s from her on any of the four events every time out — something that will be hard to replace with any of the freshmen. Meanwhile, Pinches and Williams added solidly consistent scores here and there, but nothing that can’t be replicated with time from the newcomers. The main question for the freshman class will be whether or not the individuals can stay healthy. After a very successful elite career where she won the American Cup in 2013, Ohashi took time away from the gym and fans wondered whether she would even do college gymnastics. However, she’s indeed in Westwood and working toward the 2016 season. It’s yet to be seen what she’s still capable of, however. Toronjo was also believed to shine in the NCAA. However, images posted on social media show a brace on her shoulder indicating surgery, so it’s uncertain whether the former Texas Dreams elite will be healthy in time for the season. As for the other recruits, more questions are asked than answered: records show Shapiro hasn’t competed since 2012 and Brow’s highest all around score in level 10 was a 33.225 back in 2014. Preston, however, is a very strong vaulter and has proven she can excel on beam and floor as well.
Losses: Nicole Turner (transferred), Taylor Keeker, Katelyn Ohlrich, Kailie Ponto, Chelsea Tang, Cerise Witherby
Gains: Mariana Colussi-Pelaez, Mary Jacobsen, McKenna Singley, Elizabeth YuThe biggest loss will most likely come from Tang and Witherby. Witherby hit 65 out of 67 total routines while at Oregon State and boasts career highs of 9.9 and 9.925 on beam and floor, respectively. Tang was also quite consistent, hitting 146 of 152 total routines as a Beaver. She two had career highs over 9.9 on all four events (one of only nine Oregon state gymnasts to manage the feat). The remaining three graduates contributed 88 routines over their four years, hitting all but three of those. The consistency will be tough to replicate as it’s something that’s typically developed in college. But the incoming freshmen appear to be up to the task. Yu was a three-time nationals qualifier, finishing second on beam in 2013. Singley won the junior national title on bars in 2013 while Jacobsen competed at nationals twice, finishing in the top six on bars both years. Colussi-Pelaez is a former elite for both Canada and Spain and the younger sister of junior Silvia.