Today we’ll take a look at gymternet mystery Stanford and its lineup outlook for the coming year. After a rocky last few seasons where making regionals was a last minute affair, Stanford finally made a coaching change and hired former Cardinal Tabitha Yim. Her effects are already evident in the team’s social media, with increased transparency in training and in team activities. They’re also doing a feature week on each freshman, which has been super helpful in our analysis process. After losing some of its biggest players last year, including the McNair twins and Rachel Daum to graduation, as well as Dare Maxwell to early retirement, Stanford is going to need something big to turn its story around in 2018. However, the coaching change and its incoming freshman class could be exactly what the Cardinal needs to get back into nationals-worthy shape.
Vault last season was a struggle for Stanford, especially with a limited Elizabeth Price for most of the season. The recruiting class of 2018 will look to change that with lots of strong vaulters among the group. Rachael Flam brings an excellent Omelianchik—a strong and welcome addition to the Cardinal’s vaulting efforts. Grace Garcia vaulted a few different Tsukahara variations in her healthier days, and we’d say her Tsuk half is probably the likeliest we’ll see from her if her ankle is completely healed. That would give Stanford two additional 10.0 start values. Kyla Bryant is also a strong vaulter, and her Yurchenko full is probably worth more than even some 10.0 vaults already on the team. And Taylor Lawson’s full is no slouch either, with good power and strong dynamics.
As far as returning vaulters go, Stanford doesn’t have a lot of options. Price is the obvious choice, with a Yurchenko double full when healthy, and if fully healthy, it’s likely she’ll anchor the lineup. Last year’s freshmen Kaylee Cole, Ashley Tai and Aleeza Yu also came with a group of strong fulls. Tai’s is the most consistent of the bunch, but Cole and Yu are both capable of stronger scores. We expect this lineup—really all of them—to be dominated largely by freshmen due to the depleted depth of the veterans. So here’s a look at our proposed vault squad for Stanford.
Bars presents a slight predicament, especially considering it only has two returning bar competitors from last season. The freshmen will hope to boost that depth past just fielding a full lineup, though that may be difficult considering they’ll need at least four routines to fill out the squad. Flam is a possibility, and while bars isn’t her strong suit, she has a solid set that Stanford can make use of. Garcia is also a strong choice. After being out two of the last four years with ankle injuries, she’s had a lot of time to work on the event, cleaning and refining to emphasize her lovely lines. Catherine Rogers is currently in a boot per social media, but if she can heal enough to do a dismount in time for season, she’ll almost certainly be in the lineup. Her easy swing and near-perfect handstands are likely to earn her excellent scores in college competition—something her new team would love to have after its issues last year. Bryant’s pretty pak salto and powerful releases would also be a welcome change for the Cardinal, as would Lawson’s long lines or Lauren Navarro’s wide vocabulary of skills. In choosing freshman for the top six versus ones for alternate positions, we really expect the devil to be in the details. Whoever is showing the cleanest handstands, the best toe point and the most stuck dismounts will likely make the lineup over teammates who might have higher scoring potential but show more inconsistencies, at least early on.
There’s not much to recap when you look at the veterans. Price should anchor the lineup without a question, as we expect her to be in constant pursuit of that elusive 10.0 in her senior season. Yu’s bars were middle of the road last year but fairly consistent, typically sitting around 9.75-9.8. We also found that Cole apparently had a bar routine ready, as she was about to compete one week. She mounted the bar, did approximately one kip cast to handstand, and then fell and didn’t finish, earning her only a 1.0. It was a truly bizarre moment, but the fact that she was being put in the lineup at all says she had a set that was viable. Take a look below at where we’d put Cole and the rest of the Stanford team in 2018.
Beam wasn’t a complete disaster for Stanford last season, finishing the year ranked No. 27 on the apparatus. It will return six routines, though not all of them may deserve to stay in the lineup if the freshman do what we expect of them. Consistency may be an issue for Flam, but her potential score is worth the risk for Stanford right now (and with Yim’s history on the event, we think she can make her into a solid competitor yet). Her details like toe point and elegant arm positions may not be perfect, but she has some big skills that will earn bonus and cheers from the crowd. Bryant has historically been much better at staying on the apparatus, though her routine may not be as flashy as some of her teammates’. Lawson seems to marry the best of both worlds—with solid consistency a difficult, power-packed routine—but she’ll likely get rid of that standing arabian before she competes for the Cardinal. Navarro’s confidence and huge score cap (9.8 in J.O. can essentially translate to at least 9.9 or higher in NCAA) makes her a great choice for beam anchor, even as a freshman and especially since beam isn’t really Price’s event. Also coming in with a promising routine is Caroline Spertus, who counts beam as one of her better pieces—she has a unique set that includes a switch leap directly connected to a punch front layout dismount. She seems like kind of gymnast Yim could really transform into a beam star, with the right kind of attitude and work ethic.
As far as returners are concerned, Price is still likely the strongest of the bunch. Cole also put together a fairly consistent season last year in spite of everything, potentially making her a good lead-off choice. Tai and Yu also both competed on occasion with varying levels of success, and Taryn Fitzgerald has been a regular throughout her college career but had some major consistency issues in 2017, culminating in an unfortunate 9.5 at regionals. Maybe with the new training environment, she’ll be more successful, but until we have more training clips to go off of, we relegated her to alternate. Below you’ll find the rest of our proposed beam squad for Stanford.
Floor was another place where Stanford had trouble fielding a full lineup at some points throughout the season. It was its worst event of the four by far, coming in at No. 46. A healthy dose of freshmen participation and Yim’s choreography should hopefully turn that around. Bryant, Flam and Lawson are going to be the star newcomers on the event, all with huge scoring potential thanks to their presence on the floor and high-flying tumbling. Flam is perhaps the most consistent, though by the slightest of margins. Bryant’s double layout can go a little soft in the knees toward the end, but her huge personality seems perfectly suited for a college arena. Lawson has the best of both worlds, showing a huge double arabian and giving her best performances in front of a crowd. Navarro may also be able to sneak into the top six, with lovely lines and great consistency, though she isn’t a power gymnast like some in her class. She might make a great lead-off because of this. Spertus may need to make some adjustments to her connection pass in order to meet NCAA requirements for her routine, but her musicality is lovely, and it’s obvious she’s had some real dance training.
While we would love to put her in the lineup thanks to her gorgeous lines, natural dance ability and quality tumbling, Garcia may not be healthy enough just yet full routines on competition surfaces. However, we would be happy to be proven wrong, but to stay on the safe side, we’ve left her as an alternate for the time being.
As the broken record continues to turn, Price is likely to lead the way, anchoring the lineup with her double layout once again. We’d also love to see her finally get a new floor routine, considering she’s had the same one (or at least mostly the same) since her freshman year. Cole had some major inconsistency issues last season, falling almost every third week but solidly also building her score potential during the weeks she hit. By the end of the season, she reached the 9.85 mark. Hailee Hoffman is another veteran that showed promise last season despite her inconsistencies, and that in and of itself could make her a good alternate should they need someone to step in. Here’s how we’d set up the Stanford floor squad.
In the all around, Price is the obvious choice, having qualified to nationals as an individual every year of her college career (though only for bars in 2017). Flam and Bryant would also perform on all four pieces if these lineups hold, and it’s likely that Stanford will want to squeeze every ounce of scoring potential out of these two standouts. There’s also a possibility that more freshmen, like Lawson or Navarro, could end up on all four should someone need resting, or that Cole could figure out bars and make a case for her own AA performance.
Overall, the future is bright for Stanford, and we fully expect it to be back in the mix for not only a seeded position at regionals but a nationals berth as well.
Next up we dive into UCLA’s many potential lineups for 2018. To check out past analyses in the series, click here.
Article by Caroline Medley, graphics by Emily Howell-Forbes