Taking a break from the Pac-12, we’ll cover three consecutive Big 10 teams, beginning with Iowa. The Hawkeyes lose many of their best competitors after the 2017 season, including all arounders Mollie Drenth and Angel Metcalf. With their help, Iowa finished the year at No. 18, its highest ranking since 2004. With as many new freshmen coming in as seniors it’s losing, will Iowa be able to recapture its success from last year?
For a “Big Four” conference team, Iowa has a surprising lack of standard Yurchenko fulls. Its only vault scores higher than a 9.85 came from those performing the Yurchenko layout half, and it looks like this year may bring more of these less-common vaults. Freshmen Erin Castle and Annabelle Mosier both compete halfs, with Castle’s the stronger of the two. Madison Kampschroeder seems to be training what could be Iowa’s first 10.0 start value vault since the devaluation with an Omelianchik. While it seems she hasn’t competed it yet, her training video makes it look quite viable. Ashley Smith is the only one of the freshmen with a Yurchenko full, and though her dynamics aren’t huge, she’s definitely capable of controlling her landings.
Of the veterans, we expect Maria Ortiz and Melissa Zurawski to be the leaders of the squad. Their Yurchenko fulls scored consistently throughout the season, and they frequently hit 9.8 or higher. Misty-Jade Carlson also competes a full, and though she didn’t compete every week, her scores were solid, making her a good potential lead-off. Charlotte Sullivan had some trouble on vault last year. However, her Yurchenko half is capable of scoring 9.825 but also dropped into the 9.6s on more than one occasion. She is the team’s most likely all arounder, though, so to leave her out of the vault lineup would be a significant oversight. Rose Piorkowski and Nikki Youd also compete Yurchenko halfs, with Piorkowski’s having the higher score ceiling of the two. She did drop off significantly toward the end of last season with no explanation and wasn’t even in the lineup anymore by regionals. With all that in consideration, we feel like leaving her as an alternate is probably the best choice. Take a look below at how we’d construct the rest of Iowa’s vault lineup.
Carlson | Sullivan | Kampschroeder | Zurawski | Ortiz | Smith
Alternates: Piorkowski | Castle | Youd
Bars looks a little thinner in terms of gymnasts returning from 2017, so we may see more freshman sneak into this lineup. Emma Hartzler has a lovely natural swing and great dynamics on her Jaeger, so expect to see her make the top six. Smith has a slow, more deliberate swing and a few short handstands, but her scores in J.O. were solid. Plus, she’s a former state champion on bars. With the lineup stretched as thin as it is and with few freshmen boasting bars as their strong event, Smith may end up in the top six simply due to her dependability. Kampschroeder is also a possibility, with a huge toe-on Tkachev and a powerful double layout dismount. However, her scores from club competition are much lower and much less consistent, indicating that her bars performance may need a little work before she’s ready for the weekly pressure of college competition. Mosier’s routine is a bit messy, though more recent training footage shows she’s been working on her handstand positions and straddle back to the low bar. If she continues progressing, she could be a good alternate for the bar squad.
Four Hawkeyes will return in 2018 from last year’s lineup in Sullivan, Zurawski, Clair Kaji and Lanie Snyder. Zurawski is the likeliest to anchor as she’s capable of scores as high as 9.925, tallying seven scores at 9.85 or higher in 2017. Kaji and Sullivan both had some inconsistencies last season, but Sullivan’s scoring potential is significantly higher, topping out at 9.925 while Kaji’s ceiling stands at 9.875. Kaji’s scores for hits are more consistent than Sullivan’s, perhaps making her the best choice of the bunch for a lead-off performer. Snyder only competed five bar routines in total, falling once and never scoring higher than 9.85. However, with as many bar routines as they’re losing, she may be called upon to help fill out the lineup. Here’s how we’d set up the top six plus alternates in 2017.
Kaji | Castle | Smith | Hartzler | Sullivan | Zurawski
Alternates: Kampschroeder | Mosier | Snyder
Beam’s outlook is even more sparse than bars with Iowa only returning three beam routines from last season, so the freshmen in particular will be looked upon to round out the lineups. Kampschroeder has been really working on her beam in training (like this triple series upgrade), and she’s the reigning Missouri state champion on the event, scoring a 9.3 (which should translate to scores around 9.85 in college). Hartzler’s beam is pretty inconsistent, but when she hits, her scores are stellar, as she scored a 9.5 and placed in the top five of her division at nationals this year. Expect her to make the top six for the Hawkeyes, especially if she can stay on the apparatus. Smith is another strong freshman beamer, and her deliberate, steady work is her main asset. When she rushes, she runs into some problems, which might come back to bite her in the high-pressure scenarios. Castle and Mosier also have workable routines, but they’re more prone to bobbles and could use some work on their split positions before they’re ready to compete on the event in college
Returning to the beam lineup are Kaji, Sullivan and Youd, all of whom had stellar scores and broke the 9.9 mark last season. However, none of them were very consistent, so the lead-off position will be a difficult pick. However, we went with Kaji because she only had one true miss and was able to bounce back and score a 9.9 the following week at the conference championship. Sullivan is the most likely anchor, as she didn’t come off the apparatus in 2017 and can score as high as 9.9. Youd will likely go somewhere in the middle to stabilize and provide veteran experience in the middle of all those freshmen.
Another gymnast to take into consideration is Snyder. Though she didn’t compete beam last year, she has done at least one exhibition on the event. And it was pretty solid at that. In the absence of other options, she may be called upon to step in should anyone need resting. Below you’ll find the full beam squad we’ve predicted for the Hawkeyes this season.
Kaji | Smith | Youd | Hartzler | Kampschroeder | Sullivan
Alternates: Snyder | Castle | Mosier
The Hawkeyes return five floor performers from last season, making it a little more difficult for the freshmen to contribute. Smith is probably the likeliest of the five, with great pop in her tumbling (watch her opening double tuck—so much power!) and clean lines. Kampschroeder is also a possibility, as she’s capable of a double arabian, but its landing will need some work if she’s going to keep it in her routine. Plus, her second pass will need an upgrade to be considered up to the competitive level as well. Mosier is another possibility for floor, as she’s an elegant performer, and she actually finishes her routine with an E pass: a front double full. Castle’s another great performer with excellent musicality, but her tumbling can sometimes leave a little to be desired.
The veteran Hawkeyes will likely comprise most of the lineup, with most earning solid scores over the course of last season. Nicole Chow was a regular floor contributor, typically scoring around 9.8. Sullivan was an occasional floor competitor, but only three of her six scores went above 9.7. Kaji, Zurawski and Snyder will likely be a 1-2-3 punch to close out the lineup, all with big power in their tumbling. Kaji boasts the only E pass with a full-in, but Snyder is the best performer by far. Take a look below at how we’d set up the floor lineup for Iowa this year.
Chow | Sullivan | Smith | Kaji | Zurawski | Snyder
Alternates: Kampschroeder | Castle | Mosier
In the all around, Sullivan is the only likely returner, though Kaji has a decent Yurchenko full she could pull out. Sullivan’s scores often suffered when she competed all four, so she may not do it every week. But she’s the team’s best veteran bet. As far as newcomers, Smith is the likeliest choice. She is steady and calm under pressure, which could make her a solid four-eventer, even as a freshman.
Overall, Iowa is going to have to make good use of its freshmen to keep up its success from 2017. If the veteran Hawkeyes can step up to the plate, they might be able to reach a similar mark once again.
Article by Caroline Medley, graphics by Emily Howell Forbes