Last season was one of setbacks for Arkansas. The injury bug bit the team badly, starting with a season-ending injury to senior Amanda Wellick and continuing to affect multiple key gymnasts throughout the season. Adding a big, talented freshman class and returning several gymnasts to full strength may allow Arkansas to make 2018 the season of comebacks.
The biggest problem for the Razorbacks on all four events has been consistency, and vault is no exception. The only thing consistent on this apparatus is the kind of vault being performed: Yurchenko fulls. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely to change, but the freshmen can definitely provide some stronger additions. Ellen Wylie is likely the best for that job, with great dynamics and excellent landing control. Sydney Laird and Sophia Carter are also good choices, though Carter’s landings are a bit wilder and Laird’s height and distance are not quite as big.
Despite being a senior, Wellick elected to use her redshirt year and return in 2018. Her strong, clean gymnastics will bring back a much needed infusion of stability and power to the team. That begins with her Yurchenko full. Scoring 9.9 in nearly half of her 2016 outings, as well as her only 2017 performance, she will almost certainly anchor this otherwise-tenuous lineup. Braie Speed and Sydney McGlone are other late-lineup options with their fulls, both having hit the 9.9 mark once last season but more often scoring around 9.8 to 9.85. Jessica Yamzon will also likely return, perhaps leading off with her lower-scoring but consistent full. Makenzie Anderson is another possibility, typically scoring in the 9.7 range, as is Kirby Rathjen. Anderson is the more consistent of the two, but Rathjen has a higher 2017 season high, having reached the 9.8 mark at regionals. We formed what seems to be Arkansas’ best option for its vault lineup in 2018.
Yamzon | Anderson | Wylie | McGlone | Speed | Wellick
Alternates: Carter | Laird | Rathjen
Bars was one of the Razorbacks’ weaker events last season, rankingn No. 34 and occasionally only fielding five routines. With Wellick’s return and Hailey Garner back up to full strength, as well as help from the freshman class, Arkansas isn’t likely to have to resort to that again. Laird is the best new choice for bars, with textbook technique on her releases and handstands and the scores to match. Scoring a 9.775 at regionals last year make her bars exactly what Arkansas needs. Kailey Gillings has also shown excellence on this event, particularly in recent training videos that feature lovely stalder work and a new Jaeger release. Carter will also be an option, having shown her solid set in training recently as well.
Wellick’s return will be a boost for sure, but the most important set to have back is Garner’s. Despite battling an elbow injury last season, she still scored 9.9 on multiple occasions. At full strength, she could be capable of even more, which bodes well for the Razorbacks’ future on the event. Speed is also a solid choice, with one of the only consistent sets on the team, which makes her a great choice for the lead-off position. Michaela Burton had a shaky start last year but eventually found her footing, scoring 9.8 or higher in half of her performances. Yamzon is likely to return as well, despite inconsistency in 2017, as she did qualify to nationals as an all arounder as a freshman. She’s also never fallen, which is an important distinction to make, as it shows determination and willingness to fight for every tenth. Anderson is also a possibility, though she typically got stuck in the 9.7s. Take a look below to find our proposed bar squad for the Razorbacks this year.
Speed | Yamzon | Burton | Wellick | Laird | Garner
Alternates: Gillings | Carter | Anderson
Beam was Arkansas’ strongest event last season, closing out the season at No. 22. However, the Razorbacks graduate their most consistent score in Samantha Nelson, so it’ll be up to Wellick and the freshmen to stabilize the squad. Gillings and Laird are the most likely competitors, with Laird boasting steady, strong scores throughout her final few level 10 seasons and scoring in the 9.6 range. Wylie is another contender, with great potential, despite her wobbly tendencies. Carter is also an option, though her fall frequency is a little more concerning than the rest of the newcomers.
Beam isn’t an especially strong event for any of the returning veterans. Some had rather average sets in both performance and consistency and others having sporadic 9.9s. Burton and Yamzon fall into the former, with only one fall a piece but no scores out of the 9.8s. Wellick and McGlone are more similar to the latter but can also drop to 9.7—or lower—the following week. Garner, too, falls into this second category, but has fewer high scores to support her inclusion in the lineup and may end up relegated to alternate while McGlone and Wellick are put in the top six. Taking all of this into account, here’s our proposed beam lineup for Arkansas.
Burton | McGlone | Gillings | Yamzon | Wellick | Laird
Alternates: Wylie | Garner | Carter
Floor was Arkansas’s worst event last season, finishing ranked No. 40 and with only two gymnasts ever cracking the 9.9 mark. Plus, of the top three contributors, two have graduated, not exactly bode well for the Razorbacks, who had a hard time fielding even a lineup of five gymnasts. Luckily, the freshmen may be able to help. Both Wylie and Lakin Legereit compete E passes, which would bring Arkansas’s total up from a measly one to a respectable three. But their strengths don’t stop at tumbling. Wylie has expressive movement and great storytelling in addition to her perfectly executed dance elements. Legereit is a more spunky and energetic performer who racks up bonus in her dance elements. Laird is also a great choice on floor while Gillings and Carter are also solid options. Don’t expect cookie-cutter routines from the Razorbacks this season, thanks to volunteer assistant coach Courtney McCool-Griffith taking the reigns.
The veterans of the team have some strong freshmen nipping at their heels, but that doesn’t mean the lineup will be all newcomers, either. Wellick and McGlone are the strong upperclassmen who will lead the lineup. Wellick is the likely anchor based on past scoring ability and McGlone provides an extra boost, boasting a powerful double layout and was the only Razorback to reach 9.9 in 2017. Yamzon is also expected to return, having consistently been in the 9.8s most of the season. Mia Bargiacchi is another choice, having decent scores though across fewer performances. Below you’ll find our proposed floor team for Arkansas this season.
Yamzon | Laird | Legereit | McGlone | Wylie | Wellick
Alternates: Gillings | Bargiacchi | Carter
Wellick’s return should allow her to bring back all four, making her easily the team’s best candidate for the all around. Having previously qualified to nationals, Wellick’s well-balanced gymnastics give her an edge. Yamzon stepped into the void Wellick left behind last year, qualifying to nationals herself, so seeing her back in all four events is quite likely despite some consistency issues. Of the freshmen, Laird is the likeliest choice, though it may be hard for her to crack the top six on vault without making strides on her Yurchenko full’s height and distance.
Overall, Arkansas’ season outlook appears much brighter with five talented new freshmen and the return of Wellick. Depth may still be tight occasionally, but the Razorbacks should have no problem fielding six routines on every event in 2018.
Article by Caroline Medley