Potential Lineups: Big Ten Part I

Considered one of the Big Four conferences in women’s gymnastics, the Big Ten has fallen behind the likes of the Pac-12 and SEC in recent years with only a handful of teams making nationals since 2014. Still, there’s opportunity for resurgence thanks to Nebraska’s showing in 2018, as well as a strong crop of recruits coming in the next few years.

The potential lineups series is back to discuss teams’ prospects for the 2019 season! However, it has a bit of a new look: less body, more straight-forward analysis yet all the same great information you’ve come to know and love.

No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska impressed in 2018 by besting Alabama and making it to the Super Six. The stars that helped them get there will be sticking around at least one more year, including Sienna Crouse, Taylor Houchin and Megan Schweihofer.

Losses: Danielle Breen (UB,BB), Abbie Epperson (AA), Grace Williams (VT, BB, FX)
Gains: Adnerys De Jesus, Sarah Hargrove, Abigail Johnston, Megan Thompson, Kaylee Quinn
Returning From Injury: Sierra Hassel (UB, BB, injured during floor at Florida), Rachel Thompson (unknown, redshirted freshman season)


Vault sees some of the least potential for shakeup among the Cornhuskers, only losing two vaults from their final 2018 lineup. A few freshmen may contend for those spots, including Adnerys De Jesus and Kaylee Quinn who both currently compete Yurchenko fulls. However, Quinn has trained a Yurchenko double in the past. Expect Kynsee Roby, Karley Hutchinson, Megan Verceles-Carr and Anika Dujakovich to also contend for the top six, as they each rotated through the lineup at different points last season. Verceles-Carr competed a Yurchenko one and half in J.O. and has the potential to upgrade in 2019.

Potential Contributors: Sienna Crouse (9.920 RQS), Megan Schweihofer (9.875), Taylor Houchin, Kynsee Roby, Karley Hutchinson, Megan Verceles-Carr, Anika Dujakovich, Adnerys De Jesus, Kaylee Quinn


Losing both Epperson and Breen won’t do Nebraska any favors on bars. Freshman Sarah Hargrove will be key to increasing the team’s total, as she has crisp stalder work and clean lines throughout. Classmate Megan Thompson may also contend for the lineup, though her handstands need some cleaning before she’s ready to see competition. Regarding returners, Catelyn Orel spent most of the regular 2018 season in the 9.7 to 9.8 range and didn’t make the postseason lineup, but the lineup starts to look a little sparse if she’s left out of the picture. Torri Hutchinson may also have a chance to sneak in after switching between competition and exhibition routines her freshman season.

Potential Contributors: Sienna Crouse (9.920), Taylor Houchin (9.900), Kynsee Roby (9.840), Megan Schweihofer (9.830), Catelyn Orel (9.800), Torri Hutchinson, Sarah Hargrove, Megan Thompson


Losing Danielle Breen as leadoff, as well as Abbie Epperson and anchor Grace Williams will not go unnoticed on beam. Hargrove and Quinn are the two most likely freshmen to rejuvenate the lineup, as both have the consistency and unique skills sets to crack the top six. Sierra Hassel, how was out with injury around late March, should also factor in should she be fully healthy. Freshman Abigail Johnston is another clean option as well.

Potential Contributors: Megan Schweihofer (9.840), Sierra Hassel (9.830), Kynsee Roby (9.825), Sienna Crouse (9.610), Taylor Houchin, Sarah Hargrove, Abigail Johnston, Kaylee Quinn


Floor was Nebraska’s biggest strength last season and will be a key event once again in 2019. Johnston and Quinn both made our most anticipated freshmen list on floor, making them good options to replace Epperson and Williams. Megan Thompson and de Jesus also have potential but will need cleaner execution first. Conversely, Hargrove is quite clean and can even carry on the death drop tradition left behind by Ashley Lambert. Houchin should also be back as a staple in the top six, having a whole offseason of healing from her knee injury last fall.

Potential Contributors: Megan Schweihofer (9.935), Sienna Crouse (9.910), Catelyn Orel (9.845), Sierra Hassel (9.835), Kynsee Roby (9.725), Anika Dujakovich, Torri Hutchinson, Karley Hutchinson, Taylor Houchin, Adnerys de Jesus, Sarah Hargrove, Abigail Johnston, Kaylee Quinn, Megan Thompson

With a number of strong two- and three-event newcomers and Houchin returning to full strength, the Huskers are gaining enough solid routines to fill competitive holes left by graduating seniors. Bars will remain a weakness, and it will be interesting to see how floor fares after assistant coach Chris Brooks took the same job with the Oklahoma men’s team this summer.

No. 13 Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines are losing three extremely important gymnasts—and 11 routines—but have one of the strongest recruiting classes in the country. Olivia Karas’ return from an Achilles tear will also be key.

Losses: Brianna Brown (AA), Lauren Marinez (UB, BB, FX), Paige Zaziski (AA)
Gains: Abby Brenner, Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Anne Maxim (VT, UB, transfer from MSU), Natalie Wojcik
Returning From Injury: Olivia Karas (AA, Achilles), Madison Osman (VT, FX, strained knee)


Michigan has the potential to put up more vault difficulty than any team in the country in 2019, with seven possible 10.0 starts. Four of those come from newcomers. Abby Brenner, Maddie Mariani and Natalie Wojcik compete Yurchenko one and a halfs while transfer Anne Maxim vaults a Tsuk half. All are lineup possibilities, though Maxim never scored higher than a 9.800 at MSU last year, and Marini is the weakest of the three Yurchenkos. Abby Heiskell has a strong Yurchenko full that is likely to make the lineup; it is as strong if not stronger than the fulls from Polina Shchennikova and Lexi Funk that Michigan put up in 2018—and even some of the 10.0 starts. If Karas is not prepared to vault by January, coach Bev Plocki has plenty of talent to rely on in the meantime.

Potential Contributors: Olivia Karas (9.895 RQS in 2017), Emma McLean (9.890), Syd Townsend (9.875), Polina Shchennikova (9.815), Lexi Funk (9.775), Abby Brenner, Abby Heiskell, Natalie Wojcik, Anne Maxim, Maddie Mariani


Bars is where Maxim will make the biggest impact, a welcome fact since Michigan lost its strongest two 2018 routines in Brianna Brown and Paige Zaziski. All of the freshmen are strong on bars as well. Brenner is very consistent, with a big full-twisting double layout dismount, and a carbon copy of Heiskell’s J.O. bars set would score well in NCAA. Mariani notched high marks on the event in J.O.; her consistent Tkatchev, full-in set is yet another strong lineup possibility. If Wojcik has a weakness, it’s bars. While she is very capable on the event, boasting a double layout and Jaeger, we may not see her in the lineup right away with so much competition for a spot. Given the newfound bars depth, it is unlikely we will ever see another Emma McLean bars routine, something for which she is likely very thankful.

Potential Contributors: Syd Townsend (9.875), Polina Shchennikova (9.860), Olivia Karas (9.845 in 2017), Anne Maxim (9.820),  Lauren Farley (9.810), Lexi Funk (9.805), Abby Brenner, Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Natalie Wojcik


The Wolverines lost half of the postseason beam lineup, but the freshmen are strong here. Mariani, Wojcik and Heiskell should all see time in the lineup. Mariani has a lovely beam set, featuring outstanding split positions. Wojcik has a basic but solid routine, though she could do without the sheep jump that can get messy and NCAA-sheep-jump. Heiskell has excellent lines and toes and is likely to make appearances in the lineup as well.

Potential Contributors: Lexi Funk (9.880), Lauren Farley (9.870), Olivia Karas (9.865, 2017), Polina Shchennikova (9.840), Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Natalie Wojcik


All four freshmen could contribute on floor, an event where the Wolverines are losing three routines. Brenner performs a gorgeous piked full-in, Heiskell has great performance quality despite only competing a (clean) double pike set, Wojcik’s performance shines and she brings a front double full and Marini consistently scored well in club. With those four possibilities, it is unlikely we will see Madison Osman return to floor after her injury last year, but she will add depth to the event. This will be a challenging lineup to crack in 2019 and gives Karas cushion on the event in her comeback.

Potential Contributors: Emma McLean (9.930), Lexi Funk (9.895), Olivia Karas (9.890 in 2017), Syd Townsend (9.830), Madison Osman (9.695), Abby Brenner, Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Natalie Wojcik

Michigan’s incoming class is extremely clean and consistent, bringing excellent routines across all four events. Heiskell, Mariani and Wojcik are all possible all arounders, though with so much depth it is more likely that they will perform on two or three pieces each. The Wolverines should have a successful 2019 if Karas can come back strong and the freshmen settle into NCAA with limited hiccups.

No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State had a stellar 2018 under first year head coach Meredith Paulicivic. The Buckeyes are losing two all arounders but bring in a big class of freshmen to fill those eight lineup spots.

Losses: Taylor Harrison, Alexis Mattern (AA), Stefanie Merkle (AA)
Gains: Claire Gagliardi, Kaitlyn Gilson, Sydney Jennings, Colby Miller, Miriam Perez
Returning From Injury: Danica Abanto (knee surgery)


Losing Alexis Matterns’ lone 10.0 start on vault could hurt the Buckeyes. Claire Gagliardi competed a comfortable front handspring tuck half (9.9 SV) in J.O. and could upgrade to the pike to start from a 10.0 and take over the tradition from Mattern. Sydney Jennings and Miriam Perez both bring strong Yurchenko fulls that should also see lineup time. Perez has also trained a promising Yurchenko one and a half.

Potential Contributors: Olivia Aepli (9.850 RQS), Jamie Stone (9.830), Morgan Lowe (9.825), Janelle McClelland (9.775), Claire Gagliardi, Sydney Jennings, Miriam Perez


Kaitlyn Hofland, who had another shoulder surgery over the summer, is returning for a fifth year. If she is healthy, bars should be her biggest impact. Of the incoming class, Colby Miller’s bars stands out. She performs a massive Jaeger, and won the J.O. nationals Senior C bar title in 2017. Jennings needs to clean some of her handstands and form, but her routine, including a Deltchev, could see lineup time. Gagliardi is capable on the event but can be inconsistent; some composition reworking could help her break the lineup as well.

Potential Contributors: Jenna Swartzentruber (9.865), Kaitlyn Hofland (9.850), Olivia Aepli (9.840), Nevin Adamski (9.725), Claire Gagliardi, Kaitlyn Gilson, Colby Miller


Beam was Ohio State’s weakest event in 2018, but the freshmen bring a number of usable routines that could reinvigorate the lineup. Gilson is a strong beamer, with steady work and an interesting sissone + sheep series; she should make an immediate impact on the event. Miller is also strong here, just needing a little polish to be lineup-ready. Jennings, who performs a unique backhandspring + side aerial series, is a possibility, and Gagliardi could see lineup time as well.

Potential Contributors: Jamie Stone (9.830), Morgan Lowe (9.810), Jenna Swartzentruber (9.805), Amanda Huang (9.780), Claire Gagliardi, Kaitlyn Gilson, Sydney Jennings, Colby Miller


The Buckeyes excelled on floor in 2018, led by seniors Mattern and Stefanie Merkle, in part thanks to Paulicivic’s choreography; losing Mattern and Merkle could be a blow here especially, but several incoming floor routines are also strong. Gagliardi is a very dynamic floor worker and should excel with NCAA choreography. Her double pike routine includes a stellar front layout + rudi + double stag. Perez is the other floor stand out in this class with massive tumbling. She has trained both a double layout and double Arabian, the former being the more viable. Jennings could also see floor time; she has nice split positions and a solid front double full.

Potential Contributors: Jamie Stone (9.870), Janelle McClelland (9.850), Olivia Aepli (9.820), Brooke Chesney (9.820), Claire Gagliardi, Miriam Perez, Sydney Jennings

Ohio State is a team on the rise, and the freshmen bring all of the tools to continue the trend in 2019. All of the newcomers are strong on at least two pieces, and all five could see competition time.

No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini

After a rocky start to 2018, the Illini surprised the conference at the Big Five and Big Ten. They are losing some very important routines but bring in a solid recruiting class. MJ Horth, who missed last season with injury, will be returning for a sixth year.

Losses: Jordyn Givens (VT, UB, FX), Bridget Hodan (VT, BB, FX), Sarah Lyons (UB)
Gains: Mallory Mizuki, Shaylah Scott, Torie Stotz, Erin Weisel
Returning From Injury: Grace Gough (unknown hand/wrist injury), MJ Horth (VT, UB, BB, unknown ankle/foot injury)


Illinois has yet to put up a 10.0 vault since the devaluation of the Yurchenko full. Mallory Mizuki is poised to change that. She competes a strong Tsuk half and should make an immediate impact. Shaylah Scott brings a dynamic Yurchenko full—better than many in last year’s lineup. Her vault will also be a welcome addition. Torie Stotz also has a strong full featuring a great chest-up landing and could fight to break into the lineup.

Potetnial Contributors: Kasey Meeks (9.835 RQS), Rae Balthazor (9.785), Nicole Biondi (9.780), Haylee Roe (9.725), Mallory Mizuki, Shaylah Scott, Torie Stotz


If Horth is healthy, bars is where she will make an impact. She was Illinois’ top performer on the event in 2017. Mizuki brings a big piked Tkatchev to the event, and with some cleaning up has an NCAA-ready set. Erin Weisel has a routine that could add depth and see lineup time with a bit of composition and cleaning work. Rachel Donovan, who competed infrequently in 2018, is also an option.

Potential Contributors: Rae Balthazor (9.900), MJ Horth (9.885 in 2017), Karen Howell (9.855), Nicole Biondi (9.840), Lindsay Dwyer (9.805), Rachel Donovan, Mallory Mizuki, Erin Weisel


Beam is the event where Scott shines. She posted the highest score of the J.O. level 10 season on the event, a 9.925. Her routine is simple but extremely clean, and features outstanding split positions. Mizuki is another excellent beam worker, with gorgeous leaps and attention to detail. Weisel can be a touch messy, but with some work could also see time. If Horth’s legs are strong enough, she could also be an asset to the Illini on beam as well.

Potential Contributors: MJ Horth (9.865 in 2017), Karen Howell (9.855), Haylee Roe (9.830), Rae Balthazor (9.830), Nicole Biondi (9.830), Kylie Noonan (9.805), Mallory Mizuki, Shaylah Scott, Erin Weisel


Both Mizuki and Scott bring front double fulls and gorgeous leaps to Champaign, and both should make this lineup. Mizuki also boasts a stellar tour jete full and should score well in college. Weisel’s well-performed double pike set, including a strong switch ring, should also make an impact. Stotz is clean on the event but lacks difficulty but could factor in with upgraded tumbling.

Potential Contributors: Rae Balthazor (9.850), Haylee Roe (9.845), Karen Howell (9.845), Kylie Noonan (9.825), Nicole Biondi (9.820), Mallory Mizuki, Shaylah Scott, Erin Weisel, Torie Stotz

The freshman class coming to Champaign is strong. Mizuki is a likely all arounder, eventually if not immediately, and Scott will make an immediate impact on her three events. Weisel and Stotz also bring strengths. The Illini should be able to continue climbing the ranks in 2019.

No. 22 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota’s season was hit hard when all arounder Ona Loper tore her Achilles mid-season, but with her comeback and a massive freshman class, the Gophers are poised for a strong 2019.

Losses: Abby DeMuse (VT), Ciara Gardner (VT, BB, FX), Hannah Hitchcock (VT, UB, FX), Rachel Rowland (UB)
Gains: Carson Cronin, Kaitlyn Higgins, Abbie Nylin, Tiarre Sales, Alissa Sonier, Andrea Stancik
Returning From Injury: Casey Betts (ACL), Ona Loper (AA, Achilles)


Loper’s return to the vault lineup will be important for the Gophers. Her Yurchenko one and a half was their only 10.0 start in 2018. Freshman Alissa Sonier brings a strong one and a half as well while Lexy Ramler has been training hers again, too. Carson Cronin has a solid Yurchenko half that could see time, and Tiarre Sales and Andrea Stancik’s fulls are also possibilities.

Potential Contributors: Lexy Ramler (9.855 RQS), Ona Loper (9.840), Kristen Quaglia (9.755), Lexi Montgomery (9.70), Carson Cronin, Alissa Sonier, Andrea Stancik, Tiarre Sales


Sophomore Becca Taylor, who did not compete in 2018, has been training bars, including a Tkatchev. Abbie Nylin brings the same release, though her bar work needs some tidying. Tiarre Sales is strong on the event and should break the lineup; she competes a rather unique Markelov.

Potential Contributors: Ivy Lu (9.955), Lexy Ramler (9.910), Kristen Quaglia (9.760), Selena Ung (9.755), Becca Taylor, Abbie Nylin, Tiarre Sales


Sonier is very solid on beam, with nice lines and confident movement. She competes an exciting dismount: backhandspring + one-arm back handspring + one-and-a-half-twisting layout. Sales has strong and creative beam work but can be inconsistent. Cronin, Higgins and Nylin all have the pieces for beam but need to focus on cleaning up execution if they are going to challenge for lineup spots.

Potential Contributors: Lexy Ramler (9.925), Ivy Lu (9.780), Ona Loper (9.780), Selena Ung (9.775), Lexi Montgomery (9.730), Mary Korlin-Downs (9.650), Carson Cronin, Kaitlyn Higgins, Abbie Nylin, Alissa Sonier, Tiarre Sales


Higgins has a strong floor set. Her clean work and overall performance have all the ingredients of a solid NCAA set that could score well. Sales is also an excellent performer, with tidy tumbling and good split positions. Both could challenge for lineup spots. Sonier brings a strong front double full, making her another option.

Potential Contributors: Paige Williams (9.870), Lexy Ramler (9.855), Ona Loper (9.845), Rachel Cutler (9.810), Selena Ung (9.680), Kaitlyn Higgins, Alissa Sonier, Tiare Sales

Minnesota lost a number of reliable routines, but the big freshman class is capable of filling the holes. Sales is a possible all arounder, and Sonier is very strong on her three. Overall, the Gophers are poised for a solid 2019.

READ THIS NEXT: What Teams on the Bubble Need to Do to Qualify to Nationals in 2019

Article by Caroline Medley and Emily Minehart

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