This year’s J.O. nationals is going to be an exciting competition. With at least 10 athletes able to score over 39 points and even more able to post perfect 10.0s, expect every division to be spectacular. What should you expect from every competition? Who should you watch and who will win? Who are the future NCAA stars? We answer all those questions and more in our preview.
Four athletes qualified to nationals with a score over 39 points. Florida signee Sloane Blakely posted what is probably an all-time best of 39.600, a high score even for NCAA standards; Washington signee Leah Smith, this year’s Nastia Liukin Cup winner, posted a 39.375, 2023 graduate Kylie Coen a 39.225 and North Carolina signee Lali Dekanoidze a 39.200.
A few gymnasts were very close to that magical 39. Michigan State commit Nikki Smith scored a 38.975, 2023 graduate Caitlin Smith a 38.925, Arkansas signee Kalyxta Gamiao a 38.900 and Missouri signee Amari Celestine and 2023 graduate Morgan Price both a 38.875.
Three gymnasts posted perfect 10.0s on vault at regionals: Utah commit Makenna Smith, 2022 graduate Taralyn Nguyen and 2023 graduate Keira Wells.
Maryland boasts seven qualifiers, followed by Arkansas and Ohio State with six, Missouri and West Virginia with five and Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Penn, Penn State, Southern Utah, UC Davis, Utah State and Washington with four.
Have a look at the list of NCAA commits below. Note that it’s still subject to change as the complete list of qualifiers has not yet been published.
- Air Force (2): Genevieve Sabado-Baez (2021), Tessa Volpe (2021)
- Alabama (3): Corinne Bunagan (2021), Jordyn Paradise (2021), Lilly Hudson (2021)
- Arizona (4): Elizabeth LaRusso (2021), Emily Mueller (2021), Alysen Fears (2022), Emma Strom (2022)
- Arizona State (3): Alex Theodorou (2021), Mallory Marcheli (2021), Kimberly Smith (2022)
- Arkansas (6): Kalyxta Gamiao (2021), Frankie Price (2021), Mackenzie Sedlacek (2021), Cami Weaver (2021), Jaime Pratt (2022), Cally Swaney (2022)
- Auburn (3): Sara Hubbard (2021), Sophia Groth (2021), Hannah Hagle (2022)
- Ball State (1): Ariana Gilley (2021)
- Boise State (2): Alyssa Vulaj (2022), Emma Loyim (2021)
- Bowling Green (3): Kathryn Weilbacher (2021), Emily Castiglia (2022), Charniya Brown (2022)
- Brown (1): Adelaide Liebhardt (2021)
- BYU (2): Olivia Matern (2021), Kylie Eaquinto (2022)
- California (2): Mya Lauzon (2021), Abbey Scanlon (2021)
- Central Michigan (1): Alexis Garcia (2021)
- Cornell (2): Savannah Kokaly (2021), Sydney Beers (2021)
- Denver (1): Momoko Iwai (2021)
- Eastern Michigan (3): Ella Chemotti (2021), Cassie Bergin (2021), Alana Fisher (2021)
- Florida (2): Sloane Blakely (2021), Bri Edwards (2021)
- George Washington (2): Kasey Burke (2022), Deana Sheremeta (2022)
- Georgia (4): Naya Howard (2022), Sidney Fitzgerald (2022), Elizabeth Gantner (2023), Emma Grace Boyd (2023)
- Illinois (3): Ruthuja Nataraj (2021), Mikki Green (2021), Katharine Klugman (2021)
- Illinois State (3): Jaye Mack (2021), Mya Robinson (2021), Nastia Rudnitskaya (2022)
- Iowa (3): Josie Bregstrom (2021), Gianna Masella (2022), Hanna Castillo (2022)
- Iowa State (2): Rachel Wilke (2021), Hannah Loyim (2021)
- Kent State (1): Cheyenne Pratola (2021)
- Kentucky (3): Jillian Procasky (2021), Bridget Bourque (2022), Sam Forman (2022)
- Lindenwood (1): Payton Gatzlaff (2021)
- LSU (3): Kaytlyn Johnson (2021), Tori Tatum (2021), Bryce Wilson (2022)
- Maryland (7): Athlyn Drage (2021), Sierra Kondo (2021), Josephine Kogler (2021), Tasha Brozowski (2021), Lindsay Bacheler (2021), Madeline Komoroski (2022), Taylor Rech (2022)
- Michigan (4): Abigael Vides (2021), Deiah-Marie Moody (2021), Lily Clapper (2022), Farah Lipetz (2022)
- Michigan State (4): Skyla Schulte (2021), Gabi Stephen (2021), Sage Kellerman (2022), Nikki Smith (2022)
- Minnesota (4): Haley Tyson (2021), Marissa Jencks (2021), Brooklyn Rowray (2022), Seria Johnson (2022)
- Missouri (5): Amari Celestine (2021), Jocelyn Moore (2021), Victoria Gatzendorfer (2021), Addison Lawrence (2022), Ashley Cowan (2022)
- N.C. State (3): Hailey Merchant (2021), Lauren Rutherford (2021), Meg Adler (2022)
- Nebraska (2): Emma Simpton (2021), Madison Raesly-Patton (2022)
- New Hampshire (2): Alyssa Beaulieu (2021), Gracy Mowers (2021)
- North Carolina (4): Lali Dekanoidze (2021), Bella Miller (2021), Julia Knower (2021), Gwendolyn Fink (2022)
- Northern Illinois (2): Emmalise Nock (2021), Izzy Sissi (2021)
- Ohio State (6): Tory Vetter (2021), Kaitlyn Grimes (2021), Jenna Hlavach (2021), Madeline Pike (2021), Ella Robins (2022), Payton Harris (2022)
- Oklahoma (4): Caitin Kirkpatrick (2021), Danielle Sievers (2021), Jordan Bowers (2021), Moorea Linker (2021)
- Oregon State (4): Karlie Chavez (2021), Natalie Briones (2021), Mina Popovic (2021), Jennifer McMillan (2022)
- Penn (4): Zara Gazdak (2021), Isabella Garrett (2021), Isabel Song (2021), Marigold Garrett (2021)
- Penn State (4): Grace Harrell (2021), Jessica Johanson (2021), Olivia Van Horn (2021), Ava Piedrahita (2022)
- Pittsburgh (2): Sidney Washington (2021), Natalia Pawlak (2022)
- Rutgers (2): Anna Pagliaro (2021), Elia Aird (2022)
- San Jose State (2): Trinity Johnson (2021), Katherine Weyhmiller (2021)
- SEMO (2): Lindsay Ockler (2021), Madison Greene (2021)
- Southern Connecticut (2): Morgan Romeis (2021), Talia Kraus (2021)
- Southern Utah (4): Katie Ours (2021), Trista Goodman (2022), Kayla Pardue (2022), Maddie Dukart (2022)
- Stanford (1): Katya Sander (2021)
- Temple (2): Maddy Dorunda (2021), Hannah Stallings (2021)
- Texas Woman’s (2): Sierra Muns (2021), Kamille Zarlengo (2022)
- Towson (3): Olivia Bowsman (2021), Mia Davis (2021), Bella Minervini (2022)
- UC Davis (4): Emily Pires (2021), Keanna Abraham (2021), Valerie Mostajo (2021), Sydney Buerk (2022)
- UCLA (3): Alexis Jeffrey (2021), Mia Erdoes (2021), Selena Harris (2022)
- Utah (1): Makenna Smith (2022)
- Utah State (4): Trinity Brown (2021), Gabrielle Clark (2021), Kielyn McCright (2021), Claire Stippich (2022)
- Washington (4): Ashley Blum (2021), Leah Smith (2021), Emily Innes (2022), Casey Brown (2022)
- West Chester (1): Shannon Carroll (2021)
- West Virginia (5): Anna Leigh (2021), Laura Soltis (2021), Miranda Smith (2022), Emma Wehry (2022), Carlee Nelson (2022)
- William & Mary (1): Caroline Blatchford (2021)
- Western Michigan (2): Abby Singh (2021), DK Roy (2021)
- UW-La Crosse (1): Rachel Chesley (2021)
- UW-Stout (2): Gabrielle Winstead (2021), Maya Jones (2021)
- UW-Whitewater (1): Kara Welsh (2021)
- Yale (1): Emma David (2021)
Through CGN’s Recruit Ratings Lens
Four athletes are 5-star recruits: Celestine, Dekanoidze and Schulte in the class of 2021, and Harris in the class of 2022.
An additional 19 gymnasts are 4-star recruits: Fears, Briones, Lauzon, Leah Smith, Blakely, Sievers, Tatum, Jeffrey, Tyson, Sedlacek, Bacheler, Paradise, Bowers and Groth in the class of 2021; and Makenna Smith, Piedrahita, Fink, Taralyn Nguyen and Claire Dean, who are still uncommitted, in the class of 2022.
Finally, 53 athletes are 3-star recruits. In the class of 2021, these are Sabado-Baez, Theodorou, Hubbard, Gamiao, Blum, Marcheli, Vides, Johnson, Liberty Grace Mora, Rylie Bright, Procasky, Frankie Price, Simpton, Vetter, Washington, Stephen, Chemotti, Grimes, Scanlon, Moore, Merchant, Song, Hannah Loyim, Klugman, Buchanan, Gatzendorfen, Aird, Rutherford, Linker and Knower.
In the class of 2022, they are Kimberly Smith, Sydney Kho, Ashley Carter, Mikaile Aderinto, Anna Roberts, Raesly-Patton, Arielle Ward, Payton Harris, Lawrence, Jencks, Paige Thaxton, Nikki Smith, Savannah Miller, Lipetz, Sheremeta, Miranda Smith, Wehry, Howard, Bourque, Swaney, Minervini, Forman and Cowan.
Note that these recruit ratings are still based on 2019 and 2020 scores, and as a result a few outstanding 2021 performances are not yet included in the calculations. The new ratings for the class of 2022, as well as the first ratings for the class of 2023, will be released in June.
Regional champions: Theodorou (Region 1, 38.625), Blum (Region 2, 37.400), Blakely (Region 3, 39.600), Jeffrey (Region 4, 38.350), Tyson (Region 5, 38.575), Kraus (Region 6, 38.050), Hlavach (Region 7, 38.275), Hudson (Region 8, 38.800)
The battle for the all around title will likely be between Blakely, Theodorou, Hudson and Linker. Blakely is the favorite with three scores over 39 this season, including in the last two competitions. Theodorou has four scores over 39 this year, but she struggled on beam both at the state meet and at regionals, shedding doubt over her usual consistency. Hudson is the dark horse, as she’s having a superb senior season after struggling in previous years. Linker had form issues in the past, but this year she worked very hard on polishing it, making her a contender for the title, too.
The battle for the vault title will also be interesting, as four athletes boast career-high perfect 10.0s (Theodorou, Linker, Sedlacek and Hubbard) and Blakely rarely scored below 9.9 all season.
Regional champions: Fears (Region 1, 38.775), Gamiao (Region 2, 38.900), Johnson (Region 3, 38.750), Bowers (Region 4, 38.650), Schulte (Region 5, 38.600), Beaulieu (Region 6, 37.800), Green (Region 7, 38.600), Paradise (Region 8, 38.650)
Fears and Schulte are probably the favorite to win the title, though Gamiao, Johnson, Paradise, Bowers and Mikki Green, as well as Lauzon, Groth and Briones, are close behind.
Fears and Schulte are somewhat similar gymnasts, in that they can excel on beam and floor, have some minor built-in deductions on bars and need to stick their Yurchenko fulls to keep up with the more difficult vaults in the competition. Gamiao and Paradise, on their part, can compete Yurchenkos 1.5 but struggle at times with execution; Gamiao’s bars is not as strong as her other events, while Paradise needs to keep her nerves at bay on beam. Bowers is a strong all arounder, too, showcased by her 38.650 at regionals despite a fall on beam.
Gamiao, Johnson and Green perform strong full-ins to mount their floor routines and could have a shot at that title. Green also has stunning lines on bars, so watch out for her on that event.
Regional champions: Celestine (Region 1, 38.875), Summer Horsley (Region 2, 37.400), Leah Smith (Region 3, 39.375), Sievers (Region 4, 38.625), Greene (Region 5, 37.550), Johanson (Region 6, 38.675), Moore (Region 7, 38.425), Dekanoidze (Region 8, 39.200)
This will be another outstanding battle between Dekanoidze, Leah Smith and Celestine for the title, with Sievers, Fink, Moore, Iwai, Marcheli, Bacheler and Johanson more than capable of having a say, too. For all three of the top athletes, it will come down to keeping their nerves at bay on beam, with Dekanoidze and Celestine trying to capitalize on their Yurchenko 1.5 and Smith on her floor routine, which scored a 10.0 earlier this year. Sievers and Marcheli still have to put together the perfect meet this season, but if they do, they could very well notch the title.
Celestine, Moore and Sievers also boast career high 10.0s on vault, so the challenge for that title will be equally strong. It will be interesting to see if Leah Smith will debut her Yurchenko double.
The battle for the bar title will also be intense, with Iwai boasting a career high 10.0 and Leah Smith a 9.950.
Regional champions: Dean (Region 1, 38.850), Rylin Zimmerman (Region 2, 37.125), Brooke Irwin (Region 3, 38.400), Heidi Schultz (Region 4, 38.150), Miller (Region 5, 38.450), Miranda Smith (Region 6, 38.100), Piedrahita (Region 7, 38.050), Masella (Region 8, 38.425)
This is Selena Harris’ title to lose, but the future Bruin has to keep her nerves at bay on bars after struggling on that event both at the state meet and at regionals. Dean posted two 38.850s in a row at the state meet and at regionals, underscoring her all around consistency and making her a title challenger. She will likely perform her switch leap half to scale on beam, seeking to have it named after herself. Piedrahita is not far behind the top two, but she will have to keep her nerves at bay on beam.
Regional champions: Carter (Region 1, 38.500), Roberts (Region 2, 38.575), Hagle (Region 3, 38.725), Trinity Munsisoumang (Region 4, 37.625), Nikki Smith (Region 5, 38.975), Alexa Henshaw and Marissa Kraez (Region 6, 37.075), Pratt (Region 7, 38.375), Forman (Region 8, 38.475)
Nikki Smith is the favorite to win the all around title, with Roberts and Thaxton not far behind. Hagle had a fantastic meet at regionals but she struggles with consistency. Pratt does not always post the highest scores but her form is gorgeous, so watch out for her.
Makenna Smith struggled to put a good meet together this season, but if she does, she stands a chance at the all around title, too. Taralyn Nguyen’s bars will likely take her out of the all around competition, but she has a good shot at the vault and floor titles.
Regional champions: Kimberly Smith (Region 1, 38.575), Lila Campbell Stephen (Region 2, 35.875), Caitlin Smith (Region 3, 38.925), Payton Harris (Region 4, 38.400), Retoshia Halsell (Region 5, 37.975), Lipetz (Region 6, 37.450), Samantha Nickle (Region 7, 37.050), McMillan (Region 8, 38.400)
This could be an exciting neck and neck competition between Caitlin Smith and Bourque, who both have the potential to score over 39 points. Bryce Wilson will be the dark horse, as she has huge potential but will need to prove to be able to keep her nerves at bay when it really matters.
The Junior Field
Morgan Price, Lily Smith and Kylie Coen are the three best gymnasts in the class of 2023. They all scored over 39 points this season, as well as over 9.9 on at least one apparatus. Coen will compete in the Junior F division while Price and Smith will compete for the all around title in the Junior E division. Also in Junior E will be Keira Wells, who had an outstanding regional competition and scored a 10.0 on vault. Former elite Elizabeth Gantner, in Junior F, could also contend for the all around title.
Chloe LaCoursiere, also in Junior E, has gorgeous lines on bars and scored a 10.0 on this event earlier this year. She is one of the favorites to win the title.
Avery Neff, in Junior C, is also incredibly talented. This year, she scored 38.925 both at the state meet and at regionals, as well as a 10.0 on vault, which are incredible results for a gymnast in the class of 2024.
Nina Ballou, in Junior B, has career highs 9.975 on vault and 9.900 on floor, and she is one to watch for both her skills and her personality.
READ THIS NEXT: Recruiting Roundup: April 2021
Article by Talitha Ilacqua
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