With our second round of recruit ratings officially out in the world, we wanted to sit down once again and discuss some of our thoughts about the process, recruits and changes from this year’s release. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new class of 2022 ratings or the first ratings for the class of 2023—or have questions about the process—head over to the landing page.
The second round of ratings are released! Starting with the class of 2022, which recruits stood out to you the most? This could be someone who made a big jump from the first time rating, someone you were particularly impressed by or anything else related to the recruiting class.
Elizabeth: Hungary’s Csenge Bacskay really impressed me. Sometimes non-top country international gymnasts can be middle of the road, but she could be a real difference maker for Nebraska. I’m also pretty high on Kaylen Morgan. I said in our ratings Slack channel that her bars have some serious potential in college.
Talitha: Bryce Wilson has immense potential, and I was delighted to see her become a 4-star recruit this year after not being rated last year. If she can improve her consistency, she could have a fantastic career at LSU.
Emily M: I really enjoyed rating Brooklyn Rowray, a Minnesota commit. I gave her perfect marks on beam, something I think I did twice across all 197 gymnasts I personally rated. Her extension is great, and her leaps are stunning. She’s going to be wonderful for the Gophers.
Rebecca: Senior B national champion Anna Roberts has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and it was great to see how much she progressed this season. With 23 score points she’s tied for second place in the whole recruiting class on vault, and she cracked five stars this year after being a 3-star in 2020. She’s still uncommitted, so I’ll be watching very closely this summer to see if she opts for Stanford or if she’s holding out for a scholarship from a dream school.
Jenna: We had six athletes improve from three stars to five stars this year: Nikki Smith (MSU), Payton Harris (Ohio State), Paige Thaxton, Bridget Bourque (Kentucky), Anna Roberts and Kaylen Morgan (Michigan). Of these, Harris and Morgan stood out the most for me: Harris for her improvement in consistency and Morgan for her improvement in form.
This was the first time rating the class of 2023. Similar to the previous question, which recruits do you want to shout out from this class?
Elizabeth: Canada’s Clara Raposo is going to be a star if she does NCAA. I can’t wait for the wider gymternet to discover her. Chloe LaCoursiere also received a perfect 25 points from us on bars, and Ui Soma was a pleasant surprise as well.
Talitha: Kylie Coen stood out to me at nationals and once again when rating her. Her gymnastics is beautiful and already almost ready for college.
Emily M: Two gymnasts really caught my attention: Clara Raposo and Lily Smith. Elizabeth mentioned Raposo, so I’ll focus on Smith. I rewatched her floor videos a handful of times and could hardly find a single fault. I’m already excited to see her growth in her next Level 10 season, let alone college.
Rebecca: Like Emily, I’m a devoted member of the Lily Smith cult. Everyone I’ve asked to watch her routines has been absolutely floored; she’s just on a different technical level to almost every other level 10 recruit. I’m also very high on Elizabeth Gantner, who snuck up on a lot of us because it’s been a number of years since she competed a full level 10 season. The numbers she produced this year were massive, and she has the skills to match.
Jenna: I’ll focus on some non-five stars for this question. If you haven’t seen Keira Wells’ vault, please remedy that immediately; this alone could get her a scholarship to almost any school in the country. Chloe LaCoursiere is one of the top recruits on uneven bars in the entire class. Layla Hammer is a standout on beam, and Noelle Adams excels on floor.
The class of 2023 is really the first where the vast majority are uncommitted thanks to new recruiting rules limiting contact that went into effect before most had a chance to verbal. That being said, who are you most looking forward to seeing commit and eventually compete in college?
Elizabeth: Lily Smith is a big one. I don’t even have any idea at this point where she’ll fit best, but she’s bound to excel no matter where she goes. Maybe she can commit somewhere with a strong vault squad so she either doesn’t have to worry about that event ever again or can improve there and be a star all arounder. Plus, obviously everyone is waiting on pins and needles to see where Konnor McClain commits, assuming she doesn’t go pro or anything before the 2024 Olympics.
Talitha: Kylie Coen for sure, as I mentioned above, but also Morgan Price and Skye Blakely. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova to choose to join the NCAA.
Emily M: June 15 is going to be fascinating, eh? I’m pretty invested in the international elites. We selected gymnasts to rate based on those who show some kind of NCAA connection, like following one of the recruiting consultants on Instagram, but obviously we can’t know for sure if they’re planning on coming to the States. Ui Soma is more of a sure thing, and I’ve definitely got my eye on her.
Rebecca: Like Talitha, I’m watching Morgan Price really closely. She’s very reminiscent of some Texas Dreams level 10 stars of past years who became heavy hitters in the SEC.
Jenna: I’m most intrigued by Ui Soma. Her gymnastics is difficult while still maintaining NCAA-quality form, so I think she’ll be a star no matter where she chooses to go to college.
The pandemic threw a wrench into pretty much everyone’s season the past two years. What adjustments were made to take this into account when rating?
Talitha: We froze the ratings of gymnasts who didn’t compete at all this year or competed very little. We didn’t want to penalize athletes for circumstances out of their control.
Emily M: I tried to be sure to watch pre-March 2020 videos whenever they were available! And, if a gymnast competed more difficulty before the pandemic and had lower difficulty in 2021, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed their difficulty would carry over in a normal year. The same goes for degradation of technical bits like bars handstands and leaps. Generally, if videos from different years are drastically different, I rate in the favor of the gymnast, weighing the better year more heavily.
Rebecca: We (and by “we” I mostly mean Jenna) tweaked the algorithm for allocating point scores to include an extra year of historical results. We’ll likely adjust that back down in a few years once the COVID competition schedule fallout is firmly in the rearview, but for now it only seems fair, doubly so because there are regional biases in how frequent gymnasts competed. The great majority of gymnasts we identified as not competing or competing very little in 2021 without a confirmed injury were from California or New England, and the last thing we want is to accidentally introduce a geographic slant into the score points.
Jenna: As Rebecca said, we changed our rating window to take into account the last three seasons rather than the last two, and this will also continue into next year’s ratings since many gymnasts were unable to compete this year. We also made sure that no gymnast dropped down to a lower star level than they achieved last year. This has been a tough time for everyone, and we only wanted to highlight those who had improved rather than penalize those who weren’t able to train or compete to their usual level.
What improvements were made based on feedback or observations from the first time around?
Elizabeth: I’ll leave the more technical changes to Jenna and Rebecca, but one simple change we made was bring on two more editors to help us rate! Evaluating 400-plus gymnasts is time consuming to say the least, and it needs to be done in a relatively short amount of time. The addition of Claire and Izzi to our ratings team was crucial for our quick turnaround from the end of the NCAA season to our early June release date.
Emily M: We really focused on our elite criteria. Since the NCAA values execution over excess difficulty, it’s tricky to find a balance! Last year, we let elites get a big boost if they had a lot of difficult elements, whether they were clean or not. While we still certainly considered difficulty this year, it was more evenly balanced with technique and execution.
Talitha: As Emily said, we focused on our elite formula, as that’s where we thought the most urgent problems arose. Elite and L10 gymnastics have very different requirements, so we modified our criteria to emphasize more those skills that are essential in college.
Rebecca: We simplified the score point formula a touch this year, and I’m really happy with the results. We kept the operative principle of assigning points based on the percentile ranking of a gymnast’s statistics, but we dropped a couple of stats we felt were extraneous and expanded the points allocated for the most important ones. This way is cleaner, identifies excellence in scores more clearly and aligns the ratings of level 10s and elites better.
Jenna: We heard feedback last year that we weighted elite gymnasts higher than level 10s, which we agreed with in our internal review of our processes, so we modified both the elite ratings guidelines and the score points calculation for level 10 gymnasts prior to beginning this year’s ratings. I think we have a better balance now between elites and level 10s, as both can be stars in college and we wanted our ratings to reflect that.
It’s obviously still early, but do you already have ideas for features or improvements you want to make for the third release next June?
Elizabeth: I’d love to find a way to highlight gymnasts that excel on one or two events in a better way than our underrated recruits series we produce around the same time (this year’s coming in two weeks!). I’d also love the bandwidth at some point in the future to rerate the current class (for example, class of 2021 this year) to give a better picture of where the rising college freshmen stand. This year we’re simply updating their score points to more accurately do our freshmen class rankings in the fall.
Emily M: I definitely agree with Elizabeth that specialists should be our next focus. We’re going to feature standouts on given events in features this year, but we have, for example, some athletes who are 3-stars but received near-perfect marks on a given event. Finding that balance is our next hurdle.
Talitha: Yes, I agree that event specialists should really be our next focal point!
Rebecca: I’m hoping to expand our understanding of which internationals are pursuing NCAA. We can make a pretty good guess based on connections, recruiting consultants and how athletes market themselves on social media (if they have a YouTube channel with their name and a graduation year or if they follow a number of college coaches on their gymnastics Instagram, it’s not hard to guess), but I’d love to expand our professional connections with people in the sport who know for sure.
Jenna: I’d love to be able to assign star ratings on the individual event level rather than just on the all around level. For example, Chloe LaCoursiere currently has a 3-star rating, but she would definitely be a 5-star on bars if we had the time and bandwidth to do that. Hopefully next year! And I’ll agree with Elizabeth that it would be fantastic if we could rerate the outgoing senior class in future years as well.
Finally, what do you hope the public takes away from or keeps in mind about this year’s release or the database in general?
Elizabeth: I’ll probably continue to say this every year, but we put so much work into the ratings process, and we truly do listen to all the constructive and…not-so-constructive…feedback we get. While no system is perfect—even the mainstream sports’ rating systems are subjective to a degree—we really feel like our methodology shows an accurate representation of college readiness.
Emily M: Every year we get some pushback on some elite gymnasts who land in the 4-star range. It’s inevitable! I just want to stress that we’re looking at college readiness today. The NCAA prizes three things above all: landings, form and extension (in leaps and bar handstands, for example). A recruit might be an amazing athlete doing incredibly hard gymnastics and have big accolades, but she might be a 4-star because she struggles in one of those three critical areas for NCAA. We’re not saying she’s not an amazing athlete, and we’re not saying she may not improve with some collegiate-focused training under her belt. We’re just saying that her routines as they are today are a step behind some of her cohort in those critical areas. That’s all it is!
Rebecca: Sometimes I wish I could post a “Google Drive tour” vlog to show everyone just how robust the methodology is. The number of nights we’ve spent neck-deep in these spreadsheets… The effort that Jenna alone puts into scraping MyMeetScores and then sorting out the inconsistencies that seem to sprout like freaking Hydra heads is ridiculous. I completely understand complaints about the results—that happens with every rating system in every sport—but I hope people can understand that we’re not taking it lightly or rating people sentimentally.
Jenna: A 3- or 4-star rating is not a bad thing! I got the impression last year that a lot of fans interpreted a lower rating as us saying that the athlete in question is a terrible gymnast or won’t have any success in college, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There will absolutely be plenty of gymnasts who end up with a lower rating or unrated who will be stars in college, and I honestly can’t wait to see it. We produce these ratings to help fans and media get acquainted with the next generation of NCAA stars, but obviously it’s not a perfect system and we don’t claim to tell the future.
Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Emily Minehart, Rebecca Scally, Talitha Ilacqua, Jenna King
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