The top half of the Big Ten had a pretty nice year; the first gymnastics national championship title in the conference on top of historic seasons and five teams in the top 20 is not too shabby. All five of these teams have strong rosters returning for 2022, with very few contributing routines lost across the board and some extraordinary freshmen joining their ranks.
Keep an eye on the newcomers on these teams. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year battle will be fierce. Jacey Vore, Tory Vetter, Abigael Vides, Haley Tyson and Makayla Green are all names to remember.
We’re getting back into the groove of things and returning to the status quo for the 2022 season (as much as we can at least!). That means it’s time for our annual potential lineups analysis! With preseason training in full swing for most teams, we’re breaking it all down and taking a look at every squad’s prospects for the upcoming season—from who’s expected to contribute, holes that need to be filled and exciting upgrades fans should look out for.
No. 1 Michigan
Reigning national champions has a nice ring to it. Add to it that the Wolverines are only parting with one contributing routine from Fort Worth and things are looking good for Michigan again in 2022.
|Losses:||Anna Dayton, Lauren Farley, Abbie Gaies (left team), Maddie Mariani (retired), Anne Maxim|
|Gains:||Ashley Lane, Abigael Vides, Jacey Vore|
|Returning From Injury:||None|
Potential Contributors: Sierra Brooks (9.950), Abby Heiskell (9.944), Naomi Morrison (9.925), Natalie Wojcik (9.925), Gabby Wilson (9.913), Reyna Guggino, Abby Brenner, Jacey Vore, Abigael Vides, Ashley Lane
How It Looked Before: Michigan surprised us when it debuted a six 10.0 start lineup late during the 2021 regular season. With strong Yurchenko one and a halfs from the whole crew, vault became a huge advantage for the Wolverines in their championship win.
How It Looks Now: Jacey Vore is coming back from an Achilles injury, but her 2020 Nastia Liukin Cup Yurchenko one and a half was a near stick. Abigael Vides has great amplitude on her own Yurchenko one and a half, and Ashley Lane has trained one. Michigan has proven that it can develop vaults with great success, so we can’t count Lane out of the 10.0 vault parade.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The Wolverines could go from great to unbelievable on vault. It’ll depend on how the newcomers develop and how Vides’ ankle holds up. At the very least, we can still expect a full lineup of one and a halfs from this squad.
Potential Contributors: Natalie Wojcik (9.944), Sierra Brooks (9.913), Abby Heiskell (9.900), Gabby Wilson (9.888), Nicoletta Koulos (9.888), Abby Brenner, Carly Bauman, Naomi Morrison, Jacey Vore, Abigael Vides
How It Looked Before: Bars was another high for the 2021 Wolverines. With a lineup of single bar releases and E dismount after E dismount, Michigan successfully rode the line between difficulty and exceptional execution. Bev Plocki played with the lineup quite a bit before settling on her top six.
How It Looks Now: There’s a lot of potential for growth on bars. Carly Bauman, who suffered a few minor injuries last preseason that hampered her first year, has looked strong in training and is sure to compete for a lineup spot. Naomi Morrison joined the lineup at times in 2021 and will also pressure the returning postseason six for spots. Abby Brenner returned from injury in the national finals for a 9.925. Vore competed a college-ready set in 2020, and Vides—who competed a true Shaposhnikova (from a clear hip entry) in 2021—will also certainly factor in. Both freshmen need a little execution refinement to live up to Michigan’s standards.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Incredibly, the Wolverines are on their way up. Even more depth here gives Plocki immense space to find her ideal 2022 lineup, and Michigan has proven it can develop usable upgrades on this event. Natalie Wojcik is training a full-twisting double layout upgrade.
Potential Contributors: Natalie Wojcik (9.956), Sierra Brooks (9.913), Carly Bauman (9.894), Abby Heiskell (9.881), Gabby Wilson (9.881), Nicoletta Koulos, Reyna Guggino, Jacey Vore, Ashley Lane
How It Looked Before: Beam had some highs and lows in 2021, from Wojcik’s perfect 10.0 to a few sub-49 team totals. By nationals, the lineup had settled and it was the national final event on which the Wolverines sealed the deal.
How It Looks Now: Lauren Farley’s reliable beam set is the only postseason routine Michigan is losing. While she was never the highest scorer, she was very reliable; the Wolverines will be looking for a replacement for her leadership on the event. Beam hasn’t been a strength for the freshmen; Vides and Lane have consistency issues. Vore’s clean set with her piked front toss and nice lines is most likely to see time, although her split positions need some work.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s too early to make a call on this lineup. There are returners who could step into Farley’s spot, and the freshmen show potential, but the future of beam is not clear cut for the Wolverines.
Potential Contributors: Gabby Wilson (9.938), Natalie Wojcik (9.900), Sierra Brooks (9.894), Nicoletta Koulos (9.844), Naomi Morrison (9.775), Abby Brenner, Reyna Guggino, Carly Bauman, Abigael Vides, Jacey Vore
How It Looked Before: Floor was Michigan’s weakest piece throughout 2021, especially after Brenner’s mid-meet injury in late February and some uncharacteristic mistakes from the rest of the lineup. After losing Brenner, Plocki had the depth to find a replacement, and we eventually saw competition routines from most of the roster.
How It Looks Now: Assuming Brenner is healthy, she should compete for her old lineup spot. Pending her injury status, Vore is a shoe-in with an incredibly clean double pike-led set—although again, her split positions are a weakness. Vides performs a stickable full-in, and her precise work could challenge for a late-lineup spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Things are looking up on Michigan’s problem event. With more depth than ever and Brenner’s return, floor should be less of a nail-biter in 2022.
Overall, Michigan is on its way up, if that can be said about the reigning champions. Vault, bars and floor are poised for growth while beam is the big question; can Plocki find a replacement for Farley’s reliable work?
No. 8 Minnesota
Minnesota capped a terrific season with a fine but not great showing at nationals. The Gophers will be hungry for a finals berth this year, with three of their critical seniors returning with their COVID eligibility for one last season. However, as in 2021, shallow depth may haunt this squad.
|Losses:||Mary Korlin-Downs, Lexi Montgomery|
|Gains:||Alissa Fuelling, Marissa Jencks, Lauren Pearl, Olivia Reed, Haley Tyson|
|Returning From Injury:||Erin Fortman, Ella Sirjord|
Potential Contributors: Ona Loper (9.956), Lexy Ramler (9.950), Maddie Quarles (9.925), Mya Hooten (9.881), Halle Remlinger (9.775), Gianna Gerdes (9.769), Kate Grotenhuis (9.731), Lauren Pearl, Haley Tyson
How It Looked Before: Vault was a good event for the Gophers, with excellent Yurchenko one and a halfs in the back half of the lineup from Loper, Ramler and Quarles. Ramler and Loper both notched perfect 10.0s on the event.
How It Looks Now: Haley Tyson scored as high as 9.950 in her 2021 level 10 season for her Yurchenko one and a half; she’s certain to join this lineup. Lauren Pearl has a clean full with good amplitude that will pressure for a spot. Halle Remlinger was in and out of 2021 lineups but could factor in as well.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The Gophers will be even better on vault in 2021. With Tyson’s strong 10.0 start added to the mix, Minnesota will edge closer to the coveted six 10.0s lineup.
Potential Contributors: Lexy Ramler (9.963), Ona Loper (9.919), Tiarre Sales (9.900), Hannah Willmarth (9.894), Mya Hooten (9.850), Ella Sirjord, Olivia Reed, Haley Tyson
How It Looked Before: Minnesota had some tough weeks on bars in 2021, with a handful of off-kilter performances from Lexi Montgomery and Tiarre Sales. Overall, it was a successful event, but a lack of depth showed in the tougher weeks.
How It Looks Now: Ella Sirjord missed 2021 with injury but should factor into this lineup if she’s healthy. Tyson is also excellent here, with multiple level 10 9.900s under her belt for a set that includes a Ray and a very tidy full-twisting double layout. She’ll need to finesse her form to match that number in college, but the potential is there. Olivia Reed brings a beautiful toe point to her piked Jaeger set and should see competition time.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Bars will be more comfortable for the Gophers in 2022. With Sirjord, Tyson and Reed all adding depth, Jenny Hansen will have more puzzle pieces to find her top six routines. That said, depth will still be a little tight with Montgomery no longer there to step into the lineup when needed. A few returners will need to step up for bars to take a big stride forward.
Potential Contributors: Lexy Ramler (9.975), Tiarre Sales (9.913), Ona Loper (9.863), Abbie Nylin (9.838), Ali Sonier (9.656), Emily Koch, Tiarre Sales, Lauren Pearl, Olivia Reed, Haley Tyson
How It Looked Before: Beam was Minnesota’s signature event in 2021, with a perfect 10.0 from Ramler and a host of 9.975s. The Gophers produced a huge 49.600 at Illinois in March on the heels of Ramler’s 10.0 and a stellar debut on the event from Emily Koch.
How It Looks Now: Mary Korlin-Downs is a loss here in both scores and leadership. Her presence will be missed. Beam is Tyson’s weakness, though it is by no means bad. It seems likely that we’ll see her triple series at some point during her freshman campaign, especially if she learns to control her little checks and bobbles. Reed’s excellent form shines here as well, and she has college-ready presence. Pearl is a Brestyan’s gymnast, and it shows in her confident work. She will need to clean some of her work before seeing lineup time, but she is certainly an option. Don’t miss her stickable double pike dismount.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s too soon to tell how beam will look for the Gophers. Korlin-Downs is too huge a loss to assume Minnesota can pick up right where it left off. That said, the freshmen show potential; it seems likely that we’ll see a dip here at the beginning of the season, and the event will pick up as time goes on and the lineup grows in confidence.
Potential Contributors: Mya Hooten (9.956), Ona Loper (9.944), Lexy Ramler (9.925), Mallory Leneave (9.838), Emily Koch (9.819), Lauren Pearl, Haley Tyson
How It Looked Before: Floor was Minnesota’s weakest piece by the numbers. Injuries to Erin Fortman and Tiarre Sales, plus some struggles from Hannah Willmarth and Remlinger’s disappearance from the lineup, made it a chaotic event. The lineup was perpetually one person short of a strong six. That said, Mya Hooten was a breakout star, scoring a perfect 10.0 on the event.
How It Looks Now: Pearl should step in and help solve Minnesota’s final lineup spot quandary. Her clean double pike and excellent leaps will make an immediate difference, but only if she can find consistency. Tyson may need to eliminate her sometimes problematic double layout, but she should work her way toward a lineup spot as well. Assuming she’s healthy, Fortman could challenge for her old spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Pearl will add the pieces, but she hasn’t been consistent. Tyson needs to clean up her set to be reliable, and we don’t yet know what Fortman’s status is. One of the three of them needs to become a reliable sixth routine for floor to be a comfortable event this year.
Minnesota is trending up but has holes on floor and beam. Korlin-Downs was a superstar, and Montgomery was a reliable plug into the bars and beam lineups. It’s not that Minnesota doesn’t have enough usable routines to be a national finals contender; it doesn’t yet seem to have enough elite routines. The back half of each lineup is incredible, but it’s the strength of the No. 2 and 3 routines that takes a team from good to great. Who will emerge and put up the numbers the Gophers need to take that next step?
No. 16 Ohio State
The Buckeyes had a Cinderella end to the season in 2021, with their highest finish since 2012 after stunning BYU at the Morgantown regional and qualifying to the regional final. With one very big name walking in the door in Tory Vetter and some important gymnasts returning from injury, Ohio State has the pieces to put together an excellent 2022, but only if it can find consistency.
|Losses:||Danica Abanto (left team), Brooke Chesney, Morgan Lowe, Kali Schierl, Jenna Swartzentruber|
|Gains:||Stephanie Berger, Kaitlyn Grimes, Jenna Hlavach, Madeline Pike, Tory Vetter|
|Returning From Injury:||Kaitlyn Gilson, Hannah Oliveros|
Potential Contributors: Elexis Edwards (9.850), Nicole Riccardi (9.819), Sydney Jennings (9.813), Colby Miller (9.781), Claire Gagliardi (9.750), Stephanie Berger, Jenna Hlavach, Tory Vetter
How It Looked Before: Vault was a good event for the Buckeyes and their most consistent. With big numbers from Elexis Edwards and consistency from the middle of the lineup, it was a steady yet not extraordinary event.
How It Looks Now: Losing Morgan Lowe and Jenna Swartzentruber’s reliable fulls here could be problematic, but the freshmen are a solid vaulting class overall. Vetter and Stephanie Berger both have great amplitude on their Yurchenko fulls. Jenna Hlavach is the vault star of the class with a unique and clean Yurchenko full-on back layout (a 10.0 start value).
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell; Vetter and Berger could step into Lowe and Swartzentruber’s roles, and Hlavach certainly has the potential to be a standout, but it’s always risky to have three newcomers in a lineup. It seems likely that by midseason the vault six will be a strong group.
Potential Contributors: Colby Miller (9.863), Zoe Schweitzer (9.838), Alexis Hankins (9.831), Emma Pritchard (9.819), Elexis Edwards (9.775), Emma Pritchard, Raina Malas, Stephanie Berger, Kaitlyn Grimes, Tory Vetter, Jenna Hlavach
How It Looked Before: Bars was a chaotic event for Ohio State, boasting some of its strongest and weakest performances on any of the pieces. Swartzentruber was the standout.
How It Looks Now: Swartzentruber on bars is the biggest single loss the Buckeyes will face in 2022. Vetter is strong here with a powerful swing and high Tkatchev. We don’t have recent video of Berger, but her 2020 scores imply that her long lines and clean work have translated into a strong bar worker. Grimes has a lovely open hip swing and big Tkatchev, but her form needs some cleaning before she’ll see big scores in college. Hlavach similarly has great potential but needs to tidy up her set.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s too soon to say whether one of the freshmen will slot into Swartzentruber’s role, with reliable big numbers week to week. That said, the freshmen all bring good fundamentals and potential, and we’ve seen the Ohio State staff develop solid bar workers (consider Edwards).
Potential Contributors: Ella Hodges (9.888), Alexis Hankins (9.856), Emma Pritchard (9.844), Colby Miller (9.838), Zoe Schweitzer (9.763), Hannah Oliveros, Stephanie Berger, Tory Vetter, Madeline Pike, Kaitlyn Grimes
How It Looked Before: Beam used to haunt the Buckeyes, but not so in 2021. The squad had a few off weeks, but overall the event was much more reliable than in recent memory. Emma Pritchard emerged as a star, and Ella Hodges was a standout. Hannah Oliveros showed excellent potential before an Achilles injury ended her season in January. It is worth noting that despite the excellent NQS numbers above, no member of the team had a beam average above Pritchard’s 9.750; while consistency was greatly improved, there is still room to grow.
How It Looks Now: Oliveros’ return, assuming she’s in competition health by January, will be an immediate boon. Vetter brings the poise you’d expect of a two-time Nastia Liukin Cup competitor and should make an immediate appearance in the lineup with her clean, precise work. Berger, Grimes and Pike all have the pieces of collegiate beamers but lack consistency.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The Buckeyes will continue to climb on beam. Oliveros and Vetter should join Hodges and Pritchard to form the core of the lineup, and the remaining returners and freshmen provide excellent pieces to fill out the top six. The consistency of whoever lands in the final two spots will say a lot about the overall potential of this team, but the increased depth here will make Meredith Paulicivic’s job easier.
Potential Contributors: Claire Gagliardi (9.888), Alexis Hankins (9.856), Ella Hodges (9.838), Elexis Edwards (9.800), Emma Pritchard (9.794), JoJo Warga (9.525), Savannah Gonzalez, Raina Malas, Jenna Hlavach, Tory Vetter, Kaitlyn Grimes
How It Looked Before: Floor was, surprisingly, Ohio State’s weakness in 2021. Its excellent choreography and performance quality couldn’t make up for inconsistency and mistakes from a good portion of the lineup. Alexis Hankins and Edwards could be stellar but also had some big errors, and Hodges never quite found her footing and was pulled from the lineup in March.
How It Looks Now: Vetter has been incredibly consistent on floor in level 10, scoring between a 9.600 and 9.675 at all eight of her 2021 meets. She’s an engaging dancer and will do well with Paulicivic’s choreography. Look for her to lock down a late lineup spot. Grimes has a bit of a funky movement quality Paulicivic will also be able to play with; her jumps can be a bit chaotic, but with some tidying she should be ready to join this lineup. Hlavach boasts a pike full-in and yet more strong performance quality.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Floor should see improvement in 2022. The Buckeyes only lose Brooke Chesney here, and Vetter will more than fill that hole. With Hlavach as a likely option and Grimes bringing depth, Ohio State should be more consistent; that does, however, require the returning routines to pull their weight in 2022 as well.
Overall, it is too soon to say whether Ohio State can best its No. 16 ranking. That’s a tall order. The team certainly has the raw talent, and Vetter stepping into the mix is a huge boost, but consistency remains the question of the day, especially on floor.
No. 17 Iowa
Iowa captured gymternet hearts last year in its best season since 2004. The Hawkeyes missed the regional final in a fluke and will have redemption on their minds in 2022. Emma Hartzler’s bar set is the only routine Iowa loses from regionals, and transfers with huge potential highlight the newcomers.
|Losses:||Dani Castillo (left team), Erin Castle, Giovanna Deo (left team), Emma Hartzler, Sophia Hunzleman (left team)|
|Gains:||Alex Bradford, Alexa Ebeling, Kamryn Martinez, Marissa Rojas, Linda Zivat (transfer from Michigan State), Allison Zuhlke (transfer from Towson)|
|Returning From Injury:||Kareena McSweeny|
Potential Contributors: Jerquavia Henderson (9.906), Lauren Guerin (9.863), Bridget Killian (9.856), Adelin Kenlin (9.844), Alex Greenwald (9.813), Carina Tolan (9.781), Mackenzie Vance (9.731), Alexandra Greenwald, Kendal Laplant, Linda Zivat, Kamryn Martinez, Marissa Rojas, Allison Zuhlke
How It Looked Before: Vault was a strength for the Hawkeyes, despite not having any 10.0 starts. Henderson and Guerin were a powerful one-two punch at the end of the lineup, and the top six settled in early. It was a group of big, tidy fulls across the board.
How It Looks Now: Linda Zivat never got a chance to compete in her two years at Michigan State, but her Tsuk full is a thing of beauty. If she’s finally healthy, as offseason training videos suggest, she should be the instant vault anchor. Kamryn Martinez and Marissa Rojas both have Yurchenko fulls that are foundationally solid but need some execution work before they’ll be lineup options. Towson transfer Allison Zuhlke has her own named skill here, a front handspring onto the board Tsuk tuck half.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. The vault lineup isn’t losing any routines, and it’s gaining Zivat’s dynamic vault and increased depth. Of course, that all depends on Zivat being healthy.
Potential Contributors: Clair Kaji (9.888), Adeline Kenlin (9.881), Allyson Steffensmeier (9.856), Alex Greenwald (9.813), Jerquavia Henderson (9.800), Ellie Rogers (9.800), Marissa Rojas, Allison Zuhlke
How It Looked Before: Bars was a decent event for the Hawkeyes but did show a midseason slump in late February and early March. Iowa got back on track for the postseason, led by Clair Kaji and Hartzler.
How It Looks Now: Hartzler’s loss is significant, but bars is the event where Zuhlke could make the most impact. She had some consistency problems in 2021, but the freshman notched a 9.900 high and boasted a 9.881 NQS, topping Hartzler’s 9.850. Rojas has clean work and good extension—not to mention consistency throughout 2021—that should allow her to pressure for a lineup spot. Kareena McSweeny, who missed her freshman season with injury, could also contribute, depending on her health.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s too early to tell how the Hawkeyes will fare on bars. Zuhlke should slot into Hartzler’s spot, with Rojas adding depth, but the rest of the class isn’t particularly strong on bars, so any great improvement will need to come from the returning routines. Will McSweeny be back to full health and ready to step in?
Potential Contributors: Adeline Kenlin (9.944), Clair Kaji (9.919), Bridget Killian (9.844), Jerquavia Henderson (9.838), Mackenzie Vance (9.825), Aubrey Nick (9.813), Allison Zuhlke, Alex Bradford, Marissa Rojas
How It Looked Before: Beam was Iowa’s weakness despite those stellar NQS numbers. The lineup had some major ups and downs beginning in late February, with mistakes from lineup stalwarts. Still, there were high points, like Adeline Kenlin’s 9.975 and Bridget Killian’s 100-percent hit rate. Beam is sure to be on the minds of the Hawkeyes after Kenlin’s random mistake tripping into the apparatus before mounting kept Iowa from the regional final.
How It Looks Now: Zuhlke should factor in here; she notched a 9.825 NQS at Towson and only had one miss all season. Rojas needs to finesse some details, but her triple series and punch front make her a strong contender. Bradford also has some consistency and execution issues, but her excellent presence and toes should also make her a challenger for a spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell; Iowa isn’t losing anything here, but it also isn’t gaining a lot beyond depth. Consistency should be a focus for the returning lineup.
Potential Contributors: Lauren Guerin (9.950), Jerquavia Henderson (9.944), Clair Kaji (9.925), Alex Greenwald (9.894), Bridget Killian (9.850), Adeline Kenlin, Alex Bradford, Linda Zivat, Marissa Rojas
How It Looked Before: Floor is Iowa’s shining moment. Between Larissa Libby’s choreography and really excellent tumbling, the Hawkeyes looked unstoppable on floor where they never dipped below a 49.150 team total and scored as high as 49.600. The lineup took some time to settle in as Libby looked for her sixth routine, but Kenlin eventually claimed that spot. JerQuavia Henderson scored a 9.975 in February, and Lauren Guerin notched several 9.950s.
How It Looks Now: Erin Castle was in and out of this lineup, and her “Tequila” number will be missed, but the postseason six is back in full thanks to Kaji’s COVID year. Add Zivat’s huge tumbling—she’s capable of both a double layout and a front double full—to the mix, and this lineup will be very competitive. Bradford has good performance quality that will do well with Libby’s choreography, and Rojas has a double layout of her own.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Iowa might just get even better on floor. Zivat, Bradford and Rojas all bring solid options that will make the lineup very competitive and allow Libby to find the best scoring combination possible.
Iowa is looking up, largely on the heels of its transfers. Whether or not Zivat is healthy will play a large role in the improvement of the team. Will this finally be her year?
No. 20 Illinois
Illinois had a strange year, with some very high points, but it was still just not able to break out of the 20s. Arayah Simons’ untimely Achilles tear was a factor, but so was underperformance on bars and beam in the postseason. The perpetual haunt for the Illini remains: vault is still a pace behind the other three pieces.
|Losses:||Nicole Biondi, Kasey Meeks, Kylie Noonan, Tessa Phillips, Jaylen Spence|
|Gains:||Olivia Bowsman, Kadyn Fitzgibbon, Makayla Green, Katharine Klugman, Ruthuja Nataraj, Mia Scott, Kiera Wai|
|Returning From Injury:||Arayah Simons|
Potential Contributors: Mia Townes (9.881), Lexi Powe (9.825), Arayah Simons (9.819), Mia Takekawa (9.813), Abby Mueller (9.781), Olivia O’Donnell (9.756), Julia Waight (9.744), Makayla Green, Kiera Wai, Ruthuja Nataraj
How It Looked Before: Mia Townes shocked the gymternet, pulling out Illinois’ first 10.0 start value since the full was devalued. Vault was a struggle through most of the season with some low amplitude Yurchenko halfs holding the team score down, but it did settle into the low 49s by the postseason. Simons’ February injury cost the lineup a regular 9.800-plus.
How It Looks Now: Makayla Green and Ruthuja Nataraj both have excellent amplitude on their Yurchenko fulls and should boost the lineup. Canadian Kiera Wai is also an option.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Illinois should finally start to see some bigger vault numbers with the amplitude this class brings added to Townes’ new one and a half and Simons’ return.
Potential Contributors: Kaitlyn Ewald (9.881), Mallory Mizuki (9.863), Olivia O’Donnell (9.856), Rachel Borden (9.831), Mia Takekawa (9.819), Arayah Simons (9.669), Mia Townes, Katharine Klugman, Mia Scott, Makayla Green, Ruthuja Nataraj, Kiera Wai
How It Looked Before: Kaitlyn Ewald was a breakout bar star for the Illini in 2021. She was joined by a surprise debut from Mallory Mizuki, who overcame double ACL surgeries. Bars was a strong event overall with just one poor week on the year.
How It Looks Now: Green comes to Champaign fresh off of a stellar showing at level 10 nationals. She tied for second on bars in the Senior E division with a 9.800 for her tidy work. Her routine will require a little finesse for college, but the pieces are all there. Katharine Klugman shows potential, though she may need to eliminate the Gienger that she sometimes catches a bit close. Nataraj has a great swing and amplitude, but her form is messy. The same is true of Brit Mia Scott, though she may thrive with a shorter college set. Wai brings a packed elite set, with a Chow and Ray. She has endurance issues, but a college routine might solve that problem, assuming she can find a dismount she consistently hits. Townes could be a gamechanger; she has been training bars and made it clear that she’s hoping to debut in the all around.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Down, at least at the beginning of the season. Losing Nicole Biondi’s reliable 9.800 to 9.900 is a blow. The freshmen are bringing a lot of potential, and many of them show signs of becoming great collegiate bar workers, but no one is prepared to hit the ground running. Townes could be the difference-maker.
Potential Contributors: Mia Takekawa (9.919), Shaylah Scott (9.875), Mia Townes (9.844), Rachel Borden (9.831), Abby Mueller, Amelia Knight, Kiera Wai, Katharine Klugman, Mia Scott
How It Looked Before: Beam was Illinois’ strength in 2021, topping out at a 49.525 in March. Unfortunately two of the team’s three weakest outings were during postseason. The only other sub-49 was in week one. Townes was a breakout star here.
How It Looks Now: Klugman is a beam standout. Her clean work is headlined by excellent form and strong leaps. Wai brings a strong presence and good performance quality but can lose her form in acro skills. Nataraj, on the other hand, has excellent execution but is somewhat lacking in consistency. M. Scott can get a little off kilter but should benefit from a shorter college routine.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s too soon to tell how the newcomers will fare. Biondi and Kylie Noonan are big losses, and while Klugman should take one of those spots, the other will depend on who comes out with a clean, consistent set.
Potential Contributors: Shaylah Scott (9.913), Mia Townes (9.894), Abby Mueller (9.838), Kaitlyn Ewald (9.794), Amelia Knight (9.788), Arayah Simons, Makayla Green, Kiera Wai, Ruthuja Nataraj, Mia Scott
How It Looked Before: Simons debuted on floor for a huge 9.950 in week five, only to tear her Achilles on the event in week six. The Illini had struggled to find its sixth routine, and Simons appeared to be the answer until her injury. Still, it was a consistently good event for Illinois with no number below a 49.025. Biondi and Noonan were important pieces of the top six.
How It Looks Now: Biondi and Noonan leave a big hole. Green is especially strong on floor with a big full-in and good performance quality, not to mention a stellar toe point throughout her acro and dance work. Nataraj moves in a way that will lend itself well to Natalie Walsh’s style of choreography, and she has a big full-in of her own. Wai is the dancer of the group, and M. Scott boasts a triple full. Her landings can be sloppy, but the college lunge rule should help.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Floor should be even better in 2022. With E passes and quality performers walking in the door, plus Simons returning, Illinois should be able to more than replace its lost sets.
Illinois is on its way up, largely on the heels of the freshmen vaulters. Better amplitude there could make all the difference. Biondi and Noonan are huge losses, but the routines exist to fill their spots. The big question is, who will step up to lead the team? All signs point to Townes, but those are big shoes to fill.
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Article by Emily Minehart and Carolyn Lien
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