The small but mighty Big 12 Conference features four teams that qualified to regionals last season. Oklahoma was less than one tenth of a point from a national title in 2021, but it was Denver who captured the conference crown, snapping the Sooners’ eight-year win streak. With Iowa State rapidly on the rise and West Virginia gaining a strong freshman class, expect everyone to be a contender. These teams are ready to prove the Big 12 is competitive on a national stage.
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. 2 Oklahoma
After a relatively shaky start to the 2021 season and a shocking upset at the Big 12 championship, Oklahoma posted four-straight scores of 198.000 or above to finish as national runner-up. The Sooners lose more routines than any other team on this list, including four from NCAA all around champion Anastasia Webb, but a healthier core and some stellar newcomers will give them high expectations once again.
|Losses:||Jordan Draper, Julianne Fehring (retirement), Erin Hutchison (Pitt), Evy Schoepfer, Quinn Smith (retirement), Anastasia Webb, Brooke Weins|
|Gains:||Jordan Bowers, Caitin Kirkpatrick, Moorea Linker, Danielle Sievers, Madison Snook, Amy Wier|
|Returning From Injury:||Audrey Lynn, Sheridan Ramsey, Meilin Sullivan, Karrie Thomas|
Potential Contributors: Allie Stern (9.919 NQS), Katherine LeVasseur (9.906), Audrey Davis (9.900), Olivia Trautman (9.869), Emma LaPinta (9.788), Jordan Bowers, Danae Fletcher, Moorea Linker, Sheridan Ramsey, Danielle Sievers, Meilin Sullivan
How It Looked Before: Oklahoma displayed five or six 10.0 start values throughout the season, scored into the 49.7s more than once and had two gymnasts tied atop the NQS rankings.
How It Looks Now: Having Olivia Trautman back to full strength will help OU tremendously on the power events, but it’s the three-star freshmen who are poised to make the biggest impact. Former elite Jordan Bowers brings a beautiful Yurchenko one and a half to college, and both Danielle Sievers and Moorea Linker have achieved 10.0s at the club level. With Stern and LeVasseur rounding out the lineup, and Davis capable of upgrading to a one and a half, it’s all but assured Oklahoma will regularly field six 10.0 vaults this season. Aside from difficulty, this lineup should be more dynamic top to bottom than in seasons past.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The freshmen add bigger vaults with OU’s trademark good form and should improve depth on this event as well.
Potential Contributors: Audrey Davis (9.950 NQS), Katherine LeVasseur (9.925), Karrie Thomas (9.913), Ragan Smith (9.888), Olivia Trautman (9.869), Jordan Bowers, Vanessa Deniz, Danae Fletcher, Moorea Linker, Danielle Sievers, Meilin Sullivan
How It Looked Before: Oklahoma gave little away in execution deductions, but sometimes lacked firepower in the back half of the lineup.
How It Looks Now: Bowers has the potential to be an all around force for the Sooners, but her impeccable form and high-flying releases will make bars a standout event. Sophomore Audrey Davis anchored this lineup every time she competed last season, consistently delivering big scores and achieving a top five national ranking. Expect her, Bowers, LeVasseur and Thomas to form the core of this lineup, with the remaining spots more open for experimentation. Trautman and Smith will face significant challenges from the freshmen, as well as from sophomores Meilin Sullivan and Danae Fletcher, so they’ll need to be dependable to retain their places in the lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The Sooners didn’t lose quite as many routines on this event as on others and should have more options than last season.
Potential Contributors: Karrie Thomas (9.938 NQS), Ragan Smith (9.931), Audrey Davis (9.913), Jenna Dunn (9.900), Carly Woodard (9.856), Vanessa Deniz (9.706), Jordan Bowers, Moorea Linker, Danielle Sievers, Madison Snook, Meilin Sullivan, Olivia Trautman
How It Looked Before: OU’s famously rock-solid beam lineup displayed some cracks early in the season, but it pulled it together when it counted to finish among the nation’s best.
How It Looks Now: This will be the most difficult lineup to make, with reliability the only factor separating the great from the truly great. Oklahoma has five returners that score consistently into the 9.9s, as well as Trautman, an unshakeable leadoff. Beam specialist Jenna Dunn and Carly Woodard, the team’s lone returning senior from 2021, will have to prove they can hit when it counts to earn a spot over one of the newcomers. Expect to see some experimentation throughout the season as head coach KJ Kindler builds another top-notch beam squad.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. OU will miss Webb’s high scores most on this event, but with so many possible contributors, there’s a chance it could do just as well or even better depending on who steps up.
Potential Contributors: Ragan Smith (9.913 NQS), Emma LaPinta (9.906), Bell Johnson (9.869), Vanessa Deniz (9.838), Jordan Bowers, Audrey Davis, Danae Fletcher, Moorea Linker, Danielle Sievers, Olivia Trautman, Carly Woodard
How It Looked Before: If Oklahoma had a weak event, it was this one. Inconsistent landings and a lack of E passes became apparent in big competitions.
How It Looks Now: Normally, when a team loses half its lineup on an already questionable event, it’s cause for panic. Not this year. Oklahoma is likely to make big improvements on floor in 2022, thanks again in large part to the freshmen. Linker and Sievers are both national champions at the club level, and Bowers has fantastic tumbling and performance quality that will make an immediate impact. Trautman should be back and has earned a perfect 10.0 for her dynamic routine in the past. LaPinta’s triple twist, Smith’s potential double layout and several offseason upgrades from Stern, Woodard and Davis signal that OU’s tumbling difficulty could rival that of other top programs. Regardless of who appears in the top six, there is a lot to be excited about from the Sooners on this event.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The freshmen will more than replace the routines lost, and improved tumbling difficulty could provide a missing piece the Sooners have been looking for.
Oklahoma isn’t going anywhere. The Sooners will lose one-third of their routines, but they’ll reload with some of the best level 10 recruits in the country. Bowers, Linker and Sievers could contribute on any event at any time, and Trautman is a proven all arounder with strong leadership. Their strong routines on vault and floor will make Oklahoma more well-rounded and will improve depth and difficulty on every event. The 2022 Sooners will have tremendous scoring potential right out of the gate. The only problem is, so do other top teams. Will those who lost fewer routines leave Oklahoma behind?
No. 10 Denver
Denver maintained a top 10 ranking for much of 2021 then hit when it counted to capture its first Big 12 title and advance to the regional final. With the entire senior class returning, some key injury recoveries and two talented freshmen, the Pioneers are poised to improve on last season’s results.
|Losses:||Natalie Morton, Alexis Vasquez (retirement)|
|Gains:||Emma Brown (LIU), Mia Hebinck, Momo Iwai|
|Returning From Injury:||Victoria Fitts, Amoree Lockhart, Mia Sundstrom|
Potential Contributors: Lynnzee Brown (9.925 NQS), Jessica Hutchinson (9.863), Emily Glynn (9.856), Rylie Mundell (9.831), Alexandria Ruiz (9.769), Rosie Casali (9.769), Victoria Fitts, Mia Sundstrom
How It Looked Before: Vault was Denver’s weakest event last season, the only event where it ranked outside the top 10. The Pioneers lacked difficulty in the front half of their lineup and sometimes struggled to control their landings.
How It Looks Now: Lynnzee Brown will be crucial to Denver’s success on every event, but none more so than this one. Her huge Yurchenko one and a half is the highlight of a vault lineup that will likely look quite similar to last year’s. Fifth-year Mia Sundstrom was a solid all around competitor early in her career, but injuries have held her back the past few seasons. If she’s healthy, she could add a boost with her dynamic Yurchenko full.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Denver won’t lose any big vaults, but it’s unlikely to gain any either.
Potential Contributors: Lynnzee Brown (9.969 NQS), Emily Glynn (9.906), Jessica Hutchinson (9.900), Rylie Mundell (9.888), Alexandria Ruiz (9.869), Rosie Casali (9.844), Abbie Thompson (9.813), Mia Hebinck, Momo Iwai, Amoree Lockhart, AK Subject, Mia Sundstrom
How It Looked Before: Denver finished 2021 ranked No. 2 on bars, its highest final ranking on any event ever. Fantastic handstands and stuck dismounts were a trademark.
How It Looks Now: The entire lineup returns once again, but this is the event where we’re most likely to see some new faces. Freshman Mia Hebinck has displayed a dazzling Ricna to Pak salto combination in training, and fellow newcomer Momo Iwai scored a 10.0 at last year’s Texas state championship meet. They’ll join Lockhart and Subject, both strong bar workers who were sidelined in 2021, as challengers for lineup spots. There is a lot of depth here, so it will take something extra for the returning gymnasts to keep their place in the top six.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Bars is where the freshmen shine, and that’s exciting for an already great lineup.
Potential Contributors: Lynnzee Brown (9.919 NQS), Rylie Mundell (9.900), Abbie Thompson (9.900), Isabel Mabanta (9.888), Alexandria Ruiz (9.875), Jessica Hutchinson (9.806), Callie Schlottman (9.781), Emma Brown, Rosie Casali, Mia Hebinck, Momo Iwai, Amoree Lockhart, Mia Sundstrom
How It Looked Before: Consistent and strong, Denver averaged nearly 9.850 on beam last season.
How It Looks Now: The only loss for the Pioneers in 2022 will be Alexis Vasquez’s beam routine, but that’s a big loss. It’s unlikely any new addition to the lineup will be able to match her huge scores. However, this should still be a solid beam team. LIU transfer Emma Brown began her career at Denver, where she scored into the 9.8s in all but one appearance on this event. Depending on the status of a preseason leg injury, she could return to the lineup as a dependable competitor. Both of the freshmen are also strong here, so it’s likely we will see them in exhibitions if not in the top six.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down. It’s a small downturn, but losing a beam superstar is hard to overstate.
Potential Contributors: Lynnzee Brown (9.969 NQS), Jessica Hutchinson (9.906), Emily Glynn (9.900), Abbie Thompson (9.869), Alexandria Ruiz (9.856), Rosie Casali (9.838), Emma Brown, Momo Iwai, Amoree Lockhart, AK Subject, Mia Sundstrom
How It Looked Before: Denver didn’t have the most difficulty but used clean execution to keep pace with the nation’s best.
How It Looks Now: Like vault, this is an event where the lineup could look much the same, with Lynnzee Brown as the star. Yet Denver has more depth here, and Lockhart returning from last season’s Achilles tear will likely shake things up. Sundstrom could make an impact, as she has scored as high as 9.950 in the past. Iwai is a strong combination tumbler, but the most noticeable improvements may come in the form of offseason upgrades from lineup staples like fifth-year Emily Glynn. Expect to see continued success on floor in 2022.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. No losses and more depth will help the Pioneers improve.
Denver has all the pieces for a marquee season in 2022. The returning senior class brings a ton of experience to each lineup, and Denver could likely improve upon last year without adding any newcomers. That’s not the case though, as freshmen Hebinck and Iwai could make multiple lineups along with Lockhart and Emma Brown. This small roster is deeper than perhaps it has ever been, giving the Pioneers an exciting outlook as they push toward qualifying for the national championships once again.
No. 21 Iowa State
The Cyclones had one of their best seasons since the early 2000s last year, highlighted by a 197.050 at the Big 12 championship. In 2022, Iowa State has a dream scenario: It loses zero competitive routines, welcomes back two seniors for fifth years and adds seven freshmen from the level 10 and international elite ranks.
|Losses:||Natalia Ros Vaquer, Loulou Vezina|
|Gains:||Josie Bergstrom, Maddie Crosse, Marina Gonzalez, Hannah Loyim, Emma Ricks, Sydney Saturnino, Rachel Wilke|
Potential Contributors: Addy De Jesus (9.931 NQS), Makayla Maxwell (9.919), Sophia Steinmeyer (9.881), Kelsey Boychuk (9.850), Emilie Hong (9.825), Phoebe Turner (9.806), Josie Bergstrom, Hannah Loyim, Kaia Parker, Emma Ricks, Rachel Wilke
How It Looked Before: Vault was Iowa State’s highest-ranked event last season. Several gymnasts were capable of upgrading, but about half the lineup stuck with Yurchenko fulls.
How It Looks Now: A big question mark regarding several of ISU’s lineups is the status of returning senior Sophia Steinmeyer, who tore her Achilles in April. She competed a solid Yurchenko one and a half and looks to be training for vault again in the preseason. If she’s healthy, she’ll join Maxwell and De Jesus in a back half featuring three strong 10.0 starts. Freshman Hannah Loyim brings a one and a half that could easily break into that mix, and both Boychuk and Hong are capable of upgrading. It’s likely that the Cyclones will feature more difficulty than last season, with the possibility of every gymnast starting from a 10.0.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Both newcomers and returners will ensure Iowa State has a lineup of more powerful vaults, if not more difficult ones.
Potential Contributors: Addy De Jesus (9.906 NQS), Natalie Horowitz (9.875), Jade Vella-Wright (9.863), Makayla Maxwell (9.838), Loganne Basuel (9.831), Madelyn Langkamp (9.831), Maddie Crosse, Maya Ford, Marina Gonzalez, Hannah Loyim, Ariana Orrego, Sydney Saturnino
How It Looked Before: The Cyclones were consistent here but relied on a few competitors for the highest scores.
How It Looks Now: Tokyo Olympian Marina Gonzalez is known for her beautiful execution on bars and floor, so watch for her to break into this lineup. Loyim is another newcomer with great form that could challenge the returners, and junior Maya Ford has displayed a dynamic routine in preseason training. Horowitz’s lines and the strong all around scores De Jesus generates are both strong arguments for their spots, but expect a lot of possibilities here. There will likely be several iterations of this lineup as the coaching staff chooses between scoring potential and proven experience. No one is truly a lock.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The same six gymnasts would be a fine choice, but if any of them are replaced, the event will be even better.
Potential Contributors: Addy De Jesus (9.888 NQS), Meixi Semple (9.875), Phoebe Turner (9.850), Sophia Steinmeyer (9.838), Kelsey Boychuk (9.794), Natalie Horowitz (9.594), Ariana Orrego (9.556), Josie Bergstrom, Hannah Loyim, Ana Palacios, Kaia Parker, Sydney Saturnino
How It Looked Before: Iowa State struggled with consistency on beam in 2021, causing it to miss out on a couple more big team scores.
How It Looks Now: This event has no clear star, although De Jesus and Semple were among the most consistent last season. Senior Ariana Orrego, another Tokyo Olympian, and sophomore Kaia Parker may be in the running for more appearances after competing a handful of times, and senior Ana Palacios was a strong beam worker a few seasons ago. Loyim moves confidently and could break in here as well, and Italian newcomer Sydney Saturnino has a triple series that could be a huge asset for Iowa State. Like bars, look for a lot of experimentation throughout the season.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. There will be more depth on beam this year, although big scores may still be hard to come by.
Potential Contributors: Addy De Jesus (9.919 NQS), Maddie Diab (9.913), Andrea Maldonado (9.844), Sophia Steinmeyer (9.831), Madelyn Langkamp (9.775), Kelsey Boychuk (9.763), Phoebe Turner (9.738), Josie Bergstrom, Marina Gonzalez, Hannah Loyim, Makayla Maxwell, Ariana Orrego, Kaia Parker, Emma Ricks, Sydney Saturnino, Rachel Wilke
How It Looked Before: Some landing trouble in the season’s midpoint caused floor to be the Cyclones’ lowest-ranked event last year. There was difficult tumbling and strong execution, but it was rare for everyone to hit all at once.
How It Looks Now: De Jesus, Diab and Maldonado are all fantastic tumblers who should form the core of this lineup. Freshman Rachel Wilke brings multiple options for E-level passes, adding some high-flying double flips to a team that gets most of its difficulty from front double fulls. Orrego’s floor routine in Tokyo proved she has what it takes to compete in the NCAA, and Gonzalez has showcased dramatic choreography ISU would love to utilize. An exciting contender may be Makayla Maxwell, whose power has mostly been limited to vault during a long recovery from a torn Achilles. Her tumbling in preseason training is sky high, and if she can find the landings, her scoring potential is stratospheric.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Get ready to see some bigger tumbling and higher scores, especially earlier in the lineup.
Watch out for Iowa State. Usually under the radar, this team looks ready to break through. It’s a simply gigantic roster, with 10 seniors who provide strong scores and vital leadership. Every single routine from last year is coming back, but every single one of them will be tested by the seven freshmen fighting for lineup spots. There is so much depth here that it may take a while to find the right six on each event. We could see completely different combinations every week, but with such tough competition in the Big 12 and beyond, that could be a risky venture. Will the Cyclones be able to figure out their lineups and put up the big score they’re capable of when it counts?
No. 28 West Virginia
Steady improvements throughout the season led to West Virginia qualifying for a regional play-in and advancing to the top 32. This year the Mountaineers will look to push further into the postseason with a strong group of returners and newcomers.
|Losses:||McKenna Linnen, Michelle Waldron, Kayla Yancey (retirement)|
|Gains:||Brooke Alban, Brynn Freehling, Heidi Hartje, Anna Leigh, Laura Soltis|
Potential Contributors: Kiana Lewis (9.838 NQS), Abbie Pierson (9.825), Kianna Yancey (9.788), Rachel Hornung (9.713), Emily Holmes-Hackerd (9.606), Brooke Alban, Ellen Collins, Kendra Combs, Gillian Fletcher, Heidi Hartje, Anna Leigh, Laura Soltis
How It Looked Before: Vault was the Mountaineers’ weakest event, as they lacked the difficulty to keep up with other top teams.
How It Looks Now: This lineup will lose some big Yurchenko fulls from last season, but the freshmen bring powerful vaults that should do well to replace them. Alban, Hartje and Leigh have all trained a one and a half onto mats, and their stock would go way up if they can get them to competition level. Junior Abbie Pierson will look to gain more consistency on the one and a half she competed early last season, challenging sophomore Kiana Lewis and her beautiful Yurchenko full for the anchor position. Preseason training footage has shown us a handspring pike from senior Kendra Combs, signaling she may be in the running for the vault lineup as well.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. If one or two gymnasts can bring a 10.0 start, there could be significant improvement. Right now though, some of the most dependable scorers have graduated.
Potential Contributors: Esperanza Abarca (9.825 NQS), Kendra Combs (9.819), Kianna Yancey (9.775), Rachel Hornung (9.769), Nicole Norris (9.681), Emily Holmes-Hackerd (9.544), Brooke Alban, Anna Leigh, Abbie Pierson, Laura Soltis
How It Looked Before: One of WVU’s most improved events over the course of last season, bars was lacking the big anchor score of other rotations.
How It Looks Now: The Mountaineers don’t have much to replace here, but bars isn’t a highlight event for any of the freshmen. Anna Leigh looks poised to be an all around contender and could deliver a solid routine. Alban has looked strong in training, and Pierson displayed a Yezhova she hopes to bring back from her club days. Abarca and Combs should be sure bets, but they’ll need to deliver big scores if West Virginia hopes to improve its bars ranking.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. It will be all about working on the details to improve because any additions to the lineup are pretty similar to what’s already there.
Potential Contributors: Chloe Asper (9.838 NQS), Rachel Hornung (9.825), Abbie Pierson (9.819), Emily Holmes-Hackerd (9.800), Esperanza Abarca (9.675), Brooke Alban, Anna Leigh, Kendra Combs, Kiana Lewis, Nicole Norris, Laura Soltis, Kianna Yancey
How It Looked Before: The Mountaineers couldn’t quite find their rhythm on beam, showing good performances one week and then counting a fall or two the next.
How It Looks Now: Any of the newcomers that are confident and consistent on this event will be an easy bet to make the lineup. Freshman Laura Soltis has a strong routine that she scored a 9.75 on during her club career, and both Combs and Lewis contributed on several occasions last season. Junior Kianna Yancey has been an all arounder in the past and could break through on this event again in 2022. For the most part, West Virginia is just trying to hit, so we could see a lot of different lineups before things fall into place.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Beam was so inconsistent that it could improve with a few stable 9.8s, but it’s unclear if those largely mental improvements will come from the freshmen or the veterans.
Potential Contributors: Kendra Combs (9.888 NQS), Abbie Pierson (9.875), Kiana Lewis (9.875), Emily Holmes-Hackerd (9.856), Kianna Yancey (9.844), Rachel Hornung (9.788), Brooke Alban, Brynn Freehling, Anna Leigh, Laura Soltis
How It Looked Before: Floor was an absolute highlight for West Virginia in 2021, with consistent scores of 49-plus and a big 49.450 at regionals.
How It Looks Now: Leigh competed a front two and a half at the club level, and her strong twisting skills will bring more fire to this already great lineup. Pierson and Combs have both tumbling difficulty and consistent landings, and Lewis will likely provide more strong scores in her second season. With few reasons to take Holmes-Hackerd, Yancey or Hornung out of the lineup, it could be tough for some of the freshmen to crack the top six. This will be a very difficult lineup to make.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. With only one lost routine and some great tumblers coming in, the Mountaineers could be even better on floor in 2022.
WVU has the potential for another strong season, with five freshmen replacing only three departing gymnasts. Leigh will bring exciting power to several lineups, and the future for Lewis looks bright. The Mountaineers have it all on floor, but if they want to rise in the rankings, they’ll need to find consistency on bars and beam, and improve their difficulty on vault. With no returning seniors, this is a young team. Will the underclassmen be able to push West Virginia to new heights?
Article by Ryan Wichtendahl
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