Josie Angeny Kentucky Georgia

CGN Roundtable: 2023 COVID Year Seniors

By this point we’ve heard from the majority of 2022 seniors about whether they intend to come back for their “COVID year” or not. So we thought it would be a great time to discuss that very topic in this week’s roundtable.

Agree or disagree with our thoughts? Let us know in the comments or on social media.

Which senior taking a COVID year are you most excited to see in 2023?

Tavia: Trinity Thomas and Lynnzee Brown. They’re honestly two of my favorite collegiate gymnasts of all time, so getting to see them both compete for an extra year is a bonus. 

Emily M: I’m fascinated by the transfer COVID years! Rachel Baumann, Josie Angeny, Sandra Elsadek and Abby Brenner are going to be so interesting to watch at Florida, Georgia and Utah. 

Elizabeth: Like Emily, I’m excited about all the COVID-year transfers we’ve seen due to schools not having “unlimited” scholarships anymore and only having 12 to play with “true” returners as well as those interested in coming back for fifth years. Of the transfers for the 2023 season, I think I’m most intrigued by Abby Brenner (Michigan to Utah) and Cammy Hall (Utah to LSU).

Savanna: Brown of Denver was mentioned above, but Kendra Combs of West Virginia is one I’m so excited to see take a fifth year! Her leadership alone makes her an exciting addition for the Mountaineers, and her floor scores certainly add to the excitement!

Tara: We didn’t see a lot of Karley McClain last season, so I’m excited to see her back in a more normal capacity next year and have the senior season she deserves (did I mention she’ll be competing alongside her sister Kennedi?). I also want to add another transfer that hasn’t been mentioned yet to the mix: Norah Flatley at Arkansas.

Alyssa: I am excited to see so many of them, but one not yet mentioned is Deja Chambliss! Chambliss ended last season on a high note with increasing scores and an EAGL team title for George Washington, so I would love to see her carry that momentum into her super senior year.

Mariah: I’m mostly excited to see all of the athletes that chose to transfer for their COVID years. I’m curious to see how they will fit into their new team picture, especially Josie Angeny and Sandra Elsadek coming into a depleted Georgia team. Both are capable of competing all-around, and Georgia may very well need them to.

How about an underrated performer that you want to see break out and dominate during their fifth year?

Tavia: Arianna Patterson from Kentucky has to go down as one of the most improved vaults in college gymnastics. She seemed like she was finally hitting her stride last season, so I’m excited to see what she does in her fifth year. She’s already transitioned from being a vault specialist to adding beam and floor, but I’m hoping we’ll get to see her more consistently in other lineups this year. 

Emily M: I’m really excited to see Illinois’ Rachel Borden coming back for more. She joined the team late, after being a manager and working out with the club squad, so I’m happy to see her take a fourth year on the roster. She was really consistent last year, and I’d love to see her put up some huge numbers in her last season.

Elizabeth: Hannah Stahlbrodt is coming back from a torn Achilles, but she was a standout before that for Southern Connecticut. It would have been a shame for her to have ended her career that way, so I’m glad she gets one more go. 

Savanna: The question says one, but I’m going with three. Iowa State’s class of fifth-years, Kelsey Boychuk, Natalie Horowitz and Madelyn Langkamp, is who I’m watching for a breakout final season. Horowitz and Langkamp missed last season due to injuries, and they were both solid two-event competitors in 2021, while Boychuk was a solid three-event competitor last season, but lacked consistency on beam and floor. I’d love to see these three have a breakout season and give some momentum back to the Cyclones.

Tara: I’d love to see Grace Rojas break out for Utah State. She’s dealt with some injuries in the past couple years, but returned to consistently compete bars last season. She’s one of those gymnasts that’s a treat to watch, and she should have opportunities to succeed, especially given the number of gymnasts that chose to follow Amy Smith to Clemson. 

Alyssa: She is not underrated necessarily, but I am hoping for a breakout year for Tiarre Sales. She has struggled with inconsistencies and injuries the past couple of seasons, and without Loper and Ramler, she has a real opportunity to step up in her fifth year.

Mariah: I think Julianna Roland has been consistently solid over the years at both Temple and Bridgeport, and I would love to see her get the recognition she deserves in her final season.

Are there any gymnasts you think will add more events during this swan song?

Tavia: This is kind of a cop out, but I’m going to say Josie Angeny. She was an all-around performer for Kentucky in 2021, but mostly competed bars and beam in 2022. I think it’s safe to assume that she’s going to add the leg events back as she lives out her childhood dream of competing as a Gymdog. 

Emily M: We always hear about how stacked and competitive Florida lineups are, but I think we could see Savannah Schoenherr add in beam or floor, events she competed sporadically in her first three seasons and not at all last year.

Elizabeth: We’ve seen some beam from Allie Stern on Instagram stories. While I don’t think it’s likely she adds that in with the stacked lineups Oklahoma will have, crazier things have happened with Oklahoma and beam and senior years. Just saying. I also think there’s a good chance Maddie Quarles is more of a regular on floor for Minnesota, especially with the Lexy Ramler- and Ona Loper-shaped holes that will need to be filled. She competed only twice, but she scored 9.900 and 9.950. Pretty promising if you ask me.

Savanna: I’m hoping we’ll get to see Olivia Trautman add back floor in her fifth year. Injury kept her out of that event last year, but her tumbling and performance quality makes her one to look out for. 

Peri: I know Auburn has tons of depth, but it’d be incredible to see Derrian Gobourne return to the beam lineup and do all-around for her fifth year. Fingers crossed for a senior-heavy senior night!

Tara: I mentioned Flatley above — she has the potential to be an increased contributor on a less star-studded Arkansas team. Health permitting, I’d also love to see Olivia Trautman and Maddie Quarles on more events, but that’s more of a wish at this point considering both of their injury historys. McClain is another that was seemingly held back by injury last year (though unconfirmed) but should be back in the all-around mix in her super senior season. 

Alyssa: Of course, the health of her elbow is most important, but I would love to see Bailey Lovett add bars back for a couple of meets in 2023. Last year she was limited to beam and floor following elbow surgery, but she competed on three events for most of her career, and it would be great to see her end her career on those three events.

Mariah: I’d love to see Karley McClain add back all-around for her COVID year. She wasn’t in top form last season but has been a huge contributor throughout the years and deserves to close out her career on a high note. Maddie Quarles made the most of her opportunities on floor last season, so it’s likely we will see more of her this season.

It’s early, we know, but which true senior in 2023 do you hope comes back for 2024?

Tavia: I’m a little biased because Illinois State is on my beat, but I’ll say Angelica Labat. The height on her vault and release moves on bars are out of this world. We could all use another year of her gymnastics. 

Emily M: Sierra Brooks! I simply refuse to believe we only get one more year of her gymnastics. Bev Plocki has been known to run a tight ship with her roster size, but Natalie Wojcik opened the door so I’ll hold out hope.

Elizabeth: Nicoletta Koulos being hurt most of the 2022 season bummed me out, so I’ll hop on the same train of thought as Emily and say her. I also could get into a Raena Worley, Luisa Blanco or Kiya Johnson fifth.

Savanna: I fully support a Kai Rivers fifth year. Her college career has unfortunately been plagued with injuries, and I want to see her have the send off she deserves. She could also extend that into a sixth year with her Achilles injury taking her out of 2021. Jay Clark has openly praised her leadership qualities in the gym, so I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t entertain that option should she be interested.

Tara: Picking just one is nearly impossible! Ragan Smith is the Oklahoma one I’d like to see take a fifth year. Also, Elizabeth Culton at UNC. Linda Zivat and Jerquavia Henderson both missed time due to injury — hopefully we’ll see them take fifth years as well. I’ll end with another big name: Maile O’Keefe. I’ve been a fan of her ever since I stumbled across a random YouTube video when she was a junior elite, and I love seeing her thrive in college. 

Alyssa: I am going to echo Tara with O’Keefe as loudly as possible. To name someone not yet mentioned, Auburn has a large class of true seniors next year, and it would be great to see Cassie Stevens or Aria Brusch come back for a fifth year.

Mariah: Raena Worley! She’s been so clutch for Kentucky over the last few seasons, and I feel like it’s too soon to lose her. I refuse to acknowledge that she’s a senior. I also hope Helen Hu and Sienna Schreiber of Missouri take COVID years. Missouri is a team on the rise, and being able to keep some stars for an extra year could expedite that growth.

And finally, Which team do you think will benefit most from having COVID year seniors back for one more go?

Tavia: I’m going to have to go with Florida based purely on the number of fifth years alone. There are six. Four of which have previously scored perfect 10s. I’m not sure that any other team in the country will be able to keep up with the Gators’ depth this year. Here’s to hoping they live up to the hype. 

Emily M: Tavia makes an excellent point, and I agree! I’ll add Georgia. Angeny and Elsadek could really help the Gymdogs fill out some rough spots. Beam especially will benefit.

Elizabeth: Florida is definitely the easy answer, but I also think Denver will benefit mightily from having Alexandria Ruiz and Lynnzee Brown back, depending on Brown’s health status. Michigan’s duo of Abby Heiskell and Natalie Wojcik coming back certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Savanna: Watch out for Washington. Brenna Brooks and Amara Cunningham are returning, plus Jen Llewellyn added a familiar face in Lindenwood transfer Hadley Roberts. Washington was on the rise last season, so having that fifth-year experience can only bring the Huskies up even further.

Peri: I’m excited to see how Bridgeport does with their pair of Alexis Richardson and Nicole Javinett staying for their sixth year, plus Jordan Streete staying for her fifth. Last season the team was forced to be creative and un-retire some routines to fill lineups. Using fourteen incoming freshmen *and* retaining three of last year’s seniors, their lineups should see one of the biggest cushions in the NCAA.

Tara: Ohio State effectively loses zero competitive routines with all of its seniors coming back. Add in a freshman class that features five-star recruit Payton Harris, and that team will be even stronger than it was before. Southern Utah is also returning most of its seniors. That class is potentially one of the best the Thunderbirds have had, headlined by McClain and Shylen Murakami. Returning them will only help the Thunderbirds. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Denver. Ruiz has been a consistent contributor in her time at Denver; Brown is a star capable of putting up huge numbers when healthy. A team with typically smaller rosters like Denver could always use the extra gymnasts.

Alyssa: Like Ohio State, Missouri is also a team that is effectively losing zero routines with the return of both of last season’s seniors in Hannah McCrary and Alisa Sheremeta. Missouri is coming off of a historic finish and having both seniors come back will help the Tigers build upon that success.

Mariah: The easy answer is all of them, but Florida and Michigan are both returning a large portion of their routines from last season’s nationals runs, yet also adding freshmen, so I think they should have a pretty significant advantage. Denver is returning Lynnzee Brown from injury for a sixth year that should be very significant for the Pioneers. Arkansas is also returning some stars and adding Norah Flatley to the mix, and Georgia is bringing in some experienced transfers that will hopefully revitalize a team that had a bit of a down season.

READ THIS NEXT: CGN Roundtable: The Coaching Carousel Thus Far

Article by the editors of College Gym News

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