Trinity Thomas performs her choreography on floor

Potential Lineups: SEC Part I

The preseason is starting and 2023 will be here before we know it. That means it’s time for our annual potential lineups analysis! As gymnasts get back into the gym with new goals for the new season, we’re breaking their prospects down and taking a look at what each team’s lineups may look like come January — from who’s expected to contribute, holes that need to be filled and exciting upgrades fans should look out for.

The SEC has long been the premiere conference in college gymnastics, and 2022 was no exception with three teams finishing in the top five, five teams in the top 10 and seven teams in the top 20. SEC gymnasts swept the individual all-around podium at championships and won the top prizes on every event except vault. 

If the last few months of coaching changes, surprise transfers and last-minute commitments are any indication, the 2023 season is shaping up to be just as competitive and dramatic as the last. 

No. 2 Florida

Mirroring last preseason, there is substantial depth and talent to manage in this Gators roster and several top-notch routines simply won’t be seen regularly in competition as a result. A lot is going to depend on how much the fifth-year gymnasts — particularly reigning NCAA all-around champ Trinity Thomas — are able to contribute. 

Losses: Alyssa Baumann, Gabby Gallentine (Penn State), Nya Reed, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Megan Skaggs
Gains: Rachel Baumann, Lori Brubach, Kayla DiCello, Victoria Nguyen 
Returning From Injury: Morgan Hurd, Ellie Lazzari, Halley Taylor 

Vault

Potential Contributors: Trinity Thomas (9.965 NQS), Savannah Schoenherr (9.905), Rachel Baumann (9.870), Leanne Wong (9.865), Sloane Blakely (9.850), Payton Richards (9.8125 AVG), Bri Edwards (9.780), Chloi Clark (9.769), Ellie Lazzari, Lori Brubach, Kayla DiCello 

How It Looked Before: Florida’s second-ranked vault lineup favored risky 10.0 start value vaults and were rewarded with scores ranging from a 49.100 season low to a high of 49.725.    

How It Looks Now: Despite being known for her lovely beam and floor work, this is where Baumann could make the biggest difference for her new team: Her Yurchenko one and a half not only scores well, but it’s also consistent. Also expect Olympic alternate DiCello to factor in. Her Yurchenko double full isn’t the cleanest in the air, but she gets massive height and distance and has minimal landing deductions. If Richards and Lazzari are healthy, they’ll also be in the mix. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Even if Richards and Lazzari are at full strength and difficulty, losing All-American Reed is a major blow. Some significant restructuring is going to be necessary regardless if the Gators want to improve on last season’s results. 

Bars

Potential Contributors: Trinity Thomas (9.960 NQS), Leanne Wong (9.950), Savannah Schoenherr (9.920), Victoria Nguyen (9.850), Sloane Blakely (9.850), Riley McCusker (9.845), Morgan Hurd, Ellie Lazzari, Kayla DiCello 

How It Looked Before: As with vault, the second-ranked Gators didn’t let inconsistency get the better of them on bars, snagging a 49.725 season high for their efforts. 

How It Looks Now: DiCello will likely fill the spot vacated by Skaggs, joining Thomas, Schoenherr and Wong week to week. The biggest question mark is McCusker: She never quite settled into last season’s routine, only breaking 9.900 once. With Lazzari, Nguyen and Hurd (elbows permitting) all waiting in the wings, she’ll have to prove she can bring in big scores on a regular basis. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Florida has an outstanding pool of bars workers to choose from, and its performance will ultimately come down to how long it takes head coach Jenny Rowland to nail down her optimal squad of six. If they can hit their groove sooner rather than later, this could be a truly formidable lineup. 

Beam

Potential Contributors: Trinity Thomas (9.975 NQS), Leanne Wong (9.935), Sloane Blakely (9.930), Leah Clapper (9.910), Rachel Baumann (9.865), Victoria Nguyen (9.845), Payton Richards (9.875 AVG), Riley McCusker (9.850), Ellie Lazzari (9.150), Morgan Hurd, Kayla DiCello 

How It Looked Before: Once again the Gators proved they’re one of the top beam teams in the country, hitting 49.700 three times (without 2021 All-American Lazzari). 

How It Looks Now: All of last season’s lineup regulars (including Baumann) are eminently capable of breaking into the 9.9s as is Lazzari, whose 2022 NQS is based on the single routine she competed prior to her Achilles injury and her sole sub-9.775 score on any event in her college career. Her 2021 NQS of 9.956 is a much better representation of what she can bring to this lineup. Worlds beam silver medalist Hurd has the advantage over DiCello, but both could be edged out by the more experienced Nguyen. She generally scored well in her two seasons at Georgia but should greatly benefit from improved routine construction and competing in an overall higher-scoring and more consistent beam lineup. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. This group has talent and high-scoring potential to spare, plus an impressive collegiate track record. The biggest challenge is going to be finding a solid lead-off to replace the unflappable Megan Skaggs.   

Floor

Potential Contributors: Trinity Thomas (9.990 NQS), Leanne Wong (9.945), Rachel Baumann (9.925), Sloane Blakely (9.880), Payton Richards (9.630), Chloi Clark (9.787 AVG), Leah Clapper (9.767), Halley Taylor (9.575), Morgan Hurd, Ellie Lazzari, Riley McCusker, Kayla DiCello 

How It Looked Before: The Gators “only” ranked third on floor but still managed to break 49.700 five times, including an eye-popping 49.800 season high. Trinity Thomas scored a 10 more often than not, including four consecutive perfect postseason routines.  

How It Looks Now: Wong, Reed and Thomas covered a multitude of sins last season, but — with a much deeper and, hopefully, healthier roster — that shouldn’t be necessary in 2023. World silver medalist Hurd and Pan Ams gold medalist DiCello are locks if healthy, fifth-year Baumann has a 10 to her name (ironically, scored against Florida), Lazzari contributed consistently strong if not stratospheric scores her freshman season and Richards came in clutch during the postseason. McCusker is also a dark horse contender: Injury prevented her from unveiling her much-anticipated floor routine in her final elite season under new coach Brian Carey, but her dance skills and technique make her a viable successor to Skaggs.  

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. When you have multiple World event medalists plus the reigning NCAA champion in your potential lineup, the event is in good shape. 

Three Big Questions

How much is too much of a good thing? 

Florida has been on a recruiting tear the past few years, and its roster has more World medalists than many countries as a result. The downside to this wealth of talent and depth is that many exceptional gymnasts rarely (if ever) get a chance to compete. It’ll be particularly difficult this season with so many graduate students opting to utilize their COVID year.  

What can we expect from Thomas? 

Thomas walked away from the 2022 season with a second Gym Slam, 10 All-America honors (five regular season and five postseason) and the national all-around, bars and floor titles. She is unarguably one of the best collegiate gymnasts of all time and has nothing to prove. That said, Thomas clearly still has the drive to compete, so (assuming she’s healthy) we can expect her to collect even more accolades. 

Can Jenny Rowland finally close the deal? 

Florida has had several frustrating postseason performances in recent years but rebounded with an SEC title and second-place finish at nationals in 2022. Even so, a team of this caliber isn’t going to be satisfied with anything less than the top spot on the podium.   

No. 4 Auburn

After a disheartening conclusion to the 2021 season, Auburn rebounded by having its best year in program history. With a trio of talented freshmen joining the ranks and longtime Brown head coach Sara Carver-Milne taking over the associate head coach role vacated by Ashley Priess Johnston after her move to Tuscaloosa, this Auburn team is out to prove that last year was no fluke. 

Losses: Jada Glenn, Allie Riddle, Payton Smith, Tara Walsh (Michigan State), Drew Watson
Gains: Olivia Greaves, Hannah Hagle, Hailey John 

Vault

Potential Contributors: Sunisa Lee (9.890 NQS), Derrian Gobourne (9.890), Cassie Stevens (9.885), Sara Hubbard (9.865), Sophia Groth (9.855), Gabby McLaughlin (9.758 AVG), Aria Brusch, Olivia Hollingsworth, Caroline Leonard, Adeline Sabados, Piper Smith, Olivia Greaves, Hannah Hagle  

How It Looked Before: Though certainly not the Tigers’ flashiest event, the fifth-ranked vault lineup reliably got the job done. 

How It Looks Now: The good news is that the core of last season’s vaulters is back. The downside is that there’s no clear replacement for Drew Watson’s Yurchenko one and a half. Greaves competed a serviceable Yurchenko double full in elite but will likely need to downgrade to a full in college. Fellow freshman Hagle competed a Yurchenko full-on tuck as a junior elite but has favored the Yurchenko full as a level 10. Leonard trained a likely looking Yurchenko one and a half last season that never materialized in competition for reasons unknown. Groth competed an excellent Yurchenko full last season but is hoping to upgrade to an Omelianchik in 2023. There’s also the question of whether Lee will stick with her Lopez or opt for something less risky. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Until we have a clearer idea of who’s competing what vault, it’s hard to gauge this lineup’s scoring potential. Worst case scenario, head coach Jeff Graba will have his pick of 9.800 vaults to fill Watson’s vacancy.  

Bars

Potential Contributors: Sunisa Lee (9.970 NQS), Derrian Gobourne (9.920), Aria Brusch (9.905), Cassie Stevens (9.870), Sophia Groth (9.835), Adeline Sabados (9.835), Piper Smith (9.330), Olivia Hollingsworth, Caroline Leonard, Anna Sumner, Olivia Greaves, Hailey John, Hannah Hagle 

How It Looked Before: Auburn bars had a major glow-up in 2022, jumping from 14th to fifth in the rankings. Having Suni Lee anchoring certainly helped, but the entire lineup looked better than it has in years. 

How It Looks Now: Greaves is best-known for her stellar barswork and should have no problem cracking this lineup. Lee and Gobourne are veritable locks, and it’s hard to imagine Brusch and Stevens won’t be back given their proven consistency. Though Sabados has a lower scoring ceiling, she’s been extremely reliable as the team’s lead-off, which may give her the edge over Groth and the other returners. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Increased depth and the addition of Greaves should be more than enough to build on last season’s success. 

Beam

Potential Contributors: Sunisa Lee (9.980 NQS), Sophia Groth (9.950), Gabby McLaughlin (9.915), Cassie Stevens (9.875), Olivia Hollingsworth (9.835), Aria Brusch (9.793 AVG), Piper Smith (9.650), Morgan Leigh Oldham (9.175), Olivia Greaves, Hannah Hagle, Hailey John

How It Looked Before: Auburn beam was nothing short of outstanding, with seven gymnasts scoring 9.900 or higher. Freshman Lee led the way, earning three perfect 10s and a national title.

How It Looks Now: This is going to be the hardest lineup for the newcomers to break into: Seven Tigers scored 9.900 or better on beam last season. All three freshmen have similar high scoring potential but historically spotty hit rates in their respective club careers. They’ll have to prove a consistent ability to hit under pressure if they hope to challenge any of the returners for a regular spot in the lineup.  

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The Tigers are losing nothing and have gained experience, confidence and depth since offseason. 

Floor

Potential Contributors: Derrian Gobourne (9.960 NQS), Sunisa Lee (9.950), Sophia Groth (9.900), Cassie Stevens (9.880), Sara Hubbard (9.720), Adeline Sabados (9.825 AVG), Aria Brusch (9.811), Morgan Leigh Oldham (9.638), Ananda Brown (9.000), Olivia Hollingsworth, Olivia Greaves, Hannah Hagle, Hailey John 

How It Looked Before: From the LSU Musicgate controversy to its mind-boggling 49.800 season high, Auburn’s floor rotation was never without excitement! Gobourne led the Tigers’ lineup, scoring 9.900 or higher 13 times and finally getting her perfect 10. 

How It Looks Now: Greaves was a bit of a question mark after only competing bars at the 2022 elite championships but looked strong while showing off her full-twisting double tuck in recent training clips. Also, keep an eye out for junior Hollingsworth. She regularly competed floor as a freshman, showcasing a crisp tucked full-out and dynamic leaps. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Holding steady. Last season’s top four scorers are all returning, and Greaves is a natural successor to Drew Watson. 

Three Big Questions

What does new associate head coach Sarah Carver-Milne bring to the table? 

In her 21st season at the helm, Carver-Milne led Brown to a record-breaking season of its own in 2022. She’s a two-time ECAC head coach of the year and has guided her teams and individual gymnasts — including Olympic silver medalist and ESPN commentator Alicia Sacramone — to numerous accolades. 

How critical is Sunisa Lee to the Tigers’ success? 

Lee contributed an impressive 583.95 points to Auburn’s totals in her freshman season, including 29 scores of 9.900 or better. Less tangibly, she brought a new level of visibility and fan enthusiasm to the Plains that the team seems to really thrive on.  

Can Auburn repeat the success? 

The Tigers smashed just about every possible program record last season, so it’s odds on that their upward trajectory will taper off a bit in 2022. However, with the bulk of last season’s team returning plus a strong freshman class ready to contribute, there’s no reason to think they can’t maintain that level of competitiveness.

No. 5 Missouri

The SEC’s other Cinderella story in 2022, Missouri capped off a phenomenal season with a historic postseason run. 

Losses: Victoria Gatzendorfer (Maryland) 
Gains: Reese Baechle, Jaylene Jachna, Addison Lawrence, Mackenzie Patricelli, Cassandra Poddig, Courtney Woods
Returning From Injury: Alyssa Ojeda, Jena Swanson, Kalise Newson 

Vault

Potential Contributors: Jocelyn Moore (9.940 NQS), Amari Celestine (9.900), Sienna Schrieber (9.850), Grace Anne Davis (9.815), Amaya Marshall (9.775), Sydney Schaffer (9.745), Alonna Kratzer (9.800 AVG), Hannah McCrary (9.700), Hollyn Patrick 9.425), Adalayna Huffendiek, JJ Jachna, Addison Lawrence 

How It Looked Before: Freshmen stars Moore and Celestine injected new life into the vault lineup, moving the Tigers from 31st to 17th nationally. Moore was named a first-team All-American during the regular season while Celestine earned second at the NCAA championships. 

How It Looks Now: The Tigers aren’t losing any of last season’s vaults and are potentially adding two 10.0 start values from the freshmen: Jachna’s front handspring pike half earned her a specialist berth to 2022 level 10 nationals and Lawrence’s Yurchenko one and a half is almost a carbon copy of GAGE teammate Kara Eaker’s. Another key addition to this lineup is new assistant coach Whitney Snowden. Michigan State — which had its own stellar postseason run in 2022 — saw its average vault scores improve by several tenths under Snowden’s coaching. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Missouri laid down a great foundation last season for this year’s squad to build upon.    

Bars

Potential Contributors: Alisa Sheremeta (9.865 NQS), Sienna Schrieber (9.855), Amaya Marshall (9.855), Hollyn Patrick (9.855), Amari Celestine (9.810), Jocelyn Moore (9.800 AVG), Helen Hu (9.735), Kyra Burns, Adalayna Huffendiek, Kalise Newson, Alyssa Ojeda, Hollyn Patrick, Reese Baechle, Addison Lawrence, Mackenzie Patricelli, Courtney Woods  

How It Looked Before: For being one of their weaker events, the Tigers were remarkably consistent on bars, scoring between 49.000 and 49.375 in every meet. This lineup rarely had outright misses but frequently suffered from getting “tenthed” by the judges. 

How It Looks Now: This is a strong event for the freshmen, but potential all-arounder Lawrence has the fewest built-in deductions (plus, her double front dismount is on brand for this lineup, which boasts some of the most unique dismounts in collegiate competition). Senior Huffendiek missed last season due to injury but was a regular contributor in 2021. It’s also worth noting that redshirt sophomore Burns is a former level 10 bars champion, though a shoulder injury has kept her sidelined for the last two years. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Missouri isn’t losing any of its 2022 contributors, but it also isn’t adding any ringers to the mix. Even with Hu back at full strength, minimizing deductions is going to be the key to improving on last season’s scores 

Beam

Potential Contributors: Sienna Schreiber (9.945 NQS), Helen Hu (9.930), Sydney Schaffer (9.870), Alisa Sheremeta (9.870), Amaya Marshall (9.840), Hannah McCrary (9.810), Grace Anne Davis (9.725 AVG), Amari Celestine, Jocelyn Moore, Reese Baechle, Addison Lawrence, Mackenzie Patricelli, Courtney Woods

How It Looked Before: Beam continued to be a strong and steady event, if not an exceptionally high-scoring one. The Tigers were one of the few teams to finish the season without counting a fall. 

How It Looks Now: As with bars, there’s no shortage of competitive beam routines from the freshmen, but 2021 Missouri state beam champion Woods has the advantage thanks to gorgeous extension on her leaps and genuinely unique dance and acro combinations (her switch leap to front aerial to front full dismount is a showstopper). 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The Tigers have six returners with an NQS over 9.800 and are adding multiple freshman routines. The biggest question for next year is whether 2022 NCAA beam runner-up Schreiber and fourth place finisher Hu will finally get their 10s.

Floor

Potential Contributors: Amari Celestine (9.925 NQS), Jocelyn Moore (9.915), Alisa Sheremeta (9.895), Hannah McCrary (9.885), Sienna Schrieber (9.860), Sydney Schaffer (9.815), Alonna Kratzer (9.813 AVG), Kyra Burns (9.741), Addison Lawrence, Cassandra Poddig 

How It Looked Before: Missouri broke 49.600 twice on its best event, with four gymnasts going 9.950 or higher. As on vault, the dynamic freshman duo of Celestine and Moore were the backbone of the lineup. 

How It Looks Now: Missouri isn’t losing a single routine from last year and has four returning gymnasts who scored 9.950 or higher, plus seven gymnasts who averaged a 9.800 or better. This is going to be the toughest lineup for any of the freshmen to break into, but Lawrence is a poised and polished performer with difficult tumbling to boot. She’ll likely challenge Schaffer and Kratzer for that oh-so-competitive final top-six spot. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. This was the Tigers’ strongest event in 2022, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be again in 2023. 

Three Big Questions

Was 2022 a fluke? 

Missouri’s success was largely due to its consistency: This team went in and did its job time after time, as evidenced by posting just a single score under 49.000 throughout the entire season. While there was certainly some luck involved, the Tigers still had to hit when it mattered. They have been steadily climbing the rankings for the past decade, and that persistence is paying off.

What role will the freshmen play? 

Missouri was energized by its outstanding freshman class last season, and this year’s cohort has the potential to do the same. Vault is where they can make an immediate and significant impact just by boosting the aggregate start value. 

Could bars be the key to the team’s success? 

Last season the Tigers tended to win and lose meets by a matter of tenths, so improving the team’s bars average by even a couple tenths could have a substantial impact on the win/loss record. If Hu is able to contribute from the start instead of debuting in midseason, she’ll likely contribute a tenth or two all on her own. 

No. 7 Alabama

Head coach Dana Duckworth’s shocking resignation in May was the beginning of what can only be described as a tumultuous offseason for the Crimson Tide. Legendary alumna Ashley Johnston has taken over the program’s reins, and in a shocking move of her own, added 2008 Olympian and longtime Illinois men’s gymnastics head coach Justin Spring and Duckworth’s assistant coach Gina Quinlan to her staff. It’s safe to say all eyes will be on Alabama next season. 

Losses: Emily Gaskins, Lexi Graber, Griffin James, Kaylee Quinn 
Gains: Karis German, Gabby Gladieux, Zoe Gravier, Lillian Lewis, Lauren Little, Rachel Rybicki
Returning From Injury: Sania Mitchell 

Vault

Potential Contributors: Shallon Olsen (9.900 NQS), Jordyn Paradise (9.865), Makarri Doggette (9.825), Lilly Hudson (9.825), Luisa Blanco (9.755), Mati Waligora (AVG 9.725), Shania Adams (9.688), Karis German, Gabby Gladieux, Zoe Gravier, Lillian Lewis, Lauren Little, Rachel Rybicki

How It Looked Before: This was undeniably a good event for the Crimson Tide, but with so many Yurchenko one and a halves to choose from, it should have been a great event. 

How It Looks Now: Alabama is losing Yurchenko one and a halves from Graber and Quinn and gaining six Yurchenko fulls from the freshmen. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though: Former five star recruit Gladieux — who snagged a 9.950 as a level 10 — is a virtual lock, and the remaining five newcomers are strong enough to realistically challenge the less consistent returners regardless of start value. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. It remains to be seen whether first-time head coach Johnston will favor high risk/high reward vaults like her predecessor or if she’ll sacrifice maximum score for reliability.    

Bars

Potential Contributors: Luisa Blanco (9.940 NQS), Makarri Doggette (9.935), Cam Machado (9.910), Lilly Hudson (9.885), Shania Adams (9.860), Mati Waligora (9.845), Jordyn Paradise (9.825 AVG), Karis German, Gabby Gladieux, Zoe Gravier, Lillian Lewis, Lauren Little, Rachel Rybicki 

How It Looked Before: Third-ranked Alabama was a force to be reckoned with on its strongest event, with five gymnasts notching season highs of 9.950 or better. 

How It Looks Now: The seven returners are a formidable group, plus this is the freshmen’s weakest event — relatively speaking. In other words, there are no gaps to fill here; any newcomer is going to have to earn a spot over one of the veterans. Former elites Little and German are the most likely to sneak into the regular lineup, though potential all-arounder Gladieux should certainly feature at some point during the season. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The Tide has experience and depth to spare plus the added benefit of veteran coach Justin Spring. With so many strong routines to choose from, some regular season lineup variation and plenty of exhibitions seem inevitable.  

Beam

Potential Contributors: Luisa Blanco (9.940 NQS), Lilly Hudson (9.900), Ella Burgess (9.900), Mati Waligora (9.885), Shallon Olsen (9.865), Shania Adams (9.775 AVG), Makarri Doggette (9.744), Cam Machado (9.700), Karis German, Gabby Gladieux, Zoe Gravier, Lillian Lewis, Lauren Little, Rachel Rybicki 

How It Looked Before: One of the Tide’s deepest events, with five gymnasts going 9.950 or higher. Like SEC compatriot Missouri, Alabama went the entire season without counting a beam fall. 

How It Looks Now: Similar to bars, there’s a full lineup’s worth of returning gymnasts who’ve broken 9.900. Unlike bars, though, several of the upperclassmen are going to have to fight to retain their place in this lineup. Freshman Gladieux is a 2022 national beam champion who hasn’t fallen in competition since 2017. Her poise and technique are about as good as it gets. Though somewhat less consistent than Gladieux, Lewis is an elegant beamer with an impressive level of difficulty who also has a national beam title to her name. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Alabama is starting off the season with a solid core of returners, excellent freshman beam workers and a new head coach who’s proven she’s capable of coaching a top-four beam lineup. 

Floor

Potential Contributors: Lilly Hudson (9.930 NQS), Luisa Blanco (9.900), Cam Machado (9.870), Shallon Olsen (9.855), Mati Waligora (9.800), Sania Mitchell (9.875 AVG), Makarri Doggette (9.450), Shania Adams (9.450), Karis German Gabby Gladieux, Zoe Gravier, Lillian Lewis, Lauren Little, Rachel Rybicki

How It Looked Before: After a sluggish start to the season, Alabama consistently scored above the 49.400 mark for the majority of the season and postseason despite regular tweaks to the lineup. 

How It Looks Now: Hudson, Blanco and Olsen should have no problems retaining their positions in the top six. Machado had a handful of misses in 2022 but scored well enough overall to justify her return to the lineup as well. The priority this season is going to be replacing former NCAA champion Graber’s dependable 9.9-plus score each week. It’s a tall order, but Gladieux — who snagged second on floor at this year’s level 10 nationals and hasn’t scored under a 9.675 since 2021 — may very well be up to the task. Former elite German also has the potential to be a key contributor in this lineup but is coming off of an ankle injury and subsequent surgery, so she may not be at full strength come January. Rybicki is another compelling option: She’s a charismatic performer with a big front double twist who regularly scored above a 9.600 as a level 10. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Alabama has been a mixed bag in recent years, but Team 49 has a solid core of returners and no shortage of freshman talent for newly appointed VAC Kyana George to work with. 

Three Big Questions

How will the new coaching staff affect the team? 

Coaching shake-ups are always tricky to navigate, and this one was more dramatic than most. New coaches Johnston and Spring are imminently qualified, experienced and well-respected within the gymnastics community. Additionally, keeping Gina Quinlan on board was a smart decision that will hopefully help make for a smoother transition both with the current team and with recruits. 

Will so many freshmen offload some of the burden on Blanco? 

Alabama has relied heavily on its star Blanco, which is totally understandable given her results. The big problem with this strategy is the lack of reliable back-up routines when she’s injured or being rested. That’s where this killer freshmen class can come in: All six gymnasts have strong track records as all-arounders in their respective club and elite careers, which should come in handy when it comes to plugging holes in the lineup. 

Can Alabama challenge for a national title? 

The Crimson Tide has fallen off the pace of a perennial championship contender since the legendary Sarah Patterson’s retirement but still typically factors into the postseason conversation to some degree. This coaching staff, though new to Alabama, is incredibly experienced and is working with arguably the deepest roster the team has had in several years. The combination may just be enough to get the team back into the national final. 

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Article by Claire Billman and Ian LeWarn

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