An often underrated conference, the MRGC is one of the most competitive groups in all of college gymnastics. Last season, the final NQS for all four teams were within one tenth of each other. In 2023, many of the squads will have new looks with lots of graduated routines and exciting incoming freshmen, but the hallmarks of unique vaults, dynamic bars and interesting choreography will persist. The MRGC championship is truly up for grabs, and with BYU joining the Big 12 next season, the Cougars will look to head out on top.
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.
No. 23 Utah State
Utah State certainly looks different from when we saw it hoisting up the MRGC trophy last March, as head coach Amy Smith and associate head coach Erik Lewis left for Clemson, bringing along six Aggies as well. With over 65% of the routines from last season gone, 2023 will likely be a rebuilding year for the group as new head coach Kristin White makes the program her own.
|Losses:||Molly Arnold (VT, FX, transfer to Clemson), Trinity Brown (VT, FX, transfer to Clemson), Brie Clark (VT, BB, FX, transfer to Clemson), Eve Jackson (VT, BB, FX, transfer to Clemson), Kielyn McCright (BB, transfer to Clemson), Rebecca Wells (AA, transfer to Clemson), Anique Grenier|
|Gains:||Avery Bibbey, Marley Peterson, Chelsea Southam, Jenna Eagles (transfer from Lindenwood), Payton Gatzlaff (transfer from Lindenwood), Alivia Ostendorf (transfer from Ball State)|
Potential Contributors: Brianna Brooks (9.820 NQS), Alivia Ostendorf (9.750), Payton Gatzlaff (9.640), Angel Stuart (9.775 AVG), Maia Fishwick (9.700), Marley Peterson, Chelsea Southam
How It Looked Before: Vault was the Aggies’ weakest event in 2022. With a lineup of Yurchenko fulls, Utah State ranked 37th overall and struggled to consistently break into the low 49s.
How It Looks Now: Unfortunately, Utah State only retains one vault from its final lineups. Transfers Ostendorf and Gatzlaff should be able to contribute, as should newcomer Peterson, who has a dynamic Yurchenko full.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down. Utah State will have to rely on lots of less-experienced vaulters this season, as well as athletes who wouldn’t normally contribute on this event. Expect to see the lineup struggle at times while it finds its footing.
Potential Contributors: Maia Fishwick (9.885 NQS), Brianna Brooks (9.880), Jessica Gutierrez (9.810), Sofi Sullivan (9.505), Grace Rojas (9.688 AVG), Avery Bibbey, Brooke Wilson
How It Looked Before: Bars was a good yet inconsistent event for Utah State last year, scoring a 48.150 one week and a 49.375 the next. Ultimately, the Aggies ranked No. 28 on the event.
How It Looks Now: Bars is one of the most intact lineups for Utah State, with four athletes returning from its final 2022 lineup. Freshman Bibbey should be able to contribute right away with her clean handstands and releases. Sophomore Wilson was a star on bars in club but did not see any action last season. If Utah State can get her regularly competing, its bar squad could be quite strong.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Bars has the potential to be Utah State’s strong event this season, but it will hinge on its ability to develop two routines from gymnasts with very little competition experience yet lots of potential.
Potential Contributors: Carley Bayles (9.890 NQS), Sofi Sullivan (9.890), Brianna Brooks (9.850), Alivia Ostendorf (9.785), Lexi Aragon, Jenna Eagles, Chelsea Southam
How It Looked Before: Beam was Utah State’s highest-ranked event last year, finishing 14th overall and peaking at 49.500. Late season lineups were characterized by secure, confident routines.
How It Looks Now: Half of Utah State’s lineup returns with the core of Bayles, Sullivan and Brooks. The incoming freshman class is not particularly strong on beam, so the Aggies will have to look to their transfers and athletes who did not consistently compete last year to fill out this lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down. Filling three lineup spots with consistent routines will be a struggle for Utah State, and it’s fair to expect a dip in performance as a result.
Potential Contributors: Amari Evans (9.830 NQS), Alivia Ostendorf (9.765), Jessica Gutierrez (9.745), Jenna Eagles (9.485), Ariel Toomey (9.608 AVG), Avery Bibbey, Marley Peterson, Chelsea Southam
How It Looked Before: Floor was a strong event for the Aggies in 2022. Highlighted by Clark’s dynamic tumbling and engaging choreography, the event ranked 21st in the country and regularly scored into the mid 49s.
How It Looks Now: Another lineup decimated by the exodus to Clemson, Utah State loses its top five routines in terms of NQS. Newcomers, transfers and athletes who didn’t see much competition time will be called upon this season. Look for Bibbey and her front double full to have a late lineup spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down. With the departure of five routines, including Clark’s stellar set, Utah State will not be able to replicate the high performance quality from last year.
Three Big Questions
Who will fill line up spots on vault and floor?
With the loss of so many routines, routines that may have been “depth” options in the past will now be crucial to the core of the lineups. This means Utah State will have to depend on inexperienced athletes and routines that may not be as polished as in years past.
Can Utah State continue last season’s success?
After losing so many routines, Utah State will likely not carry the momentum of its record-breaking performance from last season. As new athletes adjust to college competition, making regionals will be a significant accomplishment to strive for.
How will the new coaching staff perform in its first season?
Head coach Kristin White has already shown she has recruiting chops. However, managing her team during this rebuilding season will be both a challenge and a glimpse into the future of Utah State’s program.
No. 24 BYU
Known for its unconventional yet entertaining floor routines, BYU is often a team that’s right on the cusp of making noise in the postseason. Will its last year in the MRGC be the one where all the pieces fall together?
|Losses:||Abby Beeston (BB, FX), Adeline Rieder (FX), Brittney Vitkauskas (FX), Haley Pitou (VT, UB, BB), Lexi Griffith (VT), Rachel Heaton, Sadie Miner-Van Tassell (AA), Sophia McClelland (BB)|
|Gains:||Elaina Greco, Emily Wisehart, Jayda Lealaogata, Kauri Hunsaker, Kylie Eaquinto, Madison Raesly-Patton, Morgan Trevor|
|Returning From Injury:||Rebekah Ripley (ACL), Anna Bramblett|
Potential Contributors: Sydney Benson (9.835 NQS), Elease Rollins (9.805), Allix Mason (9.800), Anyssa Alvarado (9.800 AVG), Sophia Dudely (9.713), Rebekah Ripley, Olivia Matern, Kylie Eaquinto, Emily Wisehart, Kauri Hunsaker, Madison Raesly-Patton
How It Looked Before: Vault was BYU’s weakest event last season at No. 25 nationally. Toward the end of the season, the event was consistently scoring around 49.100, but BYU was limited by only having one 10.0 start value.
How It Looks Now: This lineup retains half its athletes from last year. Eaquinto should slot directly into Miner-Van Tassell’s anchor spot with her dynamic one and half. Raesly-Patton and Wisehart should also contend for lineup spots, and the return of Ripley and her front handspring front pike half from injury could add another 10.0 start to the mix.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Replacing half the vault lineup is a large task, but with freshmen and contributors returning from injury, this line up has the potential to see improvement.
Potential Contributors: Anyssa Alvarado (9.925 NQS), Allix Mason (9.835), Lindsey Hunter (9.810), Anna Bramblett (9.825 AVG), Sydney Benson (9.675), Kylie Eaquinto, Jayda Lealaogata, Kauri Hunsaker, Madison Raesly-Patton
How It Looked Before: Bars was a consistent event for the Cougars, but it faced similar problems to vault where the team got stuck in the 49.150 range as the season went on mostly because of short handstands and steps on landings. BYU ended the season ranked 23rd on bars.
How It Looks Now: With half of the lineup graduated, BYU will need to depend on some new routines. Luckily, this freshman class is full of bar workers. Look for Hunsaker, Eaquinto and Lealaogata to feature heavily in the top six. Redshirt sophomore Bramblett has also looked excellent in preseason training and could be a bigger factor this year.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Depending on how the freshmen adjust to college, bars could improve from last season. Their successful transitions will be critical to the Cougars’ performance here.
Potential Contributors: Elease Rollins (9.930 NQS), Lauren Ono (9.855), Mina Margraf (9.770), Eliza Millar (9.750), Allix Mason (9.800 AVG), Rebecca Leach, Kylie Eaquinto, Kauri Hunsaker, Madison Raesly-Patton
How It Looked Before: Last season, beam varied significantly for the Cougars, with the team counting falls in multiple weeks late into the season. When they hit, BYU’s lineup was solid, averaging around 49.200.
How It Looks Now: BYU loses two beam routines but should have a plethora of options to replace them, including Raesly-Patton and Hunsaker, who showed impressive beam work during their club careers.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. BYU should have more depth on the event this year, along with freshmen who are natural beam workers.
Potential Contributors: Lindsey Hunter (9.790 NQS), Sophie Dudley (9.750), Sydney Benson (9.750), Eliza Millar (9.725), Olivia Matern, Kylie Eaquinto, Emily Wisehart, Kauri Hunsaker, Madison Raesly-Patton
How It Looked Before: Floor is BYU’s trademark event, and last season was no exception. With unique choreography, floor was one of BYU’s best events, ranking 18th in NQS and maxing out at a massive 49.625.
How It Looks Now: Four of the cougar’s top routines graduated, leaving some big lineup holes to fill. Look to the freshmen trio of Wisehart, Raesly-Patton and Eaquinto to provide new, entertaining routines.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down. Although the incoming freshmen are immensely talented, it will be tough to replace the top four routines from last season. Expect floor scores to decrease some this season, at least to start.
Three Big Questions
How will the freshman class adapt to college?
This freshman class is immensely talented with three four-star recruits and lots of impressive gymnastics. However, they also have big shoes to fill with so many routines gone from last season. Their quick adjustment to college gymnastics is imperative to BYU’s success in 2023.
How healthy are Rebekah Ripley and Anna Bramblett?
Both Ripley and Bramblett redshirted last season but have been featured heavily in preseason content. If healthy, these two could improve the quality of BYU’s lineups immensely.
Who will step up on floor?
With a majority of the lineup gone, BYU will need some athletes to step up. It’s no question BYU’s choreography is iconic and the Cougars continue to recruit strong performers, but the skills need to be there too.
No. 27 Boise State
Over the years, Boise State has been known for its exquisite bars, and while this trend continued last season, the team struggled on the other events. With a massive incoming class, will the Broncos be able to develop into a postseason threat like in seasons past?
|Losses:||Hope Masiado (VT, BB, FX), Emily Muhlenhaupt (UB), Maddi Nilson (VT, UB), Tessa Otaufi, Samantha Smith (VT), Alexis Stokes (UB, BB)|
|Gains:||Sarah Coghlan, Anna Ferguson, Kylee Hamby, Sydney Kho, Sydney Leitch, Brantley Lucas, Riley Shaffer|
Potential Contributors: Alyssa Vulaj (9.860 NQS), Emily Lopez (9.845), Courtney Blackson (9.835), Sarah Coghlan, Kylee Hamby, Sydney Kho, Brantley Lucas, Riley Shaffer
How It Looked Before: Vault was a fine event for Boise State for most of last season. However, by the end it saw a bit of a dip, with the lineup not breaking 49 in any of its last three meets.
How It Looks Now: The Broncos’ lineup loses three vaults, but incoming freshmen will likely be able to compensate. While none of the freshmen have 10.0 start values, they all have viable Yurchenko fulls.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Vault will likely be similar to last year but may see a slight decrease as the freshmen adjust to competing in college.
Potential Contributors: Emily Lopez (9.925 NQS), Cortney Blackson (9.835), Talia Little (9.830), Sarah Coghlan, Kylee Hamby, Sydney Kho, Sydney Leitch, Brantley Lucas, Riley Shaffer
How It Looked Before: Aside from a weird first meet, bars was Boise State’s highest-scoring event last season. The Broncos consistently scored into the mid-49s thanks to strong handstands and stuck landings.
How It Looks Now: This line up loses three routines, including auto 9.9s from Muhlenhaupt and Stokes. The departure of the former leaves exquisite bar worker Lopez to become the new star outside of Muhlenhaupt’s shadow. Additionally, many of the freshmen are natural bars swingers who should be able to contribute immediately.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending slightly down. Replacing such high level routines will be difficult, however these freshmen are talented enough that the decline should be marginal.
Potential Contributors: Adriana Popp (9.895 NQS), Emily Lopez (9.855), Talia Little (9.815), Emma Loyim (9.700 AVG), Alyssa Vulaj (9.700), Sydney Kho, Brantley Lucas
How It Looked Before: Beam was a rough event for the Broncos last season, counting a fall in as many meets as not.
How It Looks Now: The team loses two beam routines, and beam is a weak spot for most of the incoming freshmen, too. However, Kho and Lucas scored well in club and should be able to contribute immediately.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Boise State’s beam performance will be dependent on if the lineup contributors can gain consistency and if the team can find two new solid routines to replace those lost.
Potential Contributors: Courtney Blackson (9.855 NQS), Elaina McGovern (9.840), Blake Pascal (9.815), Adriana Popp (9.795), Emma Loyim (9.775), Sarah Coghlan, Kylee Hamby, Sydney Kho, Sydney Leitch, Brantley Lucas
How It Looked Before: Boise State was fine on floor last season, but athletes struggled to break out of the 9.825 range. Subsequently, the team’s totals were limited to low the 49s.
How It Looks Now: With five incoming freshmen that have solid floor results from level 10, Boise State should easily be able to replace the one routine that graduated and have more depth than years past. Popp has also been seen training a dynamic double layout in the preseason that could be a much needed “wow factor” in this lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. With more depth, Boise State should improve on floor this season.
Three Big Questions
Can Boise State figure out beam?
Last season, beam often held Boise State back. Finding consistency there could greatly improve the Broncos’ prospects for a conference title and the postseason.
How can Boise State get out of the 9.825 rut on floor?
Boise State struggled to break out of the low 49s on floor last year. If the freshmen can infuse new life into this lineup, the Broncos will benefit immensely.
How will the freshmen adapt to college?
Boise State’s success is highly dependent on its massive freshman class delivering critical lineup routines. Its success will hinge on head coach Tina Bird and her staff’s ability to develop this group of athletes into consistent collegiate routines.
No. 28 Southern Utah
Everyone’s favorite high-potential, slightly inconsistent team lived up to its reputation last season and was once again a fun team to watch. The Thunderbirds ended the season in the top 30 once again but finished as the lowest-ranked team in the competitive MRGC.
|Losses:||Stephanie Tervort (VT, UB), Brianna Alcantar (unexpected roster removal), Madeline Amundson (unexpected roster removal), Katie Ours (unexpected roster removal), Madeline Tyau (unexpected roster removal), Kayla Horton (early graduation)|
|Gains:||Trista Goodman, Megan Locke, Kennedi McClain, Camry Miller, Olivia Orlando, Kayla Pardue, Amelia Rieder, Ellie Thomson|
Potential Contributors: Caitlin Kho (9.880 NQS), Rachel Smith (9.850), Hailey Vultaggio (9.765), Celine Barney (9.745), Anna Hartley (9.720), Kayla Horton, Ellie Cacciola, Karley McClain, Kayla Pardue, Megan Locke, Trista Goodman, Kennedi McClain, Ellie Thomson
How It Looked Before: Vault was fine for Southern Utah last season, but it wasn’t anything special.
How It Looks Now: Alfaro’s consistently excellent Yurchenko full will be missed, but the hopeful return of Karley McClain to the all-around will tremendously benefit this lineup. The real star could be freshman Pardue, who regularly vaulted a Yurchenko one and a half pre-college. Classmate Locke also sports a 10.0 start value with a Tsuk tuck one and a half. A revitalized vault lineup is entirely possible simply by adding those to the likes of Kho and Smith, and there’s plenty of viable Yurchenko fulls to fill the gaps.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? While losing Alfaro is a blow to the lineup, the Thunderbirds are poised to improve the top six in 2023 thanks to Pardue and Locke.
Potential Contributors: Shylen Murakami (9.920 NQS), Aubri Schwartze (9.845), Mayson Bentley (9.840), Nikki Thomas (9.835), Karley McClain (9.820), Caitlin Kho (9.790), Olivia Orlando, Trista Goodman
How It Looked Before: Bars was a strength for the Thunderbirds last season, ending the season ranked just outside of the top 15 nationally at No. 16.
How It Looks Now: Former four-star recruit Goodman and her classmate Orlando both shine on bars. The state of this lineup greatly benefits from the returning COVID years, too, as it can rely on star bar worker Murakami for another year.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending steady if not slightly up.
Potential Contributors: Hailey Vultaggio (9.860 NQS), Shylen Murakami (9.820), Rachel Smith (9.815), Aubri Schwartze (9.810), Karley McClain, Ellie Cacciola, Ruby Hernandez, Kaylee Kho, Trista Goodman, Olivia Orlando, Ellie Thomson
How It Looked Before: Beam was inconsistent for the Thunderbirds last season. There were flashes of brilliance, but the team hit 49 in just less than half of its meets.
How It Looks Now: All but one gymnast from Southern Utah’s final beam lineup returns in 2023, and the depth options are also back. The freshmen aren’t the deepest beam class, but the options are definitely there. Orlando and Goodman are the highlights, with Orlando in particular having great movement quality. Both feature a front acro skill into a scale—Orlando’s being a front toss and Goodman’s being a front aerial.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. It certainly appears that this lineup could get better, but we’ll have to wait and see how the consistency plays out.
Potential Contributors: Karley McClain (9.895 NQS), Aubri Schwartze (9.865), Hailey Vultaggio (9.825), Rachel Smith (9.820), Ellie Cacciola, Taylor Gull, Caitlin Kho, Trista Goodman, Kennedi McClain, Kayla Pardue, Ellie Thomson
How It Looked Before: Statistically speaking, floor was Southern Utah’s lowest-ranked event last season.
How It Looks Now: The floor lineup takes the biggest hit from the departing gymnasts. Goodman is a likely candidate to fill a lineup hole, with a routine featuring a clean tucked full-in. Classmate Kennedi McClain sports a clean and powerful routine similar to that of her big sister Karley. Pardue and Thomson also have potential here, especially if they can find a solid landing consistency.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. A lot depends on the freshmen and which upperclassmen can step up to fill the holes.
Three Big Questions
Will Karley McClain return to the all-around?
It’s not entirely clear why she was limited last season, but she added more events as the meets went along. The fifth-year was a staple in the all-around earlier in her career and is generally regarded as a solid and consistent competitor on every event. A return to all four in her fifth year would certainly be welcomed should she be able to do so.
Can the freshmen add a spark to this team?
Pardue and Locke can certainly add strong vaults. Kennedi McClain is also a powerful gymnast and returned to compete in a limited capacity in her final level 10 season after battling an injury. Much like the class of fifth-years, this is a good, large class for the Thunderbirds.
Can Southern Utah find consistency on its way to the top of the MRGC?
The talent is there for the Thunderbirds, but it’s always been a case of consistency. In a competitive conference where the top NQS (BYU) was separated by the bottom (Southern Utah) by just 0.105, the conference title is within reach if they can perform to their potential.
READ THIS NEXT: Potential Lineups: Pac-12 Part II
Article by Rebecca Williams and Tara Graeve
Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year!