The preseason is starting, and 2024 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 is the premiere conference in NCAA gymnastics, and 2024 is shaping up to be its most competitive season yet thanks to an influx of high-profile transfers, top-notch freshmen classes, and impact players opting to take their COVID year. Parity among the teams is at an all-time high, meaning we could see any number of potential outcomes.
No. 2 Florida
The Gators jockeyed for the top spot all last season, culminating in a gutsy performance at nationals where they finished as runner-up to Oklahoma for the second year in a row. Can they stay on top without Trinity Thomas and Kayla DiCello, or is a rebuilding year unavoidable?
|Losses:||Rachel Baumann, Leah Clapper, Kayla DiCello, Savannah Schoenherr (LSU), Halley Taylor, Trinity Thomas|
|Gains:||Alyssa Arana, Kaylee Bluffstone, Gabby Disidore, Skylar Draser, Danie Ferris, Anya Pilgrim|
Potential Contributors: Leanne Wong (9.890 NQS), Payton Richards (9.885), Sloane Blakely (9.880), Bri Edwards (9.830), Chloi Clark (9.805), Victoria Nguyen (9.8875 HIGH), Kaylee Bluffstone, Gabby Disidore, Skylar Draser, Danie Ferris, Anya Pilgrim
How It Looked Before: Don’t let the top-five ranking fool you: The Gators managed to avoid counting a fall last season by the skin of their teeth, with sub-9.800 scores being an almost weekly occurrence.
How It Looks Now: Five of the six freshmen bring a battle-proven Yurchenko one and a half to Gainesville, most notably former national champions Ferris and Pilgrim. While it’s generally inadvisable to overload a lineup with newcomers, none of the returning vaulters have been able to consistently break 9.900 in their respective college careers. That might not be enough to secure a regular spot this season.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. This has the potential to be a formidable vault lineup, but it’s going to come down to how the coaching staff chooses to utilize their depth.
Potential Contributors: Leanne Wong (9.970 NQS), Sloane Blakely (9.910), Victoria Nguyen (9.900), Riley McCusker (9.845), Payton Richards (9.814), Morgan Hurd (8.750 HIGH), Alyssa Arana, Gabby Disidore, Skylar Draser, Danie Ferris, Anya Pilgrim
How It Looked Before: Thomas and Leanne Wong led the Gators to the NCAA’s second-highest bars total of all time with a 49.800, though their season low of 49.425 was arguably more impressive.
How It Looks Now: Former level 10 bars champions Arana and Ferris are the freshmen most likely to join Wong as mainstays in this lineup. It seems improbable that any of Blakely, Nguyen, and McCusker won’t make the cut this season, but—as with vault—inconsistency is going to be much harder to overlook without the built-in buffer from Thomas and DiCello.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down. You simply can’t replace an all-time great like Thomas in a single season.
Potential Contributors: Leanne Wong (9.940 NQS), Ellie Lazzari (9.910), Sloane Blakely (9.890), Riley McCusker (9.769), Victoria Nguyen (9.850 AVG), Payton Richards (9.805), Morgan Hurd (9.750), Alyssa Arana, Skylar Draser, Kaylee Bluffstone, Anya Pilgrim
How It Looked Before: NCAA semifinals aside, this was a lovely and very solid event for Florida. SEC Freshman of the Year DiCello led the way, scoring 9.9-plus in 14 of 15 routines.
How It Looks Now: McCusker finally hit her stride after joining the lineup midseason. If going 9.9-plus five times wasn’t enough to earn a regular spot from the jump in 2024, her clutch 9.9375 after a fall during NCAA finals probably did the trick. Pilgrim and 2023 national champion Arana are the freshmen most likely to challenge Nguyen and Richards for the final two places.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. The potential is certainly there, but someone is going to have to step into DiCello’s linchpin role.
Potential Contributors: Leanne Wong (9.950 NQS), Victoria Nguyen (9.910), Payton Richards (9.905), Lori Brubach (9.820), Morgan Hurd (9.733 AVG), Sloane Blakely (9.150), Ellie Lazzari, Kaylee Bluffstone, Skylar Draser, Danie Ferris, Anya Pilgrim
How It Looked Before: Floor was undoubtedly one of the Gators’ best events. Scores regularly exceeded 49.500, largely thanks to GOAT Thomas averaging a 9.967 during the regular season.
How It Looks Now: This is another event where the freshmen may end up doing the heavy lifting: Ferris hasn’t competed since 2022, but boasts a career-high perfect 10 and looked promising in recent training video. Bluffstone has placed fourth at nationals two years in a row and is a fun, energetic performer. They plus former elites Draser and Pilgrim all bring college-ready routines with comfortable E passes.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. As good as these freshmen are, losing DiCello and Thomas is inevitably going to hurt. A lot is going to depend on how much Wong is able to contribute.
Three Big Questions
How big of an impact will losing Trinity Thomas and Kayla DiCello have?
Last season, Florida had the luxury of experimenting with lead-offs and anchors because it could depend on monster scores from Thomas and DiCello regardless of where they appeared in the lineup. The 2024 roster is a blend of immensely talented new and veteran gymnasts, but—without a pillar like Thomas to build lineups around—they’ll need to be far more intentional when choosing role players.
How much of a role will Leanne Wong play?
Wong has deftly balanced her elite and college demands over the last two years, contributing at least three routines most weeks during the NCAA season. It remains to be seen whether she can maintain that pace with the Olympics less than a year away, especially given that her stock is on the rise after a brilliant performance at last month’s US championships. Regardless of how much she contributes, the Gators will need viable alternatives ready to go.
How does Morgan Hurd factor in?
Fan-favorite Hurd made the occasional appearance on bars, beam, and floor but only contributed one score above 9.800. Considering they underwent a seventh elbow surgery this summer, the odds seem long that they’ll be competition-ready (by Florida’s standards) come January. That said, Hurd is clearly devoted to this team and has brought valuable energy and enthusiasm to the sideline in her first two seasons, and that doesn’t seem likely to change in 2024.
No. 4 LSU
After their 2022 season ended with a whimper, the Tigers came roaring back in 2023 with a defiant fourth-place finish at NCAA championships. The team isn’t losing any of its routines from last year and—with a lights-out freshman class, two high-profile transfers, and key contributors returning from injury—adding a serious amount of depth.
|Losses:||Lexie Nibbs, Maddie Rau, Kamryn Ryan|
|Gains:||Kylie Coen, Amari Drayton, Konnor McClain, Leah Miller, Brooke Simpson, Jillian Hoffman (Utah), Savannah Schoenherr (Florida)|
|Returning From Injury:||Annie Beard, Cammy Hall, Kiya Johnson, KJ Johnson, Kai Rivers|
Potential Contributors: Haleigh Bryant (9.980 NQS), Chase Brock (9.900), Aleah Finnegan (9.900), Jillian Hoffman (9.890), Elena Arenas (9.880), Alyona Shchennikova (9.870), KJ Johnson (9.860), Kiya Johnson (9.875 AVG), Bryce Wilson (9.850), Tori Tatum (8.750), Ashley Cowan, Cammy Hall, Alexis Jeffrey, Savannah Schoenherr, Konnor McClain, Amari Drayton
How It Looked Before: Even with All-American Kiya Johnson out of commission, LSU proved it’s still one of the strongest vault teams in the country. Bryant added three more 10s to her resume while Finnegan scooped up the first of her career.
How It Looks Now: By far, this is going to be the hardest lineup for the freshmen to crack. The Tigers aren’t losing any of their 2023 contributors and are adding significant depth from both last season’s injured reserve and the transfer portal. If everyone’s healthy (*knock on wood*), they’ll have enough proven veterans to field two top-tier lineups.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. There really are no bad options here.
Potential Contributors: Haleigh Bryant (9.940 NQS), Alexis Jeffrey (9.900), Tori Tatum (9.890), Aleah Finnegan (9.880), Alyona Shchennikova (9.855), Elena Arenas (9.835), Ashley Cowan (9.842 AVG), Kiya Johnson (9.837), Olivia Dunne (9.787), Annie Beard, Jillian Hoffman, Kai Rivers, Savannah Schoenherr, Konnor McClain, Amari Drayton
How It Looked Before: In what’s become a recurring theme, LSU’s bars were mostly fine (except when they weren’t…) but the team posted a few too many low 49s for comfort.
How It Looks Now: Depth shouldn’t be an issue this season! Johnson is back in action and poised to reclaim her lead-off role. Schoenherr boasted an NQS of 9.900 or better in all four of her competitive seasons with the Gators and looks better than ever in recent training clips. Bars was McClain’s weakest event as an elite, but the college code of points should play well to her strengths. The same goes for Drayton, whose fundamentals have minimal built-in deductions. Also, keep an eye out for Hoffman: She never moved out of the exhibition spot for the Utes, but is a former level 10 champion on the event.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. On paper, this looks like the Tigers’ strongest bars roster in years.
Potential Contributors: Aleah Finnegan (9.950 NQS), Haleigh Bryant (9.925), Sierra Ballard (9.850), Elena Arenas (9.845), Alyona Shchennikova (9.845), Kai Rivers (9.790), Alexis Jeffrey (9.850 AVG), Kiya Johnson (9.850), KJ Johnson (9.731), Bryce Wilson (9.408), Annie Beard, Savannah Schoenherr, Kylie Coen, Konnor McClain, Brooke Simpson
How It Looked Before: A series of unfortunate injuries resulted in beam being an “all hands on deck” situation for the Tigers. Jeffrey proved her mettle as a midseason replacement while beam queen Finnegan earned a perfect 10 and regular season All-America honors.
How It Looks Now: This is shaping up to be a very different lineup from last season: McClain is a world-class beam worker; if she’s healthy, she could challenge Finnegan for the anchor spot. Fellow freshmen Coen and Simpson also have clean, dynamic skills and solid hit rates during their respective club careers. Beard sat out last season due to injury but has teased training video indicating she’s back in action. Similarly, Kiya Johnson and Schoenherr—who competed a handful of times for the Gators—are both looking sharp in their latest social media posts.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Granted, there are a lot of unknown quantities at this point, but there’s more than enough talent and depth available to improve on last year’s scores.
Potential Contributors: Aleah Finnegan (9.965), Haleigh Bryant (9.960), Alyona Shchennikova (9.915), KJ Johnson (9.895), Sierra Ballard (9.880), Chase Brock (9.875), Elena Arenas (9.845), Jillian Hoffman (9.775 AVG), Alexis Jeffrey (9.750), Kiya Johnson (9.525), Savannah Schoenherr, Kylie Coen, Amari Drayton, Konnor McClain, Leah Miller, Brooke Simpson
How It Looked Before: Ballard thrived in her lead-off role while Bryant and Finnegan closed out the rotation with a powerful one-two punch. LSU’s third-ranked lineup tied Oklahoma for the second-highest floor score of the season, a massive 49.750.
How It Looks Now: Presumably, both Johnsons will be gunning to regain their spots late in the lineup. Meanwhile, Coen, Drayton, and McClain have shown the skills and execution to rival most of the returners. The Tigers had no choice but to rely on high-risk/high-reward routines last season, but this year the final six is going to come down to whoever can consistently post big numbers.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Like on vault, there really aren’t any bad options here. Barring another spate of injuries, the Tigers should even be able to rest its stars this season without taking a substantial hit scorewise.
Three Big Questions
Was last season’s spate of injuries an anomaly?
Any time there’s a rash of injuries affecting a team, it’s naturally going to raise some red flags. We can’t know for certain what contributing factors there were behind the scenes, but a number of the injuries did seem to be unavoidable (Bryce Wilson’s beam fall that resulted in a concussion was, by all accounts, a fluke), inevitable (Kiya Johnson has struggled with Achilles issues since her club days), or just sheer bad luck (looking at you, KJ Johnson). Now, if that trend carries over to 2024, a closer look at the program will be warranted.
How much will we see of Konnor McClain?
The 2022 US national champion surprised the gymnastics world this summer by announcing she would no longer defer her enrollment until after the Olympics but would instead join the Tigers this fall. With Paris still being her ultimate goal, she will presumably be training elite to some extent during the collegiate season. McClain’s superior execution will score very well in college and could be a gamechanger in pushing LSU toward an elusive national title, but with her focus being split in 2024 it remains to be seen how much she’ll actually contribute.
What are the Tigers’ postseason prospects like?
In theory, this is LSU’s strongest and deepest roster since the late 2010s. If everyone stays healthy, they’ll pose a serious postseason threat. If LSU taught us anything in 2023, it’s that anything can happen.
No. 6 Kentucky
Last year was a program-defining season for the Wildcats as Team 49 made the jump from “perennial bubble team” to “championship contender.” With the return of All-American all-arounder Raena Worley and a loaded freshman class, the Wildcats are primed to build on that momentum.
|Losses:||Raina Albores, Makenna Clarke, Kaitlin DeGuzman (Clemson), Kassidy Howell, Ashlyn LaClair (Georgia), Shealyn Luksik, Elyssa Roberts, Lila Smith (Auburn)|
|Gains:||Creslyn Brose, Cadence Gormley, Kaila Lawrence, Sharon Lee, Cecily Rizo, Delaynee Rodriguez|
|Returning From Injury:||Bridget Bourque, Carissa Clay, Samantha Forman, Megan Sapp, Claire Stippich|
Potential Contributors: Arianna Patterson (9.905 NQS), Raena Worley (9.905), Isabella Magnelli (9.895), Makenzie Wilson (9.880), Jillian Procasky (9.855), Bridget Bourque (9.845), Claire Stippich, Creslyn Brose, Cadence Gormley, Sharon Lee, Cecily Rizo, Delaynee Rodriguez
How It Looked Before: Vault was the Wildcats’ highest-ranked event and featured five 10.0 SV vaults, though they tended to give away valuable tenths on the landings.
How It Looks Now: There are several viable vaults in the freshman class, with Brose’s front handspring tuck half being the strongest of the bunch (she’s also been training a likely-looking piked upgrade to competition height). Sophomores Bourque and Stippich are both coming back from injuries and should factor in if healthy.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Kentucky isn’t losing any of its top six from last season and is adding a significant amount of depth.
Potential Contributors: Raena Worley (9.920), Bailey Bunn (9.890), Hailey Davis (9.845), Annie Riegert (9.805), Jillian Procasky (9.850 AVG), Samantha Forman, Arianna Patterson, Claire Stippich, Creslyn Brose, Cadence Gormley, Sharon Lee, Cecily Rizo, Delaynee Rodriguez
How It Looked Before: Though not the flashiest, The Wildcats’ bars were consistent and clean. They posted a program-high 49.600 at SEC championships.
How It Looks Now: Kentucky is returning the bulk of last season’s contributors, all of whom max out in the high 9.8 to low 9.9 range. Meanwhile, this is an excellent event for the freshmen: Gormley and Rizo—who finished second and third respectively at 2023 DP nationals—will certainly challenge the veterans for competition time and Brose, Lee, and Rodriguez aren’t far behind.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. None of the returners are a liability by any means, but the newcomers could push scores to the next level.
Potential Contributors: Isabella Magnelli (9.945 NQS), Raena Worley (9.930), Arianna Patterson (9.915), Bailey Bunn (9.870), Jillian Procasky (9.855), Annie Riegert (9.750 AVG), Samantha Forman, Megan Sapp, Claire Stippich, Creslyn Brose, Cadence Gormley, Sharon Lee, Cecily Rizo, Delaynee Rodriguez
How It Looked Before: Kentucky improved on its 2022 average by over three-tenths and moved from 26th to 13th nationally. Magnelli dialed in as the anchor, scoring 9.900 or better nine times and earning All-America honors.
How It Looks Now: Level 10 champion Rodriguez is a veritable lock and the returning regulars all have a scoring ceiling in the 9.9s. However, if Brose and Gormley prove more consistent than the veterans, they could make the cut instead.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. With increased depth and confidence, the Wildcats have all the necessary tools to put up a stellar beam lineup in 2024.
Potential Contributors: Raena Worley (9.950 NQS), Hailey Davis (9.935), Arianna Patterson (9.900), Isabella Magnelli (9.885), Jillian Procasky (9.825), Makenzie Wilson (9.825), Bridget Bourque (9.700 AVG), Carissa Clay, Samantha Forman, Claire Stippich, Creslyn Brose, Cadence Gormley, Delaynee Rodriguez
How It Looked Before: When everyone hit, floor was a standout event for Kentucky. The back half of the lineup was consistently excellent, particularly Worley: She scored a season low of 9.900, and went 9.950 or better more often than not.
How It Looks Now: Brose and Rodriguez are two of the best floor workers in their recruiting class and have the potential to score just as well as Worley. Assuming Davis and Patterson retain their positions, the fight for that sixth spot is going to be fierce. Procasky is remarkably consistent, but Magnelli’s higher scoring ceiling might give her the edge.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Adding both Brose and Rodriguez is a potential game-changer for Kentucky.
Three Big Questions
Was last season’s championship bid a fluke?
Hardly. Realistically, with an average regional finals score of 197.567 over the last five years, Kentucky should have advanced to nationals at least once since 2018 but always seemed to draw the short end of the stick.
Can Kentucky maintain its place in the SEC’s Top Four?
With all four events trending up, it certainly feels likely that the Wildcats will stay in the top half of the conference. However, given the high standard of competition in the SEC, the top four places may come down to which teams are able to avoid injuries and how quickly the freshmen adjust to NCAA competition.
What does this freshman class bring to the table?
Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Alabama have garnered a lot of attention for their respective freshmen, meaning Kentucky’s No. 8 recruiting class has largely gone unnoticed. Ignore them at your peril, because this is a phenomenal group of all-arounders who should make an immediate impact on all of the team’s lineups.
No. 10 Alabama
First-year head coach Ashley Priess Johnston led the Crimson Tide to a respectable—if uneven—2023 season, but 2024 is shaping up to be exceptional thanks to an imposing roster bookended by superlative fifth year and freshman classes.
|Losses:||Sania Mitchell, Shallon Olsen, Lauren Little|
|Gains:||Chloe LaCoursiere, Gabby Ladanyi, Jamison Sears, Natalia Pawlak (transfer from Pittsburgh)|
|Returning From Injury:||Corinne Bunagan|
Potential Contributors: Luisa Blanco (9.890 NQS), Gabby Gladieux (9.885), Makarri Doggette (9.880), Lilly Hudson (9.880), Jordyn Paradise (9.875), Shania Adams (9.675 AVG), Mati Waligora, Chloe LaCoursiere, Gabby Ladanyi, Jamison Sears
How It Looked Before: Alabama had the ability to put up six 10.0 Yurchenko one and a halves, but generally opted to have Gladieux compete her textbook full instead. She regularly outscored the rest of the field, culminating in a perfect 9.950 at SECs to earn a share of the conference title.
How It Looks Now: All of last year’s regulars are capable of big scores when they hit, they just don’t always hit. Reigning level 10 vault champion Sears and LaCoursiere both bring well-controlled Yurchenko one and a halves that should easily make the cut. Ladanyi competed a very secure Yurchenko full but has been training a one and a half to competition height.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. If Alabama can’t consistently control the landings on its 10.0 SV vaults, they’re not really worth the risk.
Potential Contributors: Luisa Blanco (9.920 NQS), Makarri Doggette (9.920), Cameron Machado (9.910), Natalia Pawlak (9.880), Lilly Hudson (9.865), Mati Waligora (9.865), Karis German (9.795), Jordyn Paradise (9.615), Shania Adams (9.863 AVG), Chloe LaCoursiere, Gabby Ladanyi, Jamison Sears
How It Looked Before: By no means a bad event, Blanco and Doggette were the only two gymnasts to regularly score above a 9.900.
How It Looks Now: Level 10 scores tend to be lower than those in NCAA competition, making LaCoursiere’s six consecutive 9.95-plus scores (including her fifth career 10.00) to close out her senior season all the more impressive. National champion Sears and Region 3 champion Ladanyi are also compelling options, as is 2023 NCAA regionals qualifier Pawlak.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. This has the potential to be one of the top bars lineups in the country. LaCoursiere alone should add a tenth or more to last season’s average.
Potential Contributors: Luisa Blanco (9.970 NQS), Lilly Hudson (9.915), Ella Burgess (9.910), Gabby Gladieux (9.870), Mati Waligora (9.855), Rachel Rybicki (9.830), Shania Adams (9.875 AVG), Makarri Doggette (9.775), Lillian Lewis (9.775), Chloe LaCoursiere, Gabby Ladanyi, Jamison Sears,
How It Looked Before: Beam was an outstanding event when the entire lineup hit, as evidenced by its season-high 49.700, but typically scored a half point lower. Lead-off Burgess and Hudson were generally excellent while anchor Blanco posted three perfect 10s and snagged her fifth All-America honor.
How It Looks Now: This is the newcomers’ weakest event, though Sears and Ladanyi still placed third and seventh respectively at 2023 nationals and could realistically challenge for a regular spot. There’s also a strong case for Adams, who shined as a late-season replacement for the second year running.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Alabama is returning all of its 2023 postseason contributors and adding depth. If they can settle on a reliable trio to complement Burgess, Hudson, and Blanco, this will easily be a top-five lineup.
Potential Contributors: Luisa Blanco (9.955 NQS), Lilly Hudson (9.940), Gabby Gladieux (9.910), Mati Waligora (9.885), Shania Adams (9.895), Makarri Doggette (9.765), Cameron Machado (9.692 AVG), Karis German, Chloe LaCoursiere, Gabby Ladanyi, Jamison Sears
How It Looked Before: Floor was the team’s standout event, with six gymnasts posting season highs of 9.925 or better. Hudson snagged a share of the SEC title, and she and Blanco earned regular season All-America honors.
How It Looks Now: Sears and LaCoursiere are both nothing short of stellar. It’s not so much a question of if they’ll make the lineup, but rather how late in the lineup will they compete? Waligora performed admirably as the lead-off, but Adams has a higher score ceiling. Further complicating the issue, if German is anywhere near where she was pre-ankle injury, she’s almost guaranteed a spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. This was already a great event, and having Sears and LaCoursiere will only make it better.
Three Big Questions
Can the Crimson Tide make a championship bid?
After a slow start, Alabama showed flashes of brilliance and was frequently just a routine or two away from keeping pace with the top programs. The program is only losing one routine from its 2023 postseason lineups and adding a superlative trio of freshmen plus transfer Pawlak to shore up any weaknesses.
What can we expect from Jamison Sears?
The top-rated recruit in the class lived up to the hype at the 2023 level 10 nationals, coming within a tenth of sweeping all five individual titles. Sears has impeccable technique that makes her gymnastics look effortless. As long as she’s healthy, she’s guaranteed to feature heavily in all of Alabama’s lineups and top the shortlist for SEC Freshman of the Year.
What role will the fifth years play?
Doggette has struggled with injuries throughout her college career, and—given the strength and depth of next year’s roster—will likely be limited to her signature event, bars. Waligora has factored into all four lineups at some point over the last three years, and should continue to be a utility player. During the 2023 offseason, Blanco announced her return to elite competition representing Colombia and seems to be making a push for the 2024 Olympics. Odds are she’ll continue to be a mainstay on all four events with rest breaks as needed.
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Article by Claire Billman and Jenna King