Two seasons after the two separate ECAC gymnastics conferences were merged into the GEC, this new conference continues to look like an absolutely great idea. The Division II contenders have always been able to stay competitive with their Division I peers, and that was proven anew when Southern Connecticut’s historic season kept Cornell out of USAG nationals. From top to bottom, this conference is plucky and contentious.
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.
No. 62 Southern Connecticut
Southern Connecticut could hardly have dreamed of a better 2023 season. The Owls set team program records on three events en route to qualifying a full team to the USAG national championship and finishing an astonishing sixth. An upset loss to Bridgeport at the GEC championship (with a great team score!) was maybe the only blip. Coach Byron Knox’s monster rosters make SCSU one of the hardest teams to project—with 32 gymnasts, there could be any number of other routines we haven’t thought about—but we’ll do our best to cover the highlights.
|Losses:||Elena Bailey (transfer to UW-Whitewater), Ava Boyd, Brooke Burkhart, Charlie Lister, Brianna Marriott (medical retirment), Paige Scott, Hannah Stahlbrodt|
|Gains:||Grace Christensen, Sofia Delgado Cotto, Gabriela Dinisoe, Gianna Mastellone, Kylie Sitty, Anabella Mills|
Potential Contributors: Hanna Zebdi (9.770 NQS), Lexi Bracher (9.745), Brianna Dorr (9.680), Libby Allen (9.570), Ava Kelly (9.500), Sidney Wilson, Ciana Rios, Kylie Sitty, Sofia Delgado Cotto, Anabella Mills
How It Looked Before: After some early season jitters and a few experiments to find the ideal lineup, vault settled into a steady event for the Owls. A program record 48.725 in March was a highlight. As always at this level, the goal is to use as few Yurchenko layouts in the lineup as possible without adding too much risk.
How It Looks Now: A few regular vaulters from 2023 have departed, but the freshmen provide options here. Kylie Sitty’s Yurchenko full-on tuck off is powerful yet pretty and will pack a real punch in this lineup. Sofia Delgado Cotto’s competition-tested Yurchenko full is valuable despite a bit of pike down.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? About the same.
Potential Contributors: Ciana Rios (9.745 NQS), Jayci Jordan (9.610), Sarah Moussa (9.530), Megan Workman (9.455), Audrey Arnold (9.415), Shreya Munshi, Sara Ortiz, Kamryn Leinheiser, Gabriela Dinisoe, Grace Christensen, Kylie Sitty, Anabella Mills
How It Looked Before: Bars was a bit of a struggle in the earlier part of the season, bottoming out at 45.050 in week 2. The Owls quickly turned it around, finding consistency particularly in March.
How It Looks Now: Just one routine graduates here, but it’s a big one. Luckily, there are some tantalizing freshman options. Gabriela Dinisoe has a career-high of 9.550 from level 10, which is remarkable at this level. Grace Christensen’s lovely lines make her memorable and Sitty brings a powerful Gienger to the table.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell, but there’s definitely potential.
Potential Contributors: Angel Lee (NQS 9.810), Maria Damiano (9.655), Libby Allen (9.645), Abby Royer (9.635), Emiley Kahl (9.620), Alexa Melanson (9.430), Emelia Diaz, Sydney Smith, Hanna Zebdi, Grace Christensen, Sofia Delgado Cotto, Gabriela Dinisoe, Kylie Sitty
How It Looked Before: A bit hot and cold, as beam often is, but the highs were remarkable, particularly a program record 48.775 rotation in February. Angel Lee on beam is probably the single best routine SCSU has to offer.
How It Looks Now: All six NQS routines return to the team, which is a great start. As for the freshmen, anything could happen: Christensen’s extension once again shines on bam, while Delgado Cotto has a strong skill base and Dinisoe has a career-high of 9.500 but little footage available on this event. Sitty can’t be ruled out as an option here, either. Plus, on beam more than any other event, we can guarantee that some returners who haven’t competed beam before will surprise us by taking a turn in this lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. The talent is there, but talent doesn’t necessarily equate to hit routines on beam. It’s all to play for, and the bar was set high last year.
Potential Contributors: Ciana Rios (9.810 NQS), Libby Allen (9.805), Hanna Zebdi (9.805), Abby Royer (9.765), Erica Beyer (9.695), Alexa Melanson (9.645), Ava Kelly, Kylie Sitty, Sofia Delgado Cotto
How It Looked Before: This was SCSU’s keynote event and its most consistent in 2023, topping out at an astounding program record of 49.200. The Owls finished the regular season the top-ranked floor team in the GEC. Even better: nearly the whole floor team returns.
How It Looks Now: This lineup won’t be the easiest to crack, but the freshman class loves floor. Powerful Sitty is likely the frontrunner, but Delgado Cotto’s flair and energy (not to mention very real tumbling ability) will make her a tempting choice too.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Dare I say… trending up even further? Continuing last year’s upward trajectory, perhaps.
Three Big Questions
2023 wasn’t a fluke, right?
It wasn’t: The routines that took SCSU to No. 62 in the country are very real and most of them are back for 2024. Still, there’s a possibility of a sophomore slump of sorts here. Continuing to compete at this level and returning to USAGs as a team will take mental game and focus as well as good gymnastics.
What will the head-to-head versus Bridgeport be in 2024?
These Division II rivals are so close together and share so much. In fact, SCSU’s whole senior class and its head coach came to New Haven from Bridgeport when Bridgeport’s program was nearly cut in 2021. Think of this as a tense sibling rivalry. Historically these meets haven’t been all that close, so it may have rankled a little for SCSU to finally be the higher-ranked team only to take three losses to Bridgeport in just nine days in March. It certainly doesn’t diminish the success of SCSU’s season, but it’s perhaps a bit of unfinished business for next year.
What other surprises are hiding on this massive roster?
We know the freshman routines aren’t the only additions the SCSU lineups will see this year. We don’t know exactly who’s going to step up and on which events. It’s hard to make lineups on a squad that’s thirty-some women strong, but the opportunities are endless.
No. 63 Cornell
It’s been an up-and-down few years for the Big Red, and missing out on qualifying a full team to USAG nationals was an undeniable disappointment. Luckily, a phenomenal freshman class gives Cornell an opportunity to turn things around in 2024.
|Losses:||Victoria DeMeo, Katie Fitzpatrick, Darby Kent, Amy Krueger, Maddie Watson|
|Gains:||Macy Armstrong, Avery Byun, Victoria McMillan, Josie Moylan, Addy Rothstein, Natalia Tehrani|
Potential Contributors: Sydney Beers (9.800 NQS), Cami Whitaker (9.695), Michaela DeFrancisco (9.685), Calista Brady (9.640), Regina Walton (9.625), Kate Michelini (9.265), Avery Byun, Addy Rothstein, Victoria McMillan
How It Looked Before: Cornell has been managing a full lineup of twisting Yurchenkos, with a mix of tucked and laid out vaults. The 0.15 start value difference between a Yurchenko tucked full and the layouts that many of Cornell’s competitors use is huge, but body position and landings can be a little inconsistent.
How It Looks Now: Avery Byun’s front handspring front tuck half, a 9.95 SV with great dynamics, is an attractive choice here. Addy Rothstein and Victoria McMillan bring Yurchenko layout fulls with superior body position. Returner Cami Whitaker is working a 10.0 SV Yurchenko tuck one and a half in training.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Three new high, clean 9.95 SV vaults are a gift. Trending up.
Potential Contributors: Kate Michelini (9.680 NQS), Sydney Beers (9.550), Melanie Stone (9.510), Maddie Sakalosky (9.370), Regina Walton (9.210), Josie Moylan, Natalia Tehrani, Addy Rothstein, Avery Byun, Victoria McMillan, Morgen Shambo
How It Looked Before: A hereditary weakness for Cornell, bars was the lowest-scoring event in all but one meet this year.
How It Looks Now: Expect to see a lot of freshmen in this lineup, because they’re really good and Cornell really needs that. Josie Moylan’s handstands make her the most college-ready of the bunch, and a bit of leg separation on a Gienger is the only break in Natalia Tehrani’s lovely routine. Based on level 10 scores, Rothstein and Byun are favorites with matching career highs of 9.700. McMillan has beautiful technique but just a double tuck dismount—we can hope that there’s an upgrade in the works there.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Having more options here is so nice.
Potential Contributors: Mikayla Burton (9.775 NQS), Regina Walton (9.725), Sydney Beers (9.705), Kate Michelini (9.670), Alexandra Quiana (9.565), Natalia Tehrani, Avery Byun, Macy Armstrong
How It Looked Before: Fine. Rarely incredible but rarely a disaster, with some stylish moments. When it came together it was phenomenal: we saw a program record here in March.
How It Looks Now: There are a number of possible freshman routines here but as usual, it’s hard to predict who will be consistent in college. Tehrani and Byun are the frontrunners, and Macy Armstrong is a contender here too.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell.
Potential Contributors: Sydney Beers (9.830 NQS), Alexandra Quiana (9.755), Kate Michelini (9.775), Caitlyn Walsh (9.740), Cami Whitaker (9.740), Josie Moylan, Victoria McMillan, Avery Byun, Addy Rothstein, Natalia Tehrani
How It Looked Before: The natural counterpart to the bars team: Everything else about the team might change, but Cornell floor will literally never be bad.
How It Looks Now: Any of the freshmen could plausibly figure in here. Moylan’s Rudi to layout step-out combination will fit in perfectly with the Cornell lineup. McMillan and Byun have college-ready landings, Rothstein is powerful, and Tehrani is a performer with gorgeous leaps.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? About the same, i.e. great.
Three Big Questions
Will bars improve in 2024?
Bars struggles have been a big part of the ranking dip that we’ve seen Cornell take since 2019. Turning bars around would mean a lot for the team.
What’s next for Sydney Beers?
It didn’t take Beers long to mature into a leader for the Big Red: She’s already got Ivy Classic and USAG all-around titles to her name. Is the GEC title next on her agenda? Can she find those magical 39.000+ days more often?
Will we see the Big Red back at the USAG national championship?
With SCSU apparently here to stay and Bridgeport not too far behind, Cornell needs to step up this year. The routines it will need to get back are all here, it’s just a matter of executing.
No. 64 William & Mary
It’s been a rough ride for William & Mary since the school attempted to cut gymnastics in late 2020. After only being able to compete three times in 2021 and spending most of 2022 on the wrong side of the 190.000 mark, 2023 was a year of quiet but real recovery and we can hope for more of the same in 2023.
|Losses:||Sarah Brownstein, Abby Carpenter, Amanda Jackson, Keaghan Schafer, Emma Wiley|
|Gains:||Tori Sipes (graduate transfer from Springfield), Samantha Burd, Melanie Faulkner, Madeleine Frazier, Olivia Mile, Summer Penzi|
Potential Contributors: Sofia Huang (9.685 NQS), Sarah Kuper (9.600), Hannah Burke (9.585), Grace Costello (9.510), Sophie Chandler (9.505), Summer Penzi, Samantha Burd
How It Looked Before: This was the Tribe’s lowest-ranked event, consisting mostly of Yurchenko layouts.
How It Looks Now: The freshmen contribute some new options here, with Summer Penzi and Samantha Burd both competing Yurchenko fulls in level 10. Both have some pike down, but it’s something to work with; tucking them for college would still provide a substantial start value boost over a layout.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Two fulls is an exciting prospect, but they could both be layouts by January.
Potential Contributors: Sarah Wozniak (9.750 NQS), Sarah Kuper (9.710), Ascha Laird (9.685), Caroline Blatchford (9.630), Tori Sipes (9.630), Grace Costello, Melanie Faulkner, Madeline Frazier
How It Looked Before: In this area of the national rankings, it’s rare to see a team that really thrives on bars, but William & Mary is that team. This event is great.
How It Looks Now: Transfer Tori Sipes is absolutely in the picture here. For the freshmen, it’s a little more uncertain. Melanie Faulkner is the highest-scoring and has lovely extension, but doesn’t have the difficulty to start from a 10.0 in college. Madeline Frazier has the skills to contend.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? About the same.
Potential Contributors: Caroline Blatchford (9.620 NQS), Sarah Kuper (9.605), Grace Costello (9.510), Tori Sipes (9.445), Sofia Huang, Anne Marie Kuebler, Michelle Ngo, Summer Penzi, Madeleine Frazier, Melanie Faulkner
How It Looked Before: This event was all over the place in 2023, with eleven different gymnasts contributing to the lineup and just four having enough scores for a NQS.
How It Looks Now: Beam is the pet event of the freshmen. Penzi is the most consistent, while Frazier has the best career high and shows off lovely leaps. Expect Faulkner in the picture here too.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. Hopefully, there will be some more stability in this lineup in 2024.
Potential Contributors: Michelle Ngo (9.795 NQS), Hannah Burke (9.745), Grace Costello (9.715), Sophie Chandler (9.660), Summer Penzi, Samantha Burd, Madeline Frazier
How It Looked Before: In a reversal of the beam situation, the floor team was quite literally the same six women every week in 2023 and they were solid. Floor was usually the Tribe’s top-scoring event.
How It Looks Now: Two of those weekly routines graduated and none of the freshmen are a slam dunk selection for this event, though Penzi is the top contender.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending down, unless some freshmen step up.
Three Big Questions
Where will William & Mary fall in the GEC standings?
The Tribe seems likely to perform similarly in 2024 to 2023, while the other teams in the bottom half of the conference have more variance. It might not control its own destiny… but we might be surprised!
Are there more individual accolades in the books for the Tribe specialists?
There are some truly great individual routines on this team, such as Sarah Wozniak’s lovely bars routine. Three gymnasts made All-GEC teams last year and Grace Costello delivered a remarkable bars routine good for fifth place at the conference championship. There’s more to come for some of these talented individuals.
How can this team get fans interested?
William & Mary might be the most under-the-radar team in Division I gymnastics. Finding a way to change that would be huge for the Tribe. A televised road meet at a big school or a specialist becoming an attractive fantasy gymnastics pick-up could mean a lot to this team.
No. 65 Bridgeport
After a short-handed 2022 season, Bridgeport brought in a humongous freshman class in 2023, and then faced all the challenges you’d expect when more than half of your team has never competed in college gymnastics before. The Purple Knights struggled with consistency on and off but ultimately surged in the final weeks of the season. While it was too little, too late for team qualification to USAG nationals, those mid-March meets provide an exciting hint of things to come for the Knights.
|Losses:||Joanna Chambers, Nicole Javinett, Alexis Richardson, Jordan Streete|
|Gains:||Emily Hernandez, Taylor Markley, Taylor Pettit, Nova Staruk, Emily Turner, Grace Walker, Samantha Nokes (transfer from New Hampshire), Sammi Radzai (transfer from West Chester: not on gymnastics team)|
|Returning From Injury:||Madelyn Viles, Rian Thompkins, Brooklyn Weingardt|
Potential Contributors: Lola Sepulveda (9.700 NQS), Kieran Ross (9.660), Abigail Kenney (9.535), Savannah Lindley (9.510), Olivia Imbarlina, Tamyra Singletary, Quinn Aiken, Samantha Nokes, Nova Staruk, Sammi Radzai
How It Looked Before: Vault was usually pretty reliable for UB. This is a varied group of vaults with an equally mixed group of start values. The No. 1 and No. 3 vaulters from last year (by NQS) have graduated.
How It Looks Now: Freshman Nova Staruk’s Tsukahara full is a very big deal here. Transfer Samantha Nokes has a Yurchenko tuck full that looks competitive with the rest of the lineup. Sammi Radzai is an intriguing wildcard: She’s a Kasamatsu vaulter, but it’s unclear which vault exactly she’ll do in college.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? About the same. There are some good prospects here, but they’ll need to step up to replace important routines.
Potential Contributors: Olivia Imbarlina (9.585 NQS), Catherine Aucoin (9.555), Abigail Kenney (9.485), Lola Sepulveda (9.470), Kieran Ross (9.405), Savannah Lindley, Samantha Nokes, Taylor Markley, Nova Staruk, Madelyn Viles
How It Looked Before: Bars was Bridgeport’s toughest event in 2023, though it picked up toward the end of the season.
How It Looks Now: Taylor Markley is the strongest freshman option here, though missing her senior season of high school with an elbow injury means that it’s hard to guess at her form right now. Nokes could be an important contributor here. Staruk showed off a flashy one-and-a-half pirouette to Jaeger combination the other day, which is the kind of vintage Bridgeport extraness that you can’t help but love.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Improvement here is less about new routines and more about looking more like March 2023 Bridgeport than January 2023 Bridgeport.
Potential Contributors: Olivia Imbarlina (9.770 NQS), Hannah Barry (9.675) Kieran Ross (9.665), Lola Sepulveda (9.665), Molly McAleavey, Skyler Vulchev, Abigail Kenney, Rian Thompkins, Samantha Nokes, Emily Turner, Grace Walker
How It Looked Before: The Knights’ best-ranked event in both 2022 and 2023, beam has been an important lifeline for this program lately.
How It Looks Now: Half of the NQS routines from 2023 graduated, which is a challenge. Sophomore Rian Thompkins is returning from injury and has been spotted training her pet event. Freshmen Emily Turner and Grace Walker have tantalizing career highs from level 10 and could easily figure in.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Genuinely uncertain. The graduating routines could end up really hurting, but there are enough replacement options that everything could be completely fine.
Potential Contributors: Abigail Kenney (9.720 NQS), Lola Sepulveda (9.690), Olivia Imbarlina (9.675), Kieran Ross (9.620), Catherine Aucoin (9.500), Tamyra Singletary, Catherine Aucoin, Tierney Milliken, Madelyn Viles, Nova Staruk
How It Looked Before: Floor was reasonably consistent in 2023, but because it’s a strength for so many other teams, it ended up being Bridgeport’s lowest-ranked event. This event soared in the last weeks of the season, hinting at real potential.
How It Looks Now: There are lots of options here, including injury-returner Madelyn Viles who shone on floor in level 10 and Staruk who finished eighth in the country on this event at level 10 nationals this year.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. This event looked so good at the end of last year that adding a bunch of freshmen could make it a real strength.
Three Big Questions
How does Bridgeport bring consistency back?
Bridgeport has faced so much adversity and competed so short-handed for the last few seasons that scores hardly seemed to matter, we were just grateful to see the Knights still out there. In 2024, the opportunity and personnel are finally sufficient that we could begin to see a return to form, but it’s got to begin with hitting more routines and doing it earlier in the season. Those fabulous March meets showed it can be done, but what we’ll be watching for in 2024 is a Bridgeport that enters the season ready to fight.
How much of an impact will losing those seniors have?
Bridgeport’s wonderful graduating class included a fifth-year and two sixth-years who provided important stability as the program crawled back from the brink. It will be exciting to see Bridgeport’s new generation really take over, but losing their leadership—not to mention their routine contributions—isn’t a trivial challenge.
What will the ‘wow factor’ skills be this year?
Bridgeport loves to show flashy and memorable skills. We mentioned Nova Staruk’s one-and-a-half pirouette. We’re also looking out for twisting machine Tamyra Singletary on floor: She’s seriously worked a triple twist and a front double twist, and this offseason she was playing with a Rudi to back full twist. There might be even more we haven’t seen yet.
READ THIS NEXT: Potential Lineups: GEC Part I
Article by Rebecca Scally