Jordan Bowers Oklahoma

Former Recruits We’d Upgrade to Five-Stars

As you likely know by now, we re-evaluated graduating seniors for the first time during our ratings process. Prior to this year, seniors weren’t given new ratings due to a variety of factors, including bandwidth and the timing of the start of the national signing period. However, this always left some recruits with a rating not indicative of their true status for college readiness as they headed off to college thanks to having a stellar senior season.

While we can’t go back and change the past, we can highlight some gymnasts who would have likely reached five stars had we rerated their classes when they were seniors. Note: College success was not taken into account for the following article; only senior-year performance was considered. This also isn’t an exhaustive list but merely a smattering of some of the gymnasts who we strongly feel would have reached five stars with a senior-year re-evaluation.

Sloane Blakely

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Florida

Why we’d upgrade her: In 2020 we rated Blakely as an elite, as she’d competed as one for the past four years. Back then, some form and consistency issues prevented her from reaching the five-star benchmark. Things changed in 2021 when she downgraded to level 10 for her senior season. She had a sensational glow-up, scoring over 39 points in four of the six meets she competed in. She posted career highs of 9.900 or better on all four events, as well as a 39.600 in the all-around at regionals. Those results, coupled with clean execution, would have boosted her overall rating score substantially, and she would have been named a five-star recruit. 

Jocelyn Moore

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Missouri

Why we’d upgrade her: Moore would have been named a five-star recruit had we rerated her in 2021, as her scores improved by two to four tenths on vault, bars and floor between 2019 and 2021. It was during her senior year that her Yurchenko one and a half developed the amplitude and consistency on landing we are now used to seeing in college. It scored two perfect 10.0s and a 9.950 to win the national title. Consistency issues on beam would have prevented her from being one of the top five-star recruits, but she would have made the cut nevertheless. 

Alex Theodorou

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Arizona State

Why we’d upgrade her: Theodorou’s college career has been marred by injuries, so it’s hard to remember her in her prime during her senior season. In 2021, though, she improved her all-around potential by nearly five tenths, moving from a low-38-point average to a high 38. She scored over 39 points in the all-around three times, and was capable of scoring a 10.0 on vault for her Yurchenko full on tuck off, and 9.8+ on the other three events. Unlike nowadays, a few years ago scoring over 39 points in level 10 was a rare achievement, so for Theodorou to do so three times in one season was a remarkable feat. A rerate in 2021 would have made her one of the biggest improvers of her class. 

Lilly Hudson

Former rating: Not Rated

College: Alabama

Why we’d upgrade her: We’ll always regret not being able to rate Hudson, who didn’t have enough available videos online for us to rate her. She would have likely been a three- or four-star recruit in 2020, but her exceptional season the following year would have propelled her into the five-stardom. In her senior campaign in 2021, she scored career highs of 39.100 in the all-around and of 9.900 on vault, as well as of 9.775 or better on the other three events. Although we never saw much footage of her gymnastics even that year, her performance at the Nastia Liukin Cup gave us an indication that Alabama was about to welcome a five-star recruit.

Anya Pilgrim

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Florida

Why we’d upgrade her: Similarly to Blakely, in 2021 we rated Pilgrim as an elite. At the time, she was competing only a piked-down Yurchenko full on vault and had some execution issues on the other events that didn’t award her gymnastics the fluidity and lightness that have come to characterize her in college. When she downgraded to level 10 in 2022, though, she was able to emphasize the best elements of her gymnastics. She scored a career high 39.025 in her first level-10 meet, and since then, despite some hiccups on bars and beam, she proved to be a five-star-worthy all-arounder, capable of a 9.950 on vault and of 9.750 or better on the other three events.

Aleah Finnegan

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: LSU

Why we’d upgrade her: Finnegan was the highest-ranked four-star recruit in the class of 2021, just one point away from the five-star threshold. We rated her in 2020 on the basis of her 2019 elite performances (she didn’t compete in 2020 because of the pandemic), and while we acknowledged that she had five-star potential on beam and floor, her vault and bars were more questionable. On bars, she had endemic execution issues, and on vault, we weren’t sure her Yurchenko double would make it to college and her Podkopayeva had landing problems. If we had rerated her in 2021, we would have waited for her to compete at the U.S. Classic in late May, and her performance there would have likely convinced us that she had five-star potential. Her leg-form issues on bars were still there, but her new Yurchenko one and a half looked ready for the NCAA.

Jordan Bowers

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Oklahoma

Why we’d upgrade her: Bowers’ current superstar status makes us easily forget what a fragile gymnast she was in club. A junior elite up until 2018, she was forced to retire from the highest level of the sport due to a series of serious back injuries. She didn’t compete at all in 2019 and her 2020 season was cut short by the pandemic, so it was only in her senior year, in 2021, that she started showing glimpses of her college potential. Most of her all-around scores that year ranged between 38.500 and 38.650, but she had a career high of 38.925, as well as a pair of 9.875s on vault and bars. Those results were still not even close to her college dominance but were enough to make her a five-star recruit.

Leah Smith

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Arkansas

Why we’d upgrade her: Now that she’s a staple on Arkansas’s vault and floor lineups, we tend to forget many things about Smith’s club career—like the fact that she was originally committed to Cal and then to Washington, before landing in Fayetteville; the fact that she trained at AIM for a long time before switching the the World Champions Centre in her senior year; and the fact that she arrived in college as one of the most talked-about level 10s. Thanks in part to her switch to the WCC, Smith had a glow-up senior season. She scored a career-high 39.125 in the all-around, as well as a 10.0 on floor and 9.950s on bars and vault. She was capable of a Yurchenko double on vault and of beautifully executed full-twisting double pike on floor. Her senior-season campaign was certainly five-star worthy. 

Haley Tyson

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Iowa

Why we’d upgrade her: Back in 2021, Tyson was committed to Minnesota, where she spent her freshman year. As in 2019, in her 2021 senior season she wasn’t the most consistent gymnast, swinging from the high 37s to the low 39s, but by then she had enough scores in the high-38- and low-39 range to make her jump from four to five stars. On a good day, she was capable of 9.9-plus on vault, bars, and floor.

Gabi Ortiz

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Michigan State

Why we’d upgrade her: When we rated Ortiz in 2022, she was showing glimpses of five-star potential—she sported all-around scores of 38.925 and 39.125 (and a 10.0 on vault) among many 36-plus and 37-plus scores. In her senior season in 2023, she was a much more poised and consistent gymnast. She never scored once below 38.250 and posted career highs of 39.400 in the all-around, 10.0 on floor and 9.800 on beam. Had we rerated her, she would have been Michigan State’s third consecutive five-star recruit after Skyla Schulte and Nikki Smith.

Rayna Light

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Missouri

Why we’d upgrade her: Light was one of those later bloomers who had an exceptional senior season in 2023, improving her average point range by two to three tenths on all events. We would have had a hard time rerating her because she stopped posting competition videos online after her junior year, but we were under the impression that the score difference didn’t depend as much on difficulty as it did on execution: she became much more consistent at finding landings and at keeping her nerves at bay. In 2023 she scored three times over 39 points, including a 39.400, and boasted career highs of 9.925 on floor, 9.900 on vault, and 9.850 on the other two events.

Sophia Esposito

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Oregon State

Why we’d upgrade her: Esposito had a tremendous senior season in 2023. She competed six times and incremented her all-around score every week, starting from a 37.700 (on par with her 2022 performances) and ending with a 39.000 at nationals. The build-up told us that her big scores were no fluke: she was a gymnast growing in confidence and maturity under our eyes, and we would have rewarded it with a five-star nod. As we were about to find out, her career-high 9.900 on vault at nationals was only the beginning of her vaulting fairytale—she matched that score five times at Oregon State during her freshman campaign.

Danielle Sievers

Former rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

College: Oklahoma

Why we’d upgrade her: When we rated Sievers in 2020, she was committed to Nebraska and had never scored over 38.425 (a substantially higher number than her average). Had we rerated her in 2021, we would have looked at a very different gymnast. Her average all-around score was around 38.650 with a career high of 38.925 (these numbers were similar to Bowers’ above). She sported a perfect 10.0 on vault, a 9.950 on floor and a 9.825 on bars. She didn’t look like the stick machine that she would become at Oklahoma, but she was getting there.

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Article by Talitha Ilacqua

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