May 17, 2015

2015 Level 10 Nationals Results

Over the weekend, a medium-sized army of Level 10s gathered together in the void between the dimensions to contest their national championship. This is our annual opportunity to start to learn the names of the people who will be scattering 9.825s all over NCAA gymnastics in a matter of months. As always, the competition is broken down into 8 age groups (Junior A-D, Senior A-D), and my attention is primarily on Senior D and Senior C, since those are the gymnasts who will be joining college gymnastics this fall. For the rest, there will still be plenty of time to try to care about them later.

Full results for all the sessions can be found at USAG, and all the various commitments can be found at collegegymfans and here, but here's a basic breakdown of the key competitors in the senior ranks. 


Top 10 AA
1. Alicia Boren – Florida 2015-2016
38.800 (VT - 1st; UB - 2nd; BB - 2nd; FX - 3rd)
Alicia Boren wins JO Nationals every year. And when I say that, I'm not exaggerating like I usually am. She actually wins her age group every single year. It's a guarantee that she will be given the "new Kytra" moniker within a millisecond of arriving at Florida. She's not Kytra, but she did manage to get third on floor even with an OOB and will be expected to contribute on at least three events, joining Peyton Ernst to try to replace those Kytra routines and add a few others to the pile.

2. Kirah Koshinski – West Virginia 2015-2016
38.475 (VT - 2nd; UB - 13th; BB - 15th; FX - 1st)
I love to see gymnasts going to not-top schools place well in JO. It doesn't always translate to sudden stardom or a boost for those programs, but these vault and floor routines are the real deal. 

3. Emma McLean – Michigan 2015-2016
38.350 (VT - 4th; UB - 11th; BB - 12th; FX - 2nd)
Michigan had a very strong JO Nationals overall with a number of top finishes, and seeing McLean in third in particular is very encouraging. Karas has been the more heralded of the two newbies for next season, but Michigan is not an extremely deep team and will remain so next season, so McLean showing the ability to be solid across the board is important because they may need to rely on that. And that vault should be a thing.

4. Sarah Means – Boise State 2015-2016
38.175 (VT - 4th; UB - 19th; BB - 4th; FX - 8th)
Beam. After that beam showing at regionals, this 4th place is a chorus of angels.  

5. Sabrina Garcia – Penn State 2015-2016
38.050 (VT - 27th; UB - 3rd; BB - 4th; FX - 5th)

6. Jaclyn Sampson – Sacramento State 2015-2016
37.900 (VT - 25th; UB - 8th; BB - 3rd; FX - 21st)

7. Jenna Bresette – Alabama 2015-2016
37.875 (VT - 11th; UB - 3rd; BB - 36th; FX - 5th)
8. Amanda Huang – Alabama 2015-2016
37.625 (VT - 32nd; UB - 3rd; BB - 12th; FX - 33rd)
Even though Alabama is losing another crop of essential routines (4 from Clark, 2 from Williams, 1 from Frost), there is reason for optimism in the fairly large, yet relatively unheralded, class they are bringing in. These L10s boast some usable routines that can pad those lineups, at least in the spots that a please-be-healthy-now Kiana Winston doesn't swoop in to take up. And by "pad those lineups," I don't mean it in a coach-like "she'll be great depth for our team...and will never see the light of day" kind of way. They'll actually pad the lineups and contribute.  

Bresette, a chief member of the "former GAGE gymnast" club, was felled by the dreaded beam here, otherwise she would have comfortably been top 5. Huang excels on bars, a lineup that was a little too 9.850 for Alabama at times this year.

8. Haylee Roe – Illinois 2015-2016
37.625 (VT - 15th; UB - 36th; BB - 9th; FX - 21st)

10. Ciara Gresham – ?
37.600 (VT - 10th; UB - 33rd; BB - 25th; FX - 8th)

Samantha Cerio – Auburn 2015-2016
UB - 1st; FX - 5th
Cerio is another who could have been top 5 in the AA with a hit beam routine. Auburn is losing some serious scores after last season, with Megan Walker's bars routine pretty high on that list. Someone is going to have to pick that up if they want to double down on magical seasons.  

Angelina Giancroce – Alabama, now, apparently 2015-2016
BB - 4th; FX - 4th
Weren't you going to Georgia? Another addition to the Alabama depth parade. How does Alabama always manage to have 16 new contributing freshmen every season? We always make fun of "we have a really young team this year..." but Alabama truly always does.

Shannon McNatt – Utah 2015-2016
VT - 4th; UB - 9th

Stephanie Brock – ?
VT - 7th; BB - 9th

Sarah Lippowitsch – Kent State 2015-2016
BB - 1st

Ashley Hiller – Florida 2015-2016
VT - 2nd
Amanda Cheney – Florida 2015-2016
BB - 4th
A few casual bonus JO standouts for a team that doesn't need them. 2nd on vault in Senior D would be something to boast about...if you weren't competing with Sloan, McMurtry, Baker, and Boren for vault spots.

Brooke Kelly – Missouri 2015-2016
BB - 4th

Sienna Crouse – Nebraska 2015-2016
UB - 6th

Mary Jacobsen – Oregon State 2015-2016
UB - 6th

Lauren Schmeiss – Sacramento State 2015-2016
VT - 7th

Madeleine Huber – Missouri 2015-2016
UB - 9th

Nicole O'Leary – New Hampshire 2015-2016
VT - 9th

MaryElle Arduino – Towson 2015-2016
BB - 9th

Sidney Dukes – Kentucky 2015-2016
FX - 10th

Gracie Cherrey – Georgia 2015-2016
Notable as a Georgia recruit who will be relied upon for real contribution next season, but a bars disaster took her out of the top 10 AA spots.


Top 10 AA
1. Macy Toronjo – UCLA 2015-2016
38.650 (VT - 4th; UB - 5th; BB - 3rd; FX - 1st)
It's reasonable to assume that UCLA will take a hit next year without Sam Peszek. Ohashi is amazing, but she's not the same type of gymnast. She doesn't have that "there is literally a 0% chance you will miss this routine" Peszekness, and I worry about her fragility. That's why Toronjo is going to be so important. She's no Peszek, but she is your prototypical second-tier elite, with all the skills and 9.850+ potential, who can jump in and buoy those lineups, ensuring that they aren't full of...ahem...ratty old 9.750s at nationals. Also, a DLO and a full in at JO Nationals? Yes you did.

2. Makenna Merrell – Utah 2015-2016
38.625 (VT - 2nd; UB - 4th; BB - 4th; FX - 2nd)
Even though Skinner has decided to pass on this year to see if she can do a vault with zero hands make the Olympics, Utah still has another bang-up class of L10s coming in who all placed well this weekend. It's unrealistic to expect them to live up to the quality of the routines lost, but they will be able to combine with this past year's freshmen (who should contribute more) to try at least to minimize the damage and ensure that team depth remains a thing. Note the cleaner line and toes that Merrell has on bars, at least from this angle. That's my big pet peeve about Utah's bars, so get this girl in the lineup.

May 10, 2015

The Position Has Been Filled

All of those coaching vacancies we had just a few days ago are disappearing. Because they have to. This is such a vital period of the year for recruiting, and a team like Florida cannot afford to go even a month without a head coach in place. The longer they're without a head coach to snatch those recruits up, the prettier UCLA, Oklahoma, and Alabama start to look. Someone absolutely had to be in place by JO Nationals.

So, as Florida announced yesterday, former Auburn associate head coach Jenny Rowland has been hired to take over the position of Rhonda 2. Jenny Rowland's was one of the first names bandied about once Rhonda resigned because she is among the biggest rising-star associate/assistants in the country, is a Rhonda favorite, and seems to fit the profile of a replacement Rhonda pretty exactly, considering her age, competition history, coaching history, and areas of expertise. It's a logical fit, and if she does decide to keep the same assistants, their strengths would complement each other very well. Rowland's best recent claim to awesomeness is her role as Auburn's beam coach. That beam lineup this past season was on it.

Florida is clearly not going for a sea change here. They're hoping for Rhonda Part 2, which may provide a few more initial challenges of the "but that's not how Rhonda used to do it!" variety for those expecting her to be an exact clone, but ultimately may result in less boat-rocking than some other choices would have. Still, she is new to the program, so some degree of uprooting is inevitable.  She will need to change certain things to fit her style and develop the program identity she wants. Everyone else will have to adjust. It won't be the same situation as Alabama this year or Utah next year, with new leaders who are more than familiar with the current system and clearly and openly want to keep things the same.

I suppose the one knock against Jenny Rowland is that she hasn't been a head coach before, but meh. Many of the most successful current coaches were not head coaches before they took over their positions, and she's hardly new to the world of top-program college gymnastics and the expectations of that. Inevitable growing pains? Sure. Major stumbling block? I seriously doubt it.

Not to be completely overshadowed (that much), Tabitha Yim has also been announced as the new head coach at Arizona to follow Bill Ryden after he "chose to resign." I'm slightly obsessed with Tabitha Yim, so I'm all about this decision. What's the Arizona choreography going to be like now? There's a little bit more reason to have "enough experience?" questions in Tabitha's case because she hasn't been around very long and hasn't held a leadership coaching position at a program before (in my mind she has still been in that "recent former team member, #3 coach on the team" slot), but at the same time, she's Tabitha Yim. Don't bet against that. It's an exciting choice that helps usher in the newest generation of coaches, and I'm eager to see what she does to try to change a program that has stagnated in that 15-20 ranking territory. It's time to have higher hopes and Tabitha Yim-level expectations for Arizona. Hopefully, she does not bring with her Stanford's general attitude of unnecessary secrecy around the program if she wants to build it into something more.