On to the next set of hopeful young freshmen! We've got several volumes of Lexie Priessman injury history to get through, so let's get going.
It won't be an easy little stroll through the meadow for LSU this year. Every possible gymnast in the universe graduated after last season, so now it's just Jay Clark and one grip sitting there writing poems about loneliness. The problem is actually not so much the number of lost routines (there's still a solid core) as the value of those routines. Seven of the eight 5th-6th routines from last year are gone, which means a hefty little number of 9.9s will need to be sculpted from somewhere TBD that may or may not exist. The good news is that this year's freshman class is wildly talented.
Let's start by addressing Lexie Priessman. It's hard to believe she's just now starting college because even when she was a junior elite she already looked like she had just moved to New York to get a job in PR, while all the other girls were like, "I'm four."
We all know what a healthy Lexie Priessman would be capable of, at least if we can remember back that far or if "healthy Lexie Priessman" is still a possible theoretical state of matter. She could be an absolute ridiculous star on vault and floor, and also everywhere because Lexie Priessman. I'm pretty interested to see what she ends up putting together on bars and beam (fingers crossed) because as an elite, her form could get pretty ragged on those events, becoming more pronounced as time went on. That seemed to be primarily a function of pushing the D-score via skills that weren't actually great ideas for her, but we'll have to see if an NCAA routine is indeed a much cleaner prospect.
Of course, the only real question heading into Priessman's NCAA career is what shape she's in. And I don't mean shape like fitness. I mean what actual geometric shape she is. Triangle? Rhombus? Pentagram? Having endured years of the emotional and physical turmoil of OCD Sunday School, we can never really be sure. The mystery deepens. Priessman has been in various states of extreme leg-disappearedness for the last, oh, 600 months, ever since MLT put that hex on her where every time she does a skill, her body breaks into a thousand pieces. Her level of MLT-breaks will be the deciding factor as to where she ends up on the huge-star/injury-retirement scale. Can she get back to full strength? At some point?
Keeping on the topic of relatively unknown quantities post-2012, remember how obsessed you were with Sarah Finnegan for 11 minutes? Well, she's back. It's really exciting. We hope. The trouble is that we haven't seen any real gymnastics from her since the late 1950s. Is she healthy? Is she doing all the events? Is she a tatted-up truck driver now? We have no way of knowing. Finnegan was excellent all-around during her shooting-star elite career, though I have to think bars and beam will be her key events (especially post-Courville and Jordan, and post-that thing where she competed gymnastics). Both those lineups need 500ccs of undiluted Finnegan, stat. (That's her doing a lovely DLO off bars in the training video above, right? I have a lot of ID problems...) In case you also need a refresher about Finnegan's heavenly beam routine, this is important viewing, mostly because there's some priceless Elfi and Tim at the beginning about her really unique wolf turn. It's an excellent lesson in what it sounds like when Tim is 100% done with your life.
Finnegan and Priessman are intended as the replacement stars for our dearly departed favorites, but because of their injuries/lack of competition in the past eon, LSU will have to lean pretty heavily on the rest of this class to be sturdy workhorses and fill in many of these lineup gaps.
The very best thing about McKenna Lou Kelley entering NCAA is that we finally get to stop going, "Wait, are you even an elite? Then why are you at Marthaville every day?" Humanity must collectively and immediately stop trying to make MARY LOU'S DAUGHTER AHHHH happen, so it's already better.
McKenna Lou is a powermansion on floor. She has a totally casual DLO and will need to become a major force in replacing those lost late-lineup floor scores. Now we just need to teach her a seat drop. It'll go fine. Also, sometimes Mary Lou has 18 pulmonary spasms of motherhood during her routine.
Kelley vaults a full, but it's a pretty big full that should be something usable for the team in spite of the scoring downgrade. It can complement the returning 10.0 SV vaults from Gnat, Savona, and Ewing. Bars and beam are more of a question. She brings that same power to her acro skills on beam, but the dance elements can be a little underbaked, and on bars the current state of her leg form and handstands may hold her back in spite of her skill set.
The sleeper in this class is going to be Julianna Cannamela. She really stands out in the above training video (she's the redhead), and not just because it's easy to identify which one she is. But mostly. The individual skills she shows in that video look stronger than they did in the JO routines I've seen (especially that pretty good floor DLO and usable full on vault), and that's always a good sign. Cannamela was consistently acceptable across four events as a JO gymnast, which is somewhat rare. She seems like the type who could give you a 9.850 on any event when called upon, which given the injury histories here, will be essential.
There isn't much extra baggage in this freshman class. It's big, but all five gymnasts should be contributors. Kaitlyn Szafranski was among that gaggle of Parkettes who tried junior elite a million years ago, and the LSU coaches seem to be high on her bars potential. That's understandable since she does have a serious Ray going on, but the routine isn't all the way there. Her JO work exposes some form issues, especially with leg breaks and piking in the DLO, but I expect it to be one of those Jay Clark projects. It will especially necessary because LSU looks relatively devoid of true bars women this season, again having to rely on a few people who can do the event but don't love it (the Gnats, the Savonas, etc...)
Thank you for the IDs, Emily!
Georgia is in quite a different position from LSU, retaining the large majority of important routines from last season (so, Jay and Rogers). It's mostly bars where the Gymdogs will need to restock, with Chelsea Davis gone and Kiera Brown having been...quietly removed. Beam could also use some new big scores after last year's 9.825-a-thon (which is slightly worrying because this freshman class doesn't particularly love life, and by life I mean dance elements, on beam.)
Expect Gracie Cherrey to be a significant part of the bars project with her big Ray and useful bail. She'll need to turn those pieces into a realistic mid-late-lineup option to support what will obviously be constant and automatic 10.000s for Her Ladyship. The main concern I have right now for Cherrey's bars routine is the crazy legs on the DLO. They're a little EHH and could compromise her score depending on whether the judges choose to notice that or just give her the full Alaina Johnson treatment. What's a leg separation? Cherrey is also working a full-in on floor, and has received solid scores for her double-back routines in JO. It will be interesting to watch that progress since Georgia had a somewhat icy relationship with E passes last season, pushing to get them into the routines around mid-season but not performing them cleanly enough to be worth it. Will they make a point of forcing those passes into routines earlier this season? Or just go for clean D elements?
One person who will be expected to bring the power and difficulty is Sydney Snead, the first Dr. Seuss character to join a D1 NCAA gymnastics program. She has a stellar 1.5 on vault, and if you put her along with the three returning 1.5s, Georgia is among the programs best positioned to take advantage of the new vault values. Snead also shows a piked full-in on floor that she has been performing regularly as a JO gymnast, which should be useful in stepping up the difficulty. While she's primarily known as a vault and floor gymnast, her bars are actually pretty good. She has some toe point going on, at least, so I'm sold, even if there are breaks here and there. Originally, I had her in my head as a two-eventer, but I could envision more for her at some point.
Caroline Bradford is the late addition to round out the roster and the least likely of the three to make a splash, but as seen in the training video, she's got some line on bars and that front on beam looks good. She was a solid finisher in JO back in the junior days, but then disappeared for a thousand centuries (presumably injuries) until this season, so we'll have to see what she has been able to regain.
A cursory look at the Nebraska roster for this year reveals that it's...um...tiny. That's nothing new. This is Nebraska. But now that Kamerin Moore and Ariel Martin have disappeared into the sands of time with Implied Injury Retirement Syndrome, the Huskers return just five regularly competing gymnasts (and just three floor workers from last year), meaning that by mathematical necessity, this year's six freshmen have some work to do. Even though I would normally characterize this year's new class as supporting players/spot contributors with an emphasis on bars, they'll have to do more than that and compete on some events we wouldn't normally expect them to do. Also don't be surprised if this becomes another one of those 6 competitor, everyone does the all-around, seasons.
Sienna Crouse seems the most likely to contribute significantly. On bars she has a big, giant, humongous gienger and laudable amplitude in all her release elements, even if there's some form to be worked out. I'm looking forward to that routine. She also has a front double full on floor with generally clean twisting overall, making her the only Nebraska freshman (as far as I know) coming in with an E pass. Given the need for floor workers to fill out that lineup and help Lambert and Blanske, that's a thing. Her full on vault is a little touch-and-go. Sometimes it can be pretty low, but this is also Nebraska and they make a lot vaults.
The big vault in this class, however, comes from Megan Schweihofer. Her yfull is a Nebraska yfull and the girl can land it. She should figure in that lineup and hopefully on beam as well. She's got something there, even if there's a hint of leggishness going on. That full turn. I'd like to see her in that lineup. In the great search for floor routines, she has your normal double pike and double tuck, so that's there if necessary.
Kami Shows is a case worth watching because I think she would have been a bigger deal coming in had she not torn her Achilles in 2014. It's unclear what gymnast we'll see at this point because while she used to have some solid height in her floor tumbling back in the day, she hasn't done floor since 2013. In her comeback meets in 2015, she did only bars and beam. On bars, she has a shap and a pretty high tkatchev, so that will be a routine to keep tabs on. Catelyn Orel comes from GAGE, and I'm not really sure what we're going to see from her. She never had the big JO career and didn't compete in the major meets to give us a good scoring/ranking comparison, but she has your overall NCAA skill set: a pretty clean yhalf on vault, gienger and tkatchev on bars, double pike on floor, and some moments of general GAGEity in all of that, along with some form concerns like split positions on beam.
The rest of the class comes from Gym-Max, with Kelli Chung and Megan Kuo jumping in late to try to round out the roster. Chung has some good Gym-Max toes on bars and nice splits and leg form on beam, but they shouldn't be significant contributors.
In other news, am I being dense, or do we not get embed code for gymnastike videos anymore now that they decided gymnastike was an OK name, but just didn't remind people of periods quite enough?