Articles by "NCAA Gymnastics"
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Lynnzee Brown after the 2017 J.O. National Championships. Photograph: Denver Gymnastics/Instagram

The 2018 NCAA season is still months away, but it is never too early to start knowing the incoming freshman class for each team. This is both a way to begin thinking of potential lineups, and a way to get to know less well-known gymnasts and their routines.

The Denver Pioneers had an outstanding 2017 season. They qualified to the NCAA National Championships for the first time since 2007 and finished ninth, the best result in school history. The Pioneers are seeking to build their newly-found momentum with new outstanding freshmen, after recruiting 10.0-worth gymnast Maddie Carr last season.

The Pioneers said goodbye to two seniors in 2017: Julia Ross, who was a strong all arounder, and Rachel Fielitz, who competed on vault and occasionally on beam.

Denver will welcome three new outstanding freshmen: Lynnzee Brown, from Raytown, Missouri; Emily Glynn, from Longmont, Colorado; and Mia Sundstrom, from Boulder, Colorado.

LYNNZEE BROWN

Lynnzee Brown trains at Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE), the gym that produced Olympians and NCAA stars Terin Humphrey (Alabama), Ivana Hong (Stanford) and Sarah Finnegan (LSU).

Brown has qualified to the J.O. National Championships every year since 2012 and is a two-time J.O. National Team Member (2015 and 2016). At the J.O.s in 2016, she finished third on vault, fourth in the all-around and tied for fifth on floor. She also finished at least tied for fourth in the all-around, on vault and on bars at the 2015 J.O. Nationals. In 2016 she swept all events and the all around at the State Championships, and in 2015, at the Region 4 Championships, she won the all around and the vault title, and was second on bars, beam and floor. Brown had an outstanding 2017 season. In March she competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup, where she finished eighth in the all around. At the Missouri State Championships also in March, she won gold on all events but bars, where she was second. At the Region 4 Championships in April, she was second in the all around and tied for second on vault and floor. Brown ended her club career at the J.O. National Championships, where she had a stunning competition. She was second in the all around, she tied for second on floor and bars and tied for third on bars.

Brown is an incredible all arounder. On floor, she has great presence, and competes a double layout, a high one-and-a-half twist into front layout, and a double pike. On vault she performs a one-and-a-half-twisting Yurchenko, which is worth a 10.0-start value in the NCAA. On bars she competes a very difficult combination: full pirouette into Maloney into Pak salto, and also a Maloney half. Finally, on beam she competes a BHS + LOSO series, a free-walkover, an inverse full turn, a side somi, and a very difficult dismount: round-off + BHS + double twist. Sometimes she loses some straight form in the air on beam, but she is very consistent. She will be a great asset for the Denver Pioneers next year!


EMILY GLYNN

Emily Glynn trains at Airborne Gymnastics. She qualified to the J.O. Nationals three years in a row (2013, 2014 and 2015). In 2014 she tied for seventeenth on vault, and in 2015 she tied for eighteenth on balance beam. In 2015, also competed at the Region 3 Championships, where she had an outstanding competition, winning gold on the uneven bars and bronze on floor and in the all-around. In 2015 she was also the Level 10 State all-around, beam and floor champion. After missing the 2016 season due to injury, she came back strong in 2017. At the Colorado State Championships in March she tied for fourth place on beam, fifth on vault and eighth both on bars and in the all around. And at the Region 3 Championships in April, she tied for fifth on vault and for eighth on the uneven bars.

Glynn is a powerful gymnast, who has potential on all apparatuses. On vault, she performs a high FTY. On bars, she competes a solid routine, which includes a Gienger, a shoot-over to the low bar, and a full-in dismount. She has pretty lines on beam, where her series is a BHS + LOSO. Finally, on floor, she competes an E-pass, a full-in, with ease. There is also footage of her performing a double-double!


MIA SUNDSTROM

Mia Sundstrom also trains at Airborne Gymnastics, alongside Emily Glynn. She is a two-time National Junior Elite Compulsory Qualifier (2013 and 2014) and a three-time J.O. National qualifier (2013, 2015 and 2017). At the J.O.s in 2013  she finished fifth in the all around and fourth on the uneven bars. In 2015 she tied for twelfth place on beam and for eighteenth on vault, while in 2017 she tied for eleventh on vault. In 2015, at the Colorado State Championships, she won both vault and bars and tied for gold in the all around. At the Region 3 Championships the following month she tied for gold on bars, took second in the all around and third on vault. Her 2016 season was limited due to injury, but Sundstrom came back strong in 2017. At the Colorado State Championships in March she was second in the all around, third on floor, and she tied for second on bars and for third on vault. At the Region 3 Championships in April she was fourth both in the all around and on beam and she tied also for fourth on floor.

Sundstrom is a very elegant gymnast. On floor, she performs with style, competing a double pike, a front full to front pike and a double tuck. On vault, she performs a very clean FTY. On beam, she has beautiful lines and pointed toes. She performs an excellent switch leap to switch-half, a free cartwheel, and a piked Gainer dismount. Finally, once again on bars she has beautiful lines. She performs a Tkatchev, a shoot-over to low bar and a full-in dismount, a perfect routine for the NCAA. Certain poses remind me of Angelina Melnikova!


Good luck to the future Pioneers!

By Talitha Ilacqua


Jennifer Oh wears a Husky t-shirt. Photograph: WOGA/Instagram


The 2018 NCAA season is still months away, but it is never too early to start knowing the incoming freshman class for each team. This is both a way to begin thinking of potential lineups, and a way to get to know less well-known gymnasts and their routines.

2017 was Olympian Elise Ray’s first season as head coach of the Washington Huskies and it was a remarkable one. Washington tied UCLA for third place at the Pac-12 Conference Championships in March, and later qualified to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1997. There, they had a fantastic semi-final, and missed qualifying to the Super Six by only half a point.

The Huskies said goodbye to three excellent seniors: Kaitlyn Duranczyk, who contributed significantly on the uneven bars and balance beam; Janae Janik, who competed sporadically on bars and consistently on beam; and Alex Yacalis, who was an asset on vault and floor exercise.

To replace them, Washington will welcome four talented freshmen: Rachel Kaplan, from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey; Jennifer Oh, from Plano, Texas; Geneva Thompson, from Edgewood, Washington; and Hannah Willmarth, from Boulder, Colorado.

RACHEL KAPLAN

Rachel Kaplan trains at North Stars Gymnastics Academy. In 2016 she competed at the Region 7 Championships, where she tied for third place on floor, and finished fourth in the all around and on balance beam (tied). Later in 2016 she qualified to the JO National Championships, where she tied for eighteenth place on balance beam and for twentieth on the uneven bars. In 2017 she competed at the Region 7 Championships, where she won a silver medal on floor exercise, tied for sixth on vault and finished ninth on the uneven bars.

Kaplan is an excellent beam worker, she has beautiful form and pointed toes. She performs a strong BHS +LOSO series, reminiscent, in form, of Sarah Finnegan’s, a front Toss and a full-twisting dismount in combination. She is also an elegant and precise floor worker. She competes a double pike, a one-and-a-half twist into front layout and a Rudi. She is also very good on bars. She performs a Jaeger, a full-in dismount and she is training a Pak salto.


JENNIFER OH

Jennifer Oh trains at WOGA, the famous gym that produced Olympic champions Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Madison Kocian, as well as such NCAA stars as Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA), Kocian herself (UCLA) and Natalie Brown (Oklahoma).

Oh started competing as a Level 10 gymnast in 2014. That year she finished eighth on both vault and floor exercise at the State Championships. 2015 was a great year for Oh. At the State Championships she won gold on the uneven bars and bronze in the all around. At the Region 3 Championships she won the floor exercise title and was fourth in the all around, and qualified to the JO National Championships, where she finished forty-third in the all around. In 2016 she won gold on beam at the Region 3 Championships, as well as taking second on floor and in the all around. She later requalified to the JOs, and had an outstanding competition, winning bronze in the all around, and tying for fifth both on the uneven bars and on floor exercise. In 2017 Oh competed at the Kim Zmeskal’s Texas Prime Meet, where she finished sixth on vault, seventh on floor and ninth in the all around, and at the Chow’s Challenge, where she finished seventh on the uneven bars.

Oh is an all arounder and has potential to score very high on all four events. She is a very stylish floor worker, with beautiful presentation and choreography. She competes a double tuck, a one-and-a-half twist into front pike and a Rudi to leap jump. On bars, she has very beautiful lines and good amplitude, she performs a high Jaeger, a shoot-over to low bar and a full pirouette into a double-tuck dismount. She is also a very solid and beautiful beam worker. She competes a cat leap to side-somi, a BHS + LOSO series and a switch-leap to full-twisting dismount on the side of the beam. Finally, on vault she can perform very clean FTY. She could become a real asset for Washington next year!


GENEVA THOMPSON

Geneva Thompson trains at Metropolitan Gymnastics. She is a three-consecutive-time Junior Olympic qualifier (2015, 2016 and 2017). In 2015, she tied for fourth place on vault and for sixth place on the uneven bars. In 2016, she again took fourth place on vault, and tied for fifteenth on balance beam. Finally, in 2017 she won bronze on vault and tied for fifth on balance beam. In 2017 she also competed at the Region 2 Championships, where she had an outstanding competition, winning all four events and the all around title. In 2017 she also won the all around, the vault and the floor titles at the Charity Choice Invitational, where she also won beam, at the SCEGA California Classic, and at the Battle in Belvue, where she also won the bars title.

Thompson also has potential as an all arounder. She is a powerful gymnast on vault and floor. On vault, she competes a very high FTY, but she is also training a DTY. On floor, she can perform both a double layout and a full-twisting double back, as well as several twisting elements. On bars, she competes a shoot-over to the low bar and a double tuck dismount, but she is capable also of a piked Jaeger. Finally, Thompson is also a solid beam worker. She competes a BHS + LOSO series and has some very pretty lines on her leaps.


HANNAH WILLMARTH

Hannah Willmarth trains at Airborne Gymnastics and Dance. She has competed as a Level 10 gymnast since 2014. That year, at the Colorado State Championships, she finished sixth on floor, seventh in the all around, ninth on vault and bars and tenth on beam. The following year, at the same competition, she won bronze on the uneven bars. In 2015 she also competed at the Region 3 Championships, where she tied for eighth on bars and finished fourteenth on both floor and in the all around. In 2016, at the Colorado State Championships, Willmarth had a fantastic competition. She took second in the all around and on vault, third on bars and beam and fifth on floor. At the Region 3 Championships she tied for third on floor, was fourth on bars and sixth in the all around. In 2016 she also qualified to the JO National Championships, where she finished eleventh on the uneven bars. In 2017, she competed at the Colorado State Championships, where she tied for second on floor, for third on bars and was fourth in the all around. At the Region 3 Championships, she finished ninth on bars and tied for twenty-second in the all around.

Willmarth excels on the uneven bars, where she has beautiful lines and difficult elements. She competes a Maloney directly linked to a shoot-over to the low bar and a double-tuck dismount. She is also a very elegant floor worker. She competes a double pike, a double tuck and a one-and-a-half twist into front pike. On beam, she competes a very interesting LOSO into leap jump, a BHS + LOSO series and a one-and-a-half twisting dismount. Finally, on vault she competes a very straight and elegant FTY.


Good luck to the future Huskies!

By Talitha Ilacqua
Anika Dujakovich and Kynsee Roby showing off their Husker pride. Photograph: Anika Dujakovich/Twitter

The 2018 NCAA season is still months away, but it is never too early to start knowing the incoming freshman class for each team. This is both a way to begin thinking of potential lineups, and a way to get to know less well-known gymnasts and their routines.

At the end of last season Nebraska said goodbye to two seniors: Jennie Laeng, who competed in the all around in ten of Nebraska’s twelve meets in 2017, and Ashley Lambert, who contributed substantially on bars, vault and floor.

Nebraska is an interesting team. The Huskers traditionally start slowly, to the point that many forget their potential, but reach top form in time for the NCAA Championships. In 2017, for example, they finished fourth in Semi-Final 2, very close to qualify to the Super Six, and finished seventh in the nation overall.

Nebraska will welcome a very numerous freshman class: Makayla Curtis, from Savannah, Georgia; Anika Dujakovich, from Chicago, Illinois; Karley Hutchinson, from Pearland, Texas; Torri Hutchinson, from Pearland, Texas; Kynsee Roby, from Windsor Heights, Iowa; Rachel Thompson, from Lincoln, Nebraska; and Megan Verceles-Carr, from Los Gatos, California.

MAKAYLA CURTIS

Makayla Curtis trains at Summit Gymnastics. She is a JO National qualifier from 2015 and 2016. In 2015 she finished fourth on vault, while in 2016 she tied for twelfth on floor. In 2016 she competed at the Georgia State Championships, where she tied for third on both vault and beam. And at the 2016 Region 8 Championships she won silver on vault. In 2017 she also another silver medal on vault at the Georgia State Championships and a bronze medal in the same event at the Region 8 Championships.

Curtis is a talented vaulter. She competes a FTY, but there is footage of her competing even an Amanar. She also has potential on the other apparatuses. She performs a double layout on floor, a Maloney on bars, and a very difficult double tuck off beam.


ANIKA DUJAKOVICH

Anika Dujakovich trains at Fuzion Gymnastics Center. She started to compete as a Level 10 gymnast in 2015, and won silver on vault at the Missouri State Championships. In 2016, she regained her silver medal at the same competition, as well as silver also in the all around, uneven bars and floor exercise. In 2016 she also competed at JO National Championships, where she finished ninth on vault and tenth on floor. In January 2017, Dujakovich competed at the Vegas Cup, where she took third place on the balance beam. In February she then competed at the GymQuarters, where she finished third on vault.

Dujakovich has potential as an all arounder. She performs a FTY on vault, while on floor she competes a double pike, a Rudi and a one-and-a-half twist into front layout. On bars, she performs a unique dismount, a toe-on toe-off to front tuck. On balance beam, she competes a cat leap to front Toss and a side somi.


KARLEY HUTCHINSON

Karley Hutchinson trains at Pearland Elite alongside her twin sister Torri, who is also a freshman at Nebraska (see below).

Hutchinson qualified to the JO National Championships in 2015, and tied for thirty-second place on vault. The same year she won the floor title at the Region 3 Championships. At the same competition in 2016 she finished fifth on bars and tied for seventh on vault. In 2017 she competed at the Texas State Championships, where she finished sixth on bars and seventh on vault. She then competed at the Region 3 Championships, where she tied for twelfth on floor. At the 2017 Houston National Invitational she was second on vault, third on floor and fourth in the all around.

Hutchinson can compete two vaults, a front tuck and a FTY. On bars she produces very good toe-on toe-off elements, including a half pirouette, a full pirouette, and piked Tkachev. She also performs a difficult double front dismount. On floor, she competes a double tuck and a one-and-a-half twist to front layout, but there is footage of her training also a strong double front and a double Arabian.


TORRI HUTCHINSON

Torri Hutchinson trains at Pearland Elite alongside her twin sister Karley. She qualified to the JO National Championships both in 2014 and 2017. At both competitions she finished tenth on balance beam. In 2015, at the Region 3 Championships she finished fifth on floor, while a year later she tied for seventh on balance beam. In February 2017 she also competed at the Houston National Invitational, where she won bronze on both bars and beam.

Hutchinson has outstanding lines on both bars and floor. On bars, she can perform a full pirouette in Stalder position and a full-in dismount, while on floor she competes a front double twist, a double tuck and a variety of twisting combination passes. On vault she competes a FTY, and on beam she has an interesting dismount, a free-cartwheel into one-and-a-half twist.


KYNSEE ROBY

Kynsee Roby trains at Triad Gymnastics, the gym that produced other two current Nebraska Huskers, senior Danielle Breen and sophomore Sierra Hassel.

Roby qualified to the JO National Championships in 2013, 2015 and 2016. In 2015 she won the balance beam title, and in 2016 she won silver on bars and in the all around and bronze on beam and floor. In 2015 she was Region 4 champion on both bars and beam, and in 2013 she also was beam champion at the same competition.

Roby is an all arounder, but her best apparatus is beam. She won fourteen beam titles in her club career. She has indeed beautiful lines on beam, she performs a full spin with the leg held at 180 degrees and a free walkover into leap series. She is also very expressive on floor, where she performs a double pike, a double tuck and a one-and-a-half twist into  front pike. On bars, she performs a piked Jaeger, a Pak salto and a double layout, and on vault a FTY.


RACHEL THOMPSON

Rachel Thompson trains at Nebraska School of Gymnastics with Vanessa Meloche, who was a former all-American at Nebraska.

Thompson qualified to the JO National Championships in 2016, where she finished nineteenth on balance beam. In 2016 she also competed at the Nebraska State Championships, and finished third on vault, bars and in the all around. Back in 2015 she won bronze on bars, floor and in the all around at the Nebraska State Championships, and finished ninth on floor at the Region 4 Championships.

Unfortunately there does not seem to be any available videos showing Thompson compete or train. However, according to her result, she seems to be strong on all apparatuses, and could contribute for Nebraska as an all arounder.

MEGAN VERCELES-CARR

Megan Verceles-Carr trains at West Valley Gymnastics School.  She qualified to the JO National Championships a total of four times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. At the 2017 JO National Championships she tied for third place on balance beam, as well as finishing eighth in the all around. Verceles-Carr is the Region 3 balance beam champion from both 2015 and 2017. Back in 2013 she won the bars title at the Northern California State Championships, and in 2014 she won the vault title at the same competition.

Verceles-Carr has great amplitude on all apparatuses. On beam she has particularly very good leaps, while on floor she has learnt to control her passes very well over the years, and the latter now include a very high double pike and two twisting passes. On vault, she performs a FTY with lots of amplitude, while on bars a piked Jaeger, a shoot-over to the low bar and a double tuck dismount.


Good luck to the future Huskers!


By Talitha Ilacqua
A perfect 10.0 during the 2017 season. Photograph: YouTube

The NCAA has approved major changes to the women’s gymnastics post-season format, starting in 2019. The changes will replace the six-team format with four-team competition sessions, including the finals.

The main change is that the famous Super Six final, which includes the top-6 qualifying teams in the country, will be replaced by the ‘Four on the Floor’ final, which will include only the top-4 qualifying teams from the Semi-Finals.

The goal of the new format, the minutes read, is to ‘reduce the length of each meet in the championship by more than an hour, which places a priority on student-athlete health and well-being.’

Here is how the new format will work. There will be three rounds of regional competitions, Regional Play-In, Regionals and Super Regionals, held in 4 locations across the United States, instead of the current 6, on three consecutive days. Super Regionals will be followed by 2 Semi-Final sessions, formed of 4 teams each, and the Final, called ‘Four on the Floor’, which will also be formed of 4 teams, instead of the traditional 6.

The new post-season competition format. Graph: Talitha Ilacqua

REGIONAL COMPETITION

Regional Play-In

In the first of the three rounds of Regional competition, called Regional Play-In, teams ranked 29 to 36 according to their Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) will compete in duo meets (4 meets with 2 teams each). The winner of each meet will advance to Regionals (1 team for each meet, for a total of 4 teams out of 8).

If this rule had been in place in 2017, the 8 teams to dispute the Regional Play-In would have been: Iowa State, New Hampshire, Kent State, Stanford, Penn State, BYU, North Carolina and Minnesota.

In addition to the 29–36-ranked teams, the Regional Play-In will feature the top 16 individual all arounders and the top 16 event specialists, based on their RQS, who are not part of advancing teams, that is, teams ranked 1–28.

Regionals

The second round of competition is Regionals, which will include the top 28 teams in the country and the 4 teams that qualified from the Regional Play-In, for a total of 32 teams. These 32 teams will compete in 4-team format competitions, in 2 sessions for each of the 4 locations. In other words, each location will host two sessions of 4 teams each, for a total of 8 teams per location. The top 2 teams from each session will advance to the Super Regional, for a total of 16 teams out of 32.

With regards to individuals, the all-around winner of each play-in meet (from a non-qualifying team) and the top-finishing gymnast on each event (from a non-qualifying team) will compete at Regionals.

Super Regionals

The third round of competition is Super Regionals, where the 16 teams qualified from Regionals will compete in quad-meets, 1 for each of the 4 locations (4 meets formed of 4 teams each, 1 in each of the 4 locations). The top 2 teams from each session will qualify to the National Semi-Finals.

Individually, the all-around winner of each Regional meet (from a non-qualifying team) will compete at the Super Regionals, alongside the top-finishing gymnast on each event (from a non-qualifying team).


NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS

Semi-Finals

The 8 teams that advanced from Super Regionals will compete in one of the 2 Semi-Final sessions. This is a major change to the current rule, according to which 12 teams compete in the two Semi-Finals. The top-2 teams from each seminal will advance to the Finals.

‘Four on the Floor’ Finals

The major change to the current rule is that the traditional Super Six Finals will be replaced by the ‘Four on the Floor’ Finals. As the name suggests, instead of 6 teams competing, only 4 teams will compete for the National title.

If this rule had been in place in 2017, Utah from Semi-Final 1 and Alabama from Semi-Final 2 would not have competed in the Finals.

Having 4 teams on the floor competing simultaneously instead of 6 means that there will not be any more ‘byes’, that is, those intervals in each rotation, when two teams did not compete.


THOUGHTS – PROS AND CONS

Pros

-           There will be no more byes, which were hard on gymnasts’ endurance and concentration;

-         Having 4 instead of 6 competing teams on the floor reduces the scoring confusion;

-         Shorter competitions are good for both gymnasts and viewers;

-         More individual gymnasts from less renowned teams have the chance to compete in the post-season;

-         The post-season, that is the most exciting part of the NCAA competitive year, will be longer and will include more gymnastics meets overall;

-         A change, even though not necessary, is generally always good to keep things lively and interesting for both gymnasts and spectators.

Cons

-         The main goal of these changes is gymnasts’ wellbeing. However, having three Regional competitions during three consecutive days means that some teams could potentially compete three days in a row, which is very tough on gymnasts’ health, much more than the byes that were eliminated;

-         Less teams will compete in the final, which is a pity, as all top-six teams always produced unmissable gymnastics. It would have been very sad this year not to see Utah and Alabama in the Super Six;

-         Was this necessary? The system was not perfect, but it has been working well for decades. The Super Six were a tradition, and it will be missed;

-         The name ‘Four on the Floor’ is bad – ‘Super Six’ is reminiscent of other important sports events in the U.S., most famously the Super Bowl. Would it not make more sense to call the Finals ‘Super Four’?

By Talitha Ilacqua
MyKayla Skinner still competes a double-double on floor. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

MyKayla Skinner had a phenomenal past twelve months. Last year, after taking fourth in the all around at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, she was named as an alternate to the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Rio.

Once her Olympic experience was over, Skinner moved to university and joined the Utah NCAA gymnastics team. At Utah she became a star. She hit all 56 out of 56 routines during the 2017 season and scored two perfect 10.0s on floor, her best apparatus. At the National Championships in March, she tied for gold on floor and took second in the all around, and helped Utah qualify to the Super Six, where they finished fifth.

Skinner is particularly impressive on floor in collegiate gymnastics, because she decided to keep one of her top-elite level skill, a double-double (Silivas).

And yet, this does not seem enough. On Instagram a few days ago, Utah Gymnastics posted a video of Skinner training a triple-double, a skill no female gymnast has ever competed.

Un post condiviso da Utah Gymnastics (@utahgymnastics) in data:

Skinner is now training for her NCAA sophomore year, but has not ruled out a possible return to elite gymnastics in the future. Will she try and include the triple-double in her repertoire?

By Talitha Ilacqua