Articles by "NCAA Gymnastics"
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Makenna Merrell and Matthew Giles tied the knot on 14 July. Photograph: Makenna Merrell/Instagram

Utah’s junior Makenna Merrell got married last July and is now known as Makenna Merrell-Giles.

Merrell married boyfriend Matthew Giles on 14 July 2017 in her home town, Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Merrell announced their engagement on Instagram last March, when she posted a picture of herself wearing her new engagement ring and passionately kissing her fiancé.

Un post condiviso da MaKenna Merrell-Giles (@kenna_merrell) in data:

On her wedding day, Makenna was wearing a beautiful white lace dress with a train, while Matthew was wearing a black suit and a pink tie. Makenna’s flower bouquet was also made of white and pink roses.

Un post condiviso da MaKenna Merrell-Giles (@kenna_merrell) in data:

Makenna Merrell-Giles is entering her junior year at Utah. She has had an outstanding career so far. She is a three-time NCAA All-American, a two-time All-Pac-12 Conference and a NACGC Scholar All-American. She has a career highs of 9.950 on floor, of 9.900 on beam and vault, and of 9.875 on bars. Her best all around score is a 39.475, which came against UCLA on 18 February 2017.

Article by Talitha Ilacqua
Madison Kocian at the Rio Olympics. Photograph: YouTube

Olympic champion Madison Kocian, 20, underwent surgery in August to repair a torn labrum, the Daily Bruin reports. The operation was successful and Kocian is now slowly recovering.

Kocian injured her shoulder at the Olympic Trials in July 2016, but managed it not only for the Olympic Games in Rio, where she won a gold and a silver medal, but also for an entire NCAA season with the Bruins, during which she competed in the all around in twelve of UCLA’s fourteen meets.

In an interview with NBC last month, Kocian explained that she had a hard time competing with a torn labrum every week, but that she wanted to avoid surgery if possible.

Kocian competed for UCLA as a freshman during the 2017 season from January to mid-April. She helped the Bruins finish fourth nationally at the Super Six, and, individually, she gained four All-America honours and became Regional champion on the uneven bars and on floor exercise. Kocian also scored a perfect 10.o on the uneven bars on 11 February against Stanford.

She is now starting her sophomore year as a UCLA Bruin. Doctors cannot estimate the time of recovery at this stage, but Kocian is expected to make a full recovery.

Article by Talitha Ilacqua
Twitter: @TalithaIlacqua
The BSU freshman class. Photograph: Tessa Otuafi/Twitter

Boise State had an outstanding 2017 season. They finished thirteenth overall in the national ranking, and posted the highest score in school history, a 197.675 during the regular season against Denver. The Broncos also had an outstanding academic year, with fourteen out of their fifteen gymnasts earning scholastic All-American honours, and with four gymnast finishing the year with a perfect 4.0 GPA. The four women were Mary Frances Bir (health sciences), Sandra Collantes (psychology), Courtney McGregor (health sciences) and Abby Webb (biology).

The Broncos said goodbye to three outstanding seniors: Mackenzie Bennion, who was the 2016 MRGC vault champion and, in her senior year, competed in all eleven meets for the Broncos on vault, bars and floor; Diana Mejia, who contributed to the team especially on bars, and was the 2017 MRGC Event Specialist of the Year and uneven bars champion; and Paige Urguhart, who competed mostly on beam and floor, and scored a 9.800 or better in eight of her nine beam routines in 2017.

Boise State has welcomed five new promising freshmen: Gabriela Bouza-Lazo, from Rio Rico, Arizona; Tatum Bruden, from Peoria, Arizona; Emily Muhlenhaupt, from Castle Rock, Colorado; Rachel Obmann, from Roseville, California; and Tessa Otuafi, from Reno, Nevada.

GABRIELA BOUZA-LAZO

Gabriela Bouza-Lazo trained first at Gym-Max and later at Arizona Dynamics Gymnastics. She is a 2017 Junior Olympic qualifier, and finished twenty-sixth in the all around. Also in 2017, at the Arizona State championships she won bronze on vault and bars and was sixth in the all around. And at the 2017 Region 1 championships, she tied for third place on balance beam and was seventh in the all around. Her best meet of 2017 was the Long Beach Open, where Bouza-Lazo won the beam title, as well as bronze on vault and in the all around.

Bouza-Lazo is strong on all apparatuses, but she shines particularly on beam, where she presents some very clean, strong and pretty work, which included a free-walkover into split jump and a BHSO + LOSO series. On floor, another strong apparatus for her, she competes a double pike, a front layout into front full and a double tuck. Bouza-Lazo is also good on vault, where she competes a strong FTY.


TATUM BRUDEN

Tatum Bruden did her club training at Arizona Sunrays. She is a four-time Junior Olympic qualifier (2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017). In 2013 she was twentieth in the all around; in 2015 she was twenty-first; in 2016 she tied for twelfth in the all around and for ninth on floor; and in 2017 she was thirteenth in the all around and tied for ninth on bars. Bruden is a two-time Arizona State champion on floor (2016 and 2017, both times tied), and in 2017 she was also second on vault and third in the all around. Also in 2017, she had an outstanding regional competition. At the Region 1 championships, she won gold both in the all around and on beam, tied for bronze on vault and floor and was fourth on bars.

Bruden is another strong all arounder. Her best apparatuses are beam and vault. On beam, she has a lot of difficulty, including a side somi, a BHSO + BHSO + back layout series, a switch ring, a sheep jump, and a double twisting dismount. On vault, she competes both a Yurchenko Arabian, which starts from a 10.0 D-score, and a FTY. Bruden is also strong on floor and bars. On floor, she performs a full-in, a half twist into full twist into front pike and a double pike, and is training a double layout. And on bars, she can perform a full pirouette and a double layout dismount.


EMILY MUHLENHAUPT

Emily Muhlenhaupt trained at Colorado Aerials Gymnastics Center. She competed as an elite gymnast at the Secret U.S. Classic  in 2013 in the junior division. As a Level 10 gymnast, she is a two-time Junior Olympic qualifier (2013 and 2015). In 2015 she tied for bronze on bars and finished eighth in the all around. In 2017 she competed at the Colorado State championships, where she won the bars title and was fourteenth in the all around. Her best meet of 2017 was the Denver Winterfest Classic, where she won gold both on bars and on beam.

Muhlenhaupt is another fantastic all arounder and is clean and precise on all apparatuses. On bars, she competes a Jaeger to shoot-over and a double tuck dismount. On floor, she performs a double tuck, a one-and-a-half twist into front pike and a double twist. On beam, she competes a BHSO + LOSO series, a switch leap into back tuck, a sheep jump, a free-cartwheel and a double twisting dismount. Finally, on vault she competes a beautiful FTY.


RACHEL OBMANN

Rachel Obmann did her club training at Byers Gymnastics Center II. She is the 2017 Region 1 bronze medallist (tied) on vault, the 2016 bronze medallist on floor and the 2015 silver medallist on floor. Since she started competing as a Level 10 in 2015, Obmann has always won at least one medal at the Northern Californian State championships. In 2015 she tied for gold on floor exercise; in 2016, by far her best competition, she won gold in the all around, on vault and on bars, silver on floor and bronze on beam; in 2017 she competed only on bars and won a bronze medal.

Obmann is also a strong all arounder, but stands out on floor, because she is a real performer. She competes a double twist into back tuck, a full-in, a double tuck and a double spin, but she excels in her presentation and choreography. She will become a crowd favourite! Obmann is also very strong on vault, where she competes a very high FTY. She also excellent on beam and bars. On beam she competes a BHSO + LOSO series, a free-cartwheel and side full-twisting dismount. And on bars she performs a Tkatchev, shoot over and a double tuck dismount in combination. Already during her club career, she seemed to feel the team spirit – she will be fun to watch next year!


TESSA OTUAFI

Tessa Otuafi trained at Flip USA Gymnastics, and started competing as a Level 10 gymnast in 2014. She competed at the Region 1 championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and improved steadily every year. In 2014 she was seventeenth on floor and twenty-fourth in the all around; in 2015 she tied for eleventh on vault and was twentieth in the all around; and in 2016 she was sixth on vault, tied for sixth also on floor and was sixteenth in the all around. Otuafi won a silver medal on vault at the 2014 Nevada State championships and tied for another silver medal on balance beam at the same competition.

Outafi is very strong on vault, beam and floor. On vault, she competes a very high and precise half-twisting Yurchenko. On beam, she performs a free-cartwheel and a BHSO + LOSO + full-twisting dismount. And on floor, she performs a double pike, a half twist into full twist and a double tuck.


Good luck to the future Broncos!

Article by Talitha Ilacqua
Oregon State's three freshmen. Photograph: Kaitlyn Yanish/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.

At the end of last season the Beavers said goodbye to five outstanding seniors: Erika Aufiero, who hit 84 out of 91 routines in her career, and is the 2017 Pac-12 uneven bars champion with a score of 9.950; Silvia Colussi-Palaez, who hit 27 out of her 29 routines in her career, and had a career-high of 9.925 on bars; Madeline Gardiner, who is a four-time NCAA All-American and a two-time Regular Season All-American; Megan Jimenez, who had career-highs of 9.850s on both beam and floor; Kaytianna McMillan, who is the 2017 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year, a 2017 AAI Award finalist and scored a perfect 10.0 on the uneven bars; and Taylor Ricci, who hit 48 out of 49 routines in her career and had a career-high of 9.875 on floor exercise.

Oregon State is welcoming three new freshmen: Savanna Force, from Reno, Nevada; Alexis Gonzales, from Newport Beach, California; and Kaitlyn Yanish, from Chandler, Arizona. They are also welcoming Lacy Dagen, from Pleasanton, California, who is a junior transfer from Florida.

SAVANNA FORCE

Savanna Force trained at Deltchev Gymnastics Academy. She has competed as a Level 10 gymnast since 2014. Force is the 2017 Nevada State floor champion, and the 2017 bronze medallist on floor at the Region 1 Championships. Force’s most successful competition in 2017 was the Deltchev Classic, where she won the floor title, was second on vault and in the all around, third on bars and fourth on beam. Force competed at the Nevada State championships also in 2015, where she won bronze medals both on vault and on beam.

Force’s best apparatus is floor. She competes a double pike, a full twist into full twist and a one-and-a-half-twist into front layout, as well as some beautiful splits. She also competes a very good FTY on vault, a Tkachev on bars and, on beam, she is training a BHSO + LOSO + LOSO.


ALEXIS GONZALES

Alexis Gonzales trained at Gym-Max until 2015 and at Wildfire Gymnastics in 2016 and 2017. She has been competed as a Level 10 gymnast since 2015. Gonzales competed at the Southern California State championships in 2017, where she finished second on vault and beam, fourth on floor and fifth in the all around. A month later she competed at the 2017 Region 1 championships, where she tied for bronze on balance beam. In 2017 Gonzales also won two gold medals on balance beam at the San Diego Classic in January and at the Daytona Beach Classic in February.

Gonzales excels on bars, where she competes a Jaeger, a Pak salto and a double tuck dismount. She is also very good on beam, where she performs a free-walkover into back-handspring step-out series and a front full-twisting dismount. On floor, she is a twister. She competes a two-and-a-half-twist into front pike, a front layout into front pike and a front full twist. She has a beautiful choreography and presentation.


KAITLYN YANISH

Kaitlyn Yanish trained at Arizona Dynamics Gymnastics. She is a four-consecutive-time Junior Olympic qualifier (2014-2017). At the 2014 J.O. National Invitational Tournament, she won bronze in the all around and was fourth on bars. At the J.O. National Championships in 2015, she won gold on bars, tied for gold on floor and was fourth in the all around. In 2016, she finished once again fourth in the all around. And in 2017, she tied for second in the all around, and was fourth on vault ad floor (tied). In 2017, Yanish also competed at the Arizona State championships, where she won the all around and the bars beam and floor (tied) titles. And at the Region 1 championships, she won gold in the all around, vault and floor, silver on bars and tied for bronze on beam.

Yanish is an excellent all arounder. On floor, she competes a double layout, a full twist into front layout and a double tuck. On beam, she performs some original work: a BHSO + LOSO series, a switch-leap into LOSO and a BHSO into one-and-a-half twisting dismount. On bars, she competes a shoot-over to the low bars and a double layout dismount. Finally, on vault she performs a high FTY.


*LACY DAGEN

Lacy Dagen did her club training at San Mateo Gymnastics, and competed as an elite gymnast in 2012. She spent her first two college season as a Florida Gator. She sat out her freshman season (2016) due to a torn ACL and missed most of last season (2017) due to a torn meniscus, which required surgery in February. She competed for Florida only once, on vault, in 2017 and scored a very good 9.850. Dagen was released from Florida on a medical scholarship at the end of last season and soon afterwards she announced on Twitter her commitment to the Beavers for her junior year. She wrote: ‘There's another beaver in the Dagen house!!! I'm excited to announce that I will be continuing my academics and gymnastics at Oregon State University in the fall. Very grateful for this opportunity!!’ Lacy’s sister Madison also competes for Oregon State and will graduate in 2018.

Dagen’s best apparatus is beam. During her club career, she used to compete a free-walkover, a sheep jump, a BHSO + LOSO series and BHSO + back-handspring + one-and-a-half-twisting dismount. Danger is however very good also on the other three apparatuses. On bars, she used to compete a Ray and a Pak salto. On floor, she competed a  one-and-a-half twist into double tuck,  full twist into front layout and a double pike. Finally, on vault she competes a high FTY. Due to her recent leg injuries, she may be forced to modify her routines, but she has plenty of potential to be key to the Beavers.



Good luck to the future Beavers!

Article by Talitha Ilacqua
Lauren Navarro tumbling at Stanford. Photograph: Lauren Navarro/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.

Stanford had a disappointing 2017 season, ending only twenty-eighth in the national ranking. The Cardinals’ future, however, looks bright. Stanford just appointed former Cardinal standout Tabitha Yim as new head coach, and is welcoming one of the most accredited freshman classes in the nation for the 2018 season.

In honour of Tabitha Yim’s home return, here is a breakdown of the new Cardinal recruits.

Stanford said goodbye to four great seniors: Rachel Daum, who was a three-time Pac-12 All-Academic, and had career highs of 9.900 or better on vault, beam and floor; Danielle McNair, who has career-highs of 9.900s on both vault and bars; Nicolette McNair, Danielle’s twin sister and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2014, who had career highs of 9.900 or better on vault, beam and floor; and Hailey Spector, who missed most of the 2017 season due to injury, but had a floor career-high of 9.925.

Stanford has welcomed seven new freshmen: Kyla Bryant, from Lake Oconee, Georgia; Rachel Flam, from Huston, Texas; Grace Garcia, from New York City, New York; Taylor Lawson, from Macungie, Pennsylvania; Lauren Navarro, from La Verne, California; Catherine Rogers, from Sandy, Utah; Caroline Spertus, from Los Angeles, California.

KYLA BRYANT

Kyla Bryant trained at Georgia Elite Gymnastics. She was a three-time Junior Olympic qualifier (2014, 2015 and 2016), and won medals at all three of them. In 2014, she was second on floor and eighth in the all around. In 2015, she was third in the all around and on beam, and fourth on all other three apparatuses. And in 2016, her best year, she won the all around, bars and floor. In 2016, Bryant also competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup, where she won bars and was tenth in the all around.

Bryant is an exceptional all arounder, and is renowned for her amplitude and difficulty. On vault, she performs a FTY. On bars, she has pretty lines, good handstands, and competes a Tkachev, a beautiful Pak salto and a huge full-in dismount. On beam, she competes a BHSO + LOSO, a switch ring, a front tuck and a huge dismount, two back-handsprings into double tuck. Finally, on floor she shows off plenty of power and personality. She performs a double layout, a front tuck indirectly connected to a double pike and an open double tuck – wow! She reminds me of a mix between Alabama’s Aja Sims and Cal’s Toni-Ann Williams!


RACHEL FLAM

Rachel Flam trained at Stars Gymnastics Training Center. She is a six-time Junior Olympic qualifier, from 2011 to 2016. In 2012 she was second on vault and fourth on bars. In 2013 she was first on vault and fifth on beam. In 2014 she won the bars title. In 2015 she won gold on vault and tied for fourth place on bars. And in 2016 she won both the all around at the vault titles, and was third on beam and on floor (tied). She competed twice at the Nastia Liukin Cup, in 2016 and 2017. In 2016 she was third in the all around, second on beam and tied for third on vault. In 2017 she was tenth in the all around, third on floor and tied for gold on vault. Flam also competed as an elite gymnast during the 2014 season, and was both at the Secret U.S. Classic and at the P&G championships.

Flam is another exceptional power athelte. On floor, she has plenty of difficulty: a double Arabian, a front pike indirectly connected to a double pike and a huge double pike to end. On beam, she performs a BHSO + layout to two feet, a switch leap to switch leap half, a front tuck and a very difficult double pike dismount. On bars, she competes a Jaeger and a very hard full-twisting double layout dismount. Finally, her vault is a Yurchenko half on front pike, which is worth a 10.0 D-score.


GRACE GARCIA

Grace Garcia trained at NYC Elite. She competed at the J.O. National Championships in 2015, where she tied for eleventh on floor exercise. Also in 2015, at the New York State Championships, she was second on vault and sixth in the all around. And at the Region 6 Championships later that year, she won gold on vault. In 2016 she competed at the Little Boston Invitational, where she tied for gold on beam, was second on bars and seventh in the all around and floor.

Garcia is the third power athlete of the field, and will contribute greatly especially on floor and vault. On floor, she performs a full-in pike, a one-and-a-half twist into front pike and a double pike. And on vault, she solidly competed a super difficult Tsukahara full!


TAYLOR LAWSON

Taylor Lawson trained at Parkettes, one of the most ancient and well-renowned gyms in the United States. Lawson competed at the J.O. National Championships in 2016, where she tied for third on floor and was fourth in the all around. In 2016 she was also the Pennsylvania State champion on floor exercise and bronze medallist on vault, as well as Region 7 champion on floor and bronze medallist in the all around. In 2017, Lawson competed at the Pink Invitational, where she won gold in the all around and on all events but beam, where she was second, and at the Pennsylvania State Meet, where she was second in the all around and on all apparatuses but bars, where she was third. Lawson also competed as an elite gymnast in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 she competed at both the Secret U.S. Classic and the P&G Championships, while in 2015 she competed only at the Secret U.S. Classic, where she was tenth in the all around and eleventh on beam.

Lawson, as a former elite athlete, has plenty of skills to choose from on all apparatuses. On floor, she is capable of competing a full twisting double back, a double Arabian, a one-and-a-half twist into double tuck and a double pike. On vault, she competes a FTY. On bars, she performs a Maloney to switch over to the low bar, a Jaeger and a difficult double Arabian dismount. She has good form and handstands throughout. Finally, on balance beam, she can compete a stunning and very high standing Arabian, a switch leap to switch leap half, a front tuck, a back tuck, a Johnson leap, a BHSLO + LOSO series and a double tuck dismount.


LAUREN NAVARRO

Lauren Navarro trained at Charter Oak Gymnastics. A member of the 2015 U.S. senior national team and an alternate to the 2015 Pan American Games team, Navarro competed four consecutive years both at the Secret U.S. Classic (2013-2016) and at the P&G Championships (2013-2016). She finished sixth in the all around at the 2016 Secret U.S. Classic and eighth on beam at the same competition in 2015. She also won bronze on beam at the 2014 P&G Championships. Navarro competed her 2017 season as a Level 10 gymnast. She qualified to the J.O. National Championships, where she won the beam title, was second in the all around, tied for second on floor and for fourth on vault.

Navarro is another exceptional all arounder with an elite foundation. On floor, she competes a sky-high double pike, a one-and-a-half twist into front layout and a double tuck. On balance beam, she competes a BHSO + LOSO + LOSO, a front tucked somersault, a free-walkover and a double tuck dismount. On bars, she competes a Tkachev into Pak salto, a Yao transition, and a full-in dismount. On vault, she currently competes a FTY, but she is capable of a DTY!


CATHERINE ROGERS

Catherine Rogers trained at All American Gymnastics. She is a three-time J.O. national qualifier (2014-2016). Her best results came in 2015, when she won bronze both in the all around and on vault. In 2017 she competed at the Utah State championships, where she won gold on beam, tied for gold on floor, and won bronze in the all around and on bars. She later competed at the Region 1 Championships, where she tied for third both on vault and on beam, and was eighth in the all around.

Rogers, like Caroline Spertus (below), is not as much a power athlete, but an elegant and poised gymnast. Her best apparatus is beam, where she competes a BHSO + LOSO, a switch leap half, a full turn with the leg held horizontal, a free-walkover, a free-cartwheel and a double twist dismount. Her performance is very poised and her form is beautiful, she is a real beamer! Rogers is also a good floor worker. She competes a double tuck, a beautiful switch ring, a one-and-a-half-twist into front layout, a double twist and a double spin with leg held horizontal. She has excellent choreography and presentation.


CAROLINE SPERTUS

Caroline Spertus trained at Broadway Gymnastics. In 2013, as a Level 9 gymnast, she won gold on floor at the Region 1 Championships and silver on beam at the Level 9 Western Gymnastics Championships. Spertus turned Level 10 in 2014, and competed at the Region 1 Championships, where she finished seventh on beam. She achieved the same result in 2015, while she dramatically climbed the rankings in 2015, winning silver on beam. In 2017 Spertus competed at the Lady Luck Invitational, where she won the beam title.

Spertus’s best apparatus is also beam, where she presents some very original work. She competes a cat leap into switch ring, a BHSO + LOSO and a switch leap into front layout dismount. On floor, she performs a double pike, a beautiful switch ring, a front layout into front layout and a double tuck.


Good luck to the future Cardinals!

Article by Talitha Ilacqua
Tabitha Yim is the new Stanford head coach. Photograph: Tabitha Yim/Twitter

Stanford University has appointed former Cardinal star Tabitha Yim as the new head coach of the women’s gymnastics programme. The call came about twenty days after former head coach Kristen Smyth, who spent sixteen successful years at Stanford, announced her decision to step down from her position.

Yim competed for Stanford as a college-athlete from 2005 to 2008. She is the most decorated Cardinal in history, with 14 All-America honours and placing in the top 10 in the NCAA all around competition all four years. Yim also twice won Pac-12 and NCAA Regional all around titles, and was named Pac-12 and Regional Gymnast of the Year in her senior season.

Prior to joining Stanford in 2004, Yim was a member of the U.S. national gymnastics team. She was a member of the U.S. team that won bronze at the 2001 World championships, as well as U.S. champion on floor in 2001 and on beam in 2002. In 2004 she competed also at the U.S. Olympic Trials, finishing fourth in the all around.

After graduating in human biology from Stanford in 2008, Yim spent two years teaching in school. She then moved back to gymnastics as a coach, first as an assistant coach at Stanford from 2011 to 2015, and then as head coach at Arizona in 2016 and 2017.

During her years at Stanford as an assistant coach, she helped the team achieve its two highest scores in NCAA Championship history, a 197.500 at the 2012 Super Six and a 197.250 at the 2015 Super Six.

‘I want to thank [Director of Athletics] Bernard Muir and the staff at Stanford for this opportunity’, said Yim, gostanford.com reports. ‘I am thrilled to be returning home to The Farm, and am passionate about carrying on the amazing legacy of this program and university.

‘I had an incredible scholar-athlete experience at Stanford shaped by the coaches, faculty, and staff who were committed to my development as a student, athlete and person. I will forever remain thankful for the support of John Court, David McCreary and the Arizona staff, and I am grateful to Bernard and the Stanford family for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading this program towards continued success.’

Bernard Muir also had words of praise for Yim: ‘I couldn't be more pleased to welcome Tabitha back to The Farm. Her credentials as a gymnast and a coach speak for themselves, and I know she's ready to help our student-athletes reach their full potential in the gym, in the classroom, and in their lives beyond campus.’

Stanford had a disappointing 2017 season, marred by a lot of injuries, and ended only twenty-eighth in the national ranking. The Cardinals’ future, however, looks bright. They are welcoming seven new talented freshmen for the 2018 season, and they are hoping to have their star Elizabeth Price back to full form for her senior season.

Article by Talitha Ilacqua
Sydney Townsend is one of the four new talented freshmen for Michigan. Photograph: Milton Springers 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 Wolverines said goodbye to two outstanding seniors: Talia Chiarelli and Nicole Artz. Artz, an eight-time All-American and the 2017 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, was an outstanding all arounder for Michigan, capable of scoring 9.950 or better on all apparatuses. Her best scores were a 9.950 on vault and beam, a 9.975 on bars and a perfect 10.0 on floor, which came last season against Illinois. Chiarelli, the 2016 Regional champion on floor exercise and the 2017 Big Ten champion on balance beam, was an asset for the Wolverines on vault, beam and floor. Her best score on vault was a 9.925, while her best scores on beam and floor were two outstanding 9.975s.

These two outstanding seniors are hard to replace, but Michigan will welcome four new equally outstanding freshmen: Lauren Farley, from Dallas, Texas; Carly Gordon, from New York City, New York; Samanta Javanbakht, from Virginia; and Sydney Townsend, from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

LAUREN FARLEY

Lauren Farley trains at WOGA, the famous gym that produced Olympic champions Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Madison Kocian, as well as such NCAA stars as UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi and Oklahoma’s Natalie Brown.

Farley is a two-time J.O. National qualifier (2015 and 2017). In 2015 she finished first on bars and second in the all around and on balance beam. In 2017 she was again second on beam, as well as eighth on floor and ninth in the all around. Farley won an astonishing number of medals at State and Regional championships. In 2015, at the State championships, she won both the all around and the uneven bars titles. At Regionals later that year, she won gold on beam and silver in the all around and on bars. In 2016, at the State championships, she won bars and beam, and was second in the all around and on floor, while at Regionals she was third on vault. In 2017, at the State championships, she was first on bars and beam, second in the all around and third on vault and floor. Finally, at Regionals this year, she won gold on bars, silver in the all around and on beam, and bronze on vault and floor. Farley also competed as a junior elite gymnast in 2013 at the Secret U.S. Classic, where she tied for ninth place on the uneven bars.

Farley is an incredibly talented all arounder, and will easily replace Nicole Artz as one of the best gymnasts on the team. She is very strong and clean on all four apparatuses. On bars, she performs a Tkachev, a piked Jaeger and a difficult double front dismount. On beam, she competes a free-walkover into leap jump, a BHSO + LOSO series, a switch leap into back tuck and a one-and-a-half twisting dismount. On floor, her tumbling passes are a double tuck, a one-and-a-half twist into front layout and a double pike, but she also has potential for some upgrades, and she has beautiful pointed toes and foot work typical of WOGA gymnasts. Finally, on vault she competes a difficult layout Arabian from a  Yurchenko entry, which starts from a 10.0 in the NCAA. She will be a treat to watch!


CARLY GORDON

Carly Gordon trains at Chelsea Piers Gymnastics. She has been training as a Level 10 gymnast since 2012.

Gordon competed at the J.O. National Championships in 2014, where she finished fifty-fifth in the all around. That year at the State championships, she was second on beam, fourth on bars and fifth in the all around. And later at Regionals she did even better, finishing third in the all around, second on beam and tied for third on bars. In 2016, at the State championships, she finished ninth in the all around and on beam, and tied for eighth on bars. Later that year at Regionals, she finished third on the uneven bars and ninth in the all around. In 2017 she competed at the Manhattan Classic, where she won silver in the all around and on bars, and tied for gold on balance beam.

Gordon is a solid beam worker. She competes a difficult back-handspring step-out into layout to two feet, a switch leap into back-handspring step-out and a very difficult three-quarter leap. On bars, she competes a Pak salto and a double tuck dismount. On vault, she competes a Yurchenko layout. And on floor her tumbling passes are a double tuck, a half twist into front layout and a one-and-a-half twist, and has tons of potential. Overall, she is a very solid gymnast, exactly what Michigan needs.


SAMANTA JAVANBAKHT

Samanta Javanbakht trains at Capital Gymnastics National Center. She has competed as a Level 10 gymnast since 2014.

Javanakht is a two-time J.O. National qualifier (2016 and 2017). In 2016 she finished twenty-seventh on beam and fifty-third in the all around. In 2017 she tied for twenty-sixth on bars, for thirtieth on beam and was forty-fifth in the all around. In 2016, at the State championships, she won bronze on floor, and was ninth in the all around. At Regionals later that year, she was seventh both on bars and in the all around. In 2017, at the State champioships, she won silver in the all around and on floor, and was fourth on bars and beam (tied). At the Region 7 championships, she finished fifth on floor, tied for seventh in the all around and for tenth on vault, and was tenth also on bars and beam.

Javanbakht is a very solid performer on all apparatuses, and has great potential for upgrades and improvement. On vault, she performs a Yurchenko layout. On bars, she competes a Jaeger, a full pirouette, a shoot over to low bar and a double tuck dismount. She lacks a bit of confidence on beam, but she produces some beautiful and unique work, including a  BHSO to layout to two feet, a leap jump into back pike and one-and-a-half-twisting dismount. Finally, on floor, she competes a  one-and-a-half twist into front layout, a front layout into front full and a high double pike. She has exquisite presentation, with beautiful pointed toes and extended arm work.


SYDNEY TOWNSEND

Sydney Townsend trains at Milton Springers Gymnastics and is a member of the Canadian national team.

Townsend made her elite debut as a junior in 2011, winning silver on vault and placing fourth on beam and seventh in the all around at the Canadian championships. In 2014, she represented Canada internationally both at the junior Pan-American Games and at the Youth Olympic Games. At the Pan-American Games she won gold with the team and finished fourth on balance beam. At the Youth Olympic Games she placed seventh on vault and floor and twelfth in the all around. In 2015, she was selected to represent Canada at the World championships in Glasgow, and helped her team qualify for the Olympic Games in sixth place. In 2016, she competed at Elite Canada, where she finished fifth on floor and seventeenth in the all around, and at the International Gymnix Senior Cup, where she placed third with the team.

Townsend’s best apparatus is vault, as she performs a clean and beautiful one-and-a-half-twisting Yurchenko. She is also very talented on floor and balance beam. On floor, she competes a double Arabian, a double tuck and a two-and-a-half twist. On beam, she is very solid and presents some unique elements. She competes a beautiful sheep jump, a switch leap half, a free cartwheel to two feet, BHSO into back tuck series and a front tuck. Finally, Townsend has potential also on bars, where she competes a Tkatchev, a Gienger, a full pirouette and a full-in dismount.


Good luck to the future Wolverines!

By Talitha Ilacqua