First off, our rankings are impacted by a decision we made last year in assessing the incoming classes. We evaluate frosh when they began classes at a University, not when they started competing. Thus two athletes, Jade Carey of Oregon State and Brooklyn Moors of UCLA, who both took redshirt years to train for the Olympics, were considered as part of last year's recruiting classes.
If you are interested in how we've developed our rankings, it is explained in detail in the section following the rankings. It has been updated to explain the overall criteria versus other alternatives we've considered.
This Year's Rankings
So, how did the teams stack up? Here's the CollegeGymFans.com Top Recruiting Classes for 2021-2021 (be sure to click on the links to see video clips, where available):
Florida edges out UCLA and Utah for the top spot in this year's rankings. The margin of victory would have been larger had commit Shilese Jones had shown up for this season (as of this writing, she has not been added to the roster). This group of powerhouse gymnasts includes top elites Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker and Leanne Wong as well as former elite Sloane Blakely and in-state L10 Brianna Edwards.
You can expect 5-time National Team member Leanne Wong to deliver across the board. She has beautiful artistry and, of course, a big bundle of high level skills. She delivered stunning performance throughout the ’21 elite season and she was named an alternate to the Olympic Team. She spent the remainder of the fall training for the World Championships and came away with a silver in the AA and a bronze on the FX. She's been training a new 10.0 Start Value (SV) vault for college and should excel on UB and BB, where the reduced difficulty will only make her best attributes shine.
Hurd, a National Team member since 2016, was always in the conversation for a spot on the Olympic Team since her breakout performance in 2017. She won the World AA title in 2017 and then won a bronze in the AA in 2018. Unfortunately, the year delay worked against her as injuries caught up with her in 2021. Her wide variety of big skills, experience in high pressure situations and clean form and execution will serve her very well in college. She's had some time off since the trials but excels especially on UB, BB and FX.
McCusker is a 5-time National Team member with big skills at her disposal. She also has some exceptional extension and beautiful toe point. Unfortunately she also has had a significant history of injuries that will require careful management in college. She has been most successful on bars and beam, rarely finishing outside the medals in major competitions. She earned an invitation to the Olympic Trials, but competed only bars due to injury. Expect her to impact on UB and BB, but now that she's healthy, she could ease into the other events.
Blakely is a former senior international elite who dropped back to L10 for her final club season. She used some of her elite skills and her elite polish to put on a show all season long. She swept the events (VT, UB, BB, FX) and all around at ’21 L10 nationals. She was also 9th on BB the 2019 US Championships.
Edwards, a local product, was a L10 National qualifier in 2021. Her best event is vault where she competes a Yurchenko Full.
UCLA hauled in an impressive cadre of elite talent in Jordan Chiles, Emma Lee, Ana Padruraiu and Emma Malabuyo. Former elite Alexis Jeffrey and L10 Mia Erdoes complete the class. Brooklyn Moors attended UCLA remotely and redshirted last year. Although she is entering her first year of competition, she is not factored in as part of the discussion of this class.
Given her recent competitive trajectory, Chiles may be the hottest incoming freshman in the country. She has competed internationally throughout her senior career, but after changing clubs she emerged from the pack of top elites to win the 2021 Winter Cup (1st AA/VT/FX), place 2nd AA at the GK Classics and take 3rd AA at US Championships. Her 3rd place finish at Olympic Trials propelled her to the Olympic Team. She also has a balanced program, with big releases on UB and a double pike off BB (a full-in at the Olympics).
Malabuyo struggled through injuries throughout her senior career but rebounded strongly. In 2021 she surprised and delighted gym fans with a 4th place AA showing at US Championships and her impressive performance at the Olympic Trials earned her a spot as an Olympic alternate. She's known for expressive dance on FX and should excel at the NCAA level on UB and BB.
Lee also topped off her elite career with good showings at the Winter Cup (3rd AA), the GK Classic (8th AA), US Championships (13th AA) and Olympic Trials. Unfortunately she suffered an Achilles' injury on FX during the trials, on her last event. Her BB work is consistent, her double twisting Yurchenko strong and she should be able to adapt to the NCAA code to score well on UB.
Padurariu did not compete in 2021 due to lingering ankle injury, and is still on her way back. A two-time Canadian junior champion, her breakout year was in 2018, when she won the silver on BB at the World Championships. She also made the World Championship BB finals in 2019. During her last big competition, the 2020 Elite Canada meet, she won the AA and BB, and placed 2nd on FX and 5th on UB.
Jeffery hit the elite scene in 2018, placing 9th AA in the junior division at the US Championships. She also won L10 National titles on UB and the AA that year. This season, dropping back to L10, she placed 6th AA at the L10 Nationals. She has a balanced skill set across all four events and tumbles a double Arabian on FX.
Erdoes had her best year yet as a L10, tying for 9th on UB at the L10 Nationals. She has strong basics and form, which the staff can develop into a solid specialist.
Utah slots in a close #3 in the overall ranking, primarily due to the strength of the top two stars. Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum were in the spotlight in ’21, each working toward a spot on the Olympic Team. In the end, Eaker was named an alternate and McCallum was named to the 4-person Olympic Team.
Eaker is a four-time National Team member who has earned 10 golds on beam in major competitions throughout her elite career. She is not just a beamer, though. In the 2021 season she placed 10th AA at US Championships and then went on to place 7th AA and 2nd on beam at the Olympic Trails. She, like all of the elites listed here, has an arsenal of high level skills, but she is perhaps best appreciated for an elegant performance style on BB and FX. But she also vaults a Yurchenko 1 1/2 and can swing a solid UB set.
Two-time World Championships team gold medalist and Olympian, McCallum was the 2018 Pacific Rim Championships and Pan Am AA, UB and Team champ. In 2019, she placed 2nd at the American Cup and 3rd at the US Championships. Her ’21 season was off to a slow start due to a hand surgery in January, but she returned to full competition in time to place 7th AA and 3rd on BB at the US Championships and 4th AA at Olympic Trials. She is known for her consistency on all events and high level of difficulty on each apparatus.
Utah swooped in to pick up Great Britain Olympian Morgan in a late signing. She was the 2018 junior AA, VT, UB and FX champion at the British Championships. In 2019, as a senior, she was 3rd AA at the British Championships. A series of injuries kept her from finishing out her 2019 and 2020 seasons. After placing 4th AA and 3rd on bars at the ’21 European Championships, she was named to the British Olympic Team and helped her team to a Bronze Medal. At minimum, she’ll add strong sets on UB and BB, and add depth on VT and FX.
The fourth member of this class is L10 standout Thompson. The 3-time regional AA champ was the 2019 L10 National bars champ. She also tied for 6th AA at the meet. Her 2021 season, however, was cut short by injury. UB is her strongest event, but when healthy she has a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and multiple E saltos on FX.
LSU's fine three gymnast class slots in fourth, featuring a blend of elite and L10 talent.
Two time National Team member Finnegan brings years of elite training and international experience to LSU. Throughout her elite career, vault has been her highest placing event and she has competed both a double twisting Yurchenko or an Omelianchik (or likely, a Yurchenko 1 1/2 in college). She had a disappointing finish to finish her elite career at the ’21 US Championships, where she had to scale back her difficulty but showed terrific consistency. She however has high level skills on every event, with a dash of original skill selection (pike Deltchev) and beautiful form. She stands to wow LSU fans in the all around.
Johnson is a former junior elite who should make a bid for the vault, BB and floor lineups. At the 2021 L10 Nationals, she tied for 4th on both VT and FX and placed 15th AA. She also tied for 3rd AA in 2017. She is most powerful on floor, putting up either a double layout or a double Arabian.
Tori Tatum competed as a promising junior international elite before dropping back for a successful L10 season in 2019. In 2019 she finished 1st on vault and floor and placed 2nd AA at the L10 Nationals. In 2021, she competed all four events at the L10 Regionals but her season came to an end after she came in 4th AA. In top form, she's a balanced gymnast, with some of her highest scores coming on UB.
OU's six person squad comes in fifth in our ranking, just behind LSU. The class is headlined by former jr. international elite Jordan Bowers and two top L10s in Moorea Linker and Danielle Sievers.
Bowers was a promising elite as a junior, but her senior elite career was cut short by a serious back injury. She dropped back to L10 and competed two strong seasons in ’20 and ’21. She placed 3rd AA and 2nd on bars and beam at ’21 L10 Nationals. In the ’20 season she placed 1st AA and 1st on bars, beam and floor at the Nastia Liukin Cup. Even with reduced difficulty, her execution is strong on all events and she should be a headliner at OU.
Linker has been consistently strong on vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2), earning two 10.0s in the ’21 season. She adds an E skill on floor (full-in) and dismounts bars with a full twisting double back. In 2021, she placed 3rd AA, 2nd on VT, 3rd(t) on FX and 9th(t) on UB at the L10 Nationals. She was also the VT and FX champion in 2019, placing 2nd AA. She also tied for 1st on FX in 2018.
Sievers is a strong, versatile athlete and a two-time L10 National Team member. (Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT, full-in on FX, 1 1/2 wolf on beam). She had a stellar season as a club gymnast in 2021, placing 4th AA, 2nd on BB, 3rd on FX and tying for 5th on VT. She was the FX co-champ in 2019 and placed 11th AA. She also won FX and placed 4th AA in 2018.
Kirkpatrick is a 2021 L10 National qualifier from Bart Connor Gymnastics. She also tied for 2nd on BB at the 2021 Region III Regionals.
Wier rounds out the group. She's a two-time Regional qualifier who won her session at the Triad Classic to open 2021. However, her season ended after just two meets.
Grace Anne Davis
Missouri lands in our #6 position on the strength of one of their finest classes in years. It includes two outstanding L10s in Jocelyn Moore and Amari Celestine, elite Alonna Kratzer and three L10s, Victoria Gatzendorfer, Grace Ann Davis and Alyssa Ojeda.
Moore vaults an amazing, high Yurchenko 1 1/2 and scored two 10.0s on vault in ’21. On floor she opens with a big double layout. In 2021, she won VT, placed 3rd on UB, 8th on FX and tied for 2nd AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She also tied for 3rd on VT and 10th on FX while placing 10th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals.
Celestine adds another potential 10.0 vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and a great full-in on floor. She finished 4th on FX, 4th(t) on UB, 9th(t) on VT and 5th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. In 2019, she won the VT title, placed 3rd on BB, 4th(t) on FX and 7th(t) in the AA at the L10 Nationals. She also shows an unusual stalder entry front pike 1/2 twist dismount on UB.
Kratzer placed 14th AA at the American Classic, 15th AA at the Winter Cup, and 26th AA at the GK Classics. She continued to improve throughout the season, and added upgrades in time for Classics. She also finished 13th AA at the 2018 American Classic. She brings another potential Yurchenko 1 1/2 to the vault lineup, full-in on FX and a Church to Pak on UB.
Gatzendorfer’s best events are bars (beautiful stalder) and BB (bhs, bhs, layout), two events that showcase her grace and toe point, but is a solid AAer as well. In 2021, she tied for 8th on BB and 12th AA at the L10 Nationals. She was also 10th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals and 7th AA, 5th on UB and 3rd(t) on BB at the 2018 L10 Nationals.
Davis is a former L10 National qualifier who brings some strong skills to the Tigers. She adds an Arabian Double on floor and is training a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT.
Ojeda is a former L10 National qualifier who placed 9th AA at the 2021 Region III L10 Regionals. On FX, she opens with a double pike and closes with a double tuck.
Cal has come into its own as a national power in the past few seasons and aims to retain its spot with a large cast of incoming freshmen sporting impressive credentials. They slot in just behind Missouri in our rankings.
Over the course of her L10 career, Lauzon’s Yurchenko 1 1/2 has been a consistent winner and she was the 2019 and 2021 L10 national vault champ. Not just a vaulter, she has a trophy case full of medals for every event and is a two-time L10 National Team member. In 2021, she placed 4th on BB (bhs-bhs-layout) and 4th(t) on FX en route to a 16th place AA finish (she suffered a problem on UB). In 2019, she placed 2nd AA, 3rd(t) on BB, 4th on UB and 9th(t) on FX. She also placed 3rd AA in 2018.
Former jr. international elite Williams competed a truncated 2021 L10 season which ended for her in March, not long after she competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup. In 2019, she won the AA and tied for the UB title at the L10 Nationals. She also placed 2nd on VT, 3rd on BB and tied for 3rd on FX, a set of placements that hints at her strong AA potential.
Another former junior international elite, Scanlon has a double lay on floor and a solid BB set. She tied for 8th on BB and placed 35th AA (problems on UB) at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She was also 5th(t) on FX and 14th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals. She figures to contribute most on BB and FX, and add depth on VT.
Cesario competed only in one early meet in the 2020-2021 season. Whether she has been slowed by injury following the 2020 season is not clear, but she had some outstanding results in prior years. She was 3rd place in the AA and 1st on bars and 5(th) on FX (pike full-in) at the ’19 L10 Nationals. In 2018, she placed 2nd AA, 2nd(t) on VT, 3rd(t) on FX and 7th on UB at the L10 Nationals. She was also 5th AA and 1st(t) on UB at the 2017 L10 Nationals. She has been strong on all events in the past and will be a key contributor for Cal in the future.
Kane was a regional AA champ in 2019, qualifying her to L10 Nationals for a second time, but she didn’t compete. She competed one meet in 2020 and she did not compete in 2021. She competes an aerial to back layout on BB, a front double twist on FX and a Maloney to Pak on UB.
Arkansas lands in eighth in this ranking with a large and talented class. They loaded up on VT and FX workers in this class, as they seek to bolster their existing lineups and rise in the rankings.
Late signee Smith is the biggest name in the bunch. She switched gyms in 2020 and then took off like a rocket in 2021 and won the prestigious Nastia Liukin Cup. This past season, she earned vault, bars or floor wins in nearly every meet, consistently scoring in the high 9.9s to 10.0. She tied for 2nd AA, won the FX, placed 2nd on bars and tied for 8th on BB at 201 L10 Nationals. She also tied for 5th on VT, 7th on BB and 15th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals. She'll will be one to watch on floor with her high flying piked full-in and dynamic presentation. She’s training a 10.0 vault and a full twisting double layout dismount off bars. Beam seems to be her weakest event, but expect her to work towards an AA slot for her team.
Sedlacek is a former junior international elite with some big skills on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (full-in). At the 2021 L10 Nationals, she tied for 3rd on UB and FX en route to a 25th place AA finish (problems on VT). She was also 2nd(t) AA, 2nd on VT and 7th(t) on FX at the 2018 L10 Nationals, but missed most of the 2019 season.
Gamiao is another athlete with some big skills on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (full-in). She placed 2nd on FX and 17th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She also placed 4th AA and tied for 2nd on FX, 7th on BB and 9th on UB at the 2019 L10 Nationals. She has been a bit inconsistent at times, but should benefit from more experience and an editing of her difficult sets.
Price suffered a knee injury after qualifying for the 2021 Nationals, so she may be operating in a limited capacity initially. She's a dynamic gymnast with excellent flexibility, and a 2019 Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier. She is strongest on VT and FX (double layout), but is also a beautiful beamer.
Jones has beautiful grace, extension and toe point, and can excel on the UB and with her elegant presentation on BB and FX. A three time L10 National qualifier, she tied for the FX title and 13th AA at the 2018 L10 Nationals.
Michigan welcomes another strong incoming class but is slotted in 9th in our ranking primarily due to some injuries.
Prior to an Achilles' injury in 2021, Vore is produced great scores at her club meets, especially on the leg events. She was the ’19 JO AA champ and finished in the top 5 of all events at the 2019 Nationals. She also placed 2nd AA and 2nd on vault, bars and beam at the ’20 Liukin Cup. Vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2) is her strongest event but she is a true AAer who will help the Wolverines out when she is fully healthy. In the preseason, she's been primarily shown on UB and BB, with a recovery that seems right on schedule.
Vides is a former senior international elite with some strong skills. She can tumble a full-in or double lay on floor, compete a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on vault and spin a full twisting double back off bars. In 2021, after dropping down to L10, she tied for 8th on BB and placed 10th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She was also 5th AA, 6th(t) on UB, 7th on FX and 8th(t) on VT at the 2019 L10 Nationals.
Lane did not compete bars during the ’20 season and did not compete at all in the '19 or ’21 season. Her best year of competition was in 2018, when she qualified to the Nastia Liukin Cup and qualified to the L10 Nationals. She is back training and looks to continue to develop across her events.
Alabama lands in 10th spot in our rankings. Two athletes, Lilly Hudson and Jordyn Paradise, are the foundation of this class, potentially adding 6 to 8 routines to the lineups as they settle into their college careers.
A former junior international elite, Hudson has produced strong results on all events in every season throughout her L10 career, via her crisp, clean execution. She has the potential to contribute to any lineup, but look for her to particularly shine on beam. This past season she finished 3rd AA and 1st on beam at the Nastia Liukin Cup. Then, at L10 Nationals, she placed 4th AA, 5th(t) on FX and 6th(t) on BB.
Paradise is another long time L10 who has shown she can contribute on any event. She is particularly promising on vault, bars and floor. In 2021, at the L10 Nationals, she placed 2nd on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2), tied for 2nd on UB and tied for 22nd AA (problems on FX). She also tied for 7th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals.
Bunagan brings international experience as a member of the Philippines National Team in 2018. She's strongest on BB, where she has been featured in preseason training, and was the 2017 JO beam champ. More recently, she placed 30th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals and won state and Regional titles on the BB. She is a former L10 National Team member who placed 2nd AA at the 2017 L10 Nationals.
Just Outside the Top 10
Just outside the Top 10 are a number of teams and outstanding individuals. It was an extremely close to finalize our Top 10, with our final selections ultimately based on the quantity and quality of 9.85s+ potential scores the class could deliver. In no particular order, look for:
Any mention of AU this year must include their new superstar, Olympic Champion Suni Lee. She's had a busy year to say the least. She's has had to overcome injuries in the past, so she'll need to be paced throughout the year. A major impact is a given with such a talented athlete, the first ever Olympic AA Champ to join the NCAA. Auburn also welcomes four other freshman, including Ananda Brown, Sophia Groth, Caroline Leonard and Sara Hubbard. Groth, a Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier, has been an early standout in fall training, and is particularly strong on UB (Ray, double layout). She placed 36th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. In 2019, she tied for 8th on VT and 16th AA at the L10 Nationals. She was also 9th(t) AA at the 2018 L10 Nationals.
Hubbard brings another strong Yurchenko 1 1/2 and a full-in on FX for AU. She was 3rd on VT, tied for 9th on FX and tied for 17th AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. In-state signee Leonard placed 3rd on VT and UB at Regionals in 2021. Another frosh, Brown, was a Region 8 L10 VT champion in 2019.
Michigan State's strong class is headlined by Skyla Schulte and Gabi Stephen. Schulte had her best year ever as a L10 in 2021, placing 1st on BB, FX (full-in) and in the AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She also tied for 4th on VT at the meet. She shows clean, tight form and crisp execution across her four events and will be an immediate end-of-the lineup performer for the Spartans. In 2019, she placed 2nd on BB, 5th(t) on FX and 12th AA at the L10 Nationals. She is complemented by Stephen, who has clean execution and performs everything with big amplitude, although her sets lack some of the big E skills of her teammate. She too had a great L10 National meet in 2021, placing 5th AA. She also tied for 7th on VT (Yurchenko Full) and 9th on BB and FX. She also placed 3rd on UB and 4th(t) on VT at the 2019 L10 Nationals.
Sawyer is a former two-time L10 National qualifier who competes an Arabian double front on FX and vaults a strong Yurchenko Full. She placed 9th at her L10 Regional meet in 2021. Hsu and Lebster are both L10 Regional qualifiers. Hsu excels on VT (working on a 1 1/2) and FX. In 2021 she won the FX in her session at the WOGA Classic and won VT in her session at the Northern Lights Classic.
Stanford's class is headlined by former junior international Brenna Neault and Mexican National team members Anapaula and Jimena Gutierrez. Neault tied for 2nd AA and placed 4th on BB, 4th(t) on FX and 6th on UB at the 2019 L10 Nationals. She also won four invitationals in 2020 but did not compete in 2021. She was also 17th AA at the US Championships (Jr Division) in 2018.
Anapaula Gutierrez is a former Mexican National champion and like her twin Jimena, a veteran of World Championships and Pan American Games competitions. She trains with her sister in Colorado and was a four time L10 National qualifier before switching to elite competition. She tied for the VT title and placed 13th AA at the 2019 L10 Nationals and was also 10th AA in 2018 and 8th AA in 2017. Jimena Gutierrez is a former junior Mexican National Champion, a 2018 Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier and a four time L10 National qualifier, just like her sister. In 2019, she tied for 9th on UB and placed 15th AA at the L10 Nationals. She was also 6th AA at L10 Nationals in 2018 and 7th in 2017. The final recruit, Sander, is a three time L10 National qualifier who placed 26th AA in 2021. She was also 5th on BB in 2019.
Future Individual Standouts
Other gymnasts have the potential to make waves; some will become instant stars on their squad:
Lali Dekanoidze (North Carolina) is a four time Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier, three time L10 National Team member and two time L10 National Champion (2018 and 2021). She displays outstanding form, toe point and execution and a 10.0 start value vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2). She's one of the top L10 recruits in the class and will be a superstar for UNC. At the 2021 Nationals, besides claiming the AA she also won the UB National title and placed 3rd on VT and BB. In 2019, she placed 3rd on BB, 8th on UB and tied for 7th AA at the L10 National meet. She also won a National Title on UB in 2018.
Makayla Green (Illinois) had a standout year in 2021. She placed 2nd AA, tied for 2nd on UB and BB, placed 3rd on FX and tied for 6th on VT at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She's a three-time L10 National qualifier but made major improvements the last two years. She has a potential to have a big impact for the Illini in the years to come.
Lana Navarro (Washington) is a two-time L10 National Team member and five-time L10 National qualifier. In 2021, she won the L10 National Title on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and tied for 2nd on BB (bhs-bhs-layout series), placed 8th on UB and tied for 4th AA. She also tied for 7th AA in 2019, placed 4th AA in 2018 and 10th(t) AA in 2017. She's a balanced competitor with Top 5 finishes at Nationals on all four events and a history of top placements on the national scene.
Alex Theodorou (ASU) is a potential breakout star for the Gym Devils. The runner-up at the 2021 Nastia Liukin Cup, she placed 2nd AA at the 2021 L10 Nationals. She also placed 2nd on FX and tied for 2nd on BB and VT at the meet. A four-time L10 National qualifier, she also tied for 6th AA and 4th on VT while placing 5th on FX at the 2019 L10 Nationals. She has some big skills, like a unusual roundoff half-on front tuck 1/2 off VT, a kickover front pike on BB and a tuck full-in on FX.
Tory Vetter (Ohio State) is a two-time Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier who won the junior title in 2018. She also made the L10 National Team in 2021, placing 4th AA at the L10 Nationals. She also tied for 6th on VT, 7th on UB and BB and 9th on FX. She was also 6th AA at the 2018 L10 Nationals. Her work is characterized by strong, solid execution but perhaps without some of the flashier E skills of the others.
Background and a Word about our Methodology:
Assessing the strength of an incoming class is a challenging task. In the past, we have considered a more quantitative approach that assessed meet placement and scoring. Relying too heavily on scores is problematic for several reasons: 1. Scoring variation exists in the club ranks, just as it exists in the NCAA. Distinctions based on hundreds of a point can't be made when score variation adds 0.2 to 0.3 in uncertainty. 2. Individual meets, especially those with event finals, may employ special rules or be in widely varying competitive environments (home gyms versus podium stadium meets). 3. The rules in Level 10 and NCAA now differ significantly enough that bonus rules and compositional requirements can distort pure mathematical assessments. These factors must be balanced by performance in head to head competition, in high stress head-to-head post-season meets with full, experienced judging panels, plus an evaluation of actual skill level and execution based on video.
Predicting future success is also a challenging task. There are many intangibles, such as how an incoming freshman adjusts to college, gels with the team or responds to new coaching styles. Each new incoming class changes the dynamics within the team as a whole and there is no way for us to guess in advance how the dynamics will play out or contribute to overall team success. The best we can do is look at the incoming class as a discrete unit. We ask of ourselves; What does each athlete’s competition history, skills, execution and even injury history (if we know it) tell us about what she brings to the mix that makes up her incoming class? Does the athlete have a potential to bring in scores of 9.85 or above?
Our methodology is based on a snapshot of each incoming class as they enter college for the first time. In other words, we consider what we know about incoming freshmen as they enter school in the fall. For those joining their teams mid-year, we consider what we know of them as of the time of their entrance in January. Gymnasts that appear on the roster but are sitting out the year for any reason are counted. However, gymnasts that are removed from rosters or retire before the start of the season are excluded. Transfers are also excluded.
What we consider:
Competition History - An athlete's competition results reveal how an athlete stands up to competition and how consistently she performs from one event to another, and meet to meet. It is especially interesting to see how an athlete measures up against the competition in elite or rigorous Level 10 meets like the Nastia Liukin Cup and the Level 10 Nationals. These meets typically involve more experienced judges, more consistent evaluation, head-to-heat comparison and more pressure. Decades of recruiting classes show that a strong history of top finishes in these major meets is a strong predictor of future NCAA success.
Competition Trend -- The timing and trend of their success important. Gymnasts that continue to rise in placement through their career more often than not hold that level or improve in college. Continued success or even improvement over time also speaks to motivation, hard work and consistency.
Skill and Routine Evaluation - Today, it is possible to view video of an athlete either through online posts (e.g. YouTube.com, Instagram, Facebook) or meet coverage via streaming services or broadcast TV (e.g. FloGymnastics, Olympic Channel, etc). Some college teams also give us peeks at preseason training videos. We use these to get a look at the athletes’ skills and execution, and how their competition routines compare to NCAA requirements. With significant differences between the NCAA code and the Junior Olympic (not to mention the Elite) code, gymnasts with stellar execution and no "built-in" deductions will have an easier time in the NCAA. Gymnasts with FIG E skills, 10.0 Start Value (SV) vaults or exceptional levels of grace, expression or execution quality will also have an easier time posting scores of 9.9+. On the other hand, under the L10 code, it is now possible to construct a routine that will get a strong L10 score (9.5+) and yet still be missing difficulty that will inhibit an athlete from getting the 9.85+ scores. A high difficulty routine in the club level can merit a high score, but include minor but obvious execution errors that will hold back the score at the NCAA level. In contrast, sometimes elite or high level L10 gymnasts include skills that are in excess of the difficulty they need in the NCAA. While elite gymnasts are heavily incentivized to add difficult skills, even in the Level 10 Development Program gymnasts are encouraged to add skills to avoid compositional deductions and get a 10.1 start value. The risk/reward for adding these skills is pretty good, as long as no major mistake occurs. However, a 0.05 or 0.1 execution deduction for an excess skill is a "10 killer" in the NCAA. These excess skills are typically removed during college, unless 100% consistent, to maximize scoring potential.
Injury Status and History - Injury history is an unfortunate factor in recruiting. Past major injuries like ACL tears, spinal problems and Achilles' tears can impact a gymnast's ability for an extended period of time. Sometimes specific major injury information is available on an athlete. Other times, a major injury or other break in training may be indicated by holes in a competition history. To the extent that we can determine whether an injury history will potentially limit an athlete’s contribution over the course of her NCAA career, we factor that information into our ranking considerations. We tend to view absences from competition before entering college negatively, unless otherwise explained. Only injuries that occur before the start of NCAA training are included, but also including those after the date of signing.
Potential Contribution - Ultimately, we place high value on recruits who have the potential to make some starting lineups and to consistently score 9.85 or better on their events.
Balancing Class Size – We attempt to consider large incoming classes versus small classes. A large incoming class, even if it is loaded with walkons and specialists, provides important depth and coverage on all events. That depth can be especially important if a team suffers some key injuries. A large class is also sometimes filled with exceptionally gifted specialists. In contrast, a small class of, say, one or two exceptional all arounders can have just as much impact on their teams. Over the course of time, a marquee athlete has the promises to bring in big scores that can make the crucial difference to a team's overall ranking and success. So, size of recruiting class is factored along with our best estimate as to how the individual recruits will figure in lineups.