NCAA Preview: Meet the 2011-2012 Freshmen! (Teams 1-10)

NCAA Preview: Meet the 2011-2012 Freshmen! (T

Sound the bells - school is back in session! We've been busy in the elite gymnastics world for the past few months but soon enough it will be time for the college gymnasts to command our attention. Let's take a look at the newcomers to the collegiate gymnastics world as official practice begins on college campuses around the country this week! 
Here's a rundown of the incoming classes for the top teams in the order of their final national ranking from the 2010 season. To begin, here is 1-10. 10-20 will be featured next. Click the gymnast's name to watch their videos. 
#1 Alabama
Kaitlyn Clark, Precision, Elite/L10
Lora Leigh Frost, Calvin Twisters, L10
Brooke Parker, Capital, Elite
Kayla Williams, CGA, Elite/L10
Alabama gradually built throughout the 2011 season with their young team and capped off the year by winning the SEC team title, Regional title, and ultimately the NCAA National title. This summer, the defending National Champions welcomed another great group of freshmen to Tuscalosa. They've traded out 2011 Honda Award Winner Kayla Hoffman for 2009 World Vault Champion Kayla Williams. Williams is also a former JO National All Around, vault and floor Champion. She's a native of West Virginia but spent the past year training with well-known elite coach Mary Lee Tracy at Cincinnati Gymnastics and has made great improvements to her weakest event, uneven bars, building a solid routine that could land Williams in the all around this year. Kaityln Clark is another former US National team member. She dropped back to level 10 and was the 2011 JO National beam Champion. The Tide should be in contention to defend their title in 2012. 
Mattie Larson, All Olympia, Sr. International Elite
Ti Liu, Gymnix, Sr. High Performance, walkon
Dana McDonald, Novato, L10
Cassie Whitcomb, CGA, sr. international elite/L10, per club
Ellette Craddock, San Mateo Gymnastics Center
Sadiqua Bynum, Head Over Heels Athletic Arts
Mattie Larson was on track to compete in this summer's elite competitions but surprised the gym world by moving on to college, needing a change of pace after a poor performance at the 2010 World Championships. Larson is a gymnast known for exquisite artistry and I can not wait to see what Miss Val and the staff have in store for her floor routine! Cassie Whitcomb will also bring attention to the team this season. She's a former US National team member out of Cincinnati Gymnastics who we haven't seen compete since 2010. She is a strong all around gymnast and great on bars. Along with a healthy Samantha Peszek and Vanessa Zamarripa, there should be much hype surrounding the Bruins in 2012. 

Christina "Peng Peng" Lee
of Oakville Gymnastics in Canada was originally planning to join in the fall but will be deferring to 2012 after qualifying to the 2011 Canadian World team, and hopefully the 2012 Canadian Olympic team.

#3 Oklahoma
Lara Albright, transfer from Washington, was a L10 at WOGA
Erica Brewer, Champion, L10
Rebecca Clark, GAGE, international elite
Haley Sorensen, Cypress, L10; walkon 
The Sooners enter the 2012 season after their second straight top three finish at the NCAA Super Six Team Finals and should remain at the top as they return 22 of 24 routines from last year's team, including all 11 All-Americans from 2011. As for the newcomers, Erica Brewer is one of the top gymnasts out of Region 5 where the Sooners have drawn a lot of recruits of late. She's a former member of the JO National team and the 2009 JO National Beam Champion. Rebecca Clark is a former US National team member and competed at the Visa Championships 3 times ('07, '08, '09). She finished 6th on beam in 2009 and appears to have not competed since then. Fun fact: Haley Sorensen's twin sister Stacey will compete for Southern Utah. 
#4 Nebraska
Jessie DeZiel, Twin City Twisters, L10/sr. international elite
Amanda Lauer, Premier, L10; walkon 
Jennifer Lauer, Premier, L10
Kailyn Hawkins, Southeastern, L10
Desire Stephens, Nebraska Gold, L10
Jessie DeZiel was likely the top level 10 recruit in the country this year. She was the 2010 JO National All Around and uneven bars Champion, and the 2011 All Around and floor National Champion. This summer, DeZiel tried elite for the first time and qualified to the Visa Championships on 3 events (opting not to do bars due to the closer FIG bar setting in elite) and has been invited to attend the USA selection camps for the World Championships/Pan American Games that will take place in October. Kailyn Hawkins is from the strong Southeastern Gymnastics club in North Carolina and finished 4th on floor at the 2010 JO Nationals and won the bronze medal on vault at the 2009 JO Nationals. Amanda and Jennifer Lauer are a set of twins out of Sioux City, Iowa. 

#5 Utah
Kailah Delaney, KIPS, L10
Georgia Dabritz, Ace, Sr. International Elite
Kassandra Lopez, Tumbleweeds, L10 - 10th
Rebecca Tutka, Parkettes, L10/former elite
Tory Wilson, Gold Cup, L10 - 4th
This is a stellar recruiting class. All 5 have been named to the Junior Olympic National team during their level 10 careers and most recently, all but one finished in the top 10 at the 2011 JO National Championships. 
Georgia Dabritz is a former elite gymnast and Visa Championships competitor known for swinging bars without grips. She dropped back to level 10 for the 2011 season and dominated, winning JO National titles in the all around, bars and floor, and finished 10th at the 2011 Nastia Liukin SuperGirl Cup.  Kaliah Delaney placed 5th all around and 3rd on both vault and beam at the 2011 JO Nationals, and 3rd all around in 2009. Kassandra Lopez is one of the top gymnasts out of Region 1 and her career highlights include a 2nd place all around finish at the 2010 Nastia Cup, a silver medal on floor at the 2010 JO National Championships, and top 10 all around finishes at the 2010 and 2011 JO Nationals. Rebecca Tutka is excited to join former Parkettes teammate and best friend Lia del Priore in Salt Lake City and will add experience from both elite and level 10 competition. At the 2010 JO Nationals, she finished 2nd on beam and 4th all around. And finally, Tory Wilson will add big skills to the Utes lineups, so long as the Marsdens gives her the okay to compete them! She's known for doing a tkatchev+gienger combination on bars and when I visited her gym in May she was working full twisting double layouts for floor. She's competed a double layout for years. If she does water back for weekly competition, expect her to pull out all the stops in event finals. She graduated high school a year early and capped off her club career with a 4th place all around finish at JO Nationals. 
Watch their never-ending options of E tumbling passes from summer training. 

#6 Michigan
Annette Miele, Parkettes, L10/former elite
Sachi Sugiyama, Top Flight, L10
The Wolverines are coming off a fantastic season in 2011 and these freshmen will have big shoes to fill in the absence of 2011 NCAA All Around Champion Kylee Botterman. Sugiyama is a standout level 10 from Texas who is especially strong on vault where she easily executes a yurchenko 1.5 twist and even scored a 9.925 at the 2011 Metroplex Challenge. She also has big tumbling on floor including a double layout and triple twist. Annette Miele is a former US Junior National team member and qualified to the Visa Championships as a senior elite in 2009 and 2010. Both girls qualified to the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup in 2011. 
Miele's Parkettes teammate Morgan Stiegerwalt had signed with Michigan last fall, but has since joined the team at Arizona State, leaving one scholarship open. To my knowledge it has not yet been filled. 

#7 Florida
Kytra Hunter, Hills, Sr. Interntional Elite
Kiersten Wang, Colorado Aerials, L10 
Impressively, Florida maintained the #1 national ranking throughout the entire regular season in 2011. However, they fell apart in the post season which is the only reason they are ranked #7 on this list. The depth of the Gator team is tremendous and they are only adding more talent this season. Former US National team member Kytra Hunter was set to join the Gators last January but missing academic prerequisites delayed the process. Hunter is known for her explosive tumbling including a full twisting double layout and a piked double arabian. Kiersten Wang is a strong level 10 gymnast who is fun to watch and is a 2-time Nastia Cup qualifier. 
The Gators will be the likely favorite for the 2012 National title and look to be building a dynasty for years to come by landing top recruits Bridget Sloan, Aly RaismanBridgette Caquatto, and Claire Boyce as reported today. But as they showed us last year, anything can happen in the postseason! 

#8 Oregon State
Stefanie Daley, NAAG, L10
Taylor Keeker, MAC, L10; walkon
Katelyn Ohlrich, Cascade All Star, L10
Kailie Ponto, LEGA, L10
Chelsea Tang, NAAG, L10; per TV 
Cerise Witherby, Wildfire, L10
Like Florida, the Beavers were on fire all season. They won their first Pac 10 team title since 1996 and went into Regionals ranked 3rd nationally. In addition, senior Leslie Mak was named Pac 10 Gymnast of the Year and Tanya Chaplin was Pac 10 Coach of the Year and West Regional Coach of the Year. They had high expectations for NCAA Championships but again fell short of qualifying to the Super Six. They are welcoming a huge freshman class led by Chelsea Tang and Cerise Witherby, former JO National team members. Most recently, they finished 4th and 6th respectively in the all around at 2011 JO Nationals.  

# 9 Georgia
Chelsea Davis, Texas Dreams, Sr. international elite
Sarah Persinger, Southeastern, L10/former sr. international elite
Camille Pfister, Gymnastics Academy of GA, L10
Chelsea Davis is a former US National team member with beautiful gymnastics who was unfortunately riddled by injuries throughout her elite career. She was named to the USA World team in 2010 but a dislocated knee cap kept her out of the competition. She's spent the last year getting fixed up and healthy to start the next chapter in her career with the Gym Dogs. (Watch the video interview with Davis about this transition) She'll be joined by another former US National team member Sarah Persinger who spent the past 2 years as a level 10 and finished 3rd all around at 2011 JO Nationals. 
Also, Kaylan Earls entered as a freshman last season but suffered an achilles tear just before the start of the 2011 season. She is set to make her competition debut for the Gym Dogs in 2012. 
#10 Arkansas
Stephani Canizaro, Gym Star, L10
Sammy Kolbas, Arena, L10
Stephani Canizaro of Mississippi finished 7th all around at the 2011 JO Nationals and will stand out on the collegiate stage with her artistry and grace. Sammy Kolbas is a Region 5 all-star team member who should immediately impact the GymBacks bars and beam lineups. She is a very polished gymnast from the now defunct Arena Gymnastics program which produced numerous NCAA gymnasts over the years. 

Stay tuned for my preview of NCAA teams ranked 10-20, including Stanford who landed some big names, and a look at the men's NCAA freshmen. 

Which freshmen do you think will make the biggest impact in 2012?

Who will be the next NCAA Champion?  
Leave your comments below! 
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