Top 5 Most Improved NCAA Teams Since 2015

Top 5 Most Improved NCAA Teams Since 2015
Photo: Kentucky Athletics
In collegiate gymnastics, the best Division I programs have been hovering close to the top for quite some time. Teams like Florida, Alabama, and LSU have been dominant for years. While it's an impressive feat to stay at the top, it's equally impressive to climb closer to the top. There are several teams out there who have made significant improvements over the years and have inched up quite a bit in the rankings. 

As the college gymnastics season approaches, here's a look at the NCAA Division I schools that have improved their ranking the most over a three-year period since 2015. Check out our list below for the five most improved teams based on rankings.

1. WASHINGTON


Head coach Elise Ray, who took on the job in 2016, has done phenomenal work with the Huskies since she came on board. In 2016, former head coach Joanne Bowers also did excellent work to help the team improve, and they moved from ranking No. 34 in 2015 to ranking No. 18 in 2016. After Ray took on the head coach job, the team improved even further, going up to No. 8 by the end of the 2017 season.

The Huskies have had a couple of key contributors over the years who have helped improve the overall team performance. Allison Northey, who graduated in 2016, was one of those gymnasts and was their top all-around competitor, improving each year. In 2015, the team added several talented freshmen, such as Hailey Burleson, who was one of the highest scoring gymnasts on vault that season. They also added Zoey Schafer and all-around competitor Joslyn Goings, who is now one of Washington's top gymnasts. 

Last season, four freshmen competed on several events for the Huskies to help the team to NCAA championships: Madison Copiak, Michaela Nelson, Haley Roy, and Maya Washington. Washington competed on bars, beam, and floor for the team, and she put up particularly high scores on floor, hitting 9.9 twice. 

Washington's best events last year as a team were beam (ranked No. 9) and floor (ranked No. 12).

This year, the Huskies will have four new freshmen: Jennifer Oh, Geneva Thompson, Rachel Kaplan, and Hannah Willmarth.

2. IOWA


Iowa has continued to skyrocket through the rankings and improve each year. In 2015, they were ranked No. 34, and last season they finished in the No. 18 spot. Head coach Larissa Libby has coached the team for the past 13 years and has brought in some spectacular talent lately. 

Iowa is losing a couple of key gymnasts this year who brought so much to the program -- most notably Mollie Drenth and Angel Metcalf. Both gymnasts added high scores on all four events for the team over the years, helping them to climb in the rankings. Savannah Borman and Lexi Mura were also important contributors who graduated this past year. The returning gymnasts on the team next season include sophomores Clair Kaji, who is a key contributor on bars, beam, and floor for the GymHawks, and Charlotte Sullivan, who competed primarily on vault, bars and beam. From the senior class, Melissa Zurawski and Lanie Snyder have proved to be strong competitors over the years, with Zurawski competing on vault, bars, and floor, and Snyder being one of the team's top scoring gymnasts on floor.

Iowa's best events last year as a team were beam (ranked No. 14) and bars (ranked No. 19).

The team has five freshmen coming on board to help fill the spots left by their graduating stars. Erin Castle, Maddie Kampschroeder, Annabelle Mosier, Ashley Breanna Smith, and Emma Hartzler will be joining the team this year.

3. GEORGE WASHINGTON


George Washington brought on six freshmen in 2015 who have made huge contributions to the program's success over the years -- Camille Drouin-Allaire, Jillian Winstanley, Sara Mermelstein, Liz Pfeiler, Alexandra Zois, and Madeline Seibold. Drouin-Allaire and Winstanley began competing all-around in their freshman season in 2015 and put up some of the highest scores all year, leading the team to regionals. 

Since 2015, the team has gone from No. 35 in the rankings to No. 23. They will lose two of their top gymnasts this year -- Alex DeMoura and Chelsea Raineri. DeMoura was an all-arounder for the team, while Raineri put up high scores on vault, bars and floor.

GWU's two best events last season were vault and beam -- they were ranked No. 17 on both.

The Colonials will start six freshmen this season -- Hannah Cohen, Gemma Guttenberg, Catherine Karpova, Olivia Norman, Chloe Vitoff, and Anna Warhol

4. TEMPLE


Temple's big improvement came last season, when they jumped in the rankings from No. 66 -- the same place they were at in 2015 -- to No. 54. Part of this is thanks to head coach Umme Salim-Beasley, who joined the team in April 2015. The team also brought on freshman Daisy Todd, who became Temple's top all-around competitor. Todd's best all-around score came at the ECAC Championships when she scored a 39.025. 

Another important contributor was junior Sahara Gipson, who mainly competed at vault, beam, and floor and went 9.8 or higher several times on vault. Senior Briana Odom competed on vault and floor for the team and put up some of the highest floor scores for the team this year, particularly toward the end of the season. Junior Alexa Phillip was also a key contributor on bars and floor -- her high score on bars last season was a 9.875.

Temple's two best events last season were vault (ranked No. 46) and bars (ranked No. 49). It will be exciting to see how much they can continue to improve next year.

5. KENTUCKY


Kentucky has steadily improved over the years, but had always ranked somewhere between the No. 20 and No. 30 spot until this past year. Last season, they finished in the No. 14 spot for one of their best seasons since the early 2000s. 

Kentucky's improvement over the past year is thanks to a couple of key recruits who have joined the team over the past two seasons. In particular, Mollie Korth joined the team as a freshman last year and made a huge impact. Korth competed all-around and often posted huge numbers on all four events. Her highs last season include a 9.95 on vault and floor, a 9.925 on bars, and a 9.875 on beam. Other important contributors include Sidney Dukes, a junior this year and another all-around competitor. Dukes' highs last season include a 9.95 on beam, 9.925 on floor, and 9.875 on vault. Her classmate, Katie Stuart, is just as strong of an all-arounder and got highs of at least 9.9 on bars, beam, and floor last season. Finally, in the same class is Alex Hyland, also an all-arounder who, like Stuart, hit at least 9.9 on three events last season. 

The fact that these top gymnasts are only sophomores and juniors is a good sign for Kentucky, and it's likely they will only continue to improve under the leadership of head coach Tim Garrison. The team has four freshmen joining for this upcoming season -- Madison Averett, Mackenzie Harman, Katherine Marianos, and Megan Monfredi.

In terms of events, Kentucky was quite strong across the board last season. They were ranked No. 9 on vault, No. 12 on both bars and beam, and No. 13 on floor.


Related:
Recruiting Breakdown: Jennifer Oh, Geneva Thompson Highlight Huskies' Class
Recruiting Breakdown: Iowa Adds Five New Faces For 2018 Season
Recruiting Breakdown: Kentucky Adds Four Gymnasts For 2018
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