Not many gymnastics fans could have predicted which NCAA teams would finish in this year’s top four. With Oklahoma, LSU, UCLA, and Denver finishing the 2019 season on top, some might be wondering what next season will look like for these teams.
Every year senior NCAA gymnasts graduate and move on from the sport but that also means new recruits join collegiate teams. Three out of the top four NCAA teams have incoming 2019 class recruits who have qualified and will compete at Junior Olympics Nationals this coming weekend, May 18-19. Here is who they are, what NCAA team they are committed to, and what you can expect to see them accomplish at nationals.
University of Oklahoma
The 2019 Oklahoma Sooners national championship team had at least two seniors in all four event lineups. Graduating seniors Brenna Dowell, Nicole Lehrmann, and Alex Marks were all well-known names and will leave Oklahoma with big shoes to fill.
Brooke Weins (5280 North)
Brooke Weins will be competing at J.O. Nationals for the second season in a row. She started her 2019 club season with two all-around wins and most recently won the Colorado state vault title with a big 9.800 score. Weins finished sixth all-around at regionals to qualify herself to nationals this year. Vault has been her best event and will most likely be her highest score this weekend. Weins is also a consistent beam worker, finishing second on the event at her state meet and fourth at regionals. Solid routines on both of these events could be good for Oklahoma as they will lose two lineup spots in Brenna Dowell and Nicole Lehrmann next season.
Below are Weins’ 9.550 vault and 9.425 beam routine from 2018 J.O. Nationals:
Louisiana State University
All four of LSU’s seniors were used in lineups throughout the 2019 season. LSU will have to replace Sarah Finnegan in the all-around; McKenna Kelley on floor and vault; Lexie Priessman on bars, floor, and vault; and Julianna Cannamela on vault. However, with the names that are set to move to Baton Rouge in the fall, LSU could have one of the strongest incoming classes in the NCAA.
Kai Rivers (Twistars)
Kai Rivers is one of the strongest gymnasts in this LSU recruiting class. Rivers is the all-around package. She has been a level 10 gymnast since 2014, and since then Rivers has qualified to nationals every single year. She holds two national titles on vault, bars, and all-around and also has one on floor. In 2017, Rivers won the all-around title at the prestigious Nastia Liukin Cup. To qualify to nationals this year, Rivers finished second at the Michigan state championships with a 38.725 and won the regional beam and all-around title as well.
Rivers has a jam-packed bar routine that includes a Shaposh, giant full to reverse Tkatchev connection, and ends with a big double layout dismount. You can watch her 9.800 state championship routine here:
Other skills to look out for at nationals are Rivers’ double layout on floor and her clean Yurchenko full on vault.
Kiya Johnson (Texas Dreams)
Kiya Johnson is going out in style in her last year as a club gymnast. She has not scored lower than a 38.300 competing in the all-around since January 2018. This season, she won the Texas state championship with a huge 39.400 all-around and finished on top of the regional championship with a 39.175. Johnson took home the regional vault title with a perfect 10.0 vault. At nationals this weekend, she will look to defend her 2018 all-around and floor national titles.
Here is her national championship floor routine from 2017, complete with a double layout and tucked full in.
University of Denver
Denver surprised a lot of people this past season, and although the Pioneers will bring back a number of the same gymnasts next season, they will be losing consistent bars, beam, and floor scores from Kaitlyn Schou and Claire Kern. Both of Denver’s incoming freshmen have qualified to nationals and both bring different strengths to the table.
Emma Brown (Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance)
Emma Brown is a very consistent level 10 competitor. At regionals, she finished third all-around and placed in the top five in every event. She has qualified to every J.O. Nationals since 2014 and finished sixth all-around in 2018. Also last year, Brown finished ninth on both bars and beam at nationals. Take a look at how easy it is to watch her lines on both of these events.
With Emma’s consistency on bars and beam and her clean yurchenko full on vault, she could be a contender for a few lineup spots at Denver next year.
Akoray “AK” Subject (Twin City Twisters)
AK Subject is not the first Denver recruit from Twin City Twisters. Maddie Karr, one of Denver’s top all-around gymnasts, came from the same club gym and they both have an explosive style of gymnastics. AK won vault, bars, and floor and finished second in the all-around at regionals this year. She has a powerful Yurchenko full, huge tumbling passes on floor, and spunky, upbeat choreography that will go perfectly in the collegiate world. AK’s bar routine includes a Shaposh to immediate bail handstand and ends with a solid double layout dismount. She placed fourth on bars at nationals last year and third in 2017.
Watch her 2018 national meet here:
The UCLA Bruins are losing one of the biggest names in college gymnastics: Katelyn Ohashi. They also have to say goodbye to Brielle Nguyen and Stella Savvidou. The majority of the incoming recruiting class is made up of international elites, but there is one future Bruin who has had a successful level 10 career.
Emma Andres (Byers Gymnastics Center)
Emma Andres will finish her senior club gymnastics season by competing at her first ever J.O. Nationals. She has been a level 10 gymnast since 2015 and has consistently scored higher every year since. Andres’ senior year has been her most successful and also highest scoring level 10 season. At the NorCal State Championships she had a few personal best scores. Emma scored a 38.100 in the all-around and had a 9.600 on vault and a 9.525 on both beam and floor. She has a very unique beam mount and continues on with a gainer layout directly into a back handspring for her acro series.
Watch her high scoring state meet below: