NCAA Freshmen to Watch – Part 1

It’s that time of year again! The NCAA gymnastics season is right around the corner. With a few interesting rule changes being implemented and a huge influx of talent, this should prove to be a very exciting season. Here’s part one of our preview of some of the new faces to look out for as they take on the next level.

1. Alicia Boren, Florida

One of the most highly anticipated freshmen this season, Alicia is sure to be a fan favorite at Florida. She’s had one of the most successful JO careers of all time, and her long list of titles includes FOUR level 10 national all-around crowns! In her final appearance at nationals last spring, Alicia’s 9.9 on vault secured her the vault title as well, in addition to second place on bars and beam, and a third place finish on floor. In 2014, Alicia tied her now current Gators teammate Alex McMurtry for the title on vault. She’s been named to the J.O. national team three times, and won vault, beam, and floor at the most recent Nastia Liukin Cup.

We could go on and on about Alicia’s accolades, and we are so excited to see her make her NCAA debut this season. As a strong all-around competitor, she could impact Florida’s lineups on every event, especially with the loss of Kytra Hunter at the end of last season. And because she’s strongest on vault, the new vault start value rule is no problem for Alicia. Her stuck Yurchenko 1.5 is what earned her that 9.9 at nationals last season.

2. Lucy Brett, Pittsburgh

Lucy hails all the way from the UK as she joins the Panthers this season. She was a member of England’s senior national team from 2013 through 2015, winning silver with her team at the British Team Championships and picking up bronze at the Leverkusen Cup. With her gorgeous lines and sky high Gienger, Lucy could definitely impact Pitt’s bars lineup. She also has a really lovely side aerial + LOSO beam combination, a fresh change from the usual bhs + LOSO acro combos you usually see in NCAA.

3. Lacy Dagen, Florida

Florida has one hell of a recruiting class this year. Although Lacy battled injuries in 2013 and again in 2015, she still has an impressive resume. As a junior elite in 2012, she won floor and placed 10th in the all-around at the American Classic; in that year, she also placed 8th on vault at the Secret U.S. Classic and 7th on vault at U.S. Championships. In 2014, she competed as a level 10, winning beam and taking third place in the all-around at JO nationals. She has competed a pretty nice Yurchenko 1.5 in the past, so we could possibly see her crack into Florida’s vault lineup. She also has a 1.5 through to a double tuck on floor, which would be awesome to see in an NCAA routine.

4. Peyton Ernst, Florida

Again with Florida’s excellent freshman class, which also includes this former Texas Dreams gymnast who brings a wealth of elite competitive experience with her. As a two-time U.S. senior national team member, Peyton helped contribute to team gold medals at Pac Rims and at Jesolo. Internationally, she has also earned silver all-around medals at Jesolo in 2014 and both the Mexican Open and Tokyo World Cup in 2013.

Domestically, Peyton placed 4th on bars, beam, and in the all-around at nationals in 2013, and in the same year won beam while taking second on floor and in the all-around at the Secret U.S. Classic. Peyton could absolutely contribute on beam for the Gators. At their most recent intrasquad, she showcased a front aerial to back tuck combination, front toss, and gainer pike dismount off the end of the beam.

5. Sarah Finnegan, LSU

Sarah was a fan favorite on the gymternet during her elite career, and many were gutted when she was only named as an alternate for the 2012 Olympic team. We haven’t seen much of her since that summer, when she took second on beam and third on floor at the Secret U.S. Classic, second on beam, fourth on floor, and sixth in the all-around at nationals, and then fifth on beam and sixth on bars, floor, and in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. An elbow injury sidelined her in 2013 and she missed competition pretty much every year since then, aside from a little level 10 spurt in 2014. Diehard “Finny” fans may see her contributing to LSU’s beam and floor lineups. Will we see a Humphrey turn on beam this year in NCAA? Only time will tell!

6. Kaitlin Green, Cornell

We put Kaitlin on this list because this girl has style. She brings one heck of a skill repertoire with her and is a HUGE talent for Cornell, a non-scholarship program due to its ivy league status. Kaitlin is an absolutely exquisite gymnast, particularly on bars and beam, where her long lines make her really shine. Ready for this? She’s training an Onodi + front aerial + back handspring + LOSO beam combination, and it looks beautiful (she’s also trained a transverse aerial on beam, a la Nush, just for fun).

On bars, Kaitlin has competed a Comaneci salto, but at the recent intrasquad she showcased a solid Ray release. She also has a Higgins + piked Jaeger combination that’s really lovely, and at one point worked on a Dawes, Ling + Jaeger combinations, and Shushunovas (is there any release she can’t do?). Her skill set is so unique and such a joy to watch…we can’t wait to see her compete!

7. Ariana Guerra, Alabama

Ariana had a solid stint as an elite. As a junior, she made the national team in 2010 after a 10th place all-around finish, leading to an international assignment at Top Gym in Belgium, where she finished with the silver all-around medal. In 2012, she also boasted several top 10 finishes at the American Classic, Secret U.S. Classic, and U.S. Championships. As she made her senior debut in 2013, Ariana won floor and took second on bars and in the all-around at the American Classic, placed seventh on bars and eighth in the all-around at the Secret U.S. Classic, and then placed fifth on beam and sixth on floor at nationals. She resumed competition as a level 10 in 2014, showing off immense power and an equal ability across all four events. Her skills include a Yurchenko 1.5 on vault, a gorgeous double layout on floor, and a nice full-twisting double layout bars dismount, all of which we hope to see from her this season.

8. Amanda Huang, Alabama

Joining Ari at Alabama is fellow elite-turned-level 10 Amanda Huang, who qualified to elite in 2011 and competed for two years before an injury sidelined her in 2013. Returning to competition as a level 10 the following year, she took second on bars at JO nationals, and then, at this year’s nationals, placed third on bars and eighth on floor. Bars is by far where she shows off her strongest ability, but she could also contribute on beam for the Crimson Tide.

9. Olivia Karas, Michigan

Olivia comes to Michigan after a very strong level 10 career. At JO nationals in 2014, she won the titles on vault (with a score of 9.925 there, and she has scored as high as 9.95 at other meets), bars, and the all-around. This year, she won vault and took fourth in the all-around at nationals, in addition to earning second place finishes on vault and floor and the all-around bronze at the Nastia Liukin Cup. Olivia could be a huge contributor on vault, her best event, where her Yurchenko 1.5 fulfills the 10.0 start value requirements. She also has some pretty unique skills that deviate from what you’d typically see in NCAA, most notably with her double Arabian and whip to double full on floor, and then her piked toe front dismount on bars (which is to die for!).

10. McKenna Kelley, LSU

Another member of LSU’s incoming freshman class is the highly-touted McKenna Kelley. As the daughter of 1984 Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton, she has an impressive pedigree but it’s not all about her legendary mom. McKenna is fierce in her own right, earning the JO national floor title in 2014, and she tied for first in the all-around earlier that season at the Nastia Liukin Cup. She was also invited to the national team training camps several times throughout her career, attempting to qualify elite with her biggest goal being this year’s Pan Ams team.

Though she fell short there, she’s still an immense competitor with major skills, especially on floor (she trains double doubles at LSU for fun and has a solid double layout she could do in her sleep). She could also contribute on vault and beam for the Tigers, working standing fulls on beam at one point, which we hope to see her compete, replacing all of our Sam Peszek feels. Unfortunately, McKenna is currently in a boot due to an ankle sprain, but we hope to see her heal up in time to compete this season!

11. Kirah Koshinski, West Virginia

Kirah was a great catch for WVU and will surely contribute in huge ways to their team this year. She finished second in the all-around at this year’s JO nationals (behind Alicia Boren), where she also won floor and took second on vault. She even scored a perfect 10 on vault at regionals in 2013, competing a beautiful Yurchenko 1.5! Vault and floor are her strongest events, but she also shows great talent on beam, and was the 2015 regional champion on this event. Kirah brings a ton of energy on floor in addition to a sky high double layout that is sure to impress.

12. Taylor Krippner, Auburn

Rounding out the first half of our freshmen preview is Taylor Krippner, who qualified to the elite level in 2012 and was most recently crowned the 2015 JO national beam champion. Taylor was featured recently in Auburn’s Thanksgiving intrasquad video, where she was both interviewed and showcased on vault, bars, and floor. She’s a pretty even-keeled gymnast, strong across all four events, so there’s no real telling where she could impact Auburn the most. Auburn had a really killer season last year that left college gym fans in awe, especially after they landed in the Super Six at NCAA Championships. Taylor is one of six freshmen on the team, and we hope they can continue the upward trajectory of the program this season.

Article by Sarah Chrane

11 thoughts on “NCAA Freshmen to Watch – Part 1

      • Thank you Lauren. She would’ve brought an awesome presence to elite. Kinda feel like we missed something cool there, but definitely respect the decision-making and will love watching Alicia and others rock NCAA.


        • Gymnasts in the U.S. sometimes go to competitions like this sent by their club gyms, not the U.S. program. You don’t have to be an elite to attend invitational competitions even if they’re international, and you see it often with Massilia, Top Gym, Gymnix, etc. Several U.S. and Canadian gymnasts attended international meets this year with their club gyms without having qualified to the elite level in their home countries.


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