As Division III nationals loom ahead this weekend, I wanted to take some time to recognize some of the amazing routines in this division and in Division II, chosen for their style and ingenuity. Hopefully, if I haven’t converted loyal Gymternet readers yet to the wonders of D2 and D3 gymnastics, I can by showing you some of these awesome routines!
Brianna Comport, Bridgeport
Ok, what’s not to love? I have been singing the praises of Brianna all season (and I think the gymternet has caught on to her as well). She reminds me of a Nastia Liukin/Bridget Sloan hybrid. Her toe point and extension is to die for, and her beam work is smooth, fluid, and elegant. I love the choreography in the beginning after the mount, the arabesque out of her acro series, and the cat leap into the rudi dismount!
Yes, I’m obsessed with her floor as well. Her toe point is so insane that her toe TOUCHES THE FLOOR when she is in a seated position. Her front twisting technique is really beautiful, and she just seems to float in every pass. She makes everything look effortless. I also chose this particular clip because of the commentary in the background. Comport had actually taken time off from gymnastics and then ended up joining the team later. She’s totally amazing and I will miss her gymnastics next year.
Stephanie Mager, Brockport
I think it’s super impressive when Division III athletes are throwing E level tumbling passes. Stephanie opens her floor routine with a solid full-in! Brockport has always been really strong on floor (they broke 49 at NCGA East regionals), and they are very skilled in working the code to find that balance between difficulty and execution, basically by doing as much difficulty as they can with as few skills as possible. Fun fact about Stephanie: she also has a nice full-twisting Yurchenko on vault that could easily contend for a lineup position at many D1 schools.
Amanda McBrayer, Oshkosh
I chose Amanda because I think she’s an amazing example of unique skills and connections that are much more prevalent in Division III than they are in Division I. Her acro series is a one-armed front handspring to immediate front toss, and she does it so beautifully. Her side aerial is also clean and smooth. I love her style on beam.
Carolyn Nichols, Ithaca
Carolyn, if I can recall, is the first Division III gymnast EVER to perform this vault: the ever-illusive front handspring + front handspring + front tuck vault that is banned in elite (why though?), and exceedingly rare in Division I. This vault requires SO much power and technique to be able to perform successfully. She only started doing it this season, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like once she has had ample time to perfect it!
Lindsay Rush, Ursinus
I picked this one because of its unique composition. She does a Higgins roll, and then a Healy spin to immediate pike back (I’m actually not really sure what it’s called, but it’s a straddle back performed in a piked position rather than a straddle so I’m just going to call it a pike back), and then dismounts with a 1½ twisting flyaway (super unique seeing as most NCAA dismounts are double back variations)!
Kierstin Sokolowski, Lindenwood
With a pretty perfect triple flight series and a huge punch front, Kierstin Sokolowski is an acro queen. She’s so solid and steady with difficulty that would fit into any D1 program, it’s no wonder she’s stayed at the top of the rankings all season long to qualify to NCAA regionals as an individual, a HUGE deal for a D2 gal. The junior who got her club training at MG Elite is also looking to lead the Lions to their third-straight national title next weekend.
Autumn Snape, Ursinus
I’m a sucker for a unique beam series. Freshman Autumn Snape does a front aerial to front toss, which is two D acrobatic elements connected in a row (in other words, pretty freakin’ tough). Fun fact: for this connection, she gets 0.4 in bonus. She also shows a nice bit of sass in her routine, and in this particular clip, I think some of her choreography goes perfectly with the floor music in the background.
Tara Sweeney, Cortland
More unique beam combinations! In case you wanted any more indication that Division III is full of VARIETY. First of all, I LOVE Tara’s mount, and how she holds her leg and stands to a Y scale. Second of all, her acro series is a front handspring to side somi! Super cool. The pike jump to back tuck is also a different bonus connection than what we usually see in beam routines.
Baylee Tkaczuk, Oshkosh
If I didn’t tell you what division Baylee was in, would you have guessed Division III? Probably not. She does a tkatchev right into an immediate pak salto, and ends with a double layout. That’s two D flight elements in direct connection AND an D level dismount, and she does it with really nice form throughout. She’s a really beautiful bar swinger!
Majesta Valentine, West Chester
I chose Majesta’s beam mostly for the SICK dismount she does: a tucked gainer full off the end of the beam, which is a SUPER crazy thing to attempt but also very cool to watch. Not a lot of NCAA gymnasts do it. She also does a switch half on the beam, which is a risky skill that many gymnasts and coaches are not willing to take.
I really love Majesta, and like Brianna Comport, will miss her gymnastics next year. I chose her floor because she is a great example of working the code to the advantage of the gymnast. She only does two tumbling passes, but since one is an E, and the other is a D + A direct combination, she does not receive any penalties for it. She gets HUGE amplitude on her front double full, and has great form when she does it. Her choreography is fun and the routine overall is super dynamic.
Nina Whittaker, Bridgeport
I make it no secret that I love forward entry vaults and that I find them to be undervalued (and usually, underscored) in the code. Nina’s piked front front is one of the best being done in Division II, and maybe even in NCAA as a whole. It’s worth a 9.9 and she gets tremendous height off the table (the video doesn’t do it justice. It’s HUGE in person).
These are just examples of many great routines in Division II and Division III and I’m 100% positive there are many more that I either haven’t seen or haven’t thought of. Feel free to comment with suggestions of other gymnasts to add to the list, and who knows, maybe there will be a part two to this segment!
Article by Sarah Keegan