As a blog that primarily covers elite gymnastics, but that fangirls with the rest of you over all of our NCAA favorites, my favorite time of year is when we’re first getting into the NCAA season and I get to combine the two worlds of the sport to share with you all of the elites you’ll be getting to know in the coming years as they make the transition to college.
In 2019, a total of 28 gymnasts who competed at the national level as elite gymnasts in their countries will begin careers as collegiate gymnasts (note that for the U.S., I consider gymnasts who qualified to nationals as having reached the “national level”). Of this group, 12 competed within the United States, eight come from Canada, two from Great Britain, two from Spain, and we also have representation from Iceland, Mexico, the Czech Republic, and New Zealand. My favorite fun fact is that two programs both top the charts with three incoming elites, but while Florida will welcome three former U.S. gymnasts, Iowa State – which has recently been attracting tons of international gymnasts with girls from Peru and Spain already on the roster – is now home to another three freshmen elites from different countries, including Canada, Spain, and Great Britain!
This is the second look at some of our upcoming favorites. You can find the first here, and we’ll have the third coming up soon!
TRINITY THOMAS, FLORIDA
The ultimate overachiever, it’s no surprise that Trinity – who was a high school diver and ran track in addition to competing on the U.S. national team – ended up going to Florida a year early at just 17.
One of the top new freshmen in NCAA this year, Trinity made waves the second she appeared on the junior elite scene in 2015. Added to the national team early the next season, Trinity made her international debut with a gold on floor at Jesolo, and she spent the past two years as one of the top senior competitors, winning all-around silver at the Tokyo World Cup and Pan American Championships in 2018 before making the move to Gainesville.
As a super balanced all-arounder, Trinity doesn’t have a weak event and is going to be a standout for the Gators. In her debut last week, Trinity became SEC’s Freshman of the Week thanks to a win on uneven bars and a 39.475 in the all-around, the highest ever for a Gator making her all-around debut in the season opener.
This is just the beginning for Trinity, and we couldn’t be more excited to watch her grow into an absolute queen.
MEGAN ROBERTS, GEORGIA
Once one of the most dominant juniors in Canada with a national all-around novice win in 2013 followed by the junior title in 2015 and four international medals, Megan was one of the biggest Olympic hopefuls when she became a senior in 2016.
Going into the Games, Megan was consistently one of the top Canadians on bars and floor, winning the bronze on bars at nationals before then placing third all-around in one of the Olympic trials sessions. Megan ended up getting the first alternate spot, traveling to Rio with the team, and then she returned to competition for two more years of elite before coming to Georgia in the fall.
Megan has a huge Dos Santos on floor, and I’m most excited to see if this is something she’ll bring with her to elite. I think she has a ton of potential to add depth to this lineup for the GymDogs, and as she used to compete a DTY, I’m also hoping she’ll be able to get to top strength there to help make a difference there as well.
ESPERANZA ABARCA, WEST VIRGINIA
As a level 10 gymnast since 2015, Esperanza got the opportunity to compete at the elite level at national championships in Mexico in 2017, where she showed a ton of potential to place sixth all-around with especially excellent routines on bars and beam.
In addition to her brief time in the elite world, Esperanza, who trained at WOGA, qualified to J.O. nationals in 2016 and 2017, and in her final season last year, she had 11 top-three finishes at invitationals in addition to placing fourth in the all-around and on bars and beam at Texas State Championships.
Bars and beam are always where Esperanza shines, and she’s already picked up a steady gig on bars at West Virginia, getting a 9.8 as the leadoff in both the team’s season debut in Cancun and then also last weekend, the top scores in the lineup both weeks for the Mountaineers. It’s been a super impressive start so far for her, as if we’d expect anything less from a WOGA gal, and we’re looking forward to seeing her continue to lead the team here as a freshman.
MOLLY FRACK, AUBURN
Molly competed at the elite level for three years in the U.S., qualifying to nationals two years in a row and showing an especially strong talent for beam and floor. She was expected to continue competing into 2015, but injuries kept her from reaching her full potential.
The Parkettes gymnast competed level 10 in 2016, winning several invitational titles in addition to the Pennsylvania state title on bars before finishing second on floor and fourth all-around at regionals to earn a spot at J.O. nationals.
With her history of injuries, I’m unsure how quickly we’ll see Molly start to make lineups at Auburn. As a genuinely fun performer on floor as an elite, this is where I’m most looking forward to seeing her, but again…I’m concerned about her status and think it’s more likely that we’ll see them ease her in on bars or beam first.
PHOEBE TURNER, IOWA STATE
A consistent member of Great Britain’s training squads from her espoir days all the way through to leaving for college, Phoebe competed in the all-around at five straight English and British Championships, making her British debut as a junior in 2014, where she placed ninth overall in addition to making the beam final.
A four-time English medalist in her junior and senior career, Phoebe also won bronze medals on vault and floor at British Championships as a senior, and she was the 2017 British senior champion on beam. Phoebe also helped her team, The Academy (also home to LSU’s Ruby Harrold and Pitt’s Lucy Brett!), at several British Team Championships over the years, and in 2017, she received her first international assignment, winning the bronze medal on vault at a friendly meet in the Netherlands.
Fairly consistent on vault throughout her career, this is where Phoebe will make the most immediate impact for Iowa State, and in Cancun last week, she posted the team’s second-best score on the event with a 9.825. I can also see her eventually making the beam and floor lineups, and think she’s yet another fantastic international addition to the Cyclones this year.
MARGZETTA FRAZIER, UCLA
Another former Parkette on the list! Margzetta, known as Marz, qualified to elite in 2014, competing at both classic meets that summer and qualifying to her first nationals before going on to spend a total of five years at the top level in the sport before heading to UCLA.
Marz kind of flew under the radar during her junior career, but with the wave of gymnasts who retired after the 2016 Olympic Games, Marz began to stand out as a potential leader of the future, finishing an impressive fifth all-around at nationals in 2017 to earn a spot at the worlds selection camp that fall.
Continuing her rise into 2018, Marz made her international debut at the Birmingham World Cup in March, winning silver in the all-around behind Russian Olympian Angelina Melnikova while topping the field on bars, and though she got injured in the spring and left for UCLA, she made one final stop at nationals – and in a Bruins leotard – before putting a pause on her elite career.
I’d say Marz will be an asset to the team on vault, bars, and floor especially. Her DTY on vault has always looked fantastic, so I think we can expect to see that later in the season, but floor is where she’ll work her magic, and even as an elite she showed a spark and sass that screamed “I’m ready to go viral.”
MEAGHAN RUTTAN, WASHINGTON
Like her fellow Canadian Megan on this list, Meaghan had a sweet junior career as an elite up north, and she spent about five years on the Canadian national team before getting ready to make the change to college.
Meaghan’s first international assignment came at the Top Gym Tournament when she was 14, placing 13th all-around and 8th in the beam final to first pick up some attention from fans. When she returned the following season, she continued turning heads with all-around and floor bronze at Elite Canada, bronze on beam at the Canada Games, and silver on floor at Gymnix before finishing fifth all-around at nationals later that year.
As a senior, consistency was a bit of a struggle for Meaghan, but she earned a Pan Ams spot in 2016, where she won the silver medal on beam, and she wrapped up her career placing 15th all-around at nationals a year later.
I’ve always loved bars most for Meaghan, as she’s had some unique skills and tricky combos there, though unfortunately the nerves sometimes got to her a bit. I think she has true potential to eventually contribute on every event, and can’t wait to see how she adjusts to this next step in her career.
EMILY GASKINS, ALABAMA
As the next big thing to come out of Cincinnati Gymnastics after Lexie Priessman and Amelia Hundley, Emily qualified to elite in 2013 and seemed to be one of the top juniors to keep an eye on, earning a nationals berth that year where she finished a super impressive 10th all-around.
Emily made her international debut when she was 13, finishing fifth at Jesolo, and her other big moment came in 2015 when she won the bronze medal on vault at nationals. Unfortunately, gym changes, injuries, and growth spurts kept her from becoming the superstar we thought she’d be, but she always showed up at competitions looking good on every event, and she retired from elite on a high note in 2017, placing seventh all-around at nationals with an incredible second day of competition.
With lovely lines, gorgeous toe point, and tidy form, Emily can make any event look good, but it was her floor that generally brought the most attention, using her background in ballet to put together performances that kept even the most bitter artistry hags wanting more. So far at Bama, Emily has looked great on bars, and she’s also lent her talents to the vault and beam pool, but I think she’ll eventually end up doing all four for the Crimson Tide.
LILJA OLAFSDOTTIR, SEATTLE PACIFIC
I love seeing D2 programs getting international talent! Born in Iceland, Lilja consistently topped the competition in her home country as a child, and after qualifying to the elite level, she quickly rose as one of Iceland’s top juniors, being named to the national team in 2013 before earning a spot on the junior Euros team in 2014.
Lilja and her mom moved to the U.S. while she was still a member of the junior team, and she began simultaneously competing level 9 in 2014, winning the state titles on beam and floor in her first year in the U.S. system. She focused on level 10 instead of elite in 2016 and 2017, winning the West Virginia state beam title both years and qualifying to regionals in 2016, though she only competed two events and couldn’t contend for a spot at J.O. nationals.
After states in 2017, Lilja decided to return to competition in Iceland, placing fifth all-around before going on to win bronze on beam, floor, and in the all-around at another Icelandic meet, the GK Championships. In 2018, she was the Icelandic national bronze medalist on floor, also placing fourth on beam and sixth all-around, and then she won bars and all-around silver in addition to the floor title at GK Championships, making her a top contender for several international teams that year.
Lilja represented Iceland at both Nordic and European Championships in 2018, finishing sixth all-around and fourth on beam at Nordics, though an unfortunate elbow injury in Glasgow kept her from competing both there and at worlds in the fall. After undergoing surgery in October, it’s unclear how quickly she’ll be added into SPU’s lineups, but bars, beam, and floor should be prime events for her once she’s healthy again.
OLIVIA TRAUTMAN, OKLAHOMA
After finishing sixth all-around at J.O. nationals in 2014, Olivia quickly qualified to elite in the U.S., making a huge impression right away as she qualified to nationals and won the silver medal on vault in the junior field.
Olivia made her international debut at Jesolo about six months later, finishing sixth all-around, and she remained a super solid vault and floor competitor throughout the rest of her national-level elite career, which concluded at nationals in 2016. Though she attended a qualifier early in 2017, winning vault and getting the bronze on floor, Olivia – who trained at Twin City Twisters with fellow Oklahoma Sooner Maggie Nichols – ended up missing the season due to injury, and dropped back to level 10 for her final year at home, winning both the state and regional vault, floor, and all-around titles before then winning the floor title, silver on vault, and bronze in the all-around at J.O. nationals.
Unsurprisingly, vault and floor are expected to be Olivia’s shining events in college, and in her debut performance for OU this year, her fantastic floor set earned a 9.975 on the road, getting a 10 from one judge. Her explosive power and supreme sass give her the star power of an experienced upperclassman, and if she looks this good now, I’m more than excited to see what she’ll do in her future.
Article by Lauren Hopkins