Photograph: Alyssa Baumann/Instagram
The 2018 NCAA season is still months away, but it is never too early to start knowing the incoming freshman class for each team. This is both a way to begin thinking of potential lineups, and a way to get to know less well-known gymnasts and their routines.
Florida said goodbye to senior Claire Boyce, who however competed very little in 2017 and retired before the end of the season due to medical reasons. The Gators could potentially compete next year with the same exact line-up as this year.
This, however, will certainly not be the case, as Florida has welcomed an insanely talented freshman class, which boosts the Gators’ chances to win the national title next year. The five talented freshmen are: Alyssa Baumann, from Dallas, Texas; Vanasia Bradley, from Canton, Michigan; Jazmyn Foberg, from Bayville, New Jersey; Abigail Hair, from Orlando, Florida; Megan Skaggs, from Atlanta, Georgia; and Nicole Webb, from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Alyssa Baumann trained at WOGA, the gym that has produced Olympic champions Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Madison Kocian, as well as such NCAA stars as Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA) and Natalie Brown (Oklahoma).
Baumann is a former international elite gymnast. She turned senior in 2014 and competed at the Jesolo Trophy, where she won gold with the team and silver on balance beam. Later that year, she competed at the P&G Championships, where she won silver on balance beam and was named to the U.S. national team. Baumann was selected to represent team USA at the World Championships in Nanning that October, and won gold with the team, contributing a 14.500 on balance beam. In 2015, Baumann won silver again on beam at the P&G Championships and narrowly missed the chance to compete at the World Championships. Baumann started the 2016 season well, finishing third in the all around at the Secret U.S. Classic and seventh at P&Gs. During the training preparation for the Olympic Trials, however, Baumann badly hurt her elbow and had to withdraw from competition. She had surgery soon afterwards and deferred her college debut to this year to focus on rehab.
Baumann’s recovery went well, and she is now back to full strength. She has most of her skills back and a few months ago she showed off some upgrades and interesting combinations, especially on beam. Baumann was a strong all arounder when she was an elite gymnast, and could potentially be a great all arounder for Florida as well. Her best apparatus is certainly beam, but she can also swing bars very well, she has tons of difficulty (and spins) on floor, and can easily compete a FTY. Plus, she has lovely lines and execution, as well as an international pedigree, so expect high scores!
Vanasia Bradley trained at Euro Stars Gymnastics. In 2013 she qualified to junior international elite, and competed at the Secret U.S. Classic, where she finished sixth on vault and sixteenth in the all around, and at the P&G championships, where she earned a silver medal on vault, as well as an eleventh-place finish in the all around. Bradley missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to injury (she tore her ACL and injured her meniscus), but was back to competition in 2016 as a Level 10. At the Level 10 State Championships last year she won bronze on the uneven bars and finished seventh in the all around.
Bradley’s favourite event is the uneven bars, which is also one of her best. She has pretty lines and a very aggressive attitude. She also has great leap extension on beam and potential on floor, despite her ACL tear. She is a very competitive athlete and seems determined to make an impact on everything she does.
Jazmyn Foberg trained at MG Elite with Maggie Haney, who also coached Olympic champion Laurie Hernandez.
Foberg competed as an international elite athlete. In 2014, she competed at the P&G Championships and won the junior all around title, as well as the bars title, ahead of favourites Nia Dennis and Norah Flatley. Foberg made her international debut in 2015 at the Jesolo Trophy, where she won gold with the team and on vault and bronze in the all around. At that year’s P&G Championships, she won silver in the all around behind teammate Laurie Hernandez, as well as silver on vault, bars and beam. Nagging injuries prevented her from competing at the Olympic Trials in 2016, and therefore to have a shot at the Olympic team.
Foberg is a powerful athlete. She has great amplitude and big skills on vault and floor, but can also swing bars very well. She is a bit weaker on beam, but NCAA requires half of the skills of an elite routine, so if she masters them, Foberg could become one of the top all arounders in the country.
Abigail Hair completed her club training at Gymnastics USA, but in the past she also trained at Orlando Metro Gymnastics and at Brandy Johnson’s. She is a two-time Junior Olympic qualifier (2014 and 2015). In 2014, she tied for third on floor, for sixth on beam and was ninth in the all around. Hair has struggled with injury for the past three years. In 2017, she competed in the all around at the Florida State championships, where she finished fourth on floor and eighth in the all around, but competed only on bars at the Region 8 championships.
Unfortunately, no video showing Hair’s gymnastics seems to be available. However, on the basis of her past results and if healthy, Hair could give a significant contribution on floor exercise.
Megan Skaggs trained at the Gymnastics Academy of Atlanta and she is a former U.S. international elite gymnast. She was added to the U.S. national team in 2015, and made her international debut that spring at the Jesolo trophy, where she placed eighth in the all around. Later in 2015 she competed at the 2015 Pan American Games, where she won gold with the team and silver on balance beam. In March 2016 she announced her retirement from elite gymnastics and her commitment to the University of Florida.
Skaggs is another powerful gymnast. She is excellent on beam and very good on floor and vault. She did not score very high on bars during her elite career, but this was due to the fact that her routine was packed with difficulty and combinations. She will need only a few of those in the NCAA, so there is no reason why she could not score high on bars as well. Another potential all arounder was born!
Nicole Webb trained at Sonshine Gymnastics. She became a Level 10 gymnast in 2015 and competed at the J.O. National Championships, where she finished in the top sixteen in the all around and second on balance beam. In 2016, she competed at the State Championships, finishing second on balance beam, fourth on floor and seventh in the all around, and at the Region 8 Championships, where she finished first on bars, second on floor and eleventh in the all around. This year, Webb competed at the Level 10 State Championships, where she earned a silver medal on balance beam, and ended her season at the Region 8 Championships, where she won bronze again on balance beam.
Webb is a beautiful gymnast on balance beam and floor exercise. She has pretty lines, pointed toes, very elegant moves. Her balance beam routine is packed with difficulty, it could almost be an elite routine. Her floor routine is also very compelling. It includes a double pike and some very nice twisting elements. She is reminiscent of Nastia, maybe because she uses Nastia Liukin’s floor music from the Beijing Olympics. The girl has guts – it is not easy to use an Olympic champion’s music and make it work – well, she does!
Good luck to the new Gators!
Related: Meet the 2018 LSU Freshman Class
Article by Talitha Ilacqua
(A previous version of this article was published on WOGymnastikA)