Photograph: Ashley Hiller/Twitter
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.
The first freshman class we will analyse is #1 Oklahoma’s. The Sooners are the current National champions, a title they also won also in 2016 and 2014.
Oklahoma said goodbye to six stunning seniors: Chayse Capps, who was one of the most solid all arounders in the NCAA; Charity Jones, who was a solid lead-off performer on vault, beam and floor; McKenzie Wofford, who was a fantastic bars specialist; Nicole Turner, who contributed from time to time especially on floor; Kara Lovan, who was particularly strong on beam; and Reagan Hemry, who retired due to medical reasons.
Oklahoma has welcomed five freshmen, who all have huge potential: Jordan Draper, from Bedford, Texas; Abigail Matthews, from Virginia Beach, Virginia; Evy Schoepfer, from Ames, Iowa; Anastasia Webb, from Morton Grove, Illinois; and Carly Woodard, from Overland Park, Kansas. The Sooners have also welcomed junior Ashley Hiller, from Houston, Texas, who is a transfer from the University of Florida.
Jordan Draper trained at Empire Gymnastics. She finished eighteenth in the all around at the 2016 JO National Championships, as well as twelfth on both bars and floor. In 2016 she was also Region 3 champion on floor and finished fourth in the all around. In 2017, she finished third at the State Championships and was twelfth in the all around at the Regional Championships.
Draper is a good all arounder, but excels especially on beam and floor. On beam, she has the calmness and long lines Oklahoma’s head coach K. J. Kindler loves. And on floor, she has beautiful lines and precision, which is typical of Oklahoma gymnasts. Her double pike on floor is especially pretty, sky-high and with pointed toes in the air. She will be a great asset for the Sooners next season.
Abigail Matthews trained at Cincinnati Gymnastics, a gym that has discovered such future world and Olympic champions as Amanda Borden, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique Moceanu and Kim Zmeskal.
Matthews competed at the 2017 JO National Championships, where she finished sixteenth in the all around and fifth on the uneven bars. At the Region 5 Championships in April she also finished second on bars and third on floor. Last year, she finished sixth on the uneven bars at the JO National Championships. Matthews was also an elite gymnast back in 2014 and competed at the Secret U.S. Classic that year.
Matthews’ best apparatuses are bars and beam. She already has a perfect routine for the NCAA, which includes a Stalder Tkachev, a Pak salto and a clean double tuck dismount. On beam, she has some innovative skills, such as a back handspring with one hand. Sometimes she shows some nerves on beam, but K. J. Kindler is the master of balance beam, and will certainly know how to deal with it.
Evy Schoepfer trained at Triad Gymnastics. She qualified for five consecutive years for the JO National Championships (2013–2017) and finished in the top-ten in the all around in the four past editions. At this years JO Championships, she finished second in the all around. Schoepfer also competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup in 2015 and finished eleventh.
Schoepfer is a powerful athlete and has a big potential as an all arounder. She however excels on floor, where she has an engaging routine and performs a huge double layout.
Anastasia Webb trained at IGI, the same gym where former Sooner Haley Scaman trained. She finished seventh in the all around this year at the JO National Championships, and tied for first on vault, where she scored an NCAA-worth 9.900. She was also the Region 5 all around champion in April. Webb also competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup in 2017, where she placed eleventh. Webb also competed as an elite gymnast in 2014, and competed at the Senior U.S. Classic as a junior.
Webb has potential as an all arounder, but her best apparatuses are vault and floor. On vault, she performs a very solid Yurchenko front pike. On floor, she is a twister, but she has beautiful lines and hard combination passes.
Carly Woodard trained at Fuzion Gymnastics. She is a two-time Junior Olympic qualifier, in 2016 and 2017. In 2016 she tied for seventh on beam, while in 2017 she tied for eleventh on floor, thirteenth on beam and twenty-second in the all around. In 2017 she was third on balance beam at both the Missouri State championships and at the Regional championships.
Woodard excels on beam and floor. On beam, she competes a difficult routine, which includes a full turn with the leg held horizontally, a BHSO + LOSO, a free-cartwheel, a cat leap into front Toss and a free-cartwheel into full-twisting dismount. On floor at the Junior Olympics in 2017 she competed a sassy routine to the Pink Panther theme song. She performs three interesting tumbling passes: a high double pike, a front one-and-a-half twist into leap jump into front tuck and a front layout into front full. Woodard is good also on bars, where she competes a Jaeger to shoot-over to low bar and a double layout dismount.
Ashley Hiller did her club training at Stars Gymnastics Houston. She competed at the Junior Olympics in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 she won gold on vault, was fifth on beam and sixth on floor, while in 2015 she tied for second on vault. She competed for two seasons (2016 and 2017) for the Florida Gators. She posted a career-high 9.700 on vault and a 9.775 on floor. In 2016 she was named to the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll and in 2017 to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Hiller is a powerful athlete who excels on vault and floor. Last year at Florida, on floor she competed a very smiley routine, which included a double pike, a front full twist into front pike and a one-and-a-half twist into front pike. On vault, she competed a high FTY. Hiller is also confident on beam. Back in her club years, she used to compete a BHSO + LOSO, a free-walkover, a switch leap into back tuck and a one-and-a-half twisting dismount.
Good luck to the future Sooners!
Article by Talitha Ilacqua
(A previous version of this article was published on WOGymnastikA)