"Weird" NCAA season?

I’ve loved watching this season of NCAA gymnastics, but I keep finding myself thinking about what a weird year it’s been due to the Olympics being delayed. Last year, we saw the careers of legends like Ross and Nichols cut short because of the pandemic, and now we’ve also seen the majority of top contenders delay college for a year to try out for the Olympics. The result is that we’ve had a season with zero Olympians and very few gymnasts who were ever Olympic hopefuls, which hasn’t been the case for decades.

I’ve loved watching so many of these former JO and lower-tier elite gymnasts shine this year with beautiful gymnastics that perfectly matches the ethos of the NCAA code of points, but I wonder how much they would’ve been overshadowed if the current crop of elites had retired after last summer and joined the NCAA ranks? And how many of them will be overshadowed next year when indeed the legion of top elite contenders decamp for college?

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I suppose that depends how well the incoming elite cohorts’ bodies hold up.

With UCLA, for example, will it be another massively talented group of elite recruits derailed by injuries? Especially with an extra year of Olympic preparation, I’d say it’s a bit of a gamble. Let me know if I’m forgetting someone, but I feel like Ross has been their only elite recruit in the last decade who really delivered on her potential the way elites at other schools have. Dennis and Kocian had moments of brilliance for sure, but they were also perennially injured.

With Florida getting basically an entire national team worth of elites over the next few years, I wonder how many of the current roster, if any at all, will consider transferring to other schools so they can actually crack a lineup? Or as these recruits get closer to signing dates, will they consider other offers for that reason? It’s going to be so difficult just to make a UF lineup the next few years if all these elites pan out.

Selfishly I would like to see the top elites branch out beyond the powerhouse schools. Suni Lee will probably become the best Auburn gymnast in history, and could help establish AU as a nationals contender. Same with Jade at OSU. If I were an elite, I’d probably consider the 2nd-3rd tier schools where I could be a superstar, but I totally get the appeal of being on a team like UF/LSU/UCLA/OU. I guess I just want more parity in the sport.

I can foresee Malabuyo taking a medical given how few Texas Nightmares athletes have been able to stay healthy and contribute for four years.

I can see 1 or 2 athletes going pro after Tokyo.

Hurd would be my first choice as she hasn’t been gung-ho about NCAA and was already planning to defer so she could go to 2021 Worlds. If Simone does indeed retire (at least for a year or so) Hurd would be USAG’s next IT girl. She is also on the roster for the post Olympic tour.

After that I can see McCusker potentially going that route if she is on Team USA and wins team gold.

Realistically the other three athletes that join Simone are more likely to turn pro than stay NCAA eligible. But it also may depend on individual medal or not.

Great question. I wouldn’t be too concerned about “overshadowing.” It’s rare that you have an elite NT member who’s ready to hit the ground running and do 3-4 events in NCAA. There’s a lot of adjusting and managing of injuries to be done, if people materialize at all. Lazzari and Richards would still be staples at Florida even if the new class came, and it’s not like Florida was lacking in names when they signed there.

There’s going to be some attrition at Florida, UCLA, and Utah, too. I would be surprised if Moors and Padurariu came in and were healthy enough to do more than 1-2 events, for instance. I’ve been told Moors is in particularly questionable health when we start talking about competing every week. The ever-lovely Jaylene Gilstrap shredded her elbow awhile back and limped off the floor at Pac-12s. It becomes quite the crapshoot with elites.

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Good points. Kyla Ross needed a year and change to adjust before becoming one of the greatest NCAA gymnasts of all time, and Nichols’ body began to break down, and her gymnastics regress somewhat, after her sophomore year.

With the new recruiting rules in place, it seems being an elite is not necessarily the big sell it used to be. Lexy Ramler has been more successful than a lot of big name recruits in the past years.

I think Carey and Chiles will transition much better to NCAA than the others since they seem sturdier than the rest of the current elites.

I think it’s very dependent on winning an individual medal. Simone is rightfully going to occupy the majority of media’s attention given how historic this Olympics will be for her legacy, so I think it would be unwise to go pro if you only manage the team medal.

I don’t see Riley going pro. She doesn’t seem to have the big, “media-friendly” personality of Hernandez/Hurd. Not to knock her at all, but I don’t think her “girl-next-door” vibe is as marketable as it was back in 04’/08’/12’, especially with gen Z.

I see Hurd taking that route as more likely. If Hurd makes it to Tokyo, she has a track record of turning up at major competitions, and if she makes it out of prelims, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her challenge for an AA medal at the least.