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2024 SEC Gymnastics Preseason Power Rankings Part 1

The teams that make me go hmmm

December has arrived, and that means we’re a month out from the start of the 2024 NCAA gymnastics season.

2023 was a wild ride to say the least. LSU climbed their way past a mountain of injuries and setbacks to reach their second Four on the Floor and ninth national final in program history. Kentucky made their second appearance at nationals ever, Alabama missed for the third time ever and Florida finished as national runners-up by over 0.1000 despite putting up the highest score by a second place team in NCAA history. Missouri failed to reach nationals again, but had a respectable finish, Arkansas came up just short of the regional finals, Georgia bounced back from the worst season in program history and Auburn collapsed down the stretch before a shocking collapse in the regional semis sent them packing early.

2024 is going to be a bittersweet year, and especially for any SEC teams that wanted to win a conference title since Oklahoma joins in 2025 and the format gets weird. I figured that means it’s about time I give my power rankings coming into this season so y’all can see how I’m evaluating everyone coming in.

These rankings do not take training footage as anything other than practice. Not a game, practice, so it doesn’t work as a solid way of evaluating what someone will do, so experience and proven talent are the most valuable assets to a team. These are not meant to be a prediction of anything, either, it’s where I think teams are coming into the 2024 season. Also, I have a lot to say about this, so this is being split in half. These are my bottom 4, next time, I’ll reveal my top 4.

#8: Arkansas (2023 #17 overall, #7th at SECs)

Lost: Norah Flatley, Kiara Gianfagna, Kennedy Hambrick, Madison Hickey, Bailey Lovett (2023 NQS routines: 8 +1 AA)

Added: Sirena Linton (grad transfer from Arizona), Chandler Buntin, Dakota Essenpries, Hailey Klein, Priscilla Park

Getting back (from injury or extra year): N/A

Justification: Arkansas looks pretty similar to the team they were last year, and they replaced Norah Flatley for Sirena Linton as their annual “rent a superstar” they’ve used to great effect the past two seasons. This is a team that is going to rely on their sophomores to make even bigger glow-ups. Their top returner on all four events is a sophomore. If they don’t improve, the Hogs are going to be dealing with a rougher season than they’d hoped. They need to be consistent on everything, not just vault, and they need to get more 10.0s in their vault lineup if they’re going to compete with anybody.

They bring in 4-star Priscilla Park, but that’s the biggest name they’ve got in the freshman class. Sirena Linton is not a replacement for Norah Flatley because she doesn’t do the all-around, she mainly sticks to bars and beam. Not only that, she wasn’t the best beamer on her own team last year despite that being the event on which she qualified to 2022 nationals, she was 3rd in NQS. The same is true on bars. If you instead go by average, she drops to 4th on both. Linton’s a great gymnast, don’t get me wrong, but she’s a downgrade from Flatley and when that’s combined with the uncertainty of sophomores and 0 people coming back while the rest of the SEC moves up, I see the Hogs being left behind.

#7 Georgia (2023 #20 overall, 8th at SECs)

Lost: Josie Angeny, Sandra Elsadek, Loulie Hattaway, Sarah Cohen, Maeve Hahn, Ariel Posen, Jacquie Moran, Soraya Hawthorne (grad transfer to Oklahoma), Madelynn Crow (sophomore transfer to Auburn) (2023 NQS routines: 9)

Added: Ashlyn LaClair (grad transfer from Kentucky), Jaydah Battle, Kelsey Lee, Zora Morgan, Heather Parker, Lily Smith, Holly Snyder, Anya Turner, Ady Wahl

Getting back: Amanda Cashman (5th year), Haley de Jong (5th year), Vanessa Deniz (5th year), Nicole King (injury in freshman year)

Justification: Georgia is in the process of a full-scale rebuild, something that would’ve been unimaginable a decade ago. In 2022, the Gymdogs finished 30th, their worst finish in modern program history. Last year, head coach Courtney Kupets Carter hit the reset button and brought in three new coaches alongside a massive freshman class. That, along with a great hit in the transfer portal, brought them up 10 spots.

2024 looks to be a greater improvement. Georgia tied for the most NQS routines lost among SEC teams, but they’ve made up for it by getting another grad transfer from Kentucky and retaining three of their four best true seniors from last year. The biggest concern I have with Georgia is the unbearable weight of massive young talent. They brought in one of the best freshman classes last year and brought in another incredible class this year, but they need to live up to their potential. Four freshman saw regular action last season, but Jacquie Moran medically retired in the offseason.

This is a team with a lot of potential to be great and one that managed to offset their offseason losses, but I won’t say they’re back until they show it.

#6 Auburn (2023 #24 overall, 5th at SECs)

Lost: Derrian Gobourne, Morgan Leigh Oldham, Adeline Sabados, Piper Smith, Anna Sumner, Sunisa Lee (2023 NQS routines: 7 +1 AA)

Added: Madelynn Crow (sophomore transfer from Georgia), Anna Hill (junior transfer from Temple), Lila Smith (junior transfer from Kentucky), Sydney Schumaker (senior transfer from Brockport), Bryn Bartman, Emma Grace Boyd, Sophia Greaves, Julianne Huff, Jersie Woolsey, Paige Zancan

Getting back: Aria Brusch (5th year), Cassie Stevens (5th year), Olivia Greaves (injury before freshman season), Hailey John (redshirted freshman season)

Justification: Auburn lost Suni Lee and Derrian Gobourne, the stalwarts that led the team to their only Four on the Floor appearance and the only national champions in program history. Without them, I don’t know who this team is. I don’t think they’re the team that collapsed down the stretch once Lee left the lineups because that’s entirely unfair. This is a team that’s spent an entire offseason without her and has had to figure out how that’s going to look. Olivia Greaves was the team’s highest-rated freshman coming into 2023, but she missed the whole thing with ACL issues that have now cleared up. If she can do as well as she had when she got recruited, she’ll be great.

One thing that really excites me is Auburn’s use of the transfer portal. Lila Smith and Madelynn Crow are apparently great beamers, but they’ve never seen a lineup thanks to depth. The others are more certain. Anna Hill comes in with solid numbers on vault and bars, ones that may go up considering SEC scoring and facilities. Then there’s Brockport transfer Sydney Schumaker. She’s the two-time NCGA-East vault champion and has had the highest finish by an NCGA-East vaulter at the last two NCGA Championships, a massive deal once you realize no NCGA-East gymnast has won a national vault title since 2014. If she can keep hitting like she did earlier, her 9.750s will jump to 9.900s.

Auburn also retains two solid 5th years, so I can see them bouncing back, but not back to where they were with Lee. My main concern is with their beam team. Ashley Johnston was the team’s beam coach in 2022, but she left to take the Alabama job after the season. Auburn replaced her with long-time Brown head coach Sara Carver-Milne. Auburn fell from 4th on beam to 16th on beam. Johnston was an unbelievable beam coach, and losing her really hurt. It may take some time for Carver-Milne to implement her system, but it needs to get in soon or else Auburn might be back to where they were in the mid-2010s.

#5 Missouri (2023 #14 overall, 6th at SECs)

Lost: Helen Hu, Adalayna Hufendiek, Hannah McCrary, Alisa Sheremeta, Alyssa Ojeda, Casey Poddig, Reese Baechle (sophomore transfer to Lindenwood) (2023 NQS routines: 5)

Added: Mara Titarsolej (senior transfer from LIU), Jessa Conedera, Kennedy Griffin, Hannah Horton, Rayna Light, Kylie Minard

Getting back: Sienna Schreiber (5th year), Jalene Jachna (injured in freshman season), Amaya Marshall (injured in junior season), Kalise Newsome (injured in junior season), Hollyn Patrick (injured in senior season)

Justification for Missouri: Auburn and Missouri two teams are so close to each other; I nearly gave up and put them in a tie. Then I remembered my criteria for ranking teams and what I consider to be important. Auburn had to go behind Mizzou because I was less certain about what they’d do, and both of them are ahead of Georgia because I believe what they have right now is better than what I have seen for Georgia.

Anyway, about Missouri. Another season, another long-time coach leaving for another job. Casey Jo MacPherson left to become Pitt’s new head coach after 10 years in Columbia. Lacey Rubin is the new beam coach following a successful year at Arizona State, and she’ll be looking to continue the steadiness they’ve managed over the past few years. Helen Hu is the biggest loss by far. She led the team on both bars and beam, especially beam, but they can manage. Sienna Schreiber’s return is massive because she was second on beam and tied for second on bars this past season, plus she’s a dependable all-arounder.

Mara Titarsolej (pronounced tee-tar-SO-ley) is the reason I think Missouri is worth your time. She’s one of the original members of the inaugural LIU team and is the most successful of the bunch. She barely competed in 2021, but she burst onto the national scene in 2022 when she got a 10, the first in program history (Arkansas still hasn’t gotten one despite having competed since 2003), and finished the season tied for 8th in the country in bars NQS with a 9.940, higher than Sami Durante, Haleigh Bryant, Jordan Bowers and Jordan Chiles and equal to that of Natalie Wojcik and Luisa Blanco. She had a 9.945 NQS in 2023, 10th best in the nation and higher than that of Natalie Wojcik, Kayla DiCello, Haleigh Bryant and, crucially, Helen Hu. Bars is so key to Missouri’s success in my opinion, and considering the vault improvements are going to come from unproven freshmen, this is an area I can see offsetting the losses on beam. Vault needs to get more 10.0s, but the freshman have them and I have confidence they’ll find their spots in the lineup to prop up the weakest link in their team.

Overall, when I look at this bottom four, I see a ton of potential to do great things. Arkansas should be able to boost to a regional final with a home crowd as long as their underclassmen produce. Georgia should find more success than in the last two years as long as their underclassmen produce and their 5th years hold the rope. Auburn and Missouri each have the potential to make a run to the regional finals if they offset their losses. These four teams have the potential to do even better things, but until I see it in a competition environment, I’m going to remain skeptical.