Friday, December 6, 2013

Key Players in the NCAA

The NCAA season starts in one month, and I could not be more excited!  As a way to get in the mood for the upcoming NCAA season, as well as the Fantasy Gymnastics draft tomorrow, I am going to highlight some of the gymnasts who are sure to be key-players for their schools!

Bridget Sloan ~ University of Florida

Bridget Sloan is the reigning NCAA AA Champion, 8-Time First-Team All American, and led her team to their first National Championship Title ever, all as a freshman.  During her first year as a Gator, Bridget recorded only two falls all season.  She became the first person to win a World, U.S. and NCAA AA Champion, as well as becoming the fourth freshman to win the Honda Award, an award celebrating the best collegiate gymnast.  This year, Sloan looks to take off where she left off.  Likely to lead the All Around on a very stacked Florida lineup, as well as try to defend her Beam NCAA title.  When asked about Bridget, Coach Rhonda Faehn said, "Bridget has been highly successful - she's reached the highest level of our sport.  She's a tremendous athlete and a tremendous competitor.  And since day one of her arrival on campus, Bridget has been solely focused on this team and doing everything possible to help the Gators.  She's an incredible team player and has a very strong work ethic.  Bridget's personality is infectious.  The whole team feeds off of it.  She has fun and loves what she is doing."

Taylor Spears ~ Oklahoma University

Taylor Spears, a senior at Oklahoma, hails from the powerhouse that is WOGA, and certainly has the lines to prove it!  She is a very consistent All Arounder, who's specialty is her exquisite beam work, and did not register a fall on this event all season and consistently scores in the 9.9 range.  Her beautiful routines compliment a great Oklahoma line-up where she anchors the team on most events and lead the team in the All Around (along with Keely Kmieciak).  She had 26 individual titles last season, including eight All Around, ten Beam, four Bars, three Floor, and one Vault, the second most titles in the NCAA.  A Second Team All-American, she led her team to the highest placement at NCAAs in Team History, as well as placing 15 in the All Around.  Look for Taylor to contribute strongly for Oklahoma, especially on beam.

Diandra Milliner ~ University of Alabama

Diandra Milliner is such an explosive gymnast that it's hard to take your eyes off of her when she competes her floor routine!  Last season, she competed a Double Arabian, a Front Layout-Front Full, and ends with a double pike.  She has such a high level of difficulty and performs these skills brilliantly, which earned her a second place at NCAA Championships this spring in Los Angeles, CA.  Then there is her vault.  Unlike most college gymnasts, she competes a 1.5TY, and performs it exceptionally.  Her lines during this vault are picture perfect, and generally lands it very well.  Her almost perfect vault was just that at NCAA's, for which she earned a 9.925, and took home her first NCAA Title.  Look for her to try to defend her title this year in her senior year.  Coach Patterson has high praise for this athlete, for good measure.  She is taking on a leadership position, and I am very excited to see her compete this season!  Coach Sarah Patterson told me, "Diandra Milliner is an amazing athlete who is probably one of the best competitors I have worked with during my career.  She knows when to 'Light the Fire' so to speak and has that sense of urgency in competition that every coach loves to have.  She has a natural athletic ability that you can not teach."

Sam Peszek ~ UCLA
 Sam Peszek, 2008 Olympian headlines a stellar UCLA team.  Peszek was forced to Redshirt last year after tearing her Achilles Tendon in the preseason and is ready to rock this season.  Her beam work, much like it was in her elite days, is stunning.  In 2012, after injuring her wrist, she competed solely on beam, with what the UCLA staff called "The Bluetooth Routine" without using her hands.  She was also the first college gymnast to compete a standing full in 2011 when she won the 2011 NCAA Beam title.  She has always been a solid and consistent All Arounder, counting one fall all season in 2012. Peszek will look to come back strong this season as a Redshirt Junior.

Rheagan Courville ~ LSU

Rheagan Courville, a former elite who made the Junior National Team in 2007-2008, has been a standout of a rising LSU team during the past few season.  The stellar junior excels on All Around, and is the reigning 2013 NCAA vault champion.  She placed second AA at the 2013 NCAA Championships behind World Champion Bridget Sloan and a 3-Time All-American from 2013.  Her beam work looks effortless and has a beautiful Standing Arabian, similar to that of Nia Dennis and Viktoria Komova.  Rheagan leads the resurgent LSU team, which made Super 6 last year and handed University of Florida it's only loss of the season, and will look to stay as consistent and strong as she has been in her first two seasons as a Tiger.  Assistant Coach Jay Clark has some wonderful things to say about this amazing athlete.  Clark says, "Rheagan Courville is one of the most gifted athletes I have ever worked with.  Her gymnastics is light and effortless and she is a joy to coach."

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