By Caroline Medley and Elizabeth Grimsley
While we love seeing former elites like Kyla Ross, Maggie Nichols and Bridget Sloan continue their careers in the NCAA, that hasn’t always been the case. Some of our favorites from past quads (or even those still competing) have either chosen not to set their sights on college or are ineligible due to turning pro. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wonder what could have been.
Wieber is a sort of poster child for the pro rule. After heartbreak in London after not making the all around final despite being the reigning world champion, she rounded out her elite gymnastics career and never made a comeback despite continuing to train while at UCLA. However, rules surrounding training with a collegiate team made it all a bit too difficult for her and she decided to hang up her grips in favor of way-too-tall high heels.
While she’s been a great manager and coach for the Bruins so far, we would have loved even more to see her in blue and gold out on the competition floor. It would have given her that spark and maybe even a bit of motivation to make an elite comeback like her collegiate counterpart Anna Li did when she made the Olympic team as an alternate in 2012.
One of the real heartbreaks of the pro rule, Bross was a standout in the junior career and was one many thought would continue on to Olympic glory in 2012. However, injuries and other unfortunate circumstances got in the way, causing her to give up that dream. While she still hasn’t technically retired from the sport, turning pro before the Olympic year didn’t allow her to even have a better ending in NCAA. But can you imagine? We’d like to think Bross would have had that inspiration and emotional turnaround similar to Katelyn Ohashi is experiencing right now—a joyous ending to what was still a stellar career.
Team She Should Have Joined: California (to be with her BFF Emily Richardson)
Many were puzzled when Locklear decided not to head off to Florida for college and instead stay at home and train as an elite after graduating high school. But even if she only competed bars every week, we believe she could have racked up the accolades and become one of the great collegiate bar workers in the history of the sport. Just look at her elite prowess.
Just as recently as a year ago, the gymnastics community was still really excited for Hernandez to go to Florida. So when she decided to go pro, we were all excited for her but also kinda devastated. Just think about how killer her college beam could have been, and with a Jeremy Miranda floor routine, Laurie would have absolutely brought the O-Dome to its feet!
Can you imagine the glory that would be Shannon Miller in college gymnastics? While the timing would have been a bit weird with it coming just after her second Olympics, we’re going to assume she would have enough energy for the “easier” collegiate routines she’d likely perform. But that personality, precision and skill level under the NCAA lights? *Heart eyes emoji*
Team She Should Have Joined: Oklahoma
This is pretty much a no brainer but can you imagine Eythora’s artistry in an NCAA setting? She would win all the things and be a national hero even though she’s not even from this nation. Similarly, we’d like you to imagine her with a techno-inspired Alabama floor routine. We’ll sit here while you die laughing.
Team She Should Have Joined: UCLA or Oklahoma (Can you imagine a Miss Val or Chayse Capps-esque floor routine?!)
One of the most universally known U.S. gymnasts, considered “America’s Sweetheart” by our favorite NBC team, Johnson’s huge power and sweet personality would have shined in the NCAA. Having competed back in the days of individual finals at nationals, can you imagine how many tricks she could pull out of her bag for that competition, a la former teammate Sam Peszek’s standing full in 2015? But even during the regular season, we think Johnson’s solid execution and dedication would have made her one to watch in college competition.
Team She Should Have Joined: Iowa (Because we know she’d want to stay close to home.)
Schaefer’s beam is one of the loveliest sets in international competition right now, and it is a crying shame we’ll never see it in NCAA. Her elegant lines and unique eponymous skill would be such a hit that even on big beam teams, she’d be one of the top contributors.
Team She Should Have Joined: Oklahoma or LSU (Because beam.)
Ellie is a bright light that would have shined in NCAA. Her spirit and ability to be not only a team member but a team leader would make her perfect for the college gymnastics setting. Plus, not only does she have the difficulty to make her stand out to fans and judges alike, her personality would make her a crowd favorite in no time.
Team She Should Have Joined: Michigan, Utah or Georgia (Because Brittany.)
Her personality is perfect for NCAA! Plus, can you imagine how much of a great teammate she’d be—not to mention a fan favorite for people who support all different teams, not just the one she’s on. But then there’s her gymnastics, which is so playful. We just know her collegiate floor routine would kill.
Team She Should Have Joined: Denver (You can see it, too, right?)
Becky and Ellie Downie
With their awesome sibling rapport and their huge variety of skills, the Downies would be such cool additions to any NCAA team. While we love them together, they’re far enough apart that they wouldn’t have been at school together anyway. Becky’s bar prowess would put her in contention for an anchor position in any lineup in the country, and Ellie’s well-rounded set would catapult her to an AA spot on almost any team. Their fighting spirit and excellent execution woulld be a true treat to watch in college competition.
Team(s) They Should Have Joined: Becky to UCLA (because of the Brit contingent) and Ellie to Bama (because that beam+floor powerhouse, y’all).
Universally known for her longevity in the sport and her ability to reinvent herself to stay current, Chuso is truly a legend. It would have been an honor to watch her compete in NCAA competition when she was college-age. Her powerful, unique vaults would surely score well against the sea of Yurchenkos in NCAA, and her vast variety of skills would be sure to please any college crowd.
Team She Should Have Joined: Cal or GW (because of all that quirky personality!)
Do you have a favorite elite you wish did NCAA that’s not on the list? Let us know in the comments or on social media!
Days until the 2017 National Championships