By Caroline Medley
Part three of our potential lineups series goes back to Alabama but turns to the Tigers on the rise. Auburn, like Arkansas, also lost a number of key seniors at the end of last season. Caitlin Atkinson, Lexus Demers and Kait Kluz all contributed on at least three events, with Atkinson frequently performing as the team’s only all-arounder. This leaves three large holes in lineups for vault and floor and two apiece on bars and beam, so coach Jeff Graba will be looking for girls to fill in those gaps.
On vault, Taylor Krippner, MJ Rott and Kelsey Kopec should continue to contribute heavily with their solid full-twisting Yurchenko vaults. The Tigers should also expect contributions from Emma Engler and A’Miracal Phillips, so long as they’ve both recovered from their respective injuries from last season. Both gymnasts perform the Yurchenko full as well. Telah Black, who served as the vault alternate for much of last season, may also make an appearance. Watch out for incoming freshmen Katie Becker and Gracie Day, though, as both have clean Yurchenko fulls that could contribute well. What Auburn will miss is Atkinson’s Yurchenko 1.5, which was the only 10.0 start value vault on the team last season. Could anyone upgrade? Perhaps. Rott and Krippner are both powerful vaulters who typically have plenty of time to flare out before landing their vaults, so they might have the power and height to throw in an extra half twist. We also have hardly seen what Phillips is capable of, and vault is her specialty. She may surprise us if she’s fully healthy.
release and double layout dismount, while club training partner Becker has a full-twisting double layout dismount. The strongest of the three on bars, Day boasts a sky-high Jaeger and a killer arabian double front dismount, but the greatest thing about her bar routine is that it’s clean. Her handstands are beautiful and her swing is practically effortless.
Auburn will also hope to have Engler back on bars as well, provided she’s recovered from injury. But seeing as it was a lower extremity injury, bars has most likely been a focus during the long recovery process. The event was her best event until she injured her knee halfway through the season. We’ll also see return routines from Kopec, Krippner, Samantha Cerio and Abby Milliet.
Beam will lose a fair amount of depth with the losses of Atkinson and Demers, but with some help from freshman Becker’s steady beam work and the return of Engler, the Tigers should be able to field a full lineup no problem. Upperclassmen Krippner, Milliet, Cerio and Kullen Hlawek should return excellent routines as well, but that leaves very little room for error or injury. Don’t be surprised to see some new faces on beam this year — Emma Slappey, who sat out last season due to injury, could certainly contribute, and Kennedy Finister was J.O. NIT beam champion in 2014. Both could provide some much-needed backup on the always-tricky event.
may come in the form of A’Miracal Phillips if she’s well enough. Back in her J.O. days, she trained a full-in and a Rudi to layout-stepout. She could put up some serious scores if she regains that former level of difficulty.
Last comes the question of the all around. Atkinson was an AA stalwart, competing all four apparatus since her freshman year. Looking through these proposed lineups, no one gymnast seems set to compete all four apparatus. However, there are a few Tigers who could surprise us. Abby Milliet, as a former elite, certainly could do all four pieces. She’d have to come back and train vault again, but with just a clean Yurchenko full, she’d be a great contender for the all around. Taylor Krippner is another strong gymnast who competed three of four events last season, and she definitely trained a floor routine, as she competed it at Auburn’s preview intrasquad in December of last year. And of the freshmen, Katie Becker seems the strongest of the three, so if she can crack the bar lineup, she may very well end up Auburn’s next all arounder.
Come back tomorrow for part four of the SEC teams as we cover former NCAA champion Florida! You can also look at an event-by-event analysis of various teams’ potential lineups on our potential lineups page.
Previous articles in the series: Alabama | Arkansas
Days until the 2017 National Championships