College Gym News recruit rankings are out! But what do they mean? — Other gym news — Thoughts from Sirena Linton
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Nov. 11, 2023
Note: Lela Moore is away this week. But with Signing Day around the corner, we wanted to resurface this story from June to get you ready for it.
(Full disclosure: I work for CGN as a features writer, but had no involvement in the rankings. Don’t at me!)
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As of June 15, the 2025 recruits — rising high school juniors or the international equivalent — can take official meetings with coaches and visit campuses. They can also verbally commit to schools, though their official signings won’t be for another year and change.
You can read about all of CGN’s five-star recruits — the highest possible ranking — right here.
The most important thing to know about these rankings is that they predict college success. Not success right now, not elite success, not a trip to the Olympics. They evaluate athletes on their potential for success in college gymnastics.
The next-most important things to know are that five-star rankings are not the be-all, end-all, and that plenty of four- and three-star recruits, and even unranked gymnasts, have stellar seasons in college.
Indeed, many elite gymnasts do not rate five stars from CGN because — to put it most simply — they aren’t striving for perfection under the elite system in the same way college gymnasts do. Insecure landings, minor wobbles and form issues such as bent limbs or leg separation matter less in elite, where difficulty is prized and good execution can feel like an afterthought, than in college gym, which values good form and technique more highly than sheer difficulty.
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Execution aside, injuries and breaks in competition can also affect a ranking.
Five-stars tend to be solid all-arounders who are ready to compete from Day 1. Someone with a weak event or two, or who needs to recover from an injury, might rank lower now. But as former four-star recruits Grace McCallum and Aleah Finnegan have shown us, college glow-ups are a thing.
So now that we’ve established that it’s not you, it’s the rankings, what do the rankings mean when it comes to the actual process of recruitment?
Not as much as you might think! The CGN rankings are arguably more for fans and followers of the sport and recruits themselves as they prepare to market themselves than they are for the people doing the recruiting. A top recruit can certainly use the ranking to promote herself, but the personal relationship between a program’s coach, a recruit and a team is what is going to make or break the recruitment process.
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But if you, a gym fan or someone who is looking to become more knowledgable about college gymnastics, wants to figure out who the big stars will be over the next few years, these rankings are invaluable. Look at the class of 2022 rankings, for those gymnasts who just finished their freshman year of college competition. Selena Harris, Nikki Smith, Morgan Price, Kayla DiCello — all five-star recruits, all stars at their programs. The five-star recruits from 2021 include Leanne Wong, Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles. NBD.
One of the questions in CGN’s FAQ about the recruit rankings is “Is it mean to rate people?” and … sure, if you’re Regina George, but this is a subjective sport based on a score that deducts from literal perfection. Gymnasts are used to relying on numbers and stats to know where they stand. Consider the rankings a tool to make you a better gymnerd instead of worrying about your favorite gymnast being viewed as just a number.
And start making your fantasy lineups now.
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Other gym news
USAG did a great Pride post featuring this week’s Five at The IX interviewee, Sirena Linton (see below!), front and center.
The beginning of recruiting season (see above!) brought us some epic welcome videos from our favorite teams.
Utah (my personal favorite; I appreciate a bit of shade):
Jordyn Wieber got a contract extension at Arkansas for three years, with an option for two more.
Maggie Nichols is writing a memoir titled Unstoppable.
Maryland’s Tasha Brozowski won the Silvester Watch, given annually to a Terp “who demonstrates courage in the face of adversity.” Brozowski’s father died following a motorcycle accident just after she competed at NCAA regionals; she dedicated her bar routine at regionals to him.
Nebraska’s Csenge Bácskay, who is Hungarian, won a silver medal on vault at the Osijek World Challenge Cup in Croatia.
The gymnastics facility at Clemson, whose team begins its inaugural season in 2024, is almost finished!
And Minnesota will have a new facility coming soon, the Gophers announced.
Derrian Gobourne’s WWE career is about to begin.
Oklahoma visited the White House this week to celebrate its national title.
Catch LSU’s Aleah Finnegan and UCLA’s Emma Malabuyo competing for the Philippines at the Asian Games. Streaming info here:
Five at The IX: Sirena Linton
I interviewed Sirena Linton one year ago here at The IX as part of a series I did for Pride month. At the time, she was about to enter her senior year at Arizona.
Linton, 22, entered the transfer portal this spring and will compete for Arkansas in 2024 as a fifth-year while she pursues a master’s degree in operations management. She told me that she has many different careers she is interested in, from college coaching to diversity, equity and inclusion work to marketing, but first plans to look for entertainment gigs in the sports world because she loves performing so much.
I was excited to speak with her about her transfer experience, and she was also kind enough to reflect on the difficulty of this past year as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and where we go from here. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
You entered the transfer portal this year and ended up at Arkansas. What made you choose the Gymbacks?
Sirena Linton: The transfer portal was a really interesting process for me. There were many factors that played into my decision, but most importantly I went with what felt most natural to me. Being a large advocate for diversity and inclusion as well as being openly LGBTQIA+, I learned very quickly the difference that made in my own recruiting journey as well as the programs contacting me. I am very glad I landed in a program welcoming to who I am as a person first.
At the end of the day, having three Olympians [head coach Jordyn Wieber and assistant coaches Kyla Ross and Chris Brooks] I have looked up to since I was young sit down with me and tell me they value the impact I could have on and off the floor meant everything to me.
Can you do the wooooo pig sooie call yet?
SL: LOL, I am working on perfecting it for gym season!!!
What are you hoping to achieve (for yourself and/or with the team) at Arkansas next season?
SL: The Gymbacks have so much talent and energy that I am happy to train beside every day. The culture of the team speaks volumes — it’s early summer and there are so many of us showing up every day. You can see the desire these girls have to get better and upgrade. There is a lot of returning talent and experience that will benefit us a lot this season, and our confidence in our abilities is what is going to bring us to the final meet of the postseason.
Going to the national championships is something every college athlete wants to do. It’s one thing to do it alone, and it’s another to have your team beside you. It’s going to be about who wants it bad enough. I know we are hungry for it!
Will we see any new skills or work on events you have not competed? Can you tell us anything you might be working on?
SL: Yes, toward the end of my senior year at Arizona I started training and competing vault. I am continuing to train vault and am starting to get back into floor as well. I’m putting in the work this summer so I can maximize my last season competing in college!
It’s Pride month, again, a year since I interviewed you last, and it’s been a very long year for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies. As an out gymnast in the NCAA, what is the climate like for you right now? What would you like to see change for other out gymnasts going forward? What will Sirena Linton’s legacy be?
SL: It’s been a long and more difficult year for the community and allies, so first and foremost recognizing the hardships we are facing as a group is incredibly important. Our rights and safety continue to be taken away, so every day is important to advocate and fight against discrimination.
I am happy to have that transition from the Pac-12 to this new conference where I can be that voice in continuing to push the envelope and encourage more conversations about visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community. Just like in other conferences, it’s been a slow but steady build over the years, and with the right people, I believe strides can be made in the SEC. Advocacy is what I love to do, with the hardships and small wins that come with it, and I am ready to take on these new opportunities.
My goal has always been to inspire and empower athletes, and to help create a welcoming and safe environment regardless of one’s race, religion, gender or sexuality. I hope my legacy can be remembered for more than just gymnastics — that is, to never stop chasing your dreams, be unapologetically you and do all things with love.
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