On my questionable future as a transfer portal prognosticator — Other gym news — Simone got married — Thoughts from Whitney Bjerken
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, May 13, 2023
SO, as it turns out, I was very, very wrong last week about nearly every single one of my predictions for where the big-name gymnasts in the transfer portal would end up. And if I wasn’t wrong about them, it’s probably only because they haven’t announced a decision yet.
Both Jillian Hoffman and Savannah Schoenherr will transfer to LSU. The Tigers will have a whopping 11 seniors (including fifth-year and sixth-year seniors) on their team this year. This feels like a couple of things to me: First, a race to win a national championship. This is a hungry team with athletes who might be willing to risk more in their COVID years. Second, an insurance policy to deepen lineups. A regular complaint against LSU last season was their overreliance on a few seasoned all-arounders in lineups, and not enough attention to specialists or the deep recesses of their roster.
Neither Hoffman at Utah nor Schoenherr at Florida competed all-around, but you got the feeling that on a less stacked team, they might have more to give. Both have strong vaults, which can deepen an already strong lineup, and Schoenherr’s trademark bars could revive a lineup that … well, let’s just say that they need her and leave it at that. Hoffman reportedly has a nice beam that couldn’t crack Utah’s number-one-in-the-country lineup, and if she can make it work at LSU, that’s a strong point in her favor. I’d love to see both of these athletes explore what’s possible in their final years.
Lucy Stanhope landed at Nebraska. When I wrote about her last week, I said it seemed like she was up for an adventure, and that she might benefit from being a big fish in a smaller pond than Utah. So I was right on those counts, though I didn’t see the Cornhuskers being the ones to snag Stanhope. Nebraska has declined in the rankings over the last few years, and I think I saw Stanhope heading more toward an ascending rather than a descending program. But there is a British connection there – former 2008 GB Olympian Marissa King was Nebraska’s volunteer assistant coach last season (will they pay her next year? Stay tuned…). For an international gymnast, that could be a powerful draw.
And Sirena Linton will spend her fifth year at Arkansas. Again, I didn’t see this one coming, predicting that Linton might end up on the west coast or in the Big 10. But with Arkansas effectively becoming UCLA East, the program seems like a safe landing spot for Linton even if the state politics are a bit…questionable. Arkansas had great success with fifth-year transfer Norah Flatley last year, and Linton’s skill set complements what the Gymbacks lost there. I can see why both program and gymnast took a shine to one another, and it will be great to see the SEC version of Linton on TV regularly on Friday Night Heights.
I like that this year’s transfer portal shakeups, so far, have been unpredictable (at least for me; better gymternet sleuths than I did see some of these coming, and Schoenherr made the jumbotron at an LSU baseball game during her official visit, which maybe should have been a bigger hint). It says a lot for our sport that these athletes, who just a few years ago could not transfer without losing a season and had no way to make NIL money, are suddenly able to maximize their potential both on and off the competition floor by negotiating transfers. I’m here for it, even (perhaps especially) when I’m wrong.
Other gym news
College Gym News recaps the 2023 NCAA season.
CGN also has must-reads on conference realignment and — relevant to my story above — a story on how COVID years affect teams’ abilities to offer scholarships.
An article on the challenges UCLA may face moving to the Big 10.
Jade Carey announced that she will stay at Oregon State while training for an Olympic run. If anyone can, she can. Now, we wait to see if Leanne Wong will do the same at Florida.
Lacey Rubin, formerly Arizona State’s second assistant coach, heads to Mizzou as a third assistant coach (a new rule this season allows teams to pay people who would previously have served as volunteer assistants). If I’m calculating right, this leaves ASU without any assistant coaches…
And Amelia Hundley heads from UNC to Bama as their third assistant coach.
Madelynn Grace Crow announced she will transfer to Auburn from Georgia.
The Balance Beam Situation has an update from the Oceanic Championships, where the Australian WAG team won (along with the Australian MAG team) and will head to worlds, alongside two all-arounders from New Zealand, Reece Cobb and Madeleine Marshall (who took her spot in the same type of tiebreaker that led to Chellsie Memmel’s 2005 worlds AA victory over Nastia Liukin — that is, scores cut off at three decimal places instead of rounded up).
The Gymternet also recaps the Oceanic Championships.
The Australian national championships are underway; you can see the results here.
Sanna Veerman of the Netherlands is training a Seitz.
MyKayla Skinner is having a [spoiler alert] baby girl.
Social post(s) of the week: Simone Biles’ nuptials
Y’all probably thought I was going to skip this, right? Check out Vogue’s story on Biles’ wedding to Jonathan Owens in Cabo. Ninety-eight (98) gorgeous photos. Then there are all the candids from her guests, who casually comprised, as one Redditor pieced together from this photo on Biles’ IG Story, at least 16 Olympic medals, 37 World medals, 20 NCAA championships, and seven Euro medals.
From Biles’ own socials
Five at The IX: Whitney Bjerken on First Person
Whitney Bjerken, a level 10 gymnast who became famous in and out of the gymternet via her YouTube channel, recently turned 18, announced she was quitting gymnastics, and began making money off her channel, on which she has appeared since she was 5 years old and which now has 1.62 million subscribers.
This week, she appeared on the New York Times podcast First Person, where she talks about YouTube fame and the perils of being a “kidfluencer.” It’s well worth your time, and I hope you’ll listen.