Young gymnastics team has hurdles to overcome

5 seniors with postseason experience graduated in 2018


Kelly Kiernan - The State Hornet

From left Jordyn Brent, Lauren Schmeiss and Jackie Sampson pose at the Nest after a meet. The three will be counted on for at least three routines each this season.

Thomas Frey, Sports editor

Sacramento State gymnastics lost five seniors with postseason experience to graduation after the 2018 season. When the team opened the 2019 season Jan. 6, they stepped up to the uneven bars and it became evident that this is a young team with a long way to go.

The Hornets returned just one starter sophomore Jordyn Brent from an uneven bars team that was ranked No. 43 in the nation one season ago. But with a new lineup, the Hornets saw fall after fall and recorded their lowest score in the event since 2011.

“I think that we have a lot of improving to do,” senior captain Lauren Schmeiss said after the meet. “What we did today doesn’t portray the talent that we have. We have a lot of girls out right now and we have a lot of room for improvement and we are going to definitely come back stronger from this.”

While the team graduated stars like Caitlin and Courtney Soliwoda, Lauren Rice, Jennifer Brenner and Annie Juarez, the Hornets have also been without senior Jackie Sampson the entire season.

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Sampson, a senior from Glendale, Arizona, nearly qualified for the NCAA postseason last year before an injury ended her season. Now, she has missed the first three meets of the season because she has been in concussion protocol.

Head coach Randy Solorio said on Jan. 21 that she was cleared to resume training and he hopes to have her in the lineup in the team’s next meet at UC Davis on Jan. 27.

“I’m just really excited to get out there and do even better than I did last season,” Sampson said. “Ending the season the way I did has given me a lot of confidence into this season.”

Last season on 29 combined events between bars, beam and floor, Sampson recorded a score of at least 9.700 on 55.2 percent of her events.

This season, in 72 combined events as a team, the Hornets have scored at least a 9.700 on just 22.2 percent of their events.

When Sampson steps back into the lineup, she will join Schmeiss, junior Alexis Belkoff and Brent as returners who are competing on at least three events. The rest of the remaining rotation is almost all brand new.

“We’re just going to have to go through this type of process,” Solorio said.

In the first meet of the season, the Hornets had six gymnasts who had never competed, resulting in a lot of falls and seven scores under a 9.000.

The team has slowly gained consistency and improved. The Hornets had three scores below 9.000 in the second meet and four scores under that barrier in the third meet on the road at No. 8 University of Denver.

The Hornets have had a tough schedule to start the season. Along with facing No. 8 Denver, the Hornets have faced Stanford twice and No. 22, the University of Central Michigan.

“I think that we have a lot of improving to do,” Schmeiss said. “What we did doesn’t portray the talent that we have. We have a lot of girls out right now and we have a lot of room for improvement.”

While the Hornets are far from the 195.000 average that would most likely be necessary to qualify for the postseason as a team, they have several individuals who could make the postseason.

Brent, a sophomore from Los Angeles, has stepped into the lineup in all four events as the team’s only all-arounder this season. She nearly qualified for the postseason on bars as a freshman before she injured her ankle at Boise State University last year.

“I feel like I’m a lot more prepared with a lot more confidence,” Brent said. “Freshman year I was kind of testing the waters and seeing what things are like and now that I have a year of experience I kind of know better now.”

Schmeiss is looking to qualify for regionals as an individual in at least one of the three events vault, beam and floor that she competes on. So far this season, she has scored a 9.800 on beam and is averaging a 9.642 on floor.

As a junior a season ago, Alexis Belkoff competed on just vault and floor. Now she has added bars into the mix and has improved each time she has stepped on the mat this year. The Tucson, Arizona native has quietly put together an average of above 9.700 on each vault and floor.

The Hornets will continue their season against UC Davis on Sunday in the Causeway Classic that will also feature University of Alaska Anchorage.

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