As the NCAA gymnastics season starts to wind down, I decided (being the NCAA gymnastics nut that I am) to pick and honor my favorite routines that were performed this season. There are hundreds of gymnasts currently competing collegiately, and it is impossible for me to be familiar with every one, but after careful research and thought, I have picked some of my favorites.
In this post, I'm going to start with vault. Now, I make it no secret that I love forward entry vaults and prefer them over the more "traditional" yurchenko style vault. In college gymnastics, the goal is to have a 10.0 start value on every routine. When it comes to vault, each vault is given a value based on difficulty. The full twisting yurchenko (round off onto the spring board, back handspring onto the table, into an immediate back flip in the laid out position with a full twist) is the most common NCAA vault because it is given a 10.0 start value. As a result, most college meets will feature yurchenko full after yurchenko full and to me, that starts to get boring. I find that forward entry vaults are more difficult and supremely undervalued because in my opinion, it is harder to generate momentum going forward than going backward (as in a yurchenko). I like to see gymnasts getting creative and stepping out of the yurchenko box and into the world of more unique vaults.
So, I've picked five vaults that I absolutely love, and not a single one is a yurchenko full!
#1: Kristin Aichele (Ursinus)
As a former Division III gymnast myself, I just had to make sure Division III was represented! Kristin competes a front handspring double full, which is an incredibly unique vault because it twists, rather than flips. This vault is more difficult than it looks, and as a result, very few gymnasts perform it. I had the pleasure of competing with Kristin at the 2012 NCGA National Championships, where she made event finals for this vault.
#2: Hannah Barile (UNH)
Hannah competes a Cuervo style vault, which is a front handspring onto the table, a half twist in the repulsion to immediate back flip in the piked position. This vault is incredibly complex and requires a lot of control and impeccable technique, and Hannah does it beautifully. She is currently in her senior year at UNH and her vault has gotten better and better each year!
#3: Audrey Harrison (Kentucky)
This is why Audrey is on my fantasy gymnastics team. This vault is so insane that it's not even an allowable vault under the FIG code (meaning that gymnasts cannot compete it during elite international meets such as the Olympics or World Championships). It is however in the Junior Olympic code, which makes it fair game for NCAA gymnastics. Audrey does a front handspring onto the board into a front handspring onto the table to an immediate front flip in the piked position. Not only is it three front flips in a row, but it's also what we call a "blind landing," meaning that she can't see the ground when she lands.
#4: Kat Grable (Arkansas)
I could sing the praises of Kat Grable all day long. Known for her innovation, high level of difficulty, and clean execution, she is by far one of my favorite NCAA gymnasts and she is one of the best in the country. She performs a Podkapayeva vault (named after the great Lilia Podkapayeva), which is (and bear with me because it's really complex) a round off onto the spring board, a half turn to front handspring onto the table into an immediate front flip in the piked position with an additional half turn. Kat Grable has one of the best Podkapayeva vaults I have seen.
#5: Amber See (Illinois)
When I first saw this vault, I am pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor. Front handspring-front vaults are difficult to generate power from and difficult to land due to the blind landings, but Amber has added a full twist to hers. I can't emphasize just how difficult this vault is. And for a little added bonus, she scored a perfect 10.0 on it just a couple weeks ago. Incredible!
Check back next week for my 5 favorite bar routines! And don't forget to head to UNH on Saturday at 4:00pm to check out Hannah Barile's vault in person!
Peace, love, and gymnastics,
Spectrum Gymnastics Academy
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About the Author
Coach Sarah is a former Rhode Island College gymnast, NCGA National qualifier, All-American, current gymnastics coach and judge, and contributor for the gymnastics news source, The Gymternet. Find out what's going on at Spectrum and learn more about the incredible sport of gymnastics!