2024 NCAA women’s gymnastics: Five freshmen to watch

By Karyssa D'Agostino | December 5, 2023
Konnor McClain competes on beam at the 2022 OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson

The official start of the NCAA women’s gymnastics season is a month away, and while everyone is excited to see how athletes have grown in the offseason, there’s nothing quite like seeing an athlete take the floor as an NCAA gymnast for the first time, taking in the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the joy that is often synonymous with this level of the sport.

Freshmen are beginning a new chapter, and even though retirement almost always lies at the end of the four year journey (always shorter than it seems), for now, it’s all about making a statement, making lineups, and, ultimately, making all those years of training and sacrifice worth it.

While every freshman is worth watching, here are a few you’re going to want to keep an eye out for this season.

Konnor McClain – LSU

The 2022 U.S. Champion, Konnor McClain is heading to the Bayou after a year of rest and rehabbing back and hand injuries. The LSU gymnast, who was originally set to defer until the 2025 season as she pursued the Olympics, will be making her highly-anticipated debut for the Tigers this upcoming season and is sure to make waves in the NCAA world.

Her gorgeous routines and strong performances have certainly been missed in elite this year. The only question is how McClain will split her time while training elite and NCAA since she is still pursuing a spot on the U.S. women’s team for the Paris Games next summer. Whether she’s a mainstay in the LSU lineups or an occasional contributor, there’s no doubt McClain is joining a deep LSU team with plenty of potential – now and for years to come.

“I chose LSU because the team is amazing and the culture is unmatched. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” McClain said in July. “I’m so excited to be a part of this team and I can’t wait to make history with them!”

Madison Ulrich – Denver

After taking a year off in 2022, Madison Ulrich came back for the 2023 season ready to rock. The incoming Denver freshman placed third in the all-around at the Nastia Liukin Cup in February, adding a second place finish on bars and third on beam.

Ulrich followed up her Nastia Cup performance by winning the bars title and placing third in the all-around for Level 10 at the USA Gymnastics Development Program National Championships in May.

“Madison has an elegant style to her gymnastics with clean lines,” Denver head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said in 2022. “She does incredibly difficult skills but makes them look effortless. She, too, is super competitive and one of the top performers in the nation with multiple accolades.”

Lily Smith – Georgia

Lily Smith has been a force in her home state of Pennsylvania and nationally for years now, including numerous state and national titles. Smith is known for her bars and floor, for which she’s received perfect 10s on both during her club career. Smith is sure to thrive in the collegiate environment with her skills and exemplary artistry.

“I chose the University of Georgia because of the amazing coaches, atmosphere in the gym, and excellent academics it offers,” Smith said last year. “The moment I stepped on campus I fell in love and knew I would be happy here!”

Hannah Scheible – Oklahoma

Hannah Scheible – a recruit out of Kimball, Michigan – will make her debut for the Oklahoma Sooners this season. Scheible is a seven-time Level 10 national champion, and while she’s a force across all four events, keep an eye out for her on vault and beam.

Delaynee Rodriguez – Kentucky

Las Vegas native Delaynee Rodriguez could be just the spark Kentucky needs as it continues to rise through the ranks. Rodriguez finished just off the podium in fourth at the Nastia Liukin Cup last winter and won the Level 10 national titles on beam and floor in the spring, as well as finishing second all-around. Her elegance and entertaining performances on beam and floor are sure to be a hit with the collegiate crowd.