Very few elite gymnasts have the guts, the determination, and the sheer talent to increase their difficulty by several points and become major players on the national level in just a year.
Those that do come from MG Elite.
Two-thirds of this dream team from New Jersey will compete at the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh, Penn., next week. We chatted to both – Jazmyn Foberg and Ariana Agrapides – as well as coach Maggie Haney about their preparation, their future goals, that unique MG Elite style, and how Laurie Hernandez – out this season due to an injury sustained at the ranch – is doing.
14-year-old Jazmyn Foberg placed 26th at last year’s Secret U.S. Classic after earning a 51.00, just missing out on qualifying to the P&G Championships. This year, she blew everyone away at the American Classic held at the ranch during the Fourth of July weekend, winning the junior title by just five hundredths of a point.
Jazmyn – known as Jazzy – was one of nine junior elites given the opportunity to compete in the senior session at the U.S. Classic on August 2, where she put in a strong, clean all-around performance to earn a 56.15 – over five points higher than last year’s outing. It was the fourth-highest junior score of the day, putting her just three-tenths away from the bronze medal and positioning her as one of the top junior athletes going into national championships.
It’s a kind of jump I’ve only seen once before in recent years – when her teammate Laurie Hernandez did it between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, climbing from 21st place to a silver U.S. National Championships all-around medal in just a year. It shows a true dedication, heaps of natural talent, and of course, great coaching – she made the move to MG Elite last spring, just a couple of months before her elite debut, so while there wasn’t a lot of time to prepare in 2013, the last year clearly has been busy and productive in the gym.
Jazzy now boasts the highest junior difficulty start values on bars and floor, and is one of only a handful of juniors vaulting a DTY. With a clean outing in Pittsburgh, she has an incredibly strong chance at making the podium. She will turn 16 in the year 2016, so the next couple of years will prove crucial, but she definitely has the confidence, poise, and attack to make a big splash.
What was your experience like competing at the U.S. Classic? What was your favorite thing about that meet?
I had a great experience competing at the U.S. Classic. It was really cool being on the floor with the seniors! That was the highlight of the meet for me; it felt so cool!
What were your goals for that meet? Did you reach them?
My goal was to hit all of my routines. I am satisfied with my showing. My hope is to be a little cleaner and to have better landings for Championships.
Do you have any upgrades you’re planning to add for next week?
I have not changed my routines any going into Championships.
What are your biggest goals for Pittsburgh?
My goal for Championships is to hit all of my routines and hope the results speak for themselves.
What gymnast do you find most inspiring? Why do you look up to her?
I look up to Simone, because I wish I had legs like her! She is insane…and my teammate Laurie is my biggest inspiration. I came to MG Elite because I wanted to be as good as her.
You had the highest bars and floor difficulty among any of the juniors at Classics. Are these your favorite events or do you find it easy to learn skills here?
Bars is definitely my favorite event! It’s fun. I think I like bars the best because I am good at it! Floor kind of hurts my body…
What are your dream skills?
A few skills I am excited to work on are: a full-twisting double layout for floor; I have done them before and they weren’t too bad! My coach also wants to teach me a stalder hecht to a mix grip, so that should be really fun…and of course, I am hoping to get an Amanar on vault one day!
Thank you, Jazzy, and good luck at Championships!
Thank you for the interview! 🙂
Ariana Agrapides was only twelve when she became the junior national vault champion at last year’s P&G Championships. Though some struggles on bars kept her out of the all-around race (and therefore, unfortunately off the national team), the DTYs she showcased on vault are easily among the best ever competed.
Now 13, Ari began gymnastics only five years ago, so it’s kind of scary how good she is…not many gymnasts can make the jump from level 5 to elite U.S. national champion in just three years. She actually reminds me a bit of Alicia Sacramone, who also started gymnastics at age eight; in a sport where most Olympic champions were thrust into “mommy and me” classes before they can walk, the girls who start this late in life can’t get by without an incredible amount of natural, raw talent and that’s exactly what Ari has.
A toe injury kept her out of this year’s Secret U.S. Classic, but when we saw her at the American Classic early last month, it was clear she’d spent the past year upgrading all four events. She did have a couple of rough patches on beam and floor while at the ranch, but her bars looked stellar and she counted the highest execution on that event out of any junior or senior there.
Though she was born just a month shy of making the eligibility cut for Rio 2016, in a way, this could be a good thing. With so few years training in the sport, an extra quad gives her more time and experience to become an absolutely fierce ‘older but wiser’ competitor, if the Olympics are what she ends up going after.
We missed you at Classics! How is your toe feeling?
My toe is feeling a little better. I was not able to give it the full amount of time needed to heal before Championships, but I rested it for two weeks (I didn’t use my legs or feet for anything!). I started training everything yesterday [August 11], which will give me one week to get my routines back together. Luckily, I have done a lot of routines, so I am not too worried.
How are you feeling before nationals? Nervous, excited, a little bit of both?
I am really excited to go to Championships this weekend!
Do you have any new skills we’ll see in Pittsburgh?
I am showing a few new skills this year, including a double layout and 1.5 through to double tuck on floor, a Weiler kip on bars, a squat double turn on beam, and a bhs bhs double tuck beam dismount.
What are your biggest goals for Championships?
My goals for this meet are to stay confident and do what I do everyday in practice. I want to hit my routines.
What have you been working on the most over the past couple of months?
I have been working really hard on everything. We have especially spent a lot of time working on my mental preparation.
What’s your favorite thing about training with your coach and team at MG Elite?
I love MG Elite because my teammates and coaches always make me laugh. We have a pretty relaxed environment in the gym, but we still have to work very hard!
Everyone knows how awesome your vaults are. If you could do any vault, what would it be?
My dream vault would be a Yurchenko double back!
What gymnast do you find most inspiring? Why do you look up to her?
I think I am most inspired by McKayla Maroney. She is an amazing vaulter and she’s super sweet.
Thank you, Ari! Good luck next week!
Thank you for the interview! 🙂
COACH MAGGIE HANEY
MG Elite coach Maggie Haney started gymnastics at the age of three and never quit! Her career took her to a full athletic scholarship at North Carolina State University, where she became the first in her program’s history to score a Perfect 10 (on beam…she later scored a 10 on floor and has scored more 10s than any other NCSU gymnast).
Maggie became a coach after graduating, and arrived at Monmouth Gymnastics in New Jersey in 2007. Her gymnasts over the years have included TOPS national team members; J.O. state, regional, and national champions; and NCAA Division I full scholarship recipients. Now with Jazzy, Ari, and Laurie, she can also count a major presence on the national elite scene as one of her accomplishments.
Maggie and MG Elite have helped put New Jersey on the map right up there with Texas as a “gymnastics state.” The gym boasts powerful, tough, and artistically-minded elite gymnasts, 13- and 14-year-olds with more performance ability in their pinky fingers than many experienced senior elites have combined. It’s been a welcome breath of fresh air to the U.S. program and The Gymternet can’t wait to see what these young ladies can do in the future.
I think the number one thing people notice about MG Elite is the attention to dance and artistry. Do you approach dance differently than other gyms? What is your dance training like?
Thank you for the compliment about our dance. I think I just make my girls dance big. I personally do not have a dance background. In fact, I would get kicked out of dance every day as a gymnast. My coaches would get so mad at me! But since I was a good dancer they just sent me back to do more bars.
How do you approach the artistry requirements with each of your athletes?
I try to find what skills suit each of the gymnasts best. Some of them are flexible, others are not…some of them are great at turns, etc. So I have to find what works best for each of them and go with that.
We saw Laurie raise her AA potential by about 6 full points between 2012 and 2013, and then Jazmyn had a similar turnaround between 2013 and 2014. How did each deal with the increasing difficulty and harder skills?
I think both Laurie and Jazzy have handled coming onto the elite seen very well. They both added so many skills from one season to the next. Laurie showed great consistency by hitting 8 for 8 at Championships last year. Jazzy has also shown that she can do these new routines. She has come so far in the past year…I am actually amazed by her. #teamjazzy
Speaking of Laurie, how is she doing after her injury at the ranch? What does her next year look like in terms of recovery and getting ready for her final junior year?
Laurie is coming along from her injury. She had surgery on June 25th and now she almost has the full range of motion in her knee. Physically she looks great! More importantly, she is very motivated to get started again. Her leg is still very skinny, so once we build up her muscles, we will be able to start doing some basic stuff. I can’t wait! I miss working with her on skills, projects, etc.
Jazmyn and Laurie both have huge potential for Rio, but still have two years to go. What is pacing like for you? Do you have everything you want to happen mapped out, or are you more of a ‘let’s take it one day at a time’ kind of person?
I do have a long-term plan for Laurie. She was right on track until this injury…but I think she will come back stronger, smarter, and even more determined, if that is possible.
Going into this season I did not have a long-term plan for Jazzy. I just knew I had to clean her up, increase her flexibility, improve her artistry and general “look,” and teach her a ton of new skills! I feel like we have accomplished all of that, and more! After this season is over, I will definitely map out a two-year plan for Jazzy.
What do you see in Laurie, in Jazmyn, and in Ari that makes each one successful at a high level in an elite sport? What is the biggest thing each has overcome to succeed?
Laurie, Ari and Jazzy are all special in their own way.
Laurie is exceptionally beautiful. It is hard to take your eyes off her when she is doing gymnastics! She is my ideal look for a perfect gymnast. She is also a magnet for the crowd. Everyone loves Laurie!
Ari is a little powerhouse. She is raw potential. Ari loves to play and try new skills. She has time on her side, so I am not in a rush.
Jazzy is a very well-rounded gymnast who is the total package. She does not have a weak event. She has great legs on floor and vault, she can swing bars with the best of them, and she is very consistent and has a great presentation on beam. She has improved so much in the past year; I do not think anything is out of her reach.
All three of my girls work very, very hard. I am very fortunate to have such good kids. They will do anything I ask of them. I really love these girls.
What are your biggest goals for Ari and Jazmyn at the P&G Championships? For the rest of the year?
My goals for Jazzy at Championships are for her to just be very, very clean and consistent. We have been working to improve her landings as well. If Jazzy hits 8/8 routines, I think she will shock everyone, including herself!
My goals for Ari are to just keep her mind strong and do her best. She has missed the past 2 weeks of training (due to fracturing her toe), so I just want her to enjoy the experience and feel good about herself!
Thank you so much, Maggie! We can’t wait to see you and your girls in action.
Thank you for the interest and supporting MG Elite!
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Thank you to Maggie Haney, Jazmyn Foberg, and Ariana Agrapides!
All photos belong to Maggie Haney and MG Elite.