U.S. gymnast Elena Arenas of Georgia Elite earned a 55.95 to win the gold medal in the junior competition of the international session at the 2015 WOGA Classic held in Frisco, Texas. Kajita Nagi of Saints/Japan posted a 55.75 for silver and Aria Brusch of Cincinnati earned a 55.6 for bronze.
I have to say, I was mind-blowingly impressed by pretty much all of the girls at this level. There was so much improvement from pretty much every U.S. junior compared to last year, both in terms of their upgrades and in just how they compete, and then Nagi was an awesome surprise, coming in as a relative unknown to earn the silver medal in a very close race.
Arenas, who placed 21st after two very solid days at last year’s U.S. Championships, has improved on her all-around score by over two points, showing especially great work on beam, including a super solid triple series (bhs bhs layout) and a great double pike dismount.
As the last up on bars in the final rotation and needing a 13.7 to secure the title, Arenas had the entire gym’s eyes on her and it didn’t phase her a bit. She had no problems with her routine, where her handstands were especially gorgeous and she finished with a big stuck double layout.
Also with major improvement was Brusch, who had an especially solid bar routine capped off with a full-twisting double layout. She has a big double pike off beam, and powerful tumbling on floor, including a piked full-in to open. Both she and Arenas could be big national team contenders by the summer if they continue their upward swing.
Maile O’Keefe unfortunately sat her double tuck dismount off beam after an otherwise awesome set, including a bhs + bhs + layout. It’ll be a really big score when she hits, and she also has tremendous ability on floor, where she’s competing a triple full and 1.5 through to 2.5 as her opening passes.
Alyona Shchennikova has a little bit of work to do in terms of form here and there, but shows great promise on bars, where she has lots of solid stalder work, a gorgeous Tkatchev to pak, and a great double layout dismount. Her artistry and dance elements on floor and beam are both great for someone her age, and she twists beautifully.
Though she didn’t end up placing due to a fall nearly the second she mounted bars, Morgan Hurd had some fantastic upgrades both there and on beam, where she earned a 14.15 despite a few wobbles on some of her more difficult elements. She competes a front aerial + sheep (the connection was missed in her WOGA routine), bhs + loso + loso, switch ring, sissone + side aerial, switch + back pike, and a 2.5, and when she can work on her composure a bit, she’ll be a threat here for sure. On bars, she’s also doing lots of stalder work, and after calming a bit following the fall, ended up looking really lovely in her work.
Adriana Popp didn’t have the greatest day after counting a couple of falls, but one of those falls was on a bhs + bhs + layout full on beam! Yes, a LAYOUT FULL. It’s the first time we’ve seen one in the U.S. since Katelyn Ohashi competed hers at the American Cup two years ago, and is such a big risk but I think once she gets the hang of it she could be a very impressive beam worker. She was competing a really solid bhs + bhs + layout last summer, so it’s likely just a matter of getting it competition-ready.
Finally, Adeline Kenlin competed just bars and beam in the junior session, but didn’t have the best outing. Though beam is her best event and it could be a stellar routine if she hits, she’s trying to connect a lot of tricky elements and fell on her side aerial + loso in competition.
On the international side, Nagi had a very consistent night, with bars – where she earned a 14.3 – her best. She is a very clean bar worker, and despite a couple of handstand mishaps, showed clean work, including a Jaeger, pak salto, and stalder full. I think I most enjoyed her floor, where she had a great musicality and hit a nice 2.5 + front tuck, and then beam, where she placed third despite a few bobbles, including a big one after her switch ring. But she fought back really well, and I think she could be a big deal in Japan’s future.
Though Irina Alexeeva isn’t exactly international, she’s still competing under the Russian flag when she does international events for WOGA. Aside from a couple of falls on beam (on her switch half and again on her bhs + loso + loso), her routine looks packed and she is elegant in her movement. It could be capable of a huge number if she can get a bit more steady. She also had a fall on her Jaeger on bars, but came in with a solid 13.85 on floor to earn the silver medal after nailing her 2.5 to front full and performing beautifully.
Article by Lauren Hopkins