The field at this year’s American Classic, one of two qualifiers to the U.S. Championships, was deep, with the podium finishers all within two tenths of one another.
Colbi Flory of Texas Dreams in her first year at the elite level won the all-around crown, earning a score of 56.700. Like many of her Texas Dreams teammates, Flory excelled on beam, putting up a 14.45 there; she was also steady overall, with a 13.9 on vault, 14.15 on bars, and 14.2 on floor.
In second, somewhat miraculously, was Deanne Soza of Arete. Soza missed months of training following U.S. Championships in 2014 due to a parasite that lodged in her eye, nearly causing her to lose her sight. After months of hospitalization and limited activity, Soza managed to get all of her skills back relatively quickly, and returned to national team camps at the ranch this spring. On Saturday, she earned a 56.600 in the all-around, showing especially nice work on bars and beam. She attempted a DTY on vault, but had a rough landing there and only managed a 13.9. If she hits this later in the season, her all-around score should put her among the top of the junior pack.
Morgan Hurd of First State also had a fantastic day, finishing with the bronze medal after an outstanding day on bars and beam. The 13-year-old had a 14.65 on bars to top the juniors on that event, and a 14.6 on beam, the second highest of the day there. She has shown a ton of improvement since last season, and could definitely be a national team contender this summer.
Tying Hurd for bronze was another Texas Dreams gymnast, Emma Malabuyo, also a first-year elite. Like Flory, Malabuyo has a very strong beam, and she also stands out on floor, posting a 14.35 on both of these events on Saturday. While her difficulty on vault (FTY) and bars is still relatively low, her execution on both is fantastic.
That’s what you can say about most of these girls at the top this weekend. Flory’s execution ranged from 8.8 to 9.15, Hurd put up a 9.05 on bars and a 9.0 on beam, and Malabuyo was in the 8.65 to 9.05 range. None have difficulty through the roof, but they’ll all look so good while doing it, it’s a real change from the “chuck what you can and hope for the best” mentality some young gymnasts take.
The Parkettes ladies in 5th and 6th struggled on bars with falls and other mistakes, but otherwise had an outstanding day and likely would have been atop the podium if bars didn’t exist.
Margzetta Frazier performed a clean DTY and very difficult floor routine, posting a 14.5 on the latter to share the title with her teammate, Christina Desiderio. Desiderio also performed a DTY but struggled on the landing, though she came back with that top notch floor and then absolutely brilliant work on beam, where she earned a 15.2 after hitting all 6.1 difficulty points with extreme precision for a 9.1 in execution. Both Frazier and Desiderio are Rio-eligible, and Parkettes has a history of producing dark horse candidates, as they did with Elizabeth Price in 2012. Don’t be surprised if both of these girls come in with huge upgrades in the next year!
In 7th was Maile O’Keefe of Salcianu, who first caught our attention with her big personality last year. She had an overall steady day, earning a 54.700 in the all-around, and placing 4th on beam with a 14.5 after attempting the greatest amount of difficulty in the day on the event. She posted a 6.2 start value there, tremendous for a 13-year-old.
Olivia Dunne of ENA Paramus placed 8th with a 53.800, earning her nationals qualifying score after missing out last summer at the age of 11, the youngest competitor at the U.S. Classic. Now 12, she seems to have matured a lot in her gymnastics, putting up a clean FTY in addition to great scores on beam (14.0) and floor (13.95). There’s still room for improvement, but for her age she’s doing a fantastic job and we can’t wait to see more from her this summer.
Other juniors who reached their nationals scores at this meet include Alyona Shchennikova of TIGAR (53.500), Rachel Baumann of WOGA (53.400), Shilese Jones of Buckeye (53.300), Megan Freed of Parkettes (53.300), Elena Arenas of Georgia Elite (53.050), Abigail Walker of Texas Dreams (52.950), and Aria Brusch of Cincinnati (52.950).
Of these, Shchennikova attempted great feats on bars but lost a little in her execution and had falls on beam, Baumann placed second on beam with a 14.6 following in big sister Alyssa’s footsteps, and Arenas had a solid day aside from beam, where she fell in an attempt to reach a 5.9 start value.
Several gymnasts came close, but did not reach the qualifying score of 52.5, though they have one more chance to make this happen at the U.S. Classic in July. These include Shania Adams of Buckeye (51.750), Adeline Kenlin of Iowa Gym Nest (51.300), Maggie Musselman of Hills (51.100), Hannah Joyner of World Champions (50.750), Trinity Thomas of Prestige (50.650), Adriana Popp of Girls Co-Op (49.900), Madison Rau of World Champions (49.400), Tienna Nguyen of Zenith (47.450), and Anna Huber of RGA, who competed on just bars and earned a 13.2.
In the senior field, Polina Shchennikova competed on all events but floor. Her FTY on vault lost three tenths in difficulty due to USAG’s new domestic rule stating that juniors lose a tenth if performing an FTY and seniors lose three, and she unfortunately fell on beam, where her difficulty was just a 5.4. Her bars, however, were fantastic, scoring 15.0 after she cleanly hit all 6.2 in difficulty. She’s coming back from over a year away from the sport due to back issues, but seems to be on the right track.
The only other senior vying for nationals was Lexy Ramler of Kidsport, a first-year senior. Ramler’s gym was destroyed in a fire this year, likely putting a dent in her training, which showed in her bar routine, where she got just a 10.15 after multiple falls and errors. She did manage a 13.45 on beam, however, as well as a 13.6 on floor, but failed to reach either the specialist or all-around nationals scores, so she too will get the chance to try again in Chicago.
At the elite qualifier held in conjunction with the Classic, Gabby Perea of Legacy Elite placed first with a huge 55.200, winning the bars (14.15) and floor (13.5) titles easily. Known for her beam, she earned a 13.6 there with a 5.9 start value and a 7.7 execution. In second was Kaitlin DeGuzman of Metroplex with a 53.200 (she also won floor with a 13.5), and in third was Alyssa Al Ashari of Twistars with a 52.750.
Chae Campbell of Metroplex won vault with a huge 15.3, and Abigail Scanlon of Capital won beam with a 13.7, though falls elsewhere kept her from reaching her Classics qualification score.
In addition to Perea, DeGuzman, Al-Ashari, and Campbell, Jaylene Gilstrap of Metroplex and Tori Tatum of Twin City Twisters also earned the 51.5 required to compete at the Secret U.S. Classic.
In the senior field, the only U.S. Classic qualifiers were Taylor Lawson of Parkettes with a 53.600 and Kylie Dickson of All Olympia, who qualified on vault and beam. Among those missing out was Melissa Doucette, the former NCAA gymnast who gave it her all to attempt elite gymnastics at the age of 24. With a combined 26.150 for vault and floor, she was within 1.35 points of making it to Classics, though told friends that “the experience was more than [she] could ask for” and that she “will always look back on this elite journey in amazement…I never knew I could push myself so far!”
Congrats to everyone who qualified, and best of luck to everyone with the next step!
Article by Lauren Hopkins