With the Secret U.S. Classic now just two days away, we’d like to introduce some of the seniors who will compete on Saturday. This group here is full of the girls with tons of talent who have something to prove. Whether they still need to earn their nationals qualification, have had a setback or two, or just have great new upgrades they can’t wait to debut, these are the gymnasts who will be fighting super hard to earn the recognition they deserve.
1. Kylie Dickson, All Olympia
Why You Should Watch: Kylie made a big move from Planet Gymnastics in Alabama after the 2014 season, which she ended with a silver medal on vault at J.O. nationals. In order to pursue her elite dreams, she traveled to California to train with Artur Akopyan and Galina Marinova at AOGC, the perfect place to hone her vault talent. Competing four meets as a level 10 this season, she posted three 9.7s or better on vault, where she has a solid DTY. She qualified to the Classic at the ranch in May, where she posted a 14.7 on vault and a 13.5 on beam. In Chicago, she will fight to improve her scores on bars (her favorite event) and floor in order to get her qualifying score to nationals.
2. Taylor Lawson, Parkettes
Why You Should Watch: As a junior, Taylor really stood out among the Parkettes elites with some solid skills on all four events, though a heartbreaking fall on her beam dismount on the second day of nationals last summer took her out of the competition. She returned to the stage at the elite qualifier at the ranch this May, winning the all-around with a 53.6 and posting top scores on beam and floor. Now her goal is a spot at nationals, entirely in her reach if she has a clean day!
3. Marissa Oakley, Phenom Gymnastics
Why You Should Watch: Marissa captured everyone’s attention as the junior with the double double bars dismount last year. She finished nationals in 15th place after a bars struggle on day two and since then has been invited to the national team training camps, attending several over the 2014-2015 season. We’re so excited to see how she looks this year! Her bars had about a 5.7 start value when we last saw her, so we’re hoping she has added to her already packed (and lovely!) routine.
4. Felicia Hano, Gym-Max
Why You Should Watch: Who doesn’t love Felicia? One of the brightest personalities in the sport, Felicia – known as Fish – was the Pan Am Championships alternate last year and was part of this summer’s Pan Am Games training squad, earning a second alternate spot and punching her ticket to nationals. Felicia has worked super hard over the past year, polishing her solid DTY – which she stuck twice at nationals in 2014 – and working big upgrades on floor, including a Biles and whip to double layout. A second national team berth is likely her big goal this summer, so she’ll want to show that she can hit her big routines and finish in the top ten as an all-arounder.
5. Lexy Ramler, KidSport
Why You Should Watch: Lexy had some unique skills as a junior, including a Bhardwaj and a Comaneci salto on bars, and last year was pretty consistent on all four events, earning a 54.4 on the first day of nationals competition. Sadly, she faced a setback last September when a fire destroyed her gym. Thousands donated money and time to the rebuilding efforts, and KidSport was able to reopen at a new location just two weeks later. She attended a couple of national team camps as a junior last fall, but had a bit of a rough time at the American Classic in May, struggling on her FTY, falling several times on bars, and looking a tad shaky on her heavily upgraded beam routine. But if anything, Lexy is a fighter and will want to show everyone what she’s truly capable of this weekend so she can see the nationals stage for the third time in her career.
6. Alaina Kwan, All Olympia
Why You Should Watch: Like new teammate Kylie Dickson, Alaina really stands out on vault, also posting three 9.7s or better in J.O. competition in 2015. She qualified to elite at her gym’s qualifier this spring after missing out last season, where she only managed a 47.75 in the all-around. There have since been huge improvements, with her elite qualifying score a 53.2! In an interview with the Split Leap, Alaina said she’s just thrilled to have qualified after thinking she was too old to try. She wants to take the experience day by day, and her goal is to just try her best and enjoy every minute of it before beginning her full ride at Kentucky in the 2016-2017 season.
7. Lauren Navarro, Gliders Charter Oak
Why You Should Watch: Lauren was one of several juniors invited to compete in the senior session at the 2014 U.S. Classic, where she stood out with her solid DTY and gorgeous beam routine. Now a first-year senior, Lauren was one of the gymnasts selected as part of the Pan Am Games training squad this June, and was named an alternate to the team. Beam should still be a standout event for her, where she’s able to match big skills with near-perfect accuracy. With her nationals spot already secure, Lauren will use Saturday’s meet to iron out the kinks so she can prove in August that she’s someone Martha Karolyi will want to keep in mind for the Olympics next summer.
Article by Lauren Hopkins