Olympic Alternates Headline U.S. Classic

2016 Olympic replacement athletes Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear will step into the spotlight next week as the headliners for the 2017 U.S. Classic, to be held at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Smith, 16, had a quick comeback after spending last summer as one of three alternates in Rio, winning the all-around title at the American Cup in March before taking some time away from competition to focus on upgrading and preparing for worlds. 19-year-old Locklear was also back in the gym super fast after finishing up the post-Olympic tour last fall, competing as a member of this year’s team that traveled to Jesolo, Italy, where she earned the bronze medal on bars.

In addition to these two, the senior field boasts a number of gymnasts with international credits this year, including Jesolo all-around champion Riley McCusker, Stuttgart World Cup all-around bronze medalist Morgan Hurd, and London World Cup all-around silver medalist Victoria Nguyen, all of whom are 16 and in their first seasons at the senior level.

All three will be in the running for spots on this year’s worlds team, along with fellow new senior Jordan Chiles, who was expected to compete internationally earlier in the year, but due to a coaching change at her gym, had to hold off a bit before making her senior debut. Chiles competed a couple of events at the American Classic at the ranch earlier this month, but the U.S. Classic will be her first competition in an arena setting since the 2016 U.S. Classic over a year ago.

Also of note in the senior field is 17-year-old Jade Carey, a newcomer to elite who appeared one day at the ranch with killer vaults and big tumbling on floor. With an Amanar and a tsuk double, Carey matches China’s Wang Yan with the highest combined vault difficulty in the world at the moment, and could potentially earn a medal there this year if all goes according to plan. The U.S. Classic will be her big public debut, and she’s getting fans incredibly excited to see it happen.

2016 junior national all-around champion Maile O’Keefe is the one to watch in the junior group. After surprising everyone with her nationals win last summer, O’Keefe has had a fabulous international season, winning the all-around title at International Gymnix and then the silver medal at Jesolo a month later, picking up six event medals along the way. Earlier in her career, O’Keefe was known for her gorgeous and difficult beam set, but in the past year, she has grown tremendously as a confident, beautiful, and balanced all-arounder, and she could be one of the biggest names in the sport over the next few years.

The up-and-comer Emma Malabuyo won’t make it easy for her to dominate next weekend, though! Malabuyo, 14, missed out on the second day of nationals last year due to injury, but came back strong, finishing close behind O’Keefe at Gymnix and Jesolo this year, picking up the bronze all-around medal in the latter of those two in addition to winning the floor title. Malabuyo has one of the most difficult floor routines in the world at the moment as well as a superb DTY on vault, so she will absolutely challenge O’Keefe for the title next week, making for an exciting race to the finish line.

Notably missing from the junior session will be local kid Gabby Perea, who suffered an ankle injury a couple of months ago. Perea, 15, has been unstoppable over the past two seasons, winning all-around medals in all six of her meets, including the silver at International Gymnix and the gold at Jesolo earlier this year. She’ll be sorely missed next weekend, though we hear she’s doing very well and “will be back soon,” so hopefully she’ll be in the mix at nationals.

Other juniors to keep an eye on include national team members Olivia Dunne, Adeline Kenlin, and Sunisa Lee, all of whom got international experience this year, with Lee winning the silver on bars at Gymnix thanks to her impressive skill combinations like her brand-new Nabieva to pak.

We’ll have more detailed previews and first-year elite intros coming your way over the next week! For now, check out the full roster below.

Shania Adams, Buckeye Laney Madsen, Gym-Max
Elena Arenas, Georgia Elite Riley McCusker, MG Elite
Luisa Blanco, WOGA Victoria Nguyen, Chow’s
Jade Carey, Oasis Marissa Oakley, Everest
Jordan Chiles, Naydenov Abby Paulson, Twin City Twisters
Leah Clapper, Gym America Alyona Shchennikova, 5280 Gymnastics
Frida Esparza, Head Over Heels Ragan Smith, Texas Dreams
Margzetta Frazier, Parkettes Deanne Soza, Texas Dreams
Emily Gaskins, Cincinnati Kalyany Steele, Colorado Aerials
Morgan Hurd, First State Trinity Thomas, Prestige
Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Brandy Johnson’s Abigail Walker, Texas Dreams
Ashton Locklear, Everest
Ciena Alipio, West Valley Adeline Kenlin, Iowa GymNest
Sydney Barros, Texas Dreams Sydney Kho, Winner’s Academy
Annie Beard, Texas Dreams Ellie Lazzari, Gym Nasti
Nikki Beckwith, Buckeye Emily Lee, West Valley
Love Birt, First State Sunisa Lee, Midwest
Cael Bixler, Prestige Lillian Lippeatt, Cincinnati
Jordan Bowers, Solid Rock Lauren Little, Everest
Corinne Bunagan, ENA Paramus Emma Malabuyo, Texas Dreams
Brooke Butler, Midwest Jaymes Marshall, TIGAR
Audrey Davis, WOGA Grace McCallum, Twin City Twisters
Kayla DiCello, Hill’s Konnor McClain, Revolution
Olivia Dunne, ENA Paramus Deiah-Marie Moody, WOGA
Kara Eaker, GAGE Jacquelyn Moran, San Mateo
Addison Fatta, Prestige Brenna Neault, Precision
Gabbie Gallentine, Everest Tienna Nguyen, Zenith Elite
Anapaula Gutierrez, TIGAR Maile O’Keefe, Salcianu Elite
Jimena Gutierrez, TIGAR Anya Pilgrim, Hill’s
Hannah Hagle, Texas East Sienna Robinson, Brown’s
Maeve Hahn, First in Flight Abigail Scanlon, Capital
Selena Harris, Gymcats JaFree Scott, GAGE
Olivia Hollingsworth, Stars Houston Brooke Siter, North Stars
Kaytlyn Johnson, Denton Victoria Smirnov, Shooting Stars
Madeleine Johnston, Hill’s Morgan Trevor, WOGA
Shilese Jones, Buckeye Madelyn Williams, San Mateo
Carina Jordan, Prattville YMCA Leanne Wong, GAGE

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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15 thoughts on “Olympic Alternates Headline U.S. Classic

  1. I was wondering why Gabby Perea wasn’t competing! Thanks for answering that question before I even actually asked it, lol.

    I still don’t feel like half of these Seniors are old enough to be Seniors even though they’ve been around for ages.


    • Partly the lower score threshold for Juniors to qualify, partly because there tends to be more younger gymnasts wanting try elite before realizing it’s not the right fit or they want to spend more time on other interests or they get injured which keeps them from succeeding as Seniors


  2. This field is great as theres no biles so you can never tell for sure who will win..

    Great to see the us still have new talents to go for the vt medal… its so rare to see someone do non yur vt from the us since asac…

    Although the us worl team this yr is nowhere as dominating as final five I think they still have a great team w new talents and thats what development is all about..


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