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.
|U.S. CLASSIC – SENIORS|
|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|
|U.S. CLASSIC – JUNIORS|
|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
This post was made possible thanks to our amazing patrons who help us fund things like travel and video production as we work to grow the site. This month’s patrons: April, Dodi Blumstein, Wendy Bruce, Kelly Byrd, Jillian Cohen, Kristyn Cozier, Holly Glymour, Hydrick Harden, Inaya, Alexis Johnston, Sarah Keegan, Jenny Kreiss, Rae Lemke Sprung, Leigh Linden, Annabelle McCombe, Cindy McWilliams, Alison Melko, Emily Minehart, Eyleen Mund, Melanie Oechsner, Jessica Olaiya, Cordelia Price, Abbey Richards, Kaitlyn Schaefer, Lisa Schmidt, Brian Schwegman, Stephanie, Lucia Tang, Rachel Walsh, and Jenny Zaidi. THANK YOU!
Want to help out and qualify for super fun rewards for as little as $1/month? Check us out on Patreon!