This year’s U.S. Classic is going to begin in a few hours for the juniors and then this evening for the seniors, so while you probably got a pretty good idea as to how things are looking based on our live blog and tweets yesterday, this will be our quick “how does everything look?” post so we can let all of our final thoughts out.
The Senior All-Around
So, not a ton of seniors are doing the all-around, which is always kind of a bummer but really, it’s expected at this point. For everyone, the goal is not an all-around medal at classics, it’s making the worlds team. There’s no point in pushing it for July when you need to be at your best in late September and early October.
Based on what we saw yesterday, we were really thrilled with how Abby Paulson looked on all of her events. Many gymnasts looked a little…unprepared or sloppy, if not completely melting down, but Paulson looked clean, tight, and confident. After sneaking in to win the bronze at Jesolo earlier this year with her tidy and solid meet, Paulson could definitely have a strong showing here to make the podium.
The other top all-arounders are definitely Jordan Chiles, who hasn’t competed all four events since classics last year, and then probably Alyona Shchennikova, Deanne Soza, and Elena Arenas, depending on how well they compete today. It’s kind of a toss-up for the rest, with some capable of big scores on some events but not as far along on others. Kalyany Steele definitely goes into my ‘maybe’ column, as does Luisa Blanco thanks to her excellent beam and floor, and Shania Adams who I think has tons of potential to surprise us.
Abi Walker, Leah Clapper, Frida Esparza, Emily Gaskins, and Laney Madsen round out the all-around field. Gaskins has some big skills, but doesn’t look super clean at the moment, and the others all have one or two good events, but generally aren’t as strong as the rest of the field.
The Other Seniors
Some seniors who don’t do the all-around tonight will hope to be back and ready to go for nationals, with most skipping out tonight due to injury recovery or not being as prepared as they’d hope.
Among this group, Morgan Hurd is one of my favorites always. She’s doing everything but vault and bars so she doesn’t aggravate a nagging elbow injury, and she looked great from what I saw on beam and floor, two events where she could really help the team.
Ashton Locklear, hoping for a specialist spot at worlds this year, won’t compete bars after not really being up to par in training yesterday. She told us the bars felt really bouncy and she wasn’t really where she wanted to be, but on beam she has new upgrades — a triple wolf turn and a tour jeté half — that she’s excited to try out, so it would be great to see if she can increase her value there to become more of a help to the team.
Of course, the big story among the specialists will be Jade Carey, who killed it at the American Classic earlier this month and will unveil a kaz full on vault along with an Amanar, so I’m super excited to see this happen. Carey will also compete beam and floor, where her difficulty is pretty high relative to the rest of the field, but vault is her clear ticket to worlds if it’s looking good.
Rliey McCusker, who really struggled in training yesterday after apparently being in a wrist cast and on crutches earlier this month, is doing everything but vault, but I don’t expect a ton from her there if she looks like she did yesterday. She basically also said not to expect a lot from her just yet, with September the goal for her being at 100%. Trinity Thomas is competing bars and beam, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf has had pneumonia and isn’t really ready on anything but will vault (and will probably petition to nationals), Marissa Oakley will compete everything but floor (and was looking great on her Fabrichnova bars dismount yesterday!), Ragan Smith will unveil some bars upgrades (a Downie as well as connecting her Ricna to her pak) and will also compete on beam, and Margzetta Frazier will compete only on bars.
The Junior National Team
The junior national team girls will compete in the senior session, with Emma Malabuyo, Maile O’Keefe, and Olivia Dunne doing the all-around while Gabby Perea will do bars and Sunisa Lee and Adeline Kenlin will only do bars and beam. It’s gonna be super close between Malabuyo and O’Keefe, and they both looked fabulous in training yesterday, so even with Perea out of the picture due to an ankle injury, it’s still going to be a fabulous junior race to the top.
Dunne looked great on beam and floor in training and should put up a pretty good fight for a medal, while Kenlin struggled a bit on her events, though I didn’t get to talk to her yesterday so I’m not sure if she’s been injured, but since she’s not doing either power event, I’m going to assume she’s probably not fully healthy at the moment. Perea’s bars look faaaabulous, and Lee is going for her major Nabieva to pak to Maloney to Gienger connection, so bars will be where it’s at for many of the junior gymnasts.
The Other Junior Contenders
I really love Ellie Lazzari right now, with her beautiful DTY and big skills on floor. GAGE has a mini renaissance going on with Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong, and JaFree Scott. The same goes for Hills, which has Kayla DiCello, Madeleine Johnston, and Anya Pilgrim all competing at a high level, and both Texas Dreams and WOGA have lots of big talent in first-year elites Annie Beard and Sydney Barros for Texas Dreams, and then in Audrey Davis and Deiah-Marie Moody for WOGA.
We also can’t forget about Shilese Jones, who has been a junior for-freaking-ever, and is showing a lot of aggressive, powerful work on all of her events. Speaking of power, I also love Lauren Little of Everest, who has a huge DTY on vault in addition to big skills on floor.
Konnor McClain is coming off of a rough American Classic, where she missed qualifying to nationals because of a super nervous performance on beam, so this will be her shot to make it to Anaheim. Jay Jay Marshall, another crazy talented kid with big skills, also had a rough time at the ranch, hitting a fab vault but then falling and getting injured on bars, forcing her to withdraw from the rest of the meet and miss her first shot at qualifying to nationals, but she’s been looking awesome in training so far this weekend.
I’m also super excited for a lot of really talented young kids here, like Sienna Robinson, Victoria Smirnov, Love Birt, and Lilly Lippeatt, none of whom really have the skill level that will get them into the top ranks, but they’re not only crazy adorable, they also all have qualities that make them stand out, like Robinson with her sass, Smirnov with her expression, and Birt and Lippeatt with their clean skills.
My last shoutout goes to Grace McCallum for her split mount under the beam, an awesome and unique skill that sets her apart from the rest of the competition.
The competition for the juniors starts in about an hour, and then the senior competition will be held tonight. Check out usagymclass.com for all of the information you’ll need in terms of start times and streams, and if you’re trying to figure out who everyone is, check out our definitive junior and senior guides.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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