Top junior qualifier Kailin Chio of Gym Cats
This weekend’s national elite qualifier, held at the Desert Lights invitational in Arizona, saw eight gymnasts — two seniors and six juniors — qualify or re-qualify to the elite level.
In the senior division, 15-year-old Emily Lee of West Valley won beam and floor in addition to the all-around title, putting up a 53.350 with an excellent beam set that earned a 14.65. Lee is confident and lovely on this event, with a great punch front to jump series, a floaty layout series, a side aerial to layout stepout, side straddle jump half, and double pike dismount with just a hop, showing a tremendous talent here with a routine so good, she could’ve been a legitimate contender in last year’s field at worlds.
Lee missed the 2017 season due to injury, but had a good performance as a junior at nationals the year before and it’s great to see her back in competition. Her difficulty elsewhere is a bit low, and she unfortunately sat her double front off bars on Saturday, but I’m obsessed with her beam and hope to see even more from her this summer.
Also re-qualifying was Madelyn Williams of San Mateo, a first-year senior who wowed fans with her bars at classics last summer but was forced to miss nationals due to injury. Williams, also 15, put up a 51.000 to reach the required senior score exactly, making some mistakes on bars and beam, but hitting a solid FTY and showing off a lovely but downgraded performance on floor, opening with just a layout before going on to hit a 2½ to front full and a solid double pike to finish.
Other seniors who attempted to qualify were Alexandra Theodorou of Desert Lights and Laney Madsen of Gym Max. Theodorou had a weak performance on bars and beam, but showed strong work with her Lopez vault to finish with a 49.200, while Madsen, who made her elite debut as a senior last summer, had form issues on all four events in addition to falls on bars, finishing fourth all-around with a 48.750.
Six juniors made the cut with an all-around score of 50.500 or better at this meet, including Kailin Chio of Gym Cats with a 52.850, Kaliya Lincoln of Airborne with a 52.450, Levi Jung-Ruivivar of Paramount Elite with a 52.200, Alonna Kratzer of Top Notch with a 51.700, Sydney Morris of First State with a 51.100, and Claire Dean of Head Over Heels with a 50.500. All competed as Hopes last season, with the exception of Kratzer, who aged out of Hopes in 2016 and attempted to qualify as a junior last year but missed out at three different qualifiers, so this must feel especially fantastic for her.
Lincoln and Chio, both 11, placed first and second in the younger Hopes division at Championships last summer, so it was no surprise to see them stand out here and easily surpass the requirements.
Chio was incredibly tidy in her competition, with a piked Jaeger and double layout on bars, a back handspring mount, a solid triple flight series, and a leap series to Korbut on beam, and an ambitious (but slightly wild on this attempt!) triple full on floor. She definitely showed lots of promise given her age, and I’m sure she’ll be someone who ends up being a big deal in the future.
As for Lincoln, she struggled on bars with a fall after arching over her handstand, but she showed a clean and aggressive FTY on vault, a dynamic beam set that included a layout series and a double pike dismount, and an excellent floor set that earned a 13.55 — the highest score of the day at any level — thanks to her solid tucked full-in, front tuck through to double tuck, and double pike.
I loved what we saw from Jung-Ruivivar, who had an excellent competition. The 12-year-old doesn’t have crazy difficulty, but what she shows off is lovely, including a clean Yurchenko layout, a piked Jaeger and Pak on bars (where her stalder work is fabulous!), an awesome front aerial to split jump to Korbut as well as lovely extension on her acro series, and a 2½ to front tuck to open her floor set, which has interesting and fantastic choreo.
Kratzer, who turns 15 in May, had a great day aside from a fall on beam, while 13-year-old Morris showed great improvement on bars and beam after making the switch to First State last year, and she had a unique and promising floor set, but unfortunately put her hands down on her double tuck, and Dean had some mistakes on beam and floor, but she was one of the strongest vaulters in this session and showed a tidy bars set.
A total of 19 juniors attempted to qualify here, and First State’s Love Birt didn’t get her score here, but qualified already through verification at the developmental team camp a week earlier. Birt, who ended up in ninth with a 49.000, had a strong day aside from bars, hitting vault and floor while putting up the best junior beam score with a 13.95 for a routine that included a punch front, triple flight series, clean side split half, front aerial to split jump to Korbut done into a back roll, and a double pike dismount.
In addition to elite qualifiers, this meet also saw 13 gymnasts earn their Hopes scores, a 48.000 all-around for girls aged 12-13 and a 46.000 all-around for girls aged 10-11.
In the older division, the qualifiers included Chloe Cho of Gym Jam with a 50.700, Lauren Pearce of AGA with a 49.200, Sierra Kaplan of Klub with a 49.200, Emily Karay of Azarian with a 48.900, Carrie Resta of Capital with a 48.450, Nola Matthews of Airborne with a 48.400, Karleigh DiCello of Hill’s with a 48.350, Madison Perkins of AGA with a 48.200, Emma Chaix of Azarian with a 48.200, and Chavala Shepard of Hopes and Dreams with a 48.000.
In the younger division, the qualifiers included Acacia Esser of Capital with a 46.200, Azaraya Ra-Akbar of Hill’s with a 46.100, and Emerson Fisk of Golden City with a 46.050.
The qualifier was the first of five this season. In addition to qualifying to elite, the gymnasts who meet the score requirements also qualified to the American Classic as well as the U.S. Classic, both of which serve as qualifying meets to the U.S. Championships. For Hopes gymnasts, their scores here qualify them to the Hopes Classic, which serves as the qualifier for the Hopes Championships.
The national elite qualification circuit continues with Buckeye in Ohio this coming weekend, followed by the Orlando qualifier the following weekend, the KPAC qualifier in March, and the Auburn qualifier in May.
Article by Lauren Hopkins