The U.S. Championships Junior Guide

The U.S. Championships are coming up this weekend and there are a total of 25 juniors on the list. We know you’re probably wondering who at least half of them are, so we’re back with our definitive guide to every single junior you’ll see compete in Boston.

Listed in alphabetical order, get to know all of the young ladies from the veterans at 15 all the way down to the 12-year-olds competing elite for the first time.

Edit: According to the start lists, just released, Ui Soma has withdrawn, and JaFree Scott will only be competing on bars.

. Age 14
Hometown San Jose, CA
Gym West Valley Gymnastics
Experience Finished 9th at this year’s American Classic and 17th at the U.S. Classic, a big upgrade after placing 21st at last year’s nationals. As a Hopes gymnast, she was the national beam champion two years in a row.
2018 Scores 51.300 (American Classic)
51.150 (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch Ciena has excellent and polished skills on all four events, so it’s hard to pick, but she does really great things on floor with both her clean tumbling and lovely dance, with her leaps (she has a tour jeté full, split full, and switch ring to switch half!) especially strong.
Age 13
Hometown Woodstock, GA
Gym Texas Dreams Gymnastics
Experience After finishing 23rd at nationals last summer, Sydney stunned at camp this spring when she finished 4th all-around and won floor. She was added to the national team and earned a spot at Junior Pan Ams, but an injury in Jesolo has kept her recovering since April. Sydney returned on bars and beam at the U.S. Classic, so they’re definitely not rushing things with her this season.
2018 Scores 53.550 (April Verification)
What to Watch Sydney has always been great on beam, but as she’s growing up, she’s becoming super powerful and one to watch on vault and floor, especially now that she has a DTY! Her vault earned a 14.467 in Jesolo, and had she not been injured, she would’ve been a frontrunner for an all-around medal there.
Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 11.53.17 PM Age 13
Hometown Frisco, TX
Experience An injury in Skye’s first level 10 season back in 2016 kept her out for over a year, but turns out she didn’t need the experience — when she returned to the competition floor as an all-arounder, it was at back-to-back international elite meets, where she placed 6th (WOGA Classic) and 15th (Gymnix) with super strong scores. At the American Classic, Skye was one of only a handful of juniors to earn her nationals score, winning the bronze medal and making herself one of the top newcomers this year. She then placed 6th at the U.S. Classic, right behind five national team members, with an incredible showing.
2018 Scores 53.400 (American Classic)
53.200 (U.S. Classic)
51.900 (WOGA Classic)
51.518 (Gymnix)
What to Watch Skye has the kind of bars you’d expect from a WOGA baby and some big skills and awesome opening choreo on beam, and at the American Classic, she unveiled a great DTY on vault.
Age 15
Hometown Lincoln, NE
Gym Solid Rock Gymnastics
Experience After making her first attempt at elite when she was just 11, Jordan has had quite the journey over the years but she is THE junior queen of 2018. From 13th at nationals last summer to the Pacific Rim and Junior Pan Am all-around champ in 2018, Jordan — who won bronze in the all-around at the U.S. Classic last month — is one of the front-runners for the national title this year.
2018 Scores 54.750 (Junior Pan Ams)
54.350 (April Verification)
53.850 (U.S. Classic)
53.600 (Pac Rims)
50.950 (KPAC Qualifier)
What to Watch She’s sincerely does not have a bad event, so if I had to pick one I’d go with floor if only because she’s a triple threat there with great tumbling (and potentially big upgrades to come!), superb dance elements, and a sassy style that shows shades of McKayla Maroney.
Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 11.58.13 PM Age 14
Hometown Houston, TX
Gym Discover Gymnastics
Experience A Hopes kid over the past two seasons, we noticed Sophia with her big skills at Hopes Championships last summer, where she became the vault and bars champion in addition to winning bronze in the all-around, and we are so excited to see her in elite. After qualifying elite in Orlando, Sophia stood out as one of the top juniors in the international session at the WOGA Classic this year, but and though some unfortunate falls held her back at the American Classic this year, she returned with a fully hit day at the U.S. Classic, placing 9th all-around and winning the bronze on floor.
2018 Scores 53.400 (WOGA Classic)
52.500 (U.S. Classic)
52.100 (Orlando Qualifier)
48.400 (American Classic)
What to Watch Sophia is a trickster on beam, where she has a layout full as part of her triple acro series, an Onodi, a front aerial to split ring jump, and a double pike dismount. She definitely has some cleanup areas but I love kids who push the limit and that’s Sophia!
561262 Age 12
Hometown Henderson, NV
Gym Gymcats
Experience Kailin, the youngest U.S. Classic competitor this year, made her debut as a Hopes gymnast last year, winning the silver medal in the 10-11 division at championships before winning the elite qualifier all-around at Desert Lights this January. She missed her nationals score at the American Classic a few week, where she bailed in the middle of her vault and ended up flat-backing a non-salto Yurchenko, taking her all-around score down significantly, but a great vault at the U.S. Classic landed her in 14th all-around, her score several tenths above the qualification requirements.
2018 Scores 52.850 (Desert Lights Qualifier)
51.450 (U.S. Classic)
46.950 (American Classic)
What to Watch She’s a true bars-and-beamer right now, with lovely lines and pristine technique in all of her work, but these two events are where she can really make it stand out.
claire Age 14
Hometown Oakland, CA
Gym Head Over Heels
Experience After a 4th-place finish at Hopes Championships last summer, Claire made the move to elite this spring, looking great at both qualifiers and then finishing 18th at the U.S. Classic in July, getting exactly the score she needed to make it to nationals after missing out by about a tenth at the American Classic weeks earlier.
2018 Scores 51.350 (Auburn Qualifier)
51.000 (U.S. Classic)
50.850 (American Classic)
50.500 (Desert Lights Qualifier)
What to Watch As a gymnast without super strong difficulty on any of her events, Claire manages to stand out with her fab execution. I especially love the amplitude she gets in her leaps — she has one of the best switch leap to switch half series that you’ll see on beam!
Age 14
Hometown Boyds, MD
Gym Hill’s Gymnastics
Experience Kayla wins for best glow-up over the past year, entering the junior elite scene with a nationals berth, but placing just 26th out of 28 all-arounders, she didn’t seem like one to become a major threat this year. But she nearly swept the junior division at the WOGA Classic when she returned in February, and then her second-place verification finish in April earned her a national team spot. She won the silver all-around and gold vault and bars medals at Pac Rims and in July, she became the American Classic Champion with the highest score of her career before then winning silver in the all-around at the U.S. Classic, where she had a fall on beam but was outstanding elsewhere (she also won gold on bars, silver on vault, and bronze on floor).
2018 Scores 55.300 (American Classic)
55.250 (WOGA Classic)
54.300 (April Verification)
54.000 (U.S. Classic)
53.851 (Gymnix)
53.100 (Pac Rims)
What to Watch I don’t think Kayla is actually a standout on any event, and I mean that in a good way. She is the kind of all-arounder who does every single event incredibly well without relying on any one apparatus to carry her through (though adding a beautiful DTY to her arsenal a few months ago certainly didn’t hurt)!
Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 12.31.32 AM Age 15
Hometown Lee’s Summit, MO
Experience The baby sister of 2012 Olympic alternate Sarah Finnegan, the question of when Aleah would go elite has been on everyone’s minds for years, and after a solid J.O. career — she was the Junior B national champion in 2017 — she finally made the jump this year. Aleah missed out on getting her score at the first two qualifiers she attended, but thankfully the third time was the charm, and she ended up killing it at the American Classic, placing 6th all-around, winning the bronze on beam, and earning her nationals score. At the U.S. Classic last month, she followed it up with a 7th-place performance, and she’s one of the newcomers with a great shot at making the national team this year.
2018 Scores 53.300 (Brestyan’s Qualifier)
52.800 (U.S. Classic)
52.250 (American Classic)
48.650 (Auburn Qualifier)
48.650 (KPAC Qualifier)
What to Watch Obviously beam. Her difficulty there isn’t that great, but like her sister, it’s where she shows great poise and control, with her floor also something to take note of.
Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 12.59.29 AM Age 14
Hometown Spring, TX
Gym World Champions Centre
Experience After competing as a Hopes gymnast last year, Karis had a standout level 10 season in 2018, winning multiple titles including the vault title in her age division at J.O. Championships where she also finished second all-around. Karis earned her nationals score at the American Classic, where she finished 10th, and she followed it up with a 7th-place all-around finish at the U.S. Classic, where she also won silver on floor.
2018 Scores 52.800 (U.S. Classic)
52.500 (Orlando Qualifier)
51.200 (American Classic)
What to Watch Karis has tons of power but also has the benefit of getting to a great bars coach at an early age, so she’s one of those rare few who is a standout on bars and floor. Look for her beautiful and big double layout on both events!
Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 1.03.22 AM Age 13
Hometown Holmdel, NJ
Gym MG Elite
Experience Zoe moved to MG Elite as a level 9, and a year later she was the Junior A vault champion and silver all-around medalist at level 10 nationals. NBD. She got her optionals score for classics at the Brestyan’s qualifier and then at the American Classic, she got exactly the all-around score needed to make nationals before going on to place 20th at the U.S. Classic.
2018 Scores 51.000 (American Classic)
50.950 (U.S. Classic)
50.750 (Brestyan’s Qualifier)
What to Watch Skill-wise, she’s not a huge standout on anything yet, but I like that they’re taking things slowly with her, as she’s still super young. I absolutely love her floor routine, where she performs well and has some awesome tumbling, including a great whip to double tuck.
448479 Age 14
Hometown Staten Island, NY
Gym MG Elite
Experience In her first year as a level 10 gymnast last year, Olivia missed out on nationals, but then she came back this year to win the WOGA Classic and earn a coveted spot at the Nastia Liukin Cup, where she placed 10th before getting her elite optional score at the KPAC qualifier a week later. At the American Classic, she easily got her nationals score with a beautiful performance that saw her finish 4th all-around in addition to winning the bars title and adding a bronze on floor. Olivia was hoping for a top-five finish at the U.S. Classic, but with a fall on bars, she ended up 9th overall, also winning the bronze on floor.
2018 Scores 53.800 (Brestyan’s Qualifier)
53.300 (American Classic)
52.500 (U.S. Classic)
51.650 (KPAC Qualifier)
What to Watch Olivia is absolutely gorgeous on bars, where her skill level is also fantastic for a first-year junior. She has a Ricna to Pak, van Leeuwen, and beautiful stalder work, and while her floor isn’t quite as difficult, I love what she brings to her many cool choreo moments.
Age 14
Hometown Henderson, NV
Gym Gymcats Gymnastics
Experience Selena made her elite debut last year and was had a strong enough showing to make it to nationals, where she finished 17th. Prior to that, she made waves as a level 10 gymnast, winning the bronze medal in her division at J.O. nationals last spring. She had a good showing at the American Classic in July, and she looked even stronger at the U.S. Classic, where she placed 13th and picked up her ticket to nationals.
2018 Scores 51.550 (U.S. Classic)
50.600 (American Classic)
What to Watch Her NCAA-ready Yurchenko 1½ is a MUST-SEE at this meet! But don’t think she’s all about power…Selena has some dance combinations on beam and floor that’ll make even the Netherlands drool.
Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 1.06.06 AM Age 15
Hometown Warrensburg, MO
Experience A level 10 since 2015, Alexis finally made the jump to elite happen this year with excellent performances at both the KPAC and Auburn qualifiers. She was a last-minute addition to the American Classic after dealing with injuries, and a few mistakes — including losing major SV on bars after missing her Jaeger completely — kept her just 30th overall, far below her potential. Thankfully, she was good as new again at the U.S. Classic, where she finished 11th and easily reached her nationals score.
2018 Scores 52.150 (U.S. Classic)
52.150 (Auburn Qualifier)
50.500 (KPAC Qualifier)
47.450 (American Classic)
What to Watch I’m going with beam, if only because she does a standing punch front (meaning she doesn’t run to punch into it), a total badass move in a routine that’s otherwise pretty solid.
Dhj1vbRUcAAQj46 Age 12
Hometown Woodland Hills, CA
Gym Paramount Elite
Experience At 10 and 11, Levi competed as a Hopes gymnast, placing 6th all-around and winning the silver on bars at last summer’s Hopes Championships. This season, she got her elite optional score super early on, finishing third at the Desert Lights qualifier, and then she stunned at the international session of the WOGA Classic, placing 5th and winning another bars silver. At the American Classic, Levi finished 7th all-around and also got her nationals score after a beautiful and fully hit performance. With a couple of falls at the U.S. Classic, Levi ended up 16th all-around, but falls aside, she was so clean her E scores were still in the rang of gymnasts who hit!
2018 Scores 52.300 (WOGA Classic)
52.200 (Desert Lights Qualifier)
52.000 (American Classic)
51.300 (U.S. Classic)
What to Watch It’s impossible for someone this young to embody regal elegance in literally everything she does, and yet…there’s Levi. Whether she’s on bars, beam, or floor, Levi is absolutely breathtaking. Her switch ring to ring leap on floor followed by a beautiful choreo section is probably my favorite, but I’m also absolutely obsessed with everything she does on beam, from her amplitude and extension to her commanding presence and confidence, she is literally stunning.
Age 15
Hometown St. Paul, MN
Gym Midwest Gymnastics
Experience Sunisa got everyone’s attention with some great beam and floor choreo during her 2016 debut, but she didn’t stop there — she was added to the national team early in 2017 and traveled to Montreal where she won the silver on bars at Gymnix, though some mistakes on day one of nationals left her in just 8th place. This year, she nearly swept the KPAC national qualifier and the April verification camp, winning the all-around at both, but then falls on bars and beam at Pac Rims kept her off the all-around podium there (but she still picked up silver medals on vault, beam, and floor). With limited routines at the U.S. Classic, Sunisa still managed to place 5th all-around, and she won the beam title with a super downgraded layout dismount! If she’s back at full strength here, keep her in mind for a title bid.
2018 Scores 56.000 (KPAC Qualifier)
55.500 (April Verification)
53.250 (U.S. Classic)
51.450 (Pac Rims)
What to Watch What NOT to watch?! Sunisa has D scores that break a 6.0 on both bars (Nabieva to Pak to Maloney to Gienger, anyone?!) and beam (a casual two major acro series), she added a brilliant DTY on vault this season, and she opens floor with a double layout before competing an arabian double front, both of which are fab. Consistency isn’t always on her side, but when she hits, she’s hard to beat.
Age 13
Hometown Mason, OH
Gym Cincinnati Gymnastics
Experience After finishing 7th at last year’s Nastia Liukin Cup, Lilly went into her first season as a junior elite with great results, finishing 15th at nationals at only 12. This year, she was 7th all-around and won the bronze on beam against mostly seniors at Gymnix, and then attended the April verification camp, where she also finished 7th. Lilly skipped the U.S. Classic to continue recovering from an injury, but we’re looking forward to seeing her super clean routines again at nationals.
2018 Scores 52.635 (Gymnix)
52.050 (April Verification)
What to Watch Lilly is so tidy, effortless, and precise in everything she does, she reminds me of one of the pixies of the 80s and 90s. Her beam and floor are particular highlights, with her adorable choreography a great match for her personality.
Age 13
Hometown Cross Lanes, WV
Gym Revolution Gymnastics
Experience Konnor won the Hopes Classic (10-11 division) in 2016 with a score that would’ve put most juniors to shame, but she had one of the most dramatic U.S. Classic meets in her first junior season last summer, putting up an incredible beam routine but then sitting her double pike at the end to just miss out on making nationals. This year, she came back with a vengeance, placing second at the Buckeye qualifier before stunning on beam and floor at Gymnix and then winning silver all-around at the American Classic earlier this month, getting her nationals score to make the U.S. Classic a little less dramatic this time around. In Columbus, she competed every event but beam, winning the bronze on bars, and a hit all-around set at nationals could make her competitive against national team kids.
2018 Scores 53.950 (American Classic)
52.000 (Buckeye Qualifier)
51.534 (Gymnix)
50.250 (April Verification)
What to Watch BEAM. I mean, everything, but really, BEAM. Konnor is the only gymnast not from the Chinese program who can do a layout so perfectly you know it’s her from across the room. She also has a standing full, fantastic extension on her leaps, and a big double pike so you know she is NOT playing around.
tumblr_otu489snq31rpkobco1_1280 Age 14
Hometown Bowie, MD
Gym First State Gymnastics
Experience I knew of Sydney before I knew anything about her gymnastics thanks to her massive YouTube and Instagram following. When I saw her compete at Hopes Championships last summer, I was instantly obsessed with her Austin Powers floor routine that showed off so much of that fun personality her fans get from her popular vlogs. A move to First State this year improved her skill level and ability dramatically, helping her qualify elite and earn a J.O. nationals spot, where she won the silver medal on bars. Her solid performance at the American Classic saw her finish 8th all-around to earn her nationals score after a fantastic day, and she then finished 12th at the U.S. Classic with equally strong work.
2018 Scores 51.900 (American Classic)
51.650 (U.S. Classic)
51.100 (Desert Lights Qualifier)
What to Watch Sydney’s floor is absolutely entertaining but she’s getting to be quite the fantastic bars and beam kid. Her bars are especially tidy, and she has a great piked Jaeger, Pak, and toe full to full-in dismount.
48fdb0c057a9f9fdbd3550c1612566d4 Age 14
Hometown Alta Loma, CA
Gym Precision Gymnastics
Experience In her first season as a junior last year, Brenna finished 30th at the U.S. Classic and didn’t qualify to nationals, but she has made many improvements since then, and it really showed in her fantastic performance at the U.S. Classic, where she finished 15th to get her nationals score a few tenths above the requirement.
2018 Scores 54.200 (Brestyan’s Qualifier)
51.350 (U.S. Classic)
50.700 (Auburn Qualifier)
50.100 (KPAC Qualifier)
49.750 (American Classic)
What to Watch Brenna is all about the long lines, and while she’s still fine-tuning how to make them really work for her, on bars and floor especially she ends up with a natural elegance that many would die for.
maxresdefault Age 13
Hometown Boerne, TX
Gym Mavericks at Artemovs
Experience As a Hopes gymnast for two seasons, Katelyn showed great potential, winning the silver all-around medal in addition to the floor title at Hopes Championships last summer before qualifying elite in Orlando this February. Unfortunately, Katelyn struggled on pretty much all of her events at the American Classic, placing 33rd, but she turned things around in a major way at the U.S. Classic, where she finished 18th to get exactly the score she needed for nationals.
2018 Scores 51.000 (U.S. Classic)
50.750 (WOGA Classic)
50.650 (Orlando Qualifier)
46.800 (American Classic)
What to Watch Katelyn brings some big skills throughout most of her routines, but I like that she’s taking advantage of her great power on vault and floor, which tend to be her strongest. She already has a double layout on floor, and the rest of her tumbling is super upgrade-able.
Age 14
Hometown Independence, MO
Experience JaFree finished 13th at nationals last year, her first year as an elite gymnast, and she was added to the national team this year with her 5th-place finish in the all-around at the April verification camp. She earned a spot on the Junior Pan Ams team, but unfortunately, a last-minute ankle injury kept her difficulty down and she was only able to perform two events. She limited herself to just bars at the U.S. Classic, but had an excellent routine there, and hopefully we’ll see her more at full strength this weekend!
2018 Scores 53.000 (April Verification)
What to Watch I love JaFree’s fun and upbeat choreo on floor, but she has high points in all of her routines, and she has the potential for really difficult work on beam when she hits.
tumblr_otu3wdZnaX1rpkobco1_1280 Age 13
Hometown Belmont, CA
Gym San Mateo Gymnastics
Experience Last year, after wrapping up a great level 9 season with the Western Championships all-around title, Ui became the all-around and beam champion in the 12-13 age division at Hopes Championships. This May, she won the Junior A beam title at J.O. nationals, where she also finished third all-around, and then two weeks later she got her elite scores with a fantastic performance at the Auburn qualifier, where she finished second behind U.S. national team member Leanne Wong. Ui was one of the junior standouts at the American Classic, putting up four great routines to finish 5th while winning the bronze on floor and also earning her nationals score, making her one of the top elite newcomers this season with big potential going forward. Ui missed the U.S. Classic, so fingers crossed for a happy and healthy nationals for her!
2018 Scores 53.700 (Auburn Qualifier)
52.500 (American Classic)
49.700 (Desert Lights Qualifier)
What to Watch It’s all about perfecting the little things for Ui, whose feet are never anything but 900% pointed. She is textbook at absolutely everything she does, but beam is where she truly shines, with beautiful connections, solid acro, and a great double pike dismount.
Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 1.36.11 AM Age 15
Hometown Chanhassen, MN
Gym Twin City Twisters
Experience Tori is one of the most experienced juniors here this weekend, first qualifying to elite back in 2015, making nationals on her first time out. With three U.S. Championships under her belt coming into the 2018 season, Tori finally got some international experience this year, first competing at Jesolo with her club, where she placed 7th all-around and made three event finals before then stepping up from alternate to key member of the Junior Pan Ams team. In Buenos Aires, her vault and floor helped the team to the gold, and she also had some individual success there, finishing 4th all-around in addition to winning the gold on vault and the silver on floor, and then at last month’s U.S. Classic, her solid day landed her in 4th place all-around.
2018 Scores 53.800 (U.S. Classic)
52.600 (Junior Pan Ams)
52.300 (Jesolo)
48.350 (April Verification)
What to Watch Vault and floor for sure. Tori’s DTY is unbelievably good, and the 14.8 she earned at Pan Ams is 4th-best among every single vault score earned internationally in the entire world in 2018. Her floor tumbling is also rock-solid and super clean, helping her get by without a ton of difficulty.
Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 1.37.14 AM Age 14
Hometown Overland Park, KS
Experience Leanne won the J.O. national all-around title in her age group last year, and a few weeks later, she earned her elite qualification score before then winning the all-around at the American Classic. Her strong nationals performance, where she was the vault champion and the floor bronze medalist, led to a national team spot, and she was named to this year’s Junior Pan Ams team where she won bronze in the all-around before then snagging three silver medals in event finals, on every event but floor. With four hit — and fantastic! — routines at last month’s U.S. Classic, Leanne won the all-around title by over a point, also winning the titles on vault and floor while picking up the bronze on beam, making her the one to beat this weekend.
2018 Scores 55.700 (Auburn Qualifier)
55.350 (U.S. Classic)
52.950 (Junior Pan Ams)
52.050 (April Verification)
What to Watch Leanne has one of the most gorgeous DTYs in the world right now, and she’s also technically perfect in pretty much everything she does. All of her events look great because even though she doesn’t have the greatest difficulty on any event, she easily gets by thanks to her brilliant execution.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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6 thoughts on “The U.S. Championships Junior Guide

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  2. Pingback: The U.S. Championships Senior Guide | The Gymternet

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