U.S. junior national team members Leanne Wong, Konnor McClain, Sunisa Lee, Olivia Greaves, Kayla DiCello, and Skye Blakely
Every year, we begin following the elite competition in the U.S. as soon as the first qualifiers begin in January, more than six months before the pinnacle of the summer season concludes with national championships and the naming of the U.S. national team.
With hundreds of kids starting out the journey and around 15 juniors and seniors making the team on average, it’s obvious just how difficult it is to make it all the way. This year, we thought it might be fun to show you just how difficult it is.
The Senior Path
The first stage in making the national team as a senior is actually being an elite gymnast. The majority of senior gymnasts competing at the elite level have been elite gymnasts for years, and express their intent to continue at the elite level, but a number of girls wait until they reach the senior level before attending an elite qualifier. A total of 39 senior-level gymnasts came into the 2018 season with the intention to compete at the elite level this year.
As a note, I didn’t include any seniors from last year who didn’t come into the 2018 season with the intention to compete elite. Several gymnasts dropped down to level 10 or moved on to NCAA programs in between the two seasons, so I kept this list only to those who were planning on competing at the elite level.
Among the 39 gymnasts who attended elite qualifiers or returned from competing in the previous elite season, only seven didn’t qualify to the elite level and to the American and U.S. Classic meets. Gymnasts earned qualifying scores by one of several ways this year — through the 2018 national qualifiers, through routine verification at national team camps in the 2017-2018 season, and through last year’s U.S. Championships.
A total of 26 gymnasts met the qualification standards for national championships this year, including five who qualified as members of last year’s world championships team, four who qualified through international assignments in the 2017-2018 season, four who qualified through verification camps, 11 who qualified through classic meets, and two who qualified through injury petitions.
Of the 26 who qualified to nationals, only 21 ended up competing. Of those 21, just eight were selected as members of the 2018-2019 U.S. senior national team, which amounts to about 20.5% of the gymnasts who started out the season as elite and national team hopefuls.
The Junior Path
The path to the national team is even tougher for the juniors than it is for the seniors. With so many new kids coming into elite for the first time at younger ages, the number of first-time elite attempts on top of the returning juniors is always through the roof! This year a total of 80 gymnasts attempted to compete at the junior elite level.
Juniors can qualify to the elite level and to the American and U.S. Classic meets by earning a score of 50.500 at the previous year’s U.S. Championships, at a national team verification camp, or at a national qualifier. Of the 80 gymnasts who attempted elite, only 52 of them (65%) reached the elite level and qualified to classics.
This year was one of the most brutal national qualifiers for juniors, with more than half of the junior elites getting the axe at the classic meets and only 25 of them (about 31% of the original 80 who attempted) reaching the national qualifying standard of a 51.000 all-around score at the classic meets, a verification camp, or an international assignment.
Eight juniors earned their nationals scores at camp and in international competitions, but the majority qualified through the American Classic on July 7 or the U.S. Classic on July 28.
24 of the 25 gymnasts who qualified to nationals at the junior level ended up competing, but only six would go on to make the 2018-2019 U.S. junior national team. Of the original 80 attempting elite in 2018 with the hopes of maybe making the team, only 7.5% were able to eventually make it to this final step.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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