The national elite qualifier at last weekend’s Buckeye Classic in Columbus, Ohio saw a total of 76 gymnasts attempt to qualify for their elite and Hopes status, with eight gymnasts reaching the elite level while 12 got their scores to qualify to the Hopes Classic.
At the senior level, Faith Torrez of Legacy Elite posted the top score on every event across all four qualifying sessions to earn a 53.500 in the all-around, easily surpassing the required score of 51.000 that gives her the opportunity to compete at the American and U.S. Classic meets this summer in addition to being called an elite.
It was a busy weekend for Torrez, a University of Oklahoma commit who also topped the level 10 field at the Buckeye Classic with a 39.000 to earn a spot at this year’s Nastia Liukin Cup, her second time qualifying after placing third all-around in 2018.
Torrez, 15, already has incredible elite difficulty on bars and beam, and she also performed a clean FTY at the competition to stand out as one to watch going forward, and we’re excited to see what she can bring to the senior field this summer.
Stephanie Berger of Brestyan’s was the only other senior to qualify this weekend, making this her second year in a row reaching the elite level. Berger showed an especially strong performance on beam this weekend, and reached an all-around score of 51.750.
The big news at this qualifier was the return of Kristal Bodenschatz – née Uzelac – to competition for the first time in 12 years. The junior national champion, now 32, competed two events this weekend, but while she performed well on vault to earn a 13.650, she unfortunately had two falls on beam and scored just a 9.950 there, with a D score of 4.4.
Still, despite the mistakes, it’s super rare and incredibly thrilling to see an adult gymnast even attempting elite in the United States, especially someone who had such a lengthy time away, and I’m sure once she gets back into the mindset of competing, she’ll be super fun to watch.
In addition to the two seniors, a total of six juniors also reached elite status, either for the first time or after also competing in the past.
The strongest of the juniors was Mya Witte, a 13-year-old who trains with 2008 Olympic alternate Jana Bieger at Genie’s. Witte was a top Hopes competitor last year, winning the all-around and beam titles at the Hopes Classic before then capturing the beam title at Hopes Championships, and she shows great promise with her recent graduation to the junior level, making her one to watch this summer.
This weekend, Witte posted a 52.900 in the all-around including a 14.050 on beam, where she showed incredible skills and a lovely performance in addition to also looking strong on floor. She also turned heads in the compulsory competition, where she got a perfect 10 on bars, and though her elite difficulty isn’t very strong there just yet, she still managed to show a fantastic and clean routine in the optional session.
Lyden Saltness of Midwest returned for her second year of elite competition, earning a 51.850 here while posting the top junior score of the day on bars with a 13.600. Joscelyn Roberson, a top Hopes competitor last summer, stunned on beam to top the field with a 14.600 (with a D score of 5.9!) while also putting up the highest score on floor to reach her qualifying score with a 51.550 total, and fellow Hopes standout from last season, Ella Zirbes of Flips, just managed to hit the qualifying score exactly with a 50.500.
Also qualifying here were Emily Golden of EVO with a 51.800 and Julianne Huff of JamJev with a 51.250, neither of whom has any prior elite or Hopes experience. Golden, who trains with Aimee Boorman and is the first elite gymnast to come out of EVO, was a level 9 until last season, placing fifth all-around and second on floor at Easterns in 2018, while Huff is in her second season of level 10, and placed 29th at last year’s J.O. nationals.
In addition to those competing with the goal of qualifying here, current national team member Konnor McClain made an appearance to get some practice in before her first verification camp next month. McClain, who has a big shot at making this summer’s junior world championships team, competed vault and beam in Ohio, getting a 13.650 and a 13.850, respectively, both of which were the third-highest junior scores of the day.
The Hopes 12-13 division saw a total of six gymnasts earn a 48.500 or higher to qualify to this year’s Hopes Classic, including Gabriella van Frayen of Gym X-Treme with a 50.650, Leah Fontaine of Capital with a 50.450, Lucy Tobia of Parkettes with a 49.100, Jaylyn Pomager of Mavericks with a 49.050, Ava Wellmeier of Buckeye with a 48.550, and Sophia Dennis of Capital with a 48.500.
In the Hopes 10-11 field, another six gymnasts qualified with a 46.000 or higher, including Audrey Snyder of First State with a 48.050, Ella Kate Parker of North East Texas Elite with a 47.800, Giovannina Beltra of Rebound with a 46.700, Isabel Stassi of Five-Star with a 46.550, Nicole Desmond of Parkettes with a 46.550, and Ly Bui of Iowa GymNest with a 46.250.
Full results from the Buckeye qualifier are available here. This was the first of six national elite and Hopes qualifiers in 2019, with the next one coming up at the Glider Invitational held beginning Thursday, February 7.
Article by Lauren Hopkins