Katelyn Rosen, Mya Witte, and Sophia Butler
After kicking off with the Buckeye qualifier last month, the U.S. elite qualifying series continued in the month of February with a total of seven gymnasts earning or renewing their elite status at qualifiers in California and Texas.
At the Gliders qualifier held February 10-11, one senior and two juniors were able to reach their qualifying scores again this year, including Emily Lee and Ciena Alipio of West Valley as well as Sienna Robinson of Brown’s.
Lee, a UCLA commit in her second year at the senior level, competed at U.S. Championships as a junior in 2016, but a series of injuries kept her from competing on the national stage in the past two seasons. With only two seniors competing at the Gliders qualifier, she was able to easily post the top scores on every event to finish with a 53.450 in the all-around, earning a 14.500 on beam for her always impressive work there.
Her teammate, Alipio, technically qualified through her day two nationals score from 2018, but she competed here anyway to post the top junior all-around, bars, and beam scores in addition to the second-best scores on vault and floor in a field of 17 gymnasts. A two-time competitor at U.S. nationals, 14-year-old Alipio stunned on beam last summer and showed beautiful work on the event here, earning a 14.300 toward her all-around total of 53.550, and she’ll make her international debut at Jesolo this weekend after being named to the junior national team at last week’s camp.
Robinson stepped onto the elite scene at just 11, placing 18th at nationals in her debut summer in 2017, and though she missed 18 months of elite competition due to an elbow injury, she stepped seamlessly back into the mix with a 51.950 in the all-around here, also posting a 13.000 to get the high score for juniors on floor. Now 13, Robinson is absolutely one to keep an eye on in the coming years, and we look forward to seeing her continue to grow at the elite level.
In addition to the three who qualified here, another six gymnasts got their scores at the World Champion’s Centre meet a week later.
Olivia Hollingsworth and Abigael Vides, both of the host gym, were the two seniors who qualified. Hollingsworth won the all-around with a 51.550 to reach her score by about half a point past the requirement, making this her fourth year to reach the elite level, while Vides, a first-timer at 15, competed three events and got her score on two of them – vault and floor – with strong performances on both.
Typically, judges at domestic meets within the U.S. are required to take two tenths off of the vault difficulty score for seniors competing just a Yurchenko full, though that didn’t seem to happen here. It didn’t affect Hollingsworth, who would have qualified with or without the penalty, but Vides earned a two-event score of 26.650, putting her a tenth and a half ahead of the qualifying score of 26.500, and had the penalty been taken, she would’ve missed qualifying by half a tenth.
Because this is clearly a fault on the judges’ side, I doubt they’ll take away her status, and no seniors who attempted to qualify at the Buckeye and Gliders meets – which did take the two-tenth penalty – would have qualified had they been awarded the full difficulty for the vault, so I think it should pretty much be a non-issue. I personally don’t think it should even be a penalty, and don’t think it really encourages upgrades in the way the elite committee hopes it will, but I bring it up because discrepancies in judging could potentially affect a gymnast’s ability to reach these milestones and it brings a level of unfairness to the competition when judges aren’t applying the rules equally across all meets.
A total of eight seniors attempted qualification here, but most notably missing out was Ashton Locklear, the 2016 Olympic alternate and a member of two world championships teams who missed last season due to injury. With falls on both bars and beam, Locklear still managed to put up the top bars score of the day with a 13.450, but her two-event score of 26.050 was about half a point shy of the requirement.
Frankly, I’m not sure why Locklear is attending qualifiers rather than simply requesting an invite to national team camps. In the past decade, pretty much every elite I can think of who returned to competition after an extended period of time – whether due to injury or some other hiatus – has been able to return to camp after sending video updates with their progress to the national team staff, and they then qualify to classics or nationals through verifications at the camps.
Judging by videos of Locklear’s performance at the WOGA, she likely would not be denied, especially considering that in the past, gymnasts have been invited back to camp showing just the beginnings of their comebacks (I remember Nastia Liukin talking about not training anything but the basics on bars before getting her first invite back in 2016). Given Locklear’s current abilities and her accomplishments in the sport, it seems odd that she’d have to go the route generally reserved for juniors and first-timers, but perhaps she personally wasn’t ready to return to camp and that’ll be something we’ll see in the future if the qualifiers continue to not work out?
In the junior competition, Mya Witte of Genie’s – who qualified elite at Buckeye a few weeks prior and was just here to get a bit more experience – had a stunning performance to win the all-around with a 54.100 while also putting up a massive beam score of 15.000. Having seen the routine, the score is definitely a little higher than we might see a similar routine judged internationally, but she was absolutely beautiful on the event.
Sophia Butler of Discover Gymnastics, second here with a 53.750 after especially good work on beam and floor, got her score at nationals last summer but like Alipio and Witte, she opted to get a bit more experience, a good idea as she had an upcoming national team camp. At that camp, she was named to both the U.S. junior national team as well as the team competing at Jesolo this weekend
Those who did actually need this meet for their scores included Katelyn Rosen of Mavericks with a 51.850 for third place, Elizabeth Gantner of JPAC with a 51.050 for fourth place, and Eva Volpe of Pearland Elite with a 50.750 for fifth place.
This is the second year of elite competition for Rosen and Gantner, with Rosen finishing 20th at nationals last summer while Gantner was 37th at the U.S. Classic. Volpe, meanwhile, missed out on her several attempts at qualifying in 2018, but she managed to make it here just a couple of tenths past the required score of 50.500, nailing her Yurchenko 1½ on vault and also looking great on beam and floor.
In addition to the elite competition, a total of three gymnasts qualified to Hopes at Gliders, while 15 qualified at WCC.
At Gliders, Ava San Jose of Paramount Elite won the 12-13 division with a 52.250, posting the top scores on every event but vault, while Eleanor Wyly of North Bay finished just behind her with a 48.750. In the 10-11 division, Carsyn Coleman of Precision was first on every event but beam to qualify with a 47.850.
A total of 11 girls in the 12-13 division qualified at the WCC meet, including Karleigh DiCello of Hill’s with a 51.500, Paloma Spiridonova of WOGA with a 51.200, Katelyn Jong of Metroplex with a 50.850, Jordis Eichman of Colorado Aerials with a 50.600, Lucy Tobia of Parkettes with a 50.350, Emerson Fisk of Golden City with a 50.250, Rebekah Smith of World Champion’s with a 50.150, Michelle Pineda of Metroplex with a 49.400, Bronwyn Hoffman of Paramount Elite and Ella Murphy of World Champion’s with a 49.300, and Madray Johnson of WOGA with a 49.250.
In the 10-11 division, four gymnasts got their scores, including Nicole Desmond of Parkettes with a 49.450, Zoey Molomo of Metroplex with a 48.500, Isabel Stassi of Five Star with a 46.400, and Brooklyn Webster of Empire with a 46.100.
An option for juniors who don’t reach their elite scores but are still age-eligible for Hopes is to use their elite qualifying meet to go the Hopes route. While we don’t always have full insight into which junior hopefuls make the change, I believe Lily Pederson – a Hopes standout in 2018 – is going to try Hopes again this year after two attempts to qualify elite in 2019. Overall, she has looked really clean and strong, and her scores on vault and floor were excellent at the WCC qualifier, but she’s had some struggles on beam that have kept her from getting that 50.500, so hopefully she’ll be able to use this extra year to keep building the confidence and experience that will help her have tons of success when she reaches the next level.
Article by Lauren Hopkins