Figuring Out the U.S. Worlds Team

Screen Shot 2019-09-22 at 3.01.58 PM

Will Grace McCallum go to worlds? Will Jade Carey go? Or is there room for BOTH?!

The trial meet that will be the final piece in determining the U.S. worlds team puzzle happens later today at a closed, invitation-only camp, which you can watch live on YouTube beginning at 4:45 pm ET (we’ll also be live blogging).

To start off on a sad note, yesterday USA Gymnastics tweeted that two of the gymnasts originally in contention – Riley McCusker and Shilese Jones – have withdrawn, with McCusker suffering a case of rhabdomyolysis and Jones dealing with an injury. We wish both the best of luck and hope to see them back even stronger in the future.

Below, I take a look at all of the athletes in contention, discussing their scoring potential, strengths, weaknesses, and chances at making the team. Once you scroll through all of the individual profiles, underneath I share the teams I think make the most sense, but under the caveat of knowing full well that you could justify even the weakest option at this camp and that my selection could likely differ from the final, especially because so much goes on in training and at camp that we don’t get to see, all of which plays into the decision. I also share my personal dream team, because I know you’re going to ask for it. 🙂

SIMONE BILES
Olympic Preview: Team USA Media Summit Age 22
Hometown Spring, TX
Gym World Champions Centre
2019 Scores 60.000 (U.S. Classic)
59.850 (Nationals D2)
58.800 (Stuttgart WC)
58.650 (Nationals D1)
Total Difficulty 6.0 VT
6.2 UB
6.3 BB
6.8 FX
25.3 total
Advantages Pretty much everything. Difficulty, technique, experience, mental strength, consistency…she’s got it all.
Disadvantages Over the past year, Simone has been slightly less consistent than she was last quad, but she’s still so far ahead of everyone else in terms of her difficulty and what she can score in execution, a fall or stumble hardly matters, and this absolutely won’t affect her making the team.
Verdict The reigning national, world, and Olympic champion with the chance to become the most decorated gymnast of all time at this year’s world championships, Biles is obviously a lock for the team.
JADE CAREY
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.15.01 PM Age 19
Hometown Phoenix, AZ
Gym Arizona Sunrays
2019 Scores 56.100 (Nationals D1)
54.950 (U.S. Classic)
53.850 (Nationals D2)
15.066 VT (Doha WC)
14.933 VT (Baku WC)
14.600 FX (Baku WC)
14.466 FX (Doha WC)
Total Difficulty 6.0 VT
5.2 UB
5.8 BB
6.3 FX
23.3 total
Advantages Jade is almost robotic in terms of how solid and dependable she is on her two best events, vault and floor. She could add huge scores on both, and would be one of the biggest medal threats in the world on both, expected to finish right behind Simone Biles. Also, she really proved this summer that she’s more than just a vault and floor gymnast, and could step in on the other two events if necessary.
Disadvantages Since Jade is expected to earn an individual spot for the Olympic Games, she therefore wouldn’t be in contention to fit into the U.S. team situation next year. As the U.S. often uses world championships to test Olympic teams, and as Jade is getting vast experience for her special situation at the world cups, I could see the selection committee brushing her off even if she earns it.
Verdict Under Martha Karolyi, I think Jade and her individual path would make her ineligible for worlds this year, but I think Tom Forster runs things a bit differently and I think she’ll make it as someone who would help the team immensely on vault and floor, where she’s likely to earn medals.
JORDAN CHILES
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.17.53 PM Age 18
Hometown Spring, TX
Gym World Champions Centre
2019 Scores 55.500 (Nationals D1)
55.350 (Nationals D2)
54.650 (U.S. Classic)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
5.5 UB
5.3 BB
5.3 FX
21.5 total
Advantages Jordan has really come into her own this year, especially after switching to WCC. She was one of the most consistent gymnasts at nationals this summer, and if she brings her Amanar back at today’s camp, she’s really going to increase her chances.
Disadvantages Overall, Jordan’s difficulty is a little bit behind the rest of the top gymnasts. Because she was so solid and consistent at nationals, she was able to sneak in ahead of many who were expected to be ahead of her, but if you look at everyone’s overall potential on each event, Jordan won’t be in the top five.
Verdict I don’t think we’ll see Jordan on the team, unless she has a truly remarkable day and others struggle. Unless, of course, the Amanar is back, in which case I’d give her the advantage over someone like Grace McCallum.
KARA EAKER
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.20.15 PM Age 16
Hometown Grain Valley, MO
Gym GAGE
2019 Scores 57.000 (U.S. Classic)
56.700 (Pan Ams QF)
55.298 (Gymnix)
54.850 (Nationals D1)
53.750 (Pan Ams AA)
53.650 (Nationals D2)
Total Difficulty 5.0 VT
5.5 UB
6.8 BB
5.5 FX
22.8 total
Advantages With the most difficult beam set in the world and having scored a 15.266 in an international event final, Kara is one of the frontrunners for the beam title at worlds. She also showed several times this summer that she’s quite solid on all four events, and if she hits, she has some really great all-around potential.
Disadvantages Kara’s consistency is a bit of an issue. She’s at about a 75% hit rate on beam this year, which is great, but when she’s tasked with other events, she often struggles under the pressure, and I don’t think she’d be usable on any event but beam in a team competition.
Verdict I do think even for beam alone, Kara is absolutely worth taking to worlds, but whether she goes or not will depend on who else makes the team and whether Kara can complement that situation.
ALEAH FINNEGAN
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.22.08 PM Age 16
Hometown Lee’s Summit, MO
Gym GAGE
2019 Scores 55.500 (U.S. Classic)
54.350 (Nationals D2)
53.250 (Nationals D1)
52.231 (Gymnix)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
5.0 UB
5.9 BB
5.5 FX
21.8 total
Advantages Aleah wins for one of the biggest glow-ups between last year and this year, adding a DTY and majorly upping her difficulty on beam and floor. She’s also been quite dependable on her three strong events, with one of the highest consistency levels in the country this year.
Disadvantages Even with her major turnaround and solid consistency, she’s still a little behind most of the top seniors, and doesn’t have top-three scores on any event.
Verdict Aleah could possibly be in contention for the alternate spot depending on how she compares to everyone else there, but I don’t see her as likely to make the team with so many stronger girls on the roster.
MORGAN HURD
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.26.56 PM Age 18
Hometown Middletown, DE
Gym First State Gymnastics
2019 Scores 56.650 (Nationals D2)
56.500 (U.S. Classic)
55.099 (Tokyo WC)
55.050 (Nationals D1)
54.950 (Pan Ams QF)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
6.0 UB
5.7 BB
5.4 FX
22.5 total
Advantages Morgan is the gymnast people like to count out because she’s not as flashy as some of the others in terms of her difficulty, but she’s a silent threat in that she’s capable and consistent on all four events, which has helped her medal twice in the all-around at world championships, where she’s made finals for all events she’s eligible for over the past two years thanks to peaking at the absolute perfect time.
Disadvantages Floor has been a bit off for Morgan this year, with her difficulty a bit lower than what she’s capable of in addition to a few slip-ups in competition. And compared to many others, her overall difficulty is on the lower side.
Verdict I think it’s hard to leave Morgan behind on any team, and believe we’ll see her not only getting there again this year, but also once again blowing past people’s expectations for her. When people counted her out in 2017, she became the world champion, and when people counted her out last year, she won another all-around medal and made two event finals. I think once again, she’ll prove herself the best option as both an individual standout and as a team player who would be essential in providing leadoff routines on all four events.
EMILY LEE
Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 5.07.08 PM Age 16
Hometown Los Gatos, CA
Gym West Valley Gymnastics
2019 Scores 54.500 (Nationals D1)
54.400 (U.S. Classic)
53.450 (Nationals D2)
53.450 (Gliders)
52.550 (American Classic)
51.350 (Gymnix)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
5.3 UB
5.9 BB
5.4 FX
22.0 total
Advantages Emily is a beautiful beam gymnast who also added a DTY and some difficulty on floor this year. She scores well on all three of these events and is honestly on par with some of the top U.S. girls on all three in terms of both her difficulty and scoring potential.
Disadvantages Bars are a weakness for Emily, which takes down her total all-around potential, and she’s not quite as tight or reliable in some of her skills as she’d need to be to have a dark horse shot at getting onto this team.
Verdict I’m personally just so happy to see Emily get an invite to selection camp after years of missing out on nationals due to injuries. I don’t think she’ll be in contention for the team, but would put her on about the same level as girls who would make great alternates.
SUNISA LEE
53323369_10157145050134579_5822680351369068544_o Age 16
Hometown St. Paul, MN
Gym Midwest Gymnastics
2019 Scores 56.900 (Nationals D1)
56.650 (Nationals D2)
56.466 (Jesolo AA)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
6.4 UB
6.2 BB
5.7 FX
23.7 total
Advantages Suni has the most difficult all-around program in the world behind Simone Biles, she’s been pretty much the most consistent U.S. all-arounder in 2019, and she has one of the most difficult uneven bars sets in the world. She’s an exciting, entertaining, and super confident gymnast despite being one of the youngest in contention, and I’d consider her the biggest lock behind Simone.
Disadvantages With an injury mid-season, Suni was limited to just bars and beam for a bit, so at nationals, she wasn’t at 100% on vault or floor and if she’s still not at 100%, I can see the selection committee considering these as weaknesses or risks.
Verdict She makes my team, and I think she’ll also make Tom’s team pretty easily.
GRACE McCALLUM
Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 5.38.42 PM Age 16
Hometown Isanti, MN
Gym Twin City Twisters
2019 Scores 57.700 (U.S. Classic)
56.950 (Nationals D2)
56.465 (American Cup)
54.900 (Nationals D1)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
6.1 UB
5.9 BB
5.8 FX
23.2 total
Advantages Grace is a quietly fabulous gymnast who might not be the one to catch someone’s eye at first glance, but if you watch closely, she’s pretty much a total package gymnast without a true weakness. On paper, vault and floor are her strongest events, but she also has huge difficulty on bars and beam, and can pull in some even bigger scores there than she has on floor. She also showed great composure at worlds last year as one of the youngest and least experienced members of the team, which bodes well for her making future teams.
Disadvantages I think some of Grace’s execution is a bit lacking, but to her advantage, it’s a lot of little things that might not be as noticeable in real time. That said, I think some of her E scores at home this year have been a bit higher than they’d be internationally, especially on beam, and that could be a risk if she’s expected to get similar scores at worlds.
Verdict Grace is borderline for me. Without Jade in the mix, I’d include Grace in a heartbeat, but if Jade makes it, I’d push Grace down to alternate. She’s been teasing an Amanar for a while now, and if she does that at camp, I can see her going from maybe to lock.
MYKAYLA SKINNER
oie_8NsdZXuHzjp0 Age 22
Hometown Gilbert, AZ
Gym Desert Lights Gymnastics
2019 Scores 54.900 (Nationals D1)
54.700 (Nationals D2)
Total Difficulty 5.8 VT
5.8 UB
5.7 BB
5.8 FX
23.1 total
Advantages MyKayla went from not competing elite in three years to having almost full difficulty back after just two months of training, and then she made even greater progress between the U.S. Classic and nationals. With another month between nationals and worlds selection, who knows where she’ll be?! She has the fifth most difficult all-around program in the world, competes a really solid Cheng/Amanar combination, has great scoring potential on floor, and her college experience has given her much more confidence, composure, and team leadership, evident in all of her nationals performances.
Disadvantages Obviously, execution is always an issue for MyKayla, especially in terms of her leaps getting heavily deducted (or in some instances, not credited). Especially being so early in her return to elite, she’s maybe a little too rough around the edges at the moment and could maybe stand to have a bit more time before being tasked with such a big assignment.
Verdict Personally, I’d put MyKayla on my team over Jade because that’s just my preference. But I don’t think she’ll be a top option this year. I’d put her a step below borderline and more on the alternate level, but I’m also going to leave my options open as she’s definitely someone who could’ve grown a ton in the past month to really surprise today.
TRINITY THOMAS
oie_zC4t0NcOBkwq Age 18
Hometown York, PA
Gym University of Florida
2019 Scores 55.600 (Nationals D1)
53.550 (Nationals D2)
Total Difficulty 5.0 VT
5.6 UB
5.5 BB
5.6 FX
21.7 total
Advantages Super clean skills, some pretty impressive difficulty, and a truly elegant and lovely style in all of her routines is why Trinity is set apart from many of the gymnasts who will be in contention. She also has that NCAA experience to make her more of a leader, especially on such a potentially young team.
Disadvantages A lack of difficulty will hold Trinity back. She’s one of the only gymnasts at camp who doesn’t have a DTY on vault, and she doesn’t quite make up for that on even her best events. She’ll still score well with clean and confident routines, but she’s at a big disadvantage in her overall scoring potential not allowing her to reach a top-three score on any event.
Verdict Alternate at best, and I think a lot of others would have to make mistakes for her to get that alternate spot. But like MyKayla Skinner, I think she’s on the right path considering her lack of training time this year, and think this year’s results won’t determine her status next year.
FAITH TORREZ
391458 Age 15
Hometown Pleasant Prairie, WI
Gym Legacy Elite Gymnastics
2019 Scores 55.250 (U.S. Classic)
54.850 (American Classic)
54.250 (Nationals D2)
53.500 (Buckeye)
53.150 (Nationals D1)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
5.4 UB
6.1 BB
5.4 FX
22.3 total
Advantages Like Aleah, Faith had quite the glow-up this year, making her elite debut with a splash as a truly fantastic beam and floor performer, and with a brand-new DTY. Her beam is especially excellent, and she’s super consistent there, getting three scores above a 14 this summer.
Disadvantages Also like Aleah, Faith is just a little too behind the rest of the seniors in her overall potential, in addition to lacking experience. She’s good, but not a standout with top-three scores on every event, which is what it’s going to take to make this team.
Verdict She’s in my “alternate at best” category, where she’s not fully counted out and could potentially get the alternate spot depending on how she and everyone else competes, but she’s likely to not really be in contention.
LEANNE WONG
screen-shot-2019-03-04-at-11.31.10-pm Age 16
Hometown Overland Park, KS
Gym GAGE
2019 Scores 56.7565 (American Cup)
56.650 (U.S. Classic)
55.850 (Nationals D2)
55.400 (Nationals D1)
Total Difficulty 5.4 VT
5.9 UB
6.0 BB
5.6 FX
22.9 total
Advantages Leanne has textbook execution on many of her skills, she has a solid level of difficulty that matches her against the level of every other top U.S. senior, and she is overall one of the most consistent U.S. gymnasts with the potential to score really well on all four events, just like Grace McCallum.
Disadvantages At nationals, Leanne began to really struggle on floor, which was bizarre, as it had always been one of her strongest events. That in addition to her being used only on bars and beam at Pan Ams makes me think that the U.S. program doesn’t trust her as much as others on vault or floor, which would essentially make her a bars/beam specialist, and I don’t think she’s quite strong enough on either event to be considered a legit specialist…though in the absence of any other legit bars/beam specialists on the team this year, Leanne could end up filling that spot.
Verdict She’s borderline to me, and one of my biggest question marks. I think if she fixes floor, she’ll be in the same boat as Grace McCallum and Morgan Hurd, but as Grace and Morgan both have more experience at the international level, I could see them getting the benefit of the doubt over Leanne. But I think even if she misses the top five, Leanne would be my absolute sixth member.

Now that we’ve gone through everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall chances, here’s where I rest on each of the contenders.

THE LOCKS

Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee are my only two absolute locks for this team, unless something goes wildly wrong.

BORDERLINE

Jade Carey, depending on how the selection committee feels about her individual aspirations and whether they should take her to worlds this year given that she’s probably not going to factor into the team next year.

Kara Eaker, depending on the rest of the team selected and if there’s room in the puzzle for someone who’s essentially going to be a one-event gymnast.

Morgan Hurd, depending on how she performs today relative to other borderline contenders.

Grace McCallum, depending on whether Carey makes the team and if she does, whether McCallum would also be considered a potential for top three scores on any event.

Leanne Wong, depending on how her floor looks.

NOT MAKING IT

I don’t see Jordan Chiles, Aleah Finnegan, Emily Lee, MyKayla Skinner, Trinity Thomas, or Faith Torrez in legit contention for the team or alternate spot, though that said, I do think all six could legitimately get on this team and do incredibly well in Stuttgart if they happened to end up on the team, and I think any of them could end up being a dark horse for an alternate spot, if not a team spot, based on how they compete at the trial meet.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a hard one, even with Riley McCusker no longer in the mix. She was my biggest question mark originally, but now I think my biggest question mark is whether Carey will make it, which I think will determine the rest of the team. My other things to consider based on today’s performances will be whether Lee is fully healthy enough to safely compete vault and floor, which would take her from an all-arounder to a bars/beam specialist, and whether Eaker goes essentially just for one event.

Here are the few scenarios I see as most likely.

Biles, Lee, Hurd, Carey, Wong

  • VT- Lee, Hurd, Carey, Biles
  • UB- Biles, Hurd, Wong, Lee
  • BB- Hurd, Wong, Lee, Biles
  • FX- Lee, Hurd, Carey, Biles

Biles, Lee, Hurd, Carey, Eaker

  • VT- Lee, Hurd, Carey, Biles
  • UB- Eaker, Biles, Hurd, Lee
  • BB- Hurd, Lee, Biles, Eaker
  • FX- Lee, Hurd, Carey, Biles

Biles, Lee, Hurd, McCallum, Wong

  • VT- Lee/Wong, Hurd, McCallum, Biles
  • UB- Biles, Wong, Hurd, Lee
  • BB- Hurd, Wong, Lee, Biles
  • FX- Lee/Wong, Hurd, McCallum, Biles

Whether Lee or Wong does the all-around would depend on how both are looking on vault and floor in the lead-up to qualifications.

Biles, Lee, McCallum, Wong, Eaker

  • VT- Lee, Wong, McCallum, Biles
  • UB- McCallum, Biles, Wong, Lee
  • BB- Wong, Lee, Biles, Eaker
  • FX- Wong, Lee, McCallum, Biles

You could also sub Hurd pretty easily into McCallum or Wong’s spots here, but I wanted to make one team without Hurd since I don’t consider her a lock.

Biles, Lee, Hurd, Carey, McCallum

  • VT- Hurd, McCallum, Carey, Biles
  • UB- McCallum, Biles, Hurd, Lee
  • BB- McCallum, Hurd, Lee, Biles
  • FX- Hurd, McCallum, Carey, Biles

You could also sub Wong into Hurd’s spot on this team.

I have Biles and Lee in all scenarios, whether Lee is an all-arounder or a specialist on bars and beam, and I also have Hurd in most scenarios. Even though I don’t exactly see her as a lock for the team, I do think she’s super likely to make it. Also, even though I personally can’t really see a team with both Carey and McCallum, that’s basically me just not seeing Grace as someone who will score well internationally on bars or beam…but it’s not impossible, and I included a scenario just in case it does happen, though I think it’ll be the least likely of the five.

Personally, of the above scenarios, I’d take the first, but that’s based just on what’s happened so far this year, and doesn’t take into consideration that a lot can happen in a month so I’m also keeping my mind open for other possibilities, knowing that there’s always potential to surprise. Beyond these five scenarios, there are a few others that are less likely but still probable, and of course, if someone from the “not making it” list really steps it up to be legitimately in contention, they’re going to throw a wrench into everything I see as the most logical situations based on everything we’ve seen so far this year.

Because that could happen, and because everyone likes asking what my dream team would be, here’s who I’d take regardless of reason.

Biles, Lee, Hurd, Skinner, McCusker

  • VT- Lee, Hurd, Skinner, Biles
  • UB- Biles, Hurd, McCusker, Lee
  • BB- Hurd, Lee, McCusker, Biles
  • FX- Lee, Hurd, Skinner, Biles

Yes, I know McCusker is out, but let me live in my fantasy world. This is actually one of the most high-scoring scenarios, so not even that wildly out of orbit, but I love how balanced it is even though I didn’t really even try too hard to figure out a perfectly balanced situation. Also, there’d be potential for two medals in the all-around and on all four events, which is awesome and perfect.

Regardless of who makes it, we have to remember that the 13 athletes competing today are one of the most talented groups of gymnasts you could possibly find on this planet right now, and even the athlete who finishes dead last today could be a top option on literally almost any other country’s worlds team. Best of luck to all of the gymnasts who made it this far, and let’s hope for a happy and healthy competition for all!

Again, you can watch this competition happen live on YouTube today at 4:45 pm, and we’ll also be live blogging the event. The camp will conclude tomorrow with the naming of the worlds team.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

9 thoughts on “Figuring Out the U.S. Worlds Team

  1. This will be a very interesting meet. even more so by the 2nd day 2 events/gymnast that we don’t get to see…

    So how would we get hold of that summary report? have anyone see the one for the men? does it tell you anything about the decision?

    Like

  2. I hope Morgan makes it, just to stick it to the doubters. But really I think she’ll make it. Besides that one floor routine at Nationals, she’s been a rock.

    Like

    • Yeah, her nationals score would’ve been incredible without that floor routine! She was awesome. And again, she ALWAYS proves the doubters wrong, and peaks when she needs to. I have no doubt she’ll be on the team.

      Like

  3. Pingback: 2019 U.S. Worlds Trials Live Blog | The Gymternet

  4. Pingback: Last-Minute U.S. Worlds Thoughts | The Gymternet

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