Karis German of World Champions Centre
The first U.S. elite qualifier of the year was held at the Metroplex Challenge last weekend, with a total of 143 gymnasts competing at both the elite and Hopes levels.
Of these, only 13 qualified (or re-qualified) to elite, while 17 qualified to Hopes, a lower number than I think we generally see at just 20% of those who attempted, but as the first meet of the season for these gymnasts, it was a little rough for most of them and so many got so close, it’s just a matter of time before we see more of these girls jumping into the mix.
Karis German of World Champion’s Centre rushed it in the senior session, getting a 53.650 in the all-around for a killer DTY that earned a 14.500, a floor routine with a full-twisting double layout, double double, front full to double tuck, and full-in, getting a 14.100 there, and a bars set where she became the first woman to compete a stalder layout Tkachev, getting a 13.400 total score. Her one rough routine was beam, which is usually her weakest…her skills and rhythm there just aren’t quite as tight as they are elsewhere, so that coupled with mistakes generally leads to low scores, but overall she’s shaping up to be a huge dark horse in her first year as a senior, and I’m excited to see what she’s going to do next.
Others who qualified to senior elite included German’s club teammates Amari Drayton (second with a 52.750) and Olivia Hollingsworth (fourth with a 51.050), as well as newcomer Makenna Smith of Gold Cup, an Ohio State commit from New Mexico who finished third with a 51.250, putting up especially strong routines on bars and floor.
Three gymnasts came within a point of qualifying, with Lyden Saltness of Midwest finishing fifth with a 50.800, Alonna Kratzer of Top Notch in sixth with a 50.400, and Elizabeth Gantner of JPAC in seventh with a 50.200. Sydney Morris of First State had what seemed like an especially rough vault, just earning an 11.950 there to finish eighth with a 49.900, though with a hit vault it’s apparent she’ll easily get her score, and I think Saltness, Kratzer, and Gantner (who was fab on beam and floor) could also get there with stronger days overall.
We were also excited to see Kylie Coen of Empire back in the elite mix after several years away due to injury. Coen was a Hopes gymnast until injuries kept her unable to continue at that level, but she began turning things around this year, and she made a name for herself when she showed a video of herself training a Nabieva to mixed grip in the fall. Coen got excellent compulsory scores here, posting all 9.4s and above, but she unfortunately had a rough pirouette in her bars set in addition to a fall on beam, so she ended up stuck with a 49.450 in the all-around to miss out on her score, finishing ninth.
Two gymnasts who competed for Poland as junior elites – Natalia Pawlak of Metroplex, who competed at European Championships in 2018, and Isabel Sikon of JR, who competed at the European Youth Olympic Festival last year – also appeared at this meet, earning scores of 49.300 and 48.350 to finish 10th and 11th, respectively. I’m not sure if either is planning to attempt to compete for the U.S. in the future, or if they were just using this meet to get some senior-level experience, but both are super talented and I hope we see more of them in the future.
Leading the junior field were Lily Pederson of Flips and Lily Bruce of World Champions Centre, tying for first place with scores of 52.700.
I was especially excited to see Pederson do so well here after attempting to get her junior scores last year, but just missing out, though her Hopes season was fabulous, with a second-place national all-around finish. Pederson is an immense talent with so much potential on all four events, and she’s an absolutely joy to watch on floor. She has a Yurchenko 1½ on vault now, and her beam was also very strong at Metroplex, earning a 12.750.
Bruce is brand-new to the elite level after finishing eighth all-around in the Junior A division at J.O. nationals in her first level 10 season. Bruce, who turns 14 this year, is a super solid all-arounder with excellent technique on vault and bars, as well as potential on beam and floor, and making elite on your first try with zero Hopes experience is kind of badass, so I’m excited to see how she progresses in the coming years.
Other juniors who qualified included Ui Soma of San Mateo in third with a 52.300, Levi Jung-Ruivivar of Twin City Twisters in fourth with a 52.300, Kaliya Lincoln of Airborne in fifth with a 51.550, brand-new-to-elite Temple Landry of Twin City Twisters and Katelyn Jong of Metroplex tied for sixth with scores of 51.150, Annalise Newman-Achee of Chelsea Piers in eight with a 50.700, and Love Birt of First State in ninth with a 50.650.
Soma was brilliant on beam (her 13.700 there was the highest of the entire meet!) and floor, Jung-Ruivivar continues to be an absolutely gorgeous standout on bars and beam, Lincoln is a force on vault, beam and floor, Landry is one of those “solid everywhere” gymnasts we’ve come to know and love from the famed Twin City Twisters program, Jong was a standout on vault and floor, Newman-Achee had her best scores on vault and bars, and Birt was brilliant on beam, sneaking in just past the total qualifying score thanks to a 13.650 here, which was second-best in the meet.
Just missing out was Alicia Zhou of Love Gymnastics, 10th with a 50.200 after a weak floor. Zhou got a perfect 10 for her compulsory bars, and her compulsory beam was also excellent, so a little fine-tuning, and she’s getting her optional score for sure. Then there were two of my favorites, Airborne gymnasts Rafaela O’Neill – last year’s Hopes 12-13 champion – and Nola Matthews, tied for 11th place with scores of 50.150. Both had low scores on bars here, and are definitely capable of looking stronger there, so I can see them also making it to this level so soon.
Most noticeably on the chopping block was fan favorite Joscelyn Roberson, who started out her meet with a fierce beam routine that earned a 13.500, third-best of the meet, and though she wasn’t at her best on floor, her beam score seemed enough to carry her through. Unfortunately, bars was a bit rough, and she picked up only a 7.750 there, dragging her all-around score considerably to just a 46.200, good for 24th place. Typically a weak event for her, she’s still capable of much higher scores for hit routines, and with how the rest of her routines went at Metroplex, she would’ve needed just around a 12.050 on bars to get her total score, so that’s totally doable for the future and I’m sure she’ll get it eventually.
Tiana Sumanasekera of West Valley led the Hopes 12-13 qualification with a 51.000, followed by Zoey Molomo of Metroplex in second with a 50.700 and Emerson Fisk of Golden City in third with a 50.650. These three also picked up the top scores on vault (Sumanasekera and Molomo tied at 13.450), bars (Molomo had a 12.550), and floor (Fisk brought in a 12.750).
Rounding out the 12 who qualified include Carsyn Coleman of Precision in fourth with a 50.300, Gabriella Van Frayen of Gym X-Treme in fifth with a 49.950 (she also won beam with a 13.200), Isabel Stassi of Gym X-Treme in sixth with a 49.700, Kaela Yee of LGA and Madray Johnson of WOGA tied for seventh with scores of 49.200, Ly Bui of IGN in ninth with a 48.900, Avery King of WOGA in 10th with a 48.800, Autumn Reingold of Olympica in 11th with a 48.500, and Kaitlynd Kastl of Metroplex in 12th with a 48.500.
The Hopes 10-11 title went to Brynli Smith of WOGA with a 48.450 in the all-around, and Smith also took the beam and floor titles with scores of 13.000 and 12.300. Also qualifying at this level were Tyler Turner of Airborne in second with a 48.200 (and she topped vault with a 12.300), Claire Pease of WOGA in third with a 47.050, Sadie Goldberg of Buckeye in fourth with a 46.350, and Camie Westerman of Hill’s in fifth with a 46.300 (she won the bars title with a 12.500).
Also wanted to shoutout Gabrielle Hardie of AAGA, who just turned ten and put up a 13.000 on beam here with a beautiful routine, a set that rivaled many of those at the elite level. Though she was a bit shy on her other events and couldn’t quite get her all-around score here, she’s a fantastic young talent and one to keep an eye on for the future.
Full results from the Metroplex qualifier are available here. The next opportunity for young gymnasts to attempt to reach the elite level is the Brestyan’s National Qualifier, held next weekend, February 7-9, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Article by Lauren Hopkins