The U.S. held its first elite-level women’s competition in more than ten months with this week’s national qualifier at the Biles Invitational in Spring, Texas, where Elle Mueller and Lexi Zeiss earned their optional scores to qualify to the senior elite level and to the American and U.S. Classic meets – which serve as qualifiers to the U.S. national championships – later this year.
Mueller, a 15-year-old who trains at Twin City Twisters, posted a 51.000 to win the senior all-around title, exactly the score she needed to qualify. She was fairly balanced across all four events, putting up the session’s top score on bars (12.5), second-best scores on vault (13.45) and floor (12.4), and third-best score on beam (12.65), a super strong outing considering how early it is in the season and given the struggle she and all gymnasts have been through while dealing with COVID-19 restrictions over the past year.
While Zeiss, also 15, missed out on qualifying as an all-arounder with a 49.250 total score for second place, she still showed a very strong vault, earning the top score of 13.7, and she was also strong on beam, where she had the second-best score of 12.85. These routines combined put her just half a tenth over the two-event qualifying score of 26.500, so for now, Zeiss is qualified to compete elite on vault and beam. She can attempt to get her all-around score at another meet in the future if she likes, and since she is a talented all-arounder – she got her junior elite optional score last year, and just last weekend, she earned a spot at the Nastia Liukin Cup as a level 10 – I can definitely see her going for it…but if she can’t attend a second qualifier for whatever reason, she’s at least all set to compete vault and beam at the classic meets.
Several other young seniors also attempted to qualify here, including all-arounders Hannah Hagle (third with a 47.800 and first on floor with a 12.55), Juliette Rider (fourth with a 45.650), and Hadley Bretschneider (fifth with a 45.250), as well as a few who competed a handful of events, including Temple Landry, who was first on beam with a 13.35, Alonna Kratzer, who was third on vault with a 13.05, and Heather Parker, who didn’t have any top-three scores, but I read a bit about her and she was a rec gymnast just three years ago so it’s awesome to see her at a pretty solid level – she’s already working on a Yurchenko 1½!
A trio of WOGA gymnasts topped the junior podium here, but all juniors fell short of qualifying elite, where the required score is a 50.500. Ella Murphy won the all-around with a 49.300, also finishing first on beam with a 13.0 and second on floor with a 12.35, Paloma Spiridonova was second with a 49.100 and also put up the second-best scores on bars, beam, and floor, and Brooke Pierson was third with a 48.750, posting the top score of 13.6 on vault.
Joscelyn Roberson ended up fourth here with a 48.400 total due to a low score on beam, where she normally gets her best numbers, but she had an especially strong floor routine here, complete with a double layout, arabian double front, and a 1½ through to double pike, earning a 12.750, the top score on this event.
Rounding out the junior field were Madray Johnson in fifth with a 46.950, Adriana Consoli in sixth with a 46.800, Ryan Fuller in seventh with a 43.600, and Kaetlyn Tenesch in eighth with a 40.250.
Hopes gymnasts were also able to compete here, with a total of 13 gymnasts attempting to earn the qualifying score of 48.500 in the 13-14 age division, while seven gymnasts competed to earn the qualifying score of 46.000 in the 11-12 division (note that the age divisions are bumped up a year in 2021, with 10-year-olds no longer eligible to compete, while gymnasts are now able to continue at the Hopes level until 14 rather than being required to move directly to junior elite after age 13).
Payton Chandler, a 12-year-old from Metroplex, won the 13-14 division title with a 48.900. She had already qualified to Hopes at this level last year, and since the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, USA Gymnastics is allowing all elite and Hopes gymnasts who qualified last season to keep their scores for the 2021 season, but the meet was still a great way for her to get experience after missing out on so many competitions over the past year.
The other qualifiers in this age group were Tatum Drusch of Flips in second with a 48.750 and Anabelle Dewey of ETC in third with a 48.650. Drusch’s best performance came on beam, where she had a 12.6 to finish second in this division, while Dewey had an excellent vault that earned a 13.7, topping the Hopes 13-14 vault podium by half a point.
WOGA gymnast Claire Pease not only swept the Hopes 11-12 category, but her all-around score of 50.300 was second best in the entire meet among gymnasts of any age! Pease, who turned 12 a couple of weeks ago, is another one who is technically already qualified at this level thanks to her scores from last year, so there was no real pressure here, but she’s a stunning athlete, especially on beam, where she has a triple flight series and a double tuck dismount, and she’s very promising on the other events as well, so it was great to see her come through with a solid competition.
Paityn Adams of Metroplex also qualified, earning a 47.000 in the all-around and putting up the second-best scores on every event but vault, where Sadie Goldberg – third all-around with a 44.900 but already pre-qualified to the Hopes level based on her 2020 scores – had the second-best score of 13.2.
Full results from the Biles qualifier are available here. The next chance for gymnasts to attempt elite and Hopes qualification will be at the Buckeye Classic in Columbus, Ohio, beginning February 5.
Article by Lauren Hopkins