Zeiss Tops Senior Field at Buckeye Qualifier

Lexi Zeiss

Lexi Zeiss, a 15-year-old who trains at Omaha Gymnastics, posted the top all-around score to win the title at the Buckeye national elite qualifier this week, two weeks after earning her senior optional scores on vault and beam at the Biles qualifier.

Though her score of 50.650 was an improvement of more than a point compared to her score at the Biles qualifier, she came out just over three tenths shy of hitting the required all-around optional score of 51.000. This was mostly due to a miss on vault; she normally has a very strong Yurchenko 1½ and is capable of scoring close to a 14, but this week she earned just a 12.65 here. With the great work she did to increase her scores on the other three events, though – especially on beam, where she was able to put up a 13.5 this week! – it’s clear that if she can hit all four events, she’ll easily be able to qualify to senior elite as an all-arounder.

Lauren Little of Everest had the second-best score among the seniors, just a tenth behind Zeiss at a 50.550, also shy of the required total, though Little should already be qualified to elite based on her scores from nationals in 2019. She had a pretty great day overall here, and if she wasn’t already qualified, she would have received her three-event senior optionals score based on the great work she did on vault, bars, and beam, with floor the only apparatus holding her back.

Former junior elite Ella Zirbes of Flips, who competed at nationals in 2019 but didn’t get scores there that would automatically re-qualify her to the elite level this year, was third here with a 49.350, showing her best work on vault and on floor, where she posted the top score among the seniors with a 12.45.

Rounding out the all-around competition were Skylar Draser of Parkettes in fourth with a 48.700, Hailey Klein of Flips North Shore in fifth with a 48.150, Tirzah Wise of Salcianu Elite in sixth with a 46.750, Meredith Kowalski in seventh with a 44.950, Cadence Goldberg of the U.S. Gymnastics Development Center in eighth with a 44.450, and Maria Ferguson of Salcianu Elite in ninth with a 44.250, while Sydney Jelen of Flips North Shore competed two events, putting up the second-best beam score of 12.45.

Alana Walker of North Stars was the top junior here with a 49.550, posting the top vault and bars scores of 13.5 and 12.7, though unfortunately she came up just under a point shy of reaching the required optional all-around score of 50.500 and wasn’t able to gain junior elite status here, nor were any other juniors here.

This means that with two qualifiers down and only two to go, no new juniors have qualified to the elite level, and there are only 14 juniors currently qualified based on scores from 2019-2020. A large number of those who might normally attempt to qualify as juniors are instead competing at the Hopes level, especially now that the age limit has been raised to include 14-year-olds, but I’m wondering if the elite committee will lower the score limit for juniors this year given the circumstances.

Ella Kate Parker, formerly of Northeast Texas Elite, is now at Cincinnati Gymnastics, and she was the second-best junior here, with a 49.150, including the second-best scores on beam with a 12.8 and on floor with a 12.5, while Gabriella Van Frayen of Gym X-Treme was third with a 47.650, posting the top beam score of 12.9.

Rounding out the top eight were Reina Marchal of Salcianu Elite in fourth with a 46.750, Nicole Desmond of Parkettes in fifth with a 46.700, Olivia Kelly of North Stars in sixth with a 45.900, and Takoda Berry of Salcianu Elite and Paige Wills of Parkettes tied in seventh with a 45.400. Lucy Tobia of Parkettes, already qualified to junior elite based on her score from 2020, competed three events here, but struggled a bit on beam and floor, though she posted the second-best bars score of 12.1.

Though no new senior or junior elites qualified here, we did see a handful of Hopes gymnasts reach their scores. Kieryn Finnell of Rochester Gymnastics qualified as the top gymnast in the 13-14 division with a 49.050, while three gymnasts met the requirement in the 11-12 age group, including Sadie Goldberg of Buckeye, who was first with a 47.550, Quinn Harris of Cincinnati Gymnastics, second with a 46.800, and Camie Westerman of Hill’s Gymnastics, third with a 46.500, though Goldberg and Westerman had already qualified in 2020, so Harris was the only new qualifier.

Full results from the competition are available here. The next elite qualifier is the Brestyan’s Invitational, beginning February 12, and then we’ll have a bit of a break until the final qualifier will be held in April.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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