Lexi Zeiss, Katelyn Rosen, and Elle Mueller
A total of 12 U.S. senior and junior gymnasts earned their elite status for 2022 at this weekend’s Vegas Cup National Qualifier, the first in a six-part series that will determine those eligible to compete at the American and U.S. Classic competitions this summer.
The Vegas Cup is the first elite competition using the updated 2024 code of points, which most notably downgraded most vaults by four tenths, causing scores to drop a bit here. Due to the change, the USA Gymnastics women’s program updated the qualification score requirements – seniors now need a 50.500 all-around score, 38.500 three-event score, or 26.000 two-event score to qualify, while juniors need to reach a 49.500. For Hopes, the required scores are 47.000 for the 13-14 division and 44.500 for the 11-12 group.
Ashlee Sullivan of WOGA, who missed most of last season due to an injury, had the highest all-around score among the senior competitors, earning a 52.650 with one of the more balanced performances of the day.
Elle Mueller and Lexi Zeiss of Twin City Twisters were second and third with scores of 52.050 and 51.750, with Mueller showing standout routines on bars and floor, while Zeiss – who only recently moved to the Minnesota gym – had the top scores on vault (13.5), bars (13.85), and floor (13.4), though her beam performance held her back from getting the overall win.
WOGA’s Brooke Pierson finished fourth with a 51.300 to qualify, a big win after missing out on junior status in 2021, and though Katelyn Rosen – another recent Twin City Twisters transplant who finished fifth with a 50.050 – missed the all-around qualifying score, she surpassed the three-event score thanks to strong work on vault and floor (her 13.4 on the latter tied Zeiss for the top score).
Nola Matthews of Airborne competed only two events, getting a 13.5 on bars and a 12.7 on beam to surpass the two-event qualifying score of 26.000. Since Rosen only competed three events at nationals last year while Matthews fell two tenths short of hitting the senior elite all-around score in 2021, both will need these qualifiers to move ahead on all four events.
In addition to those who qualified here, the senior field also featured hometown athlete Kailin Chio of Gymcats, the host gym. Chio already has her elite status thanks to her scores at nationals in 2021, so this was a low-pressure way to begin her senior career in front of a crowd that knows her well. The debut was a big success, as she posted the highest beam score of the competition with a 14.05, a career high for the 15-year-old.
In addition to the six seniors, there were also six juniors who qualified, including Hezly Rivera of WOGA with a 51.150, Kieryn Finnell of Rochester Gymnastics Academy with a 51.000, Jayla Hang of Ascend with a 50.450, Nicole Desmond of First State with a 50.250, Audrey Snyder of First State with a 49.650, and Claire Pease of WOGA with a 49.550.
Rivera, 13, last competed in the 10-11 division at Hopes Championships in 2018. Originally at ENA Paramus, Rivera moved to MG Elite, but with coach suspensions in the program, she finally decided on WOGA, moving from New Jersey to Texas last year. She had strong performances on nearly every event, with her Yurchenko full on vault earning the top score of 13.5, pretty impressive considering the start value is now a 4.2. She also earned a 13.1 on bars and a 13.05 on floor.
Finnell and Pease were last year’s Hopes champions in the 13-14 and 11-12 divisions, respectively. Finnell, who turns 14 this year, was the best on bars in this field, earning a 13.3, while Pease, who turned 13 two weeks ago, had the strongest beam set with a 13.3. Pease was actually looking capable of taking the overall title, but a weak floor performance unfortunately held her back. Her routine initially earned a 10.6, leaving her 0.05 away from getting her qualifying score, but a review bumped her up to a 10.7, and she was able to sneak in.
Hang, Desmond, and Snyder all had mostly strong performances. Desmond, who recently moved to First State from Parkettes, had the highest junior floor score of 13.4, tying the seniors for the best of the meet, and she was also tidy on beam, while Hang and Snyder both put up strong floor work.
Snyder’s twin sister, Sydney, missed the all-around score with a 48.850, but she, Carly Weinberg of Buckeye, and Simone Rose of Ascend all met the necessary requirements for the Hopes 13-14 group. While they have the option to continue attempting junior elite this season, they can also opt to get more experience at the Hopes level.
Only two gymnasts competing in the Hopes field qualified, with Ally Damelio of San Mateo getting a 47.300 in the 13-14 division, while Gabriela Ursu of Naperville earned a 45.100 in the 11-12 group.
Also of note was Myli Lew‘s compulsory performance here. The junior from San Mateo competed only one optional event, getting a 12.150 on bars, but her compulsory routines were exceptional. Lew earned a 38.550 in the all-around, with all of her scores at a 9.45 or above, including a massive 9.925 on bars.
The compulsory routines focus on execution and technical expertise, and both seniors and juniors must earn a 35.000 here, with a 36-37 about average. For comparison, one of the best recent compulsory performances was Riley McCusker‘s 39.025 with a 9.65 or better on every event in 2016. Though Lew’s optional routines aren’t super difficult right now, her compulsory work is promising, and she’s someone the national team will want to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Full results are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins