Brynn Torry, Charlotte Booth, and Kelise Woolford
The second of six U.S. national elite qualifiers took place at the Buckeye Classic in Columbus, Ohio on Friday, where two seniors and three juniors hit the scores needed to earn elite status as well as entry into the Winter Cup, American Classic, and U.S. Classic.
Two of those who were successful here – senior Charlotte Booth and junior Kieryn Finnell – should have already technically qualified with their scores from the U.S. championships last summer, where Booth earned scores of 50.600 and 51.500, both above the 50.000 benchmark, while Finnell earned a 51.150 on the first day of competition, more than two points ahead of the 49.000 junior standard.
But it was great seeing both back in action early in the season, likely getting some experience leading into the Winter Cup and the coming spring selection camps. Booth nearly swept the senior field with a 51.750 in the all-around, placing first on every event but vault, where she was second. Her top score came on bars with a 13.7, an excellent number that topped this field by over a point, and I’m hoping we can see a performance that builds on this when we get to the Winter Cup in just a few short weeks.
Also qualifying in the senior field was Brynn Torry, who finished fourth in the upper Hopes division in 2021, but missed qualifying as a junior last year. Her score turnaround is remarkable, going from all-around scores in the 40s and even 30s last season to an even 50.000 this week, including a 13.95 for her new Yurchenko double, which looked really strong. Torry said on Instagram that she wasn’t at 100% here due to illness, but based on her improvement alone, I’d count this as a massive success.
Both Christiane Popovich and Kelise Woolford competed in the senior field, but while they missed the scores here, both should already be qualified based on their nationals scores from last year. Popovich earned a 47.400, with a 13.1 on vault her best score, while Woolford seemed to struggle with some routines, earning a 45.850. We also saw Gabriella Van Frayen back in action after she struggled with injury for much of last year, though she also seemed to have some issues throughout her meet, competing every event but bars, but finishing below a 12 on all three.
Finnell had the second-best all-around score among the juniors with a 49.450, doing her strongest work on beam and floor, where she always tends to shine. Her beam score of 13.1 was the highest in the competition, including ahead of the seniors, and her 12.3 on floor was third-best among the juniors.
The other two to earn junior scores here were Sage Bradford and Ella Kate Parker, both of whom competed in Las Vegas last weekend but missed out on qualifying. Bradford improved her all-around score by nearly two points to earn a 50.000, while Parker snuck past the score requirement by three tenths, earning a 49.300. Bradford had the top junior bars set with a 12.35, and also hit a 12.7 on beam, while Parker made improvements on vault, bars, and floor to reach her score, despite a miss on beam, which took her down a point compared to last week. Still, she was third-best there with a 12.1, and her floor score of 12.9 was the best in the competition.
The Hopes division saw nine athletes qualify, including Emlyn Thomson with a 47.050, Sadie Goldberg with a 45.450, Si Qi Gundrum with a 45.150, and Kennedy Emerling with a 45.150 in the 13-14 age group, while Jaysha McClendon led the 11-12 group with a massive 50.000, qualifying along with Alessandra Gaines with a 46.050, Eva Doherty with a 45.400, Kylie Smith with a 44.550, and Sadie Drake with a 43.500.
McClendon, who was 10th in her age group at last year’s Hopes Championships, had a near-sweep of her field here, winning the titles on vault with a 13.15, bars with a 13.4 (the second-highest in the competition, including seniors and juniors!), and floor with an 11.95, while her 11.5 on beam put her third. It was an incredibly impressive performance, especially for a 12-year-old, but while her score was more than enough to qualify into the junior level, due to the code modifications used at this level, she won’t be able to bump up – which is probably a good thing. I’d rather see her continue to have these amazing pre-elite experiences at this age, instead of pushing to stand out in a crowded junior field.
Article by Lauren Hopkins