Maliha Tressel and Ayla Miller
The latest of the U.S. elite qualifiers happened over the weekend at the City of Lights invitational in Orlando, Florida, where we saw eight athletes earn the scores required to compete at the senior and junior elite level, while an additional 10 athletes qualified to the Hopes divisions.
This week’s senior field was a small one, but two World Champions Centre gymnasts – first-year elite Jordis Eichman and 2020 U.S. Olympic trials qualifier Amari Drayton – perform very well to top the field.
Eichman, 16, earned a 51.300 all-around score and put up the top score on beam with a 13.4 to lock down an elite spot for the first time in her career after missing out when she last attempted as a junior in 2020. Formerly at Colorado Aerials, Eichman began competing at WCC last year and won the beam title in her division at level 10 nationals, where she also finished fourth all-around. Her compulsory score earlier this year was stellar, coming in at a 38.100, so I can’t wait to see what she can do at some of the bigger meets this season as she focuses on qualifying to nationals.
It’s been a while since we last saw Drayton on the floor, as the 18-year-old LSU commit missed all of the 2022 season. She returned with a mostly strong performance here, putting up the second-best all-around score with a 50.600 even despite a rough go on beam, and she made up for her low score there by putting up the best scores on vault with a 13.4, bars with a 13.0, and floor with a 13.3 to re-qualify as an elite for the third time as a senior.
The six juniors who earned their elite scores here included junior national team member and 2022 national beam champion Audrey Snyder of First State with a 52.350, Nicole Desmond of Parkettes with a 49.950, Maliha Tressel of Twin City Twisters with a 49.650, Harlow Buddendeck of Rochester with a 49.650, Charleigh Bullock of Capital with a 49.450, and Ayla Miller of Twin City Twisters with a 49.300.
Snyder is a carry-over elite from the 2022 season thanks to her nationals scores, but it was nice to see her back in action with a bit of a practice meet before heading to the Winter Cup later this month. She had a great day overall, putting up the top junior and senior scores on bars with a 13.3 and on beam with a 13.7, and her work on vault and floor was also good, putting her in a solid position as one of the strongest juniors going into the selection process for a couple of the spring international meets coming up.
Desmond had a mostly excellent day, and likely could have challenged Snyder’s all-around score if it wasn’t for bars, where she had a 9.9. Things went well with the rest of her routines, though, as she put up the top score on floor with a 13.45 and the second-best scores on vault and beam with a 13.3 on both. Desmond has long been one to watch at this level, though seems to struggle with putting everything together at once, though I think what she showed here was that she could very well be in the mix if she does manage to get through the day without issue.
Tressel, Buddendeck, and Miller are all newcomers this season, while Bullock, who had the second-best bars score here with a 12.65, was third all-around in the Hopes 11-12 division last season and got her junior score on her second try this year after falling short in Las Vegas.
The five qualifiers from the Hopes 13-14 group included Addyson Fulcher of Bull City with a 50.100, Greta Krob of Iowa Gym-Nest with a 49.800, Sadie Segedy of Bull City with a 45.600, Natalia Pudelko of Naperville with a 45.550, and Celia Frith-Carvalho with a 45.500. Trinity Wood, a 12-year-old from Capital Gymnastics who attempted to qualify at the junior level but came up short with a 47.600, is also eligible for this Hopes group, though she already qualified at the Las Vegas Cup in January and I anticipate she’ll continue attempting to earn her junior score as the season continues.
Both Fulcher, who had the top scores on bars with a 12.6 and on floor with a 13.1, and Krob, who had the best beam score with a 12.7, are technically eligible to qualify as juniors with the all-around scores they earned here, but it’s unclear whether either will decide to bump up. While there are definitely some Hopes-level athletes who would jump at the shot to climb the ranks, many prefer to stay in this division for more practice and less pressure before they have to start thinking about the tougher elite system, and with both of these athletes still only 12 years old and not turning 13 until later this year, it’s absolutely not necessary for them to push for elite this early.
The athletes who earned their scores in the Hopes 11-12 division included Daisy Lesperance of Bull City with a 48.550, Brooke Bazan of Capital Gymnastics with a 47.300, Amariah Moore of First State with a 47.150 (she previously qualified in Las Vegas), Brynley Applegate of Iowa Gym-Nest with a 45.400, and Anslee McCauley of Georgia All-Stars with a 43.500. Lesperance had the top scores on bars with a 12.3 and on floor with a 12.5, while Moore was best on vault with a 12.2 and on beam with an 11.85.
Full results from this qualifier are available here, and don’t miss our elite/nationals qualifications tracker to see everyone who has earned their scores for both the elite and Hopes levels in 2023.
Article by Lauren Hopkins