P&G Championships Preview – The Seniors

The seniors understand the importance of maintaining a little mystery. After Classic, we still have a number of routines we’re waiting to see and a couple questions that must be answered so that we can put together a presumptive worlds team heading into the selection camp portion of the season. Let’s get to it.

Note: I’ll be at nationals in the stands with the rest of the peasants (which means I won’t be live blogging).

The title

There were moments this year when it seemed the race for best female gymnast in the US might actually be up for grabs for the first time in a quad, but the upgrades and level of preparation Ragan Smith showed on bars and beam at Classic reflect a gymnast who is rising toward world-beating level. While her closest competitors are attempting to return from injury and simply maintain their previous levels, Smith is performing at a rung above.

We haven’t seen vault or floor from Smith since American Cup, but as long as she shows up with the same routines (or upgrades) and hits six or seven of her eight sets at nationals, she should be the national champion and should record the highest AA score in the world so far this year, a mark which currently sits at 57.225. Very doable.

The second AAer

Beyond Smith’s own ability, the other reason she’s currently a clear favorite to become national champion is the injury status of her closest competitors. They’re not at full strength right now, but that also means they should have an exciting race among themselves to see who gets the (potentially temporary) seat as the other member of the all-around oligarchy.

Riley McCusker claimed that second AA spot early in the season when she earned the American Cup assignment, but then it didn’t go great. She seemed to overcome that performance and reinstate herself as the #2 AAer at Jesolo, a competition she won with a 56.600 that included a fall, but then she got injured.

The injury situation left her looking unready at Classic which, coupled with not having hit a full competition AA this year, has thrown some doubt onto McCusker’s status, even though she likely still has the second-highest peak scoring ability in the US right now.

We’re just a couple weeks on from Classic now, so to expect McCusker suddenly to record top scores at nationals would be a bit much. The goal here will be to show progress from Classic, and I’m sure the major aim is to be at full strength for selection camp, not nationals.

But, a McCusker performing short of her ideal level leaves an opening for Morgan Hurd to attempt to establish herself as a strong #2 candidate. Much like McCusker, Hurd is dealing with injuries (coming back from an elbow injury that may impede her bars difficulty at nationals) and needs to prove that she can hit the AA in a single meet, which also hasn’t happened yet this year.

Hurd should have among the highest floor scores we’ll see at nationals, which along with her execution across all the events, makes her a solid contender for an AA total into the 56s, a major benchmark in the current code. The difference between the 55ers and the 56ers will be a significant distinction at nationals this year.

A multi-tenth edge on floor is an asset for Hurd compared to McCusker, while McCusker will look to take advantage of bars with a D-savvy routine that has brought in the highest score in the US (slash world so far this year) when hit.

That bars routine will be the most important event for McCusker as the summer progresses because even if there is some question about her consistency/health status as an AAer for worlds, she’s a very legitimate event final or medal contender on bars.

Comparing McCusker’s bars performance to Ashton Locklear‘s at nationals will be interesting because we haven’t seen Locklear show her inbar skills yet this year. Even if she adds them back, McCusker has the higher D-score by a couple tenths. Locklear of course has E in her corner, but is it enough? Are they going to be in a bars fight? The presence of that question is why an in-form all-around Riley McCusker is good news for Ashton Locklear: it would mean they’re not going for the same role on a worlds team.

The AA standings

Up next in the all-around conversation are gymnasts like Alyona Shchennikova, who did well to win Classic with a 54.950 that included a fall. Other than that fall, it was a pretty good meet for her, so we can expect that if Shchennikova shows up at nationals and has her best-possible all-around, she’s going to be around the 56.0 mark, which could be competitive for as high as 2nd place. But, it would require an excellent meet.

The significant event for Shchennikova is, of course, bars. She has the difficulty with a 6.2 but finds herself stuck in a pack with Locklear, McCusker, and now Ragan Smith apparently. She hasn’t been able to escape ahead of that group. Shchennikova would need to do that here to make any case specifically for bars.

We also have a similar-scoring character in Victoria Nguyen—another legitimate contender in the AA standings with a very competitive beam along with a DTY—whom we’ve all forgotten about because she didn’t compete at Classic and because we have the memory and attention spans of…

Trinity Thomas is a person! Her first glimpse of gymternet obsession came because of her excellent floor, but now no one can stop talking about Thomas’s beam. And by no one, I mean me. Because her beam.

Lost in the shuffle is that Thomas has a competitive bars set as well. Those who are looking to specialize on bars will need to go for at least 6.0 (Locklear can get away with staying at 6.0 exactly because of execution, while others will want to be higher than that), but those looking for a solid-enough bars score to keep them competitive in the all-around will need to be at about 5.7 in difficulty, which is just where Thomas and Nguyen are.

Loose and rushed in places, sure, but it’s more than enough to avoid being a weakness or a detriment to her AA hopes. Thomas is a vault (and controlled floor landings) away from being a true contender in the all-around.

For now, a good hit meet should score into the 55s, around where she should expect Shchennikova and Nguyen to score.

Ragan Smith is supposed to run away with this thing, and McCusker and Hurd are the most likely to get into the 56s with good meets, but after that, there should be quite a pileup in the 55s. A number of people can get into that zone and end up in any order. The difference between the 56ers and the 55ers will be a significant distinction. The worlds people versus the national teamers.

The wildcards in that respect are going to be Marz Frazier and Jordan Chiles.

I’m quite eager to see what Frazier’s Amanar looks like since we haven’t yet seen it in competition. With that vault, and a possible 6.1 D on bars when she connects everything, Frazier should hang around the significant placements in the AA fight. If she gets through beam, she’ll be comfortably in the hunt with the 55ers.

As for Jordan Chiles, we know she has the Amanar and we know it’s very good. That score keeps her somewhat afloat in the AA race. The next step is seeing a hit beam routine (that alone would have given her an easy 2nd place at Classic) along with reasonable compositions on both beam and floor that de-emphasize dance elements and emphasize acro elements. She really should be comfortably ensconced in the all-around conversation, but it’s not happening quite yet.

The specialists

In addition to Locklear, whose podium-training bars routine will be one of the critical developments of the week as we’ll see what difficulty she’s throwing, most eyes will be on how Jade Carey performs.

Carey made a good argument for a place on the worlds team at Classic, but we’ve seen so little from her as an elite that nationals remains an important test as to whether she can do it every time out.

There’s also room for her to improve on her performance from Classic, with better control on the vault landings and hitting 14 on floor both possible. Doing that would solidify her role on the national team.

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15 thoughts on “P&G Championships Preview – The Seniors”

  1. I would say the only gymnast with a guaranteed spot right now (barring injury) is Ragan Smith. There’s no question she’s the best in the world right now and hitting an 8/8 meet this weekend will solidify that status.

    If I had to pick the next most likely gymnast to get a spot, I’d go with Jade Carey. She showed vaults and a floor routine that, while certainly not perfect, are already good enough at this point to be World medal-worthy. If she can correct the very low-hanging fruit of not going out of bounds on her vaults and not turning into a corpse on her final landing, she might even be at Gold medal status.

    The rest of the spots are wide open as far as I’m concerned. I feel like Locklear should seem much more likely to be picked at this point, but her unknown bars potential is hurting her. It also doesn’t help that her last two outings on beam contained falls.

    McCusker has shades of Gabby Douglas all over her. Amazing all-around potential, but only one semi-specialist event – bars. She should have been kept out of Classic. She had nothing to prove and only ended up strengthening the “inconsistent” storyline.

    Hurd has to hit 8/8 to even be in the running in my opinion. All of these “excellent except that one huge mistake” routines have got to stop.

    Thomas is a very exciting prospect because of her “top 3 on her weak events” finish at Classic. If she can stay top 4 this weekend on bars and beam and knock floor and vault out of the park, she could set herself up very well in the World’s team conversation.

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  2. Ok, here is my essay submission

    The gymnast who will for certain be selected will be Ragan Smith. She can medal in the aa as well as beam and floor, plus with her improved bars, she could be a dark horse for the bars final, how bout that?

    The next gymnast i’d choose would be Jade Carey. She has gold medal potential on vault and floor. She just needs to be sure to hit at nationals and control her landings, and she’s a shoo in in my opinion.

    There are several gymnasts who are in the running. Riley Mccusker showed that she wasn’t ready at classic. However, if she IS ready at nationals and hits 8/8 – 7/8 at nationals, her record of inconsistency will be wiped and she can fight for an all around medal and slay the bars final!
    Ashton Locklear lost the famous “Kocian-Locklear bars battle of 2016”. It seemed she would surely be the bars gymnast to beat in the next quad though. False. She suffered back pain, causing her to take her inbars out of her routines, lowering her difficulty. Plus, the US bars field is really strong right now! There are a good 3-4 gymnasts who can match her score or beat her (Riley, Ragan, Alonya, Trinity) ! That being said, if she is able to add her inbar stalders back into her bar routines, she will likely be placed on the team along with an AA Mccusker (two bars medals, woop woop!)
    Morgan Hurd is very talented, but very unlucky. She would be a useful team gymnast who could go up on any event and give a good score. Sadly, she doesn’t have any stand out routines that could take her to worlds. If Mccusker is still injured and unprepared, she is in my opinion the most likely gymnast to claim the next AA spot. She just has to hit beam and pray that Riley messes up.
    There are several gymnasts that may be hoping to have a glimpse at worlds, such as Jordan Chiles, Trinity Thomas, and Alonya Schennikova. They all have a nice routine or two, but nothing to send them to worlds for. I’d say they’ll likely make the national team! Hopefully they can make the team event next year.
    The rest of the pack will just be there for the experience. Have fun!
    My team includes Ragan, Jade ,Riley, and Ashton (?) My lineup for quals would be
    Vt: Jade, Ragan, Riley
    Ub: Riley, Ashton, Ragan
    Bb: Ragan, Riley, Ashton/Jade
    Fx: Ragan, Jade, Riley

    Thanks for reading my essay!

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  3. Ashton – She stated after P&G training – she still isnt doing her full difficulty. Its still coming back, still trying to get the shoulder healthy, So I just dont see how she is gonna factor in on bars without an upgraded routine. Pointless risk with a low d but high e. We shall c by camp!

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  4. Some updates to this from podium training-

    Smith added her Patterson dismount back into her beam set along with a triple wolf turn. Her floor routine is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKkPQ_e5gls

    McCusker is only vaulting a full twisting Yurchenko and doing “watered down beam.”

    As someone said above, Ashton isn’t at full difficulty. I think that opens her spot up to Schennikova or another specialist. We’ll see.

    Personally, I think McCusker is out of worlds contention if Hurd hits. Girl is too inconsistent and green. Give it another year and a new coach that knows how to pace athletes and she will be something special

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    1. Looking at their actual records, McCusker and Hurd are equally inconsistent — but somehow Riley has developed a reputation while Morgan hasn’t.

      McCusker
      American Cup – Hit floor and vault, falls on beam and bars (2/4)
      Jesolo AA – Hit vault, beam, bars, fall on floor (3/4)
      Classic – Hit floor, falls on beam and bars (1/3)

      Hurd
      Stuttgart – Hit floor, vault, bars, falls on beam (3/4)
      Jesolo AA – Hit floor and vault, falls on bars and beam (2/4)
      Classic – Hit floor, fall (hands down) on beam (1/2)

      I love Morgan’s gymnastics as much as anyone, but I wish we could be a bit more clear-sighted about how she really compares to Riley McCusker!

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      1. I agree that Hurd’s inconsistency is a major detractor to the argument to send her to Worlds. I think she really needs to hit 8 routines here to erase some of that stigma in my mind. Especially since I think McCusker has higher scoring potential so she has more ability to absorb mistakes.

        Trinity Thomas could be a dark horse. I thought she looked more controlled in podium training than she has in the past. I also was surprised by how clean Jordan Chiles looked on bars for an event she isn’t known for. I had kind of written off Jordan after such a low result at Classic but I should probably know better than to put too much stock in Classic.

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  5. Mccusker certainly has more chances than Hurd. Yes they both have all-arounder potential and have been inconsistent in the past BUT Riley has the potential to medal in bars and maybe beam, while Morgan can make finals but can’t really medal without realying on other gymnasts’ mistakes.

    Riley is an AA with a standout event the way Kyla and Simone were. Her only issue is inconsistency but that can be worked out (see Gabby Douglas 2012).

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  6. Can someone ‘CSI’ the intended d-scores for the major routines shown at podium training (Ragan’s beam upgrades and new floor, Morgan and Ashton’s bars, and maybe Riley’s beam or other major changes from Classics).

    Thanks, I wouldn’t know how to figure those scores out myself.

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  7. Smith/Carey are locks. Ashton is a lock if she has the inbars. Then, Riley/Morgan fight for the last spot. If Inbars are not back, Riley/Morgan can both go.

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    1. Ashton stated SHE DOESNT HAVE HER DIFFICULTY and will not be performing her full difficulty. P&G isnt the final say… Camp will be, so hopefully she will have it by then. This really is her last shot imo, with Parea becoming a senior next year, and Ashtons same old routine she has been doing for years, even with the inbars, I think she wont be around for 2020….

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    1. I don’t have a link for the broadcast version. But USAG has an international feed without commentary happening live (if you are in the US I think you’d need to use a VPN like Hola, Tunnelbear, etc).

      If anyone has a broadcast link I’d be stoked!

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