For 2018, USA Gymnastics has added a third “you can watch this like a real sport” competition into its summer schedule, the previously semi-secret and always unhelpfully named American Classic.
“No one will get this confused with the U.S. Classic!” said USAG, full of wisdom.
Like the U.S. Classic at the end of July, the American Classic is first and foremost an opportunity for gymnasts to achieve the qualifying score necessary to advance to the national championship. The American Classic is therefore a showcase of prudent gymnasts, those who would like two tries to get that AA total rather than one.
But this year, rather than taking place at Martha’s House, the meet is being held at Greg’s House, which seats a cool 15,000+. Meanwhile, Martha’s House seats 4 llamas and a scream. So this is better.
Junior elites compete on July 7th at 11:00am MT, with senior elites at 4:00pm MT. USAG will stream on YouTube. Let’s discuss the major topics.
(Programming note: I will not be able to live blog the American Classic.)
Roster: Shania Adams, Sloane Blakely, Jade Carey, Audrey Davis, Kara Eaker, Jaylene Gilstrap, Olivia Hollingsworth, Madeleine Johnston, Shilese Jones, Emily Lee, Isabel Mabanta, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker, Alyona Shchennikova. Deanne Soza, Madelyn Williams
Jade Carey all-arounder?
Carey has already qualified to nationals by virtue of being on the worlds team last year, so this meet is more about getting a competition under her belt since she has not appeared at a real meet yet in 2018.
Of note, Carey has been showing bars work on various instasnaps, leading to some anticipation that she might add bars to her repertoire this elite season. Carey was never tragic on bars in JO, but she did not nearly have elite composition and therefore chose to prioritize her main competition events when going elite for 2017. If nothing else, Carey is working toward being a real bars option in college. But like Sacramone finishing 4th AA at nationals in 2015, Carey would have the scores on the other events to get a legit AA total in elite even if her bars is like, “Hi, I’m an 11”
If she’s going for full vault difficulty right now, I’m eager to see where the Amanar is, since that’s the newer of her two vaults and was a work in progress last elite season.
Where does Riley fit?
Because of injured-every-minute, Riley McCusker has a mercurial position in any prospective US worlds team conversation. One minute she is THE HOPE FOR A BEAUTIFUL FUTURE, and the next minute you forget about her entirely because of her hollow bird bones.
When you begin to try to squeeze her into a Biles, Hurd, Smith, Malabuyo, Carey, O’Keefe type of conversation, the spots fill up pretty quickly. At the same time, there is room for and need for a gymnast with McCusker’s strengths this year. She has the highest US bars score of the quad so far and attempted D scores into the 6s on both bars and beam at the last elite qualifier. If competing at a high level, she can continue to complicate the worlds selection process in multiple and delightful ways.
McCusker’s bars and beam routines at American Classic will be the first shred of archaeological evidence we need to start piecing together the story of the 2018 selection process.
Kara Eaker beam queen?
Quietly, Kara Eaker recorded the highest beam score in the entire world so far this year, a 15.100 at an elite qualifier in May. The scores at the US elite qualifiers have been slightly Ukrainian nationals—so keep that in mind—but her beam does have tremendous scoring potential. Eaker could be campaigning for an Alyssa Baumann-type role this year, though the prospect of being a one-event specialist on any piece is much more challenging on a five-person worlds team. That’s why it won’t just be about pretty beam for Eaker here. What are her other events like?
There are three future Utah gymnasts competing in the senior session—Grace McCallum, Deanne Soza, and Jaylene Gilstrap—giving the crowd a little preview. Particularly for McCallum, who has already qualified to nationals and does not need a result from this meet, this is solely an opportunity to show up and be like, “Hi, remember how obsessed you’re going to be with me soon? [Wave and goodbye].”
Soza and Gilstrap, however, will need some big scores at this one to keep their elite seasons going past July. Someone call Linda Fenton.
It’s tough to speculate about the all-around at Classic meets because we just don’t know if the very best will bother to do all four. If she competes all-around, McCallum probably enters this one as the favorite. She went 54.700 at the April qualifier and 54.850 at Pac Rims, which puts her 4th among US all-arounders this year, behind only Hurd, Malabuyo, and Smith.
McCusker is also capable of a big score but competed only bars and beam a couple weeks ago at Brestyan’s, if that’s designed to tell us anything. Beyond them, this meet is a real opportunity for gymnasts like Shchennikova and Davis to get that attention-grabbing podium finish and potentially keep them on the right side of the national team cutoff for a little longer.
It will take a 52.000 AA for seniors to advance to nationals, so if you don’t have a lot of feelings or name recognition for a particular gymnast, that’s the score to watch. They’re all clawing for a 52.
Carey, McCallum, and Shchennikova are the only ones competing here that we know have already achieved their AA qualifying scores for nationals, so there’s a lot on the line for everyone else at these two Classic meets. That goes for major people like Eaker and Davis who obviously should (and will) be at nationals, as well as those borderline candidates like Madelyn Williams whom we all became obsessed with in junior competition last year but who hasn’t been in the national team/camp group and very much needs her 52.
The seniors can also get 3- or 2-event scores (39.000 for 3 events, 26.500 for 2 events) to advance to nationals, but at nationals they would be able to compete only those events if they qualify with a specialist score.
Note: In a change from the original roster, Adeline Kenlin no longer appears on the start list.
Roster: Ciena Alipio, Love Birt, Skye Blakely, Sophia Butler, Kailin Chio, Claire Dean, Kayla DiCello, Amari Drayton, Addison Fatta, Aleah Finnegan, Delaney Fisher, eMjae Frazier, Gabrielle Gallentine, Elizabeth Gantner, Karis German, Trista Goodman, Zoe Gravier, Olivia Greaves, Maeve Hahn, Selena Harris, Kaytlyn Johnson, Levi Jung-Ruivivar, Alonna Kratzer, Lillian Lewis, Kaliya Lincoln, Lauren Little, Mallory Marcheli, Konnor McClain, Sydney Morris, Brenna Neault, Katelyn Rosen, Lyden Saltness, Abigail Scanlon, Ava Siegfeldt, Ui Soma, Calvary Swaney, Tori Tatum
Because there are so many juniors and relatively few seniors, a few of the juniors have been promoted to compete in the same session as the seniors: Aleah Finnegan, Tori Tatum, Kayla Di Cello, Karis German, Skye Blakely, Olivia Greaves, and Zoe Gravier.
The rhyme and reason here is that all these juniors also have senior elite teammates competing, so they can be grouped together (it looks like West Valley and San Mateo are the only gyms with athletes competing in both early and late sessions). So Aleah Finnegan wasn’t promoted just because FINNEGAN. But also that.
As is the case with the seniors, most of the very best juniors aren’t here (like Sunisa Lee, Jordan Bowers, Leanne Wong, JaFree Scott, and Lilly Lippeatt) because they don’t need the score. That opens up spaces on the podium for some of the other gymnasts to have their JUNIOR MOMENT, where you’ve never heard of them before now and then they’re suddenly amazing and you’re sending them to Tokyo immediately. That’s mostly the point of a meet like this.
As for the podium, the two national team members competing in the juniors here—Kayla Di Cello and Tori Tatum—will be favored, but if you’re looking for a dark horse in the field, Konnor McClain became a favorite last year with her tremendous beam potential, Brenna Neault got a 54.200 at the Brestyan’s qualifier while going over 13 on every event, Ui Soma scored 14.500 on beam at a qualifier in May, Lauren Little has been on the camp radar for about a thousand years, and OIivia Greaves is MG Elite’s next one.
The juniors need a 51.000 AA score to make nationals, with no qualification options for event specialists. It’s 51.000 AA or bust.
The only ones competing here who have that score so far are Di Cello and Tatum. (Elite qualifier meets cannot advance gymnasts to nationals, just to Classic.)