Ah, US Classic. The meet that feels deeply significant right up until you forget it ever happened 2 weeks later. Remember last year when DiCello beat McCallum by a point and Aleah Finnegan got 5th? Me neither.
This year, one of the major stories heading into the competition is just how paltry the senior women’s field is at only 13 athletes. This is the smallest senior women’s roster at the competition since 2008, which is 1951. Some of this is a result of the calendar, with a number of athletes having just competed at the Pan-American Championships—and even more at the selection camp—and who really needs to compete three different times in the month before nationals? What are you, a coal miner?
We’re also experiencing first-year-of-the-
quad-tri syndrome, when the seniors from last cycle are in their hiatus/retirement era and the seniors for this cycle aren’t seniors yet, leaving a smaller group of hangers on. And then of course there’s the “it’s just Classic” of it all. No teams are being named here. No basement dungeons are being opened because you fell.
But just because a roster is small doesn’t mean Leanne Wong and Shilese Jones aren’t on it. So let’s get into what’s most interesting this weekend.
While other college elites made much clearer proclamations about their intent to continue elite, Leanne Wong quietly ended up the only one of entire gang to enter the US Classic. As such, the keenest eyes in the arena will be on Wong to see how much of the routine composition from her 2021 world silver medal performance is back. Or never left. Over half of her elite bars and beam skills made it into her college routines at various times, so it’s hardly a stretch to think all that composition has been on a low simmer the whole time.
Looking at the current US elite setup, it’s probably not crucial that Wong upgrade her 2021 routines in order to make a team this year, but at some point this summer we’ll need to see the status of an event like vault. The Podkopayeva she was competing at Florida was good fun but also a 4.2 D (the same as the Yurchenko full), so it’s not a practical scoring option in elite, where the actual practical scoring options are DTY, Cheng, and end of list.
We may not see all the events from Wong, but I imagine if she’s competing (totally optionally, since she’s already qualified to nationals), it means that she’s some form of ready. She doesn’t seem the type to show up just to wave her hand.
Especially with the last-minute withdrawals of Konnor McClain and Kayla DiCello, Shilese Jones will very much like her chances at an all-around title if she elects to compete all four. Among the entered athletes, she owns by far the top totals of 2022, with the #1 bars and floor score, the #2 vault score, and the #3 beam score in the field.
Jones has shown video of a Stalder layout Tkatchev that may or may not make an appearance here, but more than upgrades (which could be essential this year if she ends up needing to stake a claim as the best bars option for worlds), I’m looking to see consistency from her at Classic. Despite more than sufficient talent, composition, and execution, we haven’t always seen Jones stay on beam. Or floor. She’ll need to show more than occasional flashes of excellence to emerge as a major player this year. Right now, Jones is easily on the highest-scoring US team for 2022 (she has the second most important scores behind McClain), but it’s very early and we haven’t seen everyone’s peaks. Or even everyone’s faces.
Jong has withdrawn as of the last roster update.
Addison Fatta and Ciena Alipio
I’m perhaps most interested to see the performances of Addison Fatta and Ciena Alipio after they were left off the Pan Ams team. Despite finishing 3rd AA at the Pan Ams camp, Fatta was burned by being the prototypical alternate—fine on every event, absolutely necessary nowhere—while Alipio was burned by not having a second useful event to complement her strong beam scores.
Alipio is going to need to show something competitive besides beam (even though, for me, beam by itself is currently making a sufficient case for a September challenge cup assignment), while Fatta has reason to target bars as a place where she can rank higher. Fatta is currently tied for the third-best bars number in the Classic field, though also has the potential to elevate that floor D score to a place where she can score in the mid-13s.
What to watch from the field
Katelyn Rosen owns the third-best cumulative scores on the Classic roster this year, behind only Jones and Jong, which makes her a compelling contender for the all-around podium. She should produce one of the top-scoring floor routines of the event.
Nola Matthews made the DTB Pokal squad this year for her bars score and went on to win bronze on the event, the only non-Konnor-McClain individual medal for the US team. Matthews is one of only three Americans to have broken 14 on bars this year, along with Jones and Zoe Miller.
Joscelyn Roberson has the routine composition to be a competitive 3-eventer, and placing 2nd or 3rd among VT-BB-FX totals at Classic would not be out of the question for her on a hit day. At the Pan Ams camp, Roberson’s D scores on VT-BB-FX were the 3rd highest, behind only Blakely and Jong. I’ll be watching to see whether the DTY is back for a competitive score, as well as for a hit on beam.
Levi Jung-Ruivivar impressed as a junior with all the artistry and toe point. We haven’t seen that built on so far with the results in her senior career, but her bars routine is a showcase of how it’s supposed to look.
Amelia Disidore was sort of jangling around the maybe-qualifying-elite zone for most of the year, but she put up a very strong result on vault, beam, and floor at the American Classic, hitting a DTY and breaking 13 on both beam and floor. She went 51.800 with a bars miss, which could speak to competitive (for Classic) scoring potential with a hit.
Brooke Pierson and Charlotte Booth will look to run their way up the bars standings. Booth showed off a Tweddle + Yezhova combination on bars at Winter Cup, so watch to see if that makes another appearance here, and Pierson is among the more adept at finishing a full pirouette in an actual vertical.
Qualifying to nationals
Only two members of the senior field are still looking for scores here, at least as far as we know (scores from the June camp were never released). Lauren Little would still need the 50.500 qualifying score to make nationals, while Marissa Neal is already qualified to nationals on bars and beam thanks to her American Classic performance but would still need that all-around 50.500 to be able to compete all the events. Neal’s 13.600 on beam at the American Classic ranks second in the field behind Alipio.
Friday, July 29 – 7:00pm MT – Junior Women Session 1
Saturday, July 30 – 12:30pm MT – Junior Women Session 2
Saturday, July 30 – 5:00pm MT – Senior Women
Sunday, July 31 – 12:30pm MT – Junior and Senior Men Session 1
Sunday, July 31 – 6:30pm MT – Senior Men Session 2
The senior women’s session will be televised on CNBC. With only 13 people on the roster (and knowing not everyone is going to compete the all-around) there’s no actual reason this couldn’t be run like a college meet with two events going at a time, alternating routines, and showing all of them. But it’s NBC, so…
The Saturday session of junior women and the first men’s session (which will include the national team men and also the juniors) will be on CNBC as well, while the first session of the junior women and the second session of senior men (which will include some of the wildcards like Donnell Whittenburg and Colin Van Wicklen) will be on FlipNow.