In assessing the possibilities for a US world championships team now that things are starting to get real, let’s begin with what would be the highest-scoring US team based on Classic results.
It’s already a hefty score (the US won the 2022 team final with 166.564), but also far from being even a whiff of a finalized team. So how can it change, and what would a few of the major contenders need to do to change it?
Jade Carey: Carey would gain a major advantage in team scenarios by bringing back the Cheng at nationals, giving her a leg up on the VT/FX spot currently occupied by Kaliya Lincoln on the Classic team. Then, even a high 13 from Carey on floor would have her gaining tenths on the current team.
While much of the focus has been on Carey v Roberson, it’s also possible to see both of them on a team together, joining Biles to cover vault and floor, next to a pairing of Lee/Jones or Lee/Blakely that covers bars and beam along with Biles (or with Miller in there somewhere, especially if Roberson’s domestic beam scores continue being 14s).
Suni Lee: Lee’s 14.500 beam from Classic would already increase the team beam total, just not by enough to be on the highest-scoring team for a single event. Now, if she were to pair that beam score with a bars routine of anything over 14.150, then she adds more in a UB/BB position than Blakely currently does. Or, depending on the size of the bars score, more than Miller in a bars specialist position.
Expectations will be more muted for an event like floor for Lee since that will be the last to come back for, but nearly any viable team the US produces will be stacked on floor so there’s little reason for that to be account unless her floor is immediately amazing. Right now, she’d profile as bars and beam for team final purposes, with much hinging on the difficulty on bars.
Shilese Jones: We know to expect a high bars score from Jones when she returns to compete, and since she’ll have other routines that are also viable in a team final, that could see her displace Miller on the prospective Classic team by matching that bars score.
That, or she could join both Miller and Lee on the Epic Bars Team of all time. In similar fashion to the Carey v Roberson conundrum, Jones and Miller may be jockeying for the same spot on a team given their bars ability, but not necessarily. If Jones is scoring well enough on vault and floor to cover those events alongside Biles and one of Carey/Roberson, then Epic Bars Team would fit as a group of five.
But, there wouldn’t be room for both Epic Bars Team (Lee, Jones, Miller) and Epic Vault Team (Biles, Carey, Roberson) on a five-person squad, so something would have to give. Or multiple things, if Blakely or Jordan Chiles have something to say about it.
Jordan Chiles: Imperative for Chiles will be her all-around placement, especially in a situation where the Epic Teams outlined above are deemed too risky or not sufficiently able to cover all the events in every phase of competition. But also if USAG just fully checks out and picks all-arounders again.
Like several others, Chiles is a very viable option for that Kaliya Lincoln role on the Classic team, so as we go, she’ll be looking to show that her floor is just a little bit better than the other 14.0ers, that her DTY is just a little bit better than the other DTYs. Showing that she adds tenths in multiple places, showing that she provides a tangible advantage on the leg events compared to Shilese Jones (which was the case at 2022 worlds), while also bringing more realistic bars and beam compared to a Carey or a Lincoln would be her path onto a highest-scoring team.
Outscoring Blakely in the all-around would also be an aim for Chiles as one can foresee a scenario where they are both fighting for a remaining spot (say, in a Biles, Lee, Jones, Carey/Roberson world).