U.S. Championships, Day 1

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Day 1 of the U.S. Championships ended somewhat predictability, with 17-year-old Ragan Smith of Texas Dreams heading the field. After last year’s senior debut and serving as an alternate to the Olympic Team, Smith has rather quickly transitioned from the spirited “baby” of the team to the leading lady.

A consummate beamer, she placed her highest score on beam (a 14.500/5.9 D), followed by floor exercise (14.200/5.6 D) vault (14.400/5.4 D) and uneven bars (14.300/6.0 D) for an all-around total of 57.400. Her scores on beam and floor were also the highest of the competition.

Not her best day, it was nevertheless a good one for Smith, who dealt well with little mistakes and carried herself as the leader that she is. On balance beam, her wolf turn opener was a bit off but she saved it, and she counted big wobbles on her side straddle half + side split half, but also recovered from those. Her BHS to layout was typically solid, as was her pike punch front to jump combo and standing full. She dismounted with her safer double pike.

On floor, her only hiccup came on on her final pass (a double pike) where she came up a bit short but managed it well. Her opening DLO, 1.5 to triple twist, and double Arabian were solid.

On uneven bars and vault, her “weaker” events by comparison, she managed very well. Her in-bar combo went well, as did the Ricna to pak, and her DTY was just the kind you need as an all-around threat.

As far as I’m concerned, Smith really stepped it up at this competition, not because it was a perfect day, but because there were no massive mistakes and the little ones were handled with grace. Her experience is showing.

Placing second to Smith in the Day 1 standings is MG Elite’s Riley McCusker.

McCusker’s highest score (and the highest of the night) was on bars (14.550/6.1D) where she performed a very fluid routine, opening with a stalder-full to Maloney to Tkatchev. She was typically beautiful on balance beam, opening with a wolf turn combo and front aerial to two split jumps, and she counted a few balance checks but managed them well. Floor was solid (opened with a full-in and dismounted with a double tuck) as was vault, though as an FTY the scoring potential is limited.

McCusker has had a very mixed year performance-wise, and this competition almost immediately followed the US Classic, where she struggled a bit but claimed she’d be ready for Championships. With Day 1 behind her, that insistence seems to have been proven. The girl chosen as “our # 2” at the beginning of the year when she earned the second coveted spot at the American Cup is holding on. I’m excited to see what she does on Sunday.

Placing third in the Day 1 standings is first-year senior Jordan Chiles, who placed her highest score by far on vault after performing a dynamic Amanar. Her second highest score (a 13.950/5.4 D) was on bars, where she opened with a nice Van Leeuwen, performed a good tkatchev to bail to shoot, and a toe-on full to Geinger before dismounting with a great full-twisting double back. Floor and beam were a bit rougher, where she struggled with either over or under-rotating on floor and put her hands down on beam, but those are things that could be improved on Sunday.

First State’s Morgan Hurd had a rougher-than-expected outing and will be looking to improved her performance in the Final. Her floor exercise performance was especially disappointing because it’s usually one of her strengths, striking a perfect balance between acrobatics and artistry. on Friday, she hit her opening Silivas beautifully, but then stumbled out-of-bounds on her piked full-in and fell on her double front. Because her other events went pretty well (beam, especially), I would expect to see her climb in the standings if she improves her floor exercise routine on Sunday.

Other notable performances were given by Jade Carey, Alyona Shchennikova, and Ashton Locklear.

Carey is a vault and floor specialist who performed a huge Kas full but sat down her Amanar. On floor, her first two passes were huge but a little short (Silivas, double LO full-in), but she came back with solid-enough third pass, a front double full to stag jump, and saved her best execution for a last–a full-in.

Currently second on bars is Alyona Shchennikova (the All-Around winner at last month’s US Classic). Earning a score of 14.500 (6.3 D), she opened with an in-bar full to Komova II to Tkatchev and performed am impressive Ricna to pak to Chow half. Her DLO dismount was a little scrappy, but she landed on two feet.

US Olympic Alternate Ashton Locklear is currently third on bars, earning a score of 14.350 (5.5 D) with a routine that is practically seamless, connecting the first six elements. She doesn’t yet have her full difficulty back, but the ease seems to be returning. One of the most interesting questions this weekend will be whether she’s named to the World Championships team as bars specialist, with the understanding that she’ll be ready in time.

Full Results

The Final will begin on Sunday at 7 PM U.S. ET and we’ll see how the standings hold!

Article: Sara Dorrien-Christians

Photo: Gymnastics News Network

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