Secret Classic Preview: Juniors
The junior division at classics promises to be interesting as ever this year- with almost 50 competitors, there is a deep field and a lot of potential. Remember, 3 of the 2012 Olympians competed at this meet as juniors in 2009. It’s pretty safe to say that there’s going to be a Rio Olympian competing in the junior division tomorrow!
The junior national team has seen a major overhaul this year- the only two named at nationals last year to stay juniors were Bailie Key and Amelia Hundley. Both will be frontrunners for the all around title tomorrow! Key in particular has done very well this year, and has shown that she is well balanced on every event. Expect huge scores from her on beam and vault! Hundley, meanwhile, has struggled a bit this year but has done well at camp and has the difficulty to challenge the best of the juniors.
Joining them on the current national team are Polina Shchennikova, Nia Dennis and Laurie Hernandez. Hernandez is a fan favorite and a lovely performer who has gained a great deal of difficulty and confidence since last year’s elite season. She won the all around at the Parkettes qualifier with a score in the 57s and can do very well tomorrow. Be sure to listen to her GymCastic interview if you haven’t already! Dennis is another girl who has a great DTY, can fly on bars and shows a great mix of difficulty and amplitude on beam. I don’t think she’s going to be the star of the show right away, but she should certainly be looking to finish on the podium! Shchennikova is not as well balanced of an all arounder as the other national team members, but is a beautiful gymnast who many compare to Nastia Liukin and tends to bring in exceptional bars scores.
There are a few gymnasts who I saw perform at the Parkettes qualifier who I would recommend watching out for. That includes two of Chow’s future stars: Norah Flatley and Alexis Vasquez. Both are fairly similar in their strengths- average juniors on vault, excellent on beam and good but not great on floor. Flatley has a lot of potential on bars with some el-grip work. Both of them strike me as gymnasts who will be excellent in the future, but don’t have the difficulty to challenge the top juniors right now- which is okay as this is their first big elite meet! Another “big” name is Ariana Agrapides, who is a teammate of Hernandez. She has a powerful DTY and keeps up that power on floor. Her biggest success as an elite so far was perhaps winning her session of the American Classic earlier this month. She may be tiny, but Ragan Smith shows some excellent gymnastics, particularly on beam and floor, and finished 2nd to Hernandez in Allentown earlier this year. Look out for her adorable “puttin’ on the ritz” routine! Ashley Foss was at nationals last year, and has had some impressive results this year. It will be interesting to see how her scores hold up against the top juniors. Christina Desiderio of Parkettes finished 2nd to her in Allentown in June, and shows clean and powerful gymnastics. Vanasia Bradley, meanwhile, has a lot of potential but has struggled and has not competed all around in recent meets- it is important that she hits here if she wants her first trip to nationals.
Emily Gaskins and Felicia Hano are both coming off incredibly successful level 10 seasons, and will be competing in their first classics. Gaskins has gorgeous lines and form, although she lacks some of the power of the older juniors. Hano, meanwhile, has a great DTY and looks to have potential on the other events.
Alyssa Baumann, Nica Hults and Alexandra Marks have been to classics before; Baumann has been out injured for a few years, but was once part of a very strong WOGA contingent on the national stage. Hults is gorgeous on beam and bars, and this year is her last chance to make a junior national team- something that fans have been waiting for for years! Marks is somewhat less experienced, but has beautiful lines and is training and even competing some tough skills, including a standing full on beam!
Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to Lauren Farley and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. Farley hails from WOGA, and is shows a lot of promise on beam. Johnson-Scharpf has become the darling of the gymternet this year, and shows a lot of sass on floor. She is very talented, but she may need some time to get her routines entirely elite-ready, particularly her bars.