10 Gymnasts to Watch at the U.S. Classic
The U.S. Classic will be taking place this weekend in the Maverik Center in Salt Lake Valley, Utah. It is the final event where gymnasts can qualify for the national championships, but gymnasts who have already qualified often use this event to test new skills and routines prior to nationals. The junior gymnasts (born on or after January 1, 2007) have been split into two different sessions. The first session will be held on Friday, July 29 at 9 p.m. ET and the second on Saturday, July 30 at 2:30 p.m ET. Both junior sessions will be streamed on USA Gymnastics’ subscription service FlipNow. The senior session will be held on Saturday, July 30 at 7 p.m. ET, and it will be televised on CNBC. You can view the complete list of competitors here. Below are ten gymnasts who you should look out for at the U.S. Classic.
Sage Bradford, Ella Kate Parker, Tiana Sumanasekera, and Gabby Van Frayen were all initially listed to compete but have since withdrawn. Sumanasekera has been incredibly successful internationally this season and is the 2022 Pan American junior champion on vault, balance beam, and floor exercise, and Parker won the all-around title at the 2022 Winter Cup. These withdrawals potentially open up the door for other gymnasts to make a name for themselves at the U.S. Classic.
Kieryn Finnell trains at the Rochester Gymnastics Academy and is becoming one of the top American junior gymnasts on the uneven bars. Last year, she won the all-around title at the Hopes Championships and moved up to the junior elite level this year. She recently finished second in the all-around and first on the uneven bars at the American Classic and was the only gymnast at that competition to score above 13.000 on the uneven bars. She also finished third on the uneven bars at the Pan American Trials on day 1 and first on day 2. Finnell has been under the radar but a podium finish on the uneven bars at the U.S. Classic would certainly raise her profile.
Madray Johnson is perhaps the most experienced junior gymnast competing at the U.S. Classic. She was the runner-up for the junior all-around title at last year’s national championships behind Katelyn Jong, who is now competing as a senior. She was then named to the national team and received two international assignments that year. At the 2021 Junior Pan American Championships, she won gold on the balance beam and silver in the all-around and uneven bars. She then won three gold medals at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games- team, uneven bars, and balance beam. This year, she competed at the City of Jesolo Trophy and won silver in the all-around, uneven bars, and balance beam. These impressive results make Johnson the favorite to win the junior all-around at the U.S. Classic.
Annalisa Milton won the all-around title at the American Classic ahead of Kieryn Finnell and earned her qualifying score for the national championships. She is definitely a power gymnast who excels on the vault and floor exercise, winning both events at the American Classic. Her first two tumbling passes in her floor routine, a piked double arabian (Dos Santos I) and a double layout, are particularly impressive. She fell on multiple events at the Winter Cup earlier this year, but if she can put together a clean all-around program, she can be one of the top gymnasts. She is also competing here with her twin sister Malea, who finished fourth all-around at the American Classic.
Hezly Rivera won the all-around bronze medal at the Winter Cup earlier this year at her first meet at the junior elite level. She was then named to the national team and was selected to compete at the DTB Pokal Cup in Germany, making her international debut and winning team gold. She is particularly strong on the balance beam, where she finished second on both days of the Pan American Trials.
Audrey Snyder is the only member of the 2022 Pan American Championships team who has decided to compete here since there was only a two-week gap between these two competitions. She was initially the alternate but was put on the Pan American team after Zoey Molomo was injured in training. She helped the team win the gold medal and also placed fifth in the uneven bars final. This is her first year as a junior elite gymnast, but she won the all-around silver medal behind Kieryn Finnell at last year’s Hopes Championships. Just like Annalisa Milton, Audrey will also be competing with her twin sister, Sydney.
Just like the junior division, there are four seniors who have withdrawn from the U.S. Classic: Adriana Consoli, Kayla DiCello, Konnor McClain, and Camryn Richardson. DiCello just competed at the Pan American Championships where she won the floor exercise title and is likely wanting to rest to prepare for nationals. McClain has had a successful year thus far, winning all-around gold at the Winter Cup, DTB Pokal Cup, and City of Jesolo Trophy. DiCello and McClain both would have been favorites to win here, which opens up the competition for others to break through.
Shilese Jones is one of the most experienced gymnasts in this field, having competed as an elite gymnast since 2014 and being on the national team since 2018. This year, she won the all-around gold medal at the March National Team Camp ahead of Konnor McClain and was sent to the City of Jesolo Trophy where she won team gold, uneven bars silver, and balance beam bronze. Last year, she competed at the Olympic Trials and was in the conversation for an alternate spot. Jones does struggle with consistency, but she is incredibly well-rounded and talented and is a favorite to make the World Championships team this year.
Katelyn Jong is coming off of an incredibly successful junior career, winning the junior all-around at the 2021 U.S. National Championships, Pan American Championships, and Junior Pan American Games. At her first senior meet, the 2022 Winter Cup, she placed fifth in the all-around and was selected to compete at the DTB Pokal Mixed Cup, winning team gold. She once again finished fifth all-around at the Pan American Trials but was not named to the team. Jong is also a very well-rounded gymnast, and the U.S. Classic is a great opportunity for her to make a breakthrough as a senior.
Nola Matthews is also a first-year senior, and she has been having a breakthrough year. She only finished thirteenth all-around as a junior at the 2021 U.S. National Championships, but at her senior debut at the 2022 Winter Cup, she placed fifth all-around and won uneven bars gold. She was then selected to compete at the DTB Pokal Cup where she won team gold and uneven bars bronze. She is also known for her artistry on the floor exercise. Matthews will likely be competing with several other gymnasts including Zoe Miller and Charlotte Booth for an uneven bars specialist spot at the upcoming World Championships.
Joscelyn Roberson is another first-year senior, and she is known for her power and big skills. Last year she won the junior national balance beam title and also placed fourth in the all-around, and she was the alternate for the 2021 Junior Pan American Championships team. She made her senior debut at the 2022 Winter Cup and won the vault gold medal. She then had the second highest score on the floor exercise at the March National Team Camp. While Roberson is unlikely to place high in the all-around due to her weakness on the uneven bars, she is a compelling vault, balance beam, and floor exercise specialist that could complement an uneven bars specialist at a major event such as the World Championships.
Leanne Wong has not competed elite at all this season, but her success in elite last year and in the NCAA this year makes her one of the top gymnasts in the United States. Last year, she finished second in the all-around at the World Championships behind Russia’s Angelina Melnikova, and she was an alternate for the Olympic team. She then began her freshman year at the University of Florida and won the SEC title on the balance beam and scored perfect tens on the vault and uneven bars. Wong is the only NCAA athlete who will be competing at this U.S. Classic, and it will be interesting to see how her routines change from the NCAA level to the elite level.