The US Women’s first elite qualifying tournament began Friday at the Vegas Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada, where 11 gymnasts earned the scores required to qualify to elite level as well as the next tier of national qualifying tournaments — the Winter Cup. the American Classic and the US Classic.
A total of 17 gymnasts took part in the senior competition, spread over three training sessions on Friday, with five ultimately earning over 50,000 in the all-around to sideline their qualification on the early side and give them a chance to focus on preparing for the Winter Cup next month.
The closest competitor was WOGA’s Kaliya Lincoln, the 2021 junior national and Pan Ams floor champion and an LSU engagement who missed all of last season through injury. Lincoln, now 16, posted a 52,900 – the highest total of her career – while also posting the best senior results on vault with a 13.55 and floor with a massive 14.1, as well as second-best on beam with a 12.9. It will be exciting to have Lincoln back in the mix at the senior level, especially when she looks so strong so early on. She should be one of the stronger seniors at the Winter Cup and I hope that and the early camps this season will lead to spring international appearances.
Also qualifying were Metroplex’s Michelle Pineda with 51,800, GAGE’s Gabriella Disidore with 51,150, her teammate Eveylynn Lowe with 50,600 and Gymnastics Olympica’s Chloe Cho with 50,450. Pineda competed as a junior last year but had a somewhat difficult time at the Nationals, failing to match her 2023 qualifying score there. So it was great to see her in great form again and getting the second best senior results in vault with 13.15 and floor with 13.3.
Disidore, the older sister of already-qualified Amelia Disidore, is a first-time elite qualifier and had the highest score on parallel bars at 13.35, while Lowe is back in her second year, having competed at the junior level in 2022, albeit only narrowly missed qualifying for the national team. Cho, who finished 10th overall at the 2019 Hopes Championships, first qualified as a junior at the KPAC elite qualifier in 2020, but that meet was cut short when the world ground to a halt due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s great to see that she’s finally coming back to earn her first elite senior status at almost 17 and her mandatory score of 37.6 is fantastic so I look forward to seeing more of her.
Elite Georgia gymnast Bryn Bartman was close, posting a 49.400 total score to fall just about half a point behind despite having a great pole set that had a 13.3, the second-best score among seniors. Also missing at that level were Leigh Anne Elliott, the WOGA seniors, Paloma Spiridonova (back from injury for the first time since 2021), Avery King and Finley Weldon, who all struggled with parallel bars, and Twin City with The Twisters Stand out, Temple Landry, who put in a great performance in this event, posting the highest senior score of 13.05, despite not quite being up there in the other events.
A few seniors who qualified through national championships last year competed in a few events here. Nola Matthews competed in all events except vault and had her best score on floor at 12.8, while Myli Lew shared the highest score on beam at 13.35. We also saw the return of Lyden Saltness and Mahleea Werline, both of whom competed in two events each, but fell short of the two-event qualifying score of 26,000.
At junior level, five gymnasts earned over 49,000 to qualify, including Airborne’s Tyler Turner with 51,900, Pacific Reign’s Simone Rose with 50,250, Tatum Drusch of Flips with 49,650, Roots’ Reese Esponda with 49,200 and Gymnastics Olympica’s Jazmyn Jimenez is coming along 49.050 just over the bar.
Turner had a terrific day, earning the best youth score on vault at 13.3 and parallel bars at 12.85, along with the second-best floor score of 13.0, while Esponda led the group on floor at 13.1, in addition to her third-best score. best jumping mark of 13.1. It was great to see Rose, who was limited to just two events at the Nationals last year, back on vault and floor where she had the third best youth score of 12.85 and Jimenez had the second best vault score of 13.15.
Just missing out were two of last year’s junior elite, Buckeye’s Carly Weinberg with 48,700 and former national team member Ella Kate Parker, now WOGA, with 48,600. Weinberg was having a great match until her last event, Bars, knocked her out while Parker did a fantastic job on the beam to take the junior-best 13.1, although she’s now closed to the rest of her routines She’s a bit downgraded compared to how we saw her start last season.
Also among last year’s junior elite were Sage Bradford, who just missed a point here, and Kieryn Finnell, who had the best bars score of 12.85 and is already qualified. Also, some of last year’s Hopes athletes were hoping to step up a level here, including 13-14 National Champion Camie Westerman, who earned 47,400, and Catherine Guy, who had a tough routine on parallel bars but for best junior beam points were shared with 13.1.
Guy has already aged out of Hopes eligibility, but Westerman and a number of other gymnasts who have attempted to become junior elite will be able to compete at Hopes level this season instead, provided they don’t earn their junior points at one of the later qualifying tournaments. In addition to Westerman, this group includes Harlow Buddendeck, Charleigh Bullock, Cora Burke, Ally Damelio, and Trinity Wood.
We got a look at 2022 Junior National Champion and all-around silver medalist Jayla Hang, who’s already qualified based on her results with the national teams and probably showed up for a bit of practice ahead of the Winter Cup. Unfortunately, the bars didn’t seem to be going her way and her beam score was below what she’s been capable of in the past, but I think she wanted to beat bumps like this and I’m sure she will Be one of the top juniors to watch at the Winter Cup!
The last junior to qualify, Georgia Elite’s Isabella Anzola, is actually one who signed up for the Hopes 13-14 competition but did so well that her 49,000 score was just what she needed , to make their degree (this time was not allowed, but now that the 13-14 division no longer uses a modified points code, there may be inter-tier exchanges in qualifiers).
Anzola was fourth in the all-around and floor champion at last year’s Hopes Championships, and in this weekend’s qualifiers she had the best Hopes results on vault at 12.85 and floor at 12.3, and the best bar score of the entire competition—yes , seniors and juniors inclusive – with a 13.7 more than half a point ahead of the rest of the gymnasts in Las Vegas. Her frog and bottom are really beautiful and I look forward to seeing more of her this season!
With Anzola from the Hopes 13-14 picture, only two athletes actually qualified for this level, including Arizona Sunrays’ Kaitlin Marcussen with 46,900 (and this division’s second-best results in vault, bars and beam) and Georgia Elite’s Gabby Mitchell with 45,150 (She also had the division’s best bar score of 11.6).
Five of the eight gymnasts in the Hopes 11-12 division also qualified, including Mattie Mae Young of Georgia Elite with 46,500, Amia Pugh-Banks of World Class with 44,950, Amariah Moore of First State with 44,700, Alden Dante of Precision with 44,200 and Danica Sedacca of Gymnastics Olympica with 43,800.
For a full list of gymnasts who have qualified for Elite and/or National Championships for 2023 and all qualification guidelines, please visit our tracker and we have also published the full Vegas Cup results. Next on the calendar is the Buckeye qualifier this coming weekend in Columbus, Ohio, followed by the City of Lights qualifier in Orlando starting February 10th and the WOGA qualifier in Frisco starting February 17th.
Article by Lauren Hopkins