Leanne Wong tops GK US Classic junior all-around podium in impressive competition

By: Casey Shearns


This weekend, the country’s best junior elites gathered in Columbus, Ohio at the 2018 GK US Classic. This meet was the last opportunity for the juniors to qualify for the US Gymnastics Championships in August. Both national team members and newly qualified elites gave amazing performances on Saturday, giving us a lot to look forward to for both nationals, and the future of USA Gymnastics.

Leanne Wong of GAGE took home the all-around gold with a 55.350, beating runner up Kayla DiCello by over a point. Wong also won the vault and floor exercise titles with a huge 14.600 on a stuck Yurchenko double full, and a floor exercise score of 13.400. She also placed third on balance beam with a 13.700. Wong has been on the junior national team for a few seasons, thanks to her ability to perform very well across all four events, and her super clean form. She is a great all-around gymnast for the US to depend on, now and in the future. Next month, she hopes to follow up her US Classic all-around title with a national championship.

Leanne Wong of GAGE performs on the floor exercise at the GK US Classic in Columbus, Ohio at the Schottenstein Center/USA Gymnastics

Second in the all around was Kayla DiCello of Hill’s, who scored a 54.000. DiCello also won the bars title, scoring a 14.300, showing both a high amount of difficulty and great execution. She also scored quite well on vault and floor exercise, coming in second on vault with a 14.600 and tying for third on floor with a 13.050. DiCello is another junior national team gymnast who looks to be the whole package, with beautiful lines on her bar work, but also can deliver powerful vaults and tumbling. She struggled on balance beam this weekend, but if she can hit all four at nationals, she can certainly compete to be the junior national champion.

The all-around bronze went to Jordan Bowers of Solid Rock, who scored a 53.850. Bowers has been buzzed about for a while, after multiple all-around victories at international junior competitions this season. Many regard her to be the next all-around star, and for good reason. She came in second on both uneven bars and balance beam, scoring a 14.200 on bars and a 13.750 on beam. She’s also capable of huge scores on floor exercise and was showing off some difficult tumbling passes, but she had a few falls that kept her off the floor podium this weekend. Bowers is an all-around gymnast that doesn’t appear to have a weak event. Bowers will look to regain her consistency for nationals next month, and hope to add another all-around title to her already big resume.

There were several other great performances at the US Classic this weekend, including junior national team member Sunisa Lee of Midwest. Lee is known for her super difficult uneven bar routine, but this weekend showed she could do well on more than just bars, taking home the balance beam gold with a 14.000. She also tied for third place on uneven bars, with a less difficult routine, and finished fifth in the all around with a 53.250.

Tori Tatum of Twin City Twisters also had a great meet, finishing fourth all around with a 53.800. Newcomer Karis German of World Champions Centre came in second on floor exercise with a 13.100, and tied for seventh all-around.

Meet Scores Online’s 2017 Gymnast of the Year top five finalist Aleah Finnegan gave a great performance, tying for seventh all-around at her first ever US Classic with a 52.800, and earning fifth on vault. Gymnast of the Year winner Kaliya Lincoln also had a great meet at her first US Classic, taking sixth on floor exercise with a 12.950.

Simone Biles reigns supreme in comeback meet with GK US Classic title

By: Mary Fay Carr


The 2018 GK US Classic held in Columbus, Ohio this weekend brought with it the return of reigning Olympic champion, Simone Biles. Along with Biles were the 22 other gymnasts hoping to tune up their routines and secure a spot to the US Championships next month in Boston, Massachusetts.  


Simone Biles competes on the floor exercise at the GK US Classic in Columbus, Ohio at the Schottenstein Center/USA Gymnastics

Massive expectations were set on Biles as she set out to compete for the first time since the Rio 2016 Olympic games. However, the 19-time world medalist exceeded all expectations when she totaled an all-around score of 58.700, the highest score in the world so far this quad. Biles debuted multiple new, and difficult skills, including the Moors, a laid out double-double on floor, a front full twist to a tucked full-in, and a Fabrichnova, tucked double-double, bars dismount. Despite having a fall on bars, her “weakest” event, Biles was able to finish strong on beam, scoring a 15.200 to edge out Riley McCusker by 1.200.

McCusker of MG Elite, who has battled injuries the past year, also had a strong competition, placing second with a 57.500. She showcased her beautiful lines and difficult connections on uneven bars to score an impressive 15.000 and win the event title. After the third rotation, McCusker had the lead over Biles, an accomplishment in and of itself, however, Biles managed to outscore her in the final rotation and take the all-around gold.

Placing third in the all-around was reigning World all-around champion, Morgan Hurd. Hurd scored an impressive 14.400 on her powerful Yurchenko double full, and also demonstrated her great artistry in her floor routine which scored a 13.850. Although Hurd fell on her front tuck on beam, the rest of her routine excellent. She managed to score a 13.400, and had a 7.900 execution score. Hurd totaled an all-around score of 56.350, very impressive considering the mistake.

Finishing fourth all-around was Shi Jones who made her senior elite debut earlier this summer at the American Classic. Jones is one to watch on vault and floor, and she showcased a gorgeous double-twisting Yurchenko at the GK US Classic that scored a 14.550.

The defending US Classic champion, Alyona Shchennikova, placed fifth this year with a 53.900. She had a strong uneven bars routine scoring a 14.900 and placing second for the event, however, she fell short on floor, scoring an 11.700. Behind Shchennikova, in sixth place, was Audrey Davis, and in seventh was Sloane Blakely, both representing WOGA.

Jordan Chiles placed eighth in the all-around with a 53.250. Chiles competed two clean vaults, a Yurchenko double full and Tsuk full, scoring an average of 14.500. However, she had minor mistakes throughout the competition that all added up, including stumbling backwards on her double pike beam dismount.  

Jade Carey vaulted onto the elite scene last year prior to becoming a two time World silver medalist on vault and floor. Carey is known for her powerful vaults and tumbling, however the US Classic marked her all-around debut as an elite gymnast. Although she is capable of competing an Amanar and a Cheng, Carey opted to compete a Yurchenko double full and a Lopez at Classics, scoring a 14.650. She also posted an impressive 13.900 on floor, her other strong suit. Carey came up short on bars and beam, causing her to place tenth all-around, however she could become an all-around threat in the future.  

Ragan Smith, Emma Malabuyo, and Olivia Dunne, all opted to sit out of the all-around at the GK Classic. Smith did not compete on floor, however she performed a solid beam routine scoring a huge 14.500, and also scored a 14.000 on her Yurchenko double full. Unfortunately, she slipped off the bar on her Ricna release move and scored a 13.300. Smith’s teammate from Texas Dreams, Emma Malabuyo only competed two events, vault and beam. She also had a solid Yurchenko double full, however, similarly to Morgan Hurd, fell on her front tuck on beam. Olivia Dunne only competed on bars due to a foot injury and had some minor leg separation and dismounted with just a layout to score a 12.850.

As for the US Championships next month, Shania Adams, Simone Biles, Sloane Blakely, Luisa Blanco, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Audrey Davis, Kara Eaker, Morgan Hurd, Madeleine Johnston, Shilese Jones, Emma Malabuyo, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker, Alyona Shchennikova, Ragan Smith, Madelyn Williams, Olivia Dunne, and Jaylene Gilstrap all have qualified to compete for the national title.


College Recruiting Corner: Social Media and the Accelerated Landscape of College Recruiting

By: Tom Kovic


The synergy between social media and college recruiting continues to grow in popularity and has evolved into the primary tool of communication between prospects and college coaches. Student-athletes can offer coaches with instantaneous updates about college recruitment, and if used prudently, this high-tech platform can help streamline evaluations significantly and help college coaches recruit best.

On the flip side, it is equally important for prospects and families to realize that social media is a “public platform” where information and opinions that are shared, will directly define the prospects core character and values. Social media and the accelerated landscape of college recruiting is simply an example of two areas of “recruitment evolution” that have merged into one streamlined communication platform.

Georgia gymnastics seniors Brittany Rogers, Brandie Jay, and Mary Beth Box take a selfie on Senior Night in Athens, Georgia/Georgia Athletics

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google are just a few examples of valuable social platforms to share your personal story. That aside, it is the manner and tone of your message that will, in the end, define you in the eyes of college coaches.

Think of the social media platform as an opportunity to make your personal statement to both the public and to college coaches. Envision each post as individual threads that will weave your college recruiting experience into a seamless and comprehensive package.

Inspire your followers with positive messages and experiences and avoid using it as a platform to unload express, irresponsible, and potentially damaging opinions.

·      Introduce yourself

·      Provide your college mission statement and goals

·      Share your glorious moments and success

·      Do not be afraid to share your failed moments

·      Demonstrate the value you place on team and loyalty to your coaches

Conversely, prospects rarely realize the potential severity of their actions on social media. In today’s high-tech society, everything you communicate is out there for people to see and recruits need to be vigilant to the information they share and the manner in which they respond to critics. I suggest the following bullets as an informal reference guide:

·      Everything you put on the Internet is easily shared and therefore “permanent.”

·      Understand the potential repercussions before sharing your opinions.

·      Carefully review any photos or videos you post that even remotely degrade your character                  and personality.

·      Use a communication coach (mom, dad, club coach) to review your posts before they are   activated.

High school athletes are being observed and evaluated on several complex levels and college coaches are now using social platforms to get inside the mind, spirit and emotion of prospects. This should serve as an important reference to boys and girls who regularly navigate social media sites.

Make an effort to keep your posts positive and share messages that take the “high road” and serve as inspiration for upcoming student-athletes. Avoid at all cost using social media as a sounding board to debate reckless viewpoints. Keep anything remotely negative to yourself.

Social media and the constantly changing technological strategy with communication is a big part of the new frontier where prospects can connect instantaneously with college coaches. That being the case, a well-organized prospective student-athlete will take great care in organizing and managing social media communication in a way that will promote his or her chances in impressing college coaches, and do so in a positive and responsible manner.


Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and founder and lead advisor with Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families navigating the college recruiting process. visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.  


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