SALT LAKE CITY — Saturday afternoon, for the first time since gymnastics legends Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug and Amanda Borden duked it out at the 1993 Coca-Cola National Championships, USA gymnastics national team members and hopefuls competed in Salt Lake City.
This time around, the competition was held at the Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah, rather than the Delta Center, but the level of gymnastics was equitable.
These gymnasts were, quite literally, among the country’s elite.
Junior and senior Elite gymnasts took part in two competitions Saturday, collectively known as the American Classic.
The goal was to qualify for the U.S. Championships, which are set to commence Aug. 16 in Boston.
Twenty-two gymnasts left the Huntsman having done just that, including Utah commit Grace McCallum.
Shilese Jones of Future Gymnastics Academy walked away the senior Elite all-around winner with a score of 53.900, while Shania Adams (Buckeye Gymnastics) and Maddie Johnston (Hill’s Gymnastics) finished in second and third place, respectively.
Individual event winners, at the senior level, included Jones, who scored a 14.350 on vault and a 13.800 on floor, Madelyn Williams (San Mateo Gymnastics) on uneven bars with a 14.250 and Kara Eaker (Great American Gymnastics Express) on balance beam with a 14.850.
Three of the senior Elites to compete are current commits to the University of Utah and each had moments where they look the part.
McCallum, who was prequalified for the U.S. Championships thanks to her victory in the all-around competition at the 2018 Pacific Rim Championships, competed on just two events, bars and beam.
The Minnesota native thrived on bars, where she finished second with a score of 14.050.
Deanne Soza, meanwhile, competed on three events — vault, bars and beam — and finished in fourth place on vault with a score of 13.450.
The third Utah commit, Jaylene Gilstrap, also competed on three events Saturday and scored a 13.400 on vault, a 12.950 on beam and a 13.000 on floor, with her efforts on vault and floor good enough for fifth place finishes.
Both Soza (39.150) and Gilstrap (39.350) failed to qualify for the U.S. Championships, however, — with total scores just under the required mark of 39.750 — and will have one final opportunity to seal their spot at the U.S. Classic in Columbus, Ohio at the end of the month.
While none of the gymnasts were made available for comment, all received hearty ovations from the Red Rock faithful in attendance, as well as more than a few Red Rocks themselves, including Shannon McNatt, Alexia Burch and MaKenna Merrell-Giles, among others.
One additional Red Rock, former Elite and current NCAA All-American MyKayla Skinner, made an appearance as well, handing out medals to the competition’s winners.
ELITE SCORING: Scoring at the Elite level differs from that at the collegiate level. Elite gymnasts are judged on both the difficulty of their routine as well as execution. Those scores are then combined to garner a total score, which realistically may go as high as 17.0.
In order to qualify for the U.S Championships, senior Elite gymnasts at the American Challenge needed to score a 52.0 if they competed in the all-around, a 39.750 for just three events and a 27.0 for two events.
UTAHN SHINES IN HOPES CLASSIC: In the 12-13 age division of the Hopes Classic, held Friday evening, Salt Lake City native Lundyn VanderToolen tied for third place in the all-around competition with Jamison Sears (World Class Gymnatics) with a score of 49.0.
The first place finisher was Genie's Gymnastics' Mya Witte with a 51.30, while Lily Pederson (Flips Gymnastics) finished second with a 51.050.2 comments on this story
VanderToolen, who competes for Olympus Gymnastics, also claimed an individual event title on uneven bars, on which she posted a score of 13.7.
Her third place finish secured her a spot in the Hopes Championships, which are held at the end of July (July 28) in conjunction with the U.S. Classic and are the final competition in Hopes level gymnasts' season.
The other Utahn, Camie Winger of Orem, (All-American Gymnastics) finished with an all-around score of 32.150 after competing on three events, vault, bars and balance beam.