This weekend, the top junior and senior elite gymnasts in the country will compete for national championship titles at the 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston. With so many big names and talented gymnasts in the field at nationals, it’s easy to miss some of the most confident, impressive athletes who aren’t necessarily top podium threats.
Below are some of the best under-the-radar gymnasts to follow at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Sloane Blakely – WOGA (Senior)
Blakely has made a strong comeback from injury this year. After missing the 2017 season, Blakely is back and ready to make her mark in elite gymnastics. At the GK U.S. Classic, she showed solid routines on all four events, though beam and floor were her best.
Her work on bars is also impressive, where she has an aggressive but graceful swing and beautiful form throughout the routine. On beam, she has powerful tumbling and fluid connections. Blakely has lots of power on floor and vault, making her a competitive all-around gymnast who hopes to make the national team.
Olivia Dunne – ENA Paramus (Senior)
Since Dunne began competing as a junior elite in 2014, she has brought both grace and power to her gymnastics. Floor is where she excels, combining big tumbling passes with beautiful leaps and choreography. Dunne has also been training upgrades on the uneven bars, where she has nice extension and rhythm. This is her first year as a senior elite, and she will be looking to break into the top group of seniors following a promising junior career.
Deanne Soza – Texas Dreams (Senior)
Soza has always been a beautiful gymnast to watch on bars and beam, and since moving to Texas Dreams in 2016, she has cleaned up her form and become much more consistent. Her most exciting event is the uneven bars, where she performs an Ezhova, van Leeuwen, and a full-twisting double layout dismount.
Although Soza’s beam routine also has potential to be a great set, she will not be competing beam this weekend due to the fact that she qualified to championships on three events. In coming years, Soza can become one of the top seniors, hopefully earning a spot on the national team.
Alyona Shchennikova – 5280 Gymnastics (Senior)
Alyona Shchennikova’s best event, like her older sister Polina, has always been the uneven bars. In recent years, Shchennikova has shown that she can be more than a bars specialist, with upgraded tumbling on floor, improved consistency on beam, and a solid Yurchenko double full.
She will be hoping to make her second senior national team this year. Consistently hit performances on both days of nationals can also put her in the conversation for this year’s world championship team.
Sydney Barros – Texas Dreams (Junior)
Barros competed only uneven bars and beam at the GK U.S. Classic, but seems to be recovering well from an injury sustained in April. She has a full-twisting double layout dismount on bars, is training a Yurchenko double full, and shows clean, aggressive work on beam.
Since 2017, Barros has upgraded her routines to become a true all-around competitor. At nationals, assuming she competes all four events, watch for her powerful vault and confident beam.
Olivia Greaves – MG Elite (Junior)
Greaves has a classic MG Elite style with clean execution on all four events. This is showcased in her bars and beam routines, where Greaves has beautiful lines. As a first-year elite, she already shows great poise while competing and has an impressive 5.7 difficulty score on bars. Greaves will be looking to finish in the top five at nationals, and I look forward to seeing her grow as she moves into the senior ranks.
Levi Jung-Ruivivar – Paramount Elite (Junior)
Jung-Ruivivar brings grace and elegance to her gymnastics, something not often seen in young gymnasts. Her beam and floor routines blend acrobatic skills with choreography. Jung Ruivivar’s flexibility shows in beautiful leap sequences on beam and floor, making her a joy to watch. Her standout event is beam, where she has a difficulty score of 5.5 and a triple series. At nationals, Jung-Ruivivar will be hoping to make the junior national team.
Konnor McClain – Revolution (Junior)
After bursting onto the elite scene at the Hopes Championships in 2016, McClain has been working her way up the junior ranks. At International Gymnix earlier this year, McClain showed some of her upgrades, including a double layout on floor.
She has also upgraded her bar routine, making her more of a threat in the all-around competition. At nationals, be sure to watch for her beam routine, which includes a standing full, and her floor routine with sky-high tumbling.
Sydney Morris – First State (Junior)
Morris, also a first-year elite, stands out on bars and beam, where her clean execution makes her one to watch. She has some big skills on bars, including a piked Jaeger and a toe full to full-twisting double back dismount. On beam, Morris has quick, light tumbling and a big double pike dismount. She is at a great starting point for an elite career, and we look forward to seeing her grow to her full potential in the next few years.Tags: Alyona Shchennikova, Deanne Soza, Konnor McClain, Levi Jung-Ruivivar, Olivia Dunne, Olivia Greaves, Sloane Blakely, Sydney Barros, Sydney Morris, United States, US Championships