Monday, July 21, 2014

New Beginnings for Mizzou Gymnastics

Earlier this year, Shannon Welker experienced his first season as head coach of the Mizzou Tigers gymnastics team. During that time, the Tigers won three regular season meets and finished last in the SEC Championships; however, despite the less than ideal results, Welker knows success isn't going to occur overnight.

Missouri Gymnastics

One thing that helped Welker in this past season was his prior coaching experience. Before overseeing the gymnastics team at Mizzou, Welker was an assistant coach at the University of Michigan. “Working at Michigan, I had some really great mentors in [head coach] Bev [Plocki] and [assistant coach] Scott [Sherman] and the athletic department in general, and that was a fantastic experience,” Welker said. “I believe it really prepared me well for the move into this position.” During Welker’s five year at Michigan, its women’s gymnastics program experienced three Big Ten Championships, two Regional Championships and three Nationals appearances. As the aforementioned results show, Michigan has one of the top women’s gymnastics programs in the country, so Welker utilized what he learned with the Wolverines and brought it to Mizzou. “One of the main things that we applied is to have some principles, have some standards and really stick with those,” Welker said of his time at Michigan. “I mean, you have to be somewhat flexible, but I think those things that we all know are good coaching principles and attention to detail, those things are applicable at all schools. You just got to figure out how to apply them to the athletes you’re with, but I think sticking with your gut a lot of times and sticking with the principles and your expectations is very important, even if things are very challenging.”


Everyone faces challenges, and Welker is no exception, especially since 2014 was his first season with the Tigers. With the exception of former Tiger gymnasts Colleen Mulcahy (student coach) and Tori Howard (director of operations), the coaching staff was new, which added to Welker’s challenge. Former Arkansas Gymback Casey Jo Magee and former Oregon State assistant coach John Carney both joined Welker. In addition, the Tigers had two freshmen student coaches, Hannah Finnegan and Mikayla Walsh, and three freshmen gymnasts.  With so many new people coming to work together with girls who have been training together for several months ― and sometimes years ― Welker knew this first season wasn’t going to be easy. “Every group of athletes and individual athlete operates different[ly],” he said. “We also had a new coaching staff that is fantastic, but it takes a little time for everybody to figure out how we best work together and how do we get the most out of our student-athletes and help them with their goals along with getting our team goals done.”

Although there were challenges, Welker also saw success. An aspect Welker and his coaching staff were pleased with the gymnasts’ technique. They were also pleased with the team’s chemistry, as it’s something they value greatly. Chemistry is not only important regarding preparation and practice but in actual competition as well. “A team limits itself if they don’t have that team chemistry in place,” Welker said. “I really think it’s vital to finding out how good and how much you can achieve as a team is making sure that piece is taken care of and the team chemistry is well established.”

As Welker begins to make his mark on the Mizzou gymnastics program, he has a set goal in mind. “Any great program, which is what we’re shooting to be, is consistent, for the most part, from year to year,” he said. “Everybody has great years, and everybody has some good years, and I think that’s what we’re looking for, just a little more consistency on a yearly basis. Being a consistent team competing for NCAA Championships, that’s really what we’re looking for.”

Missouri Gymnastics

While Welker and the Tigers know what they want, they also know how to achieve it.
“We got to make sure that we’re sending the right type of message and [being] more consistent in our training and the message that we’re sending out student-athletes here. Like all programs, recruiting has a great deal of impact on the success of your program once they’re here. “So we’ve certainly been aggressive in getting the most talented student-athletes to come here at the University of Missouri, and I think that has a big deal of great impact on it, and continuing that message once they get here. Just be consistent in our work ethic and our expectations of everyday life, not just in the gym, but in our studies, in our social settings, just as people.” Recruiting is a vital step in achieving their goal of consistency, but Welker’s role concerning that has not changed despite his new position and has advice for aspiring collegiate gymnasts. The Mizzou gymnastics program seeks gymnasts with “the passion for gymnastics and have the passion to be better in everything they do, are enjoyable, have a great work ethic, and really love gymnastics” to help them become a nationally competitive program. Aspiring collegiate gymnasts must be prepared for what this level of the sport entails, especially if they desire to be part of a top program. “You really have to love it because the season gets tough sometimes. It’s challenging. It can be a long season. You’re going back-to-back 12, 14 weeks in a row. You really have to love it. That’s the type of student-athlete that we’re looking for, to get in our program.”

One attraction Mizzou has for recruits is being in the SEC, which Welker described as being “fantastic.”

“It is a very challenging conference and, arguably, the best conference in the country for gymnastics from top to bottom … I think that’s what’s really exciting about this conference, is that every weekend, you get to test yourself against some of the best gymnasts and the best teams in the country. That’s why I think the SEC is such a fantastic place to be.” Being in the SEC is also a great motivator for the Tigers and their goal of consistency. The Tigers know they have to face many of the top teams in the country in their conference alone, which prepares them for what they aspire to be and teaches them to work hard.

Missouri Gymnastics

With a new coaching staff, solid principles and goals and being in the SEC, gym fans have something to look forward to with Mizzou gymnastics. At least, Coach Welker thinks so. “The University of Missouri is an exciting place to be,” Welker said. “It really is great, and I think the student-athletes will find out more about what our program has to offer as the years go by. I’m excited to see the program grow.”

Written by: Amanda

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Claudia Fragapane- Ready to take on the World

Claudia Fragapane got her start in gymnastics the way many gymnasts do. After bouncing around the house as a child, her parents decided to sign her up for gymnastics classes at a local gym as a way to burn off some energy. By the time she turned six years old she was recommended to enroll at Bristol Hawks Gymnastics Center in Bristol, England- where she still trains today. As a young girl she looked up to her club-mates, Rhian Pugh (2004 Junior European Bar Champion) and Amy Sharp (2009 British Espoir Bar Champion), "I wanted to be like them and push to be better." Claudia told us. Now at the age of sixteen, Fragapane is one of the top gymnasts currently competing for Great Britain and has put her name on everyone's radar. The gymternet got their first taste of Claudia when she competed at the Elite Gym Massilia in 2013, debuting her unique and upbeat floor routine that instantly became a fan favorite. Claudia's coach Helen Potter choreographed the routine and says the inspiration behind it is Claudia herself. "She's a lovely girl to work with and she has a great personality." Helen said "Myself, Rory, and the rest of her coaching team would agree that she's a joy to coach. We have fun everyday that she's in the gym." Claudia's routine may not be your typical elite routine, but the extra spunk and flair that Claudia displays makes it unique and fun. "I like my personality to show in my floor exercise." Claudia adds.

Claudia missed most of last season due to injury, but has come back strong in her senior debut. At the English Championships earlier this year she won gold on vault and placed 3rd all around. Then at the British Championships she placed 2nd on vault and 3rd in the all around and on bars. At those Championships Claudia also debuted a laid out full in on floor- making her the first British gymnast to compete the skill. Despite having the highest difficulty in the competition, Claudia placed 5th on floor in the finals after going out of bounds several times. Shortly after the British Championships Claudia earned herself a spot on the European Championships team- where helped team GB make history. After qualifications Great Britain had qualified to team finals in first place, topping the Romanian and Russian teams by over a point. Individually Claudia qualified 3rd into vault finals and 2nd into floor finals. Although she didn't do as well as she would have liked to in event finals, Claudia still helped Great Britain to a historic 2nd place finish in team finals! "I was delighted to be selected for the European Championships team! It was my first major championships and the experience was a little overwhelming, but also very exciting! I enjoyed being on the podium with our amazing team." Fragapane said. Claudia's raw power makes her a promising vault and floor worker for team GB in the future, however she plans to continue upgrading on all four events and compete as an all around gymnast. The possibilities are endless for Fragapane.

As for the future, Claudia is taking it one day at a time and would like to remain competing for Great Britain with the hopes of qualifying for all the major championships in the future. With Great Britain on the rise, Claudia knows exactly what she and the team must do if they want to be serious contenders on the world stage in the future. "We will do as we always do- word hard and stick to our coaches programs." Fragapane said. Claudia is currently training for the Commonwealth Games that begin on July 28th.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dear Gymternet - Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #2 July 2014)

Dear Gymternet, 

It has been a great month! For the past month I had been preparing for the American Classic which was held in Texas at the ranch.  When I got to Texas I had a great training day and the next day was the American Classic where I qualified for the P&G Championships ... it wasn't easy though! I started on floor, then vault, bars, and beam. I fell on floor- on my easiest pass and I was so shocked! Going into vault I thought that maybe I could still qualify but then I fell on vault too. At that point I wasn't sure I was going to qualify, but I didn't want to give up. I was a little embarrassed though because my cousins came to watch and I never fall on floor or vault! I usually depend on floor and vault to boost up my score. On bars I did a great routine and after that I was thinking that I could make it! But I was nervous, especially because I was ending on beam. So I just did the best beam routine I could, it felt so amazing! I didn't have any wobbles and I made all my connections!  When my score popped up I was super excited and I couldn't believe I did it! I'm so glad I didn't give up after the first two events!

My whole family came to watch me at the meet.  I was excited to show them where I go every month for elite developmental camp.  It was fun to show them around the ranch.  My little brother and sister were so excited when they found a peacock!

I also got my first fan mail last month! It was so cool to know I have fans! I had to come up with an autograph really quick, but it was super exciting! 

My next competition will be at the US  Classic in Chicago on August 2nd.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

10 Things You Don't Know About...Jazmyn Foberg

1. My dad brought me to the London Olympics!
2. I can cross my eyes and look straight forward out of one.
3. I swam with dolphins twice.
4. I had blonde hair when I was little.
5. I have two dogs- Roxy and Buddy
6. I love riding on the back of my dads motorcycle.
7. I love candy crush!!
8. My favorite number is two.
9. I love the Giants and the Yankees.
10. I love to go on vacation.

10 Things You Don't Know About: 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Moving Forward- An Interview with Vanessa Atler

Best known for her difficult tumbling and explosive vaults, Vanessa Atler was one of the best junior gymnasts in the mid 90's and was considered by many to be a front runner for the 2000 Olympics. Like many of the worlds greatest gymnasts, Vanessa began taking gymnastics classes at a young age and quickly became a star. By the age of 12 she was a junior elite on the national team and was gaining attention from fans around the world. Vanessa placed 3rd all around at the 1995 US Olympic Festival- not far behind Olympian Kerri Strug and finished 2nd at her very first National Championships. In 1996, Vanessa won the all around and floor title at the National Championships and was invited to participate in an exhibition meet, as a junior, with members of the Magnificent 7 and several other international Olympians. In 1997, Atler placed 2nd all around at the American Cup and also took first on vault and beam. Later that year she tied with Kristy Powell to win the National Championships and also became the National Champion on vault. Vanessa went on to win several more medals at the International level such as gold on vault and floor at the Goodwill games in 1998 and gold on vault, beam, and floor at the 1999 American Cup. Vanessa also became the first American women to compete the rudi vault.

After several years of success at the elite level, Vanessa was easily one of the front runner's going into the 2000 Olympics, however everything seemed to be going downhill. Vanessa injured her ankle in 1999 and left her long time coach Steve Rybacki after failing to win the National Championships for the second year in a row. (1998/1999) Vanessa developed an eating disorder and began to struggle in competition, mainly on bars. In the end, she was left off the 2000 Olympic team. We caught up with Vanessa to talk about the ups and downs of her gymnastics career and what she is up to today.

How did you get started in gymnastics? 
Gosh it feels so long ago, but I believe even at an early age of four years old I wanted to fit in. I remember I wanted to be a cheerleader and marry a football player because I believed that was how you made friends! So my mom signed me up for gymnastics classes at a local gym.

As a young girl who was your gymnastics idol? 
I really had so many. I remember my first idol was Kim Zmeskal. I was obsessed with her floor routine and her three whipbacks in a row to double back. I wanted to be just like her! As I got older and began competing in the elite world I idolized Elena Produnova and Simona Amanar.

Throughout your gymnastics career you always seemed to struggle on bars. Why do you think that was?
Bars just wasn't my event. I think everyone could see that even when I hit, it wasn't comparable to a lot of elite athletes. Even in level 6 I recall struggling with my clear hip circle. I never quite felt at ease on bars. I feel like I always swung in panic and anxiety. As I got older I improved on bars and could make my routines many times in practice, maybe not as much as most elite gymnasts, but I managed. I believe the nerves got to me more in competitions and I did not know how to think positively when I stepped onto that mat. I was always thinking about the worst possible scenario. I believe that is just one of my personality flaws. Whenever I struggle with something, I need a lot of encouragement from another person to block out the doubts in my head.

Can you talk about the decision to switch from your long time club Charter Oak to WOGA in 1999? 
This is always hard to talk about because I feel this decision hurt so many people and it hurt my image as a gymnast as well- but sometimes you make mistakes and I believe this was one of them. Really what happened was I was upset with Steve, my coach. He had hurt my feelings at a competition and believe me, it doesn't take much to hurt my feelings. I was always a very sensitive person. Whatever he said to me at the time, I don't even remember now, probably wouldn't have bothered most elite gymnasts. He was just being tough on me and instead of communicating my feelings to him, I told my mom I wanted to quit. Now mind you I made this decision at the worst moment, which was right after I had lost another national title. I had made a decision off of emotion. I went to WOGA out of fear of disappointing a lot of people, but I just wanted to quit. What I should have done was talked with Steve and things would have been okay. A learning lesson for me to always communicate your feelings and do not make quick decisions when emotions are high. I love Beth and Steve and I believe we have a great relationship now.

You were one of the first "big" elite names to come from WOGA- which would go on to become one of the most accomplished gyms in the world. How does that make you feel? 
Well, it's weird. I'm sure they don't look at me that way. I'm sure they feel their real WOGA elite gymnasts were Hollie Vise, Carly Patterson, Marie Fjordholm, etc. I believe most of those gymnasts were brought up in that gym. I will always consider myself a Glider gymnast, but I appreciate that Valeri had me at one of the toughest times of my career and I can take some positive things I learned from WOGA as well.

Can you talk about the decision to go pro versus staying amateur and keeping your NCAA eligibility? Was college gymnastics ever an option for you?
Another bad decision. But it's easy to say hindsight! College was an option and Valorie Kondos even took me on a little tour of UCLA. But I was always the girl getting wonderful offers before I had won anything, so it seemed to be a great idea to make a good living for when gymnastics was over. Who knew what was going to happen with the end of my career. I also recall at a young age looking at college gymnastics as something of a big step down from the elite world, and I don't say that to be insulting- I just didn't know. I was never interested in it. Later watching my former teammates compete in college and seeing the joy, camaraderie, and skill level- you better believe I regret it. Especially losing out on an amazing education! But I'm not going to beat myself up for it. You live with your decisions and move on.

Going pro gave Vanessa the opportunity to appear in a commercial for Reese's in 1999.

Looking back at your career, do you have any other regrets? 
I believe there are many choices I made that I wish I hadn't, but who knows where that would have taken me. All I know is that the choices I made have taken me where I am today, and today I couldn't be happier. I would never want to take myself away from the life I have now.

After everything you had accomplished, do you feel you deserved a spot on the 2000 Olympic team? 
No. Looking back, I'm glad I did not make it. I believe with the frame of mind I was in, I probably would have gotten hurt or done terrible. But don't get me wrong, to not be able to say I'm an Olympian still hurts me everyday. If the trials were in 1999, then yes I should have gone. But oh what a difference a year makes.

After the 2000 Olympics did you consider a comeback or did you know you were done? 
I did consider it several times and I tried, but for me it was just too hard to get back in shape and the fear of failing again was just too much for me to handle. I still dream about it sometimes, just for fun!

In 2005 you went on a reality TV show called Starting Over to help you move on from some of the difficulties you experienced during your gymnastics career. What was that experience like and do you think going on the show helped you? 
Starting Over was an amazing experience. Yes it was a show in the end, but the words they spoke to me definitely changed me for life. I think the biggest thing the show did for me was it took away my anger and let me forgive people. It also made me realize that because of my fear of failure, I really did send myself into a self sabotage kind of mode.  So it just put my experience in a different perspective and I could look at it more clearly and understand why it all happened, which gave me peace.

You did accomplish a lot in your gymnastics career, what are you most proud of? 
I think being the first American gymnast to compete the front handspring rudi on vault was a good one. Also to know that my name, as small as it may be, will always be in gymnastics history of being a national champion!

What is the coolest thing you've got to experience from being a gymnast? 
I think to have the chance of hearing the crowd pump you up before a floor routine. Hearing so many people screaming "Go Vanessa!" is an amazing feeling. It feels like all the people in the audience are your friends and in that moment you can feel the love and it can lift you in the air!

If you had the choice to compete as an elite gymnast in this day, under today's code, or back in the late 90's/early 2000's like you did, which would you choose? 
Gosh, that is too hard, just because I couldn't handle any of the things gymnasts do nowadays! But to be able to be a specialist is appealing! I think being a beam and vault specialist now would be so much fun! My floor endurance would have suffered with all those passes they have to do now, so floor definitely would be out!

Team USA appears to be more cohesive today then they were back in your time. Why do you think that is? 
Well, their system is so perfected now. It's obvious they have found something that works for the team. We have never had coaches work together so close and have an opportunity to learn from each other. USA was always just separate gyms competing against each other and then trying to come together for Worlds and Olympics. Now these coaches and gymnasts see each other once a month and feed off each other. We have so many young, smart, passionate coaches in America and all we do now is share our knowledge. How could you not be the best from this system!

What is a typical day like for you? What have you been up to today?
 I leave for work at 8:30am and bring my son with me. My son Darwin is five months old and the love of my life! We have an employee daycare at work, which I am extremely grateful for. I work at American Kid Sports Center in Bakersfield, California. From 9am-1pm I work with our Optional group, which are levels 7-9, with our vault and bar coach Dallas Becerra. From 1pm-5pm I work with our TOPS group. We have some little six year old dynamos that have a great future and always make me laugh! After that I get my son from daycare and drive home. I hand the baby off to my husband and try to get some "me" time. I shower, eat, nap, go on Pinterest, and work on some writing.

I am in the process of writing a children's book and I'm so excited about it! I wrote it when I was pregnant and now I'm just making the finishing touches. I hope for it to be out on e-book and Amazon by the end of the year. I wanted to write something that helps parents with children that are wanting to quit and struggling with failure. It is really light and bubbly and is based on some of my experiences. I wanted to do something positive for gymnastics, instead of writing some sad, dramatic, story about my career. So I thought it would be better to keep things positive- you know, the thing I'm always trying to work on!

If you saw elite potential in one of the girls you coached, would you be willing to take her to that level? 
Yes, I believe I would. I had my coaches Beth and Steve to help mentor me and many other great people. I think I would be very protective over the gymnast and make sure they were not getting hurt emotionally. I know how tough it is and I would just want to make sure they came away from the sport with a positive feeling.

We would like to thank Vanessa for talking about her story with us. We also want to wish her all the best in the future! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interview with "USA Today" reporter Nancy Armour

This is an interview that I conducted a few months ago for my Senior Project (basically a career research paper/presentation) with USA Today reporter Nancy Armour. My project was about the field of journalism and I wanted to post this interview because I know many of you are interested in the field of journalism just like me. I hope some of you find this helpful or interesting!

1. What got you interested in the field of journalism? 

Nancy: I had actually been admitted to an advanced business program at a college I thought I wanted to attend. But i’m really, really bad at math and my brother wisely told me I’d be making a huge mistake. When I said I didn’t know what to major in, he suggested I start in journalism; I’ve always enjoyed and been good at writing, and was on the school paper in high school. The more I learned about journalism and the more practical experience I had with reporting, the more I realized I’d found my niche.

2. How do you come up with ideas for stories to cover? 

Nancy: Some are ideas from editors and some are stories that are “givens” – like in the ramp-up to Sochi, writing about Meryl Davis and Charlie White trying to become the first U.S. ice dancers to win the Olympic title. But many stories I do simply because it’s a topic I find interesting or it’s something about which I want to know more. I figure if I’m curious about something, odds are some other people are, too. An example is, two years ago, I noticed people on Twitter asking celebrities and athletes for re-tweets. I found it curious, saw very little had been written about it and decided to do a story. It wound up getting great play.

3. How do you go about writing an article? What steps are involved? 

Nancy: It depends on what the story is. If it’s a breaking story or a story based on a news conference or event, you decide what’s most important and then write what you saw and/or heard. My general rule has always been: If I came home from an event, what would I say when my family asked what happened? If it’s a feature story or project, start by doing whatever research you need. It could be as simple as finding someone’s bio or the history of an event, or locating experts on the topic you’re covering. It also could be as involved as finding previous articles or books so you fully understand the subject about which you’re going to be writing. If you were to do a story on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reaction to the political turmoil in Ukraine, for example, you couldn't do it without knowing his history (his reaction to Georgia’s independence) or the history of Ukraine and Russia. I don’t tend to be a person who makes outlines before writing a story. Once I come up with a lead (and some come easier than others), I just write. I have a general idea in my head of what I want to include and where I want the story to go, but mapping all of it out before I start writing has never worked for me. I’ll self-edit and revise after, of course. But every writer is different, and you have to find a process that works for you – and that your editor can tolerate.

4. What is the coolest thing you've got to experience through your job?

Nancy:The people I’ve met and the things I’ve seen. I am incredibly fortunate to do what I do. My job has taken me all over the world and given me a front-row seat to the best sporting events. I’ve met people from all walks of life, which has broadened my outlook on the world, and it’s a privilege to be able to share their stories. 

5. Is college necessary in order to land a job in this career path?

Nancy: College, yes. A journalism degree, no. Unfortunately, college has become a pre-requisite in many fields today and journalism is one of them. But some of the best reporters I’ve met had degrees in engineering or literature or philosophy. Don’t get me wrong. A journalism degree is great (I’m proud of mine and happy I have it) but if you realize this is your calling and you’re a semester from an accounting degree, don’t let that hold you back. 

6. What advice would you give to an aspiring journalist? 

Nancy: Be curious! About anything and everything. Read as much as you can, and not just newspapers and websites. Read books and magazines. Read about subjects you don’t care about or would ever want to cover. The best reporters are the ones with a thirst for knowledge, who always have one more question to ask. Get experience. It comes in all shapes and sizes these days, thanks to the Internet, and future employers will want to see what you’ve done (and what you can do) when you apply for jobs. Have something to show them. Have fun. This is one of the greatest jobs you can ever have, never lose sight of that.

Friday, June 13, 2014

On the watch: New faces on the elite scene for 2014.

Delanie Harkness

If you are a long time reader of my blog, you should already know Delanie Harkness because I've been talking about her for quite some time. Delanie is twelve years old and trains at Gedderts Twistars in Michigan. She's fresh off winning the Junior A division of the JO National Championships and qualified to junior elite at the May developmental camp. For her first year as an elite, I expect Delanie to hang somewhere in the middle of the pack. She has the full package of qualities that it takes to be successful at the elite level, so I can't wait to see what she's going to do. Although she doesn't have as much difficulty as some of the top juniors right now, I think she has a lot of potential and promise for the future. Within the next few years, Delanie could be the next big thing!

Be sure to watch for Delanie's beautiful geinger release on bars. She gets great height and her form is impeccable!


Victoria Nguyen

Victoria is another one of coach Chow's prodigies who is flying under the radar. (Literally!) Many of us first met Victoria through gymnastike's BTR series at Chows gym. Victoria, who is 13 years old, has been attending the national team camps all year long and supposedly qualified to elite and straight through to Nationals at one of those camps. Victoria has been on the down low, but she's bound to break out strong in her first year as an elite. Just last year she competed as a level 9 and won the state title on vault, bars, and floor. Nguyen has similar qualities to her teammate Norah Flatley and is strong on beam in particular.

Be sure to watch for Victoria on beam! Like most gymnasts from Chow's, she's a fantastic beam worker with beautiful lines.

Elena Arenas

A lot like the other girls on this list, Elena is just 12 years old and is going to be one to keep your eye on. Elena has been attending the developmental camps for almost two years now and recently qualified to junior elite after tying with Alyonna Shchennikova to win the qualifier at the May developmental camp. (Making her the first elite gymnast from her gym.) Last year Elena won the HOPES qualifier at the ranch and competed in the US Challenge where she finished 7th all around. A year later, she is now well prepared to move into the coveted elite ranks where she will hopefully shine among the best gymnasts in the country. On her quest to qualify to junior elite, Elena also competed level 10 this year- winning the all around state title, placing 2nd all around and 1st on bars at regionals, and finishing 10th all around at the JO National Championships. Elena has a really pretty style and lots of potential! We can't wait to see what she will do in her elite career!

Be sure to watch Elena on bars! She has a nice tkatchev and a beautiful pac salto. Elena has also been seen training a new dismount- a double layout with a full twist, that will be awesome if she competes it. (Video on her Instagram- it's gorgeous.) 

Adeline Kenlin

Adeline Kenlin is currently the youngest elite competitor out there at just 11 years old, however she will turn 12 the day after the US Classic. What a great birthday present it would be for Adeline to nail her first meet as an elite gymnast! Last year she won the HOPES (age 10-11) division of the US Challenge and also took home gold on bars, beam, and floor. At the Buckeye elite qualifier earlier this year, Adeline passed her elite compulsories and won the competition. At the May developmental camp she qualified to junior elite. Adeline may be small in size, but she's certainly got all the qualities to go far in the elite world.

Be sure to watch for Adeline on beam. She's got some impressive connections such as a bhs-bhs-layout and aerial-back tuck. 

Alyona Schennikova

As the younger sister of senior national team member Polina, Alyona is ready to follow in her big sisters footsteps. Alyona qualified to junior elite at the May developmental camp after scoring 1st in the physical abilities testing and tying for first all around in the qualifier with Elena Arenas. At the US Challenge last year, Alyona took the all around title as well as placing 3rd on vault and 1st on bars and floor. Although Alyona doesn't have a whole lot of difficulty, she's a beautiful gymnast and will be one to keep our eyes on as she ventures through the elite ranks. 

Be sure to watch Alyona on bars and beam, where her naturally long and beautiful lines are evident. 

Shilese Jones

Shilese Jones is also only 11 years old and will turn 12 just a few days before the US Classic! Last year she competed in the HOPES division (age 10-11) of the US Challenge and placed 3rd all around and 1st on vault. Shilese may be one of the younger competitors in the elite division but she's got a lot of big tricks. Shilese has been training a crazy new skill on floor- a full in half out, which has been competed twice before but never at the world level. (It is not in the code of points.) Shilese is a powerful gymnast, so we can expect to see big things from her on vault and floor in the future.

Be sure to watch Shilese on floor. She has lots of power and tumbles well for her age.

McKenna Kelly 

Following in the footsteps of her very famous mother- Mary Lou Retton, it will be interesting to see how McKenna will fair in the senior elite ranks. Earlier this year McKenna tied with Mckenzie Brannan for a share of the Nastia Liukin Cup. (There was no tie breaker.) She also won the National floor title at JO Nationals last month. McKenna's best events are easily vault and floor thanks to her raw power, however she still considered a strong all around gymnast. McKenna has yet to qualify to the elite level, however she has stated that elite is her goal and she attended her first national team training camp earlier this month.  If all goes as planned, we can expect to see McKenna aiming for a spot on the senior national team later this summer.

Be sure to watch for McKenna on floor. She's got some explosive tumbling passes such as the double layout she opens with. McKenna has also been training a double double and an Arabian double front piked, so it's possible we could see those skills in her routine.