Saturday, May 21, 2016
Riley McCuster | MG Elite
Riley moved to MG elite last year and already shows a lot of potential and promise. She qualified to elite in March and just recently secured her spot at the P&G Championships after a strong showing at the American Classic. Despite falling on bars, she finished 5th all-around and had a very solid beam set that got her the bronze medal. Earlier this year she won the all-around title at the Parkettes Invite and KPAC Cup. In February she was offered a full ride scholarship to the powerhouse Florida Gators gymnastics team and it was no surprise when she committed-- following in the footsteps of her teammates Laurie Hernandez and Jazmyn Foberg. Riley is a beautiful gymnast to watch thanks to her nice lines, great flexibility, and gorgeous toe point. Coach Maggie Haney has a way of turning her girls into stars regardless of how rough their first year of elite may go, so that gives me some piece of mind as Riley heads into Classics and Nationals-- not that we doubt her abilities to perform well this season, it's just nice to know that she's in the hands of someone who has lots of experience helping gymnasts reach their full potential. With a little more experience over the next few years and some upgrades, Riley is going to be one to keep our eyes on!
Irina Alexeeva | WOGA
Irina Alexeeva might be a name you're already familiar with. The gymnastics world first fell in love with her when she was about nine years old and she's been on the watch list ever since. When we interviewed Irina in 2012, she told us that she has dual citizenship and would like to compete for her native Russia someday, but ultimately it appears she has decided to stick with competing elite in the United States. She has competed at the elite level several times in the last few years at competitions such as the WOGA Classic, HNI, Gymnix and Elite Gym Massilia, but this will be her first year competing at the major US elite meets. At the American Classic this past weekend, Irina placed third all-around despite falling on bars, which is one of her strongest events. We don't see a laid-out jaeger too often, especially not from a junior! In addition to bars, Irina also shows a lot of potential on beam where she has a whopping 16.2 start value. Her style reminds me a lot of her WOGA teammate, Alyssa Baumann. Not only do they have similar lines, but they are both strong all-around gymnasts who specialize on bars and beam. Irina has posted some solid numbers under the elite scoring system so far, so I can't wait to see how she does this summer.
Jaymes Marshall | TIGAR
Jaymes Marshall turned heads when she competed an amanar vault at JO Nationals-- a vault that is almost unheard of from somebody her age and at a level 10 competition. At just twelve years of age, she has a floor routine that is equally as impressive. She opens with a double layout, does a whip to triple as her second pass (that is slightly under rotated in the video above, but she nailed it at the American Classic) her third pass is a sky high double pike and she finishes with an impressive tucked full-in. (That gives her a very solid 16.0 start value!) At the American Classic she placed 2nd all-around and first on vault with a 15.5, locking in her spot at the P&G Championships! As a level 10 earlier this year, Jaymes won the Regional title and placed 2nd all-around at States. Notably she has scored two perfect 10's on vault this year- one at the Pikes Peak Cup and one at the Colorado State Championships. With her big skills and high scoring potential, Jaymes could really make the junior field interesting this season.
Kiya Johnson | Texas Dreams
As a level 10, Kiya has showed she is a strong and well balanced all-around gymnast. She is a two-time Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier and won the all-around, vault, and beam title in 2015! At her first elite meet, the American Classic, she didn't have the best all-around performance but she debuted several new skills including a yurchenko double on vault which gave her the bronze. Kiya is great on floor as well, competing both a double layout and an arabian double front to stag jump. With 1991 World Champion Kim Zmeskal as her coach, Kiya is in very good hands as she heads down the elite route. I think with a little more experience, she will have an impressive elite career!
Sunisa Lee | Midwest
If you follow Sunisa on Instagram (@sunisalee_) then chances are you're probably already in love with this little one. Sunisa is very talented and shows great flexibility and potential. Last year she competed as a pre-elite where she won the all-around and bar title at the US Challenge. Sunisa has the skills, she just needs to work on cleaning it all up. She posts a lot of impressive training videos on her Instagram (even when she injures her arm and is in a cast.) We like this little one a lot and if she continues to work hard...we have no doubts she will become a star someday.
Cameron Machado | First State
Cameron is another young one who shows a lot of potential. She doesn't have the most difficulty or as much polish as some of the other girls, but I could see that developing naturally over time. Like Sunisa, Cameron also posts a lot of training videos on her Instagram ( @cam.machado13) so we know the potential for big skills is there. At the recent JO Nationals, Cameron's best finish came on bars where she placed 3rd. At the American Classic she placed 7th on bars, 13th all-around, and qualified for the P&G Championships.
Which new elites are you excited to see this season?
Monday, May 16, 2016
We recently chatted with Alexis to reflect back on her career and find out what the future holds.
How did you get started in gymnastics?
I started gymnastics because I saw what my sister could do and I wanted to be able to do it too.
What was it like training side by side with her?
I loved training with my sister! We had a healthy competition. We pushed each other to do our best. We always tried to see who would get what skills the quickest and things like that. We are always there for each other and very close!
|Alexis with her sister Marissa, who just completed her career at the University of Kentucky|
For most of your career you trained at CGA under Mary Lee Tracy. What was that experience like?
It definitely made me a tougher athlete mentally and physically, but I would prefer to not go deeper into this.
You've seemed to mature a lot both mentally and in your gymnastics since that time. What advice would you give to young athletes when it comes to the mental aspect of the sport?
You can never stop believing in yourself and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. I always went by 'fake it till you make it,' because I wasn't always confident and that helped me become it. With me having to make the decision to move from Ohio made me mature pretty quick being without my family.
How has Brandy Johnson's gym been different and perhaps better for you?
It is a more positive atmosphere where I could continue to grow as a gymnast. The coaches have helped me get back on track mentally. I immediately felt like I was apart of a family as soon as I stepped in the doors. I enjoy this gym so much that I've given up living with my parents and siblings for over three years.
Through all your ups and downs, what pushed you to keep going?
I had a fire in me to prove people wrong and do the best that I could and improve myself. I watched meet videos to remind myself what I could do and keep myself motivated.
In the gymnastics world you are known as "Poof," how did that nickname come about?
The nickname came about because I have super curly hair!
What has been some of the highlights of your career so far?
The highlights of my career so far have been hitting 8 for 8 at Visa Championships, tying with Simone Biles on floor in 2nd place at the American Classic, and at this years JO Nationals it was great being able to hit 4 for 4.
Do you have any pre meet rituals?
My mom couldn't always make it to my meets so she would always send me bible verses and a quote the day of the meet. If I have a late session, I take a nap before it. I have my teammate, Payton, braid my hair and I always have to be chewing gum!
What is something that most people might not know about you?
I love watching Criminal Minds!
You were originally committed to the University of Georgia but signed with NC State last November. What went into making that decision?
I didn't have a choice with that decision but I do feel that God does everything for a reason and he's putting me exactly in the place that I'm supposed to be. I'm very excited to be apart of the pack! Go Pack!
Are you working on any upgrades or new skills for college?
On bars I'm working on tkatchevs and toe fulls. On beam I'm working on back handspring-back handspring-layout, side aerials, switch halfs, and front aerials. On floor I'm working piked full-ins, double arabians, and double layouts.
What are some of your goals for the future?
I hit my goal for this season by hitting 4 for 4. My goal for next season will be to compete all-around for NC State. I can't wait to be in the team atmosphere and help the team make it to Nationals!
Saturday, January 30, 2016
In our interview, Jay talks about how his coaching career began, his thoughts on this season so far and he shares his opinion on the trend of early recruiting.
|PC: Emily Brauner|
|PC: LSU Gymnastics|
You are known for being a top recruiter in college sports. (Voted #9 in ESPN Magazine in 2011) What do you look for when recruiting athletes?
What are your thoughts on the trend of early recruiting and commitments?
What are some of the highlights of your coaching career so far?
|PC: LSU Gymnastics|
LSU has improved tremendously over the last few years, do you think this year will finally be LSU's year to win a National Championship?
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
How did your coaching career begin?
I was a diver at a small college in Arkansas and took a gymnastics class, because I thought it would help my diving. I wound up competing a little bit of low-level AAU gymnastics. After teaching high school for a year, I came to Utah to work on a graduate degree in Psychology of Sport, with the intention of teaching. As part of my graduate assistantship, I was teaching winter camping, lifesaving, handball and a gymnastics class. Title IX was requiring Universities to start varsity women's sports teams. I was asked if I would help start a gymnastics team. I was paid $1,500 and my budget included 5 in-state tuition waivers and $4,500. We put a notice in the student newspaper and held tryouts. Somehow, that first year, we qualified to Championships and finished 10th. I fell in love with coaching and the rest, as they say, is history.
|Note in The Daily Utah Chronicle, fall of 1975|
- Add the directional and out of bounds lines to the vault landing area.
- Count all scores, with no exhibition routines.
- Whenever possible compete with two teams, but NEVER with more than four, including at NCAA Regional meets and NCAA Championships.
- Either do away with individual awards and become a "team sport" or bring back event finals.
Monday, January 25, 2016
How did you get started in gymnastics?
I started gymnastics at the age of 4 1/2. My mum took me just for a bit of fun being that I was so young.
Who were some of your idols or inspirations growing up?
I didn't have one that young- I was really just having fun, but as I got older, around my teenage years, my inspiration was my dad. He was a motocross rider and competed at a high level so I always looked up to him. My idols growing up were Lleyton Hewitt, Lilia Podkopayeva, and Michael Klim.
At what age did you realize you had the potential to go far in gymnastics?
I got moved into the elite stream at around age 6. My coaches saw my talent and moved me up quite quickly. I realized around age 7 when I got talent scouted by Ju-Ping Tian at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) when my club, Gold Coast Gymnastics Club attended a competition there.
With the 2000 Olympics being held in Australia, you and a few other girls got to perform an exhibition routine in the Olympic arena. What was that like?
It was such an amazing experience. I still remember training so hard and practicing that routine in sync with the other girls to get it perfect. It was one of the best experiences and so inspiring to be able to meet gymnasts competing in the 2000 Olympics. I remember how excited we were to get their autographs on our t-shirts, we were in awe! Also, whenever I hear Vanessa Amorosi's song "Shine" it brings it all back to me as this was the opening song to the ceremony. It is the best feeling.
You were always known for your grace and beautiful lines, did you ever have any dance training?
No, I didn't have any formal training. Most of my gymnastics training was from the Chinese and I found they spent more time with us doing basics and quality control, Ju-Ping Tian was a major part of my quality basics and clean lines. We did do ballet everyday from around 8 years old which definitely gave us a strong foundation.
What would you consider the highlight of your gymnastics career?
The highlight of my career is hard to pinpoint to one thing. The 2006 Pacific Alliance in Hawaii was such a highlight. I was at my peak and I medaled on the podium with Chellsie [Memmel] and Nastia [Liukin]. I had also scored the first 16.0 on beam ever in the new code which I will never forget. The 2006 Commonwealth Games was something I will never forget and gave me extra experience and confidence for my career. Lastly, the 2007 Worlds in Denmark, finishing 7th all-around was definitely a highlight. All of these experiences had their ups and downs, but they are what I remember the most and I'm most proud of.
What was your favorite part about gymnastics?
My favorite part was pushing myself and working with my coaches to reach a goal, training hard then showing what you can do in a competition. The traveling part was awesome too, I never got sick of it!
What was your least favorite part about gymnastics?
My least favorite part was probably being held back by injuries and not being able to push your body to where you wanted to be. Also, the sacrifice you have to make in order to be successful, nothing else matters in gymnastics. It was quite challenging through the teenage years with body changes, injuries, hormones, etc.
Your retirement came as as surprise to many. Can you talk about what went into making that decision?
Yes it did come as a shock to many. I think it had been leading up to that point. I had been injured for quite some time and the coaching structure had changed dramatically. I was not happy and I was taking my attitude to the gym with me. I also struggled communicating my feelings which made it that much harder. Everything had built up and I had had enough. I was also starting to focus less and was bringing fear to my training which isn't safe. I lost my ambition and was put in a place where I did not want to continue. All in all, it was a build up of frustration from injuries, fitness levels, coaching staff and changes.
Was it hard to move on?
It was one of the hardest times in my life and to be honest, I have only just found peace and "normality" in the last few years. I struggled adjusting to everyday life- not having a specific goal and training everyday to reach that goal. Finding a path in life, changes in my body, learning how to eat well and properly, and letting go of the only thing you know...it is such a difficult time for elite athletes. It took me a long time to accept myself and not regret retiring when I did. I kept saying I should have done this or I should have done that, but I realized that I retired for a reason, I was at the lowest point mentally and could not continue, so I did what I thought was best at the time. It is easy to say now that I should have done this or I should have done that, but I was a different person then and I hadn't matured enough to take control of the situation. If I hadn't of went through of all that, I wouldn't be who I am today and I love who I am today and what I have experienced. I am very blessed and grateful.
Do you stay involved with gymnastics at all today?
Not anymore. I did coach for a while and absolutely loved every minute of it! I did however need to move on and was struggling to do that properly in the gym. I still watch videos here and there and love seeing what everyone is up to. Maybe one day I will return to coaching!
What are your thoughts on the current state of Australian gymnastics?
To be honest, I don't actually follow it enough to comment. However, I think Australian Gymnastics has the potential to rise further and further with the up and coming development programs. It's also amazing to see the veterans continuing with their passion. It has definitely changed a lot since I was training in terms of age and the benefit of being that little bit older. I think maturity is a huge part of succeeding in the sport, which is why I think we have seen more success from the more experienced girls. Also, being that little bit older helps as you know exactly what you want. You push your body because you want it! I must say I love following Larrissa [Miller], she is an inspiration to so many. I hope Australian Gymnastics can continue to rise.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
The best piece of advice I was given would have to of been: compete the way you train and take one step at a time. Enjoy everything you do and once that stops then it's time to find a new passion.
Looking back now, what advice would you have given your younger self?
The advice I would have given to my younger self would be live in the moment, not the past, not the present, but now. Don't worry what people think about you, just do what makes you happy, you will still be loved and accepted. We all make mistakes and that's what makes you stronger! Life is about challenges and learning about yourself, not pleasing people all the time. Lastly, rather than aiming to be perfect, aim to be better than yesterday!
What have you been up to lately?
I am very happy and grateful for the life I have and I'm so lucky to have such amazing people in my life. I wouldn't be in the place I am now if it wasn't for my fabulous fiance, we recently got engaged and had a beautiful son last year who we are absolutely in love with. My fiance is with [Australian Government Department of Defence] so we are currently posted interstate and moving again in June. I am not currently working, however, I am looking to go back in July. I have not decided what my next career move will be, whether or not I will go back into Real Estate or pursue a new career, I will wait to see what happens and follow my passion. I am enjoying my time at home with my son and making the most of it while I can!
Monday, September 21, 2015
Olivia Karas is one of the freshman we are most excited about this season! Liv, as she calls herself for short, trained at IK Gymnastics in Illinois and was a powerhouse level 10 who had lots of success during her JO career. She's a three time JO National qualifier with her highest finish being in 2014 when she won the all-around and vault titles. In 2015 she placed 4th all-around and claimed the vault title yet again. She's also a two time Nastia Cup qualifier, placing 3rd all-around and 2nd on vault in 2015. With the yurchenko full being devalued starting this season, many teams have been forced to learn new vaults that start from a 10.0. Luckily for the Wolverines, Liv has consistently competed a yurchenko 1.5 for the last two years and should be a staple in their vault lineup. Liv also comes to Michigan with some big tumbling- on floor she does an arabian double front (which she has also competed in the piked position and it's amazing!) and a beautiful whip to double twist. It's also noteworthy that on beam she does a standing layout step out (that she plans to connect to a split jump) and on bars she dismounts with a very unique toe on front pike- which we love! The Wolverines are lucky to have her for the next four years!
Katelyn Ohashi- UCLA
One of the biggest names joining the NCAA this season is Katelyn Ohashi. Katelyn is best known for being one of the top elite gymnasts in the country during the 2012 quad and was considered by many to be a contender for Rio until injuries took her out of the game in 2013. Luckily for UCLA, she's healthy now and should make a great impact on all their lineups, but especially on beam. Katelyn was the beam queen during her elite days and once had a start value as high as 17.3 (which easily could have won her a World or Olympic gold medal if she was able to compete.) Ohashi was known for her beautiful lines and signature back handspring layout full. Prior to coming to UCLA, Katelyn trained at WOGA and was a national team member from 2009-2013. She is the 2011 Junior National Champion and won the American Cup in her only competition as a senior elite in 2013. We can't wait to see what Katelyn will accomplish at UCLA!
Sarah Finnegan- LSU
Another big name joining the NCAA this season is Sarah Finnegan. It's been a long time since we've seen Finnegan compete- her last major competition was the 2012 Olympic Trials where she was named an alternate to the 2012 Olympic team. Finnegan was a national team member from 2010-2012 and trained at GAGE for most of her career. In 2012 she won a silver medal on beam at the Visa Championships and took home three medals from the Jesolo Trophy meet in Italy. (Gold with the team and bronze on floor and in the all-around.) The anticipation is building for Finnegan's competitive return this season. She will likely be a key contributor in the beam and floor lineups; the two events she's known for and we can only hope she'll still compete those gorgeous wolf turns!
Lizzy Leduc- University of Illinois
Balance Beam - Lizzy Leduc ---- WoW!
Posted by Asia Gymnastics on Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Leduc, who was originally committed to LSU, is a huge pickup for Illinois. From 2009 to 2010, Lizzy competed as an elite in the United States- qualifying to the Visa Championships in both of those years and stealing the hearts of many. In 2011, she decided to drop down to level 10 after spraining both of her elbows. She sat out the next two seasons with injuries and finally returned to competition in 2013- placing 4th all-around at JO Nationals. In 2014, Lizzy became the Texas State and Regional Champion and placed 2nd all-around at JO Nationals. In 2015 she began competing internationally for the Philippines. At the Southeast Asian Games she helped the Philippines team to an historic 3rd place finish. Individually she finished 6th all-around and qualified to beam and floor event finals. Lizzy is a powerful gymnast and could contribute on all four events for the Illini. We're super excited that she decided to come to Illinois because she can really be the star of that team.
Alicia Boren- University of Florida
Alicia Boren is a tank and I fully expect her to dominate in college gymnastics. To start, she's a four time JO National qualifier and a four time JO National Champion. Yes that's right...she has consecutively won the last four JO National Championships. She's also a three time Nastia Cup qualifier. At the 2015 Nastia Cup, Boren won the vault, beam, and floor titles. A fall on the bars kept her from completely sweeping the competition, but she still managed to place 5th all-around which is very impressive. Alicia competes a yurchenko 1.5 on vault with ease and ends with a full-in on floor. She's definitely a powerhouse and is going to do so well in college!
Lexie Priessman- LSU
Lexie Priessman is another former elite standout who is ready to shine in college gymnastics. A junior National Champion in 2012 and a national team member from 2010-2013, Lexie's promising elite career came to an end after dealing with a string of injuries. She left her long time coach Mary Lee Tracy in 2014 and announced her retirement from elite in June of 2015, confirming that she would be joining the Tigers this season. The gymnastics world first fell in love with Lexie when she won the inaugural Nastia Liukin Cup back in 2010 and was touted as one to watch for on the road to Rio. Throughout her elite career, Lexie competed at various international competitions and competed difficult skills such as an amanar on vault, a full-in dismount off beam, and a double double and laid out full-in on floor. Although she hasn't competed since 2013, Lexie can do big things at LSU when she's a full strength.
Emma McLean - University of Michigan
Emma Mclean is the second member of the Michigan freshman class and she is going to be another great one! Emma, who trained at Stars & Stripes Gymnastics in Michigan is a three time JO National qualifier and a 2015 Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier. Her best performance at JO Nationals was in 2015 when she placed 2nd on floor, 4th on vault, and 3rd all-around. Emma is a powerful gymnast and will probably make the biggest impact in the vault and floor lineup. (Check out the height on that first pass!)
LSU brings in another big name this season and it's the daughter of 1984 Olympic Champion Mary Lou Retton. Mckenna Kelley is a two time JO National qualifier, placing 5th all-around in 2013 and 1st on floor in 2014. Mckenna tied for first all-around at the 2014 Nastia Cup and began her quest towards qualifying elite. She attended several national team camps in 2015 and showed videos of some big upgrades done with ease on her Instagram. (She posted videos of her doing a double double and a laid out full-in on floor and a standing arabian and standing full on beam.) Unfortunately, she struggled to pass her elite compulsories and never made it to elite status, but Mckenna is super talented and will make a great college gymnast for sure.
Haylee Roe- University of Illinois
Haylee joins her Metroplex teammate Lizzy Leduc at Illinois this season. Roe is a five time JO National qualifier and is the level 10 Illinois State Champion in the all-around and on bars and floor. Roe's highest placement at JO Nationals was in 2014 when she placed 3rd all-around. We have followed Haylee's career for a long time and we're super excited to finally see her compete in college this season!
Peyton Ernst- University of Florida
Peyton Ernst is another former elite who trained at Texas Dreams under World Champion Kim Zmeskal. Ernst competed at the elite level for four years and was on the national team for two. At the 2013 Secret Classic she placed 2nd all-around and 1st on beam. She also competed at several international competitions such as the Tokyo World Cup where she placed 2nd all-around. Peyton is a beautiful gymnast to watch and will compliment the Florida team very well.
Friday, July 31, 2015
This month I had the Secret Classic in Chicago and my little sister, Ava, started level 1 team in gymnastics. :)
The Secret Classics went pretty well. I had already qualified to the P&G Championships at the American Classic, so I was using this meet to adjust to competing on podium and to prepare for P&Gs which is in 2 weeks. Leading up to the meet, training had been going great. On the meet day I started on vault and did really well. I did a yurchenko full and got a 14.00! I was really happy with that score. Bars was a little rough but not too bad. I was late on my toe full and had to do a kip cast before my pak. I hit my feet a little bit on the low bar when I did the kip after the toe full. I was disappointed because I don't usually do that. I got a 13.35 which was better than I thought it was going to be. In a weird way it excited me because I know I could've done much better and should score higher next time when I hit my routine. On beam, I wasn't really nervous. I had been nailing all my routines in practice at my gym. I was the last one up and the only one going in the whole meet because all the other events had finished that rotation. I was excited to show everyone what I was doing on beam and how much I had improved since last year. On my series, I went crooked and ended up hanging underneath the beam ... I didn't fall to the ground, instead I climbed back up, and finished my routine pretty well. When I climbed back up everyone started cheering for me. It was my favorite part and least favorite part of the meet. I was in shock and so mad at myself because I don't feel like I could've been more prepared to compete on beam. I finished the meet on floor and did okay. I landed a little short on my full in and went out of bounds on my double pike. I didn't have a perfect meet but I'm motivated to do better at P&Gs!
|PC: Christy Ann Linder|
I had a bunch of family that came to watch me at the meet. It is always great to have a lot of support and have my family there cheering for me. I also met the girl that does a fan page for me on Facebook. She is from Italy and she came all the way to Chicago to see the meet. It was so cool to meet her and talk to her in person. She is so sweet and she brought me a gift that she gave to me after the meet. Hopefully I will see her again someday.
My sister Ava, who is 5, started level one team! It's going to be so cool to watch her compete in January and to see her progress through gymnastics. I've been teaching her new skills like a back handspring and I just taught her a back tuck on trampoline. I'm so proud of her! I gave her all my old leos and she loved them!!!
Training has been going great since I have been back from Chicago! I'm so excited for P&Gs and can't wait to compete again!
~ Elena Arenas