It’s No Secret: High HOPEs in Hartford

HOPES 12-13 division winners: 1. Sophia Groth of Chow's (center), 2. Ciena Alipio of WVGS (left), and 3. Addison Fatta or Prestige (right)

(photo by jb) The Secret US Classic and P&G Championships is enough reason to head to Hartford, Connecticut, but since the HOPES Championship is the same day as the Men’s Day 1, I went a little earlier to be there Friday afternoon for the USAG HOPES Championship, an important developmental event for pre-elite 10-13 year olds. It really wasn’t much different from a major junior elite event, with most of the same clubs represented (WOGA, American Twisters, Chow’s, Hill’s), plus some up-and-comers, such as Wil-Moor, First State, Prestige, World Class and…well, there’s too many to keep track of. The elite events usually have a bit smaller number of different gyms represented. Even so, some gyms usually seen at higher level were absent (no one from Texas Dreams, Bart Connor or Parkettes, for instance), which I think means those clubs don’t view HOPES as the most effective path to elite.

1. Sophia Groth, Chow’s 53.65
2. Ciena Alipio, WVGS 53.353
3. Addison Fatta, Presige 52.4
also of note:
4. Kayla DiCello, Hill’s 52.1
6. Anya Pilgrim, Hill’s 51.7

1. Konnor McClain, Revolution 53.850
2. (tie)Sydney Barros, Georgia All-Stars 51.5
2. (tie)Mia Viola, RGA 51.5

12-13: Sophia Groth of Chow’s won 12-13 division by solid consistency, placing no higher than third on any event, with two thirds (UB & BB), fourth on VT and sixth on FX; and yet, her scorse on all four events were within .4 of each other. If this is the kind of performance she can regularly deliver, Groth is definitely one to watch for the future.

2016 HOPES 10-11 All-Around winners11-12: Konnor McClain of Revolution finished with a total score that was 2.3 points ahead of the next nearest competitor. Floor was the only event she didn’t win, taking second on that apparatus to Sienna Robinson of Salcianu-Gym Acadeumy. That is a convincing win. Second place wound up a tie between Sydney Barros of Georgia All-Stars and Mia Viola of RGA. Love Burt of First State (Morgan Hurd’s home gym — and mine, too, as a fan, since they’re just about eight miles down the road) place well back in the field, but did take third on balance beam.

I haven’t watched too many competitions below elite or open invitationals, but I had a few observations of how such an event compares to the higher juniors. The competition was clearly a shade below elite in difficulty, and at times in execution, though it seems it was difficulty that was being reduced in favor of execution (which makes total sense at this level). On FX there were a lot of roundoff/back handsprings to double back pikes and tucks, sometimes with a twist or two, but I didn’t see anyone even attempt a triple twist, and there were a few athletes who were consistently short in practice and competition on their back tumbling, at a higher level I might wonder if maybe adding a punch front onto the end could serve to mask that a little (as long as you get around enough to punch), but at this level, mastering the skill itself is the important thing, not figuring out how to work around it. About half the 2.5’s attempted were pretty good, more or less. I was next to the beam, and close to Floor, so that’s most of what I watched, but I kept and eye on V and UB when I could. The vaults were all pretty basic from what I saw, with no one attempting more than 1 or 1.5 Yurchenko.

On UB, there were very few actual falls that I saw, which is pretty unusual for most any competition. I imagine that bars is the most complex and difficult skill that takes the longest time to master the really tough skills, so HOPES gymnasts probably try to concentrate on decent execution of lesser skills over throwing anything really crazy that they’re not sure they can pull off decently. Rather than falls, instead I saw quite a few instances of not quite getting a swing over the bar for the next move, and falling back, or losing momentum on a transition and not being able to reach the next trick, not having enough momentum to even kip up on the first try, and having to regroup. I even saw one coach lift a gymnast, not from the ground to the bar, but take her right from the low bar, where she stalled completely, and lift her up to the high bar instead. But very few falls (that I saw), interestingly.

The biggest overall difference I saw from an elite or an open invitational like Parkettes or Hills is that the tricks were less difficult, but there were also far fewer major errors. The falls from the beam were less than I’m used to seeing, but then again I saw a few moves I would call pups instead of wolves, and a few lambs instead of sheep, and such, if you know what I mean. I’ve rarely sat so in line with the beam, but I was pretty shocked at how many dismounts and tumbling combos drifted way off center, with toes well down the side of the beam, and yet no one actually slipped a foot off the beam on a takeoff, and most of them made their landing. I held my breath a few times, because seen what can happen when one foot doesn’t plant firmly on the beam for a dismount.

The combined scores were generally on the low side, with execution much stronger than difficulty, as I already observed (from what I could see, anyway; from my set the railing of the upper deck obscured the D/E scores on the screens around the hall). Mostly 11’s and 12’s and some 10’s, with only one above 14 (Taylor Hipolito, AIM Athletics, with a 14.050 on Vault), and only one below 10.

Crowd was sparse, what seemed mostly pretty much family members and other club members, and probably some of the juniors and seniors who will be competing Saturday in the Secret.