Secret US Classic: A Case of Senioritis in Hartford

Aly Raisman took first All-Around and on Vault and Floor at the 2016 Secret US Classic in Hartford, Conn.

Although most of the top US senior gymnasts were present at the 2016 Secret US Classic, the majority of them chose to skip at least one apparatus, so that the competition had the feel of baseball’s All-Star game, where the top stars play an inning or two each, in a game that doesn’t really matter. This narrowed the field especially for the all-around. Among those who eschewed one or more events were McKayla Skinner, Christina Desiderio, Jazmyn Foberg, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian, Brenna Dowell, Lauren Hernandez, Amelia Hundley, and Ragan Smith. Most or all having already qualified for P&G Championships, it is understandable so many wouldn’t treat this as a serious competition. The Secret US Classic often winds up being largely an exhibition where the young gymnasts from clubs around the country and other gymnastics fans can see their idols in person.

Because of this, it really isn’t burying the lead too much to mention in this second paragraph the AA went to Aly Raisman (59.25),who handily took the All-Around by nearly a point over Rachel Gowey (58.30), with Alyssa Baumann third (58.0). Parkettes’ Marz Frazier took fourth (55.99) more than three points behind. Emily Schild of Everest placed fifth, though she placed no higher than ninth on any event.

In addition to winning UB, Ashton Locklear placed well on BB against virtually all of the top competition. Could she have a chance at Rio?
In addition to winning UB, Ashton Locklear placed well on BB against virtually all of the top competition. Could she have a chance at Rio?

Ashton Locklear of Everest may have poked her nose even further under the tent inside which the US Olympic team will be chosen by taking first (15.85) on Uneven Bars (which is not too much of a surprise), and also taking fourth on Beam (14.75). Her BB finish is significant, because despite so many other gymnasts skipping this or that event, every one of the top gymnasts except Hernandez competed on beam, yet Locklear took fourth. Douglas had a fall on BB, but even so, placing fourth in such a field casts Locklear in the direction of a two-event specialist, rather than one (or, at the very least, a bars specialist who is a strong backup, rather than a weak option, on Beam). Biles took first on Beam and fifth on Bars, while Locklear took first on Bars and fourth on Beam, scoring just 0.15 behind Biles on those two events combined. Depending on what Ashton can do in St. Louis, her chances of going to Rio might be better than previously thought. With a relatively modest-difficulty Beam routine, consistency would seem to be crucial. Martha knows Locklear is solid on UB, even if she should have an off day at P&G or Trials, but if she does well on BB in St. Louis on top of Hartford, her dominant Bars strength may change the math a little bit. Madison Kocian could potentially be competing for a similar specialist role, but she was second (15.7) to Locklear on Bars (where her difficulty is way up there, but her execution just still does not measure up), and near the bottom of the table on Beam (13.65, tied for 15th).

All of this may be out the window, though, depending on how things go at nationals in St. Louis. I will be there and I can hardly wait.

Simone Biles drew some of the loudest cheers whenever her name was mentioned, but on the day competed just UB (5th) and BB (1st).
Simone Biles drew some of the loudest cheers whenever her name was mentioned, but on the day competed just UB (5th) and BB (1st).
Maggie Musselman (Hill’s) put in a solid performance after missing much of the last year to an ischial tuberosity fracture (complete rupture of the hamstring, with a broken piece of pelvis bone thrown in for good measure), although her difficulty was rather low on three events, which kept her scores down, and she had a disastrous start to UB, stalling and arching her first handstand, and then again on the second, bailing out for a fall. After that she recovered nicely to finish the routine strong, and since UB is her best event that little hiccup probably doesn’t mean too much. She took ninth All-Around, and seems poised to put in a stronger performance at P&G Championships, though the field will be tougher with many who skipped one or more events in Hartford doing AA in St. Louis.

It was nice to see the big names compete, after a fashion, but the senioritis on display in advance of nationals removed much of the lustre, and made the juniors the real competition to watch in Hartford. Look for many of these kids in Tokyo, four years from now. Now, on to St. Louis, and the big show.