By Patricia C. Duffy

As the curtain came down on yet another P&G Championships, Ragan Smith’s hard work and year of patience paid off in dividends.

Feature photo by Grace Chiu.

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As the curtain came down on yet another P&G Championships, Ragan Smith’s hard work and year of patience paid off in dividends.

The 17-year-old Texas Dreams gymnast sailed away with the all-around title, stopping along the way to pick up the floor exercise and balance beam titles as well, and confirming her meteoric rise from Olympic alternate to the new face of women’s gymnastics in the United States.

It wasn’t a close competition for Smith, who had plenty of breathing room between her and second-place finisher Jordan Chiles (a 3.4 final point differential), but the meet did confirm Smith’s ability to be consistent and exceed expectations. It also confirmed that Kim Zmeskal-Burdette’s prodigy is Team USA’s top contender for the all-around title at the 2017 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Montreal, Canada in October.

Heading into finals on Sunday evening, the real competition was for silver and bronze. After preliminary competition on Friday evening, less than one point stood between second and fifth place. Riley McCusker (MG Elite), Jordan Chiles (Naydenov), Margzetta Frazier (Parkettes) and Trinity Thomas (Prestige) made up those four spots.

The battle for those spots on the podium came down to the fourth and final rotation.

Chiles started the rotation off on beam. An apparatus the gymnast hasn’t been consistent on as of late, her routine featured a few balance checks and minor errors. A stuck double pike dismount made up for the tiny errors though, improving on her score on the apparatus from night one with a 14.200.

Knowing Smith would slip into the No. 1 spot barring an utter catastrophe on beam, Chiles sat at the top of the leaderboard, waiting to see if she would remain in a position to medal.

Over on vault, McCusker was placed in a difficult position. Since struggling with illness and injury over the past few months, the first-year senior has watered down her vault from a DTY to a single twisting Yurchenko. It’s a vault the judges and Code of Points don’t look fondly upon. Playing it safe, McCusker performed the STY to the best of her ability and did so beautifully, only tacking on a small hop at the end. The 13.400 was an increase from her night one vault score, but it wouldn’t be enough to pass Chiles. It would be the bronze or nothing.

Smith did her thing on beam, breezing through her Wolf turns and back handspring to two-footed layout series. Her only seemingly human moment of the routine came during her standing full when she landed slightly off and had to save her foot from slipping off the apparatus. Beyond that the routine was technically-sound and will be medal-worthy at Worlds (15.050).

Following Smith’s performance, Frazier had similar issues to Chiles on beam and can’t top her or McCusker in the standings (13.250).

To close the night, Thomas took the floor. Her poised routine earned her a 14.200 to improve on her night one mark, but three-tenths of a point difference between McCusker and Thomas’ beam routines kept the eventual 2017 Sportsperson of the Year from tying or surpassing her counterpart in the all-around rankings.

Final all-around podium standings: Smith with the gold, Chiles with the silver and McCusker holding on the bronze.

After the meet, the 2017 USA Gymnastics’ awards were presented to the women. Kim Zmeskal-Burdette took home the 2017 Coach of the Year award. Ragan Smith was awarded the 2017 Athlete of the Year award. Trinity Thomas was selected as the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year by the athletes.

Other meet notes (in sequential order):

  • Elena Arenas and Morgan Hurd, two powerful vaulters with strong and consistent double twisting Yurchenko vaults, would be optimal Amanar candidates, especially when the U.S. needs them most over the next year or so. Arenas needs to make a name for herself on the national scene, and vault is her specialty. Hurd is a strong all-arounder but has huge potential on the apparatus as well, and her opening double double on floor signifies she’s not afraid to go big.
  • Jordan Chiles literally rebounds to a leap from her opening double layout on floor. Impressive is an understatement. Overall, she’s one to watch as she develops into a stronger, more consistent all-arounder with each competition.
  • Ashton Locklear is talented but not consistent on beam. The only way she’s earning a ticket to Worlds is on bars and that means upgrading back to her 2016 level of difficulty (or as close as she can get to it).
  • Alyona Shchennikova didn’t have the same issue on beam tonight, but she did struggle on bars. As one of the top uneven bars workers not named Ashton Locklear, she’ll need to work on consistency if she wants to challenge for a Worlds spot through that apparatus.
  • Speaking of bars, with some upgrades, Thomas could easily become another go-to bars worker for the U.S. She’s reminiscent of Gabby Douglas through the air and on her – often stuck – double layout dismount.
  • Emily Gaskins evokes a sense of artistry that her counterparts don’t, especially on beam and floor.
  • Jade Carey will have to fix the issues with her Amanar in the lead up to Worlds, but as the only U.S. gymnast currently performing two vaults in competition, it’s hard not to imagine her on the Worlds roster.
  • Morgan Hurd’s double double on floor is out of this world. Absolutely. Insane.

Final standings:

All-Around top 5:

  1. Ragan Smith – 115.250
  2. Jordan Chiles – 111.850
  3. Riley McCusker – 111.650
  4. Trinity Thomas – 111.350
  5. Margzetta Frazier – 110.900

Vault:

  1. Jade Carey – 28.675*

Note: Carey is the only competitor who performed two vaults.

Uneven bars:

  1. Riley McCusker – 29.000
  2. Ashton Locklear – 28.750
  3. Tie: Ragan Smith & Marissa Oakley – 28.400
  4. Margzetta Frazier – 28.200

Balance beam:

  1. Ragan Smith – 29.550
  2. Riley McCusker – 28.900
  3. Trinity Thomas – 28.400
  4. Jordan Chiles – 27.750
  5. Morgan Hurd – 27.650

Floor exercise:

  1. Ragan Smith – 28.550
  2. Jade Carey – 28.500
  3. Trinity Thomas – 28.300
  4. Tie: Emily Gaskins, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf & Riley McCusker – 27.100

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