By Gina Pongetti

Maybe it is a senior wake-up call. Maybe it is the push that the newer group of seniors needed. Maybe it is a preview for the next three years…

Lead by Olympic alternate Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams) and supported by fellow Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear (Everest), the remaining field of seniors consist of those who are generally not well-known. At least compared to the drive for the “Final Five,” by comparison!

If the results from the recent U.S. Classic were combined, juniors and seniors ranked together, the seniors would only take 6 of the possible 15 top-3 spots (AA and individual events). Some athletes are choosing to stay specialized, given the impending individual World Championships format (i.e. Ashton Locklear and Jade Carey, who do not compete in the all-around), while some are still on the path of rest and/or injury return (i.e. Margzetta Frazier, Morgan Hurd, Trinity Thomas, Ragan Smith, Riley McCusker) opening the door for others to shine.  Even considering all of these factors, and it being the year after the push for the 2016 Olympics, it is time to step up. Even in individual events, as you can see in the graphics, only five of the twelve available top-three spots were owned by the seniors—less than half.

Even with near-perfect execution, there is a ceiling on scoring based on the value of the D-score. Are the juniors consistently performing better to balance out the not-so-high D-scores? Or are the seniors reaching too far for new skills and combinations? In trying to master the Code of Points changes, do their E-scores and consistency suffer?

This week, many will make the push to do all four events, not only to mark their place in U.S. National History at Championships, but also to possibly make their case for all-around consideration for Worlds (or at least the versatility to be in the mix, or an alternate). With only four athletes, they need to state their case on more than one event with D-scores that will contend at the World level.

Ironic that we, as a country, are always looking to the next best thing. The next best senior kids. Which juniors are up-and-coming. Which meet really matters in the grand scheme of training and peaking. And, though we are at the premiere meet of the year on home turf, still the strategy to be here has more to do with Worlds in October for some.

Will we see these same seniors on the podium in the next few years, or will the juniors age-up and take over? Will they push the difficulty scores? Will they improve the seniors’ execution knowing that they are chasing tails?

In a traditionally low-key year after the Olympic Games, the slate is clear for many, especially looking to next year when these top juniors graduate up to the big leagues.

 

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com