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Ross Takes Lead at U.S. Junior Championships
(8 votes, average 4.38 out of 5)

IG Editor Dwight Normile blogs from the 2009 Visa (U.S.) Gymnastics Championships in Dallas, where the women began competition Thursday.

DALLAS — Often one of the most exciting divisions of the Visa (U.S.) Championships, the junior women took the floor Thursday afternoon in their first of two rounds of competition. With defending champion and heavy favorite Jordyn Wieber out with a sore hamstring, the rest of the field is no doubt aware that the title is up for grabs.

The session lacked the depth and polish of previous years, however, but this could be due to the post-Olympic regrouping all countries experience.

Kyla Ross (GymMax)

Standing out for their poise and polish were Amanda Jetter (Cincinnati) and Bridgette Caquatto (Naperville), but both experienced at least one major break. Jetter fell off beam on a standing full but hit her other three routines, and Caquatto slipped out of an Endo on bars, her last event, and dropped off. Prior to the mistake, Caquatto had caught a Stalder-Tkatchev and toe-on-Tkatchev.

The first-round leader was tiny Kyla Ross (Gym Max), who started her day with a clean double-twisting Yurchenko. She threw a Jaeger and double layout at bars and had only one wobble on beam (front tuck). She finished on floor with a tucked Arabian double front and tucked full-in to total 57.850 for the day.

"It's a dream come true to compete in the Visas," said Ross, a 12-year-old from Aliso Viego, Calif. "I've watched it since I was 7."

Ross, who has been coached by Howie Liang and Jenny Zhang for 4-1/2 years, will enter the seventh grade this fall.

Alexandra Raisman of Brestyan's (where Alicia Sacramone trained), finished second with 56.650. After a solid start on floor, she vaulted a double-twisting Yurchenko and stayed on bars despite a loose Gienger. She finished strong on beam, sticking a clean roundoff double pike.

After her bars mistake, Caquatto managed third with 56.350.

The champion — and junior national team — will be decided Saturday afternoon.

Cool Skills...

  • McKayla Maroney (Gym Max): Amanar vault (sat down in meet)
  • Keely McNeer (Elite); Briley Casanova (WOGA): tucked full-out on floor
  • Nicolette McNair (Gym Max): jam, dislocate, inverted giant, Jaeger
  • Gabrielle Douglas (Excalibur): standing full late in her beam routine. Sadly, she landed stiff-legged on her tucked Arabian double front on floor and grabbed her right knee in pain. Her coach carried off the podium. No word yet on the exact injury.


  • Sequins are in; not a single leotard without some. The whole arena floor seemed to be sparkling.
  • Tough kid: Lexie Priessman (Cincinnati) caught her Jaeger too close, on the back of her legs and on the top of her wristbands. She did not fall off, but limped away in tears.
  • Ashley Lambert (World Class) used, er, unusual floor music, which sounded tropical at first (bird sounds) and evolved to just plain crazy. It was effective, though, as the entire audience was captivated.
  • Amanda Jetter (Cincinnati) opened floor with a high tucked Arabian double front and preceeded to show some of the best expression on floor exercise
  • Even though the competitive field was not up to par compared with previous years, the coaching ranks included gymnastics legends such as Valeri Liukin (WOGA), Li Yuejiu and wife Wu Jiani (Naperville), Kim Zmeskal (Texas Dreams) and Brandy Johnson (Brandy Johnson's).

Click here for detailed results.

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