Kyla Ross and Bailie Key won the Secret U.S. Classic, held Saturday at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The competition was the final chance for gymnasts to qualify to the upcoming U.S. championships, Aug. 15-18 in Hartford, Conn. Several gymnasts were already qualified but used the competition as one final dress rehearsal for Hartford.
Ross, a member of the U.S. women's gold medal-winning team at the 2012 Olympics in London, looked poised and confident as she took the title over first-year senior Peyton Ernst and Brenna Dowell. Ross put her hands down on her double pike dismount on floor exercise in the second rotation, but recovered cleanly on vault (stuck double-twisting Yurchenko for 15.200) and on uneven bars, where she scored a winning 15.400.
Ernst, who was second at the Tokyo World Cup in April, performed cleanly on all the events, with scores ranging from 14.350 on uneven bars to 14.700 on vault and balance beam.
The powerful Dowell debuted a Yurchenko 2 1/2 (Amanar) vault for 15.550 and tumbled a front double pike on floor exercise. On uneven bars, she threw a Tweddle (toe-on to Tkatchev to mixed grip) but took an extra swing instead of transitioning to the low bar as planned.
McKayla Maroney was the only other U.S. Olympian in the field. She worked all four events in podium training but elected to compete only vault and floor exercise. She won vault with her unbeatable Amanar and stood up her Mustafina second vault. The crowd favorite looked well recovered from her post-Olympic leg surgery after fracturing her tibia, tumbling a new double layout on floor exercise.
2012 junior U.S. champion Lexie Priessman won floor exercise with a 6.3 Difficulty routine: tucked double-double, full-twisting double layout, 1 1/2 to double tuck and full-in.
MyKayla Skinner tumbled both a layout double-double and tucked double-double on floor exercise, and took second on vault behind Maroney with a Cheng (Yurchenko half on, Rudi off) and double-twisting Yurchenko.
Simone Biles, who had been expected to challenge Ross for the all-around title, surprisingly missed every routine. She fell on her Tkatchev on uneven bars and had several big breaks on balance beam, including grabbing the apparatus on her mount (double turn in crouch). On floor exercise, she hit a huge double-double and a new double layout with a half out only to fall to her face on her full-in. After a scary Amanar in warm-up, she scratched the vault event. Biles, who was second at the American Cup in March, has already qualified to the U.S. championships in Hartford, where she will need to show her performance at the Classic was a fluke.
Key, who trains under former world champion Kim Zmeskal, impressed with four clean routines to win the junior competition. Showing beautiful lines, form and flexibility, Key scored 15.00 on vault (double-twisting Yurchenko) and balance beam (big ff, ff, two-foot layout). Her total of 58.250 would have been tied with Ernst for second as a senior.
Amelia Hundley was second with consistent scores between 14.400 and 14.700, topping Veronica Hults, who was first on bars.
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International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Focus Forward" - Kyla Ross cover photo and interview (November 2012)
"Clutch Hitter" - Ross profile (November 2010)
"Maroney on the Mend" - interview (January/February 2013)
"It's Showtime" - McKayla Maroney profile (May 2011)
Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney on cover (September 2010)
"Beaming in Cincinnati" - Lexie Priessman profile (May 2010)
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