With balanced consistency, Jazmyn Foberg claimed the first-day lead at the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh. With four scores ranging from 14.20 (beam) to 14.60 (vault), Foberg, coached by Maggie Haney at MG Elite, posted a 57.600 at the midway point of the junior all-around competition, which concludes Saturday afternoon.
Foberg had some help from her pursuers. Buckeye star Nia Dennis followed her high-flying bars set with a fall to all fours on her double layout dismount. And she also fell off beam in the final rotation (Arabian). Chow's Norah Flatley slid down the side of the beam when her feet missed their spot on a sheep jump. And U.S. Classic winner Jordan Chiles (Naydenov) made two errors on her first event, bars (see notes below).
Still, Foberg, who did not qualify to the P&G Championships last year, has as good a chance as anyone in the field to win the gold in two days. But was she surprised to be in first place?
"Yes, because I've never been here before," she said. "It feels great and I feel confident in myself."
Cincinnati's Emily Gaskins went four-for-four to grab second with 57.00, and in spite of her two falls, Dennis sits in third with 56.80.
"Mary Lee's (Tracy) been pushing me, and I've been working really hard," Gaskins said. "I want to make national team this year; I was so close last year."
Said Dennis of her mistakes: "Just have to let it slide. I think it was my nerves … I just love [gymnastics] so much I try to do it the best I can."
Flatley finished fourth with 56.550, a full point ahead of Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams) and Alexis Vasquez (Chow's), who tied for fifth.
"I think it happens to everyone every once in a while," Flatley said of her beam fall.
On day one of the junior P&G Championships, falls tarnished the all-around aspirations of numerous gymnasts, all of whom will vow to fix those mistakes in two days.
Junior Women's Notes:
• With the junior field missing defending champion Bailie Key (elbow), 2013 runner-up Lauren Hernandez (knee) and bronze-medalist Amelia Hundley (a senior), the 2014 U.S. junior title is up for grabs. That points to Nia Dennis, fourth in 2013, and Norah Flatley, fifth, as obvious contenders, but don't forget 2014 U.S. Classic champion Jordan Chiles (11th in 2013). Oops, as first up on bars, Chiles came up short on a blind change and later had to jump off after a cast handstand that went over the top (11.40). And after day one concluded, Jazmyn Foberg and Emily Gaskins add their names to the mix.
• The junior women's field comprises 35 gymnasts compared with 13 in the senior division. And a few of the seniors are not doing all four events. What do we make of this? Burnout? Over-training? The lure of dropping down to Level 10 and going the NCAA route?
• The home-state Parkettes have the most juniors in the meet at five. Chow's is next with three.
• The uneven bars judging panel includes mom-to-be Chellsie Memmel. As the 2003 world co-champion on the event (with Hollie Vise), she knows what she's doing.
• Lauren Navarro (Gliders) mounted beam with a jump to a split from the side of the beam. Catchy.
• Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams, formerly of Northwind), is still one of the tiniest gymnasts in the field, but her floor choreography was big. She danced effectively to a jazzy version of "Puttin' on the Ritz," which was the music of Texas Dreams coach Kim Zmeskal at one point.
• Adriana Popp (Girls Co-Op) performed an excellent floor exercise. Don't think it was choreographed by the venerable Adriana Pop, however.
• Shilese Jones (Auburn) mounted floor with a high tucked full-in, half-out, and ended with a tucked full-in.
• Lexy Ramler (KidSport) included a Bhardwaj (full-twisting Pak) and a Comaneci in her bars routine. Two tough tricks.
• Deanne Soza (Arete) does many things right, despite her ranking after day one (17th). With all the flexed feet on double somersaults, Soza tumbled a gorgeous tucked full-in with perfectly pointed toes, and her Yurchenko-double twist was high and elegant. A little more seasoning will push her near the top of the all-around.
• Nia Dennis recently got a new training mate. After Olympic champion Gabby Douglas left Chow's in July, she joined Dennis at Buckeye Gymnastics. "It's been really good," Dennis told IG. "She pushes me … I try to do everything as good as she does. She's a really hard worker."
For quick hits of the competition, go the IG Facebook page.
For complete results, click here.