Leanne Wong Wins 2018 Junior National Gymnastics Title In Close Competition

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GAGE’s Leanne Wong secured the Junior National Championship title today, totaling a 112.250 over two days of competition. She was followed by Kayla DiCello with a 111.200, and Sunisa Lee with a 111.050. The junior event champions include DiCello on vault, Lee on bars, Konnor McClain on beam, and Wong on floor.

It was a tight battle going into the competition, with Wong, Lee and DiCello all capable of securing the top spot. Jordan Bowers, who also likely would have had a shot at the podium despite some issues on Day 1, unfortunately had to withdraw from competition due to a sore back.

The Junior National Team was also named this night, which included the top six finishers in the all-around: Wong, DiCello, Lee, Skye Blakely, McClain, and Olivia Greaves.

Rotation 1: Wong Leads Lee By One Tenth After Beam

Wong and Lee, who were 1-2 going into today’s competition, both started their days on beam, and both hit their routines. Lee went first, appearing confident in all of her skills and hitting her layout and aerial cartwheel to two layout step out series with no wobbles. She also finished with a nearly stuck dismount to score 13.850, a bit lower than her score on Day 1. Wong also had a hit routine, nailing her back handspring to two layout step-outs and her full L spin to back spin combination. She had a couple of missed connections which lowered her D-score to a 5.1 (she hit 5.3 on Day 1) and had a big step on her dismount, so her score was also a bit lower than Day 1, scoring a 13.450. She held her lead over Lee by just a tenth with a 69.850.

Meanwhile, DiCello held her spot in third with a hit bars routine, competing a nice toe-on full to Maloney to Pak, and a good Van Leeuwen and piked Jaeger. She had a small step on her full-in dismount and scored nearly the same as Day 1 with a 14.100. 

Blakely also held her spot in fourth with a nice floor routine, while McClain performed a clean Yurchenko full on vault to stay in fifth. Greaves, who also started on vault with a nice Yurchenko full, stayed in sixth.

Rotation 2: Competition Is Tight - Less Than Five-Tenths Separating The Top Three

In the second rotation, both Wong and Lee went to floor where Wong made up some ground, scoring a 13.400 over Lee’s 13.050. Wong competed a lovely double Arabian to stag jump to open and was so precise on all of her dance elements. She did land a bit short on her double pike and had to hop forward, which cost her some tenths. Lee also had a strong routine, opening with a stuck double layout. 

DiCello made up some ground with a hit beam routine, where she was solid on her two wolf turns, back handspring to two layout step-out series, and had just a small step to the side on her dismount. By the end of the rotation, Wong led DiCello by just a tenth, while Lee sat in third

Greaves had some issues on bars when she fell on her Jaeger, which pushed her to the No. 6 spot, but she finished her routine really strong, hitting all her handstands and release moves following the fall. 

On vault, we saw a couple of powerful Yurchenko doubles from Blakely and Tori Tatum. Blakely’s vault scored a big 14.500, an improvement from her Day 1 score. She held her 4th place spot, and was followed by McClain in fifth, who hit her bar routine. 

At the halfway point of Day 2, the top three gymnasts (Wong, DiCello and Lee) were separated by less than five tenths.

Rotation 3: Wong Pulls Out Big DTY To Widen Lead, Three-Way Tie For Second

The competition got even closer in the third rotation, particularly for the second spot, with Blakely, DiCello, and Lee all tied for second place. 

The powerful Yurchenko doubles continued in the third rotation, with Wong tying DiCello’s vault score from Day 1 (the highest from the juniors) with a 14.750. Her vault had great twist and she just had a tiny hop on the landing. Meanwhile, Lee struggled on her Yurchenko double at the beginning of the rotation, with a low chest on her landing and stepping out of bounds, scoring just a 13.500. 

Over on bars, Blakely put up a hit routine, with great inbar work and a small step to the side on her dismount to score a 13.700, a bit lower than her Day 1 score, but enough to push her into second place to tie DiCello and Lee. DiCello held her spot in second with a nice floor routine, where she opened with a big double layout and just managed to stay in bounds throughout all her passes. She improved on her Day 1 score and put up a 13.150.

McClain went to one of her best events - beam - and showed off a beautiful, high layout for her series. She put her leg up on the landing, but it didn’t phase her, and she finished the rest of the routine strong to score a 14.150. Also competing on beam was Greaves, who seemed a little rattled and had wobbles on her layout step out series and front tuck, but she stayed on and continued to hold in sixth place.

Following the third rotation, Wong was in first with a 98.000, followed by a three-way tie between Blakely, DiCello and Lee with a 96.300, McClain with a 95.950, and Greaves with a 92.950.

Rotation 4: Wong Secures National Title With Hit Bar Routine

Going into the last rotation, all Wong needed to do was hit bars with no major errors, and she did that and then some with a gorgeous routine. Coach Al Fong was close by for her double layout dismount, which was nearly stuck, and encouraged her to wave to the crowd, knowing she had likely clinched the title. Her total all-around score over the two days was a 112.250.

Video via USA Gymnastics

Meanwhile, DiCello went over to her best event to close out her competition, and competed an incredible Yurchenko double to score a 14.900 - the highest score of the competition. This score solidified her spot in second place and gave her the junior title on vault. She finished with a 111.200.

Video via USA Gymnastics

Lee held on to the third place spot after a great bars routine, where she pulled off her super difficult Nabieva to Pak to Maloney to Gienger combination and had just a small hop on her dismount. She nearly tied her score on Day 1 and finished with a total 111.050.

McClain ended her competition in fifth place, securing her spot on the national team. She was on floor in the final rotation and had some great tumbling, including a high opening double layout and a nice 2.5 twist to punch front. McClain also became the beam champion at the end of this competition, securing the highest total of the two days of competition.

Greaves secured a spot on the national team with her ending floor performance, where she made up for her earlier fall on bars with a beautiful routine. She finished with a 105.850 in sixth place.

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