A Closer Look at The Team USA Junior Team Roster For Jesolo

The City of Jesolo Trophy is a huge meet for gymnastics fans, teams and countries around the world. Since its creation in 2008, the meet has only grown larger, adding a juniors competition as well as a day of event finals. 

Through the years, Jesolo has proven itself to be a meet where many future Olympians and NCAA stars get their start, and looking at the junior category is where we can see many of these competitors with extremely bright futures. 

In the last eight years, Team USA’s junior contingent won the team title five times, and won it five out of six years that they were eligible. They were not eligible in 2016, as Jesolo did not feature a junior competition, and in 2018 the U.S. did not send a junior team to compete. 

This strong history gives team USA the upper hand heading into this competition, with Italy and Russia serving as their toughest competitors. Italy has the most junior team titles after the U.S., but has not yet announced a roster, making predicting the outcome difficult. Russia has announced its junior team, sending Olga Astafeva, Elena Gerasimova, Irina Komnova and Vladislava Urazova, a team with lots of international competition experience. 

You can learn more about the senior Jesolo competition here, and check out every country’s roster here. Now that the official team USA roster is out, let’s take a closer look at who the U.S. is sending to Jesolo to try and win the junior team title once again. 

Kayla DiCello will lead the 2019 U.S. junior team, backed up by Ciena Alipio, Sophia Butler and Konnor McClain. Although DiCello only has one international competition to speak of, she has plenty of national experience, and did quite well at her first international meet. Her first was the 2018 Pacific Rim Championships in Colombia, where she helped Team USA take first place. She also took first on vault and bars as well as second on beam. Most impressively, she placed second all-around at her first international competition. If she placed that high in her first attempt at such a large competition, she will surely lead this team well at her second international competition in Jesolo. 

Nationally, DiCello has a lot of experience. In 2018, she competed at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston, where she came out first on vault, second all-around, third on bars and fourth on beam. At the 2018 GK Classic in Ohio, she placed first on bars, second on all-around and vault and third on floor. DiCello also performed well at the 2018 American Classic, where she placed on all events, starting with first on all-around, vault and beam. She also took second on floor and third on bars at this meet. 

In 2017, DiCello did not place as frequently as she has lately, but still competed at the P&G Championships and the U.S. Classic. In 2016 she competed at both the HOPES Championships and Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships, where she took first on bars, fourth all-around and sixth on vault at HOPES and eighth on bars at J.O. Nationals. 

Born on Jan. 25, 2004, in Boyds, Maryland, DiCello attends Hills Gymnastics and is coached by Kelli Hill. She is currently on the U.S. National Junior Team and is verbally committed to Florida. Although she frequently places higher on other events than she does on bars, she claims bars as her favorite event, and her joy is easy to see as she competes on that apparatus. She has competed most recently in 2019 at the Hills MD Classic as a level 10, tying for first on vault with a 9.675, tying for second on bars with a 9.300 and taking first on beam (9.725), floor (9.700) and all-around (38.400). 

Ciena Alipio is another strong gymnast on the U.S. junior team with plenty of national titles to her name. In 2018, she competed at three large meets, the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, GK U.S. Classic and the American Classic. At the U.S. Gymnastics Championship, Alipio tied for second on beam and took eighth on vault. She placed on beam at the GK U.S. Classic as well, tying for fourth in the junior division. At the American Classic, Alipio tied for seventh on vault and placed ninth in the all-around. In 2017, she competed at the P&G Championships as well as the U.S. Classic in Chicago, where she took eighth on beam. 

Alipio also competed in the HOPES Championships in both 2016 and 2015, placing on multiple events both years. In 2016, she took first on beam, second all-around, fourth on bars and tied for sixth on vault. In 2015, Alipio took first on beam, second all-around and tied for second on floor, sixth on bars and eighth on vault. She also competed in the 2016 Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships, where she tied for second on floor. 

Alipio lives in San Jose, California, and celebrates her birthday on March 7. She was born in 2004 and began gymnastics in 2007 after her parents saw she had a lot of energy. She attends West Valley Gymnastics School, where she is coached by Judy Zhuo and Paul Duron. She is currently on the U.S. National Junior Team and says her favorite events are floor and beam. 

Fourteen-year-old Sophia Butler was born on June 27, 2004, and lives in Houston, Texas, where she attends Discover Gymnastics, Inc., the gym she has trained at since she was four. She is coached by head coach Costela Michaiuc and assistant coach Juan Corzo and is committed to the University of Florida after she graduates from high school. She has stated that her dream is to make the U.S. National Team and compete internationally for the United States. Her first dream came true when she made the junior national team, and she is about to achieve the second part of her goal when she joins the rest of the junior team in Jesolo. Her favorite events are bars and floor, and she loves to compete floor to show off her skills. This love shows in competition, as her floor is beautiful and often earns her a spot on the podium. 

This past season was a great year for Butler, as she competed at many meets in 2018 and gained lots of experience. She competed at the WOGA Classic, taking second on all-around and floor, as well as third on bars and vault. At the 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships, Butler placed sixth on floor, seventh on beam and eighth all-around. She also competed at the American Classic and the GK U.S. Classic, where she tied for third on floor and tied for ninth all-around. 

Every year from 2015 to 2017, she competed in the HOPES Championships. Her first year at HOPES, she tied for second on floor, placed third all-around, fourth on vault and seventh on bars. In 2016, she won floor, and then in 2017, she took first on vault and bars and third all-around.

Butler trains 29 hours a week to get the results she wants and has competed most recently at the 2019 Biles Elite Qualifier. There she competed as a junior, and placed first on vault with a 13.750, first on bars with a 12.650, second on beam with a 13.700, first on floor with a 13.650 and second all-around with a 53.750.  

Her vault routine includes a Yurchenko layout full. On bars, she competes a Stalder, Shaposhnikova, Jaeger, Tkatchev, and a double layout dismount. Some of her beam includes a double pike dismount, back handspring + back handspring landing on two feet + back full and multiple dance combinations, and her floor includes a piked full in, a two-and-a-half twist to a front tuck, a double twisting front layout and a double pike. 

Konnor McClain is the final gymnast on the U.S. junior team heading to Jesolo. She was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 1, 2005, and now lives in Cross Lanes, West Virginia. She attends Revolution Gymnastics and is coached by Susan Brown. When she was 11 years old, she was featured on the Steve Harvey show for being the best young gymnast in the U.S. after winning the 2016 HOPES Championships. Besides placing first all-around, she also placed first on vault, bars and beam, as well as second on floor. A year earlier she took second on beam, fourth all-around, fifth on vault and tied for 17th on floor at the 2015 HOPES Competition. 

After her television debut, she competed in 2017 at the U.S. Classic, then had lots of success last year in her 2018 season. She competed at the American Classic, where she took second all-around and on beam, tied for third on bars and tied for seventh on floor. She tied for third on bars at the 2018 GK U.S. Classic, then competed at the 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships. There, she took first on beam, fourth on bars and fifth all-around. 

After missing the 2018 junior team competition, all eyes will be on Team USA to see if they can regain the junior team title this year. These four gymnasts have the skills and power they need to take first place but lack the international experience that some of the other teams have. 

Tune into FloGymnastics this weekend to see what happens in the team junior competition! 

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