Top Seniors Compete For Hardware, Pan Ams Spots At 2019 US Classic

The 2019 U.S. Classic will take place on July 20 in Louisville, Kentucky, and there are many exciting senior gymnasts who will be competing at this event. Sponsored by GK and held at the KFC Yum! Center, the U.S. Classic is for gymnasts competing at the elite level. The GK Hopes Championships will take place the day before, and features young gymnasts who aspire to reach elite level one day.

The senior competition is especially important because it is the last time women competitors can qualify for the 2019 U.S. Championships, the U.S. national competition, if they have not already qualified. The U.S. Championships will take place Aug. 8-11 in Kansas City, Missouri, and the U.S. Classic is traditionally a good predictor of who will do well at that event. For those who have qualified already, this meet is a good place to work out final details of routines and get more competition experience.

The roster for the 2019 Pan American Games will also be selected during the U.S. Classic. The U.S. can only send five women in artistic gymnastics to the competition in Lima, Peru, and eight competitors will be fighting for a spot: Sloane Blakely, Aleah Finnegan, Shilese Jones, Sunisa Lee, Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker, Riley McCusker, and Leanne Wong. You can find the full selection process explanation for the Pan American Games here

Simone Biles is the only gymnast going into the U.S. Classic with a previous all-around title as a senior at this competition. Biles has taken first all-around at the U.S. Classic in 2014, 2015, and 2018. The winners from 2016 and 2017 are not competing this year. Of course, Biles is not only one to keep an eye on because of her previous success at this meet. Besides many other titles, she has the 2016 Olympic all-around medal in her trophy case as well as the 2018 world all-around first place to show she has kept up with her training since the last Olympic Games.

Morgan Hurd is another gymnast to watch, as she has had a lot of success in recent years and is going into this competition in top shape. Hurd is the 2019 Tokyo World Cup all-around champion, was a part of the 2018 worlds gold medalist team, and took individual bronze at 2018 worlds. She was also the 2018 American Cup champion and the 2017 world all-around champion.

Still, even with success behind her, the 17-year-old Hurd isn’t counting herself as a shoo-in for the Pan Am Games. 

“My goal going into the U.S. Classics is just to hit all four routines nice and cleanly, and hopefully make the Pan Ams team,” Hurd said. “As for goals at Pan Ams, I just want to make the team first and then I’ll make goals.” 

Hurd also isn’t giving up any trade secrets. When asked about any new upgrades she may debut at U.S. Classics, she replied, “That’s a secret. You’re gonna have to wait and see!” 

Riley McCusker is sure to do well in this competition, coming off of a 2019 Birmingham World Cup all-around silver medal. In 2018 she was a part of the worlds team win, and she was on the 2017 Jesolo Trophy team, taking first all-around individually. Riley is ready for Classics, telling FloGymnastics, “Going into this competition, physically I feel good. I’ve been keeping up with all my therapy and everything, so I’m feeling really good. Mentally I’m just preparing, working on the consistency for the routines and getting ready.”

McCusker has recently posted videos of her training, and her skills are looking better than ever. She also plans to include some new upgrades at Classics. 

“This year at Classics I’m planning to add a few upgrades on floor and beam,” she said. “So floor, I’m gonna add my double layout back in, and then I’m gonna add my full in to my third pass. Beam, I’m adding a new flight series, which is going to be a layout two foot.” 

Adding upgrades in slowly this summer is part of McCusker’s overall training strategy to hit her goals at the multiple competitions this summer. “This year Classics is kinda like a stepping stone to the Pan American Games, so I feel like its almost a warm-up for that. You definitely want to be looking good and hit all your routines, so you can be ready for what comes after. My first goal is to be selected for Pan Ams, and then after that I would love to be able to compete all-around there, and go for an all-around title.”

Maggie Haney, Riley’s coach, shared her thoughts on Classics as well. “Classics is kind of a ... start-out meet for the elite season. It’s going to be a little more competitive this year than in the past because it’s being used as a selection for the Pan Am Games, so we’re getting ready a little earlier. The goal for Classics is just to go out and show good consistency, for her to get the first meet under her belt ... and then hopefully go on to Pan Ams, and I think that’s going to be a great experience for her if she gets to go, because it’s very helpful to go compete out of the country, in a different environment. Those are experiences that are irreplaceable.” 

With so many back-to-back meets this summer in the elite world, McCusker and Haney said they considered not trying for a spot on the Pan Am team, but ultimately decided to go for it. 

“Riley definitely likes to compete, and she likes to get out of the country and meet the other athletes ... the other girls and kids in the other sports,” Haney said. “The way she’s looking at it is this is her last year of elite gymnastics, and then after 2020 she’ll be going on to college, so basically she wants to get every experience she can while she’s still doing this.”

Hurd is adamant she will go to Pan Ams if she makes the team, even though some gymnasts are choosing to skip the competition and save their bodies. “If I make the Pan Ams team I definitely will go. This has been a goal for me all year long,” she said. “I’m really just focusing on pacing myself and finalizing my routines, taking things out, putting things in, and really just getting comfortable and consistent with everything. I really feel like me and my coach have a grand standing on how to pace myself. I’ve been at the senior level for a few years now, and I really understand my body better, so I want to get as much international experience as possible.”

Other gymnasts to watch include Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum, who joined Biles, Hurd, and McCusker on the gold medal World Championships team in 2018. Jade Carey is also one to beat, having recently snagged the 2019 World Cup gold medal. Reigning American Cup champion Leanne Wong is also competing, and MyKayla Skinner is making an appearance, much to the excitement of those who loved her as a 2016 Olympic alternate and became even bigger fans after seeing her compete for the University of Utah. College gymnastics fanatics also have another favorite competing in this meet: Florida’s Trinity Thomas, who will be showing off her famous floor routine.

Below is a complete list of all the seniors competing, in alphabetical order by state:

Jade Carey, Phoenix, Ariz./Arizona Sunrays

MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz./Desert Lights Gymnastics

Emily Lee, Los Gatos, Calif./West Valley Gymnastics School

Morgan Hurd, Middletown, Del./First State Gymnastics

Gabby Perea, Geneva, Ill./Legacy Elite Gymnastics

Leanne Wong, Overland Park, Kansas/Great American Gymnastics Express

Sunisa Lee, St. Paul, Minn./Midwest Gymnastics Center

Grace McCallum, Isanti, Minn./Twin City Twisters

Kara Eaker, Grain Valley, Mo./Great American Gymnastics Express

Aleah Finnegan, Lee's Summit, Mo./Great American Gymnastics Express

Alexis Jeffrey, Warrensburg, Mo./Great American Gymnastics Express

Riley McCusker, Brielle, N.J./MG Elite

Shania Adams, Plain City, Ohio/Future Gymnastics Academy

Shilese Jones, Westerville, Ohio/Future Gymnastics Academy

Trinity Thomas, York, Pa./University of Florida Gymnastics

Simone Biles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre

Sloane Blakely, Frisco, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics

Jordan Chiles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre

Jaylene Gilstrap, McKinney, Texas/Metroplex Gymnastics

Olivia Hollingsworth, Seabrook, Texas/World Champions Centre

Emma Malabuyo, Flower Mound, Texas/Texas Dreams Gymnastics

Victoria Nguyen, Sugar Land, Texas/Everest Gymnastics

Abigael Vides, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre

Faith Torrez, Pleasant Prairie, Wis./Legacy Elite Gymnastics

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