By Christina Marmet
The senior division, as always, will be the most exciting, as the women are all gunning for a spot at the U.S. Olympic Trials that will be held July 8-10 in San Jose, Calif., and to ultimately grab one of the five coveted spots on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. The three favorites to make the team are also the only three professional athletes of the field: 10-time world champion Simone Biles and 2012 Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman.
2016 NCAA team champion Oklahoma will have five athletes represented at this competition, including 2015 world champions Brenna Dowell, who deferred after a successful freshman season to focus on elite training, and Maggie Nichols, who is coming back from a meniscus tear and will join the team this fall. Dowell is renowned for her risky bar routine, packed with numerous releases, while Nichols already has found success on floor by winning a bronze medal at 2015 worlds. Both are in the hunt to make the 2016 Olympic team. Kaitlin DeGuzman (‘19), Ragan Smith (‘19) and Olivia Trautman (‘18) have all announced verbal commitments to join the Sooner squad as well. The talent pool will be deep for the defending NCAA champs over the next few years, and we can expect them to be in the running for more national titles.
The future is equally bright for Florida with five athletes set to compete this weekend as well. Alyssa Baumann, Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley have already signed their National Letters of Intent and are expected in Gainesville this fall. Keep your eyes out for two other Florida recruits Lauren Hernandez (‘18) and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf (‘18)* on floor exercise where they are both incredible performers.
The UCLA Bruins will be represented by three-time world champion Madison Kocian, who signed her National Letter of Intent in November 2014 but deferred a year to dedicate all her time to training for Rio. Kocian is one of the four 2015 world uneven bars champions, so look for her on that event. She is a strong contender for one of the five Olympic spots. Nia Dennis (‘17) and Margzetta Frazier (‘18) have both verbally committed to UCLA as well. Dennis is coming back from an Achilles tear in February, but should be one to watch for on the uneven bars where she is known for her amplitude and sky-high release moves.
Utah signee, 2014 world champion and 2015 world team alternate Mykayla Skinner will likely display once again her incredible difficulty on vault and gravity-defying tumbling on floor and should be expected to make it to San Jose. Abby Paulson (‘19) is another Utah commit.
Christina Desiderio (‘18, LSU), Emily Gaskins (‘18, Alabama), Lexy Ramler (‘17, Minnesota) and Emily Schild (‘17, Georgia) round up the athletes set to compete in college in the next few years. 2014 world champion Ashton Locklear (‘16), Maggie Musselman (‘19) and Lauren Navarro (‘17) close out the field for the senior women. None have committed to a school yet, although Locklear had originally settled for the Gators but withdrew her commitment.
While the juniors aren’t gunning for a spot at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, they will still showcase their best gymnastics in the hopes of becoming the National All-Around Champion and make the U.S. National Team.
Jordan Chiles (‘19)* has been a member of the junior national team since 2014 and is one of the contenders to take the title this weekend. At the 2016 Secret U.S. Classic, she vaulted a beautiful Amanar rivaling the best in the senior field but had a bit of a rough go on beam and floor which landed her in fourth place. Chiles is committed to UCLA.
2015 Junior National Team members Emma Malabuyo (‘21) and Gabby Perea (‘20) are also among the favorites for a national title after a successful 2015 season and completing national team assignments in Italy and Canada. Neither have picked a college team yet.
Finally, fan-favorite Morgan Hurd (‘19) known for competing with her glasses on, should not be counted out. While not yet on the national team, Hurd showed up at the U.S. Classic with numerous upgrades and impeccable form that should put her near the top of the rankings and hopefully help her make the team. Hurd has announced her commitment to Florida.
Other junior competitors who have announced their college commitment are: Aria Brusch (‘20, Auburn), Frida Esparza (‘20, UCLA), Adeline Kenlin (‘20, Iowa), Riley McCusker (‘20, Florida), Alyona Shchennikova (‘20, Michigan) and Kalyany Steele (‘20, UCLA).
For more details on how to watch and for a full list of athletes, check out the 2016 P&G Championship official website.
* Jun. 24: Since this article was published, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf (knee injury) and Jordan Chiles (deep bone bruise) have announced their withdrawals from the competition.
Days until the 2017 National Championships