emma malabuyo

How Future NCAA Stars Fared at the 2017 U.S. Classic

The U.S. Classic is over as quickly as it started, and WE ARE SLIGHTLY OVERWHELMED. It was a whirlwind few hours of scares, screw-ups and surprises. To help you process everything that happened, we’ve broken down the results by the gymnasts’ future collegiate team.

Rankings are within age division, and juniors are marked with a star (*) next to their name.


Emily Gaskins (2019) 13.50 (8) 12.45 (14) 13.30 (11) 13.50 (3) 52.75 (6)
Shania Adams (2021) 13.40 (9) 12.40 (15) 13.70 (5) 13.25 (5) 52.75 (6)
Luisa Blanco (2021) 13.40 (9) 12.85 (13) 14.30 (2) 12.35 (12) 52.90 (3)

The Alabama ladies put together one of the strongest performances of the meet, with all three competing fantastic, lineup-worthy yurchenko fulls. Emily Gaskins performed with her classic style following her return to Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy. While her beam had some flickers of leg form, the confidence and stability of the routine is almost NCAA-ready. Shania Adams is a powerful gymnast who made her routines look easy Saturday and will have a wealth of options for composing college routines.

However, new commit Luisa Blanco could end up the star of her generation at Alabama. Though she is a brand new elite with lower difficulty scores than many of her competitors (only her beam routine starts from above a 5.0) she achieved the highest E-score of the meet on bars and the second-highest on beam. Her incredible precision and landing instincts on all four events are reminiscent of Kiana Winston, and it’s easy to imagine her taking a similar role in Alabama’s lineups.


Brooke Butler* (2021) 12.95 (37) 10.30 (46) 12.05 (33) 11.20 (39) 46.50 (43)
Olivia Hollingsworth* (2021) 13.25 (26) 12.55 (23) 10.85 (43) 12.85 (14) 49.50 (31)
Sunisa Lee* (2022) 13.15 (10) 14.15 (4)

The future of Auburn had a bit of a tough day but showed plenty of collegiate potential. Olivia Hollingsworth competed a beautiful yurchenko full, and her floor included a double arabian with pasted together legs and a near-stuck, open full-in. Brooke Butler had an unfortunate run-in with a wolf turn on beam but was unshakeable for the rest of the routine.

Junior National Team member Sunisa Lee is the obvious star of the cohort. She competed a stunningly difficult beam set that included a Dudnik combination (a side aerial to two layout step outs) and the best split ring jump we’ve ever seen. She unfortunately lost some difficulty on bars—electing to break her most difficult combination and getting caught by a relatively obscure composition rule, which cost her about a point of difficulty. Sunisa’s head coach Jess Graba is the twin brother of Auburn head coach Jeff Graba, and Tigers’ fans should be quite excited that the family has brought Lee to its team.


Gabby Perea* (2021) 14.5 (1)

We didn’t see much of Perea today—she’s just returning from an ankle injury—but her junior bar title is all the more impressive because she dismounted with a flyaway (an A skill) to preserve her ankle. She’ll be a standout at Cal, but don’t expect her to be in a hurry. She could have a decorated elite career ahead of her first.


Jay Jay Marshall* (2022) 14.55 (3) 12.15 (31) 12.65 (22) 12.90 (12) 52.25 (10)

Marshall is an incredible talent and a great catch for Denver. The TIGAR junior is known for audaciously throwing an Amanar as a twelve-year-old level 10—though she chose to go with a DTY at the Classic. She wowed the crowd on floor, where she landed a full-twisting double layout and a Dos Santos, before losing control on a double layout (as a third pass!) and putting her hands down. She used a piece of floor music most famously performed by Aliya Mustafina and performed it compellingly. Anything could happen in the four years before Marshall is due to go to Denver, but it’s easy to imagine her playing a similar role to Nina McGee—or potentially even better.


Leah Clapper (2019) 13.15 (14) 11.45 (17) 11.85 (18) 12.60 (10) 49.05 (12)
Sydney Johnson-Scharpf (2019) 13.2 (13)
Morgan Hurd (2020) 13.65 (6) 13.85 (2)
Riley McCusker (2020) 13.45 (8) 13.00 (13) 13.30 (4)
Carina Jordan* (2021) 14.20 (8) 12.35 (26) 10.45 (46) 10.35 (45) 47.35 (40)
Shilese Jones* (2021) 14.30 (7) 12.75 (18) 13.05 (16) 13.35 (4) 53.45 (7)
Ellie Lazzari* (2022) 14.45 (5) 11.35 (43) 13.15 (12) 10.75 (42) 49.70 (29)
Gabbie Gallentine* (2022) 13.15 (33) 11.85 *36) 11.20 (40) 12.35 (29) 48.55 (37)

It’s typical for Florida to have an army of American elites, but even for it, this is an exceptional cohort. Leah Clapper showed that she had the chops to contend for competitive lineup spots on vault and floor, and even though Sydney Johnson-Scharpf was ill with pneumonia and not nearly at her best, she managed a yurchenko full that is absolutely collegiate lineup-worthy. Though Riley McCusker is injured and Morgan Hurd is still getting her routines ready for the season, we know that we can expect greatness from the duo in better conditions as well.

The juniors brought three yurchenko doubles between the four of them; Carina Jordan’s was secure, Shilese Jones’ was incredibly powerful and Ellie Lazzari’s was nearly stuck with beautiful form. Jones also competed a double double on floor, and while Gabbie Gallentine struggled with consistency, she has the fantastic technique we’ve come to associate with Everest. Jordan had some similar struggles, but has incredible potential, particularly on bars. These eight girls alone could form a competitive collegiate lineup, so it’s safe to say that Florida is in good shape in the coming years.


Marissa Oakley (2018) 13.25 (11) 13.75 (4) 12.10 (15)
Abi Walker (2021) 12.90 (16) 12.40 (15) 13.15 (12) 13.05 (8) 51.5 (10)
Audrey Davis* (2021) 14.05 (12) 13.65 (5) 14.10 (5) 11.95 (33) 53.75 (4)
Maeve Hahn* (2022) 13.35 (20) 12.10 (32) 12.65 (22) 12.1 (30) 50.20 (24)

Marissa Oakley is the only Classic competitor who is part of the 2018 freshman class, as she’ll head directly to Georgia at the end of the summer. It’s been several years since we’ve seen her in competition, but she surprised today with some extremely composed routines.We were particularly impressed by her bars, which included a Fabrichnova dismount (a double-twisting double tuck), and though she struggled with a wolf turn on beam, she has plenty of options to assemble collegiate routines over the next few months.

New Texas Dreams senior Abi Walker and WOGA junior Audrey Davis also had successful days, with Davis likely having finished on top if not for a stumble on a wolf turn. Both of these girls are well-rounded, stylistically typical for their gyms and will be great and predictable assets in college. Davis in particular is a powerful and clean tumbler, with a great full-in and an easy double twisting yurchenko in addition to her WOGA bar and beam work.

Maeve Hahn was an enjoyable surprise. She’s a newer elite who was the first gymnast to commit to Georgia under the Kupets-Carter era, and she looks completely in control of her routines. We were particularly excited to see a double attitude turn in her floor routine.


Adeline Kenlin* (2021) 14.05 (3) 14.85 (1)

Kenlin is an incredible catch for Iowa. She’s a fan favorite among the junior ranks for her amazing technique, and after seeing her win junior beam with one of the most beautiful routines of the day, Iowa fans will be even more excited for her future with the program.


Elena Arenas (2021) 14.5 (2) 13.50 (7) 11.95 (17) 12.40 (11) 52.35 (9)
Olivia Dunne* (2021) 13.30 (22) 13.05 (11) 14.00 (6) 13.25 (5.1) 53.6 (5)

LSU always has a great balance between level 10s and  international and domestic elite gymnasts. Arenas and Dunne are both fantastic talents who will have a lot to offer the team. Elena showed a yurchenko double that almost looked too easy, and her technique on bars is beautiful. She gave the crowd a scare after missing a foot on her front tuck on beam but fought to stay on. Meanwhile, Dunne is a fantastic beamer but has also developed technique and consistency on her other apparatus; she’s one of the most balanced all-arounders in the junior field, and it showed in her great placement.


Alyona Shchennikova (2020) 14.35 (4) 14.50 (2) 12.85 (14) 13.25 (5) 54.95 (1)

Michigan doesn’t tend to recruit heavily from current elites, but even if Alyona’s older sister Polina wasn’t already a current Wolverine, Alyona would be a compelling pick. Her secure yurchenko double and amazing bars combinations led her to a deserved win in the senior session even with a fall on her beam dismount. Some work on her toe point would solidify her as one of Michigan’s next all around stars—but she could have a great elite career in front of her first.

North Carolina

Tienna Nguyen* (2021) 12.35 (44) 11.00 (40)

Nguyen had a bit of a rough day, with a fall on her double pike and a short landing on her Yurchenko full. But she has lovely technique and some great turns and leaps that could lead her to be a future star for UNC.


Ragan Smith (2020) 14.55 (1) 15.31 (1)
Cael Bixler* (2021) 12.75 (40) 11.10 (45) 11.05 (42) 11.90 (34) 46.80 (42)
Jordan Bowers* (2022) 13.30 (22) 13.30 (9) 11.15 (41) 11.70 (36) 49.45 (32)

Ragan Smith needs no introduction, and she showed her pedigree today with convincing wins in both of her events. She’ll be an instant star in NCAA assuming she retains her eligibility. The only question now is which of her growing repertoire of elite tricks she’ll keep for her college routines.

Bixler and Bowers are less familiar names, but it’s easy to see KJ Kindler’s vision for the pair. Bowers has beautiful technique on bars and a lovely double front on floor while Bixler has a yurchenko one and a half that shows promise and an effortless presence on beam that will adapt easily to the Sooner style.

Oregon State

Jade Carey (2019) 14.35 (3) 13.75 (4) 13.95 (1)

If Oregon State head coach Tanya Chaplin expected Jade Carey’s career to take this direction when she recruited her in late 2015, she was one of the few. Even Carey seems shocked by her sudden relevance—as she adorably stifled giggles as she stepped onto the senior vault podium completely alone, being the only senior showing two vaults. Expected or not, though, Carey’s incredible floor routine and vaults seem likely to take her to the world championships this year, and her fantastic form and tidy landings will propel her to NCAA stardom in 2019.

(Note: The 14.35 is for Jade’s first vault, the full-twisting Kasamatsu. Her second vault, an Amanar, scored a 14.6 including a three-tenth out-of-bounds deduction.)


Marz Frazier (2019) 13.75 (4)
Frida Esparza (2020) 14.05 (6) 13.10 (12) 12.00 (16) 11.70 (16) 50.85 (11)
Jordan Chiles (2020) 14.70 (1) 1.60 (6) 11.65 (19) 12.90 (9) 52.85 (5)
Kalyany Steele (2020) 14.25 (5) 13.15 (10) 13.60 (8) 11.90 (15) 52.90 (3)
Emma Malabuyo* (2022) 14.50 (4) 13.50 (6) 14.45 (2) 14.30 (1) 56.75 (1)

Another year, another star-studded UCLA commits list. The real standout of this group is Emma Malabuyo, who got the highest floor and all around scores of the entire meet without appearing to break a sweat—plus, her floor score now sits as the highest in the world in 2017. Malabuyo’s floor routine conveys the sunniness of her personality so clearly that we wondered for a minute if Miss Val was already choreographing for her—but in reality, she’s just a perfect fit for the program.

Kalyany Steele should be incredibly proud of her third place performance, which included a standing arabian on beam and a secure yurchenko double that UCLA will take in a heartbeat. Frida Esparza has a double too, as well as some fantastic combinations on bars. Jordan Chiles’ Amanar and lovely performance quality are as compelling as ever, but it seems as though she still has some room to grow in terms of consistency if she wants to make a run at the world championships. Marz Frazier, in true UCLA style, is as fascinating, talented and unpredictable as ever, smoothly recovering from a missed hand on her Pak salto to land her double layout dismount in a dead stick.


Abby Paulson (2020) 13.00 (15) 13.35 (9) 13.50 (10) 13.25 (5) 53.10 (2)
Deanne Soza (2021) 13.90 (7) 13.15 (10) 13.65 (6) 11.95 (14) 52.65 (8)
Maile O’Keefe* (2021) 14.60 (2) 13.75 (4) 12.45 (27) 13.90 (2) 54.70 (2)

Today was an incredible showing for the Utah ladies—compounded by the fact that Deanne Soza competed a watered down floor due to minor ankle soreness. It’s hard to pick stand-out events because all three are so talented and well-rounded. Maile O’Keefe had an error on beam but still would have placed among the senior field with her final score. Abby Paulson’s consistency has already taken her to Jesolo this year, and we’re particularly impressed by the Dudnik combination in her beam routine. Soza’s recent move to Texas Dreams seems to be working out just fine so far—though she’s still not at full capacity. All three gymnasts have the grit that’s typical of Utah standouts, and we expect them to excel there when the time comes.

Article by Rebecca Scally

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