With World Championships on their minds as the first step toward Paris, the Olympic quest in their hearts, senior elite gymnasts will compete tonight for the U.S. national title, places on the national team, and a chance to trial for Worlds.
Zoom in the Gators: Leanne Wong, Kayla DiCello, Skye Blakely, and Shilese Jones. These four women will be among the field of nearly 30 athletes vying for 12-15 spots at World Trials, only five of whom will ultimately make the team. You can read our preview to learn more about their chances, but they’re heavy favorites to at least make it to the selection event.
Competing alongside them will be several NCAA compatriots, including Jordan Chiles of UCLA, Sunisa Lee of Auburn, Jade Carey of Oregon State, and many other upcoming commits, as well as the GOAT herself, Simone Biles.
8:05pm: Carey, FX: Moors to open! That’s a double-twisting double layout, one of the most difficult skills we’ll see tonight, quite good body position through most of it. Tucked double double for her second pass, landing is decent. Front layout through to double pike, solid. She’s really put some emphasis on her dance skills over the past several months, she’s giving the drama here. Double back to close, comes in a little short – the stamina isn’t quiiite there yet. Did save herself from going OOB though.
Wong, VT: Yurchenko double full, pretty clean in the air, some crossed ankles, hop back on the landing but quite straight down the runway. 14.25! She leads the standings currently.
Roberson, BB: She’s an Arkansas commit! Standing tuck full to open, HUGE! Switch to switch half to back tuck, definitely short of 180 on those split positions. Side aerial-layout stepout-layout stepout, super solid. Full turn is clean. Onodi is crooked, breaks her connection to her dance element after, but connects the second. Double pike dismount, just a step to the side and her chest was a bit low.
Matthews, VT: Just a Yurchenko full, your typical NCAA vault. Very clean in the air, slide back. Doesn’t have the power for a double though, best she stick to cleaning this as best she can. She’s still uncommitted for NCAA, I believe!
DiCello, UB: Starts on low bar and can’t get her first pirouette finished, has to hop off, that’s rough. Goes again, toe full to Maloney is clean. Piked Tkachev, and the piked Jaeger is lovely, so is the pak salto. Just little bends in her arms here and there, she’s tired. Sticks her full out dismount, but that’s not how she wanted to start. Just a 12.3, oof.
Blakely, UB: Stalder half to piked Jaeger, excellent. Piked Tkachev to pak salto, good amplitude on that. Toe full to van Leeuwen, fingertip catch. Double front half out dismount, little stutter step. She’s got great swing, that looked really solid. 14.4 will give her the lead over future teammate Wong!
Miller, BB: She’s an LSU commit! Gets the full turn out of the way early, clean. Triple acro series, a little stutter on her back foot but doesn’t move a muscle. Mixed series is clean. Switch leap to switch half, another very short of 180. Side aerial is great. Sissone to wolf jump, solid positions and very steady on the landings. Split jump full from side stand! That’s still worth extra difficulty, if I remember correctly. Double pike dismount, little step forward from the underrotation.
First commercial break as the second half of the rotation gets a thirty-second touch warmup. Wong and Blakely looking STRONG out of the gate, and not even on their best events! DiCello needed to show more consistency this time out, so the fall off the bat is not doing her any favors. She’ll want to go 7/8 from here on out.
Chiles, BB: If you haven’t heard, Chiles will defer a year to try for Paris before returning to finish her career at UCLA. Triple acro series to start, very steady. Front aerial to straddle jump to bhs, solid mixed series. Side somi, very confident on the landing. Switch leaps, breaks the connection to her remaining dance elements there, that’ll drop her difficulty score. Side aerial, another bobble. Switch side is clean. Double pike dismount, lots more power than her club teammates before her, looked like a stick from here!
Jones, VT: Yurchenko double full, gorgeous stretched position in the air, just a slide back. 14.35! That puts her in second behind Blakely, making the Gators 1-2-3 right now!! Stop the count!
Biles, BB: Little bobble on her switch leap mount. Dance sequence down the length of the beam is much more confident. Triple wolf turn, comes up a little out of it but saves it. Front aerial to straddle to sissone, nice and quick. Handspring-layout stepout-layout stepout, it’s like she’s on the floor. Side aerial is clean. Full in dismount, finishes her twist so high above the ground, just a little bounce in place on the landing.
Sumanasekera, BB: How do you follow Biles, man? She’s one of the youngest here, still uncommitted in NCAA. Back handspring-back handspring-2 foot layout, well done. Front aerial split jump to korbut, very smooth connection. Switch to switch half, much closer to 180 than anyone else but still not perfect? Side aerial to wolf jump to sissone, quick connections there, very confident. Double pike dismount, very clean pike position, single step on the dismount. Well, I guess that’s how you follow Biles! Well done!
Johnson, UB: Solid pirouettes on low bar. Maloney to pak, some leg separation there. van Leeuwen is clean. A little short on that handstand, Jaeger is nice though. Just a double tuck dismount, landed a little staggered, almost like she was dizzy? Hope it was just a one-off. She’s also uncommitted – this is her first senior season!
1. Biles (pro): 14.45
2. Blakely (UF): 14.4
3. Jones (UF): 14.35
4. Wong (UF): 14.2
5T: Jong (Aub) and Sumanasekera (unc.): 13.85
7. Pineda (unc.): 13.55
8. Zeiss (LSU): 13.45
9T: Fatta (OU), Carey (OSU), Disidore (unc.): 13.35
8:43pm: Rotation 2!
Blakely, BB: Double wolf turn, ooh, has to come up early, but doesn’t fall somehow. Standing full is dead on though! Good recovery. Front handspring to front tuck, gorgeous. Switch to switch half to back tuck, excellent connections, a little shy of 180 on the half. Front aerial to split to back handspring, very quick on those connections too. Side aerial, has to take a step back but masks it well. Double pike dismount, step to the side. Not perfect, but showed her resilience.
Matthews, UB: Jaeger, great amplitude. Ricna, doesn’t connect to the pak salto, that’ll lower her planned difficulty. Tries to transition back to the high bar and can’t get there, slips off and falls. Repeats the van Leeuwen successfully as she remounts, good for her. Double layout dismount, sticks it. This is her best event, so that’s got to be a bummer for her.
Lee, VT: Commentators are touting that tonight is the first time we’ve had two different Olympic gold medalists competing against each other at nationals, so that’s pretty cool! Just a Yurchenko full, keeping it simple and lowkey for now to protect her body as she trains back from her kidney condition, big bounce back but her body position is perfection.
Chiles, FX: This will be a treat, y’all. 1.5 through to full in to open, well controlled landing. Bringing her signature showmanship in this choreography, love to see it. Double layout, suuuper straight body position. Dance passage is clean, double wolf turn is a little wild but better than the beam turns have been. Double tuck, goes OOB. Double pike, a little short but covers well. Needs a little more stamina but she threw DOWN on the choreography.
Biles, FX: These back-to-back superstars! We are so blessed to live in the era of Simone Biles. Aaaand they’re having trouble with her music. Ok, here we go! Absolutely STICKS her Chusovitina, the full-twisting double layout. 1.5 through to double double, absolutely incredible. Wolf turn much better on the floor here, takes it nice and slow. Switch leap to tour jete full, nice and clean positions in the air. Biles I – that’s a double layout half out – she goes OOB with one foot, but it’s so minimal at this point, who cares? Double layout as her last pass – who does that??? She’s an absolute MONSTER of a tumbler, and she makes it look effortless. Sam Peszek commentating says she has a 6.8 difficulty score. SIX POINT EIGHT. No one else in the world is doing that right now.
Another commercial break… we did not see DiCello or Jones that rotation for whatever reason, but hopefully they’ll show a tape delay of Jones’s routine since she’s literally tied with Biles right now for first!! An 11.7 for DiCello on beam, though, does not bode well for her. She’s going to need a very convincing night 2 to be in the mix for this team.
Wong, UB: Opening release is great! Bhardwaj is clean, that’s again one of the hardest release skills you’ll see tonight. Maloney to pak, doesn’t connect the van Leeuwen but keeps the swing flowing. Double layout dismount is stuck! Big celebration from Owen Field and hugs from Jenny Rowland as she steps off the podium. A huge 14! Puts her in fourth at the moment.
Roberson, FX: Another Moors – double twisting double layout – not as clean as Carey but still strong. Does tuck her knees some but not enough to lose the skill value. Full twisting double layout for her second pass, cleaner there. Front full through to double tuck, stumbles back as she lands but stays in bounds. Front layout stepout through to double pike, basically stuck! Good for her!
Carey, VT: She’s back up to the Cheng, which is a Yurchenko half-on 1.5 off in a layout position for those not yet familiar – ooh, lands kinda crunched and off to one side.
Jones, UB: Excellent pirouette work to start. First release is great, big amplitude. Just absolutely flying – Downie to pak salto, so clean. Doesn’t connect to the van Leeuwen, but still swinging so naturally. Double front dismount, STUCK!
1T. Biles (pro) and Jones (UF) 29.25
3. Blakely (UF): 28.45
4. Wong (UF): 28.25
5. Jong (Aub): 27.9
6. Carey (OSU): 27.3
7. Disidore (unc.): 27.2
8. Zeiss (LSU) 27.15
9. Sumanasekera (unc.): 27.0
10T. Neal (Aub) and Roberson (Ark): 26.5
9:20pm: Rotation 3!
Chiles, VT: Yurchenko double full, that looked pretty close to a stick to me! Some crossed ankles, but good amplitude.
Biles, VT: Yurchenko double pike, the hardest vault any woman in the world is competing right now, will be named for her if she competes it internationally. HUGE air as usual – did she stick that???? Coach Laurent Landi was in the way of the camera angle, but hooooly cow, just incredible. One step if any. In slow mo, it almost looked like she crunched her ankles a little bit.
She will go for a second vault here, first time since Tokyo doing two in competition. Cheng, the same that Carey did earlier, and she takes a HUGE bounce back – it’s too easy for her! She has too much power.
Carey, UB: Solid opening handstand. Ricna is good. Ezhova is clean, doesn’t connect it to anything. Maloney to Bhardwaj, excellent. Goes for a handstand on the low bar and starts to go over the wrong way – fights it – oooooh and has to come off. Bummer. Dismount is good but it’s too little too late – she’ll want that to go much better on night two.
Roberson, VT: Cheng as well – much cleaner in the landing than Biles, but nowhere near as much power and messier in the leg form, some bent knees.
Yurchenko double full for her second vault – still some bent knees, but just a little bounce on the landing, well done. That would punch her ticket over Carey for me, despite the experience difference.
Wong, BB: Side aerial to switch leap to wolf jump full! She did it! Gorgeous. Back handspring-layout stepout series, no bobble today, thank you. Full turn is fine, switch ring looked lovely. Side somi, solid there. Front aerial-split jump-straddle jump, nice and quick. 2.5 twist dismount, much better than Classic – just a little hop forward. She is KILLING it tonight.
Lincoln, FX: Another LSU commit, floor is her strong suit. Double double with HUGE height, well controlled on the landing too. Full-twisting double layout, excellent. Triple wolf turn, very steady, nice and balanced. Front full through to double tuck – she’s so clean. Peszek is right, hers is a name you won’t want to forget!
Jones, BB: Switch leap mount to immediate switch half, a little bobble but positions in the air are nice. Standing arabian, doesn’t connect there. Bhs bhs 2foot layout, leg up bobble and break at the hips – maybe touched the beam? That’s a .5 deduction if so. Side aerial is nice and steady, she’s recovering. Full turn, lil bobble. Split jump to sissone, gorgeous toe point and extension on those. Double pike dismount, little adjustment of one foot. For only being 75-80% in her own words, only one major error in three of four routines is pretty darn good though.
At the halfway point of the third rotation, Jones and Wong are both in very strong positions, No. 2 and 3 currently behind Biles, which some might consider to be No. 1 and 2, since Biles competes practically in a league of her own.
We’re getting a fluff piece on Jones now! Her dad bought her a whiteboard at 11 years old, and she wrote on it then that she wanted to go to the Olympics, so they up and moved the family across the country to a more developed elite program. He’s the one who believed in her to try for a second Olympic cycle after her devastating car accident set her back in 2021.
Her shift back to Seattle was motivated by him – he said that she was more comfortable there at home, and that that’s where she was meant to be. When he passed, she and her family decided to move back, and she’s dedicating everything to him this Olympic cycle.
Okay, more gymnastics now!
Miller, VT: Yurchenko 1.5, undercooks it and stumbles back. Not her best, but not a make or break event for her.
Booth, UB: Another youngling here, also uncommitted but from Florida, so keep an eye out. Tkachev 1/2 to ezhova, YES love that. Her swing is effortless through these transitions. Full-twisting double layout dismount! That’s the hardest dismount we’ve seen tonight.
Blakely, FX: Her first time on floor in a hot minute! Double double to open, steps out of bounds but keeps the landing issues small. Double layout, really strong there. Double wolf turn, fine. Switch ring to tour jete half, solid split positions. Continues that theme through the rest of her dance elements here. Front tuck through to double tuck – a little underrotated. Still needs the stamina but definitely has promise!
Matthews, BB: Lovely cartwheel mount. Bhs loso, big lean but stays on. 2.5 wolf turn, lots of bobbles but makes it work somehow. Switch leap to split half, short of 180. Side aerial, okay. Front aerial, another small check. Double tuck, lunge back.
1. Biles (pro): 44.95
2. Jones (UF): 42.7
3. Wong (UF): 42.0
4. Blakely (UF): 41.35
5. Sumanasekera (unc.): 41.2
6. Roberson (Ark): 41.15
7. Chiles (UCLA): 40.4
8. Lincoln (LSU): 39.9
9T. Jong (Aub) and Disidore (unc.): 39.75
9:59pm: Rotation 4!
Sumanasekera, UB: Falls right off the bat just like at Classic! Oh no! That is not a great look for her. Maloney to pak salto, doesn’t connect, van Leeuwen. Jaeger, some flexed feet but fine. Full out dismount, very high above the bar, little step on the landing. Bummer.
Carey, BB: Front aerial, little hesitation as she lands, no connection. Back handspring-layout stepout-layout stepout, solid series. Goes for a jump from side stand and falls – oof. Not her day is right, commentators. Side aerial, another bobble. All in her head now. Double tuck dismount, step forward. She’ll want to have a short memory when she hits the floor for day two.
Wong, FX: Double wolf turn to open, finesses it a little bit. Double double to open, just barely keeps it in bounds. Double layout, stumbles backward and out of bounds, ouch. Hop L turn to switch half, lovely form throughout. Double L to single turn, good connection. Whip half to front full, very comfortable there. Double pike is stuck cold to close it out! What a night she has had – she really is doing the best gymnastics of her life!
Roberson, UB: Not her event, but let’s see what she can do. Ezhova to start with, pretty clean. Maloney, big leg separation to pak salto, more leg sep there. Toe shoot, short on that handstand. Double layout dismount – big Aly Raisman vibes, just get through it and get out without anything bad happening.
Neal, BB: An Auburn commit! Handspring layout stepout, solid. Switch leap to split jump half, lovely positions there. Front aerial is clean. Side aerial, takes a step back but keeps it under control. L turn, loses it a little at the end but doesn’t break at the hips. Side somi is fine. Double pike dismount, small adjustment. Good for her!
Jokes aside, I think it’d be very hard to leave Jones or Wong at home after a night like tonight. Blakely too, to be honest, even if floor is not quite there.
Miller, UB: Breaks on her opening pirouette, tries to reset, can’t make it happen and has to hop off. Wow, bummer for her on her best event. Remounts, doesn’t try the pirouette, just goes for the Komova which is good. Jaeger is great. Downie to pak, some leg separation. van Leeuwen is clean. Double layout dismount is stuck – oh, poor thing, she looks like she’s going to cry. WCC head coach Laurent Landi trying to bring her emotions down and treat things normally, giving some gentle corrections on the side as she comes off.
Blakely, VT: Yurchenko double full – some crossed feet but she STICKS IT COLD oh my god!! That’s how to put an exclamation point on her night!
Chiles, UB: Great opening handstand work. A little close on her piked Tkachev but makes it work. Pak is clean. van Leeuwen is good, to Gienger, legs aren’t too wild. Sticks that dismount! She’s thrilled.
Biles, UB: Closing us out tonight on bars. Weiler half to Maloney, solid. Toe full to piked Tkachev to pak, very quick on these connections. Such an efficient routine – and sticks her dismount!
Lee, BB: Finishing the night on beam! She’s got to make this count. Triple wolf turn, quite steady, well done. Front aerial to split jump to back handspring, very quick connections. Switch leap to switch half to ring jump, lovely positions throughout. Triple series and she’s off! Didn’t leave herself enough room it looked like. Gainer tuck full off the end is stuck. She’ll need to hit that full routine on Sunday, but I expect she’ll petition to Worlds Selection Camp regardless.
Jones, FX: She gets to take center stage on floor as we end the night. Double double to open, excellent landing. Double L turn to double turn, gorgeous. Front full through to double tuck, lands practically upright but does go OOB. Really going classically artistic on this routine and I’m so here for it, very balletic choreography. Full in gets SO much height and the landing is again well controlled. A Hop L turn as she heads into her final choreography. A great routine for her.
AFTER DAY ONE:
1. Biles (pro): 59.3
2. Jones (UF): 56.75
3. Blakely (UF): 55.7
4. Wong (UF): 55.35
5. Chiles (UCLA): 54.6
6. Lincoln (LSU) 54.0
7. Disidore (unc.): 53.05
8. Roberson (Ark): 52.95
9. Jong (Aub): 52.9
10. Johnson (unc.): 52.85
19T. DiCello (UF): 51.5
At this point, I think it’s unlikely DiCello makes Worlds, but we’ll have to see what Day 2 brings. The other three Gators feel like heavy favorites after tonight’s performances, but no one is ever a lock in a field like this unless you’re a healthy Simone Biles.
We’ll see you back here for Day 2 on Sunday at 7pm ET/4pm PT!