By Hayes Gardner
DES MOINES, Iowa, July 4, 2019 — While fireworks peppered the sky throughout the country on Thursday evening, the stars of the United States gymnastics team put on a spectacle of their own at the USA Gymnastics Championships held at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
To no one’s surprise, it was Laura Zeng, a 2016 Olympian and the four-time defending all-around rhythmic champion, who stole the rhythmic gymnastics show with a couple of dazzling performances. She scored a 20.350 in both the hoop and ball competitions with majestic and captivating routines.
Zeng trains at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastic Center in Deerfield, Illinois, as do each of the other three medalists. Evita Griskenas took silver in both events, while Camilla Feeley placed third in hoop and Lili Mizuno took bronze in ball.
Men’s trampoline yielded plenty of action, too, as 21 senior men competed in the individual trampoline preliminary round. Jeffrey Gluckstein, who has won the event five times, managed the top score with a combined 107.990. Ruben Padilla, Cody Gesuelli, Aliaksei Shostak (who posted a 58.655 score on his second pass, the day’s high mark), Logan Gilbert, Paul Bretscher, Davy Ford and Nico Verderosa rounded out the eight who will advance to the finals.
In the men’s tumbling preliminary round, it was Kaden Brown, one of the top athletes in the event in the world and a recent high school graduate, who ran away with the top score of 74.800. He scored a 36.500 and then a 38.300, the two highest marks of the evening. Brandon Krynzefski, Patrick Lyell, Haydn Fitzgerald, Drew Collins, Alex Renkert, Ian Castrence and Kayne Johnson also finished in the top eight.
The day was most eventful, however, for Tristan Van Natta. She scored a 69.900 in the double mini-trampoline preliminaries to land herself in first place heading into Saturday’s finals — but that wasn’t the half of it. Not even close.
During a break in the action, her boyfriend, Austyn Hughes, proposed, and the gymnast said yes in front of an excited crowd.
Kayttie Nakamura and Sydney Senter notched the second and third highest scores, respectively, with a 69.700 and a 69.600. Lacey Jenkins, Kiley Lockett, Kristle Lowell, Trinity Van Natta (Tristan’s sister) and Susan Gill rounded out the top eight.
The gymnasts will be back in action on Friday, with more fireworks to come.