ST. LOUIS, June 25, 2021 – The 2021 USA Gymnastics Championships began Friday at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis. Laura Zeng of Libertyville, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center defended her senior rhythmic hoop title, while teammate Evita Griskenas of Orland Park, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center took the senior ball title. In the junior division, Nayenne Pollini Ashenaffi of San Diego, Calif./Rhythmic Academy of Los Angeles topped the hoop field, and Gemma Gow of Newton, Mass/Nely’s School of Rhythmic Gymnastics took top honors in the ball competition.
Friday also featured the qualification rounds for senior women’s trampoline, senior women’s tumbling and senior men’s double mini-trampoline, while elite acrobatic gymnasts performed the first of three routines. FloGymnastics is livestreaming all USA Gymnastics Championships junior and senior elite sessions.
Zeng took first on hoop with a score of 26.200 and leads the all-around qualification after two events with a combined score of 52.250. Despite a shaky start to the competition, Griskenas’ 26.300 on ball has positioned her in second place with a 46.050 going into Day 2 of qualifications. Lennox Hopkins-Wilkins of Puyallup, Wash./Evergreen Rhythmics sits third with a 43.750. In the junior division, Pollini Ashenaffi leads the all-around rankings at the midway point of qualifications with a 38.500 behind her championship performance on hoop (20.150). Gow, whose 19.350 secured her the ball title, is second with a 38.350, while Lauren Kramer of San Diego, Calif./Emerald City Academy of Rhythmic Gymnastics is third with a 36.700.
The competition will continue Saturday with the clubs and ribbon championships and the final rounds of qualification for Sunday’s all-around finals. Twelve gymnasts will advance, and the all-around champion will be decided by a three-day score total.
On Friday, the U.S. Senior National Group took the five balls title with a 37.300 and the three hoops and two pairs of clubs title with a score of 31.900. The group, based out of North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, includes Isabelle Connor of Manhattan Beach, Calif., Yelyzaveta Merenzon of Buffalo Grove, Ill., Camilla Feeley of Wheeling, Ill., Lili Mizuno of Northbrook, Ill., Elizaveta Pletneva of Wheeling, Ill., and Nicole Sladkov of Vernon Hills, Ill. The all-around group title will be determined Saturday based on a two-day total.
During trampoline qualifications, Nicole Ahsinger of Lafayette, La./T&T Express posted the day’s top score in the women’s division with a 102.180. Hope Bravo of Frisco, Texas/Eagle Gymnastics led the women’s tumbling field with a 64.500, and Trevor Harder of Archdale, N.C./Carolina Elite paced the men’s double-mini competition with a 76.400. Trampoline & tumbling qualification continues Saturday with finals set for Sunday. The top eight gymnasts in each division will advance.
In acrobatic gymnastics, Reagan Grigsby, Makayla Anderson and Taylor Smith of Riverside, Calif./Empire Acrogymnastics lead the women’s group (12-18) after one event. The trio posted a 27.300 in balance. Cierra McKowan and Katie Borcherding of Moreno, Calif./Realis Gymnastics Academy were the lone competitors in women’s pair (13-19), scoring a 23.540 in dynamic.
The top-three placements in the rhythmic junior and senior hoop and ball and senior group competitions are listed below.
- Hoop: 1. Nayenne Pollini Ashenaffi, San Diego, Calif./Rhythmic Academy of Los Angeles, 20.150; 2. Valentina Moya, San Diego, Calif./Emerald City Academy of Rhythmic Gymnastics, 19.250; 3. Gemma Gow, Newton, Mass./Nely’s School of Rhythmic Gymnastics, and Camiah Kuno, Brooklyn, N.Y./Empire Rhythmic Gymnastics, 19.000
- Ball: 1. Gemma Gow, Newton, Mass./Nely’s School of Rhythmic Gymnastics, 19.350; 2. Jaelyn Chin, Aventura, Fla./Anna Bessonova’s School, 19.200; 3. Elizabeth Balikian, Encino, Calif./Rhythmic Academy of Los Angeles, 18.850
- Hoop: 1. Laura Zeng, Libertyville, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, 26.200; 2. Lennox Hopkins-Wilkins, Puyallup, Wash./Evergreen Rhythmics, 23.400; 3. Erica Foster, Chanhassen, Minn./NorthWest Rhythmic, 22.750
- Ball: 1. Evita Griskenas, Orland Park, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, 26.300; 2. Laura Zeng, Libertyville, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, 26.050; 3. Jenna Zhao, Hinsdale, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, 21.00
- 5 Balls: 1. Senior National Group, 37.300; 2. National Prep Group B, 25.500; 3. National Prep Group A, 24.400
- 3 Hoops and 2 Pairs of Clubs: 1. Senior National Group, 31.900; 2. National Prep Group A, 23.450; 3. National Prep Group B, 22.050