At the Ranch: "Junior" Team

4:10 PM Arabian Punch Front 4 Comments

Emily Gaskins
Photo Credit: Christy Ann Linder

This week, we saw the start of the USA training camp videos coming in. We had 10 videos - 9 featuring specific juniors and 1 highlighting the first year seniors. In the group of first year seniors, we have Bailie Key, Alexis Vasquez, and Nia Dennis and Martha's opinions on each of the athletes. Bailie Key is the star of the group after being the 2013 Junior National Champion and winning every all around competition she entered that season. Key's greatest quality is her consistency. She has high difficulty but is also able to hit her routines time and time again and US National Team coordinator Martha Karolyi values that.

Alexis Vasquez was plagued by injuries throughout 2014 that kept her out of the all around at Secret Classic. She did manage to compete all around at 2014 P&G Championships and won the balance beam with a 14.7 on both days. Karolyi acknowledges Vasquez's early season injuries but also notes her ability to push through the injuries and compete at a high level.

Nia Dennis has been one of the strong and most discussed juniors for the past few years - the exclamation point being the height on her Tkatchev on uneven bars. Despite finishing in 2nd place, Dennis had some trouble at Nationals. Karolyi sends a very clear message: "She has some big skills... On her we need to work on her consistency level and to realize not only big skills are important but we have to have the patience and the consistency on working on details and doing the number of repetitions which are necessary to build up the consistency." Dennis is an athlete who, like Key, has the difficulty but, unlike Key in 2013, needs the consistency if she hopes to make a team. Her upgrade video only shows her on uneven bars and her ankles are heavily taped. Hope she's healthy come the domestic season.

Of the videos, Ragan Smith was probably the most interesting to me. Her standing layout full looks better than the instagram video we saw a few months ago. The way the code stands, it won't recognize a standing pike full so she'll likely get credited as a standing layout full and get deductions for body position. Smith has a double layout that is new along with a Dos Santos II or piked double arabian. It will be interesting to consider which ones she shows in competition which could be as early as March at Jesolo. The most interesting for me with Ragan Smith is how she's so young and so little but very clear about her goals. I feel like she genuinely, in her heart of hearts, sees herself at the Olympics and is doing everything in her power to let everyone else see it.

Of Chow's girls, I have a special place in my heart for Alexis Vasquez. She has a Maloney (toe on Shaposhnikova) to immediate uprise full pirouette. She's also upgraded her balance beam dismount from a 2.5 twist to a double pike. There was a lot of talk about Norah Flatley's video and a skill in her uneven bar routine. To me, it seems like she's going for a sole circle (L-grip toe-on giant) but just missed her feet. It would be cool if it was an in bar stalder but, honestly, in a code that doesn't require as much L-grip as in the past, I think she should just drop the whole thing. L-grip isn't quite working for her at the moment. Of note, she's working a DTY so she won't get that FTY deduction. Victoria Nguyen looks amazing but she's a 2001 baby and will miss out on Rio. She's working a Li Ya (Jaeger 1/2) which isn't shown in the video. They do show her switch split-Onodi-split which is fabulous.

It's great to see Laurie Hernandez back from her knee injury. She's back on all events and doing well. She's grown some so it'll be interesting to see how she looks doing a full routine. Her most interesting skill is a front layout to front 2.5. In an era without much front tumbling in elite, it's interesting to see.

The other highlight for me was Emily Gaskins who connects her lovely beam mount to a back handspring-layout stepout. It's a truly beautiful piece of gymnastics. Gaskins left CGA and is back in Florida training with her old coach. Hopefully we get to see her beautiful gymnastics at Jesolo.

What were your highlights from the junior/new senior camp videos?


  1. Thanks for the article! I really enjoy reading your observations.

  2. I'm so excited Laurie and Bailie are healed and seniors; it's going to be a great season!! Ragan is really looking amazing. So excited to see what she does in the future. And Emily Gaskins' new beam mount made my life lol.

    1. Yes! I was so happy to see how well they're doing, Laurie especially because knee injuries seem the scariest. I'm curious how they'll fit with the seniors, especially Bailie given her junior prowess. Emily Gaskins is interesting because her difficulty might not be there just yet but if she gets there, oh my goodness. Such beautiful gymnastics! Love love love!