Last week, the Level 10 Nationals – also known as J.O. (Junior Olympic) Nationals – took place in Des Moines, Iowa. In the United States, Level 10 is the level just below elite — the level from which the world and Olympic teams are chosen. The competition is always a showcase of how deep the gymnastics talent pool is in the U.S.
The states are divided into 8 region teams. Each region has 56 gymnasts. Those 56 team members are further broken down into 8 age groups (7 in each group). Here were the age breakdowns for 2015:
Junior A – July 1, 2001 and later
Junior B – June 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001
Junior C – September 1, 1999 to May 31, 2000
Junior D – January 1, 1999 to August 31, 1999
Senior A – June 1, 1998 to December 31, 1998
Senior B – November 1, 1997 to May 31, 1998
Senior C – April 1, 1997 to October 31, 1997
Senior D – March 31, 1997 and earlier
Despite there being so much talent and good gymnastics happening, a number of gymnasts inevitably find a way to stand out. Here are 5 that stood out to me.
I’ll start with a couple of “babies”: Eliana Lazzari of GymNasti and Alyssa Al-Ashari of Twistars. Both of whom were Junior As this year.
Sometimes you watch a gymnast and you get a feeling that she’s on the path to elite gymnastics before you actually know it for a fact. I got that feeling when I saw Eliana and Alyssa’s routines. They each have a level of refinement and skill level across all of the events that makes you say to yourself “oh, she’s one to keep an eye on.”
Eliana first caught my eye because of how composed she was on balance beam. Sometimes a big stage like J.O. Nats proves to be too much for such a young gymnast to master. But Eliana looked really confident up on the beam, which she is hardly taller than by the way.
Eliana’s Region 5 teammate, Alyssa, was another who showed “beyond her years” maturity at the meet. The first routine of hers to grab my attention was her uneven bars routine.
Come to find out that Alyssa does have elite aspirations. She is planning to test elite this summer with the hope of competing in Classics and Nationals. Coincidentally, I had a similar feeling about Alyssa’s club teammate Delanie Harkness.
Last year, Delanie won the Junior A all-around title, like Alyssa did this year, and then qualified elite that summer. I won’t be surprised if Alyssa does the same this year, and I don’t expect Eliana to be far behind.
Speaking of the elite look, Wynter Childers of Spearfish Gymnastics is another that had it. Wynter won the Senior B competition with solid performances across all 4 events of course, but it was her floor exercise that stood out to me as one of the most entertaining.
Wynter tried elite gymnastics years ago, even moving to Arizona train for a while. However, she found it wasn’t for her and moved back home to South Dakota. She’s currently a verbal commit to Alabama, and appears to have bright future ahead as a college gymnast.
The last 2 gymnasts that stood out to me won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to Level 10 gymnastics in the past couple of years: Alicia Boren of North Stars Gymnastics and Macy Toronjo of Texas Dreams Gymnastics. They were the class of the field this year.
Alicia is the Simone Biles of Level 10. She doesn’t lose. She won her age division at J.O. Nats for the 4th straight year! This year it was Senior D. Really, there’s not much I can say to expand on it: she’s very good.
Senior C champ Macy is a former elite competitor, and a solid all-arounder. Her floor routine is a good representative of her high level of skill and clean execution.
(Before you ask, yes, she performed a double layout and a full-in in a Level 10 routine.)
Both of these girls are surely going to make immediate contributions to their respective college teams when they arrive this fall. Alicia is going to Florida, Macy to UCLA.
Honorable mention to Junior C all-around champ and University of Georgia commit Rachael Lukacs from North Stars Gymnastics, who threw a double twisting Yurchenko. You don’t see that vault often from a Level 10 gymnast, especially a junior.