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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in decades, USA Gymnastics is bringing its elite talent to Utah.
The University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center is partnering with the Utah Sports Commission to host a two-day event, which includes the 2018 American Classic and Hopes Classic.
“It’s really cool for USA Gymnastics to be in Utah,” University of Utah gymnast MyKayla Skinner said.
The talent coming to the Salt Lake City, which features gymnasts who could make the U.S. Olympic team for 2020, has Utah co-head coach Tom Farden thrilled, too.
“To have the community embrace another gymnastics function is exciting for the city and state,” he said. “It signifies that people outside of the Salt Lake area are aware that Utah is a great state for gymnastics.”
Competing in the senior division of the American Classic are Grace McCallum, Deanne Soza and Jaylene Gilstrap, all of whom have verbally committed to the University of Utah. While they won’t join the squad for a few years, competing in the Huntsman Center is “good practice for what it’s going to be like in college,” Skinner said.
“When I was in elite, I wish I had the opportunity to compete in the Huntsman,” Skinner said.
McCallum is one of seven U.S. Women’s National Team members expected to compete in the American Classic. Joining the 2018 Pacific Rim all-around champion is 2017 World vault and floor silver-medalist Jade Carey; Audrey Davis, who placed sixth in the junior all-around at the 2017 U.S. Championships; 2018 Pacific Rim junior vault and bars champion Kayla DiCello; Kara Eaker, 2017 U.S. junior beam champion; 2017 U.S. bars champion Riley McCusker; and 2017 Junior Pan Am Championships vault champion Tori Tatum.
Both the American and Hopes Classics are qualifiers for women’s gymnastics. To qualify for the U.S. Championships, senior elites must score a minimum of 52.0 in the all-around, 39.75 on three events or 27.0 on two events in the American Classic or U.S. Classic, which takes place in late July in Columbus, Ohio. Junior elites must earn at least 51.0 in the all-around for qualification. The 2017 U.S. World Championship team members and alternates are automatically qualified.
A former four-year U.S. Senior National Team member, Skinner won her session in the 2011 American Classic’s junior division, earning a title and advancing to the Visa Championship to become a member of the USA Junior National Team. Her 54.65 all-around score put her ahead of Mackenzie Brannan (54.15) and Simone Biles (53.65), respectively.
“It’ll be fun to sit back and watch knowing I used to do that,” Skinner, now a collegiate phenom, said of watching the upcoming American Classic. “It was fun to compete against Simone and other high-level gymnasts.”
While dedicated Utah gymnastics fans are familiar with NCAA gymnastics, USAG meets have its differences — namely its open-ended scoring system. Instead of scores being derived from a perfect 10.0, the gymnasts’ points are gathered from meeting the requirements of the apparatus and adding enough bonus, connection and skill values. Their score comes after their execution is subtracted from their total amount possible.
“It’ll be a bit foreign to some of our fans in terms of scores,” Farden said. “You’ll see 11.0s, 12.0s, 13.0s, 14.0s, maybe even 15.0s — which is beyond the perfect 10.0 that our college fans are used to seeing.”
The Hopes meet is just below the elite level. The top 18 gymnasts in both Hopes age groups (10-11 and 12-13 years old) will advance to the Hopes Championship.
Those who advance will be given medals at the awards ceremony by Skinner. To be a former American Classic all-around champ and honor up-and-coming, high-level gymnasts in her collegiate home is something Skinner is looking forward to.
“It’s fun to have them ask me questions and take pictures,” Skinner, who handed out medals at USAG’s Level 9 Western Championships in May, said.
Each competition will have two sessions and can be streamed lived on USAG’s YouTube channel. The Hopes Classic is scheduled for Fri., July 6 with the first session at 3 p.m. MDT and the second at 6:15 p.m. MDT. The American Classic will take place on Sat., July 7 with the juniors starting competition at 11 a.m. MDT and the seniors competing at 4 p.m. MDT.