Kyla Ross looked very good and did deserve the title, despite not having a whole lot of competition (not to diminish Peyton Ernst’s outstanding performance).

Kyla’s beam was solid but certainly not spectacular, and would certainly benefit from some upgrading and perhaps a little creativity.  I’m never a fan of using a simply back handspring layout stepout as an acro series in this day and age, and several of her skills look a bit “lonely” all by themselves.  The front aerial to sheep jump was very well done and probably the highlight of the routine.  She needs to work on her full turn – in particular, slowing it down and not treating it as if it’s a major skill.  I don’t mind her double tuck dismount – although it’s relatively easy she makes it look good, and I prefer it over a double pike that’s pulled all the way to the ground or a 2 ½ twist with crossed legs.

Kyla’s floor is improved, in large part due to the whip double tuck – a very smart move that now gives her 0.1 in connection and is a MUCH stronger pass than her 1 ½ to double full that never impressed anyone.  I was surprised by the fall on the double pike, but she didn’t get much lift on it at all.  I wonder if these new corner rules kept her from resting it before it like she probably needed.  Regardless, I doubt will ever see that mistake from her again.

Her vault looked good, although I was surprised it scored so much higher than all the other DTY’s of the meet (15.2), considering there was an obvious form break on the table and a step on the landing.  It was still the best DTY, and I guess they were rewarding her straight body, but I didn’t necessarily think it was 0.8-1.0 better than some of the others.

Her bars looked as good as ever, in terms of form and handstand positions.  If she simply repeats that performance at worlds, she should be a bars finalist for sure.

Kyla should definitely be going to worlds, and could certainly contend for an all-around medal.  She won’t have as much difficulty as some of the other top contenders, but her execution could outscore all of them – assuming the judges are willing to throw some 9’s in Antwerp.  I imagine we’ll soon be matching up Kyla’s difficulty scores with Aliya Mustafina’s and Larissa Iordache’s in preparation for the world all-around battle.

McKayla Maroney looked fantastic.  Her floor was awesome, especially considering it’s a brand new routine with some brand new tumbling passes.  The music – although not necessarily original – fits her style well, and she can perform a routine as well as any gymnast out there.  The double layout is a smart move and looks very good on her – she won’t be able to take that many steps into it, so hopefully she’ll shorten the run for nationals.  Thank goodness they have FINALLY, FINALLY taken out that silly 1 ½ to double back pass.  The double Arabian obviously worked great.  If she can fine-tune the landings – perhaps a leap out of the double layout and/or double Arabian, she could make floor finals at worlds.

Maroney is likely the best female vaulter of all time – PERIOD.  The Amanar was as big and clean as ever, and that Mustafina was one of the best she has ever done.  I think she solidified her spot on the world team with those two vaults, and she should certainly be the front runner to win gold on this event in Antwerp.

Could Maroney actually end up as the 2nd all-arounder for worlds, along with Kyla Ross?  Given how confident and mature she looked, I think it’s possible, but there’s a lot of questions to be answered at nationals before that can happen.  Clean, solid routines on bars and beam could give her quite an impressive all-around score.  The 2nd all-arounder will be an interesting story to follow – Maroney vs. Simone Biles vs. Katelyn Ohashi vs. Elizabeth Price vs. Brenna Dowell vs. Lexie Priessman?

Overall, it was so cool to see Maroney overcome several surgeries to her leg following a fracture on the post-Olympic tour, get back in the gym, maintain her Olympic fitness level, put a new floor routine together and learn new tumbling passes, and get back out into serious competition just one year after the Olympic Games.  She truly looked like an Olympic champion out there, and carries herself differently than just about any other gymnast out there.  I’d have to say, I was quite IMPRESSED!

Peyton Ernst had such a solid performance and is so well balanced on all four events – in fact all of her scores ranged from 14.35-14.7 – very impressive!  She may not be a huge standout on any one event, although her 6.3 D-score on beam was quite strong.  This is probably where she has the most potential to make a world team, although her potential as an all-arounder is obviously there as well.

Kim Zmeskal’s athletes always seem to have these common traits: they’re always well balanced on all four events, they always seem to be very good competitors, they always seem to be able to shake off mistakes and keep fighting, and they always know how to STICK.  Recall Chelsea Davis (2008 Olympic Trials participant and nearly a 2010 world team member before getting injured) always sticking everything – and Kim’s athletes today are no different.  Her three gymnasts in this meet all did such a solid job.  I’d love to see how exactly Kim teaches all of this in her coaching, because it’s obvious that she does.

Brenna Dowell had a very solid meet and has definitely improved over last year.  Her Amanar on vault was outstanding, and her double layout full on floor is an exciting addition to an already difficult and unique routine – she now shows world class skills going forwards and backwards.  She’s not much of a dancer, though, and will need to improve this aspect.

I was surprised Dowell’s beam routine scored so low – a 13.3 with a 7.6 execution score for a hit set? It certainly was far from perfect – a couple wobbles and slightly loose legs here and there – but I thought it was pretty solid and didn’t see nearly 2.4 in deductions.  Was touching her hand on that wolf-turn a major deduction?  Abigail Milliet, who was certainly much cleaner – don’t get me wrong – scored a 7.8 E-score even with a fall.

Speaking of Abigail Milliet, she is a beautiful gymnast who’s strong on all four events and could become a major player.  I loved her look on bars, and her beam would have scored over a 15 without that fall.  Even floor and vault show strong potential – definitely a name to watch for.

Although I enjoyed seeing Mykayla Skinner’s laid out double-double on floor – and she is certainly the only female to ever compete two double-doubles in one routine –  she didn’t look nearly ready to compete in a world championships in my opinion.  She has a ways to go in terms of polish and confidence, and I don’t see Martha putting her on the world stage – at least not yet.  The Cheng on vault is impressive – though I would like to see more block and height on it – but I definitely think Maroney and Biles can both score higher in a vault final.  Huge props to her for all of her big skills, though, including that Arabian and full twist  on beam, both done in combination.

Lexie Priessman looked great  – always such a consistent and reliable competitor and always seems to be in good shape.  Her floor is ridiculously good – like Mykayla Skinner she has two “H” skills in her routine – the double layout full and double-double.  And then she caps off the routine with an easy full-in – SERIOUSLY?  She makes it look so effortless that it’s hard to fully appreciate it – but the truth is hardly ANY gymnast dismounts floor with a full-in these days.  Like most of Mary Lee Tracy’s gymnasts, though, she tends to have some strange floor music…

Lexie could be an option to compete floor at worlds, but without being a potential vault specialist as well that makes it tougher (she can do an Amanar but I don’t know that she has a second vault).  Her best bet may in fact be as an all-arounder, which is certainly not impossible.  She’s strong on all four events, and if she were to go 8 for 8 at nationals and put her Amanar back in, she would be right up there in the all-around.

And finally, Simone Biles….I wasn’t expecting that at all, especially considering she has competed at several international competitions this year and done quite well.  Perhaps the pressure of beginning to feel like a “favorite” got to her a bit.  I was hoping she would AT LEAST cap off that disastrous performance with two dynamite vaults and prove she is still worthy of a world team spot, but when she dropped out of that event it left her with three sub-14 scores and raised even more questions…Did she crunch her ankles on that full-in dismount on floor?  Did she just want to avoid such a poor all-around score?  Was her head just not in the game?

I was glad to see Biles dismounting floor with a full-in, but I was confused why she strolled into it so casually and took like two steps on the run!  Perhaps the new corner rules caused her to rush into that skill a bit, because it wasn’t even close.  The double-double was effortless, though, and the double-layout half turn is a nice innovative addition.  I wonder what it will be rated – a “G” I suppose?  I wonder if it can be named after her if she competes it at worlds?

I still think Simone is definitely in the running for a world team spot, as long as she turns things around at nationals and proves this meet was entirely a fluke.  She could still be national all-around champion, in fact, if she avoids catastrophe in Hartford – and could very well be one of the two all-around competitors at worlds.  But her performance here certainly leaves that in question, and makes the upcoming national championships all the more interesting.