Simone Biles met—and even slightly exceeded—her goals on the first night of the U.S national championships and thinks she can do even better on Sunday.
BOSTON — After a mock meet before last month’s U.S. Classic, Simone Biles wrote 60.00 on a note card in her locker at the gym. It was the mark that her coaches felt she could achieve if she hit all four of her routines without errors.
On the first night of the U.S national championships, Biles soared to a 60.100. It’s nearly a point and a half higher than what she scored in Columbus en route to a U.S. Classic title three weeks ago. She leads the field on all four events, including vault where her nearly stuck first vault garnered a massive 15.600. And after struggling with an upgraded uneven bars routine at the U.S. Classic, Biles nailed her routine to open the third rotation.
“I wanted to hit bars so bad and then I was first and I had to calm myself down,” Biles said. “I was like ‘don’t freak out, it’s OK.’ And then I hit bars and I was just so excited.”
Despite hitting the mark on what is considered a great all-around score in the new Code of Points, Biles thinks that she can be even better on Sunday.
“If today happens again, I think [hitting 61] is achievable,” she said. “Floor was my lowest score today, which is kind of crazy.”
Biles opened the competition on floor, where she incurred two three-tenth deductions for landing with both feet out of bounds on her final two passes. Her score was still a 14.450, more than three-tenths ahead of 2017 world silver medalist Jade Carey. Despite the errors, Biles was pleased with her performance.
“I feel like I enjoyed championships a lot more than Classics,” Biles said. “I felt at Classics I was still easing back into everything and feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again and I feel like today I really embraced it.”
Reigning world champion Morgan Hurd sits in second with a 57.000 after clean performances on all three events while U.S. Classic runner-up Riley McCusker was nearly a point back in third with a 56.050. Grace McCallum, who helped the U.S. women to a Pacific Rim championships team title in April, finished less than two-tenths behind McCusker in fourth with a 55.900. Defending national champion Ragan Smith struggled on uneven bars and balance beam and currently is tied for ninth with a 53.750.
Trinity Thomas sits in fifth with a 55.500. She is one of two gymnasts competing at the national championships who is juggling her elite aspirations with college gymnastics. Thomas graduated early and will compete for three-time national champion Florida this year. She is still weighing whether she will continue balancing elite and college gymnastics, which is a rarity on the women’s side.
“This was the best time for me to try it out because I just finished my two summer courses and so now I’m here,” Thomas said. “Right after [this competition] I go back for fall semester. I think this is kind of dipping my foot in the water.”
Le Anne Wong leads the junior women after posting a 56.400. Sunisa Lee is five-tenths back in second place with a 55.900 while Kayla DiCello sits in third with a 55.250.
Jordan Bowers, who won the all-around title in her first two international assignments this spring, struggled from the start and is tied for 17th. The 15-year-old didn’t feel that there was any added pressure after having such a successful spring. She’s using her day one performance as motivation for Sunday’s final day, but was pleased with how her final performance of the day went.
“That made me feel really good,” Bowers said. “Beam wasn’t the best and vault wasn’t the best so ending on a good note on bars was definitely good.”
The senior field was missing two of the top first-year seniors after both Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo pulled out of the competition. O’Keefe, the two-time junior national champion, had wrist surgery in the spring. Malabuyo was in Boston but pulled out of the competition on Wednesday with a back injury. She is hoping to make a push for the world championship team later this year.