Gold medals go to Griskenas, Zeng at 2019 USA Gymnastics Championships

By Hayes Gardner

DES MOINES — There are many ways to describe Evita Griskenas’ performance in the ribbon competition on Friday at the USA Gymnastics Championship. Her well-executed routine could be deemed powerful or striking or enchanting to name a few. Griskenas, however, has her own way of describing it.

“That routine is what I like to call elegantly fierce,” she said.

Performing to a song titled “Whole Lotta Love,” by 2CELLOS, Griskenas took home the gold in the rhythmic gymnastics event with a score of 18.800.

“It’s really powerful music that inspires me and makes me go for it, basically,” she said.

Camilla Feeley took silver with an 18.300, and Laura Zeng placed third with a 17.200.

In the clubs competition, it was Zeng, who also took gold in both the hoop and ball on Thursday, won with a score of 19.500. Feeley, again, took silver, scoring 18.600, and Stasya Generalova received the bronze with an 18.100.

That makes three golds and a bronze for Zeng, who has won four straight all-around championships; she’ll have a chance to win a fifth straight on Saturday.

“I really just wanted to show the audience my routines, what the substance of each one was,” Zeng said. “Of course, there are some things that I need to work on, but there’s tomorrow, and I’m happy to have another chance to go out there.”

There was also plenty of action in trampoline and tumbling events.

In the women’s individual trampoline preliminary round, Charlotte Drury scored a 102.720 to place herself in first entering the finals. Drury, 23, won the event in 2014 and was also the first American woman to win gold at a World Cup that same year. Jessica Stevens (101.435) is in second entering the finals, and 2016 Olympian Nicole Ahsinger is in third (101.100). Ellen Heinen, Kayttie Nakamura, Lexi Vigil, Sydney Senter and Casey Primiano also placed in the top eight and will advance.

In individual women’s tumbling, Eve Doudican will take the top score (67.900) into the finals. Eliza Floisand (65.200) and Hope Bravo (62.900) rounded out the top three in that event.

As for the men’s double mini-trampoline, it was Ruben Padilla — last year’s silver medalist — who excelled in each of his passes for a score of 76.700 entering the finals. Alex Renkert (73.000) is currently in second, and Simon Smith (71.900) is in third.

Acrobatic pairs and groups also dazzled with some phenomenal performances and, overall, it was another fun-filled evening at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

The best scores for each acrobatic gymnastics event were: men’s pair, balance – Angel Felix and Braiden McDougall of Moreno Valley, Calif./Realis Gymnastics Academy, 27.390; mixed pair, balance – Aisley Boynton and Sean Obley of Chandler, Ariz./Aspire Kids Sports Center, 26.430; women’s pair, balance – Victoria Blante and Morgan Sweeney of Livermore, Calif./WestCoast Training Center, 25.040; and women’s group, dynamic – Isabel Chang, Sasha Gladkova and Sydney Martin of Laurel, Md./Emilia’s Acro Gymnastics and Cheer, 27.670.

In between each rotation, John Roethlisberger, a three-time Olympian, emceed goofy games and activities for the audience’s amusement, including a group of dads “performing” rhythmic gymnastics and a dancing competition between event judges. The audience loved it, and so did Griskenas, who could hear what was going on backstage.

“You work in the back a lot, and you sort of start getting tired, and then you see the crowd clapping and dancing, and you start jazzing yourself up and getting yourself motivated to go again,” she said.

Zeng too praised the audience for their enthusiasm and support.

“It’s been amazing,” Zeng said. “When they cheer for us, when they cheer for everyone, we really just feel a sense of patriotism, a sense of everyone wanting everyone to do well.”