Bross new U.S. junior champion

Presenting Rebecca Bross, the newly crowned U.S. women’s junior national champion.

 Rebecca Bross won the U.S. junior championship in San Jose, despite falls on both days of competition.

To almost no one’s surprise, Bross ran away with the junior title in San Jose, despite falling on bars on the first day and beam on the second. Samantha Shapiro, who demonstrates amazing form for someone so young (she’s 14) was second. Phenom Jordyn Weiber, age 12 years and one month, was third.

All three should be extremely proud of themselves, but when it comes down to things, the junior national championships are not a very good indicator of who will be the next Shawn Johnson. (Johnson herself was 10th at the junior nationals in 2005.)

While some junior champions (read: Carly Patterson) have peaked at just the right time and achieved major success in the senior division, the junior nationals often seem more an indicator of who’s going to burn out once they hit the senior ranks (read: Kristal Uzelac, who won the title three consecutive years in a row and found that when she became age-eligible in 2002, her best years were already behind her.)

Bross is undoubtedly talented, but I’m not sure she has the “it” factor that some (Patterson, Dominique Moceanu, Nastia Liukin) have possessed. Her dance has been improved during the past year, but she struggles with some power on vault and leg form on floor (Bross, like 2004 U.S. Olympian Terin Humphrey, seems to be cursed with legs that look bent even when they’re not.)

Terin Humphrey's legs often appeared bent even when they were perfectly straight. 

Still, she has a great coach in Valeri Liukin, and perhaps more importantly, seems well-liked by National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi, who has already sent her to represent the U.S. at some prestigious events, including last month’s Pan American Games, where Bross was second in the all-around and first on floor exercise.

Bross is not age-eligible for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she’s already established herself as one to watch in 2009, when she’ll be eligible to compete as a senior. Look out for Weiber and Shapiro as well, but everyone in the top 12 of this crop is liable to mature into a spectacular gymnast. The person who may be the center of all the hype the year before London may be a complete unknown right now — someone like Johnson, who didn’t begin making her mark until the year after the Olympics.

Junior Women Final Standings:

1. Rebecca Bross, 119.40
2.. Samantha Shapiro, 117.50
3. Jordyn Wieber, 116.20
4. Chelsea Davis, 113.95
5. Rheagan Courville, 113.75
6. Mattie Larson, 113.70
7. Olivia Courtney, 113.55
8. Ashley Stott, 112.90
9. Corrie Lothrop, 112.70
10. Cassie Whitcomb, 112.60
11. Rebecca Clark, 112.40
12. Sarah DeMeo, 112.15
13. Kamerine Moore, 112.00
14. Amanda Jetter, 110.30
15. Sarah Persinger, 109.70
16.  Hallie Mossett, 108.95
17. Mackenzie Caquatto, 108.75
18. Alecia Musser, 108.25
19. Morgan Smith, 107.85
20. Sherise Clark, 107.00
21. Madeline Hanley, 106.65
22. Kaitlyn Clark, 105.05
23. Jenna Rachels, 104.90
24. Gabrielle Swart, 101.45

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