Sam Mikulak competes on the rings during the U.S. men's national gymnastics… (Elise Amendola / Associated…)
Senior-level newcomer Simone Biles eked out a national all-around gymnastics title while two women's locals who were members of the 2012 Olympic gold-medal team won two event finals this weekend.
Biles, 16, edged out Aliso Viejo's 16-year-old Kyla Ross to win her first all-around title in Hartford, Conn. Newport Coast's Sam Mikulak, a University of Michigan junior, despite two falls on his last routine, the pommel horse, won the men's title.
At only 4-feet-8, Biles put her stamp on the meet with a saucy floor exercise performance and edged out Ross with a score of 120.450 to 120.250. Like Ross a member of last year's Olympic team, Long Beach's McKayla Maroney won the vault and floor exercise title, the only two events in which she competed. Ross won uneven bars and balance beam.
Biles almost let the title slip away, literally, losing her grip on the uneven bars Saturday night, the second of two days of competition.'
"I kind of freaked out when I did it," Biles told reporters at the meet. "But I was not letting go"
Ross, a member of the team that dubbed itself "The Fierce Five" last year, trains in Costa Mesa and had hoped to win her first all-around national title. That she didn't, she said, was disappointing but it seems likely team coordinator Martha Karolyi will choose both Ross and Maroney for the U.S. team that will go to the world championships in Belgium. Biles also seems a likely participant, as is Mikulak on the men's side.
Two-time Olympic medalist Maroney easily won her second national title in vault and dominated the floor exercise. A year ago, during warmups at the national championship, Maroney took a hard fall and suffered a concussion.
And then, after doing one of the best women's vaults in history on the qualifying day, Maroney, conceded the vault gold medal by nearly everyone, landed on her bottom and settled for silver. Her bemused expression on the medal stand became so famous even President Obama did it.
Three other members of the "Fierce Five" are taking this year off, including Olympic all-around gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas and floor exercise winner Aly Raisman, as well as Jordyn Wieber. All three were in attendance. Wieber, who will attend UCLA, Raisman and Douglas all said they planned to get back to training before the 2016 Olympics. Douglas would neither confirm nor deny rumors she is moving to Los Angeles to train with Chris Waller at UCLA.
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