Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 4


Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with some elite, Level 10, and NCAA gymnasts to discuss their training, future goals, and more.

Briley Casanova, Charlotte Drury, Anna and Grace Glenn, Griffin James, Gabby Jupp, Mikayla Magee, Kristen Politz, and Elisabeth Seitz provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.


Briley Casanova has had a long and successful career in gymnastics. She was an elite gymnast at WOGA and finished 14th in the all-around and 12th on floor exercise at the 2010 Visa Championships. In January 2013, she began competing at the University of Michigan in NCAA gymnastics.

“Training has been going well!” Briley told Full Twist. “Since official practice started, I have been feeling really confident and excited to be in the gym. It is so great to be back for a new season.”

Briley competed at the 2014 NCAA  Championships, where Michigan placed 5th in their session of the semi-finals. “I have been adding a few new skills on most of the events, so hopefully I can keep getting more consistent with those skills throughout the next few weeks,” she explained when asked if she would debut any new skills in the next season. “I have been working on a new bar release combination—giant 360 Geinger directly into an overshoot. I have been feeling really good about it. I feel like there is potential to pursue that skill and have it set in my routine soon. I also have been working on double layout, and a front handspring double full punch front as well. In addition to that, I added a side aerial connected to a sissone. So, there is definitely potential for new things on almost all of the events!”

Briley discussed her goals with us: “This season I really would like to consistently be in the all-around lineup. That has been a goal of mine since coming to Michigan, so I really want to make that happen this year! Also, becoming an academic All-American would be great, too. It’s going to be hard, but I really want to live up to a high standard both academically and in the gym. Obviously a goal I have for the whole team would be to win a Big Ten championship, NCAA Regional championship, and of course, a national championship. Anything I can do to help us reach those goals, I’m going to do.”

On the subject of someday returning to elite gymnastics, Briley commented, “I have thought about this a lot recently. It’s hard for me to have a solid answer right now, but I really do love gymnastics and don’t want to stop after my collegiate career. But, the skills and requirements have changed so much since I moved on to college. It would be difficult for me to go back, but at the same time, who knows what will happen? I just want to see where life takes me.”



Charlotte Drury is a U.S. trampoline gymnast who trains at World Elite Gymnastics. Recently she won the gold medal at the Minsk World Cup, making her the first ever U.S. gymnast to win a trampoline World Cup gold. “It was unbelievable,” Charlotte told Full Twist. “Absolutely unbelievable. I can hardly put into words everything I felt in that moment…it was a mix of disbelief, shock, and pure happiness.”

When asked how her training has been going, Charlotte replied, “Great! The best part about coming home from competitions like this is that I’m always inspired by the other competitors. I love coming home and channeling all that inspiration into my practices.”

Charlotte was first in trampoline and second in synchro at the 2014 USA Gymnastics Championships. She told us, “My next competition is actually World Championships which is the first week of November. It’s in our home country this year so I am beyond honored and excited to compete!”

She commented on her goals for the future: “My goal for this year is to make finals, so I have to finish top 8 after semi-finals, at the upcoming World Championships in Daytona Beach. At the following Worlds in 2015 I want to qualify the United States a spot for the 2016 Olympics and then make that team too! Most of all though I just want to be able to one day retire knowing that I was the best I could be, with no regrets or ‘what-ifs’.”




Anna and Grace Glenn are twin sisters who train at Southeastern Gymnastics Center in North Carolina. They both competed at the 2014 Nastia Liukin Cup, where Grace finished fifth in the senior all-around and Anna won the balance beam. “The Nastia Liukin Cup was an amazing and unforgettable experience!” Grace told Full Twist. “I felt like I was in the Olympics when I was out on the floor. It was great to meet new girls and hear what the returning gymnasts thought of their past experiences. I also loved that it was close to home because we had so many friends come to support us. I will never forget that moment when I was warming up on floor and I looked out in the stands to see the entire middle section filled with my friends, coaches, and family cheering me and Anna on. I don’t think I would have competed nearly as well as I did without all the support.”

Anna agrees with her sister’s sentiments. “I loved competing at the Nastia Liukin Cup! It was so much fun to compete on podium and it was a great experience to compete in a televised competition. I got to meet a lot of girls that are now training elite, which was really cool. Also, I loved competing in a different atmosphere. It felt like the Olympics for Level 10s because I was competing in a televised competition on podium with the best in the nation! I hope I can do it again next year!”

“The Nastia Liukin Cup also made me a better gymnast,” Grace remarked. “The week before the meet I got sick with a virus and had not practiced all week. I was a little nervous that I would have a difficult time getting through my routines, but I was surprised with how well I did and very pleased with the results. After the meet, I gained confidence because I realized how much potential I had. It was also great having Anna compete with me. I’m so glad both of us were able to qualify and enjoy the experience together.”

The Glenn sisters are coached by Ludmilla Shobe, Galina Meliakina, and Georgiy “Igor” Grebenkov, and their focus has shifted to next year’s meets. “Training has been going well,” said Grace. “We still have a few months before the competition season starts up, but we are slowly starting to prepare for the 2015 season. Our gym recently had our first practice meet of the year and I was pleased with the outcome.”

“We are now starting to increase the level of difficulty in my routines to start preparing for the upcoming competition season,” explained Anna.

“This year feels very different from last year,” said Grace. “I feel like a whole new gymnast. I feel stronger and more confident than last year. I can already tell that this upcoming season will be successful. I am hoping I can incorporate some new skills in my routines in the next month or so, but I feel I am in great shape for this time of the year.”

When asked about whether they might try elite, Anna and Grace agreed that they’ll stick with Level 10. “I am not planning on training elite gymnastics,” said Anna, “only because I want my body to be physically ready for college gymnastics and also because I want to enjoy my high school career without having to incorporate more hours into my training and have to skip school for the training camps. My main focus now is to stay healthy and continue to do well in the J.O program.”

Grace commented, “I do not want to try elite. I love going to a public school and I want to have as much of a social life as I can. I don’t think I would like being homeschooled and it’s great to have other friends besides gym friends. I also want to stay as healthy as I can so I can perform to the best of my ability when I get to college. Training elite is too much for me and I think I would get worn out before I even get to college.”

They shared their goals for the future with Full Twist: “In terms of short term goals, I hope to be able to compete full routines by the 2nd or 3rd meet of the season,” said Grace. “Also, I am working towards gaining more confidence and consistency in my routines. My main long term goal is to be successful at UCLA!”

“My future goals for gymnastics are to qualify for J.O nationals these next two years, qualify to the Nastia Liukin Cup again, stay healthy, compete as a college gymnast at UCLA, and  win a national NCAA title at UCLA,” said Anna.




Griffin James is a Level 10 gymnast from Virginia Beach, Virginia. At the 2014 J.O. National Championships, she placed seventh all-around in the Junior A division. “My experiences at J.O. Nationals have been amazing,” Griffin told Full Twist. “My first time, luckily, was in my home state of Virginia. All my family, teammates, and friends were able to be there and cheer me on. Minneapolis and Mississippi were great opportunities to show my hard work over the season and show my skills. I love seeing all the amazing gymnasts who share a love of the sport as much as I do.”

Griffin, who trains at Gymstrada Gymnastic School, told us, “My training is going great. Over the summer, I have learned multiple new passes on floor and new skills on beam. I have perfected my one and a half on vault and my full-twisting double back on bars. My coaches encourage me every day to be the best I can be.”

She explained her goals for the future: “My goals [for 2015] are to qualify for the Nastia Cup and J.O. Nationals. Finishing top four and making the National Team have always been goals for me as well. I have visited several colleges and committing to one this year is a high priority for this upcoming year. I will be traveling to England with my coach and the Region 7 All Star Team in October to begin my competitive season…I strive to be part of a winning team as well as individual success.”



Gabby Jupp is a senior elite gymnast from Great Britain. She trains at Sapphire Gymnastics Academy with her coach Steven Price. She tore her ACL at the 2013 European Championships, but she is readying herself for this fall’s World Championships. When asked how her training has been going, Gabby told us, “Training has been going well thank you, I have finally got all of my skills back and it feels great to be able to put routines together. I have to monitor the amount of repetitions I do of each skill because of minor injuries but to be back training everything feels great!”

Gabby, who finished sixth at the 2013 American Cup, told us, “I am hoping to be fully fit and back competing at a good level by the end of the year and then hopefully I can work on getting some bigger skills for next year.”

The 17-year-old explained, “I am excited to see all my hard work over the past 16 months finally pay off. It feels like ages since I got my injury so I’m just so excited to be back out there. I have a couple of new skills on bars which I’m hoping will become more consistent and I have had to change my beam routine slightly to suit my knee. The plan is to just get back out there competing and then work on new skills for the following year.”



 Mikayla Magee is a U.S. Level 10 gymnast from League City, Texas. She trains at Reflex Gymnastics Academy. “My training has been going well,” Mikayla told us. “I am working on some new upgrades for the 2015 season. I have also made some changes since I was injured at the end of the 2013 season. I decided not to train for elite anymore, and to go back to school. I am no longer home schooled and am attending high school. I train less hours than I did, have the weekends off, and things are balancing out.”

Mikayla described her experience at the 2014 J.O. National Championships: “I had so much fun at nationals! I went to the NIT before, and was injured right before regionals in 2013, so I missed that one. I enjoyed competing with the top girls in region 3 and meeting girls from all over the U.S. It was exciting to see all the college recruiters, and having my coaches and family there with me to share the experience.”

“My first competition of 2015 will be Texas Prime in Irving, Texas,” said Mikayla, who won the 2010 CoverGirl Classic HOPES competition in the 10-11 age group. “I am looking forward to competition season, and what the new season brings.”

Mikayla was the 2014 Texas State all-around champion and the all-around silver medalist at regionals. She commented on her goals for the future: “My long term goal is a scholarship to a division 1 college and to stay healthy. Short term is to make the J.O. National team. I was 6th AA at J.O.’s, and the top 5 made it in the Junior B division, so I just missed it. It would also be great to make it to the Nastia Liukin Cup.”



Kristen Politz is a Level 10 gymnast from Morganville, New Jersey and trains at Rebound Gymnastics. “Training has been great,” Kristen told Full Twist. “I recently started our fall practice hours. I am still working on some new skills and getting ready to start routines again and get ready for another great season.”

Kristen placed 30th in the all-around in her division of the 2014 J.O. National Championships and placed 4th on floor. Shortly afterward she attended the June U.S. National Team Training Camp. “I am not planning on attending the October national team training camp,” said Kristen. “However, I am very happy with how I did at the June national team training camp. Right now I am focusing on Level 10 and upgrading my routines for this upcoming season.”

She explained her goals for 2014 and beyond: “My goals for this season are to compete in a few Nastia Liukin qualifiers and try to qualify to compete at the Nastia Liukin Cup in Arlington, Texas this year. I also want to have a very consistent season and qualify for J.O. Nationals. As for the future, I am so thrilled to be verbally committed to Penn State and I can’t wait to be on the Penn State gymnastics team in two years.”



Elisabeth Seitz is a German gymnastics star. After making two consecutive World Championships uneven bar finals, she placed sixth on bars at the 2012 Olympic Games.

She was injured and unable to compete at the 2014 German National Championships, but she will be back for the World Championships in Nanning, October 3-12. “After a six week break for an army stage in January I was very glad to get back to full gymnastics training in the gym,” Elisabeth told Full Twist. “My first competition, the qualifications for the Euros which I had won gave me lots of motivation. Unfortunately problems with my shoulder—and some weeks later my foot—occurred and prevented my participation at the German Nationals in August. Also the World Championships were in danger; I had already announced my withdrawal as time had become too short for an all-around competition. Also my foot still needed time for recovery. I’m very happy about my late nomination for uneven bars. After a bad season with too many unforced breaks I’m extremely happy to have been able to get back to normal training and to competition.”

Elisabeth told us about her goals for the World Championships: “My first goal in these World Championships is to support my team. Another goal is to show a good routine on uneven bars.”

When asked if she will be competing any new skills in Nanning, Elisabeth responded, “As I won’t be competing on all apparatus I will have to show my new skills in the next competitions. In the Nanning World Championships we [will] go for a good team competition. We’ve had some very good results lately.”


Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us!

Image via: Kristen Politz


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