Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles shine at Pac-12 Championships as thoughts turn to Paris 2024

UCLA’s Jordan Chiles, left, and Oregon State’s Jade Carey share the floor event title during the Pac-12 Women's Gymnastics Championship at Maverik Center.
UCLA’s Jordan Chiles, left, and Oregon State’s Jade Carey share the floor event title during the Pac-12 Women's Gymnastics Championship at Maverik Center.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 2023 NCAA gymnastics season has been a special one for U.S. Olympians Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey and Grace McCallum, who wrapped their second full season of college competition Saturday at the Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championships.

Carey, a sophomore at Oregon State, earned all-around honors, scoring 39.750, while also tying for event wins in floor (with Chiles at 9.975) and balance beam (with Cal’s Mya Lauzon at 9.975). Utah captured its third straight Pac-12 Championships title, scoring 197.925, with UCLA finishing second at 197.850 and Cal finishing third at 197.825.

“Starting on beam is little bit challenging sometimes, but it was one of my best routines this year,” the 22-year-old Carey told On Her Turf after collecting her second straight all-around title at the Pac-12 Championships. “So that was really exciting. Same with floor … I think I just tried to do my normal gymnastics and that’s always the best for me. And bars weren’t my best but still good. I’m proud of those, but I know where I can go back in the gym and make improvements.”

Chiles, a sophomore at UCLA, also expressed appreciation for her own performance, which earned her her first Pac-12 Championships event title: “As a whole, there’s some bits and pieces that we can work on as a team, but you know, at the end of the day, we can’t control what the judges see, we can only control what we do ourselves. So I’m very proud of my team — we put in everything to go from being at the bottom (of the standings) after our first rotation to finish the second. We definitely brought our game up.

“Individually, I’m very happy. Yes, being a Pac-12 champion on bars is an amazing thing. I’ve been working in and outside the gym, just mentally and physically making sure I will be okay to compete every weekend. It was really cool just to be part of this.”

But with less the 500 days until the start of the 2024 Summer Olympics, making the U.S. squad for Paris means a transition away from collegiate gymnastics after the NCAA championships wrap in April. The current iteration of USA’s national team – which officially qualified for Paris last November by winning gold in the team final of the 2022 World Championships in Liverpool, England — consists of Carey, who won the gold in the floor exercise at the Tokyo Olympics; Chiles, a silver medalist (team event) in Tokyo; Florida’s Leanne Wong, the 2021 world all-around silver medalist; fellow Gator Shilese Jones and Gator-to-be Skye Blakely, who officially signed with Florida in November with the intention of deferring enrollment until after the 2024 Games.

On Her Turf caught up with Carey and Chiles to get their take on their collegiate experience and plans to transition back to elite gymnastics.

Jade Carey secures ‘gym slam’ during standout sophomore season

Carey’s second season at Oregon State was punctuated with an entry in the history books earlier in March when she became one of just 13 women gymnasts to complete a “gym slam” in their college careers. A gym slam is when an athlete earns a perfect 10 on every event at least once during a career. Carey notched the 10th perfect score of her college career – and her first on beam – during a meet at Arizona State to join Florida’s Trinity Thomas as the only active gymnasts to have accomplished the feat.

But for Carey, her two years as a Beaver has been as much about being part of the team as her accomplishments as an athlete.

“It’s meant the world to me,” she said of the last two years. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a college team and to be a part of OSU is incredible. It’s such a loving family environment, and I’m just really lucky to have all of them by my side throughout this.”

With nationals around the corner, Carey says she’s focused on finishing strong and recently told a local news outlet she’s undecided as to whether or not she will be competing with the Beavers next season.

“Next year is definitely a big year and right now, we’re just kind of focused on finishing out this college season and then we’re going to evaluate and take it day by day on what my exact plan is going to be,” said Carey. “I am pretty confident that I’m, at least, going to be around here, but what that looks like will probably be a little different than the past two years, but again we’re probably just going to take it day by day and see what happens.”

As for what life will look like after nationals, Carey told OHT that she’ll head back to Corvallis, where her father – Brian Carey, who serves as her coach — will join her for training periodically.

“After nationals, it will just be getting ready for elite, getting those routines back together,” she said. “I’ve kept up with all the skills and parts, so I’ll just be pushing to get those routines and be really focused on that.”

Jordan Chiles embraces opportunity to showcase her fun side

“Honestly, I think it just brings a different perspective of who I am as a person and also as an athlete,” Chiles told On Her Turf regarding what she loves about her last two years as a Bruin.  “You know, how I can do both the elite world and collegiate world but at the same time, I just like to have fun. So being able to do both lets me put a statement out there kind of saying that, you know, I am who I am for a reason, and I can do both and show the world who I am.”

After nationals, Chiles says she’ll return to UCLA to finish out the quarter, which ends in June, and then will head to Texas for training.

“I’ll be training in Texas all of 2024 for the Olympics,” she said recently. “I’ll just be training. I’ll be deferring (UCLA studies) another year and then I’ll finish schooling afterwards. I haven’t fully decided, but as of right now, I am coming back (to UCLA after Paris), but we’ll see how everything turns out.”

Chiles came into the Pac-12s ranked second in the country in the all-around with a 39.810 NQS and also arrived in Salt Lake City off a record 39.900 score in an all-around competition in UCLA’s final regular season meet vs. Iowa State. The sophomore broke her own record for top all-around score in the country this season, beating a 39.875 from the week prior vs. Stanford. Chiles is the only gymnast to score a 39.900 since Florida’s Thomas accomplished the same score last year.

Post-season on pause for Utah’s Grace McCallum

The 20-year-old McCallum, who hails from Minnesota and also won team silver in Tokyo, has been an integral part of Utah’s lineup the past two seasons, but she’s been out since mid-February after suffering a “hyper extension of the right knee” while competing at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

The sophomore reportedly was attempting to land a Yurchenko 1.5, a 10.0-valued vault that she debuted earlier this season, when she was injured at the four-team meet against Georgia, Illinois and Illinois State, a competition that Utah easily won.

Last month, McCallum didn’t completely rule out competing at the 2024 Olympics while talking with Inside Gymnastics, saying: “Right now I’m just kind of enjoying college, but I have thought about going back to elite,” McCallum said. “I really love watching them (Chiles, Carey and Wong) and they are doing amazing. Kudos to them for doing both (NCAA gymnastics and elite).

“For me personally, right now, I just want to make sure I make the right decision. I don’t want to go back for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to go back just because I feel like I have to. I want to go back because I truly want to, and I want to see what I can achieve there. So it is not out of the question, that’s for sure. And I’d love to go back, but we’ll see.”

Utah did not provide a timeline for McCallum’s return to competition (she was with the team during the competition Saturday), but it’s possible that she could return in time for Utah’s run at the national title. McCallum won eight individual events this season prior to her injury.

Next up: The road to the NCAA Championships

Post-season action continues Monday, March 20, when the field of 36 teams, 12 all-around competitors and 64 individual event specialists who’ll be competing in regional meets will be announced during the Selection Show, set for noon ET and streaming on NCAA.com.

Regional competition runs March 29 through April 2 at campus sites, with eight teams, four all-around competitors and 16 event specialists advancing to the 2023 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, April 13-15 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles shine at Pac-12 Championships as thoughts turn to Paris 2024 originally appeared on NBCSports.com