Area gymnasts Shania Adams and Shilese Jones have developed a close friendship since meeting several years ago at the former USA Gymnastics National Team training center in Huntsville, Texas.

In addition to sharing a special bond, both also have a common goal: to represent the country in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

"We became friends when we attended camps," Jones said. "I stayed with her for the first couple of months. ... The goal is the 2020 Olympics. It's possible. The key is consistency. This year I want to make the national team."

Both will continue their pursuit of a berth on the national team when they compete at the senior level in the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, which will be held Aug. 16-19 in Boston.

Jones, who trains at Future Gymnastics Academy in Blacklick, finished first (53.9 points) in the all-around in the American Classic held July 6 and 7 in Salt Lake City, where the top five finishers earned a berth in the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. It represented her first meet at the senior level.

"My goal was to qualify to (the national) championships, so (finishing first) was a surprise for me, my first year as a senior and not really knowing what to expect," Jones said.

Adams, who trains at Buckeye Gymnastics in Westerville, finished second (53.25) in the all-around in the American Classic to qualify for the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

"I felt pretty good going in. I felt confident," Adams said. "I was a little surprised how I did because I had a back injury for a while. I just wanted to go in and be clean and qualify. I wasn't really worried about placing. I just wanted to qualify, and it just happened."

The top six finishers in the all-around at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships earn an automatic berth on the national team.

"We want (Adams) to make (the) national team," Buckeye Gymnastics coach Kittia Carpenter said. "We have two days of competition, so we want to hit all of her routines and make (the) national team. Those are two goals. ... She has the potential to make it."

Carpenter added that USA Gymnastics can add more gymnasts to the national team depending on the need.

Adams and Jones also competed in the U.S. Classic held July 27 and 28 at Ohio State, with Jones placing fourth in the all-around (54.9) and Adams finishing 13th (51.4).

Adams was promoted to the senior level last year when she turned 16 and finished 11th of 21 competitors in the all-around at the 2017 U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Anaheim, California, with a two-day score of 105.35. She said her performance was affected by a lingering back injury.

Adams credits rigorous physical therapy for having been able to compete near full strength this year.

"She's been working herself back from some small injuries," Carpenter said. "This year has been building our strength back and building our skills back and building our start value up."

Adams, who has committed to the University of Alabama, first competed in level 6 at Buckeye Gymnastics around the age of 8 and joined the elite program at age 10.

"When I was 10 years old, Kittia invited me to do the day program to become elite and I really wanted to do it," Adams said. "No regrets. ... Kittia has helped me so much. I love her as a coach. She's very supportive."

Adams, who formerly lived in Dublin and now resides in Plain City, is preparing for her junior year in a home-school program. She has been home-schooled since fourth grade.

Jones, a native of Seattle, met former Buckeye Gymnastics coach Christian Gallardo at the national training center in Texas and quickly developed a bond.

"I moved to Columbus for Christian," Jones said. "I met him at development training camps at the national training center. I was jealous because he was Shania's coach."

Jones' family moved to Westerville in 2014 so she could begin training with Gallardo, who partnered with CrossFit Future to form Future Gymnastics Academy in April 2017.

"I knew she had potential," Gallardo said. "She's amazing. She's a good role model for the other kids. I knew how talented she was, but watching the process, combined with her ability, is really incredible."

Jones, who also is entering her junior year in a home-school program and has committed to the University of Florida, saw her season cut short a year ago when she broke her right kneecap while training on floor exercise in preparation for the 2017 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

"It was really devastating," Jones said. "I was hoping (the injury) was nothing too bad."

During rehabilitation, Jones decided to reunite with Gallardo at Future Gymnastics Academy. The American Classic marked her first meet since sustaining the injury.

Jones' comeback continued at the U.S. Classic, where she finished three spots behind all-around champion Simone Biles (58.7), who was making her return to competition since the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"I was super excited," Jones said. "I was very surprised. I knew I could be top seven, but definitely not top four against the world Olympians. I just went out there to compete because I knew I had already qualified at American Classic, so it was basically just have fun."

Gallardo also coached Gabby Douglas when she trained at Buckeye Gymnastics in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Douglas won gold in the team competition that summer, and Adams and Jones are hoping for similar results in 2020.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank