Morgan Hurd tops 'non-Simone Biles division' at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

Morgan Hurd scored an impressive 57.0 during the first day of competition at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, but it was still far behind Simone Biles' 60.1. Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- After three years of dominant performances and an unbeaten all-around streak heading into the 2016 Olympic Games, Aly Raisman used to famously joke about the need for the sport to create a "non-Simone Biles division" so someone else would have the chance to stand atop the podium.

Two years later, Raisman and most of her "Final Five" teammates are out of the picture, but Biles' current peers likely couldn't agree more with that sentiment.

Biles earned the top score on every apparatus on Friday night during the first day of competition at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, earning the highest score in the world since her Olympic triumph with an astounding 60.1 in the all-around competition, more than three points ahead of Morgan Hurd (57.0) in second.

"It does kind of [feel like winning] because she's the greatest of all time," Hurd, 17, said after Friday's competition. "She's such a legend, and very hard to catch, but I'm so happy with my performance. I went out there and did the absolute best I could do and that's all I can really ask for."

It was just Biles' second competition back since Rio, where she took home five Olympic medals, including all-around gold. She took a year off from the sport and resumed her training in the fall. She made her eagerly anticipated return with a victory at last month's U.S. Classic.

Others have filled the void in her absence, including Hurd, who won the world championship all-around title in November. However, despite her recent success and becoming just the fourth woman in the world to score a 57 or above in 2018, she's clearly nowhere near the level of Biles. No one is. And the crowd of 5,835 at the TD Garden made it very clear who still owns their hearts.

While Hurd, Riley McCusker (third, 56.05), Grace McCallum (fourth, 55.9) and reigning national champion Ragan Smith (tied for ninth, 53.75) all earned more than their fair share of cheers and chants, the screams and shrieks all belonged to Biles.

Even on Biles' weakest event, the uneven bars, she still took a .2 advantage over Hurd, who finished in second on the apparatus and .35 ahead of McCusker, the reigning bars national champion and U.S. Classic champion. The 21-year-old Biles earned her lowest score of the night (14.45) on floor, one of her typically strongest events, as she stepped out of bounds twice. Yet because of her incredible strength of difficulty, no one came close to touching her score.

While Hurd prides herself on being able to focus solely on her own performance during competitions, she admitted she couldn't help but watch Biles throughout the night.

"She's amazing," she said matter-of-factly. "Clearly I'm watching her because you can't not watch her. Your eyes are automatically drawn to her. Good thing we weren't going at the same time, so I could watch her."

Perhaps Biles' former national teammate and close friend Maggie Nichols summed it up best:

In scary news for her competitors, Biles said she would be making upgrades to her routines before the world championships in November, potentially creating an even deeper divide between herself and everyone else in the world. Hurd insists all she can do is focus on herself, and continue to hit the best, most clean routines that she can.

New national team coordinator Tom Forster indicated it would do a disservice to the rest of the gymnasts in even joking about a "non-Simone division" when he spoke to the media earlier in the week, but he didn't hesitate when asked if anyone was close to beating Biles.

"I don't see it," he said.

So what does Hurd think it would take for her, or any of her fellow gymnasts, to catch Biles and bump her off the top of the podium in the future?

"Probably an increase in difficulty and sticking absolutely every pass," Hurd said. "It would take near perfection."