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Charity Jones Wins the Nastia Liukin Cup

March 3, 2012

Photo: John Cheng/USA Gymnastics

Charity Jones, 17, of Dynamo Gymnastics won the Nastia Liukin Cup tonight, becoming the first gymnast who has never competed as an Elite (although she has competed at Elite qualifiers) to win the Cup in the three years that it has existed. Jones started with a very nice double twisting yurchenko on vault, and continued to be the most consistent gymnast all night to win the all around title. She did not win an event, but was second on three events, accumulating an impressive all around total, the only 38 of the competition. Jones, a junior in high school, is committed to the University of Oklahoma, and will be a great addition to the team in 2013.

There was a tie for second between Alexandra McMurtry of Richmond Olympiad and Polina Shchennikova of T.I.G.A.R. finished in a tie for second place. I would call the two gymnasts complete opposites, but I am a big fan of both of them. McMurtry has a lot of power, which is showcased in her double twisting yurchenko, which scored a 9.9 and her clean, high tumbling on floor. I’m pretty sure that Tim said something about an Amanar, which would be absolutely pointless in Level 10, but we’ll see. She has no desire to become an elite. Shchennikova, often compared to Liukin, has been making an impression as an elite for a few years, and from what we saw tonight, this may very well be her year to make the national team. She has improved a great deal on bars, winning the event tonight, and her gymnastics is absolutely gorgeous. What she needs is more power and consistency. I honestly did not expect her to be a challenger here because I expected her to make too many mistakes. Fortunately, I was wrong, but still, before beam, I had that Komova-esque feeling that she was going to do a beautiful routine but have the obligatory huge wobble. Unfortunately, I was right, and she lost the title.

Grace Williams of Gedderts’ Twistars, last year’s winner, finished third (or really fourth, depending on how you want to look at it). She had a good meet, but her performance was not quite as exceptional as it was last year. Grace is a fantastic gymnast and will certainly have a fantastic college career after trying elite and deciding that it wasn’t for her.

Lauren Beers of Southern Tier, who is committed to the University of Alabama, finished 5th with a somewhat questionable vault score, although Tim did not need to say that it was underscored quite as many times as her did. Nia Dennis, another young, promising gymnast finished 6th. She is great on vault, beam and floor, and is planning on competing elite later this season.

Overall, this was an impressive meet. We saw a lot of older gymnasts who will become stars in college in the coming years, as well as some promising up-and-comers. At least one Nastia Liukin Cup competitor has ended up on the national team in the past two years, and I would be surprised if the same does not happen this year. Congratulations to all of the competitors, and good luck with the rest of the year!

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