2013 Nastia Liukin Cup Preview
Over the past three years, the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup has become somewhat of a mainstay in the level 10/elite gymnastics world. While there have been some complaints from fans about the cup “not being a real level 10 meet” and “drawing in too many former/current elites,” there is no denying that the competitors who qualify are a) extremely talented and b) ecstatic to be competing on the American Cup podium with Nastia looking on.
Competitors in the past have included many current collegiate stars, such as Diandra Milliner (Alabama), Kim Jacob (Alabama), Lia Del Priore (Utah), Georgia Dabritz (Utah), Lloimincia Hall (LSU), Sachi Sugiyama (Michigan), Caitlin Atkinson (Auburn) and Tory Wilson (Utah). Competitors have included many of the top level 10s (some with elite experience) who have yet to attend college, such as Charity Jones, Grace Williams and Alex McMurtry. Briley Casanova, Asi Peko and Kayla Williams had all been part of the US National team prior to competing at the Supergirl Cup, and Williams had won the world vault title. Gymnasts who have gone on from the Nastia Cup to make the US National team include Amelia Hundley, Mykayla Skinner, Polina Shchennikova, current junior national all around champion Lexie Priessman and, saving the best for last, current Olympic All Around Champion Gabrielle Douglas. For a competition that has only been going on for three years, that’s a pretty impressive list.
The gymnasts who qualified with the top scores for this year’s meet were Aja Monet-Sims and Brianna Brown with 38.725. They have both previously competed elite, and Brown made the junior national team in 2011. They have also both committed to compete in rival SEC schools, Alabama and Georgia. With lots of experience and talent, they may be hard to beat.
The 2012 champion, Charity Jones, is returning to the cup in 2013 with her eyes on the prize. If she wins, she will be the first gymnast to earn two Supergirl Cup victories. Perhaps her most impressive event is vault, where she competes a strong yurchenko double full, but she is a steady competitor all around and will not give up easily. This is her last season as a level 10 before heading to compete for the currently first ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Alex McMurty would like to think that third time’s a charm. She has competed in the Nastia Liukin Cup every year since 2011, and would love to improve ever-so-slightly on her second place finish last year. She has been highly successful as a level 10, winning two JO national titles and has recently committed to compete for the Florida Gators. Her power is displayed on vault, where she competed a yurchenko double full, and floor, where she has elite-level tumbling.
Another current JO national champion competing is Alicia Boren. She had one of the highest qualifying scores, and is certainly one to watch for, especially on floor where she competes a 1 1/2 to double tuck first pass and a full in last pass, which is rare even in elite.
Mackenzie Brannan will be competing at her second Nastia Liukin Cup after qualifying in 2011. She spent the last quad as an elite, but has returned to level 10 for this season. She is very clean on every event and will join Brown on the University of Alabama gymnastics team in 2014.
Two final gymnasts who I’d like to mention are Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Bailey Ferrer. Both are very young, and have elite hopes. Johnson-Scharpf is the daughter of 1988 Olympian Brandy Johnson, has a great floor routine, and is (barely!) 2016 eligible. Ferrer is not 2016 eligible, but had one of the highest qualifying scores for this meet and is training some pretty awesome skills, including a Fabrichnova, double arabian half out and yes, an Amanar.
Of course, almost anyone competing tonight could win. We may or may not see a future olympic team member tonight, but we are guaranteed to see some great gymnastics.