The Nastia Liukin Cup is here! This is one of the most prestigious events on the level 10 calendar, second only to J.O. nationals, but perhaps the most coveted title due to its limited roster and national television audience. The winner of the senior competition will join an exclusive circle—recent winners include Haleigh Bryant, Makarri Doggette, Kai Rivers, Rachael Lukacs and Maddie Karr—and propel herself into becoming a household name among college gymnastics fans. But it isn’t just the winner who will be remembered, as there are always star performances that stick out to fans. Who can forget Mya Hooten’s floor routine in 2019?
Our recruiting editor, Talitha, has written an extensive preview of the competition, as well as a look behind the numbers, so be sure to read those to familiarize yourself with this year’s qualifiers. The roster is full of future NCAA stars, with Missouri, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Washington, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan State, California, West Virginia and Iowa State all represented.
Coverage starting! NBC opens with the big gymnastics news from yesterday.
I’m so used to SEC timing that it feels weird to me that it’s 2:35 and the meet hasn’t started yet…
Intro by Nastia now. She’s looking glamorous in an asymmetrical off-the-shoulder pink flowy dress thing. (Can you tell fashion is my second calling?)
Celestine VT: High, clean Y-full with a large step back. Mizzou wants her in that lineup NOW. 9.625 (keep in mind that’s a better score in Level 10 than in NCAA!)
Gabby Van Frayen BB (JR): Candle mount with some cool foot flutters after the hold. Big check after her side aerial. BHS LOSO LOSO, very solid! Nice split positions too, impressive for a 13 year old. Double back dismount, overrotates it and takes a large lunge back. 9.425
Zeiss UB: Maloney to Pak, some form issues. Beautiful van Leeuwen! Double back dismount is clean and stuck. You can tell she’s training elite with that routine. 9.525
Already a commercial break? Missed you, NBC. <3
Checking in on some other scores…Nikki Smith 9.775 on vault, Tory Vetter 9.500 on beam, Hannah Loyim 9.450 on bars, Bryce Wilson 9.300 on floor.
Theodorou FX: Opens with a full-in, slight slide back on the landing. Good split positions in her leaps. Back 1.5 to front pike, clean. Double back to close, well-controlled landing. 9.675
Blakely UB: Maloney to Pak but has to pause after catching and re-cast. Double front dismount, stuck. Too bad about the Pak. 9.200
Hudson VT: Nice Y-full, stuck, maybe some soft knees in the air. 9.450
Price FX: Very nice double pike with pointed toes, we love to see it! Split full to wolf full, clean. Back 1.5 to front lay is good but then she falls out of her double turn. Lands her 2.5 short and sits it down. The first half was great, she has a ton of potential. 9.125
Some more scores during the commercial break…Miranda Smith 9.625 on vault, Kylie Coen 9.400 on bars, Linker 8.950 on beam, LaCoursiere 9.000 on floor.
Leah Smith VT: Yep, you guessed it, Tim already mentioned she trains with Simone. Nice Yurchenko full, very clean in the air. Hop back on the landing plus a tiny step. Oh hey, they’re showing her second vault too! Maybe slightly better on the landing this time, with a slide instead of a hop/step? 9.625 on the first, 9.700 on the second. (The higher score counts for those unfamiliar with L10!)
Ballou BB (JR): Pike jump full to start. BHS LOS LOSO with a big check but holds onto it. Side aerial is good. Split leap to tuc jump. Back 1.5 dismount with a small hop. She looks happy with it! 9.500
Estep VT (JR): Another Y-full, far back on the table and doesn’t get a ton of height. A little pikey and a small hop. 9.500 for that effort. Second one: Maybe slightly better in the air but a larger hop back this time. 9.500 again!
Ferris VT (JR): Nice Y-1.5! She doesn’t get a ton of distance but she nearly sticks the landing, just has a small step in place. She almost looked surprised by the landing. Looks like we don’t get to see the second one. 9.600
Williams BB: Small check after her wolf turn. BHS LOSO, some knee bend on the first flip. Nice front aerial. Side split half with a check. Split leap split jump beat jump, solid. Side aerial also solid. Back 1.5 dismount, again with the soft knees and a slight hop. 9.500
Some more senior scores: Moore 9.500 on bars, Lowe 8.925 on bars. Looks like we only have two juniors left to go before the next rotation!
After the first rotation: 1. Nikki Smith 9.775, 2. Leah Smith 9.700, 3. Theodorou 9.675, T-4. Miranda Smith 9.625, T-4. Celestine 9.625. Four of those five were on vault, with Theodorou being the odd one out on floor.
And for juniors: 1. Jennejohn 9.675 (FX), 2. Keuneke 9.625 (FX), 3. Ferris 9.600 (VT), T-4. Belman 9.550 (BB), T-4. Harkins 9.550 (FX)
Theodorou VT: Yurchenko half-on tuck half off. A hop and a step back on the landing. 9.625. She’s high on the table on the second attempt and takes a large step back on the landing. 9.625 again so that’ll remain her score.
Hudson UB: A little short on her first handstand, nice Maloney to bail handstand. Loses a little bit of momentum on her transition to the high bar but covers it well. Blind full to double tuck, stuck. She’s NCAA ready. 9.675 which is the highest score on UB so far!
Already a commercial break…apparently Coen scored a 9.625 on beam, another high on the day so far. LaCoursiere with a 9.275 on vault.
Blakely BB: Front aerial to BHS, a little hesitation in between and a check after. Another small check after her leaps. Nice front tuck! Double back dismount, stuck! Nice rebound after bars. 9.575
Leah Smith UB: Maloney with some leg separation, connects it to a bail handstand and holds it right over the bar. DLO dismount, slight slide back. 9.850, wow! Washington will love that routine.
Lowe BB: Side split half to open. BHS LOSO LOSO, she looked a little off but saved it. Side aerial to side somi, solid. Split leap to split 3/4, nice! Double twist dismount, she almost stuck it but ended up taking a cross step. 9.550
Ballou FX (JR): Wow, fun dance to open. She’s a dynamic performer. Front layout to front double twist, some form issues in the air and an uncontrolled landing. Loses control of her double turn too. Double pike with flexed feet. Double tuck to finish, she sticks it and looks VERY happy about it. Fun routine! 9.675
Another commercial…Miranda Smith 9.450 on bars, Moore 9.250 on beam, Price 9.600 on vault, Linker 9.550 on floor (I wish we had seen that!).
Harkins VT (JR): Y-full, not a lot of amplitude and very pikey. Chest down and large step on the landing. Second attempt is about the same with a larger step back. 9.175
Dorbin BB (JR): BHS LOSO LOSO, small foot movement at the end but otherwise very solid. Check after her switch leap and doesn’t connect it to her switch half. Falls on her side aerial. Double pike dismount is overpowered and has to take several steps back. She has a ton of potential on this event despite the issues. 8.850
Celestine UB: A little short on first handstand. Maloney to Pak, loses her form on the Pak. Van Leeuwen is nice though! Toe on front tuck half dismount, stuck! She looks happy with it. 9.625
Nikki Smith UB: Blind half to straddled Jaeger, some form issues. Pak is a little cleaner. Blind full to double tuck dismount, good landing. 9.450
Vetter FX: Our first look at the 2018 junior NLC champ. Double pike, overpowers it and slides back a ton. Front layout to Rudi, soft knees on the layout. 9.675
Some more scores: Wilson 9.100 on vault, Loyim 9.450 on beam, Zeiss 9.650 on beam, Williams 9.550 on floor.
After the second rotation: 1. Leah Smith 19.550, 2. Theodorou 19.300, 3. Celestine 19.250, 4. Nikki Smith 19.225, T-5. Vetter 19.175, T-5. Zeiss 19.175. In other words, Washington and Arizona State are winning!
And for juniors: 1. Belman 19.225, 2. Ballou 19.175, 3. Keuneke 19.125, 4. Zhou 19.100, T-5. Jennejohn 19.050, T-5. Van Frayen 19.050, T-5. Estep 19.050.
Miranda Smith BB: BHS to back layout, very powerful but falls. Switch split to straddle 1/4. LOSO LOSO, some knee issues but otherwise solid. Switch split leap, wow! Double twist dismount with a step. Unique routine, I’m sure she’s disappointed with the fall but she has a ton of potential. 8.600
Leah Smith BB: Switch split to straddle 1/4, solid. BHS LOSO, soft knees in the layout. Side aerial to split jump with a slight hesitation in between. They’re talking about Simone again. Double pike dismount, flexed feet and overpowered with a large step back. “If Simone does that vault in Tokyo I think she can fall on it and still be Olympic Champion.” Okay but Simone isn’t onscreen, Tim… 9.475
Moore FX: Huge DLO to open, controls it well! Not quite full 180 degrees on first leap. Front tuck through to double back, excellent. Great routine! 9.675
Zhou BB (JR): BHS LOSO, solid and clean. Switch split to switch half to split jump, not quite full extension. Front aerial with a slight bobble. BHS BHS 1.5 dismount, small hop in place. Lots of potential! 9.650
Dorbin FX (JR): Big full-in to open, well-controlled! Nice positions in her leaps. Back 1.5 to front layout. Double tuck to finish, lands with her chest a little low. 9.750!
Scores during the commercial break: Price 9.700 on bars, Lowe 9.675 on floor, Williams 9.000 on vault, Blakely 9.150 on floor.
Celestine BB: Wolf turn to open, Tim somehow thinks people don’t know the name of that skill yet. BHS LOSO with some soft knees. Good split positions on her leaps. Front tuck with a large check but somehow saves it! Side aerial with another small check, very nice in the air though. Back 1.5 dismount underrotated and has to take two steps back. 9.375
Vetter VT: Nice Y-full, small hop back. Maybe a little pike down. 9.425
Nikki Smith BB: BHS LOSO, another close fall but somehow stays on. Switch split to straddle 1/4, nice. Side aerial is solid. Straddle half was maybe a little short of horizontal. Double tuck dismount is very high but she takes a large step back. 9.425
Theodorou UB: Blind half to straddled Jaeger. Nice handstands, including on the bail. DLO dismount with some leg separation, maybe a tiny hop in place? Best handstands we’ve seen so far today. 9.625
Linker VT: Y-1.5, she got a lot of distance but she had some bent knees in the air and she had to take a large hop forward. 9.600
LaCoursiere UB: Beautiful Maloney to Pak. Van Leeuwen a little out of control but she catches it. FTDT dismount, stuck. Okay, THOSE were the best handstands of the day! Gorgeous routine. 9.800, well deserved.
Coen FX: Piked full-in to start, a little wild on the landing but pretty clean in the air. Double L-turn. Front layout to front double twist and steps OOB but Tim says no flag was raised? Beautiful leaps! 2.5 to finish. That was a really fun routine! 9.600
Some more scores: Hudson 9.675 on beam, Zeiss 9.575 on floor, Price 9.700 on bars, Loyim 9.275 on floor, Lowe 9.675 on floor, Wilson 8.975 on bars.
After the third rotation: 1. Leah Smith 29.025, 2. Theodorou 28.925, 3. Hudson 28.800, 4. Zeiss 28.750, 5. Nikki Smith 28.650.
And for juniors: 1. Zhou 28.750, 2. Keuneke 28.650, 3. Estep 28.550, 4. Van Frayen 28.500, 5. Stroud 28.450.
This seems to be coming down to Leah Smith vs. Theodorou going into floor…Smith has scored a 10.000 this year while Theodorou’s 2021 high is a 9.800, so edge to Smith here.
Zhou FX (JR): Front double twist to open but overrotates and has to take a huge step out of it. Double tuck, chest a little low on the landing but she controls it well. Bad angle for the leaps but they looked all right. Back 1.5 to front layout with a hop forward. Pretty good routine! She’s in the lead but only by a tenth so we’ll see if that’s enough to hold on! 9.625
Apparently Moore just got a 9.925 and we didn’t see it so that’s fun!
Estep FX (JR): Double pike to open but overrotates and is clearly off balance on the step back. Barely gets her front lay around on the combo pass and also has some issues on her leaps. Double tuck lands low and she has to hop in place a bit to control it. 9.325
Keuneke BB (JR): She needs a big score here to jump Zhou. BHS LOSO is nice in the air but she has a big balance check at the end and almost falls. Switch split so switch half, the second leap is a bit short of 180. Front toss is a little off balance but she covers it pretty well. Side aerial to back full dismount with a tiny hop. I’m not sure anyone else can catch Zhou now. 9.375
Hey NBC, now would be a great time to go back and show Moore’s vault instead of showing all the gymnasts standing around!
(They didn’t listen to me)
Zeiss VT: STUCK YURCHENKO 1.5. It was beautiful. 9.700? What? Did I miss something? I honestly thought that could go 10.000 (out of 10.100 because this is Level 10). I wish they had shown a replay.
Nikki Smith FX: Beautiful, high full-in to open! Back 1.5 to front lay, very good landing. Leaps look good. Double tuck to close, some flexed feet in the air but no other faults that I could see. Excellent routine. 9.725
Theodorou BB: BHS LOSO, some slightly soft knees. Illusion turn to full turn, not sure if that’ll get connection credit. Piked front toss to wolf jump, beautiful! Switch leap to some sort of switch wolf jump? Not sure I’ve seen that before. Side aerial to back full, college stick to salute. She needs a 9.550 to take the lead…I think she’ll probably get that unless the lack of connection on the turns causes issues. 9.625 so she takes the lead.
Hudson FX: Double L-turn to open. Front lay to front double twist, squatty landing but she doesn’t move her feet. Switch split to switch full, nice. Back 2.5, really clean! Double tuck to finish, maybe a little overpowered in the lunge. She needs a 9.775 for the lead…I don’t think she’ll get that. Nope, it’s a 9.700.
Miranda Smith FX: Big full-in to open, a little sloppy in the air but she sticks it cold. Barely gets the triple twist around, it looked wonky in the air and she landed with her chest low. Front tuck through to double tuck, another pass stuck cold! She’s going to be a force at WVU. 9.700 feels high for that second pass…
Well this is scripted perfectly…Leah Smith is the last routine on floor to close the competition. She needs a 9.525 to tie and 9.550 to win outright.
Leah Smith FX: Piked full-in to start, slides her front foot back on the landing. Front tuck through to double tuck, nice. Double pike to finish, lands it well. I think she’s probably your champion. 9.775! Leah Smith wins the Nastia Liukin Cup!
You guys, the University of Washington has an NLC champ joining the roster this fall. I can feel CGN editor Rebecca’s joy all the way here in Florida.
This was a super exciting event! Can we please have more Level 10 gymnastics on real live television? Maybe nationals in May? I think USAG is probably going to say no to that…
Final senior standings:
1. Leah Smith 38.800
2. Alex Theodorou 38.550
3. Lilly Hudson 38.500
4. Lexi Zeiss 38.450
5. Nikki Smith 38.375
Vault was won by Jocelyn Moore with a 9.925 (which NBC never showed!), bars by Leah Smith with a 9.850, beam by Hudson with a 9.675, and floor again by Leah Smith with a 9.775.
Final junior standings:
1. Alicia Zhou 38.375
2. Avery Neff 38.175
3. Gabby Van Frayen 38.075
T-4. Nina Ballou 38.025
T-4. CJ Keuneke 38.025
Vault was won by Ferris with a 9.600, bars by Zhou with a 9.750, beam again by Zhou with a 9.650, and floor was a tie by Neff and Dorbin with a 9.750.
Live blog by Jenna King
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