The Nastia Liukin Cup takes place on Friday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and we’re here to break down the field. After a long and dramatic qualification process, the full field of 36 gymnasts is finally set. Check out the highlights, or scroll to the bottom for the full list of qualifiers and their stats!
The 2020 Graduates
Ten of the eighteen gymnasts in the senior field, including most of the key title contenders, are high school seniors who have signed NLIs and will join their college teams in the fall.
- Haleigh Bryant (LSU)
- Chae Campbell (UCLA)
- Elena Deets (Arizona)
- Olivia Dunne (LSU)
- Skylar Killough-Wilhelm (Washington)
- Katherine LeVasseur (Oklahoma)
- Andrea Li (California)
- Isabella Magnelli (Kentucky)
- Rylie Mundell (Denver)
- Gabby Perea (California)
The 39 Club (and Other Top Seniors)
Seven level 10 gymnasts have scored 39.000 or higher this year, and five of them are in the field at the Nastia Liukin Cup. (We miss you, Amari Celestine and Abbie Thompson!!)
JPAC’s Jacey Vore has topped out at 39.275 this year at her home invitational. Uncommitted Selena Harris has scored 39.075, Bryant 39.025, and Killough-Wilhelm and Li 39.000.
The odds are good that the winner of the senior field will come from within this group, with Li and Bryant perhaps the primary contenders. But a few others, like Campbell, Rylie Mundell and Lali Dekanoidze are experienced and reliable competitors with difficult gymnastics who could easily walk away with the win.
The wildcards in the senior field are recent elites Perea and Dunne, who have had one truly amazing meet each since dropping to level 10 for their senior season. Both are as talented as anyone in the field, but don’t have the years of experience at this level that make some of their rivals hard to beat.
The Junior Contenders
The top juniors this year come from reliably excellent clubs. Madison Ulrich from Southeastern, Lily Bruce from World Champions Centre and Alexia Mouyenga from Twin City Twisters have notched the highest qualifying scores. Bruce and Ulrich—in addition to Holly Snyder from Docksiders—are the only juniors to have competed at the Cup before. Don’t lose sight of Zoey Molomo from Metroplex, who is a HOPES gymnast with truly massive vault and floor scores this year.
The eldest gymnasts in the field were born in the fall of 2001. Andrea Li, born on September 1 and currently just over eighteen and a half years old, tops the standings. Eleven-year-old Molomo is the youngest this year. She was born in July of 2008, just under a month before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
By College Team
Two teams have three commits competing this weekend. Denver’s delegation includes Mundell, Ulrich and Kiley Rorich, while North Carolina’s Dekanoidze, Gwendolyn Fink and Isabelle Schaefer will all stay in their home state for college.
LSU, California and Arizona each have two gymnasts. Arizona has raised its recruiting profile considerably in recent years and both Alysen Fears ’21 and Elena Deets ’20 are major prospects for the Wildcats. LSU and California are both sending a pair of high-profile, massively capable signees who will make a major impact in college next year. Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA and Washington each have one representative. Other top teams like Florida, Michigan, Alabama and Georgia have none.
Home Sweet… Carolina?
In unsurprising news, Texas leads the qualifying field with seven gymnasts competing in Milwaukee. But the presumptive king of J.O. gymnastics faces a challenge from North Carolina, which fields six when categorized by hometown. What’s more, two other gymnasts live in South Carolina but commute across the border to train at Southeastern Gymnastics in North Carolina, meaning that a total of eight North Carolina-trained athletes will be at the Cup. Does that count? It’s your decision, since this is a made-up statistic that doesn’t matter, but I’m going to hand the win to the Tar Heel State.
The Early Recruits
Per current recruiting rules, college coaches can only contact, and extend offers to, gymnasts who are in their junior or senior year of high school. But several younger athletes in this field committed to college before that rule was implemented. Fink ’22 is committed to North Carolina, Nikki Smith ’22 to Michigan State and Kiley Rorich ’22 and Ulrich ’23 will attend Denver.
Legacy Elite Gymnastics, long one of the premier Level 10 clubs in the country, is sending four gymnasts to the Cup, as is North Carolina stalwart Southeastern. Twin City Twisters has three, while Colorado Gymnastics Institute, ENA Paramus, Everest, Metroplex and World Champions Center have two apiece.
By Previous NLC Attendance
Two leading contenders in the senior field this year, Li and Bryant, are former Nastia Liukin Cup champions. Notably, no gymnast has ever won the Cup twice. Could we see that change?
Compared to previous years, this cohort has surprisingly little experience at the Cup. Li is the only gymnast to have qualified four times before. Mundell and Dekanoidze are competing in their fourth Nastia Cup, while Bryant, Campbell and Vore are in their third. Killough-Wilhelm has qualified for the second time, as have juniors Madison Ulrich, Lily Bruce and Holly Snyder.
Article by Rebecca Scally
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