The Nastia Liukin Cup is one of the most prestigious Level-10 gymnastics meets and a reliable indicator of who will climb the Mount Olympus of college gymnastics in the near future. Among the previous winners are Lexie Priessman, who just scored a perfect 10.0 on bars for LSU, Alex McMurtry, one of the best ever Florida gymnasts and the 2017 NCAA All Around champion, Maddie Karr, a star at Denver and a perfect 10.0 scorer on vault, and Rachael Lucaks, who is currently doing great things in her freshman year at Georgia.
This year’s Nastia Liukin Cup celebrated its tenth anniversary. The gymnasts competing there represented a record-number of 16 different schools, which is telling of the growing level of collegiate gymnastics in the United States.
The senior title was won by Junior Olympic star Makarri Doggette (38.975), who was competing at her sixth Nastia Cup and who is an Alabama signee. She was followed by Jillian Hoffman (38.875), a Utah signee, and by Kiya Johnson ((38.750), who is going to LSU in the fall.
The junior crown was awarded to Gabrielle Gladieux (38.425), who is still uncommitted and will graduate from high school in 2022, followed by Madison Ulrich (38.150), also uncommitted and graduating in 2023, and by Ava Piedrahita (37.775), who is committed to Penn State for 2022.
Here are a few thoughts on the impact these gymnasts will have on their respective NCAA teams.
1. Makarri Doggette (Alabama, 2019) has it all: power, execution, poise and sass on all four apparatuses. She will be a great asset at Alabama, who is in desperate need for a star. For me, the highlight of her competition was her bars routine, which included a high Ray to Pak salto and a stuck double layout dismount.
2. Jillian Hoffman (Utah, 2019) is a consistent gymnast, who had an outstanding floor routine at this competition, where she stuck cold her double layout. She will be particularly useful to the Red Rocks on this apparatus, especially if Mykayla Skinner decides to leave Salt Lake City to follow her Olympic dreams.
3. Kiya Johnson (LSU, 2019) was originally committed to Georgia, but she has all the characteristics of an LSU Tiger. She is a powerhouse, she obviously has a double layout on floor, but she is also a poised bars and beam worker. Her contribution will be needed in a year when LSU is graduating both Lexie Priessman and HRH Sarah Finnegan.
4. Sierra Brooks (Michigan, 2020) is going to bring a strong Yurchenko 1.5 on vault to the Wolverines.
5. Raena Worley (Kentucky, 2019) is going to be a fantastic asset for the Wildcats in a year when they are graduating a very strong senior class. Raena is a powerhouse on vault and floor, who will challenge Mollie Korth for that anchoring position. I cannot wait!
6. Gabryel Wilson (Michigan, 2019) is a very solid gymnast on all four apparatuses and I can see her making all four lineups fairly easily, especially considering the senior class that is graduating there. Her open full-in on floor is gorgeous and so is her Yurchenko half on vault, though that may just be me, because you know how much I love Yurchenko halves…
7. Faith Torrez (Oklahoma, 2022) is a beam queen, which is a prerequisite chez les Sooners. She competes one of the highest back somersaults with full twist I have seen and she has a beautiful triple series (BHSO + LOSO + LOSO). K.J. must be so excited!
8. Andrea Li (California, 2020) is set to become a star. Her lines are gorgeous on all apparatuses and her poise, especially on beam, is impressive. I may call it already: 2021 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year!
9. Mya Lauzon (2021) is still uncommitted, but I expect the recruiting competition to be quite fierce, because Mya is a solid beam worker, a quality every team seeks in a gymnast, and performed the best and highest FTY on the competition.
10. Hallie Thompson (UNC, 2019) will be a great addition to the team, especially on beam and vault. On beam, she has great lines and poise, and on vault a Yurchenko 1.5.
11. Madeleine Johnston (Penn State, 2020), who also competed elite last year, is going to be a fantastic addition the the PSU team. She did not have her best competition this time around, but she is a very strong all arounder, with high potential difficulty on beam and floor, and great lines on bars. She and Lauren Bridgens will be a killing duo on bars!
12. Abbie Thompson (West Virginia, 2020) is the next Kirah Koshinski. She is a powerful athlete, who started her floor routine with a double pike and ended it with a triple twist!!!
13. Lindsay Bacheler (Maryland, 2021) could be a game changer for the Terps. She has beautiful lines on all apparatuses and especially on bars and beam, no built-in deductions and an expressive floor routine. Very impressive gymnast!
14. Frankie Price (Arkansas, 2021) is a powerful gymnast, who shines on vault and floor. Her double layout on floor for me was the highlight of her competition. She will be a significant addition to the Razorback team.
15. Sage Thompson (California, 2021) impressed me beyond belief on the uneven bars. There, she has such an intricate and beautifully executed routine: a Ray to Pak salto, a Maloney to Gienger and a flared full-in dismount. I hope she will keep all her difficulty in college.
10. Mya Hooten (Minnesota, 2019) will be money on floor. Her routine is difficult, fantastically executed and contagiously fun.
17. Carina Jordan (Florida, 2020) is going to bring the sass (and a beautiful triple twist on floor) to Gainesville. She, Nya Reed and Trinity Thomas going one after the other on floor is what dreams are made of…
18. Cassie Stevens (Auburn, 2019) is going to bring yet another strong Yurchenko 1.5 on vault to Auburn. The Tigers are a team on the rise and their recruitment proves it.
1. Gabrielle Gladieux (2022) won the competition fair and square with four solid routines, which emphasised both her elegance and power. Her beam set was the best of the night among the juniors. I expect her gymnastics to grow in the years to come and she could become a great addition to any team she chooses to join.
2. Madison Ulrich (2023) is another consistent gymnast, who could make the difference on any team. Beam was also her best apparatus of the night, though her lines on bars were what caught my attention.
3. Ava Piedrahita (Penn State, 2022) is going to be a star at PSU. She has great lines, execution, poise and one of the best Pak saltos out there. Watch out for her!
4. Jamison Sears (2023) is still a champion on the making, but has enormous potential on all four apparatuses. Her full-twisting double tuck on floor is as good as it can get.
5. Daisha-Marie Cannon (2022) had one of the most expressive choreographies on floor.
6. Zoe Miller (2023) won the vault title with a FTY full of amplitude. Another great gymnast on the making.
7. Brooklyn Rowray (2022) is another talented gymnast, who is also a very expressive floor worker.
8. Makenna Smith (Ohio State, 2022) impressed me especially on floor, where she competed a difficult and super expressive routine. I cannot wait to see her compete in college!
17. Hailey John (Auburn, 2022) did not have her best day of competition, but she is a gymnast full of potential and with great lines, who could help the Tigers especially on bars and beam. The fact that she finished her triple series on beam over the edge of the apparatus and still held on to it makes her in itself a beam queen!