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By John Powers
It was almost the same as being at home. Rachael Lukacs comes from Hillsborough, N.J., down the road from Newark, and her clubmates from North Stars Gymnastics Academy filled the better part of a section at Prudential Center. "It was amazing," Lukacs said Friday night after she had come from behind on the final rotation to outscore training partner and good friend Missy Reinstadtler by .075 to win the senior title at the Nastia Liukin Cup. "I was speechless seeing everyone and having them there for me. Missy trained so hard. I’m so proud of her."
Lukacs, a sophomore at Bound Brook High School, who has verbally committed to the University of Georgia, performed a near perfect double-twisting Yurchenko and posted a 9.900 on vault for a total of 38.475. Though it was her strongest event, she had to wait until Reinstadtler (who scored 9.575) and seven other rivals had gone down the runway. "I was just thinking stay calm, you know how to do this, one thing at a time, stay in the moment and just give it my all."
Lukacs’ victory came in her third appearance in the event. "It’s always a new experience, and I love competing in this atmosphere," she said, "and Nastia does a great job with the meet."
Andrea Li, an eighth-grader from Aurora, Ill., who represents Legacy Elite Gymnastics, claimed the junior title with a total of 38.275, .200 ahead of Lali Dekanoidze. Li, who said that she hopes to qualify for the Junior Olympic National Championships in early May (‘And maybe win the title’) is the sister of Anna Li, who was an alternate for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She is coached by her parents Li Yuejiu and Wu Jiani, who both won team medals for China at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
"It’s very fun because they know what they’re doing, and they always push me," Li said. "They’re never really hard on me, but always helping me through everything I need to get there."