Nastia Liukin Cup Series Feature Stories

Alexis Cappalli
Kathryn Kluz
Jessica Ling
Alex McMurtry
Kristen Nogaki
Meredith Sylvia

Lauren Beers
Kennedi Edney
Kendal Moss
Alyssa Nocella
Taylor Rice
Randii Wyrick

Wynter Childers
Felicia Hano
Lauren Marinez
Sydney McGlone
Charlie Owens
Baely Rowe

Lauren Bancroft
Lisa Burt
Charity Jones
Lauren Ramirez
Polina Shchennikova
Grace Williams

Briley Casanova
Nia Dennis
Ashleigh Gnat
Kari Lee
Alexandria Ruiz
Alyssa Shermetaro

Caitlin Atkinson
Alicia Boren
Emily Brauckmuller
Hollie Minichiello

Click on the athlete's name for her bio

Alexis Cappalli

By Romy Schwaiger

Alexis Cappalli, 18, is an A student. As a senior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., she is taking all honors and AP classes. Alexis, called Lexi, will be graduating this summer and is looking forward to going to college, where she will be a member of a college gymnastics team.

"I have officially committed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," she says proudly, where she will be majoring in chemistry.

Lexi started with gymnastics at the ago of 2, "My mom signed us up for parent & tot classes, and it continued on from there." She is currently a member of the Illinois Gymnastics Institute in Westmont, Ill., under coach Todd Gardiner, where she is competing in Level 10.

"I always try to get better. In gymnastics, you never get bored and you always want to do well for the team."

Her biggest accomplishments were reaching the Junior Olympics National Championships in 2010 and now qualifying for the Nastia Liukin Cup in New York. She finished first place in the all-around at the Circle of Stars Invitational in Indianapolis. Lexi says that for the Nastia Liukin Cup meet, she wants to "do well and have a good time there."

Adding, "It's such a great experience for me."

While many of the finalists look up to 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist, Nastia Liukin, Lexi chose Shawn Johnson as her role model: "She is very impressive to me, and I admire how she has come back from her knee injury."

In her free time, Lexi loves to bake, mostly muffins. "I normally get all my recipes out of magazines," she says. Otherwise, she likes to hang out with her friends or listen to music.

Kathryn Kluz

By Romy Schwaiger

For Kathryn Kluz, gymnastics is all about commitment, focus and determination. And with those traits, she reached Level 10 gymnastics in the 8th grade, making her one of the youngest among her team's practice squad.

For four years now, the 17-year-old has been practicing and competing at the highest level of the Junior Olympic program– and after her graduation from Walled Lake Northern High School this summer, she will look to have an impact as a member the gymnastics team at Auburn University. Kathryn signed a full-ride scholarship last November. "It was always my motivation to get a college scholarship," she says.

Kathryn, called Kait, spends approximately 22 hours a week practicing at the Oakland Gymnastics Training Center in Walled Lake, Mich., with additional hours added on for competitions on weekends. Her favorite event is vault, adding, "I like the running and flipping, and it's very powerful."

Before competitions, she listens to music on her iPod to get focused. That focus has led her to the biggest accomplishments in her career: first place in vault four consecutive times, as well as the all-around title twice-in-a-row at the state meet. Last year, she earned second place in vault and seventh place in the all-around at the Junior Olympic National Championships in Long Beach, Calif.

She earned her trip to the Nastia Liukin Cup at the CGA Parents Club Coaches Spectacular in Covington, Ky., in mid-January by posting a score of 38.125 and winning the all-around title. Having qualified in 2011, this is the second time she has earned a trip to the final Nastia Liukin Cup Series event.

After finishing 25th in the all-around at last year's final in Jacksonville, Fla., Kathryn hopes to redeem herself: "It would be nice to win the title."

Jessica Ling

By Romy Schwaiger

To compete at the Olympic Games is a dream of many young high performance athletes – and so it is for Jessica Ling. Jessica, only 14 years old, is already a level 10 gymnast, who recently qualified at the CGA Parents Club Coaches Spectacular in Covington, Ky., for the Nastia Liukin Cup. "This is my first year in Level 10, and it took a lot of time and work to get here," she says.

Jessica is a member of the women's team at the Oakland Gymnastics Training Center in Walled Lake, Mich., where Ruth Miller is her coach. Jessica, called 'Ling' by her friends, looks up to her older teammates, but her role model is Nastia Liukin, who won five medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. "A lot of people say that I look like her," said Jessica, "And, I am very excited to meet her at the final event in New York."

To get her focus before competitions, Jessica tries to visualize all the different events the night before. She has a lucky charm, a stuffed dog, which she has had in her gym bag since Level 5. Her favorite event is bars, "because I feel like I'm flying." The uneven bars is also where she has achieved her highest score - a 9.625 last year. She also achieved her biggest success in 2011, when she won the all-around title at the regional meet in Ohio.

Jessica is just a freshman at Walled Lake Central High School, where her favorite subject is math. But, she already set a goal to get a college scholarship for gymnastics after she graduates from high school. While she is not in the gym, she likes to hang out with her friends or do other sports, such as waterskiing or snow skiing.

Alex McMurtry

By Romy Schwaiger

Alex McMurty is just 15 years old, but this will already be her second appearance at the Nastia Liukin Cup in New York – and her fifth season as a Level 10 gymnast.

"Last year, I ended up falling a couple of times," Alex McMurtry says, "So, this year, I hope I will do better. I am not expecting to win, although, it would be nice."

Alex qualified for the Nastia Liukin Cup at The Atlanta Crown Invitational in Duluth, Ga., although she lives with her family in Midlothian, Va. "I flew to the qualifying event together with my mom," she said.

When Alex started gymnastics, she was just 3 years old. At the age of 10, she had already advanced to Level 10. She practices at Richmond Olympiad Gymnastics under Virginia's 2010 Coaches of the Year Boris and Larissa Choutkin, both of whom are from Russia. She spends 24 hours a week at the gym, six days a week, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

"It's pretty much like a job," she says and laughs.

And though she doesn't get paid for it, the hard work is paying off for her.

Before competitions, Alex has a special ritual: "I always eat chocolate chip muffins in the morning." Normally, her mother bakes them, "but, when we have a competition at some other place, we just buy them the day before."

Her whole family will accompany her to New York to the Nastia Liukin Cup to support her: "My parents, my older sister Addie and my brother Mitchell will be there to cheer for me."

But she will also have additional support: her gymnastics bag carries all the good luck cards that she has received from friends over the year.

"That's why I love my bag," the 15-year-old says.

Kristen Nogaki

By Romy Schwaiger

A few years ago, Kristen Nogaki had to make a hard decision: To continue with her gymnastics career or to focus on ice-skating.

At that time, she was very talented in both disciplines. "Ice-skating and gymnastics were at the same time, but I had the bigger passion for gymnastics," she decided, "I still like to ice-skate but just for fun."

The 15-year-old from Orange, Calif., spends 24 hours a week with practice at the Wildfire Gymnastics Club in Tustin, Calif.. This is her first season in Level 10, where she competes together with her older sister Katy, 17, also a Level 10. Her sister was the reason that Kristen started gymnastics at the age of 5, "My sister was taking gymnastics, so my mom signed me up, too," she says.

Her favorite thing about gymnastics is to learn new skills, and she likes to challenge herself. To compete at Level 10, "It takes a lot of dedication and work and determination," she says.

Although she is just a freshman at Villa Park High School, her goal is to sign a full-ride college scholarship and compete for a collegiate gymnastics team. She even has further ambitions – "I want to compete internationally."

She qualified for the Nastia Liukin Cup at the San Diego Classic and is "very excited" to go to New York City, where she will be accompanied by her sister, mother and grandmother. "

Her coach Tom Wakeling is also excited for Kristen, "She really deserves it, after all the hard training."

"Of course, I would really like to win the Nastia Liukin Cup, "Kristen says," But I just want to go to New York City and do my best."

Meredith Sylvia

By Romy Schwaiger

Meredith Sylvia's goal is to make the USA Gymnastics National Team. She is only 13 years old, but has already won the Level 10 Pennsylvania State Championships in 2011, posting a total score of 37.625. She also took first place in the all-around at the Parkettes Invitational in Allentown, Pa., with 38.525 points, where she earned a berth for the Nastia Liukin Cup finals in New York City.

But behind the success of this girl from Macungia, Pa., also stands hard work, effort and determination. As a junior international elite gymnast, Meredith practices up to 36 hours every week at the Parkettes National Gymnastics Center, which is one of the nation's premiere facilities for gymnastics.

Her coaches are Donna and Bill Strauss, former Olympic Games and World Championships coaches. Her favorite event is beam, and she says the most challenging event for her is bars.

Meredith started gymnastics in a 'Parent and Me' class when she was just 18 months old, and at just 11-years-old, she started to compete at Level 10.

As a lucky charm, she keeps a little key chain, which she got from her coach when she competed in Level 6.

In her spare time, she plays piano and has lessons once a week.

"I also like to watch my brothers play football," she says of her two younger brothers, Ryan, 10, and Evan, 6, who are involved in football, basketball, baseball and karate.

Meredith attends seventh grade at Commonwealth Connections Academy, where her favorite subject is English. "I'm an A student," Meredith says of herself.

As she competes in New York City, Meredith will be looking beyond the competition to this summer's Visa Championships in Saint Louis, where she hopes to compete at the top level of the sport

"I like to set goals for my gymnastics career," she says, adding, "My goal is to be on the Junior National Team."

Log in