Nastia Liukin Cup Series Feature Stories

Mackenzie Brannan
Reagan Campbell
Rachel Daum
Sydney Doggette
Samantha Partyka
Drew Watson

Emily Gaskins
Ashleigh Gnat
Charity Jones
Alex McMurtry
Mariah Peterson
Lexy Ramler

Miranda Cabada
Bridget Dean
Sydney Johnson-Scharpf
Lindsey Lemke
Ashton Locklear
Jenna Swartzentruber

Alicia Boren
Felicia Hano
Alexis Mattern
Hannah Miller
Kendal Moss
Emily Schild

Bailey Ferrer
Alma Kuc
Kari Lee
Kaytianna McMillan
Lauren Ramirez
Aja Sims

Brianna Brown
Kiera Brown
Kyana George
Amanda Wellick

Click on the athlete's name for her bio

Mackenzie Brannan

By Lauren Ely

For 16-year-old Mackenzie Brannan, bars are her favorite part of competing – even when they fall on top of her.

Last year, the weekend after placing first in the all-around at the Nadia Comaneci Invite, the Austin, Texas, native was set to compete at the 2012 WOGA Classic. While performing her routine on bars, the bolts broke away from the floor and collapsed on top of her.

"We've never had that happen before," Brannan's coach Barry Hyder said.

But with only a bruise to show from the incident, Brannan was far from done. She came in the next day to train and continued practicing at less than 100 percent until the day of competition, where she placed first in bars and first in the all-around again.

"She came in on Saturday night and beat everyone," Hyder said. "She's just an amazing competitor."

Brannan, a junior in high school, who trains at Capital Gymnastics, is already committed to the University of Alabama to continue competing. She says the determination and focus it takes to be a gymnast have helped her with activities outside of the sport, like school.

While gymnastics plays a huge role in her life, it isn't the only facet of her. Brannan has her mind made up to study biology to become a physical therapist after her career as a gymnast is over. She also has an artistic side, and when she isn't at the gym, she enjoys painting and drawing.

Reagan Campbell

By Scott Bregman

Reagan Campbell is an eighth grader from Highland Village, Texas. She started her gymnastics career as a toddler when her mother, a former cheerleader, wanted to teach Reagan to tumble. Reagan quickly fell in love with gymnastics.

At 14 years old, Reagan has already earned a laundry list of accomplishments in her gymnastics career. One of those includes placing first in all-around, vault, beam and floor in the Texas Prime Meet earlier this year. She says she enjoys the challenges that the different events present. As a member of Texas Dreams Gymnastics, she trains under 1991 World all-around champion and Olympic bronze medalist Kim Zmeskal-Burdette, who credits Reagan in her power and confidence.

Reagan attends school at the gym she trains in. She puts in hours of hard work with hopes to one day become an international elite. Her favorite event to compete is the balance beam because of the challenges it provides. Her coaches believe her strongest events are vault and floor because of her power.

Reagan has a brother who plays baseball. When she's not in the gym, she enjoys listening to music and spending time with her teammates.

Rachel Daum

By Erica Rath

Rachel Daum, who will be 18 on Feb. 16, is a high school senior from Katy, Texas. She is a member of Star Gymnastics Training Center in Houston where she trains with Dan and Ashly Baker. Ashly credits Rachel as being a great team member and a very driven, hard-working athlete.

According to her coaches, Rachel is dominant in vault and floor, the two events she won at Level 10 Nationals two years ago. She has also worked hard on improving her performance on the uneven bars. Rachel enjoys her routine on the floor exercise because she loves to dance.

Rachel and her twin brother are both athletes. When she was 5 years old, their mother wanted them to be involved in a bunch of sports to see which one they liked. Rachel ended up falling in love with gymnastics.

This is Rachel's first Nastia Liukin Cup, and Star Gymnastics' first, as well. However, Rachel has accomplished a ton in her ten-year career. In 2010, she was a Junior Olympic National Qualifier, and she won two events at Nationals in 2011, and finished third in the all-around in 2012.

Next year, Rachel has committed to Stanford University, where she received a scholarship to compete for their gymnastics team. This, Rachel says, is her biggest accomplishment.

Sydney Doggette

By Erica Rath

Sydney is a sixth grader from Pickerington, Ohio. As a 12-year-old, she has been participating in gymnastics her entire life.

Being an athlete comes naturally for Sydney. Her mother and father were both Division I athletes, competing in gymnastics and football at West Virginia University. Sydney started gymnastics as a toddler because her older sister was competing. She has ambitions of becoming an international elite, having competed in the Hopes division at the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic, where she won the vault title, and to make it to Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals. Sydney won the Level 9 Region V all-around and floor titles in 2012.

Sydney is currently a member of Buckeye Gymnastics Club, where she trains under coach Kittia Carpenter. Carpenter says Sydney is a "powerful, dynamic and confident performer." Encouraging her teammates and being part of a team is the best thing about competing, Sydney said. In fact, she idolizes 2012 Olympic all-around gold medalist and former Nastia Liukin Cup competitor Gabrielle Douglas because of her outward confidence and her success as a teammate.

Sydney and her teammates train for about six hours a day. She loves to perform on vault because it comes naturally to her.

Sydney has one brother and two sisters, each competing in their chosen sport. She enjoys horseback riding and taking care of her horse. Her favorite subject in school is history, and she enjoys reading, as well.

Samantha Partyka

By Lauren Ely

At the age of two, Samantha Partyka's love affair with gymnastics began.

"I had too much energy," Partyka said. "I was running around the house, climbing all over the place."

Partyka's mom decided to enroll her in gymnastics, and as she grew older, she began taking tumbling classes as well.

Now at age 16, with 14 years of experience in the sport, Partyka loves it just as much as she did when she began.

"I love the challenge of coming in everyday and having new goals," Partyka said. "It is a big commitment, and you have to have a good attitude all the time. It's just something I've loved to do always."

She says her biggest accomplishment in the sport so far is placing second in the 2012 Women's Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships and qualifying for the 2010 and 2011 Visa Championships.

Partyka's coach at Champions Gymnastics, Kellie Mizoguchi, says Partyka is very competitive and is always focused. When other girls are having a bad day, Partyka doesn't mess around. She "grinds away" and gets the job done.

While individual achievement is a crucial part of gymnastics, Partyka says her team is really supportive.

"At every single competition we go to, we cheer really loud," Partyka said. "I love that about our team. We're always there for each other."

Partyka will continue competing at the University of Utah. In her spare time, Partyka, who lives in Katy, Texas, enjoys watching TV and scrapbooking.

Drew Watson

By Erica Rath

Drew Watson, 14, from Nacagdoches, Texas, has been involved in gymnastics since she can remember. Drew is the middle of three girls; her older sister plays volleyball for her high school while her younger sister loves the game of basketball. As a young girl, Drew and her sisters would do flips off of anything high enough. Her mother thought it would be a good idea to get Drew in the gym and start training with professionals.

For the past five or six years, Drew has been under the direction of coach Martin Parsley, as part of Texas East Gymnastics. Parsley speaks highly of Drew's mental toughness: "She is great at pushing through adversity and has become mentally strong." He looks forward to watching Drew compete in the Nastia Liukin Cup because it brings great opportunity and allows the athletes to gain perspectives on the world of elite competition.

One of Drew's biggest accomplishments in gymnastics so far is a third place finish in the all-around at the 2012 Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament, as well as qualifying to the Nastia Liukin Cup.

"Martin is a great coach. I'm lucky to have him." Drew said of her mentor.

Drew loves to compete in all of the events, but loves to show off on the vault. Floor exercise is also one of her favorite events because she can just have fun.

The two, along with her teammates and other coaches, train about seven hours per day. The rest of her day is left to studying at school, which is conveniently located just around the corner from the gym. Drew hopes to earn a scholarship to a competitive collegiate program, and may pursue elite gymnastics in the next few years. In college, Drew hopes to study to become a trainer.

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