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The Nastia Liukin Cup has become a premier event for level 10 gymnasts and aspiring elites around the country. When looking through the athletes’ bio pages, many cite qualifying to the Nastia Cup as one of their career goals, along with someday earning a college scholarship. Others want to use this meet as a stepping stone to get to the next stage, which just might be the World Championships or Olympic Games.

Year after year the event proves to be a fantastic opportunity to spot the stars of the future, both at the elite and college level. Gabby DouglasMyKayla SkinnerMaggie NicholsNia Dennis, and Morgan Hurd are just a few of the names who kick started their careers at the Nastia Cup. 

On Friday, Jamison Sears captured the senior title in a competition that came right down to the wire and in fact, ended in a tie.

Sears and Nikki Smith each scored a 38.950 but the win went to Sears per a tiebreaker. It created a bit of confusion for those watching the competition live on the Olympic Channel as Nastia Liukin herself repeatedly mentioned there would be no ties. No doubt a throwback to her own frustration with ties and tiebreakers dating back the bars final in Beijing 2008 when she took the silver behind China’s He Kexin despite both athletes scoring a 16. 725. He won on the execution mark.

We reached out to USA Gymnastics for clarification on the tiebreaker and they responded with the following explanation: “If athletes’ all-around scores are tied, they will look at who has the highest individual event score. In this case, Jamison earned 9.850 on floor, while Nikki’s best event score was a 9.800 on floor. That makes Jamison the senior division champion despite the tied all-around totals.”

(We’ll get back to you on what Nastia might have to say about that, but it appears both women did receive identical Nastia Cups on the podium!)

Sears, who was very emotional after her win, has so much star potential, it’s difficult to pick just one event she stands out on and today she was consistent across the board with her strongest performance coming on floor where she scored a 9.85. She knew going into floor the competition was close – she heard her coaches talking behind her and knew she had to hit it! And that’s exactly what she did!

“I was really happy and I did what I had to do,” Sears said of the emotions she felt after the competition, adding that the highlight of her day was her bar routine and hitting her Ricna. 

Smith, who was making her third appearance at the Nastia Cup, also earned her highest mark on floor. Today she was soft spoken, letting her gymnastics do the talking. She told us her goal coming in to this competition was to simply do better than she had in previous years. With a 10th place finish in 2020 and 5th place finish in 2021, consider it mission accomplished. Smith will head to Michigan State next season where she said she’s looking forward to being a Spartan with her sister, Nyah! 

Avery Neff placed third and her floor routine was one of the highlights of the competition. She’s one of those athletes who commands attention on the floor and we love watching her.

In the junior competition, Kamila Pawlak placed first with a 38.775. Pawlak, who has a great presence on floor, had a super consistent day with all of her scores between 9.675 and 9.725. 

Top 3:


  • Kamila Pawlak: All-Around, 38.775; vault, 9.675; uneven bars, 9.675; balance beam, 9.725; floor exercise, 9.700
  • Presley Duke: All-Around, 38.600; vault, 9.625, uneven bars, 9.775; balance beam, 9.625; floor exercise, 9.575
  • Jasmine Cawley: All-Around, 38.250; vault, 9.600; uneven bars, 9.550; balance beam, 9.350; floor exercise, 9.750


  • Jamison Sears: All-Around, 38.950; vault, 9.700; uneven bars, 9.600; balance beam, 9.800; floor exercise, 9.850
  • Nikki Smith: All-Around, 38.950; vault, 9.700; uneven bars, 9.725; balance beam, 9.725; floor exercise, 9.800
  • Avery Neff: All-Around, 38.925; vault, 9.775; uneven bars, 9.750; balance beam, 9.550; floor exercise, 9.850

Look for more note and quotes from the Nastia Cup in the March/April issue of Inside Gymnastics magazine!

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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