Charity Jones has competed in some big gymnastics competitions before, but nothing like the 2012 Nastia Liukin Cup.
Jones, a Miamian who lives in Oklahoma City so she can train at the world renown Dynamo Gymnastics, was the all-around winner at the Liukin Cup held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“That was the first time I had been in a building like that,” she said.
Jones qualified for the event by winning all-around honors at the 2011 Junior Olympic National Championships in Long Beach, Calif.
Competing against 57 of the top gymnasts from around the United States, Jones won the all-around title and the vault.
She finishing with a 38.25 all around score and was the national champ in the vault with a score of 9.75. That earned her a spot on the Junior Olympic National Team.
The Liukin Cup is in its third year and honors its namesake, who is one of America's most-decorated gymnasts.
Proceeds from the event go to the Nastia Liukin Fund, a charitable fund within the National Gymnastics Foundation.
“I wanted to qualify for it just because she (Liukin) was an Olympic champion she is one of my idols,” Jones said. “I thought it would be so cool to compete in something like that. Then when I learned it was in Madison Square Garden - it's like the biggest arena ever – that made me feel a little nervous. I was really excited to go out there.”
Jones began her night on the vault, performing a big Yurchenko double full for a 9.775. In rotation two, Jones scored 9.375 on the uneven bars with a Tkatchev release move and double layout dismount.
On the balance beam, her routine, which included a back handspring to layout stepout and double tuck dismount, gave her a 9.625.
In the final rotation, Jones took to the floor leading the competition.
Mounting with a tuck full in and dismounting with a double pike, she scored a 9.300 to win the all-around title.
Jones posted a final score of 38.075 to take top honors.
Alex McMurtry of Midlothian, Va., and the Richmond Olympiad Gymnastics, and Polina Shchennikova of Colorado Springs, Colo., and The International Gymnastics Academy of the Rockies, tied for second, scoring 37.875.
Defending champion Grace Williams of Linden, Mich./Gedderts' Twistars USA, finished third with a 37.750.
“She is definitely the real deal,” Dennis Harrison of Dynamo Gymnastics said after Jones was named the winner of the Shannon Miller Award at the Oklahoma State Gymnastics banquet in Oklahoma City. “She is one of the best gymnasts to come out of Oklahoma in a long, long time.”
Dennis and Shannon Harrison are Jones' coaches. Shannon Harrison, considered one of the nation's top beam coaches, trained Miller for the 2000 Olympic trials.
Jones says the beam is her favorite event.
“It's challenging and really fun,” she said. “I like the floor, too. You can be more expressive. It's fun to go out and perform. It reflects what your personality is. “
Miller and Liukin each have won nine World Championship medals. Miller, who competed in the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has two World all-around titles and five total gold medals.
Jones was also named Region 3 gymnast of the year. Region 3 is one of 8 regions of USA Gymnastics. Region 3 includes the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Jones was the first gymnast from Oklahoma since 1999 to be named Region 3 gymnast of the year.
She also was the first gymnast from Oklahoma to win the level 10 national all-around championhip since 1999.
“She is exceptionally dedicated,” Harrison said. “Not many kids will sacrifice their going out with friends to pursue a sport, but it's her passion. She is very dedidated and goal driven. It's been a pretty good ride for her with quite a few rewards.”
Despite only being a junior (she is enrolled in Oklahoma Virtual High School), Jones has committed to the University of Oklahoma.
The Sooner gymnastic program, which was ranked sccond heading into a Sunday meet at No. 5 UCLA, made its second straight NCAA Super Six appearance at the 2011 NCAA Championships and finished in third place with a score of 197.250.
“She is pretty special,” Harrison said. “They don't come along every day with the combination of talent, dedication and commitment, all of the variables working together. You get kids who are really talented, but not committed, or really dedicated kids who no matter how hard they work, aren't going to be able to do it.”
Jones has been involved with gymnastics since she was 3. She watched her older sister (Paige) compete and decided she wanted to be like her.
She is the daughter of Tom and Becky Jones of Miami and the granddaughter of Claude and Verla Landers of Oklahoma City and Don and Judy Jones on Conway, Ark.
She lives with the Landers so she can continue practicing at Dynamo.