by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Gymnastics star Jessie Deziel of Rogers got her first taste of the big time last week, competing against Olympians in the VISA Nationals at the Xcel Center in St. Paul.
Deziel, 18, the two-time national all-around champion at Level 10, placed 17th among 20 gymnasts in her first Elite level meet, doing three of the four events, Thursday and Saturday, Aug. 18 and 20.
“It was exciting, and really fun to have it in my home state,” said Deziel, who won nationals in Dallas and Long Beach the last two years.
About the contingent of friends, relatives and Twin Cities Twisters teammates in the audience, she said, “The crowd was awesome, always cheering for me through evertyhing I did.”
At stake were 11 spots on the national team for the Pan Am Games.
Deiziel did not make the team and on Monday left for the University of Nebraska, where she will join one of the top college teams in the country. She has also accepted an invitation to attend the Pan Am camp Sept. 5-10 in Houston. She still has a chance to be added to the national team.
Deziel placed 12th on floor exercise and 16th on balance beam. She did not compete in uneven bars because in Elite the bars are closer together and, being an Elite only two months, she didn’t have time to re-learn her routines.
Jordyn Weber of DeWitt, Mich., was all-around champion, followed by McKayla Maroney of Laguna Niguel, CA, and Alexandra Raismanof Needham, Mass.
Wieber won bars and floor, Maroney won vault, and Alicia Sacramone of Winchester, Mass.
The crowd favorite was 2008 all-around Olympics champion Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa, making a comeback to try get on another national team. She took fourth on beam, sixth on bars and 16th all-around, and was picked for the team.
Deziel followed Johnson on the balance beam Saturday evening after the Olympic champion had dazzled the crowd.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking to follow her, because she’s, like, the best, but it was fun, too,” giggled Deziel, who had one fall in that performance. Deziel said she watched Johnson “a little bit” while prepping to go on next.
The 2011 graduate of Spectrum High School was satisfied with her performance for the most part.
“My vaulting was better today. My floor routines (Thursday) and today were really good and I was pleased with those. I fell on beam today so but my one (Thursday) was really good.”
Her vault on Thursday was a setback as she hit the springboard with twoo much power and her hands missed the vault, so she could not do her usual double twisting yurchenko and instead made a simple double tuck.
Her parents Craig and Jean sent an e-mail stating: “She was super excited to start college, and is very excited for the Pan Am camp as well,” adding that the Nebraska coaches will take her there.