by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Jessie DeZiel, the Rogers gymnast who was added to Team USA in September, wound up leading them to the team gold medal at the Pan Am Games in October.
The 18-year-old Nebraska freshman had USA’s top scores in vault with 15.125, balance beam with 13.275 and floor exercise with 13.150 in team competition Oct. 24-27 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her vault score was highest in the meet. She did not do bars.
“This was definitely my biggest meet so far,” said DeZiel, who won her second Junior Olympics national all-around title in May, and placed 17th at Visa Nationals in St. Paul in August after moving from Level 10 to Elite.
Asked if her performance was better than usual, she said, “Pretty much the same, but maybe with a little more adrenaline going, because it’s a bigger meet.”
USA won its 12th Pan Am title in 14 tries with 219.750 points. Canada with 217.450 and Mexico with 214.325 got silver and bronze in the eight-country competition.
Team USA, which has 17 to 18 members, was split in October with six (including an alternate) at the Pan Am Games and six (including an alternate) at the World meet in London.
DeZiel’s Pan Am teammates were Olympic champion Shawn Johnson of Iowa, past world champion Bridget Sloan of Indiana, Bridgette Caquatto of Illinois, Brandie Jay of Colorado and Grace McLoughlin of Texas.
Individual competition was held Oct. 28-27 with Caquatto winning all-around and bars, and Jay winning vault.
DeZiel qualified for individual only in floor with an eighth-place finish in team. She didn’t qualify in vault because you need two separate vaults for individual and she doesn’t have a second one ready yet.
DeZiel, formerly of Twin Cities Twisters, earned elite status last spring to move into the Olympic-level competition. At VISA Nationals in St. Paul in August, she placed 17th among 20, and was not among the 11 earning national team slots. But after subsequent testing at Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, she was one of nine gymnasts added to the squad, coached by Bela and Marta Karolyi.
DeZiel rejoined the Nebraska team after the Pan Am Games. The Cornhuskers season starts in January and the schedule includes meet at Minnesota on Feb. 18.