Area gym hosts gymnastics competition at XL Center this weekend; Alicia Sacramone appears Friday

HARTFORD – One of the most prestigious and one of the biggest co-ed New England regional youth gymnastics events will be held in Connecticut as American Gymnastics of Southington will host the 21st annual American Invitational at the XL Center’s Exhibition Hall  in a two-day event on Friday and Saturday.

There are 835 boys and girls gymnasts combined from gyms in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey expected to compete in all levels from the Xcel program and Levels 3-10 from ages 6-18.

In addition, Olympian Alicia Sacramone, who won a team silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will be speaking at the American Invitational on Jan. 31.

“This event is special because we are one of the only co-ed invitational meets in Connecticut since most invitationals cater only to girls or only to boys,” said American Gymnastics general manager Susan Donis, who organizes the event, in a press release. “Over the past few years, more and more gyms are putting on co-ed invitationals, but we have the advantage of being the longest running and largest in the state.

“The invitational was started to give kids the chance to know what it’s like to compete in a big meet. Some kids don’t get to compete at meets like states, regionals or Nationals. We usually average around 700 gymnasts for the event making this year’s event the biggest ever. The meet is sanctioned by USAG (USA Gymnastics, the sports’ governing body) and is actually the last meet before states for girls. This meet is important because it is the last chance for Connecticut compulsory gymnasts who have not qualified for states to qualify,” said Donis in the press release.

Competition begins on Friday at 8:20 a.m. with the girls Xcel Silver and Level 6 divisions.  On Saturday, the girls competition begins with Level 3 at 8:20 a.m. and the boys competition begins with Levels 7-10 at 8:20 a.m. For a complete schedule of both days of competition go to

Among the many gyms expected to compete are American Gymnastics, Whip City Gymnastics of Southwick, Mass., Gymnastics Rhode Island of Cranston, R.I., Campbell’s Gymnastics of Clinton, TNT Gymnastics of Guilford, Northstars Gymnastics of Boonton, N,J., Mr. Todds Gymnastics of Poughkeepsie, N.Y; CATS Gymnastics of Cheshire, NEGX of Newington, New Era Gymnastics of Hamden and Shoreline Gymnastics of Old Saybrook.

Among some of the standout girls from American Gymnastics expected to compete are Marilyn Sporbert, age 16, a level 8 competitor who is a junior who competes for Southington High School; 14-year-old Riley O’Hanlon, a level 9 gymnast of Bristol, who won her last two meets; 10-year-old Gabriella Miller, a level 4 gymnast of Meriden who has had a strong season; 12-year-old Samantha Nowak of Cheshire, who competes in the Xcel Silver division and took first in all-around at her last meet.

For the boys, 11-year-old Matthew Cormier of Cheshire competes in level 8 and won his first meet and also competes in the Future Stars program which highlights the top 15 percent of the gymnasts in the country; 15-year-old Nathan Hughes of Prospect who competes in level 9 took first in All Around last year at states and took second in All Around at Regionals, winning P-bars and high bar; and 8-year-old Nicholas Smith of Southington who competes in level 5, who won his last two meets and was state champion last year.

 “Another benefit about this meet, and the amount of gymnasts competing, is that you get to see talent from other gyms that you aren’t used to competing against,” Donis said in the press release. “There is a lot of talent out there and it really is an eye opener seeing how good other kids are. We are also excited about Alicia Sacramone’s appearance. She will be speaking about her experiences as an Olympian and will then follow with autographs and pictures. We feel this is a great experience for the kids and also helps to take our meet to the next level.”

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