Four young, local gymnasts will have the experience of a lifetime when they compete in the third annual Simone Biles International Invitational in Houston from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16.

Competing at the tournament is Ayva Sinner, Madison Samuelson, Avery Pedotto and Leah Woodbeck. All four girls are members of Aerial Athletics, owned by Deanne ad Tazia Simpson.

This will be their first time competing in the tournament, which as a different format this year.

“This year it is an open competition. If it’s closed, it usually means you have to hit a certain score, so we were lucky it was open,” Tazia Simpson said.

This year, the tournament was given the Nastia Liukin Cup Invitational designation, meaning some of the competitors will get to go on to compete at the Nastia Liukin Cup tournament.

Woodbeck and Samuelson have competed in other tournaments.

“Leah has experience competing in gymnastics. Ayva has experience in competing in tumbling and trampoline. Maddie and Avery have never competed, so this will be their first competition. It’s quite the competition to go to, because there will be like 2,500 girls competing over three days,” Tazia Simpson said.

The girls will compete in beam, floor, vaults and bars events, Tazia Simpson said.

“We typically don’t let our girls scratch because we like them compete in all events. There are some girls that we will have be specialists,” Tazia Simpson said. “In this meet we will have the girls competing in all of the events.

She said the girls have different events that they are strongest in. Woodbeck is their all-around specialist, Sinner is their floor specialist, Samuelson’s is vaults and Pedotto’s is the beam.

Tazia Simpson said the competition will only help her gymnasts get better and prepared for future meets. The girls will compete again in March.

“It gives us a little bit of time to work on things and their bodies to recover. We have a list in the backs of our heads of what we want to work on and where we want to work the hardest,” Tazia Simpson said.

Tazia Simpson is in her sixth year as a coach. Before that she competed for 10 years before being a cheerleader at Doane University.

Her mom, Deanne Simpson, has been coaching for more than 30 years.

Jeff Van Patten is the sports editor of the Star-Herald. Jeff can be reached by calling 308-632-9050 or emailing

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