Purdue’s Golden Girl places second at World Championships
Merriebeth Cox, Purdue's Golden Girl, placed second in solo twirler competition at the World Championships in Neuchatel, Switzerland, April 2-8.
"It was a no-drop solo and I felt it was the best routine I've ever done," Cox said. "Some of the judges had me first, some second." The final tally put her in second place. She also competed in two-baton and won third place in that event.
Two years ago, Cox placed third in the World Championships, receiving a bronze medal in the solo category. She did not qualify in two baton that year.
Purdue's Golden Girl definitely possesses the ingredients to be one of the world's top twirlers, says Alisha Kuckartz, who coaches Purdue's twirlers and is a former Golden Girl herself.
"MerrieBeth is the most talented Golden Girl that Purdue has ever had," she says. "The reason she's good is because she is so well rounded and very powerful. Not only does she do difficult tricks, but she incorporates gymnastics and dance. MerrieBeth has a real strong quality of presentation so she connects with any audience because of the energy she puts out every time she performs."
For Kuckartz, the self-motivated Cox is a coach's delight. "As a coach you can teach skills, but you can't teach the love of it. She brings that with her to every event. She's twirled with a sprained ankle, twirled when she's sick or had other things to do. She puts everything aside for her sport."
Interestingly enough, there was more than one Cox at the Worlds. MerrieBeth's younger sister, Melissa, also qualified in the strut competition. "We were the only siblings at the Worlds," Cox says.
"Sometimes people say that just qualifying for the Worlds is the hardest thing to do," she says. This time around her reputation preceded her to Switzerland. "My name was out there a bit more since the last Worlds. Also my career is coming to an end so it's a bit sad. I wanted to go out with a bang."
If she suffers from competition nerves no one ever knows because she deals with them by joking and having fun. "I do my best when I'm goofing off beforehand which most twirlers find weird. I think it comes from a former coach who always had a new blonde joke for me. Being serious doesn't mix with the sport for me," she says.
"I do it because I love it and it's fun."
Purdue fans are used to Cox delivering rapid-fire routines filled with difficult tricks and high tosses. She rarely ever drops the baton. The secret to her near perfection comes from her father's advice.
"He always said that practice doesn't make perfect. Rather, perfect practice makes perfect." Cox approaches practices with intensity so she can relax and enjoy performing.
Like everyone she has little things she does for good luck. Before she goes out for a big performance, she says a prayer, thinks of all the people who have helped her along the way and does the sign of the cross. "That way," she says, "I know my family and friends are all with me."