Purdue’s Golden Girl going for more gold at World Championships
Merriebeth Cox, Purdue's Golden Girl, seeks even more gold as a member of the USA Twirling Team competing at the World Championships in Neuchatel, Switzerland, April 2-8.
Two years ago, Cox placed third in the World Championships and received a bronze medal. She'll be competing in two different events this time around – solo baton and two-baton. Each category will have approximately 100 participants from 31 countries around the globe. Like the Olympics, the top scoring competitor in each category gets a special ceremony accompanied by the playing of the National Anthem.
The Golden Girl definitely possesses the ingredients to be a champion 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 will be more than one Cox at the Worlds. MerrieBeth's younger sister, Melissa, also qualified in the strut competition. "We're the only siblings at the Worlds," Cox says. Both sisters will compete in preliminary rounds on April 5 and 6. Fields are cut to six competitors in each category for the finals on April 7 and 8.
"Sometimes people say that just qualifying for the Worlds is the hardest thing to do," she says. This time around her reputation precedes her to Switzerland. "My name's out there a bit more since the last Worlds. Also my career's coming to an end so it's a bit sad. But I want to go out with a bang."
If there are nerves you'll never know 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. Right now, a small towel embroidered with her name and title, a gift from a twirler friend at the University of Minnesota, is something she hangs onto. "I haven't washed it since nationals even though it has sweat, make-up, even blood from a black eye on it."
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."