Buckeye Gymnastics competitor Nia Dennis realizes her success and potential have led to high expectations.

Buckeye Gymnastics competitor Nia Dennis realizes her success and potential have led to high expectations.

Still, the Westerville resident seems unaffected by it all, including coaches comparing her to Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas.

Dennis, who competes at the elite level, is continuing her pursuit of a spot on the United States senior national team and the opportunity to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"I don't really think of it that much," Dennis said of the expectations. "I just think about what I need to do and not what other people think I need to do. I feel like I've taken a couple steps closer to my goal."

Kittia Carpenter, who is the team director at Buckeye Gymnastics, said even Douglas' coach, Liang Chow, has "called (Nia) the next Gabby. And when he calls her Gabby at camp, it puts a big smile on Nia's face."

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Douglas became the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to win the individual all-around title and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions in the same Olympics. She also was a member of the gold-winning U.S. team at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

"I'm excited and happy that they compare me to an Olympian," Dennis said.

"I think some of Nia's high-release moves on the (uneven) bars have brought this comparison," Carpenter said. "I am excited and honored to have Nia compared to such an amazing gymnast. We would be thrilled to come close to what Gabby has achieved."

Carpenter said Dennis has the ability and potential to reach her goals.

"It takes her type of character and personality to get to the top," Carpenter said.

Dennis, 13, was named to the U.S. junior national team in May after qualifying at the Karolyi Gymnastics Camp, the U.S. Olympic training facility in Huntsville, Texas.

The junior national team is open to gymnasts age 15 and under. Dennis' all-around score of 58.6 was the high mark among juniors.

She's hoping to qualify for the senior national team during her first year of eligibility in 2015.

Dennis' next meet is the U.S. Classic on Saturday, July 27, in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The event is the final qualifying meet for the U.S. Championships to be held Aug. 15-18 in Hartford, Conn.

Dennis already has earned a berth for the national championships after qualifying during a camp at the Olympic training facility earlier this month. Dennis had an all-around score of 55.7, with a score of 51.5 needed to qualify.

It will be Dennis' second appearance in the event.

Last year, she finished seventh in the all-around with a two-day score of 109.55. Her highest event finishes came on balance beam (fifth, 28.1) and floor exercise (eighth, 27.4).

Dennis expects last year's experience at nationals to help her next month.

"I'm more prepared and I'm not going to be as nervous as last year since it was like the first time ever," she said. "I just have to be consistent and hit everything. I've upgraded some of my routines."

Dennis was the first Buckeye gymnast to qualify for the national championships since 1987, when Tracy Butler competed in Kansas City, Mo., and finished 28th with a two-day all-around score of 72.24.

Dennis, who makes monthly trips to the Texas facility to sharpen her skills, said her first love remains training and competing with her friends and teammates at Buckeye Gymnastics.

She participated in the club's annual team camp June 17-22 and in the Buckeye Classic, the club's annual meet that was held Feb. 15-17 at the Ohio Expo Center.

"I try to encourage and help my teammates," Dennis said. "The Buckeye Classic has always been my favorite. It just takes a lot of pressure off because it's like your gym, your team and your meet."

"We had to work through the camp because we had things coming up and it was hard," Carpenter said.

"I try to make it as fun as I can for her, but I know she loves the camp."