My daughter was a gymnast from the time she was three until we left Virginia when she was 16. Most of that time she was in the JO (Junior Olympics) program. The last two years she competed on her high school team and she spent one year competing as an Excel gymnast.
High school gymnastics is not as demanding as the JO program in many, many ways. The chief difference would be the time commitment. In her last few years in Utah she was at the gym 20-25 hours a week. She practiced every day after school for 4 hours; her last year out there she practiced five hours three days a week and four hours the other two. Summers she was at the gym 5 hours a day, five days a week. Although competition season is only approximately four months, you practice year round. In high school gymnastics you’re practicing 2-2 1/2 hours a day, five days a week. And only during season.
There are also certain requirements you have to meet in order to move up levels. There are basically 10 levels and then the elite program. She was a Level 8 when we moved. She was doing fun stuff like giants on the bars, flicks on the beam, twisting fulls on floor, and a Yurchanko on vault.
High school gymnastics has its own difficulties. For starters, they compete on a dead mat instead of a spring floor. You know how when you watch the Olympics those gymnasts look like they’re getting eight feet off the ground? It’s because they probably are! Those spring floors are nice! You get a lot of height out of them and they help when you’re trying to gain height for a trick and flying through the air. I’m not saying it’s easy to throw a full on a spring floor, but it’s infinitely more difficult when you’re trying to do that trick on a dead mat.
A lot of high school teams have old, outdated equipment, too. Gymnastics equipment is very expensive and they just don’t have the support that other sports do. The bars at my daughter’s old high school were purchased in the 80s. The equipment is usually stored away and then brought out for practice and meets, too. This can lead to things not being put together quite as well as it should be. I don’t think I will ever forget Rock Star’s first conference meet where the beam collapsed in the middle of a girl’s routine. Thank goodness she wasn’t doing anything dangerous when it went down!
The biggest difference, and probably the most difficult part of high school gymnastics, is the fact that everyone competes against everyone. In JO, or team, gymnastics you reach a certain level and you compete at that level for the season. Every person in that level is required to have the same skills. There are some choices, of course, but everyone basically has the same set of skills, and as you gain more skills, you move up. Even within those levels you compete in an age group, so if you’re a 14 year old Level 8, you’re going to compete against other 14 year old Level 8s.
Not so in high school. Like I said, everyone competes against everyone. So, the girl that is trying gymnastics for the very first time is competing against girls who have competed for four years in high school and against club and Excel girls as well.
In some of the bigger cities in the state their gymnastics team is comprised mostly of girls who are practicing year round with their individual gyms. The girl that is having trouble doing a cartwheel or a hip circle is competing against a Level 10 who can possibly throw a double full on a dead mat and giants on bars.
Plus, they begin the scoring at what basically amounts to a Level 9 list of requirements, so a lot of girls aren’t even starting at a 10.0 start value.
And, just to add to the difficulty, unlike other sports where you compete in single A, doubleA, triple A, 4A, or 5A, gymnastics had no such differences, at least on the individual level.
Rock Star’s school hadn’t had a girl go to States in years. They didn’t have a competitive gym in the area (until about a year before we moved) and the majority of the girls were gymnasts during the school year only. I don’t think many of them even made it beyond the conference meet to Regionals.
Rock Star made it to Regionals the first year on three events, and barely missed out on going to States that same year. You had to place in the top 8 and she placed 9th, only .025 behind the 8th place person. Her second year there she qualified for Regionals in every single event and went on to compete at States on the balance beam. I believe she placed 17th out of the entire state, competing against Level 9s and 10s and Diamond Level Excel girls.
All of that explanation to get to this: Her former high school had a Hall of Fame. During Homecoming the new inductees would be introduced. To qualify you had to be outstanding in your sport. One of the last people to be inducted was the last female to have gone to States in gymnastics.
The day she qualified for States I remember looking at her and telling her, “You know you just made it into your high school’s Hall of Fame, right?”
I debated even writing about this because it’s been two years now since we left and it seems like such a petty thing in the grand scheme of things. There are worse things that could happen. Ultimately, she graduated from another school and is leaving for college in less than a month. This shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t even be on my radar. It’s in the past.
Yet it still stings. It is still a disappointment. She worked hard and she achieved something that not many people there did, and that probably not many will achieve again anytime soon.
Her father stole that from her. He fucked around on me with his cousin, ended up losing his job, and forced us to move. Even if she had never gone back to States she would have still made it in. His selfish behavior took that away from my baby and it still pisses me off.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have even mattered in her later years. Maybe when the time finally came and she was invited back to Homecoming and to be inducted she would have said, “No thanks, I can’t get away from my job.” Maybe at that point in time she would have thought it was ridiculous. I don’t really know. What I do know is she never got that chance. HE STOLE THAT!