116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - City High senior Natalie Green and Jordan Sekafetz have been participating in gymnastics for the majority of their lives.
Now, with the end of their last year of competitive gymnastics in sight, they reflected on what they have experienced and learned along the way.
'I am definitely sad,” Sekafetz said. 'It's been a big part of my life forever and so it's definitely gonna be weird to be done with it. But it's taught me a lot of great things and it's made me the person I am today.”
Sekafetz first got into gymnastics when she was 6 years old, and then started competing when she joined Iowa Gym-Nest around the age of 9.
'My family has always done gymnastics. All my aunts did it, my dad used to take tumbling classes and my aunt actually owns a gym up in Cedar Rapids,” Sekafetz said. 'It's always been a big part of our family.”
Green did not start gymnastics until the age of 8. She played soccer first, but decided to try gymnastics after going to multiple birthday parties at the Iowa Gym-Nest.
'It's so different than every other sport I've tried. It's addicting to be honest,” Green said. 'Sometimes it's a little rough, but it's definitely challenging and I think that's what drew me to it.”
The four events for girls' gymnastics are vault, uneven bars, floor exercise and balance beam. Each of these requires its own routine.
'I'm a floor person,” Green said. 'I love anything that involves twisting on floor, like a double twist.
'The variety of everything (is great). There's four different events so there's always going to be something that you like and there's always going to be something you don't.”
During the summer, they focus on learning new skills, which is Green's favorite part of gymnastics since it is a lot less repetition than practicing routines. According to Sekafetz, this is one of the hardest parts of gymnastics.
'It's definitely terrifying, especially the older you get, you realize that you can definitely get hurt,” she said. 'But it's kind of like one of those things once you do it the first time, you get it over with. Learning new skills is hard, like mentally and physically just getting yourself to do it.”
Throughout this season, Sekafetz is continuously running through the routines she already has learned to stay prepared for the upcoming meets, as well as working on half twist on floor, which consists of a roundoff, back handspring and back-flip with a half twist.
'Gymnastics really brings you to push yourself and also (to) just trust yourself, that you're gonna be fine, you're gonna land, you're not going to hurt yourself, and that that floor isn't going to move. It'll still be there when you're landing,” Sekafetz said.
This mental aspect of gymnastics also has stood out to Green.
'Mental toughness is a really big (part of) the sport because you can get in your head a lot and you can get mental blocks on skills.” she said. 'Working through those is not fun but once you're on the other side you feel really good/
'This sport is something that you don't do unless you're a little crazy.”
Besides hard work and determination, gymnastics also has reminded Sekafetz to be in the present.
'Especially now, it's taught me to enjoy the moment, because it does go by really fast,” Sekafetz said. 'I personally feel like gymnastics is a fast-paced sport, and it has just gone by really quickly so just like enjoying every moment you get with people (is important).”
Next year, Sekafetz and Green will be starting college, leaving competitive gymnastics behind them, at least for the foreseeable future.
'I think every now and then I'll do a handstand or a cartwheel or something, but I don't plan on competing in college or doing rec in college,” Green said. 'Maybe I'll coach. I would like (gymnastics) to stay in my life, but I don't really know (if it will).”
With this year's gymnastics season starting late and having limited meets due to COVID, Green does not feel like the season is drawing to a close.
'I don't think it's really sunk in yet, but I know when it does that I'm going to be really sad,” she said. 'I don't think I'm quite ready to leave yet because I've been on this team for like six or seven years now and it's been pretty much my whole life. ... I'm gonna miss it. That's for sure.”