MOUNT VERNON — Flying through the air, legs swinging at full speed and squeezed tightly together, the gymnast catches the upper uneven bar.
All she can hear are words from her coaches on the sideline.
“Make sure to squeeze your legs in a handstand” and “stay as tight as possible.”
The smell of chalk dust roams in the large, tightly packed gymnasium. Beads of sweat form and stream down her face as she gets ready for her landing. Her hands grip the wooden bar, and she swings seamlessly around in a circular motion.
She feels the wind blow on even the tips of her toes.
Although already moving at a high speed, Mount Vernon junior Kyleigh Garcia does two giants around the high bar. At just the perfect timing, she gently lets go of the bar. She now is flying through the air with great speed as she does a layout, nothing but the force of gravity pulling her down.
Everything is silent. All eyes turn to Garcia as her nail-biting landing approaches. Suddenly, all that is heard is the sound of her soft feet hit the spring-filled floor.
For just one second, not a single person makes a sound. Even the judges are dumbfounded by the unreal performance of the young gymnast. Then, starting with her amazed coach, Todd Beyer, the silent gymnasium gradually starts to fill with loud roars.
Glancing over at the judges’ amazed faces, she knows she is the champion of the Iowa state gymnastics meet.
The state meet is one of the most important for any young gymnast in Iowa. Garcia got the chance to show off her skills in the spring of 2015. She had the best performance of her life, earning the all around state title and earning a score of 9.625 for her bar routine.
All of this hard work Garcia puts in year-round is to prepare her for the competition season that starts in December. Her first meet is in Illinois Dec. 14-16.
Garcia and her teammates travel all around the United States for a chance to show off their skills. They compete against some of the most talented athletes in the country. They have an average of six meets a year, ending with the state meet in March.
Garcia enjoys the average teenage activities like playing with her pets and hanging out with friends, but she has a special gift not many others can say they can have. Garcia is a Level 9 gymnast at the Iowa Gymnastics Academy. She started doing gymnastics when she was just eight years old and has fallen in love with the sport.
Garcia trains with some of the most elite gymnasts in the state. She trains year-round, five days a week for up to four hours straight.
At 3:15 p.m., most students in high school rush out of the hectic parking lot to get to their house and relax, get away from the stress of school work. For Garcia, she rushes to Iowa City to make it to practice by 4:30.
Being one of the top gymnasts in the state takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Skills come with practice, which for Garcia is almost every day.
Gymnastics practices usually start with a long warm up. After the warm-up, Garcia does strength training on Mondays and Thursdays. This consists of arm strengthening workouts, like push-ups, pullups and anything that will make their arms stronger. Then comes the core of the practice — the routines. The athletes go to the vault, bars, beam or floor, practicing intently for up to four hours straight. They tumble, flip and swing, repeating the same routine over and over again until it is competition ready.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Garcia’s favorite part of gymnastics is her teammates and all of the new connections she has made through the sport. Some of her best friends are the people she spends hour-after-hour with while in the gym. She said that even when she is having a bad day her teammates always find a way to cheer her up.
After high school, Garcia plans to attend to a small college to continue her gymnastics career in a lower-pressure environment.
Until then, Garcia is trying to improve her all around skills, including flexibility and getting close to perfect scores on all of her events. She also is looking to improve her confidence going into meets.