Freshman gymnast competes at Nationals

When freshman Grace Penrith steps onto the gymnastics mat, she can only think about the countless times she has performed her routine in practice. But this time, at the U.S. Junior Olympics Level 9 Western National Championships in Sandy, Utah, last weekend, it had to be close to perfect.

“My coach always tells me to go through it like practice and get through it like any other time when I am competing,” Penrith said.

At the national competition, Penrith successfully placed third in the floor event, where there was a tie for second place.

Being a committed gymnast, Penrith dedicates a lot of her time to the gym, while balancing school and social life. “I practice five days a week and usually four-hour sessions adding up to about 20 hours a week,” she said.

At this point, Penrith’s team is like a second family. “I spend so much time with them that we know everything about each other and are basically family,” she said.

With Penrith’s dedication to the sport of gymnastics, her family plays a huge role being supportive and keeping her focused on what is important.  “My family is a huge part and are always supporting me if I have a mental block in a competition. With them I know I can do anything,” she said.

Penrith’s family has a strong background in athletics. Both of her brothers are strong in wrestling, and her father, Brad Penrith, is a former coach at the University of Northern Iowa and current wrestling coach at the high school. “Sometimes it is a little intimidating to be in such an athletic family, but we all try our best,” she said.

Her love for gymnastics started early on in her life with the influence of her older brothers. She has now been competing for 12 years. “My brothers were in it, and I would always run around the mats at the competitions. Now here I am 12 years later,” she said.

With the stress of competing and practicing constantly, Penrith has had some setbacks.

“I have a sore wrist that is holding me back right now, but as gymnasts we always have mental blocks, and I have learned how to get over that,” she said.

In the future, Penrith will attempt to increase her skill level from her current level 9 to level 10. “I am trying to go to level 10 next year. Most of my skills are at level 10, so I am hoping to next year if my coach thinks I am ready for it,” she said.

Penrith is also looking forward to continuing her gymnastics career in college. She has focused on gymnastics as a sport but has also noticed that in many real life situations her skills and wisdom from the mat pays off.

“I have been doing gymnastics my whole life, and it gives me so many opportunities. In real life it teaches me how to be a good person. Overall, it keeps me out of trouble and helps me focus in school,” she said.

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