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Posted: July 22, 2009 - 9:12 AM
GOSHEN - Poke your head inside a Kennett Gymnastics workout just about any day and you'll find some of the toughest and most dedicated girls around.
The place had some high-powered visitors on Tuesday, two women who can relate to everything these kids go through to compete.
Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone and former national-level veteran Nicole Langevin were in from Los Angeles to work with 10 of the Kennett team's most talented gymnasts. Sacramone, who earned a team silver medal with the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games, and Langevin, part of Precision Choreography, created new floor routines for each kid and worked side-by-side with them.
"We wanted to bring someone in that can show them the future of where they can go," said Kennett coach Bill Smith.
Smith isn't pushing these kids as future Olympians, but all 10 of these girls are far enough along that it wasn't a waste of time to get this level of training. He said the girls, whose ages range from 11-16, have been doing this "between nine and 12 years." They train 16-20 hours a week, then compete on the weekends.
These girls are Level 8 or Level 9 gymnasts, Smith said. There's a Level 10, then "Elite," which is what Sacramone was. All of these Kennett girls have had success at the state level.
So yeah, they're allowed to dream.
"A lot of kids don't want to do this because they want to have lives," said Smith's 13-year-old daughter, Kaylon. The Smiths live in Kingston.
"But gymnastics is a lifestyle."
It's a lifestyle that involves not only an incredible commitment, but also requires an athlete overcoming pain and fear. Kaylon Smith missed a considerable amount of time with torn ligaments in her right ankle.
Chester's Catherine Walker, a 12-year-old who is considered the best at Kennett's, has support braces just below both knees. She's said it's due to growth-plate issues or "growing pains." Her knees didn't hurt Tuesday, but she knows enough to rest when they do. Shaelyn Cavanaugh of Pine Bush is 16 and said she has had back and ankle problems.
"Even though it's really difficult," Cavanaugh said, "and really scary and kind of painful at times, after you accomplish something, it feels really, really good.
"When I got hurt, after that you get scared of doing stuff because it might happen again. It's not the pain. It's you're afraid you're going to be out of the gym for so long that you won't keep moving forward."
Now imagine being in pain — and afraid. Kaylon Smith, Walker and Cavanaugh all spoke of the fear factor, because, as Cavanaugh said, "once you get to a high level, you're expected to do these crazy things on the bars and beams."
They were the ones who spoke, but it just as easily could have come from the others: Alexa Berry (Central Valley), Elizabeth Berlin (Middletown), Kristina Bezdickova (Central Valley), Angela Saunders (Newburgh), Mackenzie Davies (Washingtonville), Jessica Tague (Newburgh) and Demi Moscatello (Washingtonville).
Or even Sacramone. She recently had shoulder surgery. She has had bulging disks in her back, knee surgery and torn ligaments in her ankle.
"You get pretty beat up," Sacramone said. "But you just love the sport so much, you don't think about all the injuries that can happen."
They weren't thinking about it on Tuesday, as Sacramone and Langevin worked them hard on every detail.
The girls were used to it.