Two Lexington-Richland 5 students have earned spots to go to the National Olympic Gymnastics Training Center in Houston, Texas, next month.
Lake Murray Elementary School students Madeline Reid and Ashley Locker will be among the select group of 100 U.S. gymnasts who qualified for this year’s USA Gymnastics National Talent Opportunity Program (TOPS). Just four gymnasts from South Carolina have earned the coveted spots to train with top athletes and Olympic coaches.
“The girls have worked incredibly hard to qualify and we are honored to have two gymnasts representing South Carolina,” said Abby Reid, head coach of Lake Murray Gymnastics, where the two students train. “Madeline and Ashley are not only excelling in gymnastics, they are excelling in the classroom as well. I’m a teacher at Irmo High School. And as a teacher and parent, I have seen the benefits of sports for students and how it helps students. We are so proud of these girls and all they do to highlight what District 5 student-athletes are capable of doing.”
For Madeline and Ashley, balancing school and the 20-plus hours they spend in the gym per week feels more like play than work. In this Q &A, the two top gymnasts and their coach share what it’s like being a student-athlete along with their excitement about the upcoming trip to Houston.
Were you surprised that you qualified for the program?
Madeline: This is actually my third time making it to the Olympic Training Center. So, I wasn’t surprised but I’m excited to go back. I worked really hard, and I’m happy I made it again.
Ashley: I was really surprised and happy. This is my first time making it … I’ve heard about what it’s like and I am hoping that I do really good.
Did you two watch the Olympics, and did that inspire you?
Madeline: I did watch, and it inspired me a lot. Whenever I saw someone go on vault, beam or floor; they always did better than what I expected. That’s what I try to do too. I always try to do my best and do better than what other people might expect.
Ashley: I watched, and I liked how they did their routines. My favorite event is bars, because I like doing giants, and I thought they did a really good job at bars in the Olympics.
Let’s talk about school. I hear you’re pretty good students as well. You go to school, then come to the gym and train a few hours. How do you balance school and sports?
Madeline: It is a little tough. I’m in fifth grade, and once you get in fifth grade you get more homework than you want sometimes. But I had straight A’s, so I can handle it. School always comes first.
Ashley: I’m in third grade, so there’s not a lot of homework yet because we just started school… we may have more homework later this year, but I did well last year. So, I think I can do it.
Are there benefits of being a student-athlete?
Coach Reid: I’ve seen first-hand that it keeps students involved. It keeps them disciplined. There are a lot of team morale and respect issues that get taught in sports. We also know that student-athletes tend to perform well in the classroom. We encourage our gymnasts at Lake Murray Gymnastics to do well in school, and they excel because they have the discipline to get their homework done and manage work and play. They are interested in making sure that they do well in gymnastics but they know that school comes first, and Maddy and Ashley are great examples of that.
Should other students try a sport like gymnastics?
Madeline: Yes, it’s fun and it’s hard. But once you get into it, it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be.
Ashley: I think they should try it. It’s always fun to try new things, and you won’t know what you can do until you try.
Submitted by Lexington-Richland 5