Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 10

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Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with some elite, Level 10, and NCAA gymnasts to discuss their training, future goals, and more.

Maegan Chant, Brenna Dowell, Elsa Garcia, Camryn Heister, Leah Jewett, Kristen Quaglia, Brooklyn Schumacher, Kelly Simm, Emma Slappey, Rachel Slocum, Aya Suzuki, and Dominiquea Trotter provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.



Maegan Chant is a Canadian elite artistic gymnast. A member of the last two World Championships teams, she is now a veteran in the sport. “Training has been really good lately,” Maegan toId Full Twist. “I have been taking it a little bit easier since Worlds as I had been going pretty strong for [the] previous 18-24 months. [I’m] working on execution of my skills, new moves, connections, and maintaining my conditioning.”

At the 2014 Nanning Worlds, Maegan placed 12th in qualifications with her team and 61st in the all-around. “Worlds was a mixed competition (some good things, and some not so [good]),” Maegan explained. “Overall I didn’t have a very good individual competition. I had trained really well leading up to the competition, but it was just one of those days where things didn’t go well from the very first event. Regardless, it was a great experience and I always learn something from every competition—good or bad. I came back from Worlds more committed than ever to become a stronger and more consistent gymnast and ensure Canada qualifies a team for Rio 2016. Team competitions are always so much fun, and I am really excited about the potential of our team in the near future. We can do much better than the 12th place that we finished.”

Maegan remarked, “Some of my short-term goals include learning new skills and upgrading all four of my routines. I am also committed to finishing [in the] top 3 at Canadian Nationals and making the Worlds 2015 team. My mid-to-long-term goals are to go to 2015 Worlds and help Canada qualify a full team for the Olympics in 2016. My dream has always been to go the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.  Another long-term goal I am looking forward to is contributing to the Florida Gators team in 2016. I am really excited to go there and have an immediate impact.”

When asked about her next competition, Maegan told us, “My next competition will probably be in January 2015—Elite Canada.  I am going to take a few months and focus on training and upgrading—which is something I have really not had any time to do over the last 18 months.”

On the subject of upgrades, Maegan revealed, “Right now I am doing some experimenting with which moves I want to add into my routines, different connections etc. It is really fun; I have missed this side of gymnastics the last while.”



Brenna Dowell is one of the top gymnasts in the United States. She was an alternate to the 2013 and 2014 World Championships teams and is now embarking on her journey in NCAA gymnastics at the University of Oklahoma. “Training has been going great,” Brenna told Full Twist. “I am really enjoying being here at Oklahoma. The atmosphere is really fun, and I like the new challenge that college gymnastics brings.”

Brenna was the 2013 P&G Championships all-around and uneven bars bronze medalist. “I am really excited to compete this season,” said Brenna. “I am hoping to help OU win another National Championship this year.”

On the subject of new skills, Brenna told us, “I’ve been training some new skills and combinations, but mostly I am just perfecting what I already have.”

When asked if she plans to stay in elite as well as compete for Oklahoma, Brenna replied, “I definitely won’t do both at the same time, but I’ll see where things go in the future. Right now I am focused on having a good freshman season.”



Elsa Garcia is an elite artistic gymnast from Mexico. She competed at the 2012 Olympic Games, performing routines on balance beam and floor exercise. “Training since London 2012 changed a lot for me because I started going to college to study Fashion Design,” Elsa told Full Twist. “So I had to find time to go to school and do gymnastics at the same time. That resulted in me working out only once a day. That is why I [haven’t] been around many international competitions.This year [the] goal was qualifying the team in Nanning. So the trainings started to get more and more intense, obviously.

At the moment I am [in] great health so that allowed me to train as hard as I could for the World Championships and the goal was fulfilled.”

At the Nanning Worlds, Elsa placed 23rd in the all-around final and finished 14th in qualifications with her Mexican team. “The Nanning World Championships has been one of the competitions that I have enjoyed the most in all of my gymnastics career,” commented Elsa. “I think it had something to do [with the fact] that I had been away from international competitions for so long and rediscovered the joy I feel competing for my country. The team went well-prepared and ready to give it all for the team. Our team result was filled with hard work, courage and positive attitude in the right moment. We knew we could achieve that 14th place but to actually make it was great. I went to Nanning with the all-around final in my mind; I refused to not be in that final. I hadn’t been in an all-around final since the World Championships in 2009.”

Directly after Worlds, Elsa competed in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico. She won the gold with her team and won the all-around silver. “These past Central American and Caribbean Games were really exciting because [they] were here in our country and because the level of gymnastics was really high, world and Olympic quality. We managed a first place as a team which we fought in each event with Cuba. And I managed a second place in the all-around. I was one of the few gymnasts to qualify to all the event finals, proving once again to myself what I am capable of.”

Elsa is already planning ahead for 2015 and the inevitably busy competitive season. “What little is left of 2014 I am going to use it to rest my body in an active way and start working on new skills for next year.” She mentioned that her next competition will be in 2015 but at the moment, she doesn’t know exactly when.

On the subject of upgrades for 2015, Elsa told us, “Yes [I’m working on] many upgrades for next year. Vault: I want to finally compete the DTY and improve and upgrade the second vault which I [haven’t] done since London 2012. Bars: I’m thinking [of] adding a toe-on Shaposhnikova ½ and something else I can add. Beam: I want to end my routine with a round-off Patterson and add more connections. Floor: New music and choreography, clean everything up (difficulty, turns, etc.) and start working on new crazy things, haha.”



Camryn Heister is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast who trains at Prestige Gymnastics in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She qualified to the State Championships this year and finished ninth on beam at the 2014 Sand Dollar Invitational. “I had surgery on my knee in April, and I am still working to come back from that,” Camryn told Full Twist. “It was a very tough injury and I am still currently rehabbing for that. I am in the gym and getting more and more skills back each week and I’m just trying to take it day by day so that I can be back competing and healthy for season in January.”

Camryn told us about her gymnastics goals: “Like I said, for right now my short-term goal is to be back 100% for season so I can compete another year of Level 10. As a long-term goal, I definitely want to try to get a college scholarship to a Division I or Division II school.”

On the subject of trying elite, Camryn told us, “Ever since I was young, my goal was to obtain a college scholarship and I never thought that the elite route was for me.”

Camryn isn’t sure when her next competition will be, but she mentioned, “I’m hoping it will be in January, but it all depends on how my routines are coming along and how my knee is feeling.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Camryn replied, “Coming from someone who has had plenty of injuries, do not give up when it gets hard. It might seem like you’re stuck and that you will never be where you once were, but if you have the love and the passion for the sport as well as determination from within, anything is possible.”



Leah Jewett is a U.S. Level 10 gymnast from John’s Academy of Gymnastics in Wallingford, Connecticut.  At the 2014 Region 6 Championships, she placed 14th in the all-around. “My training has been going great,” Leah told Full Twist. “I am training at a new gym (JAG) and excited to go Level 10. I am busy perfecting new routines, adding new fun things like—side aerial on beam, and kip-hop front-giant on bars and my blind-full Tkatchev. Level 10 is fun!”

Leah won the silver with her USA team at the 2013 Maccabi World Games and placed 11th all-around at the 2014 State Championships. Additionally, she was the 2014 Regional champion on the uneven bars. “My future goal is to compete on a D1 college team—I have four years to achieve that goal. This year my goal is qualifying to Nationals as a first-year level 10 and [to] make the Maccabi USA team for the Maccabi Pan Am Games in 2015. Ultimately I would like a D1 Scholarship.”

On the subject of elite gymnastics, Leah told us, “When I was younger it was all about elite, but now that I am in high school I am focusing on USAG Nationals and Level 10 and ultimately D1 College.” Currently, Leah is a freshman in high school and mentioned that she is excited for her new school, new gym, and new level. She certainly has a lot to be excited about, as she is training a yurchenko full on vault and recently added a rudi to her floor exercise repertoire.

Leah’s next competition will be her first Level 10 meet, the Abie Grossfeld Invitational, “and that’s in January here in Connecticut,” she said. “I am very excited to be competing level 10 as I love my new routines and hitting four for four.”

The 15-year-old added, “I would like Full Twist readers to know that if you have an opportunity to follow your dream—do it! I did when I competed in the World Maccabi Games in Israel for Team USA. It was an amazing experience not only for my gymnastics but culturally and socially it was incredible. It gave me the confidence to continue my gymnastics and push myself to Level 10 and I can’t wait to compete Level 10 and for USA Maccabi again in [the] 2015 Pan Am Games next winter. I truly believe in the saying ‘if you dream it you can achieve it!’ ”



Kristen Quaglia is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Classic Gymnastics in Chanhassen, Minnesota. At the 2014 J.O. National Championships, she finished 31st in the all-around in her division. “Training this fall has been great,” Kristen told Full Twist. “With the season approaching we are moving from a focus on individual skills to complete routines. I’ve got all the skills finalized for my routines and… we are now working on full sets to get ready for competition.”

The 17-year-old told us, “My near-term goal is to contribute to my team during the season so we can have a great year. I’d like to return and compete again at J.O. Nationals.  It is so much fun to compete and get to know the top gymnasts. Despite it being a challenging meet, the support and camaraderie between the competitors makes [it] a tremendous experience. Longer-term, my goal is to continue gymnastics after high school and compete for a Division I college program.”

Kristen recently placed third on uneven bars at the Peppermint Twist in Minneapolis, so she’s already begun her next competitive season. “Our season really gets into full swing in January with a meet in Hilton Head, South Carolina (Hilton Head Island Invitational) then three in February in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Tampa.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Kristen responded, “If there are any young gymnasts reading this, my advice to you is that gymnastics is a great sport which will challenge you physically and mentally. Keep a positive attitude through the tough days. There will be ups and downs but if you work hard and support your teammates through their tough days, it will pay off.”



Brooklyn Schumacher is a former U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy. She is now a senior at Ball State University and competes in NCAA gymnastics. “Training has been going very well so far,” Brooklyn told Full Twist. “I had reconstruction surgery on my right ankle in late April and spent a few months recovering from that. Fortunately, I have made a full recovery and feel much better and stronger than I did before! I was really only expected to come back on bars this year, but I’m pleased to say that I have my routines back on floor and beam as well. This just took pushing myself beyond what was expected of me and knowing what I had to give to my team. As a captain, I expect a certain standard from my teammates, and will give them no less from myself in return. An injury is unfortunate and frustrating, but it can always be worse. I’ve learned to not waste time feeling sorry for myself and just channel that energy into my training and come back better than anyone expected me to.”

Brooklyn has competed several times in the Mid-American Conference Championships, and she scored a season high on floor at the 2014 MAC Championships. “Short-term, I want to get all my tumbling passes on the floor, start hitting my new jump series in my beam routine consistently and never miss a cast or stuck dismount on bars,” said Brooklyn. “Everything in my floor routine is different this year, and I’m working hard to get where I want to be before our first meet on January 11th. I take immense pride in my floor dance, and I love my new routine, so I want my tumbling to do the music and dance justice. Also, I have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time on beam, but there’s still so much to improve on. My jumps are my weakest point, so I’m working overtime on that. Bars has always been my strongest event, so I take the little things seriously. I generally train a cold routine so that I have extra time to work on casts and sticks, but I don’t over-train because I’m confident in my abilities. If I do too many numbers on bars it’s counterproductive for me. I concentrate on training quality over quantity. In the long-term, I want my team to be in the top three at MAC Championships. I also want to be in the 9.8 or above range on bars all season. While this is a tall order, it’s a standard I expect from myself and something I know I can achieve with the right work ethic. From our first meet, I want to be ready to go in the line-up at any time on floor, beam and bars. Above all, I want the top 6 to compete, whether or not that includes me. My goal is just to be ready at any time with the best routine I can possibly do. Lastly, my goal is to end my near 20-year career in April feeling satisfied. I want to leave nothing undone and be able to say that I gave it my all and never look back.”

On the subject of debuting new skills in 2015, Brooklyn said, “Oh yes! The best part about gymnastics is that you’re never done learning. There are always new skills to master and aspects of old skills to improve on. I am changing my floor routine from a double back, 2 ½, and 1 ½ punch front to a triple full, front layout layout, and 2 ½ last pass. I am considering adding the double back instead of 2 ½, so we’ll see how that goes! I also added a popa to my beam routine. While there are so many skills I would like to bring back or learn, I only have so much time left of my career after surgery and had to push myself to get what was realistic before January. I am proud of where I’m at and can’t wait until our season starts.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Brooklyn commented, “I would just like to say that gymnastics is what you make it. Going in the gym everyday should be an escape from outside pressures in your life. I have seen so many gymnasts beat themselves up over what happens in practice when it should just be fun and challenging. Being too competitive or wanting to please your parents and coaches too much is not the point of the sport. You’re your own biggest competitor. Be a better you in the gym every day, that’s the only person you have to beat. Take it easy and have fun in the gym! I have been in this sport for almost 20 years, and while some days are hard, other days I’m reminded how much I love what I do and never want it to end. But it will. Enjoy the ride while it lasts and be the best you can be. That’s the point of this sport.”



 Kelly Simm is an elite artistic gymnast from Great Britain. She was a member of the 2014 World Championships team that placed sixth in the women’s team final. “Training has been going well,” Kelly told Full Twist at the end of November. “Since Worlds there has been a bit of down time and a chance to learn some new skills, which is exciting as we have been on routines a lot this year.”

In addition to placing sixth with her team in Nanning, Kelly worked three events in qualifications. “Nanning was such an amazing experience and being part of the team that [did] so well was amazing,” said Kelly. “It was great to be up against the best teams in the world. We are all really close as a team and everyone supports each other so much, being out in China with everyone for so long was so much fun.”

On the subject of her plans and goals, Kelly told us, “The plans for the rest of the year [are] to keep working on elements and combinations for next year and then focusing on trying to put out good routines for the English and British Championships next March and then see what happens from there. I would love to compete in more big internationals next year, the main one for us being the worlds in Glasgow. Competing in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games was incredible and I would love to go back and experience competing there again.”

Kelly’s next competition will be the English Championships in March 2015, and she revealed that she is working on upgrades for next year. “As I don’t have any competitions for the rest of [2014] we have been playing with different skills and combinations,” Kelly remarked. “Hopefully I will be able to upgrade on all of my events for next year.”



Emma Slappey is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Starlight Gymnastics in Jacksonville, Florida. At the 2014 State Championships, she finished second in the all-around. “My training has been going great!” Emma told Full Twist. “I try to just take everything day by day at this point. If I have a bad day I just leave it behind me and move on because worrying about it won’t help you get past it. I have been training a new leap combination on beam (switch leap + switch half) and I am really excited to compete that. I am ready for the season to start and I can’t wait to kick off my senior year!”

A former HOPES gymnast, Emma recently signed a National Letter of Intent to Auburn University. “There are so many reasons why I chose Auburn,” said Emma. “I think the most important thing was being a part of a family. When you walk on some college campuses you don’t feel very welcome, even intimidated. At Auburn, everyone welcomes you with open arms and southern hospitality. The coaches don’t try and oversell the college like most people do. They tell you how it is and I respect that. They are so nice and will go out of their way to do anything for you. The gymnastics facility is one of the finest college gyms in the nation. I was pretty much sold on going there the first few minutes I was on campus. When you’re at Auburn, you are a part of a family. I have been waiting impatiently the past three years to go to this wonderful school and next year my dream will finally come true!”

On the subject of her goals in the sport, Emma told us, “My goals for this season are to have consistent routines at each meet that will take me to Nationals again. I would like to be able to qualify to my fourth J.O. Nationals before I leave for college. It has always been a goal of mine to have a national title on floor. My goals at Auburn are to compete in the all-around and contribute to Auburn winning a National Championship. We have all of the skills and talent that any other college has; as long as we are consistent we could definitely go all the way.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Emma said, “Never back down. Anything that you want to achieve in life, gymnastics or not, don’t give up on it. Keep pushing, because if that’s what you really want, you shouldn’t let anything stop you. I have never backed down from an obstacle that stood in [the] way of my dreams, and it has helped me thus far. Stay strong and keep your head up because even if things aren’t what you want them to be in that moment, the pieces will fall into place eventually. Looking back on your mistakes only will make things worse. Never look back unless you are planning to go that way; live in the moment and don’t back down.”



Rachel Slocum is a former U.S. Level 10 gymnast who is readying for her freshman year at Eastern Michigan University in NCAA gymnastics. “Training has been going great!” Rachel told Full Twist. “From a variety perspective, it is much more intense. I was accustomed to hours in the gym, training on the four events, but the additional cardio, conditioning and weights have really increased the level of discipline. Skill wise, I have been working especially hard on my vault and floor routine. Come meet season, I know the many hours and hard work will pay off!”

On the subject of her goals for this upcoming season, Rachel told us, “As I have been working on fine-tuning my Level 10 skills, my ultimate goal for the 2015 season is for the EMU Eagles to earn a top three spot at MAC Championships.  During the regular season, my personal goal is to contribute to the team score at every meet. I also look forward to posting some personal best scores. I know club gymnastics is very different from college gymnastics, so I am ready to experience more of the team atmosphere! It really feels like you are part of a big family!”

Rachel, who won the 2013 J.O. National vault title, remarked that, “I have a unique vault that I am excited about debuting as a collegiate athlete. I am working hard on a different beam series, which is a back handspring layout and [I] am making good progress. Floor is my favorite event; it showcases my air sense and it is where I connect most with the spectators. I am continuing to tweak my routine’s skills and I am excited about adding new dance!”

The 18-year-old added, “Although my hometown is listed as Holly Springs, North Carolina, I actually spent the first eleven years of my life just down the road from that other green and white college. Attending Eastern, in a way, feels like coming home. I feel so fortunate to be competing at the college level; it has always been my dream. I’m excited that as a freshman I am starting out with a new coaching staff because we are building a strong foundation together.”



Aya Suzuki is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast who trains at San Mateo Gymnastics in California. At the 2014 Level 10 Regionals, she placed sixteenth in the all-around and sixth on the uneven bars. “My training has been going well,” Aya told Full Twist. “I’m starting to really get into gear for the next competition season, and we’re starting to put our final routines together. I have some new skills that I’ve been working on, I’m excited to get a chance to compete them soon!”

On the subject of her goals in gymnastics, Aya told us, “My ultimate goal in gymnastics is to try and improve every day. It’s important to seize every day and every workout, because if you don’t concentrate on every turn, time slips away really easily. My coaches and teammates help to keep me focused and concentrated on progress, whether it’s improving skills or getting new ones.”

Aya will be entering the gymnastics program at Cornell University for the 2015-16 season, which makes the 2015 Level 10 season an important one for her. “Our first competition of the season is in January,” said Aya. “This is going to be a really exciting year for me, because I’m a senior and it’s going to be my last year in club gym!”



 Dominiquea Trotter is a former U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from MG Elite in New Jersey. Now she’s a freshman in NCAA gymnastics at the University of Maryland. “Training has been going great for me and the team so far,” Dominiquea told Full Twist. “We have been working very hard preparing for the upcoming season. Each day we are getting stronger and becoming more consistent and confident.”

Dominiquea, who also used to compete as a HOPES gymnast, shared her gymnastics goals with us: “My short-term goals are to be consistent and develop into a contributing factor for the team. My long-term goals are to compete all-around and to receive a perfect 10 on an event.”

On the subject of debuting new skills in 2015, Dominiquea revealed, “On bars right now I am learning a shootover and I am planning on putting that in for this season! I also have a [newly] choreographed floor routine that I am excited to show.”

The 18-year-old finished 35th in the all-around in the Senior C division of the 2014 J.O. National Championships. A well-established name in J.O. competition for some time, Dominiquea is ready to begin the next chapter of her gymnastics journey. “I am really excited for this season and to see what’s in store for this upcoming year, especially with our move to the Big Ten. I hope to see you guys there.”

Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us! Stay tuned for Part 11, which will include updates with MyKayla Skinner, Chantysha Netteb, and others!

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