Local gymnast’s hopes soar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Summer for an 11-year-old girl is often characterized by cannonballs in a neighbor’s pool or late night giggles at a slumber party, but for Taylor Sockwell, summer means work.

Taylor currently trains about 40 hours a week at Head Over Heels Gymnastics, where she began taking classes six years ago.

You can find her at the gym Monday through Friday – training morning and night in the hopes that she will be one of 20 girls to qualify in September for the Talent Opportunity Programs’ 11-year-old national team.

Taylor’s qualification for the 11-year-old national testing has come on the heels of many recent accomplishments.

In 2004, she was chosen for the TOPS 10-year-old national team, becoming the first gymnast in the state to qualify for one of the three TOPS national teams, which are designated for gymnasts ages 9, 10 and 11.

At the state level, she competed as a level eight and won all-around gymnast in March. She also won first all-around gymnast at a recent regional meet in St. Louis.

She qualified for 11-year-old national testing in Houston after scoring highly at the regional testing in July, Taylor’s father Darrel Sockwell said.

Although 5,000 gymnasts compete to make a TOPS national team, only 300 are able to qualify for nationals.

Though she is occasionally naughty, sneaking to eat candy, which she said is her &uot;favorite food,&uot; she said she is pushing herself harder than ever.

Since she will be competing against many of the same gymnasts who qualified with her for the 10-year-old national team, she said she is doing more conditioning and working hard to improve her flexibility and form, which is closely scrutinized in the TOPS program.

And Taylor said she’s gotten used to making sacrifices to win.

&uot;I used to do dance and piano, but I had to quit because I was doing too much gymnastics,&uot; she said. &uot;And sometimes my friends get mad at me because they ask me to come over and I tell them that I have to go to gymnastics.&uot;

She added that her parents are considering homeschooling her because Oak Mountain Middle School, where she will attend in the fall, will not come accommodate her morning practice schedule.

Regardless of the long hours and the physical toil that gymnastics takes on her, Taylor said her sport of choice is still fun and making the 11-year-old national team would be a dream come true.

&uot;You have to work really hard and tell yourself that one day everything is going to pay off,&uot; she said