Gymnasts amaze Ames High

Running full speed at a stationary object, swinging between two wood rods, tumbling four feet in the air with a landing area only four inches wide, and flying through the air are all things most people can only dream of. While these seem like feats only an insane dare devil would do, they are daily routines in the life of a gymnast. Senior Kelsey Knutson and freshman Nitya Ramaswami are two Ames High students and have been doing gymnastics for most of their lives. For them, these amazing feats become easier with each day they practice. With the increased success of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, the sport has become more popular throughout the nation, but many are not familiar with the sport. Women’s gymnastics consists of four events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Until college, most gymnasts compete on all four events. The vault involves running down a carpeted foam runway, jumping off a springboard to the vaulting table, then flipping or twisting off the vaulting table and sticking the landing (which means landing without taking extra steps). For the uneven bar routine, the gymnast moves between the low bar and high bar, and the skills must go together without stops and extra swings. On the balance beam, dance and acrobatic skills are put together. Floor exercise routines are done with music in the background and combine aspects of tumbling and dance. Each event is judged and given a score on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being a perfect score. Routines are judged on the skills performed and the quality of those skills. The scores from the four events are added together for an all-around score. The gymnasts are divided by levels, which are based on the skills in their routines. Under USA Gymnastics (USAG), there are Junior Olympic (J.O.) levels 2-10. After level 10, gymnasts can compete in the Elite level, which is the level at which a gymnast has to be to compete in the Olympics. Knutson, a level 10, and Ramaswami, a level 9, practice about 20 hours each week, all year. This is just one example of the dedication the two have for the sport. “You have to be dedicated year round and you have to be willing to train consistently.” said Knutson. Along with the time spent outside of school, from January to May they will miss several days of school to travel across the country for competitions. At a recent meet in Las Vegas, Nevada, Knutson scored a 9.475 on bars and a 9.525 on beam. According to her, beam is her favorite event. “I like the beam because it’s challenging. It’s one of my best events.” Knutson said. The balancing beam is also the favorite of Ramaswami. “It’s the event that comes most naturally to me.” she said. At a recent meet in St. Paul, Minnesota Ramaswami placed 1st on the bars, beam, floor, and all-around with scores of 9.125, 9.3, 9.475, and 36.7, respectively. Both Knutson and Ramaswami qualified to compete at Nationals last year. Knutson at USAG Level 10 National Championships in California, and Ramaswami at USAG Level 9 Western National Championships in St. Louis. They are both looking to qualify this year and continue their illustrious gymnastics career.