Taking The Floor

Tiffany To , Writer

Artistic gymnastics is a combination of flexibility, agility, coordination, grace and balance that emphasizes both physical and mental strength. No one can truly understand the complexity of the sport except the gymnasts themselves.

Sophomore Haley Beenken is one of the many female athletes who perform in events that include numerous floor exercises and equipment to test her abilities.

“Everything is different,” Beenken said. “With each event that you do, it uses different parts of your body, so it’s not just physical but also mental too. [The fact that] it’s challenging is my favorite part.”

From flipping off the couch to flipping on beams, Beenken has been in gymnastics for 13 years. Beenken started at a young age of 18 months old. Soon, her love for the sport evolved, and she proceeded to get more involved with the sport.

“Honestly, [I’m in gymnastics] because my parents put me in it at first, and then it was just fun after that, so I just continued.”

Despite  being in gymnastics for so long, Beenken nonetheless encounters struggles.

“[In gymnastics], I struggle with mental blocks,” Beenken said. “Your head kind of really gets in the way whenever you try to do stuff. It makes everything a lot more scary whenever you know you can do it.”

Throughout the years, Beenken has managed to ease her nervousness before competing through methods she and her coach have created.

“I tell myself, ‘Everything is going to be okay,’” Beenken said. “If you’re more nervous, then you’re more likely to mess up, and I calm myself down that way.”

Before competing, Beenken prepares by listening to music and going through her routine.

“I always listen to music, and my coach tells us to imagine ourselves doing it,” Beenken said. “Your mind is doing it and your body isn’t, so it’s like repetition.”

Most athletes tend to have a specific person who influence them in their sport. For Beenken, her parents are the role models in her life who encourage her in her gymnastics journey.

“Every time I say how I want to quit, they always say, ‘No, you’ve been doing it for so long, and you have goals too, so you should push it,” Beenken said.

Despite her long history as a gymnast,Beenken does not see herself having a career involving gymnastics.

“[I would not] pursue it as a career, but I would like to go to college for it,” Beenken said.

Beenken’s parents saw the potential she had at a young age and decided to put her in gymnastic classes.

“As soon as Haley was old enough to walk, she started doing flips off of the furniture and always wanted to be held upside down,” Karen Beenken said. “Her dad and I thought it might be a good idea to try a gymnastics class when she was about 18 months old, and she loved it. She has been in gymnastics ever since.”

Karen Beenken, assupporter and parent, consistently reassures her daughter and tell her to keep going.

“We try to encourage Haley to always try her best, and that sometimes you are going to have bad days [and] you just have to keep working,” Karen Beenken said.

Although Haley Beenken has achieved many awards for her routines, Karen Beenken believes the biggest achievement is not a medal or plaque.

“I think the achievement we are most proud of is her ability to balance school and gymnastics,” Karen Beenken said. “She has been able to do very well in all of her classes, despite the fact that she goes to practice four hours every day after school.”

Gymnastics has been a big part of Haley Beenken’s life, and it has taught her vital life skills that she will use beyond high school.

“Gymnastics has taught her determination, dedication and discipline that will help her succeed in whatever she decides to do in the future,” Karen Beenken said.