Gymnastics is a very demanding sport, however one Penn Manor freshman has taken the challenge and excelled to incredible heights, even winning state-level awards.
Freshman Justin Gaukler devotes much of his time to being the best gymnast he can and has been for half his lifetime. At 14, he practices multiple times a week to better himself with the aid of friends and family. The support does not run short.
“They (his family) always ask me how I’m doing and how I did at competitions,” said Gaukler about his support team.
Despite many people’s belief that male gymnasts aren’t true athletes, Gaukler seems to be making a better name for them.
“When people find out they usually think its cool.” Gaukler explained he hasn’t really experienced anyone criticizing his sport.
Even though he has had to give up personal time, he always finds time for school. He hasn’t seen a negative influence upon his grades or ability to do schoolwork with all the practice. Gaukler maintains good grades throughout the year. His parents encourage him to stay focused on school while staying active in the sport.
“Sometimes I have to give up hanging out with friends or going out,” said Gaukler.
Gaukler’s work regiment includes practicing four times a week for three-and-a-half hours. Practices are often held on weekdays. Some, however, are held on Saturdays. This doesn’t even account for all the time he spends traveling and participating in his competitions.
What kind of practice the gymnasts have depends upon their gymnastic level. The classes range from level one to ten, said Gaukler who started in second grade and who is now a level eight.
Gaukler said the practices begin with a standard warm up. From there, the gymnasts move onto their special focuses. The gymnasts split up into their events. Gaukler works on floor, rings, parallel bars, the high bar, vault and the pommel horse. His favorite happens to be the rings.
Gaukler has won several prestigious awards since he began. He was state champion for rings three times and state champion for the pommel horse twice. Not only did he win States, but he also moved onto the regional level to win All-Around Champion in his age group.
Gaukler plans on continuing gymnastics for as long as he is able to. He would like to go to the national competition once he reaches the ninth and tenth levels. However, Gaukler still questions if he would like to stay with gymnastics as an adult.
“I’m not sure if I want to go to the Olympics, but if I’m good enough then I’d like to go,” said Gaukler.
For Gaukler, gymnastics isn’t just a sport. It’s a passion. And he is taking his love for the sport to a whole new level.
By Toni Warfel