Three local gymnasts will soon be heading to the Houston, Texas area for the Talent Opportunity Program's (TOP) National Testing. The girls — Skylee Warner, Ashlyn Gaudet and Gracie Higgs — are the only ones in their age group from the state of Louisiana to qualify this year and are the first gymnasts ever from Gymnastics E.T.C. in Sulphur to have done so.
Coaches Courtney Hawkins and Chuck McLallen expressed pride in their students' accomplishment. The three young ladies have been training two years for this opportunity.
"We are so proud of them," said Hawkins, "They deserve it. All of their hard work is paying off."
TOP is put on by USA Gymnastics and is geared to gymnasts 7 to 11 years of age. The program is a search across the nation for young, talented gymnasts who can be fast-tracked into elite-level gymnastics training. Approximately 2,500 gymnasts from around the country were tested regionally with the top 100 gymnasts in each age group receiving invitations to National Testing Oct. 11-12 at the Olympic Training Center outside of Houston. It was their scores from the July testing in San Antonio that earned the girls their National Testing opportunity. And although the girls are each 9 years of age, they qualified in the 10 year-old age group.
At National Testing, only a total of 100 gymnasts from all of the age groups will be chosen — 60 girls for the TOP A team and 40 for the TOP B team — to train with some of the same coaches who train Olympic-level athletes.
Skylee, Ashlyn and Gracie eagerly anticipate the chance to showcase their skills and talent in October. They all dream of one day becoming Olympic gymnasts.
"I kind of feel a little bit of everything about going," said Gracie.
"I'm just very excited about it all," piped-in Skylee.
Gracie, the daughter of Jack and Dusty Higgs, has been in gymnastics since she was three years old, training at Gymnastics ETC for most of that time. A fourth grader and honor roll student at Our Lady's School, she prefers the beam.
Both Skylee and Ashlyn have trained at Gymnastics ETC since the age of 2 1/2. The two of them are banner roll students at Frasch Elementary School and have been so since Kindergarten.
Skylee, the daughter of Paul and Tara Warner and sister of Lanie Warner, prefers tumbling. Vault is Ashlyn's preference. She is the daughter of Dusty and Holly Gaudet and sister of Caden, Addi, Kori and Ty Gaudet.
With an upgraded skill set needed for National Testing, the three young gymnasts have been undergoing a more intensive six week-long training schedule. All three agree that it has been tougher.
"We also have to eat healthier and that includes fruit smoothies in the morning," said Ashlyn.
Page 2 of 2 - They have also been receiving a lot more attention. The three young ladies and their coaches were recognized by the City of Sulphur at the Sept. 9 City Council meeting for their accomplishment.