Junior McKenna Stanley stretches and gets ready to practice gymnastics. Although it’s a school night and it’s getting pretty late, she has company. In the bleachers are multiple Division 1 scouts eager to see her get on the mat and perform.
From a young age McKenna Stanley has been a gymnast. Finding her is never really that hard. Whether it’s a school night or Saturday in the morning, you’ll usually find her in the gym practicing gymnastics.
“I started gymnastics when I was only three years old and ever since then I’ve loved it,” Stanley said. “It’s a lot more challenging than having to rely on teammates. In gymnastics, it’s just me out there performing and I like it better that way.”
Practice makes perfect and a good practice is defined by the amount of hard work and effort put into it. This kind of hard work is never easy. It can completely deplete you of energy and leave you hunched over grasping for every bit of air that your lungs can take in. Some people can be reluctant to put in this much work. Some people need others to push them in order to reach their full potential.
“I’m the only person in my family that has ever shown an interest in gymnastics so I’m the one that has always had to push myself the most,” Stanley said. “I used to mostly practice on my own, but when I got ranked nationally I started working out with coaches and they pushed me to be a better gymnast. It was good to have that kind of support group by my side during practice.”
In order to be nationally ranked, it takes concentration and dedication to the sport. While some people might be lucky enough to be given natural talent, the great athletes are the ones that work hard, stay focused, and always find room for improvement.
“I practice Monday through Friday for four hours a day and then I practice Saturday and Sunday for 5 hours a day,” Stanley said. “I hardly ever take a day off unless I’m sick or something. It’s a lot of practice but I enjoy it so I don’t see it as a hassle.”
With standards so high and recruiters watching, it’s easy to get frustrated when things aren’t going exactly how you planned. However, it’s important to push through these setbacks and be persistent.
“In freshman year I wasn’t doing so well so I decided to tryout for the school cheer team instead,” Stanley said. “I went to a couple of cheer camps and clinics for a while but I just never got into it as much as gymnastics.”
To most athletes, the sport they play is much more than just a game. It’s a lifestyle and a way of expressing themselves. This is exactly the type of mentality that Stanley has towards gymnastics.
“Gymnastics plays a really big part in my life,” Stanley said. “It’s something that I like to do and I enjoy getting better at it. Outside of family and school, it’s pretty much who I am. It’s probably more than half of my life.”
In addition to being nationally ranked for gymnastics, Stanley has also managed to stay in the top ten percentile of her junior class and maintain a GPA of 104.
“I don’t have a lot of free time in between gymnastics practice but when I do, I make sure that I use it really wisely,” Stanley said. “Plus, the gym that I practice at makes us turn in our report cards so I don’t want to look bad and turn in poor grades.”
As of right now, Stanley is currently being recruited by three different Division one schools. This is a major accomplishment for any athlete considering how hard it is to gain a top recruiter’s attention.
“My main goal is to get a full ride to college for gymnastics,” Stanley said. “It feels great to know that they’ve taken interest in me. Not a lot of people can say that they’re being recruited by multiple division one schools and I’m glad I’m one of them.”
The majority of college students are accepted due to academics. And while getting a full scholarship to college for any sport is a major challenge, Stanley is up for this difficult task and believes that she is capable of accomplishing it.
“If I actually got a scholarship for gymnastics, it would be the ultimate reward for all of the time and effort that I’ve put into this sport,” Stanley said. “I really want to get a scholarship for it and I plan on worker my hardest so I can achieve that goal.”