Gymnast finds stability in sport

Carole Hodorowicz, Feature Reporter

The gymnast ties up her hair, chalks her hands and sizes up the run she has ahead of her. Focused, she takes a deep breath and begins running. She propels herself into the air and starts her stunt.

Born on an Air Force base, Lacey Jenkins, a junior communication studies major, moved around a lot growing up. Through the constant change, she found consistency in gymnastics.

“Whether I was having a bad time with school, bad time with friends, bad time with family life, I could always go to gymnastics,” she said. “No matter who wasn’t there for me, I knew that gymnastics would be.”

Jenkins originally started the sport to become a cheerleader like her older sister, but quickly fell in love with gymnastics and has not looked back since.

On top of taking 12 credit hours, working 20 hours at University Court and coaching 15 hours at the gym she co-owns, Jenkins trains for 15 hours a week.

“You could do a skill a thousand times and one time your mind just tells you ‘you can’t.’ And that’s the most frustrating part, because you know you can do it, but your mind keeps telling you ‘no, you can’t,’” Jenkins said. “You’re defying physics and gravity, just trying to do things that your body is really made to do, so your mind tries to stop you.”

Longtime friend, co-owner of the gym and training partner Ariel Kibler said Jenkins is as mentally tough as she is physically. “Oftentimes, coaches will tell you what you can and can’t do and she always pushes those limits,” Kibler said.

Jenkins is no stranger to injuries. On Feb. 8, in both 2014 and 2015, Jenkins landed on her head and thought it was the end of her gymnastics career.

However, she trained through both of these injuries.

Kibler said once, Jenkins broke her hand but still competed the following weekend. On a different occasion, she could barely walk after hurting her knees, but continued to compete for two weeks. This past June, while she was practicing for Finals the morning before competing at Nationals, Jenkins hurt her knee but still managed to compete and keep her second-place title.

As a gymnast on the USA National Gymnastics Team, goes to places such as Battle Creek, MI; Calgary, Canada; the Olympic Training Center in Colorado and Nationals in Milwaukee, WI.

Jenkins said her ultimate goal is to make it to Bulgaria to compete in Worlds.

Throughout her time as a gymnast, Jenkins said she has relied on the support of her parents, her “gym family,” and the children she coaches.

When the gym where she used to train closed down two years ago, Jenkins thought her time as a gymnast was coming to an end. However, her mother was able to help Jenkins buy a gym, which let her keep training.

Jenkins said her mom has been in the gym and learned how to coach different skills as well.

In the future, Jenkins said she hopes to keep training until the next Olympic trials and continue coaching children at her gym.

“It’s really encouraging to be around kids because they dream so big,” said Jenkins fondly of the young members of her gym. “It encourages you to be a better person.”

For Jenkins, gymnastics is not only a sport. It’s also an opportunity to grow.

“You just have to push yourself to be the best person you can be and be the best athlete you can be,” she said.


Carole Hodorowicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]