Vaulting to success

Rachael Reed has trouble sitting still. She'll practice her push-outs for gymnastics while she's doing homework, or even while she's being interviewed for a newspaper article.

Like most 9-year-olds, Rachael is also pretty shy.

"When she's performing [gymnastics] it goes away," said Camille Reed, Rachael's mom. "I don't think she realizes she's performing."

It's safe to say gymnastics comes naturally to Rachael, the fourth-grade La Cañada Elementary student. Although it comes more easily to her then to most, she still refines her skills five days a week, four hours a day, at Club Champion Gymnastics in Pasadena.

Rachael showed how easy the sport can come to her on Nov. 13 when she competed in the California State Championships in Bakersfield. The event drew 751 competitors. Rachael bested her opponents in her division and was named the competition's all-around gymnast.

Oksana Suvolova, one of Rachael's coaches at Club Champion, was happy to see her succeed.

"We were very happy for her," Suvolova said. "She deserves it; she's a very hard worker."

The trick to her success was concentrating on her routines and not worrying about the results, Rachael said.

"I wanted to do as best as I could, but if I didn't win I wasn't going to be upset, because it was state and state is really hard," said Rachael, who competed in a division that included 28 other 9-year-olds.

In the end, it wasn't all that difficult. Rachael finished the meet with five medals, four of them gold. She estimates she's won close to 25 medals in her career, but five is the most she's ever won in any of her 17 meets.

Rachael took home gold medals in the floor exercise (9.75), bars (9.65), balance beam (9.55) and overall (38.025). Her lone bronze medal was on vault, where she scored 9.075. Rachael's dad added extra pressure to the vault when he told her she needed to get above a score of nine to hit 38 overall.

"I like to go out there and not really think about it," Rachael said.

Although she's just 9, Rachael is a seasoned veteran when it comes to gymnastics. She first got involved after she told her mom she wanted to be a cheerleader. Camille Reed enrolled her daughter in a gymnastics class at the YMCA because she thought it would give her all the skills needed for cheerleading.

"Once we got into gymnastics, we realized cheerleading wasn't going to be in the books," said Reed, after she saw how her daughter took to the sport.

Rachael's dream is to one day compete in the Olympics like her idol, Shawn Johnson. Suvolova and Club Champion will look to help Rachael reach her goal.

"We do gymnastics, not for fun, we do hard work," Suvolova said. "Gymnastics is hard and we have high goals. If you find a girl who has talent, you don't want to waste the talent."

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