Flippin’ to the Top

A day in the life of a regular teenager includes waking up, going to school, doing homework, hanging out with friends and sleeping.

A day in the life of a gymnast somewhat varies: waking up early, going to school, doing homework between classes, going to practice for four hours, coming home to finish homework, thinking about college applications, going to sleep and dreaming about being in the Olympics someday.

This is how Green Valley High School junior Erica Oswalt has lived for the past 10 years.

“It has been my life since I was 3 years old,” Oswalt says. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”

Oswalt’s mom, Linda Oswalt, says she put Erica in gymnastics at an early age because of the natural talent she possessed.

“Erica would do things like jump off of her bunk bed across the room and land on her dresser,” Linda Oswalt says. “When I took her to the playground it was a full-time job to keep very close to her because normal kids at her age would climb on the monkey bars, but Erica would add her own flare to give you a heart attack and swing and release and somehow land on her feet.”

Erica Oswalt says her passion for gymnastics and taking pictures for the school yearbook are some of the most important things in her daily schedule.

“I practice six days a week, four-and-a-half to five hours each day and I’m a level 10 gymnast,” she notes. “I’m the photo editor in yearbook so I have to go get things accomplished before coming to practice.”

Recently, Oswalt competed at the 2009 Junior Olympics where she placed sixth in the vault event nationally. In addition, she was the regionals vault champion and has placed fourth in the all-around region for two years in a row.

Jill Enrietta, Oswalt’s head coach, says the teen has a lot of potential compared to other gymnasts in her age group.

“She has a lot of natural ability, so that’s why she has gotten as far as she has,” Enrietta says. “She’s really amazing on all events, but she is especially good on vault and (balance) beam.”

According to her mother, Oswalt has received 28 letters of interest from some of the top gymnastic schools in the nation and has been invited to fill out recruiting questionnaires.

“It’s very flattering, but it’s extremely stressful deciding a major at 16 years old and where your future is going,” Linda Oswalt says. “We felt very honored when we received letters from Stanford and UC Berkeley.”

Oswalt says getting a college scholarship is what keeps her going despite having a hectic daily schedule.

“I’m still undecided, but I have looked at the University of Utah, the University of Washington, Oregon State and Boise State,” she says. “I want to get a full-ride scholarship where gymnastics and education are top ranked.”

Locally, Oswalt competes for the Henderson Gymcats owned by Cassandra Rice.

Rice says that Oswalt strives to get better all the time.

“Erica will do very well at the collegiate level,” Rice says. “At her level, gymnastics has become a job, but she enjoys it a lot.”

According to her teammate, Green Valley junior Jordan Coburn, one of Oswalt’s key attributes is her competitiveness.

“Her spirit is always very high and is contagious in workouts and competitions,” she says. “If she is going to do something, she is going to do it well, and that is why the team looks up to her.”

Oswalt says the thought of being an Olympian is constantly on her mind.

“I think about it every day,” she admits. “It is every gymnast’s dream to be in the Olympics.”

Oswalt says having a repetitive daily schedule is something she is used to now.

“Sometimes, I have to stay up late to do homework, but I don’t regret it,” she says. “Gymnastics has helped me manage my time more wisely.”

Currently, she’s working on having a balance beam skill named after her, one that no gymnast has ever performed before.

“It is called ‘one legged front pike quarter,’ ” Oswalt says. “I came up with it when I was practicing one day, but it is not officially my skill yet because you have to compete it internationally.”

Additionally, Oswalt wants to achieve a higher ranking nationally.

“I have two more years left before college, so I am going to try and work harder to be a Top 10 all-around gymnast,” Oswalt says. “Not only that, but I want to be an All-American in college and go down in history.”

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