Ashley Potts had been to nationals as a Level 9 gymnast, but that did little to prepare her for competing as a Level 10.
Potts, who trains at Huntley Unlimited Gymnastics, was coming back from an injury and had limited competition before the regional qualifying meet.
She was unsure of her chances, and when she had some errors on some early routines at regionals, she thought the dream of nationals might be over.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Potts said. “I was really stressed out.”
Potts bounced back with a second-place performance on the balance beam (9.35). She finished fifth in the all-around (36.1) in the Senior C Division at the Region 5 Championships on April 12 in Dimondale, Mich., to qualify for the Junior Olympic Nationals as part of the Region 5 Dream Team.
That’s when the magnitude of what she had accomplished started to kick in. Potts was one of seven to qualify for the Dream Team that would compete at nationals, not only as individuals, but as a team against the other regions.
As part of the national team, she was outfitted with gear, clothing uniforms – two suitcases full.
“They gave us so much stuff and it just kept coming,” Potts said. “It was really overwhelming.”
At nationals on May 9 to 11 in Minneapolis, Potts was ninth on the balance beam (9.425) and was 28th in the all-around (36.825).
While the routines and competing in the individual events at nationals was familiar, being a part of a team was not.
“It was completely different because I was competing with a team,” Potts said.
The experience has left Potts, a senior this fall at Prairie Ridge, wanting more.
“I just want to go back next year,” Potts said. “I want to do it again because it was really fun.”
She knows that achieving that goal will come from hard work and she was anxious to get back to her own gym to resume training.
“It makes me want to do more,” Potts said.
Jerry Leonard bought Huntley Unlimited Gymnastics about 18 months ago and Potts is his first level 10 to qualify for nationals.
Leonard, who said HUGS recently added air conditioning to the gym to make summer workouts more comfortable, has the same goal for all his gymnasts.
“That’s my intention, to get these girls to a level where they can get a collegiate career,” Leonard said.
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.