BRADENTON — As each remaining gymnast took the floor, East County resident Emersen Peco kept her eyes glued to the scoreboard.
The Sarasota Surge level 5 gymnast could only stand back and wait while her competitors completed their final rotations. She had done her part.
Emersen had maintained the lead for the majority of the competition, but it was only after the final gymnast took the floor that she realized she had surpassed even her own expectations.
Emersen captured the all-around title at the 2013 YMCA Gymnastics National Championships June 27 through June 28, in Savannah, Ga. Emersen scored 36.525 points to finish nearly a full point ahead of Greenwood Family YMCA’s Emily Kibler (35.750). It was Emersen’s first time competing on a national stage.
“It felt good, and I was excited because it was the last meet of the season, and I wanted to show my coaches what I had and I did,” says Emersen, who turned 14 years old July 1.
Emersen also won individual titles on the vault (9.325) and balance beam (9.500) and finished second on floor exercise (9.125) and fifth on the uneven bars (8.575).
“Vault is my best, and I like it because it’s a fast thing,” Emersen says. “Beam is slow and you have to be graceful, but with vault you don’t have to be. On vault I usually get first place, but not on beam, so I was surprised about that.”
Emersen began taking gymnastics when she was 3 years old, after her parents attempted to put her in dance classes.
“I didn’t like dance,” Emersen says. “It was too boring.”
She began competing when she was about 10 years old and has since competed in more than 25 competitions.
“I like the competition part of gymnastics,” Emersen says. “I like how you can be placed for what you do and not just the team.”
This summer, Emersen is training four days a week, four hours daily, at the Sarasota YMCA Frank G. Berlin Branch.
However, Emersen, who will be a freshman at Southeast High in the fall, is busy training for a new form of competition, as well, after making the Seminoles’ varsity cheerleading squad.
Emersen recently began training for the upcoming gymnastics season. But, with her new sport taking up most of her time, Emersen doesn’t know if she’ll compete again with the Sarasota Surge. However, she still plans to attend tumbling and open-gym sessions.
“It was a hard decision to make because I grew up there,” Emersen says of gymnastics. “That was my life for 11 years.
“(With cheerleading) I still get to compete, so I like that,” Emersen says. “I’m also one of their best tumblers, so I still get to do that. And, I’m going to be a flyer, so I’ll get to try new things.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].