By Bailey Kozalla, staff writer
Defying gravity is difficult, but Saegertown High School sophomore Hannah Smith does it with ease. On April 24, Smith traveled to Philadelphia to compete at the state level for gymnastics. Practicing twenty two hours a week, she is ranked 13th in the state of Pennsylvania.
Smith competed in the categories of bars, vault, beam, and floor. “I got eighth on bars and thirteenth on vault.” Smith said.
The uneven bars or “bars” as it is commonly known, are practiced only by women. The steel frame supports the fiberglass and wooden bars which are set at uneven heights which give the bars their name. The distance between the bars is 4 ft 11 in. This allows the gymnast to swing from bar to bar using the required elements of flight between the high and low bar: different grips, turning, and dismount. Scores are determined based on difficulty, form, technique, and composition.
Gymnasts also compete by vaulting. The four foot and three inch vaulting table is placed at the end of a carpeted runway. The gymnast runs down the runway to a springboard which propels them onto the vaulting table, the gymnast performs a stunt, then attempts to “stick the landing.” The gymnast must demonstrate good technique before, during, and after the performance to earn an acceptable score.
The balance beam is used by female gymnasts to demonstrate balance, acrobatic skills, dance elements, leaps, and poses in their routines. The beam consists of wood covered with leather or suede and is 3.9 in wide, 16 ft long, and is 4.1 ft off the ground. Since 1934, gymnasts have introduced aerial-like stunts into their routines.
Composing a floor exercise in gymnastics involves tumbling within a 39 by 39 square ft area. The sub-floor is composed of springs to allow the gymnast to gain height and soften the impact of landing. Females almost always practice their routines to music.
There were 42 girls competing in Philadelphia in the 14 and up age category. Smith’s game plan going into the state competition was to, “Treat it like a regular meet, because I didn’t want to get myself nervous.”
Smith received some valuable advice from her coach, “She said, “you know how to do it. You have confidence in yourself.”” She values her coach as a mentor, and plans to follow in her footsteps.
“When I get older, I do want to coach. I want to be a part of it as long as possible,”said Smith.