April 16, 2014

Gymnast achieves another milestone

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Laura Reeves named sportswoman of the year

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Williston resident Laura Reeves has long been more than a little advanced for her age.

At 11, she was ranked a level 9 gymnast, just a step below those who compete on the national team. The next-youngest Vermonter holding that rank at the time was 16 years old.

Laura started taking college classes when she was 12. Now, two years later, she is helping with coaching and bookkeeping at the gymnastic center co-owned by her parents.

So it is perhaps no surprise that she was recently named Sportswoman of the Year by USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body. The award covers Region 6 of the organization, which includes all six New England states as well as New York. It recognizes academic achievements and community service as well as gymnastic skills.

“I’m just really honored to receive it,” Laura said.

Erika Reeves said such low-key statements are typical for her modest daughter. She said Laura has taken on adult-size responsibilities, helping run their business, Hruska Gymnastics Academy in Winooski, while she studies her schoolwork and practices gymnastics.

“It’s not just me but everyone she meets who thinks my daughter is just a remarkable human being,” she said of Laura, one of six children she has with her husband, Tom.

Laura said she is at the gymnastics center five or six days a week, practicing for hours most days and studying through a home-school program.

Laura is using a ninth- and 10th-grade curriculum, her mom said, and is particularly advanced in math. Two years ago, she passed an admission test and enrolled in classes at the Community College of Vermont. She now has completed four courses.

Her classmates were a little surprised when they learned her age. “It was fun,” Laura said. “People really didn’t realize I was so young. A few people I met figured I was a high school student just taking classes.”

At about 5-feet-4 and with an unusually mature demeanor, Laura could indeed pass for an older student. Over the past three years, she has grown considerably, her mom said. That growth spurt has made it more difficult to perform some gymnastic skills, but Erika Reeves figures her daughter will adapt.

Asked if she wants to compete at the elite level, Laura seemed ambivalent. She said she plans to continue competing, but her ultimate goal is to be a gymnastics coach. Her own coach is Stefan Hruska, who is a partner in the gymnastic center with the Reeves.

Erika Reeves acknowledged that to compete on the national stage her daughter would have to train with an elite, out-of-state gymnastics program. She said doing that would have been too great a disruption for Laura and the entire family.

“We always wanted her to have a normal childhood,” she said.

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