Hard work pays off for Eudora gymnast
Melissa Fernandez is scheduled to visit her family in the tropical country of Honduras for two weeks this summer. She is hoping she can shorten her stay to only one week. She's got work to do here at home.
Fernandez, a level-nine gymnast, practices 25 hours a week at a gym in Olathe to perfect skills for competition and to stay in competition shape.
And the hard work pays off. In May the 16-year-old competed in the level nine Western Nationals Championship in St. Louis, where she placed second in all-around competition in her division and was within one tenth of a point for first place.
It was the first time Fernandez, who will be a junior at Eudora High School next year, had competed at such a high level. She said she was pleased with her performance.
"I didn't expect it to turn out like it did because I've been injured so long," she said.
Fernandez sprained her left ankle three times and her right ankle once. She is also recovering from a back injury from last summer. But she doesn't let a fear of getting hurt get in the way of her goals.
"It pushes me a little harder because I want to be able to compete," she said.
Fernandez has been pushing herself to excel in the sport since her mother, Tami Klinedinst, signed her up for lessons when she was six years old.
"She said I was jumping around everywhere and doing cartwheels," Fernandez said.
As a teenager, Fernandez said she enjoys the sport because it keeps her in shape and she likes being with her friends at the gym. She said she enjoys each event, but beam and floor are her favorites.
She doesn't have another gymnastics meet until January, but in the meantime she is preparing to compete in level 10 by perfecting the new skills in her repertoire. She said she hoped to place in at least the top 10 in level 10 competition before college.
Klinedinst said Fernandez's coaches had already been contacted by at least two college coaches interested in recruiting her to their teams.
"My hope for her is that she gets a college scholarship, a full-ride for four years through gymnastics, if that's what she wants to do," Klinedinst said.
Fernandez said she hoped to attend the University of California Los Angeles after high school and be a member of the school's gymnastics team.
"That's my dream college," she said.
Fernandez said she had already begun to investigate possible scholarship opportunities.
"It's always good to get started early on that kind of stuff," she said.
Klinedinst said she was proud of her daughter for working so hard to make things happen.
"She's had to sacrifice a lot of outside activities with friends, and I admire her for her perseverance to reach where she's reached," Klinedinst said. "She's worked hard to do this."