April 23, 2007
It takes more than just experience for a gymnast to qualify for the national championships. For Ohio State junior Kaylan Clevinger, it was a mix of focus, determination and a strong desire to reach her goals that has taken her to the NCAA National Championships as the first Ohio State women's gymnast to qualify since 2001. The competition will be hosted by Utah in Salt Lake City, April 28.
A native of Shawnee Mission, Kan., Clevinger is considered a young athlete when it comes to gymnastics. While many gymnasts begin when they are about 3 years old, Clevinger started when she was 11 and is only in her 10th year of competition. After stress fractures kept her from competing for the Buckeyes her freshman year, she vowed to come back stronger than she was before. Her limited years of experience have only pushed Kaylan's determination to improve as an athlete.
"Kaylan has learned and found her comfort zone in gymnastics," Jay Campbell, OSU assistant coach and bars specialist, said. "She's developed a certain confidence now. Whenever things don't go right, she'll find the glitches in her routine and fix it. It's important for gymnasts to know that it's never out of their control. The sport is about ability, not luck and Kaylan has learned how to keep it within her control."
Clevinger will be representing Ohio State on the uneven bars competition at the championships. After losing one of their best bar workers, Kaylin Schlecht, last year, Clevinger saw that someone on the team needed to fill her shoes and worked to improve her score on the bars.
"There is no doubt about her dedication to the team," Campbell said. "She has a love for gymnastics and does what she has to do to help the team. She knows that if she's the best, the team will improve as a result."
Ohio State head coach Carey Fagan, who was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, competed three times at the national championships and with that experience, she is able to provide Clevinger with a good idea of what to expect.
"It's going to be an intense competition being on the floor with the best of the best," Fagan said. "We wanted the team to qualify and Kaylan wanted to be our bar anchor for the team. She worked really hard to be where she is now and she deserves to be competing at the level she will be in at nationals."
Clevinger hit a 9.9 on bars at the NCAA Central Region Championships, tying for first place to represent Ohio State at nationals as an event specialist. It was her personal goal all season to represent the Buckeyes at nationals and although she is excited to qualify this year, she sincerely hopes to be there with the team next season.
"It's going to be the best competition I've ever seen as a gymnast," Clevinger said. "At regionals, all the gymnasts were outstanding, but all the high-end athletes will be competing on a national level this time. It's amazing to be competing with the top athletes. The opportunity is there and I can be there. I just have to stay focused. This is my chance to represent Ohio State as one of the best."
By Hanna Kim, Ohio State Athletics Communications