COLUMBIA - The Junior Olympic National Championships for women's gymnastics brings the best of the best from all over the country, and this year, central Missouri will be represented.
Rock Bridge sophomore Adalayna Hufendiek is a level 10 gymnast at Elevate Gymnastics and Fitness who will travel to Indianapolis to compete.
"I was really hyper as a child. I liked to jump off things everywhere. My parents were like, 'We need to get this girl something she can do that can control her energy,'" she said.
After Hufendiek began gymnastics in the third grade, she quickly realized she had a knack for the sport. She became a level 10 earlier this season in January.
"Level 10 is the highest of artistic gymnastics unless you go elite. So collegiate gymnasts normally go to level 10 and then they go to college, so it's definitely a big weight on my shoulders. It's a big deal but I love it," she said.
Hufendiek joined the Elevate Gymnastics and Fitness family two years ago, learning under owners and coaches Adrianne Perry and Rodney Gust. Perry said Hufendiek's mindset helped her take big strides.
"Over the last two years, since Adalayna became our athlete, I think her biggest advancements have been mental. I don't think she really believed that she was that talented when she first came here," Perry said. "So I've tried to work a lot with her on the mental aspects of gymnastics and just trying to build her confidence up."
Hufendiek practices 20 hours a week year-round, not including the meets she competes in on weekends. At the beginning of her season in January, Hufendiek did well enough to qualify for the state meet. After performing well there, she went on to the regional meet and placed in the top seven, launching her to the Junior Olympic National Championships.
"I wasn't really expecting it, to make it this far this season. I thought, 'I'm just going to go to every meet and have personal goals,' and I met them at every single meet," Hufendiek said. "It was just how the cards laid out and everything just perfectly fell and I actually had my best meet of the season at regionals which is pretty awesome."
As a sophomore, Hufendiek still has two years to think about her future, but she already has a few ideas of where she wants to end up.
"I really want to do college gymnastics. That is my ultimate goal. I've been looking at colleges all around, mainly Mizzou, really really focusing on Mizzou. I love it. But definitely college is what I'm really striving for," she said.
Perry said, as coaches, she and Gust try to focus on creating and nurturing the whole person, not just the athlete. But at the end of the day, they know what Hufendiek can do.
"I would like to see her get a college scholarship. We know that's what she's capable of doing. The opportunities right now are endless for her," Perry said.
Hufendiek travels to Indianapolis the first weekend of May and competes in the Junior Olympic National Championships on May 7.