College Bound Gymnasts of Presentation


Gymnast Gabby Landess

Alison White, Sports Editor

The average Pres girl probably doesn’t know much about gymnastics beyond the Olympics, but a select few have insider knowledge into the complex sport. Seniors Gabby Landess and McKenna Zimmermann are two of these specialized athletes who were able to give an in depth look into their lives as gymnasts.

First, a quick review for those of us who have no idea how gymnastics works. Athletes practice four different specialties–the uneven parallel bars, balance beam, vault, and floor, each requiring incredible strength and balance.

The average practice can last up to five hours, totalling almost a full 24 hours per week, on top of periodic competitions in which each athlete preforms in all four of the events. Scores are totalled to determine winners on an individual and team basis.

These tournaments may seem hectic, but that is not always the case. “If I totaled the amount of time I was actually, physically competing, it would be around four minutes,” Zimmermann said.

That may be the logistics, but what about the physical aspect of the sport? “Gymnastics is pure physics,” Landess said. “We learn to manipulate the apparatus and our bodies to do amazing things.”

Landess started gymnastics at six years old while Zimmermann started at just three. They have come a long way since their toddler years of somersaults and cartwheels and are both committed to continue their sport in college, Landess at UC Davis and Zimmermann at Seattle Pacific University. A collegiate career is no small feat and both athletes cite friends, family, and coaches as providing crucial inspiration and support.

Landess and Zimmermann may have started the sport early in life, but it has not necessarily gotten easier with time. Not only do the skills get harder as they move up the levels, but the sport also becomes more taxing on their bodies.

As much as they love the sport, both Landess and Zimmermann plan on retiring after their college careers are complete. “There’s only so much my body can handle,” Landess said.

Another layer of difficulty is added by the fact that gymnastics is a perpetually evolving sport. There is no end to the new skills and moves that are being created as these athletes push themselves further and further. “Gymnasts are constantly breaking barriers and doing what people used to think was impossible,” Landess said.

Considering that gymnasts start their sport at such a young age, it is not surprising that the recruitment process also tends to start as early as eighth grade. Deciding on a college before high school seems crazy to those of us who still cannot make a decision senior year, but for Landess and Zimmermann, the decision was easy.

“I have always known that I wanted to pursue gymnastics in college,” Zimmermann said. “It’s become such a big part of my life that I couldn’t imagine giving it up before college.”

Landess knew in seventh grade that the collegiate path was the right one for her. After a couple years of communication with coaches, scouted competitions and practices, and three official visits, she verbally committed to UC Davis on a scholarship her sophomore year.

At 24 hours a week, every week for over 10 years, it would be impossible for this sport not to have had a profound effect on its athletes. Landess and Zimmermann both credit the sport with teaching them persistence, time management, and work ethic. But the sport has also had a much more important lesson that the students of Presentation High School hold near and dear to their hearts: gender equality.

“I think being a gymnast has also allowed me to accept my body and reject sexist ideals of what a woman’s body is supposed to look like,” Landess said.

Besides the details about how competitions work, the average practice schedule, and the commitment process, there is one last thing that gymnasts wish we knew about their sport:

“I wish people wouldn’t always assume that I’m going to the Olympics!” Landess said. “If that happens, I give them the statistics: six girls every four years. And now it’s been reduced to four girls. I tell them that I would have to be 50 times better than I am now.”