It's a tough road to reach the championships in any nationally recognized gymnastics competition. So coming home with a gold medal makes all the hard work that went into reaching that point worth it.
That's what two local middle schoolers, Keegan Richardson and Alex Rouillard, did this summer.
Richardson, a 12-year-old from Beverly, won gold in the trampoline and added a bronze in tumbling at the USA Gymnastics Championships, held last month at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. In capturing the top spot in the trampoline, he recorded scores of 24.600 and 29.600 for a winning combined total of 54.200.
Rouillard, a Manchester resident, won the Level 7 national competition in the all-around at the 79th annual National YMCA Gymnastics Championship & Invitational in Savannah, Ga. Like Richardson, she trains at the Beverly YMCA Sterling Center three days a week and is a year-round gymnast.
In order to keep advancing, both Richardson and Rouillard had to qualify in both state and regional competition.
"I started gymnastics when I was six years old and have been doing it on and off for around five years," said Richardson, who will enter the eighth grade this fall. He also runs cross country, track and plays soccer.
"My favorite is tumbling. I have a trampoline in my backyard and practice on it as well as going to the Y."
Richardson won the New Englands (held in New Jersey) during the spring, taking first place in both of his events. He then traveled to a regional event in Virginia, where he again captured first place in trampoline and tumbling.
"You have to hit a certain score in each event to advance," said Richardson. Since performing so well at Nationals, he has since moved up to Level 9, one step away from Elite (Level 10).
"II want to keep doing gymnastics. My goal is to make the National Junior team and possibly go to Worlds."
Rouillard won the state event in Saugus, then traveled to Waterville, Maine for a regional event, winning that as well.
In Georgia, she took first place in both the vault (9.250) and beam (9.475) while placing third in floor exercises (9.200) and fifth on bars (8.450). Her all-around score of 36.3675 easily bested the field.
"I've been doing gymnastics for eight or nine years," she said. "This was my second time going to Nationals; last year I was third.
"There were so many people competing in Savannah. It was huge," she added. "My favorite event is beam; I usually get high scores in that event."