|Strike a balance for club, country|
|Gymnast Kaylen Morgan earns spot on US team|
|Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019 10:14 pm|
|PHOTO | PAUL WILLIAMS III|
|Kaylen Morgan, 14, of Huntersville earned her first international call from the U.S. national gymnastics team earlier this month for a competition in Montreal.|
CORNELIUS—Kaylen Morgan came into the world fighting.
The Huntersville resident made her debut as a junior member of the Women’s U.S. national gymnastics team 14 years after she was born prematurely. Morgan placed seventh all around in the junior division and fifth in floor exercise at the 2019 Gymnix International in Montreal earlier this month. She was one of 25 athletes to represent the U.S.
“It was my first one, and I’m super excited about it, and still mind blown about it,” Morgan said. “We were all sitting at a table together at the national camp, and they selected me.”
Morgan was born at 24 weeks, approximately three months early.
“I can remember her being so young and so small—the smallest little thing of hope,” said her mother Tracy Morgan.
Keeping her daughter safe remained Tracy Morgan’s highest priority, and when 3-year-old Kaylen decided to try her hand at tumbling around the house, Tracy signed Kaylen for gymnastics.
“I started watching TV, and I saw gymnasts flipping around, and I started to do it on my couch,” Kaylen said. “My mom just signed me up at a little daycare class. It was really fun.”
Said Tracy Morgan: “For me as a parent at that point in time, it was not as much recognizing the talent as it was wanting to put her in an environment where she could be safe.”
Coaches from Kaylen’s recreation class told her mother she exhibited something special.
“A lot of the coaches came to me and said that she was special in a lot of ways, and she had some unusual talents,” Morgan said. “With that, the classes increased, and we were doing more classes that were a little bit more of a commitment for her at a really young age.”
Competing in Canada placed Kaylen on the same team as one of her favorite gymnasts, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
“Some of my favorite gymnasts are Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas, and also Simone Biles, currently,” said Morgan, one of eight juniors to earn a call-up. “I think my inspiration comes from a higher power sometimes.”
Morgann’s favorite apparatuses are bars and beam, respectively.
“Bars is kind of tricky, but since I’m long, it’s easier for me,” she said.
While Kaylen is an elite athlete, she is still a teenager, which means balancing high school.
“I’m in ninth grade right now,” she said. “Currently I’m in online school. I just work on the computer. You just have to be very independent. It’s good for me, because I just work really hard. That’s just my goal—to have good grades.”
Said Tracy Morgan: “With the online school it is just making sure that we are communicating, that she is communicating with her teachers, but also I have to stay lock-step in rhythm with her to make sure that she is staying on top of things. The travel is another challenge. That’s the key, to not be so heavily committed in one area and not the other. We really try to find a balance, because she is a teenager. She is a 14-year-old girl. The social aspects, making sure she has an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. She has sacrificed a lot. Sometimes you don’t get to go to the birthday party. Sometimes you don’t get to go to the family events.”
Kaylen, who has trained at Everest Gymnastics for four years, competed in the 2016 Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships, the 2017 Hopes Championships and the 2018 Nastia Liukin Cup.
“This is such an incredible honor for Kaylen, as it has been her dream to represent our country in gymnastics,” said Han Qi and Yiwen Chen, owners and coaches at Everest Gymnastics. “Kaylen has worked so hard for this.”
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