Gymnastics Wicz Warwick junior-to-be competes at National Championships
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Bre Wiczkowski is no stranger to competing at Gymnastics Nationals.
As an eighth-grader two years ago, she competed at the Level 9 Championships held in Worcester, Mass.
This spring, from May 10-12, the Warwick sophomore returned to the Women’s U.S. Junior Olympic National Championships, this time as one of the country’s best Level 10 gymnasts at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minnesota.
But this one was different.
Showcasing her talents on the floor of a big arena in front of big-time college coaches, there were a few nerves involved as she tried to hit her routines on the vault, beam, bars and floor.
"It was a cool experience," said Wiczkowski, 16, now a Warwick rising junior. "It’s very glamorous and it can be intimidating, but it’s still really neat to go to a big arena with gymnasts from all over the country. If you really think about it and think that you’re one of the top gymnasts in the country, it’s cool to think about. And it’s neat to be able to compete against other girls that are on that same level."
When all was said and done, Wiczkowski ended up placing 47th in Junior C in the all-around score with 35.475 points. Unfortunately, she had a slip on the bars – her best event – but she came away from the event with valuable experience, which could benefit her in future years.
"I don’t really know how it even happened," Wiczkowski said of the mishap on the bars. "My coaches told me, ‘It was a fluke and something that I’ve never done in practice.’ They said, ‘Unfortunately, the only way to be comfortable at Nationals is to be at Nationals. And the only way to practice for it is to be there.’"
Competing as a member of Prestige Gymnastics, in Lancaster, she certainly seemed comfortable at States and Regionals while punching her ticket to the big dance.
On March 24 in Williamsport, Wiczkowski took fourth all-around at States, including a first-place finish on the bars.
Nearly one month later at the Region 7 Championships in Lyncroft, N.J. on April 20, she again placed fourth all-around (36.725), placing third on bars, eighth on floor and ninth on beam. The top seven all-around scores advanced to Nationals.
That score at Regionals was actually very close to how she finished at one of her best events this year – the Pink Invitational in Philadelphia during February.
"I got a 37 all-around and that was my first 37 in Level 10," Wiczkowski said.
Having completed her second year as a Level 10 gymnast at Prestige, she is now one of the older girls at the gym. She is one of those whom the youngsters now look to as a role model. Those roles were reversed over a decade ago, as Wiczkowski, indeed, has come many miles since she first started in the sport at age 3. With her older brother, Marc, playing ice hockey at a young age, gymnastics is where she turned.
"My parents (Brian and Tami) thought that since I was always going to his hockey practices and hockey games that I should do something of my own," recalled Bre, who began competing at age 5. "So they put me in gymnastics. I guess I took to it and I liked it."
All these years later, Wiczkowski is still having fun, whether it’s executing a double twist, front pike somersault or aerial cartwheel.
"It’s not like any other sport where you run and throw a ball," said Wiczkowski, who will compete in Level 10 (the oldest age group) for her final two years of high school. "You flip in the air twice and somehow your feet get back to the ground and it’s just neat to think about the things that you can do that most people can’t. Like, you can fly through the air and recatch the bar without an issue and all that. It’s just a cool experience and it’s cool to do. It’s a fun feeling."
Of course, Wiczkowski hasn’t attained those skills without a lot of hard work. While the competition season runs from January through the National Championships in May, the training doesn’t stop there.
During the summer, she trains five days of the week – for either four or five hours each. Once the school year starts, Wiczkowski works diligently to complete all her responsibilities.
"I leave school two periods early to go to the gym, but I come home from practice and get right to school work and then pretty much shower, go to bed and do the same thing in the morning," Wiczkowski said. "It’s not easy, but you have to find the right balance between it. Otherwise, you’re just going to drive yourself crazy."
Hopefully, however, all her hard work will pay off. Wiczkowski’s goal is to earn a college scholarship to continue her gymnastics career at the next level.
"I’m just trying to get looked at by colleges and everything," she said. "The recruiting process is getting harder and harder now because they start earlier and earlier. There’s a girl who goes to my gym who’s already verbally committed to Penn State."
There was definitely no shortage of colleges represented at the Minneapolis Convention Center in May.
But the proximity of those coaches to the athletes made for a nerve-wracking atmosphere at times.
"If you walked 10 feet (from the vault runway), you were running into a wall of college coaches," Wiczkowski said. "That part was intimidating, to walk in and see you’re being watched."
If she qualifies for the 2014 National Championships in Jackson, Miss. from May 9-11, she will be another year older and more prepared.
"Now that I have one year under my belt, hopefully if I can get there next year, it will be a better experience because I’ll know what it’s all about and what it’s like," Wiczkowski said.
More WICZKOWSKI, page B-2