Gymnast soars at Las Vegas |

Gymnast soars at Las Vegas

Steve Yingling

Relief has supplanted pressure for South Shore gymnast Brooke Romero as she prepares for her second straight Western Regionals on Friday in Las Vegas.

The 17-year-old’s primary goal this season was to make regionals so she could be seen by collegiate coaches. A consistent first- or second-place finisher throughout the winter meets, a nervous Romero performed cautiously at the March 28 state meet.

Even so, Romero finished fourth in the state all-around for level nine gymnasts, qualifying her for the college coaches-frequented Western Regionals.

“It wasn’t one of my best meets, but I got the job done and qualified. There’s not a lot of pressure going into this. If I don’t do well at regionals I won’t feel too badly. I’ve had a great season,” she said.

Dave Lester, one of Romero’s coaches for the past 3 1/2 years at Silver State Academy in Carson City, expects a more aggressive Romero performance at regionals.

“She was very conservative at the state meet, making sure she’d make regionals. Now she’s there and it’s a no-holds-barred deal. She has nothing to lose because nobody is going to remember who finishes sixth or eighth,” Lester said. “It’s a very big meet for her because a college scholarship is very much within her reach. We have pretty high hopes.”

The South Tahoe High junior moved up a level, from eight to nine, this season, but her placings have pretty much remained the same. Albeit, the results have been somewhat surprising to her.

“I didn’t have too high of goals going into this year because this is my first year at level nine. I don’t care how I do as long as it’s personally pleasing to me,” she said.

If Romero’s debut in regionals a year ago are any indication, she better be ready for an extended season. At level eight, she was first in floor exercise, second on the balance beam and runner-up in the all-around.

“I was pretty impressed with myself because I didn’t think I’d do that well competing against the best girls from around the Western United States,” Romero said.

Level eight gymnasts and lower don’t go beyond regionals, but as a level nine Romero has an opportunity to advance to next month’s nationals in Austin, Texas.

“I’m not even expecting it. It’s going to be hard. But my main focus this year was to go to regionals because the college scouts will be there. They don’t go to any regular meets during the season, so in order to be recognized you have to at least make it to regionals,” she said.

According to Romero, the top 10 percentile of gymnasts from the East and West will be invited to nationals.

Romero was second in beam (9.2), fourth in vault and fourth in bars at the state meet.

Interestingly, Romero’s best performance at state was in her least favorite event, the balance beam. She seems to think that her consistent success on the beam is more out of fear than anything else.

“I don’t like it because it’s scary and I’ve fallen off it many times and hit my face and done all weird sorts of stuff,” said Romero about the 4-inch-wide nemesis. “Some people have no trouble walking on a berm or curb and I’ll fall off, but I can get on a beam and do some amazing stuff.”

Lester believes Romero’s all-around ability would be a great asset to some lucky college.

“Colleges look for a number of different things. They have kids that specialize in one or two events, but we would prefer her to place well in the all-around. That says a lot about her and it says a lot about us,” Lester said.

There’s no question about Romero’s devotion to gymnastics. Ever since she started training at Silver State Gymnastics 42 months ago, she has spent two hours a day on the road five days a week just to reach and return from the gym in Carson City.

“She certainly is an exceptional kid and so is her family. It’s a pyramid that makes a good athlete, with the coaches and the parents on the bottom and her on top,” Lester said.

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