Makenna King had never given gymnastics a passing thought until she was nine years old, long after most gymnasts already began their careers.
The South Central sophomore didn’t know anything about the sport until a chance encounter with one of her friends at school.
“We went out to recess and one of my friends said she wanted to show me all of her cool moves,” King said. “I went to the library after and I taught myself how to do a back handspring.”
King slowly began teaching herself new moves, using her pool cover as a trampoline and learning by trial-and-error. Soon enough, her family decided to enroll her in gymnastics classes and an elite career was born. King will compete at the IHSAA Portage Regional on Saturday, with the hopes of making it to next week’s state finals at Ball State.
“I was very old when I started gymnastics,” King said. “Most of the girls I compete against have been doing this for years already. I’m not burnt out on the sport. I still love doing this every day.”
King’s age when she started competing isn’t the only thing that sets her apart from the competition. While gymnasts from local powerhouses such as Valparaiso and Chesterton compete against a dozen or more teammates every day at practice, King is the lone member of South Central’s gymnastics team. She trains with Christine Nevill from Indiana Elite Gymnastics and counts on the help of others to compete in high school.
“It’s not easy being on your own,” King said. “I’m thankful that South Central does a lot of the work in setting up meets and competitions. All of the other girls in the area are very welcoming when we’re at competitions. I’m kind of used to it by now.”
Nevill first met King when the gymnast began working out with Indiana Elite. It didn’t take long for the two to connect.
“Makenna goes to my sister’s gym and I have coached gymnastics for a lot of years,” Nevill said. “I saw her and I immediately said ‘Who is this?' She is extremely talented. She joined late in the game to make it to the caliber that she is. She just has natural, raw talent.”
King showed that talent earlier this season when she nailed a perfect 10 on the vault during an early-season competition that had the local gymnastics community buzzing. King took the mark in stride. She’s the type of gymnast to consistently chase perfection, even when she attains that distinction.
“It still doesn’t really click that I got it,” King said. “I don’t expect to get it every time I compete, but it’s still something that I’m striving for.”
King won the vault at last week’s sectional meet with a score of 9.825. She added a first-place finish on the bars (9.850), but slipped on the beam (10th, 9.250) and floor (20th, 9.025) on her way to a third-place finish in the all-around competition.
“Sectionals could’ve gone better,” King said. “I’m not happy with the overall performance. It was just little bloopers here and there. It’s nothing that I can’t overcome.”
The top six individuals in each event advance to next weekend’s state finals, as well as the top six finishers in the all-around. The top three teams compiling the highest number of points at each regional advance in the team competition. Chesterton is the two-time defending state champion.